Archive for May, 2011

Guards of honour

31 May 2011

Alberto Contador won the Giro d’Italia at the weekend by an impressive – or suspicious – 6 minutes 10 seconds. But what I want to write about here is an episode which shows another side to the sport. On Stage 3, the young sprinter, Wouter Weylandt, crashed and died on a descent. Travelling at between 50-60 mph, his bike apparently clipped a wall as he looked back at a group behind him  and he was thrown off, being killed instantly as hit a wall on the other side of the road.

Cycling is a dangerous sport, and crashes are common. But deaths on the road are rare, largely because of the extreme handling skills of those who make it to the professional ranks. There are about a thousand professionals in Europe – less than the number of footballers in the top two divisions in the English leagues alone.

When someone dies, cycling has its ways of honouring them. In the Giro, this was done by riding the next day’s stage, not racing it. Each of the teams in the race rode at the front of the peloton for 10 kilometres, and at the end of the stage Weylandt’s team, Leopard Trek, together with his training partner Tyler Farrar, were allowed to go to the front and cross the line together (see the picture at the top of this post). The prize money for the stage was donated to his family – his girlfriend is five months pregnant.

You might think that the spectators would be irritated about being deprived of a day’s racing. Not a bit of it: they stood by the road and applauded, paying their respects to the cortege.

Leopard Trek has set up a memorial fund to help Weylandt’s family. The picture is via the blog Endurance Racing, and is used with thanks.

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2012, “on the nose”

1 May 2011

I watched 2012 the other day – the remake of Independence Day in which the earth is the bad guy instead of the aliens – and have to say that it was the worst film I’ve seen in years. I’m not going to get into the detail, since there would be far too much to say, but my suspension of disbelief had already been stretched to breaking point by the speed of the earthquakes (just fast enough for a speeding car to stay ahead of), the pyroclastic flow (just slow enough not to catch a speeding camper van) or the size of the tsunami waves out at sea (really, a cruise liner would just bob up and down, as trawlers did during the Japanese tsunami).

It finally snapped as it became clear that a 1500-metre high wave from the Indian Ocean was going to roll across the sub-continent and clear the Himalayas. Neither the maths, nor the physics, stacked up. In fact the only plausible element of the story was that if you did want a big engineering project done at speed, you would ask the Chinese government to run it.

But it could have been worse. I’ll say that again: it could have been worse.

The DVD has an “alternative ending”, expensively filmed, in which the hero’s father is rescued from his aforementioned stricken cruise liner and the main characters then queue up to spell out the various sub-texts we might have been too dumb to spot during all the excitement of the movie. (Click on the image above if you want to check this out for yourself).

The thing is, there’s a screenwriting term for this sort of writing, where you have the characters tell you what they’re thinking instead of showing it to you. It’s called “writing on the nose”. And, if you’d read the script for this alternative ending before you’d filmed it, you could have seen it for what it was straightaway. You didn’t need to film it to find out how bad it was, or how much nose the scene was showing.