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The Friday Speed Read
Every week The Friday Speed Reads sits at the bar of news and samples a wide range of the best stories, whether they be served by the pint or shot; feels on top of the world for a few blissful hours before being sidelined with a splitting headache and queasy sense of regret.
After 128 editions of the Friday Speed Read, we feel that we’ve reached a point where we can be honest with you. After all, we’ve shared a lot, haven’t we? All the laughs. All the tears. All those increasingly desperate (and doomed) attempts to describe ongoing parliamentary stalemates in fresh and innovative ways. We feel that we’ve got something going here, a bond of sorts; possibly we’d go as far as saying that we’re friends. Not the kind of friend you’d lie down in traffic for certainly, but the kind of friend that if you saw in the street you’d ask if they were going to Ben’s birthday bash and be fairly pleased if the answer was yes. So, with this feeling of comity in mind, we feel that it’s only right that you know that this week’s Speed Read is being written through the fog of what can only be called a hangover. The Speed summer party took place yesterday and we’ll spare you the boozy details but drink was taken, more drink than perhaps should have been given the advancing years of your correspondent and, well, this paragraph has taken 45 minutes to write and our attempt at spelling “desperate” above was so wide of the mark that even Microsoft Word couldn’t untangle what the hell we were trying to say.
So be gentle, dear reader, be kind and we promise never to call you “dear reader” again.
In a welcome break from the usual nonsense, there’s been a huge amount of coverage this week of the anniversary of possibly man’s greatest achievement (apart from cheese): sending a man to the moon and bringing him safely home again. Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Kennedy 50 years ago this week and the anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the surface of our nearest astronomical body is tomorrow (Saturday). Now you can say what you want about the moon landings (except that they didn’t happen, don’t be one of those people), that they were a political act, that the money ($153 billion in modern terms) could have been spent on a plethora of better things, but there’s little doubt in our befuddled mind this morning that as an example of setting a near-impossible goal and then working out how to achieve it, the moon landings are pretty much unbeatable. They were cool. Oh cripes, “cool”. Listen, pick your own adjective; you’ll do a better job than us.
Another relic of the 60s also made headlines this week but this one was anything but inspiring: it was flat-out depressing. In Trump’s America we’ve become numbed to his excesses; his inconsistencies and insecurities; his insults and deep-cored stupidities but this week saw a new low when the President, that’s the President, fired off a string of racist tweets about a group of non-white congresswomen as if it were still 1963. According to Trump, these women should “go back” to the “rat-infested” countries they “came from”. All but one were born in the USA. Many Republican supporters of the president appeared on radio and television shows around the world and bumbled and mumbled and avoided the inescapable answer to the question “Is Trump a racist?”. Trump himself later tweeted that he “doesn’t have a racist body in his body” (cartoonist Steve Bell in the Guardian portrayed him as a jellyfish) which of course smacks of the kind of doublespeak that’s the new normal. If you say something isn’t true then it isn’t true. Even if it is.
At a rally in Carolina, Trump stood in front of thousands of people who, when he referenced congresswoman Ilhan Omar, broke into a chant of “Send her back! Send her back!”.
They loved Big Brother.
Oh man, in all this fury we’ve forgotten about the cricket. And we love cricket. Monday saw cricket on the front pages of the newspapers for the first time in years. After the tense, brilliant and ridiculous victory of England over New Zealand the day before, the headlines pretty much wrote themselves: “Wowzat!”, “Who said cricket was boring?”, “on top of the world” and, our favourite, “Champagne Super Over” (for young people, it’s a pun on a song by Oasis who were briefly excellent in the last century). As everyone commented, the victory was made all the more joyful for the fact that it was on proper television. Sorry, let’s rephrase that in the correct terms, it was on free-to-view television which meant you didn’t need to pay Sky to watch it. In the 15 years since cricket was last available to everyone on television, there’s been a steady and significant decline in people taking up the game. It doesn’t take a media studies GCSE to work out why this might be.
Let’s take more leisurely-than-normal stroll through the “other news this week” paragraph and have a look at the following stories: the ongoing row about the removal of free TV licenses for the over 75s which has been on several front pages, several times these past five days; Theresa May gave her valedictory speech as PM which, you would have thought, should have been delivered drunk as she spat invective about all the many, many people that conspired to topple her as leader but instead was predictably tame; chimp behaviour experts (chimpists?) have discovered that our simian cousins are more sociable after they’ve sat down and watched a movie (or the cricket) together and that their favourite films are ones about chimps. And we’re sure there’s a joke in there but we simply can’t reach it. Elsewhere, doctors at Great Ormond Street hospital revealed details of their near-miraculous separation of conjoined twins, which could well be the surgical equivalent of going to the moon, and public sector workers are going to get a pay rise.
Finally, in an ever-changing world, the Sun’s pun desk remains reliably familiar. A bat bit a 2 year old child in a northern coastal town (the child was fine in the end) and the Sun gave us a Wednesday front page of “Bat out of Hull”. Because it couldn’t be anything else.
Our play out music should really be Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol because it was revealed this week as the most played song of the century so far. But we’re not going to play Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol because it’s rubbish. So, here’s Beyoncé with her song from the new Lion King film. Lots of people say the film isn’t very good (we’ve not seen it) but the song is pleasant enough. To access the video please click on the picture of a chimp watching telly below.