Saturday, August 18, 2012

Week Thirty Five: I Gave Them Up When I Was Six, I Hope Your Teeth Are Rotten!

Psst ... Wanna see a new, totally cush, Doctor Who trailer, dear blog reader?
Course y'do. You're only human after all.

The 2012-13 premiership football season kicked-off with a flood of goals and some jaw-dropping results on Saturday. Starting with, obviously, the most important match, Hatem Ben Arfa's penalty gave yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle United victory and ensured André Villas-Boas began his tenure as Stottingtot Hotshots manager with an opening-day defeat. Yer Spurs their very selves hit the woodwork twice before Demba Ba put the Magpies ahead with a wonderful curling strike after fifty four minutes. Jermain Defoe levelled from close range soon after Magpies boss Alan Pardew had been sent to the stands for shoving a linesman. Hard. But Ben Arfa won it from the spot after he was fouled by Aaron Lennon, picking himself up to slot past Brad Friedel and send fifty thousand mad off-it Geordies home with a grin on their boat-race as wide as the Tyne Bridge. Mladen Petric scored twice on his debut as Poor Bloody Fulham Haven't Got A Chance crushed Norwich City 5-0 at the Cottage. The Croatian striker headed in a Damien Duff corner and scored with a twenty five-yard spanker that deflected in off City defender Michael Turner. Duff poked in the first from twelve yards after latching onto John Arne Riise's through ball while Alex Kacaniklic tucked in the fourth from close range. Steve Sidwell scored in a late penalty after Hugo Rodellaga was bundled over to complete the rout of Chris Hughton's side. Michu and Nathan Dyer both scored twice to help Michael Laudrup get off to a dream start as Swansea boss with a thumping victory over yer actual Queens Park Strangers. A disastrous defensive display by Rangers began when Rob Green could not stop Michu's speculative twenty five-yard shot. Swansea hit the bar twice before Michu curled home his second after the break. QPR crumbled completely by the end, with Nathan Dyer scoring twice in quick succession before Scott Sinclair completed the hammering with a low finish. Brendan Rodgers' first Premier League game as Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws manager turned into a thorough bloody nightmare as West Bromwich Albinos inflicted a heavy defeat on The Reds at The Hawthorns. On this evidence Rodgers faces a massive task to restore Liverpool to the game's elite after succeeding the - very amusingly - sacked miserable sour-faced Soctsman, Kenny Dalglish. In sharp contrast, there was delight for new Albion boss Steve Clarke - sacked along with Dalglish in Liverpool's end of season clear-out - as he watched his new team produce a display bristling with energy and enterprise. Zoltan Gera's spectacular strike gave Albion the lead just before half-time - then Shane Long wasted the opportunity to add a second with a weak penalty after he was brought down in an incident which led to Daniel Agger receiving a red card. Albion were not to be denied, however, and Peter Odemwingie made no mistake from the spot after Martin Skrtel fouled Long to settle the destination of the points. Liverpool were in tatters at this point, with substitute Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, adding a third and Albion missing further chances to give the scoreline an even more emphatic appearance. It was a brutal wake-up call for Rodgers after so much optimism surrounded the build-up to this opener. Two of the newly promoted sides enjoyed decent starts, West Hamsters marked their Premier League return with a win over Aston Villains, who were beaten in new manager Paul Lambert's first game in charge. The Hamsters went ahead when Ricardo Vaz Te pulled the ball across for Kevin Nolan to sidefoot home. Villa rarely troubled their hosts and Carlton Cole should have extended West Ham's lead but headed wide from close range. The Hamsters substitute Modibo Maiga also came close in injury-time when he raced clear and rounded Shay Given only to see his shot cleared from the goalmouth by backtracking defender Nathan Baker. The miss did not prove crucial against a poor Villa side who started brightly enough but ultimately showed sod-all penetration and little improvement on the team which only avoided relegation by two points last season. Adam Le Fondre scored a late penalty as Reading marked their return to the top flight after a four-season absence with a battling draw against Stoke. Le Fondre calmly found the corner after Dean Whitehead was given a second yellow card for a foul on substitute Garath McCleary. Royals keeper Adam Federici had earlier gifted Stoke the lead when he made a terrible mess of a Michael Kightly shot. Reading's Ian Harte nearly stole the points but his free-kick went just over. In the day's only goalless game, The Arse could not find a way past a resolute Blunderland defence as they began life without Robin van Persie. Van Persie's replacements Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud failed to score on their debuts with substitute Giroud off target from twelve yards. Abou Diaby also had a fine first-half shot saved by Simon Mignolet. But other than an impressive debut for Santi Cazorla, it was a frustrating afternoon for the Gunners. So, after one game, the table shows Fulham and Swansea heading for the champions league and Liverpool for the championship. Which, I'm sure a lot of football supporters in this country could certainly live with. The Scum, Moscow Chelski FC and defending champions Sheikh Yer Man City begin their campaigns on Sunday and Monday.

Glasgow's flagship museum landed a coup when staff played host to Stephen Fry's new art heist drama – after the production was snubbed by rival attractions in Edinburgh. The actor and a production crew adapting Ian Rankin's best-selling novel Doors Open into a major film were forced to head west after both the National Galleries of Scotland and National Museums Scotland refused permission to shoot at a high-security archives complex on the capital's waterfront. The entire production was forced to relocate to the collections centre for Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum for the scenes, which see thieves conducting a raid to steal paintings. The Galleries were forced to beef up security and cancel regular tours after Rankin's book was published amid (rather groundless) fears of 'copycat' raids. Like its equivalent facility in Edinburgh, the museums centre in Glasgow is located well away from the attraction, at a warehouse in the south side of the city. Officials at Kelvingrove refused to discuss the filming. However, Rankin told an audience at the Book Festival that there were hopes of a cinema release before Doors Open is shown on ITV. He added: 'Stephen Fry got the idea of making the drama after buying the book in an airport.'

And, so to yer next batch of Top Telly Tips:-

Saturday 25 August
Now into the second episode of what is promised to be its final series, Total Wipeout - 5:20 BBC1 - has returned to our screens for the last time. Shame. Cos, let's face it, there are very few things funnier in life than watching boastful young professionals from the Home Counties (or, indeed, boastful skinhead oafs from Essex) getting biffed, hard, in the conk with a rubber boxing glove and falling in the clarts coughing and spluttering and wishing they'd never got on the plane to Argentina. Anyway, just in case you've been asleep for the last few years this is an adventure game show in which twenty men and women (an odd assortment of individuals all with one thing in common - they're dreadful show-offs) travel to South America to compete in physically demanding challenges on a purpose-built obstacle course. It's A Knockout for The X Factor generation, basically. It's all right. Among the contestants are a prison manager from Rugby in Warwickshire, a Welsh vicar and a female farmer from Glamorgan. Richard Hammond presents from the safety of the studio, while Amanda Byram meets the contestants on the course.

Or, if you have absolutely no brains in your head whatsoever, you might prefer what's on the other side. Eight contestants have to decide who will succeed in a series of stunts and challenges that play out in front of them. Footballers Darren Bent and Bobby Zamora go head-to-head in an extreme game of target practice and two champion gymnasts compete in a hand-walking contest in Red Or Black? - 7:00 ITV. Dancers Derek Hough and Peta Murgatroyd collaborate with classical guitarist Milos in a performance of the Argentine tango, and the players must answer a question based on what they have seen. Only four of them will return later tonight to battle it out for five hundred thousand smackers. Yer actual Ant and his little pal, Dec host. Continues after The X Factor. If you do watch this abomination, you're a lost cause.

Tonight also sees the return of Inspector Montalbano - 9:00 BBC4 - the Italian detective drama, based on the novels by Andrea Camilleri. It stars the terrific Luca Zingaretti as the curmudgeonly Sicilian police inspector. Montalbano finds a decomposing body in the water during one of his habitual morning swims, which leads him to investigate the unsavoury world of international child trafficking.

Sunday 26 August
Set in 1968 against the backdrop of Martin Luther King's assassination and National Front anti-immigration agitation in the wake of Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech, Chief Inspector Gently and his ambitious sergeant John Bacchus investigate the murder of Dolores Kenny, a young black woman in the opening episode of the new - fifth - series of Inspector George Gently - 9:00 BBC1. She is a regular attender of a local club's Northern Soul all-nighters, events popular with factory workers from across the racial divide. Gently begins to uncover evidence of prejudice within the local community and his own police force as he seeks to identify the victim's killer. Gently and Bacchus have their eyes opened to the shocking consequences of casual racism as ethnic tension spirals out of control, leaving a path of destroyed friendships, love affairs and families in its wake. Fine period detective drama, filmed in around Durham and starring Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby, with Being Human's Lenora Crichlow, Craig Conway, Pippa Bennell-Warner, Philip Correia and Maggie O'Neill.

Much anticipated, tonight sees the first of a two-part opening to A Touch of Cloth - 9:00 Sky1. This is a spoof crime drama written by Charlie Brooker about DCI Jack Cloth (John Hannah), a maverick, alcoholic, widowed detective, and his incompetent partner DC Anne Oldman (Suranne Jones), who is redeemed only by her taste in personalised ringtones. The pair investigate a series of gruesome murders, and are assisted by foul-mouthed pathologist Natasha Sachet (Daisy Beaumont) and results-obsessed chief Tom Boss (Julian Rhind-Tutt). The trailer looks really good and it's got a fabulous cast so, hopes are high for this one.

It's a good night all round for drama as 9:00 also sees the second episode of ITV's The Last Weekend. The rivalry between Ian and Ollie intensifies during the second leg of their competition, and the oppressive heat serves only to heighten the tension as the late summer break continues. The atmosphere is made worse by the arrival of Daisy's colleague Milo, who brings out even more of Ian's jealous streak. Suspense thriller adapted from the novel by Blake Morrison, starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Shaun Evans, Genevieve O'Reilly and Claire Keelan.

Monday 27 August
Jack announces that he is quitting the team, in the first of a new series of the very popular New Tricks - 9:00 BBC1. But before Sandra, Brian and Gerry can question his reasons for doing so, a shadowy Whitehall figure Stephen Fisher (Tim McInnerny who's always very good in slimy, duplicitous roles of this kind) arrives with one of his secret cases - the unsolved murder of a woman dating back one hundred years. However with just twenty four hours to solve it, will the detectives find time to get to the bottom of Jack's shock decision and persuade him to stick around? Given that James Bolam appears in the series for the last time - alongside Alun Armstrong, Amanda Redman and Dennis Waterman - I'm guessing the answer to that is going to be no. Denis Lawson arrives shortly to take his place.

Cosmologists discuss their project to create 'a map of everything in existence' in Horizon: How Big Is The Universe - 9:00 BBC2. I'm so tempted to repeat CJ's line from The West Wing when Josh mentions to her the existence of something called 'the theory of everything.' 'Is it comprehensive?' it was funnier when Allison Janney said it. Anyway, they - the Cosmologists, that is, not Allison and Brad Whitford - reveal that their research has yielded some highly unexpected results, creating a picture stranger than anything they had imagined. Scientists also explain why the map suggests the universe may not be an all-encompassing entity - but merely the starting point for something much bigger. The slavvering jaws of infinity, perhaps? Just, you know, keeping it light.

A repeat, but a terrific one an well-worth catching if you missed it first time around is The History of Safari with Richard E Grant - 7:00 BBC4. For almost one hundred years, big game hunters - from Theodore Roosevelt to the Royal Family - came to British East Africa to bag the 'big five'. Now, luxury 'eco safaris' continue to drive its economy. It has been both East Africa's damnation and its salvation that wildlife is the greatest natural resource it possesses. Richard - who grew up in Swaziland - examines the controversial history of the safari. Exploring the world of the big game hunters and the luxury of today's safaris, he goes on a personal journey to experience how the beauty of the bush made Africa the white man's playground. Plotting the major landmarks in the development of the safari, Richard uncovers a world of danger, glamour and gung-ho. He reveals how the safari was continually reinvented as explorers and ivory hunters were replaced by white settlers, guns gave way to cameras and direct British rule to independence. He discovers how safari became one of the central constructs through which British rule over East Africa was imposed, provided the social touchstone for the white settlers and was eventually transformed by the glamour of Hollywood, the power of the dollar and the traveller's desire for an 'authentic African experience.' As someone born and raised in the privileged world of the ex-pats, Grant takes an insider's perspective on the scandals and adventures of the elite class of Brits who ran the show. He meets their descendants and delves into the rich material archives of their family homes, discovering that for the remaining whites in the region this history is still very much alive. As the trophy hunt became an icon of high society, everyone from Ernest Hemingway to British nobility and Hollywood stars were soon clamouring for a piece of the action. And as hunters decimated Africa's wildlife, they also surprisingly introduced the first conservation laws, if only to protect the supply of animals to shoot.

In Dig WW2 with Dan Snow - 7:00 BBC2 - the historian explores Northern Ireland's role in the Second World War, revealing the story of a pilot who became the most successful U-boat hunter of all time. The programme also examines the role played by Harland and Wolff in developing the famous Churchill tank, and takes an underwater look at the wreck of the U-155. In Donegal, a major excavation reveals the seventy-year-old Spitfire flown by American pilot Bud Wolfe, who was forced to bail out just minutes after taking off.

Tuesday 28 August
In the latest episode of The Last Explores - 8:00 BBC4 - a little treasure of a series, yer actual Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) follows the peregrinations of John Muir, the Dunbar-born, US-raised naturalist and writer. In the mid-1860s Muir had a revelation about the place of people in the scheme of nature — in the process losing the devout faith he'd been brought up with. Moving to California, his wanderlust took him to the awe-inspiring Yosemite valley (where Neil climbs a sheer rock face and is unenthusiastically hoisted up a giant sequoia, whilst his lovely hair billows in the gentle Californian breeze). Muir's writings became hugely inspirational to the national park and environmental movements. It's a quietly fascinating documentary, not to mention fabulous to look at. Muir was the precursor of conservationist campaigns and one of the founders of America's National Park movement. The adventurer devoted his life to exploring the natural world and worked to convince institutions and the general public of the importance of the environment.

Traditionally, Muslims have believed that Islam was born fully formed in all its fundamentals. But a large number of historians now doubt that presumption, and question much of what Muslim tradition has to tell the world about the birth of the religion, a debate described in Islam: The Untold Story - 9:00 Channel Four. In this documentary, Tom Holland explores the fault-line which runs between history and religious faith. He contemplates the historical Muhammad and the context of the Koran's origins, and ponders the possibility that Islam evolved gradually over many years.

Jenny Eclair, Diarmuid Gavin, Rebecca Romero and Michael Underwood face their second challenge of the week in Celebrity MasterChef - 6:30 BBC2. They head to the Chessington World of Adventures theme park and zoo in Surrey and are challenged to devise a three-course lunch menu for the park's staff, before preparing and serving one hundred and twenty meals - all under the watchful eyes of John Torode and Gregg Wallace.

On a broadly similar theme, the ten remaining amateur cooks' tart-making abilities are put to the test in the third round of the competition The Great British Bake Off - 8:00 BBC2. In an episode dominated by tarts, their first task is to bake a tarte tatin, with judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry looking for intriguing flavour combinations to tickle their tastebuds. The hopefuls then face another daunting technical challenge as they try to replicate Mary's seemingly straightforward recipe for treacle tart, but the delicate task of adding a lattice top leaves some contestants flummoxed in their ineptitude and their discombobulation. Finally, they try to create an ornate fruit tart fit for gracing the window display of a leading patisserie - before discovering who is this week's Star Baker, and which one of them will be heading home. Presented by another pair of nice tarts, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins.

Wednesday 29 August
Actor Patrick Stewart's memories of his childhood are scarred by recollections of domestic abuse which he talks about for the first time in Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1. In this documentary tracing his ancestry, Patrick investigates his father's extraordinary career in the Army and discovers the shocking impact it had on his character. Patrick recalls that his mother was subjected to outbursts of violence by her husband, and that an ambulance occasionally had to be called. In later life, the actor has used his Star Trek fame to try to help people in similar circumstances.

Britain Then and Now - 9:00 ITV - is a documentary following residents of a street in East London as they are challenged to mark the Queen's reign with a party which replicates the celebration of her coronation in 1953. To help them re-create accurate scenes, they track down some of the original party-goers and piece together memories from the day, and a fascinating picture emerges of the huge social upheavals in post-war Britain as witnessed by the people of the East End. Sarah Lancashire narrates.

Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy present Channel Four's coverage from the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, as the Fourteenth Paralympic Games are declared opened - 8:00 till late. The ceremony, entitled Enlightenment, has been designed to challenge perceptions of human possibility and showcase the achievements of British disabled artists and performers, including members of the charity Aerobility, who have overcome barriers to fly aircraft, and a group of people who acquired circus skills on a training course. The event also features a parade of athletes from each of the competing nations, before the arena's cauldron is lit by the Paralympic flame, marking the official start of the games.

Thursday 30 August
Liverpool policeman John Paul Rocksavage, known as Sav, and his colleague Andy Stockwell intervene when a gang of men mistreats a waitress at a diner in the opening episode of Good Cop - 9:00 BBC1. In an act of retribution, its leader Noel Finch sets up a false call-out and an unsuspecting Stockwell suffers a brutal assault at the hands of the thugs, resulting in his death. Returning to the scene of the crime, a distraught Sav finds a loaded gun concealed under a loose floorboard and when Finch appears he makes a fateful decision. Crime drama, starring Warren Brown, Stephen Graham, Michael Angelis, Tom Hopper and Aisling Loftus.

Helen Mirren narrates the documentary Britain By Night - 9:00 ITV - following a group of people during one dramatic night. London street cleaner Tony tries to come to terms with the end of his marriage, Indian bride Nisha prepares to realise her dream, and choirboy Szymek struggles to cope with life away from home. Newcastle radio presenter Alan takes a call on his show that proves too much, midwife Natalie delivers a baby, and pilots on a warship learn how to land their helicopters on a rolling flight deck in darkness.

Experts discuss the complex history of a valuable Celtic cauldron that was found at the bottom of a lake in Bavaria and has been connected with a number of notorious historical figures in Revealed: Nazi Temple of Doom - 9:00 Channel Five. They examine why it may be linked to Adolf Hitler's search for the Holy Grail and Heinrich Himmler's shrine to the SS, as well as the Mafia and an international fraud trial where millions of dollars are at stake.

Two years after an ash cloud created by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano caused travel chaos across Europe, Kate Humble travels to Iceland to learn how the country's scientists monitor and manage its most dangerous volcanoes in a special one-off episode of Volcano Live - 9:00 BBC2. She hears about some of the most notable eruptions in its history, including an Eighteenth-Century incident that killed thousands locally and has been linked to the deaths of many more people in Britain and Europe, and asks what can be done to prepare for similar events in the future.

So to the news: And the first one comes as something of a shock. Amanda Redman is to leave New Tricks, she has announced. The actress, who plays Sandra Pullman in the popular police drama (see above), will film one further series (starting soon) before bowing out of the series next summer. The show was renewed for two more series last year - the first of these beginning, as noted, next week - after regularly attracting over eight million viewers per episode. 'I love New Tricks and I have loved playing Sandra - I've got some gritty plotlines - but I feel I have to try something new,' Redman told the Mirra. 'And that is why I've decided I am going to film a further eight episodes and then I'll leave. The time's come. After a while, there is a danger of things getting stale.' Of her decision not to quit immediately, she explained: 'It wouldn't have been fair on the audience. There is a loyalty to the fans. Our viewing figures are so high, it's only fair to do it properly. [The BBC] understand. They know I've been thinking about this for some time. I could have turned around and said I was leaving this year, but I didn't and they respect that.' Redman added that she 'can't wait' to tackle new roles, but ruled out appearing in a period drama like Downton Abbey, instead preferring to star in 'something new.' She was appointed an MBE in June for her work running a youth drama school, as well as her services to drama and charity.

A storm of criticism against Russia was unleashed in western capitals and by human rights groups following the ludicrously harsh sentencing of three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot for protesting against the government in a Moscow cathedral. In this country, we turn our noses up at rebels and then, thirty years later, include their work in Olympic Opening Ceremonies and watch them do butter adverts. The US state department said it was 'concerned' by the ruling and urged the Kremlin to review the case. Which is fine and noble although the US are hardly in a position to start lecturing the word on human rights after Guantanemo Bay, frankly. Alastair Burt, a British junior foreign minister, said the verdict 'calls into question Russia's commitment to protect fundamental rights and freedoms.' No shit? Their president happily murdered thousands of Chechans, mate, and you've only just realised they're not 'committed' to protecting fundamental rights and freedoms? Three members of the punk collective – Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova – were sentenced to serve two years in a penal colony on Friday after being found guilty of 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.' A Moscow judge rejected the defence's argument that the band's performance of an anti-Vladimir Putin 'punk prayer' was a form of political protest and found that it was motivated by hatred for Russian Orthodoxy. Amnesty International called the verdict 'a travesty. [It] shows that the Russian authorities will stop at no end to suppress dissent and stifle civil society,' Michelle Ringuette, of Amnesty, said in a statement. 'Each step in the case has been an affront to human rights,' she said, calling the verdict 'a bitter blow to freedom in Russia.' Criticism inside Russia was also widespread. Alexey Kudrin, a former finance minister who remains a close ally of Putin, said: 'The verdict in the case against the Pussy Riot punk band isn't only a fact in the lives of three young women; it is also yet another blow to the justice system and, above all, Russian citizens' belief in it.' Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, another member of the country's minority liberal elite, also attacked the verdict, calling it 'a strategic error that terribly damages the authority of the justice system.' He voiced the widespread belief that the court case was politically orchestrated: 'We don't know who took the final decision – the Kremlin, the patriarch? Probably not the court itself.' Opposition activists have accused Putin of orchestrating the campaign against Pussy Riot. The trio were arrested after a brief performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of a song calling for the Virgin Mary to 'chase Putin out.' The band formed in response to Putin's decision to return to the presidency, and have gone from being a radical fringe group to becoming the figureheads of a protest movement numbering tens of thousands. The case against Pussy Riot was widely seen as serving as a warning to other protesters, as well as a means of appealing to Putin's deeply conservative support base. A poll released on Friday by the Levada Centre, an independent pollster, found that forty four per cent of Russians - who expressed a preference - believed the case against the band was conducted in a just manner. Most of those polled also believed the case was initiated by groups linked to the Russian Orthodox church. In a sign that the women might be released early in a bid to ease tensions and boost Russia's international image, the church released a statement late on Friday calling on the authorities to show mercy. 'Without putting the correctness of the court's decision into any doubt, we call on the state authorities to show mercy to the convicts, within the framework of the law, in the hope that they will refrain from repeating blasphemous actions,' the statement said. Andrei Isayev, a high-ranking member of the ruling United Russia party, also spoke out against the verdict. 'The verdict is harsh. The president still might take a decision. But nonetheless this verdict which, probably, will be taken negatively by some of our liberal intelligentsia, will be taken as just by a significant number of people.' Lawyers for the Pussy Riot trio have said they will appeal. A request for a pardon would require an admission of guilt, which the women have said they will not give and good on them for that. Don't let the bastards think they're doing you a favour by letting you out early, ladies. That way, they've won. Even some of Putin's loudest supporters called the verdict 'a mistake.' Tina Kandelaki, a prominent media personality and Putin cheerleader, called the verdict and sentence 'information suicide' and 'wrong at its very roots. For some reason, from the very beginning, Putin's advisers gave the president a new "Khodorkovsky,"' she said, referring to jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose arrest in 2003 signalled Putin's willingness to jail political critics. 'The millions of dollars of taxpayer money spent in the last few years on fixing the image of our country abroad have been thrown to the wind,' she said. 'Our image in the eyes of the world is getting closer to a medieval dictatorship, although in reality we are not that.' The Pussy Riot case became a global phenomenon after stars including Madonna, Björk, Stephen Fry and Sir Paul McCartney spoke out in support of the women. Mind you, so did Sting which, probably, did the girls more harm than good such it the genuine loathing which with the ludicrous balding full-of-his-own-importance tosser is held by all right-thinking individuals. The case has deepened the rift which emerged in Russian society following the unexpected appearance of a mass protest movement against Putin's return to the presidency. Some in the opposition movement gave dire predictions of what lay ahead.

The Brownlee brothers have revealed an eighty nine-year-old man sent them a letter after their heroics at the Olympics - including a tenner for each of them. Alistair won gold and younger brother Jonny won bronze in the triathlon in London and tens of thousands welcomed them home to Leeds on Monday. But it was the letter from the pensioner that touched them most. 'He wrote that he had watched us and that it was one of the best things he had seen in his life,' Alistair said. 'He also included a tenner for both of us and said that he wasn't putting his name or address on it so that we couldn't send it back! I don't know what I'm going to do with it yet. I've been so busy with media and everything else since that I haven't had a chance to do anything with it. I've had the letter in one pocket and my gold medal in the other.' Both brothers have had little time to dwell on their Olympic success, with Alistair due to fly to America for a triathlon next month and Jonny competing in Stockholm next week. 'It's been pretty hectic since [the Olympics]. We've only had a brief chance to see our parents,' Alistair added. 'I've started training again and initially it is quite easy because you get back into a bit of normality. Then as you start to do a bit of harder training you do think "this is hard work."' Jonny admitted that life after the Olympics was 'a massive comedown,' with him planning to move out of the house he has shared with Alistair for the past three years. Jonny said: 'It's hard to get back into training but it is what I love to do. Then I've got the house - I've actually got no furniture so I'm going to have to sort that out. I'll be looking for a few freebies off my family and friends to start off with. Maybe my new fame will help too.'

NASA's Curiosity rover is getting ready to smash its first Martian rock. A small stone lying just to the side of the vehicle at its landing site on the floor of Gale Crater has been selected as a test target for the ChemCam laser. The brief but powerful burst of light from this instrument will vaporise the surface of the rock, revealing details of its basic chemistry. Dubbed N165, the object is not expected to have any specific science value, but should show ChemCam is ready for serious work. And will be way-cool when it blows that rock up, good. 'I'd probably guess this is a typical Mars basalt - basaltic rocks making up a large fraction of all the igneous rocks on Mars,' Roger Wiens, the instrument's principal investigator, told BBC News. 'A basalt, which is also common under the ocean on Earth, typically has forty eight per cent silicon dioxide and percent amounts of iron, calcium and magnesium, and sodium and potassium oxides as well. We're not expecting any surprises,' said the Los Alamos National Laboratory researcher. Curiosity touched down in its equatorial crater two weeks ago. Its mission is to investigate the rocks at its landing site for evidence that past environments could have supported life. The rover carries a suite of instruments for the purpose, but its Chemistry and Camera experiment has probably garnered most attention because nothing like it has ever been flown to Mars before. ChemCam sits high up on the rover's mast from where it directs a laser beam on to rocks up to seven metres away. Really useful if you happen to come across any Ice Warriors, too. The spot hit by the infrared laser gets more than a million watts of power focused on it for five one-billionths of a second. This produces a spark that the instrument observes with a telescope. The colours tell scientists which atomic elements are present in the rock. ChemCam is going to be a key part of the process of selecting science targets during Curiosity's two-year mission. If the laser shows up an interesting rock, the vehicle will move closer and deploy its other instruments for a more detailed investigation. Assuming the test with the seven centimetre-wide N165 object goes well, ChemCam will move on to its first science target. This will be rock exposed on the ground next to the rover by the rocket-powered crane used to lower the vehicle to the crater floor. Exhaust from this descent stage scattered surface grit and pebbles to reveal a harder, compact material underneath. The crane made four scour marks in the ground - two either side of Curiosity. These have been dubbed Burnside, Goulburn, Hepburn and Sleepy Dragon. The names, all related to fire, are taken from ancient rock formations in Canadian North America. Goulburn Scour will be 'zapped' by ChemCam. 'There's bedrock exposed beneath the soil with interesting patterns of colour,' said John Grotzinger, Curiosity's project scientist. 'There are lighter parts; there are darker parts, and the team is busy deliberating over how this rock unit may have formed and what it's composed of. We'll aim the ChemCam [at Goulburn Scour], as well as taking even higher resolution images.' Curiosity has not moved since landing on 6 August. That is about to change. The rover is going to roll forward briefly to test its locomotion system in the next few days. A reverse manoeuvre is also planned. Researchers want eventually to drive several kilometres to the base of the big mountain at the centre of Gale Crater to study sediments that look from satellite pictures to have been laid down in the presence of abundant water. This journey to the foothills of Mount Sharp is going to have to wait a few months, however, because the science team intends first to go in the opposite direction. Several hundred metres to the east of Curiosity's present position is an intersection of three geological terrains. Again, this location has been given a name - Glenelg. And, again, it is taken from the geology of North America. The intersection is intriguing and a good place to compare and contrast with the bedrock exposed in Goulburn Scour. In addition, it may provide access to older, harder rocks. These could make for a first opportunity for Curiosity to use its drill. 'Even though it is in the opposite direction from the path to Mount Sharp, it's the one place we can go to to capture a lot of the information that's persevered in our landing [location],' Prof Grotzinger told BBC News.

Which, of course, brings us to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which is, of course, for Patrick Moore and David Bowie. And all the other stars. There's evidence here to show, it would seem, that there is life on Mars. Sound.

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