Welcome to Great America

June 26, 2006

I went to Paramount’s Great America amusement park yesterday with my girlfriend, her daughter and her friend.  After the Top Gun rollercoaster and the Raging Rapids rafting ride, Shannon and I decided to tackle a couple of the more challenging rides whilst the kids cooled off in the water park.  Invertigo was to be our finale – a heartstopping loop-and-twist forward and reverse screamer with your feet dangling in the air.

“See? This is America,” she told me.

“What, queuing?” I asked.

“No, going out to a theme park at the weekend and having a blast.”

After half an hour of waiting, we were next in line.  We watched as the cars hurtled past us three times before stopping to let the passengers off.  We waited.  And waited.  Then waited some more.  The passengers were stuck on the ride for ten minutes before the staff could free them.  The manager – in a barely intelligible announcement – told us that the ride was out of commission, and that the engineers couldn’t even give an estimate of when it would be back in action.

“Yeah,” I said.  “This is America right now: a broken promise.”

Interstellar Intelligence?

June 21, 2006

“I doubt whether there is any intelligent life within range of Earth. If there were, why haven’t they visited us?” opines Professor Stephen Hawking in a trailer for a CNN special on him.  (My excuse for watching CNN is that I’m in an hotel in Athens and there’s no BBC.)

Sometimes I doubt that there’s even truly intelligent life on Earth, Professor. And if there were intelligent life within range of us advanced enough to have developed interstellar travel, then surely they would also be intelligent enough to stay well away from us — at least until the Bush Presidency has run its course.

Edinburgh Marathon: you’ll have had your tea?

June 19, 2006

I’d like to thank the citizens of Edinburgh who turned out to support those of us running the Edinburgh Marathon on June 11th.  At least a dozen people emerged blinking and disoriented from their tenement buildings to brave the warm sun and blue sky of a Sunday morning.  My particular thanks to the organisers who — faced with budgetary restrictions by the city council — did the sensible thing and provided just seven water stations rather than the recognised standard minimum of ten.  It certainly meant less time was wasted with the futile task of trying to remain hydrated on the hottest day of the year so far — a mere three Celsius warmer than conditions which saw the deaths of four runners in last year’s Great North Run.  The commemorative T-shirt was also innovative — I had no idea that it was possible to manufacture them for single-use only.  The goody-bag was an education: the least pointless item being a plastic toy soldier with a parachute.  The most pointless was a low-calorie sugar substitute for use in baking cakes.

In all seriousness, my sincere thanks to those homeowners in the last 3-4 miles who turned their garden hoses on and sprayed us with cold water.  As I told every one of you at the time: there’s a special place in heaven for you.  It’s a shame that the warmth of the welcome by the city’s elders left us with hypothermia.  Still, as they say up there “You’ll have had your tea!” — or was that what the low-cal sugar substitute was for?

Poetic Justice

June 19, 2006

I was glad to read that June 16th saw the sentencing of two men for the homophobic and unprovoked killing of gay man Jody Dobrowski on Clapham Common in October 2005.  What was unique about the sentencing was that the judge increased the minimum term to 28 years to reflect the fact that it was a hate crime.  I think 28 years without female company should be enough time for these two murdering thugs to — how can I put it? — ‘change their view’ of sexuality.  Yes, it’s a STIFF sentence for them!  Watch out for showertime, boys!