Did NBC doctor the soundtrack of the women’s team gymnastic event?

By Calvin Palmer

When I watched the live broadcast of the women’s team gymnastic event on BBC One, I was not aware of the North Greenwich Arena erupting in huge roars every time an American gymnast competed. The only loud cheers I heard were when the British girls were performing their exercises and routines.

Several hours elapsed between the end of the event and its broadcast on NBC TV. The technology certainly exists to alter a soundtrack. Did NBC TV doctor the soundtrack of the women’s team gymnastic event?

Watching the evening broadcast by NBC, one would be forgiven for thinking that the women’s team gymnastic event was only contested by three teams – the USA; the Russian Federation; and Romania. It also appeared from the NBC coverage that the Romania team comprised just one competitor.

There is editing and editing. NBC absolutely butchered the live coverage.

In an NBC interview with Michael Phelps, who has become the most decorated Olympic competitor of all time, the American swimmer said that it has been an honour representing the greatest country in the world. America may be great in many things but accurate TV reporting of events does not appear to be one of them.

NBC’s coverage of the women’s team gymnastic event reminded me of the kind of reporting associated with the old Soviet Communist regime, totally biased and a completely inaccurate representation of the actual events that took place in the North Greenwich Arena yesterday afternoon.

It would be an interesting excercise to compare the soundtrack of the BBC’s live coverage of the event with NBC’s edited highlights.

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NBC goes for dollars in TV coverage of London Olympics

By Calvin Palmer

I am beginning to think NBC stands for No Bloody Coverage when it comes to watching the 2012 Olympic Games on TV.

Already we have had the farce of the Opening Ceremony not being broadcast live in America and it appears that decision has set the tone for the entire coverage from London.

The women’s team gymnastics event was scheduled to start at 11:30 am ET. I switched on my TV, only to find that NBC was showing women’s rowing instead. To watch the women’s team gymnastics in HDTV, I have to wait until 8:00 pm ET and then it will be the edited highlights, which basically means America, America and America to the virtual exclusion of everyone else taking part.

As far as NBC is concerned it appears that if Americans are not competing in an event or have no chance of winning, the event simply doesn’t exist, at least on HDTV.

NBC is providing a livestream of events and what a treat it is to view that on the computer.

I was forced to switch to the NBC livestream of the women’s team gymnastics when BBC One’s coverage, I have found a web site that gives an excellent livestream, ended prematurely for the BBC Six O’Clock News.

The BBC coverage showed the women gymnasts from the USA, Russia, China, Romania, Japan, Canada and, of course, Great Britain. I did wonder why no Italian competitor was shown in action. I guess that was payback for England’s defeat at the hands of Italy in the Euro 2012 Championships.

Watching the NBC livestream coverage you would be forgiven for thinking that Great Britain was not even taking part. In America it is all about winners, so the focus was only on those teams in contention for the medals, although they did feature a couple of the Canadian competitors, I suppose as a sop to its northern neighbour.

Any notion of a special relationship existing between the USA and Great Britain apparently does not exist in the minds of TV executives at NBC. I am not even sure it exists in the minds of many Americans.

And whereas the BBC’s coverage was uninterrupted, the NBC livestream was punctuated every couple of minutes with an adverts for Chevrolet cars – the same two adverts repeated ad nauseum.

In his speech at the Opening Ceremony, Lord Coe said:

“There is a truth to sport … a purity , a drama, an intensity.”

NBC is tarnishing and manipulating that truth and purity with its blatant pursuit of maximizing its advertising revenue. In America, it is all about money; truth and purity were sold off during the Nixon era, perhaps even before.

The Los Angeles bureau chief of The Independent, Guy Adams, has been banned from Twitter for voicing his criticism of NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games in London. Whatever happened to America, land of the free? America, land where nothing is free would be more apt.

Will my criticisms of the broadcasting company result in me being banned from WordPress? We shall see.

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Pirlo’s performances turn back the clock

By Calvin Palmer

One of the highlights of Euro 2012 has been the vintage and sublime performances of Italy’s Andrea Pirlo. I use the term “vintage” for good reason because Pirlo is a throwback to how football was played in the 1970s.

Italy’s midfield genius Andrea Pirlo. Picture courtesy of theoriginalwinger.com.

As a Stoke City fan, I can’t help but see the similarity between how Pirlo plays the game and one of the most skillful and creative players ever to wear the red and white stripes of the Potters. I am of course referring to that wayward footballing genius, Alan Hudson.

Pirlo like Hudson has the skill and talent that is granted to only a few players in any given generation. He is not the kind of player who covers every blade of grass but he is always available to take a pass from a teammate. On occasions when he is put under pressure in the middle of the park, his skill is such that an attempt to dispossess him usually results in a free-kick. Hudson’s playing style was exactly the same.

The consummate skill of Pirlo is combined with an amazing footballing vision. He may be involved in a couple of interchanges with a colleague and then will suddenly unleash a 30-yard pass that splits the defence and puts a teammate clean through on goal. Hudson’s footballing vision was similar.

Pirlo also has the appearance of a player from the 1970s, with his shoulder-length hair rather than sporting a haircut straight out of the pages of The Beano or a hairstyle that is kept in place with a bottle or two of hair gel.

Where the similarity between Pirlo and Hudson ends is their respective international careers. Pirlo has been a regular for Italy since 2002 and has 88 caps. Hudson’s appearances for England were restricted to just two games – the memorable 2-0 defeat of West Germany in 1972 and the 5-0 drubbing of Cyprus in the same year.

At the peak of Hudson’s playing career, England were coached by Don Revie, the former manager of Leeds United. Revie’s old style management and preference for players who never stopped running immediately put him at odds with Hudson and Hudson was not the kind of person to keep his opinions to himself. Consequently, Hudson’s international career ended almost as soon as it started.

What was lost to the international stage was enjoyed by Stoke City fans for two glorious seasons, from 1974 to 1976, during which Hudson played the best football of his career.

Hudson returned to Stoke City for the 1984-85 season and helped the club avoid relegation from the First Division. The legs may not have been as strong but the skill and vision were still there.

If I had to choose between Pirlo and Hudson, I would go for the Italian. Earlier I referred to Hudson as a wayward genius. Pirlo seems more psychologically together to cope with the pressures of the game. Pirlo also has a better goal-scoring record than Hudson.

For me, and a great many others, Pirlo is already the player of the Euro 2012 tournament. In tomorrow’s final against Spain he has the opportunity to consolidate that accolade.

When Italy held Spain to a 1-1 draw in the Group C match, I saw them as the dark horse of the tournament. They have continued to impress me with every game and I see no reason why they cannot go on to beat the reigning champions and emerge as Euro 2012 winners. All it will take is Pirlo’s artistry, hard work and a little luck.

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Publix adopts Tea Party style of customer care

By Calvin Palmer

“Publix would prefer you took your custom elsewhere.”

That remark was directed at me this morning by the manager of the fresh produce section of the Publix store at the Roosevelt Square Shopping Center, on Jacksonville’s Westside, after I had voiced some criticism of his department.

Since when has a lowly manager become the arbiter of who may or may not shop at Publix?

The remark came after he said, “You aren’t from around here, are you?”

I guess the interpretation of “around” is pretty loose but my with my English accent, it was fairly obvious that I wasn’t born in the United States. However, I have resided in the country for 12 years and for the last five years in Jacksonville, Florida.

When I replied in the negative, the fresh produce manager issued his appalling statement. Talk about a redneck mentality.

This altercation all started when I noticed one of the plastic-bag dispensers was empty, forcing me to go back and forth to a dispenser that did have bags.

I noticed an assistant filling shelves close by and wondered how many times he had passed the empty dispenser without giving a moment’s thought to replenishing the plastic bags.

It was then I noticed someone else filling one of the display stands. He was not wearing a green Publix T-shirt, so I figured he was more than likely a manager and wearing a shirt of his own choosing was probably one of the perks of the job.

When I pointed out the empty dispenser, he said that he could replenish it or I could use the other one, which had plenty of bags.

I said, “That’s a marvellous attitude, isn’t it? I am expected to traipse back and forth to get a plastic bag.”

He went to fill up the dispenser.

A little later, I passed him again and said that I was not complaining out of ignorance. I told him that I grew up in a grocery store and knew how to treat customers and present fresh produce for sale

He replied, “Publix is the best store there is.”

I said, “Not quite. Many times you have rotting fruit and veg on display and ask top dollar for it.”

“You aren’t from around here, are you?”

“No.”

“Publix would prefer it if you took your custom elsewhere.”

“We will see what the store manager has to say about that.”

“Go ahead. The name is…” He gave his name.

After completing my shopping and checking out at the till, I said to the assistant that I wanted to see the manager.

The manager duly came and I recounted the incident with his fresh produce manager who seems to have an attitude problem.

The manager assured me that he would have a word. I said I think it needs something stronger than a word, with an attitude like that he probably needs to be fired.

“I’ll take care of it, sir,” the manager replied.

What I found appalling was the fact that not being American was followed by the suggestion to shop elsewhere.

It struck me as being like the Tea Party approach to customer care.

Perhaps Publix should incorporate this rhyme in its advertising material:

If you are red, white and blue, we are here to serve you.                                                                                                                                                             If you belong to the stars and stripes, we will listen to all your gripes.                                                                                                                                 But if you are not true to Uncle Sam then frankly we don’t give a damn!

It always amazes me that people who cannot deal with the public end up in jobs dealing with the public. Appointing this guy to the position of fresh produce manager does not say much for the recruitment and selection process adopted by Publix.

Then again political donations given by Publix in the past eight years clearly point to how a person holding such bigoted views is able to reach the position he has within the company.

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Bert Weedon, the guitarist who inspired a generation of rock musicians

By Calvin Palmer

Guitarist Bert Weedon, the man who was an inspiration to a generation of rock guitarists with his book Play In A Day, has died aged 91.

Picture courtesy of roganhouse.co.uk.

In the early sixties, for any self-respecting youngster with musical aspirations and wishing to emulate The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and a raft of groups spawned by the Mersey Sound, Weedon’s manual was the first point of reference and a step taken by the likes of Hank Marvin, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton and Brian May.

As a 10-year-old caught up in Beatlemania, I wanted a guitar – an electric one. My parents were not prepared to invest in something that I would likely be keen on for six months but then leave it unplayed as I moved on to something else. I had a track record for doing that.

But not wishing to thwart my musical ambition, they got an old Spanish guitar from Penkhull musician George Prophett. The next purchase from Chatfield’s music shop, in Hanley, was a plectrum and a copy of Weedon’s Play In A Day. I was all set.

Well, I would have been had the guitar had a normal action. Unfortunately, its action was high, meaning that the strings were a lot higher above the fretboard than is normal and required greater pressure to hold them down.

Like everyone who has used Weedon’s book, I could play Bobby Shaftoe after a few hours and went on to learn a few chords but at great cost to the finger tips of my left hand. So my chances of lining up with Eric Clapton a few years down the road quickly disappeared. I gave up after a few months and the Spanish guitar gathered dust.

I often wonder what might have happened if my parents had purchased a new guitar and one with a normal playing action.

I got the answer some 10 years later when I bought a Yamaha acoustic guitar during my studies at Manchester University. On this second attempt, I abandoned dear old Bert’s book in favour of a trendier guitar tutor, Harvey Vinson. Vinson’s book was more rock and blues oriented. It featured guitar TABs, if my memory serves me correct, and also pictures of Hendrix, Clapton and other guitar heroes of the time. I could relate to it far better than Bert’s book. I mean, come on, Bobby Shaftoe isn’t exactly a rock anthem.

Through this book I learned about bar chords and also discovered that I was destined never to be a guitarist. A minor bar chord requires the player to hold down three strings with the fourth finger. Try as I may, I just could not do it. Major bar chords were no problem, it was holding down the three strings on the minor chord that was the stumbling block.

And then I made a startling discovery. I have a birth or genetic defect – the top joint of the fourth finger of both hands will not bend and, without flexibility in that joint, holding down three strings in a minor bar chord is impossible.

Through a quirk of fate, rock stardom was denied to me. Of course, not having sufficient talent could also have had something to do with it.

So long Bert. You tried your best to teach me the guitar. And thanks to you, if I were to pick up a guitar today, I could still play the chords of G, D and C.

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Model Catrinel Menghia puts the ‘hot’ into the Fiat Abarth hot hatchback

By Calvin Palmer

Sex sells. If it does not exactly result in a purchase of a product, a sexy advert will bring the product to the fore of our consciousness.

Such has been the case with the Fiat Abarth TV advert, which has been airing on Fox Soccer Channel. Of late, I have been a regular visitor to this channel, with six of Stoke City’s last seven games being shown live.

The Fiat Abarth ad features the feminine charms of model Catrinel Menghia and the suggestive use of the foam of a cup of latte.

I love this ad not only because of Catrinel Menghia but also because it reminds me of TV ads I used to enjoy back in Britain, comprising wit, style and the sexy charms of a beautiful woman. I do not speak Italian but I swear I understand every word of what the delicious Menghia is saying. It does not really matter what she is saying, does it?

For the cunning linguists out there, Menghia actually says:

What are you looking at? Uh!

What are you looking at? Uh!?

What are you looking at?! (slap)

Are you undressing me with your eyes?

Poor guy…you can’t help it?

Is your heart beating? Is your head spinning?

Do you feel lost thinking that I could be yours forever?

The translation is courtesy of Jalopnik.com.

I wondered at first if this ad had been produced by a European ad agency because it seemed too sophisticated to be the work of an American agency. I was wrong. The ad was produced by the Richards Group in Dallas, renowned for its thinking-outside-the-box advertising campaigns and one of the agencies I covered when I worked for Adweek.

The ad first aired during the 2012 Superbowl and then went viral on YouTube.

In conservative America, for conservative read backward, it was feared this ad would be too provocative for the pious religious puritans who exert far too much influence on everyday life in a country where Church and State are supposed to be separate. The reality is that in some states, the First Baptist Church controls just about everything through its political representatives.

While it may not make it to the network channels, special interest cable channels such as Fox Soccer Channel are able to give this brilliant ad the airtime it deserves.

And what of the delectable Catrinel Menghia. First, she is not Italian. The 26-year-old model is Rumanian and has featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and a host of lingerie ads. The 5ft 9ins brunette has also appeared in Maxim and FHM. She is the face of Giorgio Armani worldwide and the body of French lingerie designers Lise Charmel. Here is one of her lingerie shots.

Catrinel Menghia. Picture courtesy of Lise Charmel.

According to Jalopnik.com, she does not have a scorpion tattoo on the back of her neck. Did anyone really think she did?

I was hoping for an in-depth interview with Menghia but when I called she was washing her hair. [In your dreams, Calvin!]

Besides being taken by the charms of Catrinel Menghia, I was also taken by the Fiat Abarth 500. I have always had a penchant for hot-hatch cars, owning first a Citroën AX GT before graduation to the AX GTi and then its replacement, the awesome Citroën Saxo VTS. What a fun car that was. It cornered as if on rails and with its amazing pick up combined with hefty power at the top end, it kept many a BMW in my rearview mirror.

The Fiat Abarth boasts a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that produces 160 bhp and 170lb-ft torque. In a MotorTrend test it clocked 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds and covered a quarter of a mile in 15.3 seconds, reaching a speed of 89.8 mph. However, it does lag 0.5 seconds and one second respectively behind the Mini Cooper S.

Those figures put my old Citroën Saxo VTS in the shade. Its 16-valve 1.6-litre engine produced 118 bhp and 107lb-ft of torque, enabling it to clock 0-60 mph in a comparatively pedestrian 7.8 seconds.

I am beginning to like the sound of the Fiat Abarth. But there is one slight problem. The bustling metropolis that is Jacksonville does not have a Fiat dealership — no surprise there. According to the Fiat USA web site, the nearest dealership to me is in Daytona, 84 miles away. That will be convenient for an oil change and regular servicing.

I think I may start a campaign to get Jacksonville to change its name to Hicksville – the city that time, and the rest of the world, forgot.

The latest TV ad for the Fiat Abarth features Charlie Sheen but Catrinel Menghia puts in a cameo appearance at the end. Sheen steps out of the car and says: “I love being under house arrest.” He then asks Menghia: “What do I get for good behaviour?” This ad was produced by the Detroit office of Doner  and is definitely in keeping with the usual American TV ads, featuring outlandish behaviour and the use of a celebrity.

My vote goes to the Richards Group and its Fiat ad.

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Bale attempts to defend the indefensible

By Calvin Palmer

For a great many footballers their brains, like their skill, are to be found in their feet. The latest player to give credence to this assertion is Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale.

In today’s edition of The Guardian he answers his critics who accuse him of deliberately diving, a notion that he rejects. Well he would, wouldn’t he?

If people want to say I’m diving then they can, but I’m trying to get out of the way and save myself, save my career if you like,” he said.

It’s a bit annoying [when people say I dive] but you’ve got people flying in at you, you’re trying to get out of the way of the challenge. If you stand there, you’re going to get a whack.

You can see why people say you’re diving but I’d rather get out of the way than get hurt, that’s what it is. It’s football, a contact sport, things do happen and you’ve got to try to be clever with it. I’m more likely to try to get out of the way and not get hurt, rather than get hurt. I tend not to dive.

In a sport that is televised like it has never been televised before, with cameras following the action from every conceivable angle, you would have to be an idiot to come out with what Bale has stated.

In a recent game at Anfield, the video replay showed quite clearly that no contact was made on Bale by Liverpool defender Daniel Agger and yet the Spurs man went down as if he had been shot by a sniper. Agger was right to remonstrate with Bale who was clearly trying to get the Liverpool player booked if not sent off. And the reaction by Bale, who was taken to task verbally by Agger, suggests a nerve was touched. Bale reacted with a push and was rightly booked.

I can quite understand a talented player not wanting to stand around and get “whacked” as Bale says, but surely jumping rather than going to ground would be a better ploy.

Isn’t the whack, real or imaginary, the thing that caused Bale to go to ground in the first place?

Bale goes on:

People want to take you down and get you out of the game and I suppose you can take it as a compliment. It’s not nice but I think it’s to be expected now. In a way they think that’s the only way they can stop you. You get up and get on with it like the best players do and go at them again.

You get used to it. I’ve got a few people sent off by doing that this year. You get up and get on with it, it’s a part of the game.

He seems quite pleased to have brought about the dismissal of fellow professionals, doesn’t he?

Don’t get me wrong, there is no place for thuggery in football and any player who adopts that approach deserves to be sent off. But when Bale’s antics are motivated by trying to get a player sent off for a challenge, they are equally despicable.

Watch this clip Gareth.

Care to reconsider what you have stated today? I very much doubt it. Your £70,000-a-week wages clearly make you believe that you are right and everyone else is wrong. The arrogance of wealth is matched only by your ignorance. You will make a great Tory MP when your playing days are over.

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