Peter Rhodes on football injuries, discrimination against men and meerkats behaving better

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Are the humans back?
Are the humans back?

Research at three British zoos suggests that meerkats “showed increased positive interactions” (i.e. they were happier) when human visitors returned than they were during the visitorless lockdown. Philosophers have spent thousands of years trying to figure out what existence is all about and how we humans fit into the great scheme of things. And now we have the answer. We are here to keep an eye on the meerkats.

Note how the previous paragraph, rare among items on meerkats, did not contain the word “simples”?

Research in Sweden, that most enlightened and woke of nations, suggests that employers are now discriminating against men seeking traditionally female jobs such as pre-school teacher and cleaner, but not against women seeking male-dominated jobs such as mechanic or truck driver. Clockmakers (of either sex) will confirm that any mechanism stops working if the pendulum swings too far.

A reader emails to suggest that newspaper criticism of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, all stems from the fact that she is mixed-race. I suppose if you look for racism in everything you will find racism in everything. But you may not always find the truth.

MPs are finally looking into the alleged link between sports head injuries and dementia and other conditions in later life in the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee. Good luck with that. But isn't it already established that repeated heading of the ball, usually in training, can produce long-term damage among footballers? And can anyone doubt that the massive collisions between today's super-sized rugby stars must be bad for the entire body, not only the brain? The evidence is abundant. What's missing is any serious will to make contact sports safer if it means changing the nature of the game or its appeal to fans. Can anyone seriously imagine football without headers? This like so many aspects of life will probably be decided not by players, managers, fans or even MPs but by insurance companies and accountants.

Inevitably, with so many veteran players reporting dementia in later life, all players must now be living in fear of that diagnosis. Yet the human body can be remarkably resilient. One of the sharpest, funniest and most intelligent sportsmen I ever met was a man who, from 1954-71, gave and received piledriver punches to the head. He was a joy to interview and as bright as a button. Henry Cooper.

Amazon has patented a new artificial-intelligence gizmo that can recognise the accents of film stars and generate foreign-language versions without the need for dubbing by voice-over actors. There is certainly a lot of room for improvement. In some movies and TV series the subtitles bear little resemblance to what's being said on screen. The excellent German series, Barbarians, has Romans speaking Latin and Germans speaking German which is dubbed into English and also has English subtitles, with fascinating results. Two characters fall out. “Go away!” says the (dubbed) actor. “P*** off!” says his subtitles.

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