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Olympic success, police brutality and more pointless scientific research

Changes in life, however small, can make you think quite deeply. New purchases can help us to take on fresh challenges, do new things and achieve our dreams. They can draw a line in the sand between the old and the new; the past and the present; the present and the future. They can represent a new you, or help you to develop the old one.

And I can write this on my new laptop in half the time it usually takes because Microsoft Word isn't crashing every few sentences.

An Impolite Police (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love To Rant)
Bye Bye Beijing - Time for a Whole Lotta London
Here Comes the Science
Tories and YouTubers in 'Sense of Humour Failure' Shocker
Picture Puzzle: Another Prick In The Wall

An Impolite Police (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love To Rant)

Forgive me while I go a bit Daily Express "It's a bloody outrage" on you, but I find myself increasingly disturbed upon hearing about policemen and women abusing their authority. I'm not talking about inside men on bank heists or anything – this isn't The Bill – but minor violations of the law committed for no reason. They show there are a lot of officers who feel that because they wear a police badge they can do whatever the hell they want.

This week I read that a man was arrested for taking a photo of a policeman who had driven through a 'no entry' sign (well, not literally, but you know what I mean). Andrew Carter generously pointed out the officer's mistake, to which PC Aqil Farooq responded, "F*ck off, this is police business." Carter took a photo of the van and its driver, and Farooq, suddenly abandoning whatever business he had in the Bristol chip shop that was so important he could ignore road signs, ran out and knocked the camera from his hand. He then arrested Carter for being drunk and disorderly, resisting arrest and assaulting an officer of the law (none of which happened). Carter was handcuffed, had his fingerprints taken, was forced to give a DNA sample and spent five hours in gaol before being released on bail.

Somewhat defeating the object of opinion-writing journalism, I don't have much to say about this story, except that it makes me very angry. Yes, I know that most police officers aren’t like Farooq and that it's just an isolated incident blown up by a self-righteous alarmist press etc. etc., but I'm firmly of the opinion that anyone in a responsible public position – be they a politician or a lowly policeman – should have to pay the consequences for any deliberate misdeeds made on duty. Everyone makes mistakes, sure, but this wasn't a mistake. It was deliberate false arrest and wrongful imprisonment. Farooq showed that he was making a mockery of his job and, quite simply, should have been sacked.

Instead, he was made to apologise in person to Andrew Carter. Well, that’s all right then. Let bygones be bygones, let water pass under the bridge and let Farooq do it again to some other poor unsuspecting sod. Because he hasn't learnt his lesson. Why would he have done?

I've never liked the idea of having to apologise to someone being a punishment. When you're a child, maybe. But when you're an adult committing a professional crime, it's not quite enough, somehow. Farooq's boss also said, "he acknowledged what he did was wrong", which is taken straight out of the mouth of a chiding parent.

Pathetic. Sorry, is that not tabloid enough? It sickens me to the very core. That's better.

Bye Bye Beijing - Time for a Whole Lotta London

It's not often I agree with an idea suggested in a letter to The Daily Telegraph. I do enjoy reading them, usually for the terrified paranoia that Britain is going to be invaded by immigrant criminals at the behest of port-swilling Brussels bureaucrats (or the glum acceptance that it's already happened), but rarely do I agree with anything they're saying.

But one reader proposed that, if the British Government is so desperate for London 2012 Olympics money (and it is), it should make use of the fervour currently sweeping the nation and ask for voluntary donations to the fund. Good idea.

The public will have to put up some money anyway, and possibly for a long time afterward: Montreal hosted the Olympics in 1976, and Quebecian taxpayers were still paying for the main stadium, 'The Big O(we)', in December 2006 – more than 30 years later. Since no one likes taxes, raising them nearer the time to pay for the Olympics will make whomsoever is running the country by then very unpopular. It makes sense to ask for some of that money now, rather than demand it later. You may mock, but people have got carried away in the excitement of it all, especially since this British success has come as such a surprise (doesn't it always?). Ask the public to put its money where its mouth is and while it's still agape with shock, cash should come flowing out. Well, some will anyway; I'm not expecting millions to miraculously materialise overnight. But you never know.

The Beijing Olympics have, after all, provided an incredible spectacle. It takes some effort to sweep human rights abuses and some of the highest levels of air pollution in the developed world under the red carpet but by gum, they managed it (Chinese efficiency, you see). The opening ceremony stunned everyone into silence – even nine-year-old Lin Miaoke, who was meant to be singing – and the athletes did their bit too. I can even forgive Usain Bolt for being only two months older than me, because he's my kind of athlete. It's been a literally marvellous showcase of sport and athletics performed by competitors at the peak of their powers – exactly how the Olympics should be.

And most importantly for Britain in these crucial Games, we've done pretty well. 47 medals including 19 golds, placing Team GB 4th in the medals table, has shown that we'll be ready even if our stadiums won't. Cycling, sailing, rowing: it just goes to show that if we plucky Brits put our mind to it, we can be worldbeaters... as long as we're allowed to sit down.

And the British people want a great London Olympics. They're feeling inspired, but in all likelihood, most of them are too lazy to go down the gym or get the bike out of the garage; why not exploit their nationalistic euphoria by relieving them of their money and make them feel like they're contributing?

(Since you ask: no, I won't be paying anything.)

I did find it interesting, though, to hear that Led Zeppelin had to change the lyrics to Whole Lotta Love, which was performed at the handover ceremony on Sunday. Apparently "I'm gonna give you every inch of my love" is a bit risqué. It makes sense, perhaps, to change the line to "every bit of my love" – especially since Leona Lewis was singing it and, well, being a woman she doesn't have any inches to speak of – but it did remind me a bit of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' appearance on The Simpsons:

"The network has a problem with some of your lyrics. Do you mind changing them for the show?"

"Our lyrics are like our children, man – no way."

"OK, but here where it says, 'What I got you gotta get and put it in ya', how about just, 'What I'd like is I'd like to hug and kiss ya'?"

"Wow, that's much better. Everyone can enjoy that."

Personally, I find it ironic that in a celebration of Britain's emerging young talent, the music was provided by aged rockers reforming after nearly 30 years. Still, at least they're brilliant. It could so easily have been Take That.

Here Comes the Science

One of my bête noirs – the one that isn't pretentious use of French – is scientists coming up with utterly useless discoveries.

Sometimes they're already obvious, sometimes they're just completely inapplicable to anything and sometimes they're both, but they happen all the time. If it's not a geneticist declaring that black parents have black children, it's a behavioural analyst claiming that people who had a happy childhood are more socially able than those who spent their formative years crying in a box. One case that irritated me last year was a study erroneously and irresponsibly claiming that pupils born later in the school year do "significantly worse" than those born up to a year earlier. My vitriol on that report has already been spent here.

Now Dr Will Brown has 'discovered' that men find "shorter, slimmer females with long slender legs, a curvy figure and larger breasts" most physically attractive. Well... obviously.

What is the point in dedicating time and money to this study? Even if the report has a scientific revelation somewhere (and I'm not sure it does), surely there is little merit in its results because everybody already knew them. It's so stupid. You get the feeling, too, that he would have found this out a lot quicker just by observing life had he not spent his in the lab.

The study also found that people prefer symmetry in a face, defusing the argument that "Everyone loves a face with character" (a character with a face, that's what you want). Again, we know this. And what exactly can you do as a result of these findings anyway? Get a face transplant? New body dimensions? Why would a scientist bother wasting his intelligence on investigating such a pointless issue?

It's not easy to make this argument as someone who wants to write for a living. After all, what am I doing to change the world? Would it be fair for me to say that anyone who commits themselves to a life of research should make sure it's cancer-related? No. But their research could at least be useful. And I personally don't believe that, when he was studying, Dr Will Brown dreamt he could one day blow apart the myth that most men are physically attracted to tall women with broad shoulders and no breasts. All we can do is hope that these people look inside themselves and use their experience more responsibly.

But I'm not hopeful. "In his next study, Dr Brown plans to prove how attractively tall men with short legs are able to dance."


Tories and YouTubers in 'Sense of Humour Failure' Shocker

You can, of course, take the 'time and money' argument too far, as the Conservative Party did this week. I don't know if it was them personally or the Official Opposition line that has to be taken on things like this, but it did not endear me to Cameron & Co. in the slightest.

The Government recently released a short video response to the online petition asking for Jeremy Clarkson to become Prime Minister. Watch it here. It's less than a minute long and seems to have been made with a handheld video camera and Microsoft PowerPoint. No10 themselves admitted, "A member of staff put it together in a spare half-hour."

And what's the Tories' response? "While the British public is having to tighten its belt the Government is spending taxpayers' money on a completely frivolous project. This shows how detached the Labour Party has become from the concerns of the British people."

They're not alone. Some of the many angry YouTube comments include "waste of tax money" and "why are they using my money to make youtube videos?"

Surely this is some sort of joke? How much money can that video have cost? And isn't it good that the Government should try to cheer up a despondent public in the middle of a recession? Even if you'd rather politicians stuck to business, it would be insane to claim this is betraying the taxpayer. But that's what the Conservative Party is doing.

Grow up and get a sense of humour.

Picture Puzzle: Another Prick In The Wall

A fantastic action photo from England's 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic prompted me to think about its deeper meaning. Look closely at the England players in a wall and see what you can learn from their reactions to the free kick being taken. You may see more than you think.

(With thanks to Action Images, WNSL and The Daily Telegraph)

From right to left:

Beckham - distant from the rest, he looks on with barely feigned interest from his safe spot in America/at the far end of the wall. Also stupid enough not to know where his balls are.

Barry - trying hard but looks uneasy not in the middle and has Lampard and Gerrard standing in the way of a link-up with Rooney.

Lampard - wrestling for space with Gerrard and Barry. Higher than the rest but for how long?

Gerrard - holding his breath. So are we, Stevie.

Rooney - ugly bastard.

Ashley Cole - not the face. Or the balls - I need those for, uh, Cheryl. Jump? What do you mean, jump?

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Olympic success, police brutality and more pointless scientific research + TIME