Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Heroes of the Free World or Stark Raving Bonkers?

In Culture, Satire on July 26, 2011 at 9:32 PM

Last week saw the news that Austrian Niko Alm successfully won the right to be pictured in a pasta strainer in his driving licence photo. He claimed, however facetiously, that wearing the headgear is a requirement of his religion, Pastafarianism. This is a parody religion (although it goes to great lengths to claim it is sincere), originating from an audacious letter sent to the Kansas State Board of Education by physics graduate Bobby Henderson. Henderson sent the letter when Kansas was considering changing how science was taught in schools to include the severe questioning of evolution in favour of promotion of the ‘intelligent design’ theory. This is the theological doctrine that certain things are most appropriately explicable with reference to an intelligent, supernatural cause, namely God.

Niko Alm dons pasta strainer for his driving licence photo.Niko Alm dons pasta strainer for his driving licence photo.


Henderson was one of many angered by this enforced marriage in schools of science and religion. He thus wrote this brilliant, facetiously knowing letter to the Kansas School Board, requesting that they also teach in schools the idea that the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ created the world, because this idea is supposedly as much rooted in science as intelligent design. Due to the argument’s prescience and humour, it has become a cult phenomenon, as testified by Niko Alm’s satirical antics.

TAY seeks out some more whose religious/’religious’ beliefs are driving them to the brink of cultural acceptability. Heroes of libertarianism, raving lunatics or both? You decide…

Ned T. Rave

On the face of it, Ned Rave is just like any other 25-year-old British man. He works in the accounts department of a fairly successful telecoms company, lives with his girlfriend in moderate rented accommodation in Leicester and at the weekend plays Sunday League football, often hindered by the night before’s antics. Beneath this though lies a very particular practice, one which arguably marks him out as, quite literally, a raving lunatic. For, five times a day, without fail, Ned stops whatever he is doing at the time and performs his own act of worship to ‘Dave’ – The God of D‘n’B/House music.

Ned reasons for it as such:  “When I first heard ‘God is a DJ’ by Faithless, it just, you know, spoke to me. I just thought it made so much sense…that there is some sort of supernatural being out there, working through all the disciples like Rollo (of faithless), Tiësto, Judge Jules, and now Skream, Benga, Skrillex, Pendulum and so on to make all these banging tunes which unite everyone in like….love, you know. Look, you hardly ever see anyone arguing, getting violent, starting wars or anything when they’re there, in the moment listening to that  drop on ‘In for the Kill’ (Skream’s remix) or that bassline on ‘Slam’ (Pendulum) . It’s all just, good, man, so there’s gotta (sic) be someone behind that ain’t there. I call him ‘Dave’ cos I think he’s just a regular, stand-up geezer, just really powerful ‘n’ that.”

So it is, because of this epiphany, every day, before sunrise, at noon, in the afternoon, after sunset and after nightfall, Ned will leave what he is doing (unless he is clubbing to D ‘n’ B anyway) to worship ‘Dave’. He does this by taking an mp3 or preferably his “baby” – the boombox – to one of the many ‘churches’ in Leicester (‘clubs’, to you and me) or, where possible, the site of the former Virgin Megastores where he bought that fateful Faithless song on CD. He then faces in the direction of his spiritual home, Ibiza, and has “a good ol’ rave up”. Australian D’n’B merchants Pendulum even recently paid tribute to Ned in one of their videos.


Ned’s unusual lifestyle receives a generally confused but accepting reception among colleagues, loved ones, friends and family. His bosses at work are not overly enamoured by the regular breaks from work, but put up with them for Ned’s general productivity. One colleague seemingly only semi-jokingly accounted for his behaviour by claiming: “well, it’s the lengths working in accounts takes you too…half the time I feel like joining him, to be honest”. Alike Ned’s bosses, Ned’s girlfriend isn’t a huge fan, but grudgingly accepts his behaviour: “it can be annoying, especially after we’ve…you know and he has to go outside and ‘worship’. But what do you do… I love him and if you’d take it away from him, he’d probably be worse for it.”. His best mate Tom is a little more enthusiastic: “fair play to him; he’s a great lad, living life how he wants. Yeh, he’s taken it a bit far but everyone loves a bit of Drum ‘n’ Bass don’t they”.

Joanna Berger

19-and-half stone Joanna Berger loves her fast food. Well, that’s a bit of an understatement; she lives, and tragically will probably die, by fast food. Her worship of the “holy trinity” of Colonel Saunders, Ronald McDonald and The King (of Burger King) is such that she eats under the very strictest dietary restrictions.  Where possible, food must be fried in the “golden oil” of the “sacred deep fat fryer”. If this is not possible, food can be fried, grilled or cooked in the oven, but under no circumstances must be any “messin’ and mixin’” of the food before this happens, lest the food is “impurified”. For Ms Berger, the most unforgivable culinary sin is eating “that horrible rabbit food” because it is “very unclean and an attack on the…”. At this Joanna pauses for thought and to stuff another mouthful chips into her sizable gullet, but her friend finishes her sentence: “wondrous bounty of the holy trinity?”. “Yeh, that’s the one” Joanna concurs, in the process fully revealing an unedifying cornucopia of beige in her mouth; fat, oil and even some potato. Friends and family are severely concerned and worried by Joanna’s strange gastronomic habits. One has even turned to dealing with the situation with a dark humour, such has been the futility of his attempts to reform Joanna: “For around 10 years, I don’t think she has eaten any ‘meat’ containing more than 20% real meat and which has not in its production been responsible for the destruction of a part of the Amazon rainforest”.

"The Holy Trinity" of gastronomy.“The Holy Trinity” of gastronomy.

Ben Waiting

If you didn’t know any better, you would probably label 28-year-old Londoner Ben Waiting as just your typical ‘geek’. This is due to his portly frame, unkempt hair, face marked by glasses and spots and slightly awkward demeanour. He also displays the all the hallmarks of a typical ‘geek’; lives at home with his mum, does a bit of freelance programming and, of course, plays computer games for inordinate amounts of time. What sets Ben apart though is that he finds hard to divorce the virtual from the real. Games and, to a lesser extent, films greatly influence his real world views. For instance, due to his love of James Bond, he thinks that the Soviet Bloc is full of shadowy, facially-disfigured and oddly-monikered oil magnates with grand, nefarious plans to take over the world. Many also consider to him to live very vicariously through his World of Warcraft character, Ben the Great. Most notably by forming ‘relationships’ with the other ‘WoWers’ (or perhaps, rather, their avatars). These sincere beliefs and behaviours can be seen as worrying, although his small group of friends regard them as mere harmless quirks, only a little more extreme than their mannerisms and thought influenced by gaming and cyberspace.

What is the cause of grave concern though is Ben’s behaviour stemming from his recent prediction of a zombie apocalypse on Friday the 13th of January 2012. He came to this apocalyptic ‘realisation’ after “careful examination of the classics: 28 Days Later, Resident Evil, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Doom and the newest Red Dead Redemption game, Undead Nightmare”. He studied subtexts, decoded hidden messages and cross-referenced “prophecies of the zombie apocalypse” from these zombie-based shooting games. The final piece in Ben’s apocalyptic jigsaw is the fact that the end of the 5,125-year-long cycle in the ancient Mesoamerican Long Count calendar (used notably by the Mayans) is 2012; a fact believed by many to herald the end of the world.

This ‘realisation’ (Ben believes ‘prediction’ is an insult to the – supposed – certainty) has caused Ben to become increasingly isolated and nihilistic, claiming everyday life no long matters in the grand scheme of things. He has already made a survival kit containing 2,400-calorie food bars, solar blankets, water pouches, flashlight, tent, batteries, first aid kit, purification tablets, Swiss army knife, flares, camper’s stove, whistle, gloves and waterproof matches. Much to his mother’s chagrin, he has also set about building an Anderson shelter in the garden, redirecting the power supply to it and stocking it with basic furniture, several BB guns, canned food and, of course, his beloved £2,000 Vortex 2000 PC. He has even acquired a powerful chainsaw for the supposed zombie attack, and applied to the relevant powers-that-be to be granted a license for shotguns. At time of writing, however, the authorities remain unconvinced by Ben’s prophecy.

As hinted, Ben’s mother is becoming distressed by his behaviour. At the threat of throwing him out, Ben finally caved in to her continual requests to see a psychotherapist. The psychotherapist concluded that Ben had a rare psychiatric condition called ‘Delusional Disorder’. This is a condition where one suffers delusions (fixed, adamant beliefs that run contrary to clear consensual evidence), but without necessarily any clear mental hiccups. This can be seen in Leonardo Di Caprio’s character in Shutter Island and is also the case with Ben as both seem to function fairly well. A friend/cyber acquaintance of Ben claimed that he has “tried repeatedly to explain to Ben the Great, with my unparalleled knowledge of zombie games, that his prediction is in fact erroneous, but he has none of it. It is no madder than many religious prophecies which have been believed by millions though…”

The 'forthcoming' zombie apocalpyse.The ‘forthcoming’ zombie apocalpyse.

The RaptureThe Rapture

Joel Durston

Region Wishes to Remain ‘Unvajazzled’ by Regional Docudrama Craze

In Culture, Satire on July 26, 2011 at 9:23 PM

Extraordinary news emerged yesterday as an area of the UK claimed that it has no plans to make a spin-off of the infamous The Only Way is Essex TV reality show (or perhaps rather, ‘reality’ show).


The Only Way is Essex

The Only Way is Essex

For those of you not in the know, The Only Way is Essex (or ‘TOWIE’) is the first UK equivalent of the ‘structured reality show’ pioneered in America with Jersey Shore and The Hills. These shows follow the lives and loves of Americans from opposite seaboards (Jersey Shore – East, The Hills – West), confident enough that their lives are of interest to the wider public. Whatever your views on these shows, they have indeed proved of interest to many.

The Only Way is Essex, featuring self-styled  ‘Essex girls’ and ‘lads’, was the first major UK version of these hybrids of soaps and documentaries that occupy the bizarre, ambiguous hinterland between reality and fiction. Due to TOWIE’s enormous viewing figures (its 2nd season averaged about 1.4 million per show), seemingly every region of the country is clamouring to get in on the act. Others having already done so include Geordie Shore and Made in Chelsea.

It was thus with great surprise that TAY learnt yesterday that one region, namely Buckinghamshire town Milton Keynes, has motioned against such a show in their area. Milton Keynes lies about 30 miles North-West of central London and has grown rapidly in the latter half of 20th century, with much modern housing, transport and services. It is most noted for…well, having next to nothing of note, being fairly monocultural (white middle-class) and also full of generic, identikit, 70’s and 80’s suburban housing, faceless shopping centres and roundabouts. Lots of roundabouts. Even one of those bafflingly complicated ‘magic roundabouts’ with 5 roundabouts within one larger roundabout. Essentially, if you had to name a place that best describes that oh-so-ambiguous phrase ‘Middle England’, Milton Keynes would be it.

'Mediocre' Milton KeynesMilton Keynes

Indeed, one friend who had the indignity of growing up in Milton Keynes, darkly quipped that the only good thing about living in Milton Keynes was that it was easy to get away from, as the roundabouts do actually work and allow access to the M1, 5 railway stations and Luton International Airport just 10 miles away. It also brings to mind a somewhat accidentally brilliant response by a pupil, a friend once told me, of a similar suburban void. The teacher asks “what is the name of the place Christians believe you go which is kind of between heaven and hell? …A bit like a waiting room…?” “Crawley…?” one pupil proffered.

It is for these features and reputation (or rather lack thereof), that ‘MK’ is still technically a town. Specifically, it is a town because it doesn’t have a cathedral. This is despite a near 200,000 having the misfortune and/or bad judgement to call Milton Keynes ‘home’, however briefly or grudgingly.

Speaking in a press conference yesterday, Mayor Notine Mebeckyard stated: “we have no plans to promote such a show (like TOWIE) in our area; in the unlikely event of any group from Milton Keynes believing their lives are of such note to merit nationwide TV coverage, we will endeavour to persuade them otherwise and prevent the show getting to air. What would it be called, anyway; ‘Mediocre Milton’?!”

She further asserted that, if there did happen to be any particular identity of MK and its residents that could be advanced by a show, it would in all likelihood only be negative to the area, as authorities and residents of cities “unfortunate enough to play host to such dirge” have found.

She developed on this point to declare that “admittedly, Milton Keynes does not have much of a cultural heritage to sully, but we most certainly do not want one developed around one-dimensional, gaudy, gossiping girls and guys who think solely through their genitals”. “Furthermore”, she declared, “the vapidity and decadence which typifies this pseudo-television is entirely inconsistent with the upstanding reputation of a town built and run on the fine principles of British Conservatism”.

In summation, in a passionate kind of raison d’etre speech laced with passion ill-fitting of MK, Mebeckyard rhetorically asked: ‘do we really want to be represented nationwide by a group of self-proclaimed ‘socialites’ about as deep as a shower?! Drinking, dancing, dating, dumping, decorating ‘lady parts’ and discussing matters of such triviality even Heat wouldn’t give them a second look. I for one am quite happy in my ignorance of how ‘reem’ Chantelle’s hair is or how ‘jel’ Britney is of Tammy’s new ‘bestie’. And I am certainly happy ‘un-vajazzled’!”

Time will only tell if other local authorities are similarly content to remain ‘un-vajazzled’, literally or figuratively, by the impact of the wave of regional docudramas…


Joel Durston

Death in the Multimedia Age

In Opinion on July 22, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Watching real world tragedies unfold as played out by the Tweeting and Facebooking masses is a peculiar modern phenomenon. Trying to condense abstract thoughts, memories and moral judgements into small, virtual soundbites is an odd, even dichotomous, meeting of the ultimate with the transient. As this weekend’s deaths of over 76 Norwegians and Amy Winehouse sheds light on, it seems a phenomenon we’re still getting to grips with. It’s certainly one we’re very divided over.

Obviously, the discussion of what is ‘too soon’ and indeed ever ‘acceptable’ with regards to death has been going on for centuries. But I feel the debate is not only highlighted by the emergence of social media, but it’s also been shaped by it. Firstly, obviously in this ‘connected age’ people hear about the news faster than ever before, so Tweetbookers (amalgamated for ease) somewhat become news sources in themselves. People ‘reporting’ news largely unfettered by editorial rigour or possible institutional bias is either a very progressive, egalitarian idea or a potentially toxic one (or a bit of both). I think we’ve seen a lot to, respectively, support both schools of thought.

Some it seems are so eager to quickly make an ‘insightful’ and/or ‘humourous’ statement through a status or a fan page that they take all nuance out of their opinion, whether unwittingly or intentionally. This then can have a very cyclical polarising effect, as many ‘virtual vultures’ pore over the cybernetic remnants of the passed (myself included), glibly approving and passing on statements due to clever rhetoric or wordplay.

Yes, of course, people point out the supposed flaws in opinions, but these people are always subject to the criticism of ‘troll’, the call to ‘calm down’ and the point that ‘GOD! It was just a joke/statement’. Even, to the rather uncouth internet cliché: ‘arguing on the internet is like running in the special Olympics. Even if you win, you’re still retarded’. Many however, including myself, think such big ethical questions usually cannot easily be reduced to the short, snappy conclusions prevalent in ‘micro- blogging’. If indeed they can be reduced to anyhard and fast conclusions. Therefore many voices of moderation in the middle-ground get lost in the rubble. Such voices understandably decide to resist posting opinion or commenting on other supposedly stupid opinions (lest the potential virtual battle), where they may not do if the same issues arose face-to-face. Or because they are torn on issues, they don’t have the often irrational passion which typifies extreme views.  When such voices do speak up, the general trend is that those on either end of the argument gain some perspective and are brought somewhat back into the proverbial middle; ‘o.k…I see that…’ etc.. I have been called a ‘bloody, woolly Guardian reader’ for it, but I am very much in defence of sitting on the fence. Alike Tim Minchin…

This polarisation was a phenomenon I also found true of the last election campaign in the UK; the majority of statuses regarding it were radically for or against a party, usually against with brash statements such as ‘Cameron/Clegg/Brown will take this country to the dogs!’ The prevalence (22,802,387 Youtube views) and influence of ‘Obama girl’ seems to confirm my hunch that things are even more so over the pond.  With social media to a large extent replacing traditional forms of receiving information (TV news, newspapers etc.), I think this theory is an important one to consider and bear in mind.

I have only come across one opinion saying the incident in Norway is anything other than a ‘tragedy’. This belongs to right-wing, American, religious zealot Glenn Beck. Heclaimed on his bemusingly popular radio show: “There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler youth, or, whatever (sic). I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics. Disturbing.” Evidently, he’s unaware of the arguable inherent hypocrisy in publicly broadcasting his political views to the masses. This is, too, the same man that likens himself to Israeli Nazi hunters in his fight against progressives (or “Crime Inc.”) such as Obama and Al Gore: “I’m going to find these people that have done this to our country and expose them. I don’t care if they’re in nursing homes.” I will thus give him the dignity of no more of the publicity which he obviously so desperately craves.

No, it is the death of Amy Winehouse which has, in my experience, split Tweetbookers (as with the death ofJackass prankster Ryan Dunn did about a month ago). What separates these deaths from those in Norway in causation is the somewhat ‘ill-advised’ actions taken by the two, however mitigating the circumstances – Amy Winehouse through her drug addiction and Ryan Dunn through crashing a Porsche while well over the respective speed and drink drive limits. (There was a passenger in Dunn’s car at the time who also died). As with Dunn’s passing, it seems that the opinion of the online community over Amy Winehouse’s death has fallen into three general, although overlapping, categories: the RIP-ers, the ‘she deserved it’-ers and the self-styled comedians.

The crowd offering straight-forward, sincere ‘RIP’s, eulogies and dedications are fairly self-explanatory and uncontroversial. Although some argue social media is not an appropriate platform for the expression of deep personal feelings, it would take a very cold heart to decry this group’s undeniably well-meaning messages.

There was then a scale from these posts all the way up to those asserting that ‘she deserved it’. Although Amy Winehouse probably ultimately died from her decisions (the ‘choice’ or ‘illness’ debate is too complex to detail here), these reactions didn’t sit too well with me. It is no doubt a huge grey area, but I thought the stronger reactions in this contingent hinted at vindictiveness, even smugness. The satirical video below even sprang to mind.  Some reacted to this sombre, even tragic event along the personally reasonable lines of sensitively saying it’s a cautionary tale. What purpose, though, can saying little more than ‘she deserved it’ serve, now she is no longer with us to hear, and maybe act upon, these words?  I think this can only now serve to make people feel vindicated in their non-drug abuse. Or even, feel ‘big’ about it, even though I sense this was no one’s main intention. I’m sure the vast majority of ‘she deserved it’-ers didn’t genuinely think Winehouse deserved death (merely that it’s a cautionary tale), but if this is true, I think they should have taken a step back for just a second to ensure they didn’t misrepresent themselves, if you will (more later).

Also, some such reactions, and some people in almost unwittingly setting up a ‘grief scale’ in comparing Winehouse’s death to the Norwegians’, I feel somewhat constructed straw men to argue against. From the impression I get from her interviews and music, Winehouse didn’t really try to portray herself as a paragon of virtue nor actively try and cultivate around herself the ‘live fast, die young’ rock ‘n’ roll cliché (though, I think it is fair to say this largely happened). Indeed, if anything, I think the opposite is true. Most agree the general tone of her heartfelt, Mercury-nominated Back to Black album, written amidst serious drug problems, is plaintive and honest, often painstakingly so. Granted, its most successful single Rehab exhibits a cocksure refusal to go rehab – an attitude now mocked by many, in hindsight I may add. This isn’t, however, typical of the album from a woman who by almost all accounts was prone to extreme mood swings (she herself claimed to have bi-polar disorder). Other songs on it include the appropriately titled Back to BlackYou Know I’m No Good, Addicted and Wake Up Alone, in which she painstakingly describes her usually futile attempts to stay off drugs.

As for the comparison of the events, regardless of one’s opinion of whether this is acceptable and how the events compare if so, none of those who died asked for this moral comparison between what are unrelated events. I’m fairly sure they wouldn’t want it either. Nor I’m sure would those who knew them personally, for whom I can only imagine the predominant emotions are despair and grief. As such, I wonder who exactly people are trying to argue to in claiming ‘Amy brought it on herself’ and/or comparing the two incidents.

The third broad, vaguely defined category of reactions was that of intended comedy; the type which earns laughs in quarters not just for the wordplay of the jokes themselves, but for having the sheer audacity to ‘go there’. The etiquette of this is tricky for me because on the frequent conflicts between political correctness and freedom of expression, notably ‘banter’, I’m usually of the opinion that freedom of expression/’banter’ should win out. Indeed, I have laughed at, been in quiz teams named for and even I think told my fair share of risqué jokes about the dead. As such, I am by not calling for them to be censored, either by authorities or by the posting individuals in question.

This weekend they just really didn’t sit right with me though. People say ‘it’s just light-hearted banter’ and close-to-the-bone jokes is what make humour, particularly ‘British humour’, so great. And I think they are somewhat right, but aren’t jokes braver if they’re told about living people? By which I mean, people who have the capacity to be offended and answer back with words and actions. Late celebrities (or late anyones) are not afforded this opportunity, especially in the minds of many such as myself who see death as having a certain finality. Even worse, if the ‘joker’ or ’judger’ in question does believe in afterlife, their criticism of the dead usually implies that their idea of the dead’s afterlife is not an altogether happy one.

If you genuinely think it is a funny or joyful occasion that someone died who brought joy to millions and in all likelihood did you no direct ‘wrong’, then you’re entitled to this opinion and the sharing of it (although, personally, unless allied with a very convincing, ‘greater good’ utilitarian argument, you’re a cretin). We live in a free-thinking democracy after all, and arguably one which posthumously ‘Disneyfies’ lives of the deceased (particularly recently deceased). The thing is, I don’t think many, if any, do genuinely believe their expressed opinions or their implications. Many of the jokes even hinge on the knowingness of their risqué nature – ‘draw a line under..’, ‘not overdose on..’ these jokes etc.. I think it’s this ‘tongue-in-cheek’ knowingness that renders the jokes – supposedly – acceptable ‘banter’. Maybe it is. Or is it just a ‘shallow search for satisfaction and ‘likes’ and retweets’?

Social commentators often argue that cyberspace is used by many to selectively screen (literally) ‘positive’ aspects of their life (I for one do this), if not project a persona merely tangentially linked to one’s non-virtual life. This view has life almost as a videogame; with the objectives to ‘collect’ more friends (or ‘friends’) and positive feedback like ‘likes’. Maybe we’re not entirely genuine in our views; just feel that’s what we should be doing. All of the opinions I disliked were in fact from those who I consider to be at least ‘decent’ people. I was/am as much part of it as the next. After seeing Facebook exploding with exaggeration in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s death, I felt so obliged to post something ‘fresh and/or witty’ that this thinking, along with a ‘well done to the captors’, became my very ‘meta’/’dickhead’ status. If we take this phenomenon to be at least somewhat true (you don’t have to), should respect for a recently passed’s life not trump this? I think there’s enough material for banter elsewhere.

Thing is, it’s very, very, easy to share these thoughts now. There is a disproportionate, even unnatural, ease to communicating on social networks to hundreds directly, thousands even millions by proxy (the average number of Facebook friends in the UK is between 130 and 150, much more for the frequent users in the 16-24 demographic). Add detachment, even ‘anonymity’, into the cocktail of this hyper-real, networked world, and you have a medium where relatively extreme views can easily prosper, even if they are not genuine.

For me, the whole scenario is not dissimilar to when someone sincerely and regretfully points out a (supposed) significant flaw in their actions or personality. Bear with me here, people. When someone says in a negative way “I’m so stupid” or “I just can’t do anything”, quite what constructive purpose can it serve to agree with them? None, except a petty ego boost for the mean respondent, I would venture. Now, just as here you would not be expected to reassure the person with outrageous lies, I am not saying that those we did not like/respect in life we should eulogise over in death. However, ‘they deserved it’ comments or jokes about death are as unconstructive as affirmations of one’s own stupidity or inability, and arguably only serve to reflect badly on the person espousing them. The analogy may well be trivial, but I think it is logical. It certainly serves my argument because the social norm in such situations is not to affirm or mock the negative self-judgements. Should it be any different with people who have passed just because they are no longer, physically at least, with us? Shouldn’t we have more compassion than to ‘kick someone when they’re (six feet) down’? The harm may well not be felt directly (especially in the hyper-real worlds fostered by social networks), but I think this makes it worse if anything.

So next time you’re about to post something edgy, maybe think twice about why you are and whether you really believe it, before you hit that ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘Tweet’ button.

Joel Durston

The Alternative Wimbledon Round-up

In Sport on July 7, 2011 at 2:24 PM

With Djokovic’s and Kvitova’s somewhat surprising wins, so comes to pass another Wimbledon Championships. As usual, it showcased out-of-this-world tennis and much more: shock upsets, drama, redemption, exciting youngsters, acrobatics, hijacked interviews, tantrums and great sportsmanship. TAY details the good, the bad and the ugly of this year’s tournament…

Men’s champion: Novak Djokovic – A little overlooked by some despite his stellar record this season, Djokovic surprised many to take his first Wimbledon title. The second seed’s ultra-solid game built a great return of serve and dogged defence proved too much for all comers, even Nadal, as he swept to an emotional Wimbledon victory without being taken the distance in the entire tournament.

Men's champion - Novak Djokovic

Men's champion - Novak Djokovic

Women’s champion: Petra Kvitova – 21-year-old Kvitova firmly cemented her place as the rising star of women’s tennis with her victory at Wimbledon, in the process, becoming the first female leftie to do so since her idol and compatriot Martina Navratilova in 1990. With a great all-round game, notably a huge serve and forehand, she swept away Sharapova in straight sets in the final and won many admirers.

The Goran Ivanisevic good bloke award Pt1. – Fan’s favourite: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman’s big game and big heart won over nearly all neutrals this year. He has a real ‘go big or go home’ style, with humungous, high-risk groundstrokes, the cliché of ‘good touch for a big man’ and spectacular diving acrobatics. What endeared this Muhammad Ali lookalike just as much though was his winning smile, exuberant celebrations and sense of sportsmanship (more later). So much so that for once the crowd were probably against the great Federer during Tsonga’s remarkable Quarter Final comeback against him (more later too).

The comeback of the century award: Though Kvitova won the hearts of many, semi-finalist Lisicki perhaps won more for her incredible story. She had shown her promise as a 19-year-old by getting to the Wimbledon quarters two years previously, but in between had been plagued by a recurring ankle injury to the point of having to learn to walk again. Allied with a big game and some unerring drop shots, this year she reached the semi-finals in a nice moment of circularity, her cheerful and emotional return from injury making it all the more sweet. Indeed, such is her upbeat nature, she even often smiles after losing a point. When asked about this, Becker said that he couldn’t do that and simultaneously be a champion. Whether Lisicki can is a question for years to come…

Fan's favourite, Lisicki

Fan's favourite, Lisicki

Best match (men’s): Though there was some great tennis on display in the semis and the final, I doubt posterity will have it that any of them go down in Wimbledon folklore as a classic. A match that might though is Tsonga’s amazing, quarter final comeback from 2 sets down against Federer, especially if it goes on to mark the swansong (‘swanTsong’?) of Federer’s glittering career. Tsonga became the first player in 179 attempts to beat Federer from 2 down with a breathtaking array of tennis in going for the lines and diving round the court as if it was a bouncy castle.

Best match (women’s): As with the men’s games, many of the ‘best’ women’s game came in the earlier rounds. My picks of the bunch would be either Bartoli’s Fourth Round victory over Serena Williams or her loss to Lisicki in the quarter finals. For all of the exhilarating tennis in the former, my pick would probably have to be the latter, in which Lisicki won 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1. The match had a strange atmosphere as it was played on centre court which sounded eerily quiet aside for the seemingly apocalyptic rain blocked out by the roof. Bartoli also proves an odd, yet intriguing spectacle on court, with all her bouncing around and mimicking of shots; Andrew Castle even felt it necessary to assure viewers that she is in fact “perfectly well adjusted”! Nothing odd about the tennis though, as Lisicki’s power-game and Bartoli’s plucky double-handed shots provided a thrilling contrast of styles.

Men’s dark Horse: Qualifier Bernard Tomic leapt onto the men’s tennis scene with a hugely impressive tournament that saw him reach the quarters. On his way, he dispatched Andreev in five and Davydenko, Soderling and Malisse in straight sets. Most impressive was his third round victory over 5th seed Soderling. Admittedly, Soderling was feeling the effects of earlier Diarrhoea, but Tomic’s big, flat forehand and tireless running would have tested Soderling or any of the top 10 at their best. As indeed Tomic did against Djokovic, before eventually succumbing to the Serbian’s iron-will in the 3rd and 4th sets.Certainly one to watch…

Female dark horse: Could easily be Kvitova or Lisicki for reasons already discussed, but honourable mention needs to go to the Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm who, at the grand old age of 40 and three quarters, was by some distance the oldest player in the women’s draw. Her presence at Wimbledon is even more remarkable when it’s considered that she retired at a relatively youthful 26, only unexpectedly returning to professional tennis twelve years later in April 2008. After beating ‘our own’ Katie O’Brien in straight sets in the first round, she fought gallantly against the power of Venus Williams, eventually losing 8-6 in the third, but winning many fans in the process.

The Goran Ivanisevic good bloke award Pt2. – Sportsmanship: Tsonga’s tight four-set second round victory over Bulgarian youngster Grigor Dimitrov ended with the Bulgarian youngster flat out on the floor in exhaustion and despair after a very Tsonga-esque diving volley. In a show of sportsmanship reminiscent of Freddie Flintoff’s to Brett Lee, Tsonga hurdled the net to help pick Dimitrov up literally and metaphorically, with encouraging words and a warm embrace. So quintessentially ‘tennis’ that it could warm even the coldest heart.

The John McEnroe rage award (Men’s): Following a long, typically slip-sliding rally which ended with a slightly over-hit backhand slice from Djokovic, the Serbian proceeded to give his racket three almighty smacks against the ground. Needless to say, the racket broke and he is in line for a fine, but it shouldn’t cause too much of a dent (ahem) in his tournament winnings of £1,100,000.

The John McEnroe rage award (Women’s): Always known for not being everyone’s cup of tea, Serena Williams was in the papers again for her off-court thoughts this year. First, she bemoaned not being put on centre or no. 1 court and on her fourth-round exit to Bartoli, displaying very British sarcasm, she gave a very curt answer to an interviewer who had the temerity to ask if it was good thing for the women’s game that she lost given her lengthy absence: “Yeh, I’m super happy that I lost..go tennis *rolls her eyes*”.

Joel Durston