Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New World Cup Racing Category Starting in 2014/15

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

  Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst recently won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. I bet some of our more observant readers are thinking, "Hey, wait a minute! What does Conchita have to do with World Cup Alpine ski racing?" Our less observant readers are just waiting to see where this ends up. It turns out that Conchita got the powers that be at the International Ski Federation (FIS) thinking about what would happen if a World Cup racer was a drag queen. Would he/she compete in men's races or in women's? Here to talk with one of our intrepid reporters is our friend Bob from the FIS. Bob is back from his holiday and is always willing to talk to us. Let's find out what Bob has to say.
BB: How was your holiday?
Bob: It was great and too short.
BB: Holidays are always too short. (short pause)  Please tell our readers about this new racing category.
Bob: It is a special category for anyone who feels that he or she does not fit into racing in either men's or women's races.
BB: So there will be races for men, women, and others?
Bob: That is correct.
BB: Was Conchita the reason for this rule?
Bob: Not really. But her victory in the Eurovision Song Contest gave the FIS the kick in the pants to get it enacted. It has been in the works for almost two years.
BB: Really? Tell our readers how it originated.
Bob: As you recall, two seasons ago Lindsey Vonn requested to race against men. She was turned down by the FIS. The FIS ruled that only men could compete in men's races and women in women's.
BB: But the FIS made an exception for the Swiss men to compete in women's races. (see this story)
Bob: We did. But the Swiss men did so poorly two seasons ago we had no choice but to relegate them to skiing in women's races. Last season we changed our minds and let them ski in men's races because it was a lose-lose situation for them to compete against women. If they beat the women by large margins, then they would be viewed as macho gorillas who beat up on poor, defenseless women. But if they got beaten by women, they would have been the laughingstock of the ski world. It was then that we realized that we needed a third category of races. Women who wanted to ski against men and vice versa could all compete together.
BB: I see. So if Lindsey Vonn decides that she wants to race against men sometime in the future, she would race in this division, where there would be both men and women.
Bob: That is correct. She would fulfill her dream of racing against men, and the men who barely qualified to the World Cup would have the chance to feel good about themselves by beating women.
BB: What about Marcel Hirscher and his dog Whitey? As you recall, Whitey is female. (see this story)
Bob: Whitey was not a racer, she was a guide dog. She fulfilled the same function as a two-legged guide for a blind ski racer. Since Marcel had his eye surgery, he does not use Whitey anymore. But even if Marcel still had Whitey, he would compete in men's races.
BB: But a drag queen like Conchita would compete in the third category?
Bob: Yes, as long as she is dressed like Conchita. As you know, Conchita is really a man named Thomas Neuwirth. As Thomas he would compete in men's races, assuming he was good enough to be in the World Cup. But if he showed up as Conchita, then she would be in the third category.
BB: What about a woman who dresses like a man, for example a female Elvis impersonator?
Bob: It would be the same situation as Conchita. If the woman wore her regular clothing, then she would be in women's races. But when she is dressed as Elvis, she would be in Category Three. Extremely butch lesbians and very effeminate gay men could also compete in the third category.
BB: Would a racer who changes gender also ski in the "other" category?
Bob: Yes. It would take away having to enforce whether a person is a genetic male or female. The FIS would no longer have to conduct panty or chromosome checks to determine if a racer is really a man or a woman.
BB: Where would these races be held? 
Bob: They would be in the same venues as regular World Cup races. There would be three sets of races instead of two every weekend.
BB: And places where men and women compete in the same place on the same weekend, like Soelden and Levi, would have three races instead of two?
Bob: That's right. Three reindeer would be given away in Levi instead of two.
BB: So there would be three sets of World Cup crystal globes?
Bob: Right again.
BB: Would there also be three sets of medals at the World Championships and the Olympics?
Bob: At the World Championships there would be. The International Olympic Committee would have to decide about the Olympics.
BB: Would people really watch races from the third category on TV? The idea of a drag queen or female Elvis impersonator racing would have a certain novelty at first. But it would wear off quickly. 
Bob:  I think you are wrong. The Eurovision judges loved Conchita, as did the audience. Someone like her competing in a World Cup ski race would be a boost for us. Also, the thought of Lindsey Vonn being able to compete against men in this category would give World Cup ski racing huge TV ratings. Safety is our number one priority at the FIS. But big TV ratings are also important to us.
BB: Where would the FIS get the money to have a separate race circuit plus extra competition and training days at finals? Putting on a race is not cheap.
Bob: We would use some of the TV money that we get. There are also other possibilities like raising ticket prices by one or two euros, paying the racers slightly less for victories, or even having a bake sale to raise funds.
BB: I see. Will there be three categories of racers at lower levels, like the Europa or Nor-Am cups?
Bob: Not yet. But if the third category of racing turns out to be as popular as we think it will be, then we may expand it to the lower competitive levels.
BB: I guess we'll have to wait until the season starts to judge the success of the other category of racers. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Bob, I want to thank you for another enlightening interview. You were very interesting, as always. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 
The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We have three categories of reporters: intrepid, even more intrepid, and most intrepid of all. 
The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Austrian "Convicts to Coaches" Program

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
A new program has started in Austria to rehabilitate criminals by training them to become ski instructors. We would have thought that Austria has plenty of ski instructors, at least judging by that country's success in the World Cup.  But we were wrong. We wanted to talk with our old friend and former Schladming police chief Hermann Mayer about this program, called Convicts to Coaches, but he was busy in Sweden investigating exploding herring (see this story). So we turned to someone who plays a law enforcement officer on TV, which was good enough to meet our journalistic standards. Jan Dose, the actor who plays Kriminalkommisar Robert Baehr on the German TV series Die Garmisch Cops, consented to an interview with one of our intrepid reporters. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: I see that Die Garmisch Cops is still on the air. I thought by now you would have run out of crimes for your team to solve. Garmisch is a small city and does not have much crime except for people riding their bikes the wrong way on a sidewalk while drunk.
Dose: You are wrong. This past season we had a murder plot with the local hockey team. We also investigated someone killed by falling beer crates. It looked like an accident, but we proved that it was really murder. If your research team was halfway intrepid, they would already know this.
BB: The Blickbild has the most intrepid research team in the business! Anyway, what makes you, an actor on a police show, qualified to talk about an Austrian prisoner rehabilitation program? 
Dose: Garmisch is on the Austrian border and my colleagues and I often work with our Austrian counterparts to solve crimes.
BB: Please tell our readers about the exciting new Convicts to Coaches program.
Dose: Austrian prisoners will get special training to become ski instructors. They will go through a six-month course and when they are finished, they can teach beginning skiers. If they want to continue, they can take another six-month course and become a certified race trainer.
BB: Doesn't Austria have enough ski instructors and professional coaches? Why would the authorities choose this career and not something like auto mechanics, heating system repair, or hairdressing?
Dose: That is the beauty of this program. Austrian ski trainers are in demand everywhere. Austria has enough trainers to meet the needs of the Austrian Ski Association. (OeSV). But other countries want to emulate Austria's success. The best way to do that is to hire an Austrian trainer. The USA has had a lot of success with its Austrian trainers.
BB: Is any criminal eligible for this program? Do other countries really want murderers or rapists to be their ski instructors?
Dose: The applicants are screened and certain criminals are not allowed: murderers, rapists, child molesters, or anyone else who committed a violent crime. The program only accepts those who committed non-violent crimes like: burglary, bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion, or riding a bicycle on the wrong side of the street. They must also have at least one year left on their sentences.
BB: Wait a minute! People don't get thrown in jail for riding a bike on the wrong side of the street!
Dose: You don't watch Die Garmisch Cops, do you?
BB: I evidently don't watch it as often as I should. (short pause) Will other countries really take these new ski instructors and race trainers? After all, they are criminals.
Dose: The US Ski Team set the precedent by accepting Andreas Evers, who laundered money that his ex-girlfriend embezzled. As a matter of fact, one of the conditions for his probation is that he becomes one of the teachers for this program. Because of his infamy, he will never again be able to get a job as a ski trainer. But he can use his knowledge and expertise to train others.
BB: Who came up with the idea for this program?
Dose: Someone in the Austrian government who figured out that the main reason criminals commit crimes when they leave jail is because they don't have a job when they get out. By giving prisoners this training, they will have a good job when they get out of jail. When Austria sends its former criminals to other countries, they will be somebody else's problem. Austrians believe that everyone deserves a second chance in life.
BB: What about background checks? I'm sure that other countries will run background checks on their new ski trainers and find out that they were criminals.
Dose: The US Ski Team did not run any background checks on Andreas Evers. Or if they did, it was only to figure out whether or not he was a sexual predator. If an advanced country like the USA doesn't require strict background checks for its Austrian trainers, then it would be easy to send the new trainers to other countries who care even less about background checks.
BB: Will the OeSV take any of the new trainers?
Dose: If they seem to be talented enough, the OeSV may hire them. In Austria they would have to start at the beginning, teaching toddlers in diapers how to ski. If they want to spend years working their way up, that is their decision. But if we send them to another country, they can start off at a higher level.
BB: Won't other countries get suspicious about their new instructors not having much experience? The Austrian trainers in the States had a lot of experience before the US Ski Team hired them.
Dose: That should not be a problem. All Austrians know how to ski, so it's not like the newly minted trainers are beginning skiers. OK, there are a few Austrian football (soccer) players who don't ski, but nobody in Austria cares about football.
BB: Will the course be conducted solely inside prison, or will the students get to practice on a real ski slope?
Dose: In the summer and when the ski slopes are closed, the courses will be conducted inside the prison. Students will learn about the theory of being a ski instructor or race trainer in a classroom. They will  do practical training on a ski slope with each other and will also spend time observing experienced ski trainers. They will even have the opportunity to teach a real ski class.
BB: Won't someone be worried about some of the prisoners escaping during their practical training? One would think that being set loose on a mountain would be the perfect opportunity for a jail break.
Dose: The trainees will wear special black and white striped outfits. They will also have special wrist bracelets that will give them a strong electric shock if they go more than 100 meters away from their group.
BB: I see. Did anyone consider the possibility that the prisoners could be mistaken for members of the Finnish ski team?
Dose: That is why they have the wrist bracelets. Normally they would wear ankle bracelets, but they don't work with ski boots. There will also be guards supervising them.
BB: Will the prisoners get a diploma or certificate when they complete the program?
Dose: Yes. It will be like they went through a regular ski instructor training program.
BB: When will this program start?
Dose: Applicants for the program are currently being screened. The students will be selected in early June, with the first classroom training starting on 1 July. They will be up on the ski hills for practical training as soon as they open. The initial group will be 20 students. The next class for beginners will start in January. If any of the students in the first group decide to take the race trainer's course, that will start in January. The class size will be adjusted according to the international demand for Austrian ski trainers.
BB: I hope that this program is a success. It sounds like a real win-win proposition. Prisoners get rehabilitated with good job training and other countries get to have Austrian ski trainers. Let's hope it is a success. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Herr Dose, I want to thank you for this interview and I promise I will be more diligent about watching Die Garmisch Cops in the future. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: None of our reporters are former criminals, unless you count the one who stole his baby brother's lollipop.
The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Secret Swedish Fish Storehouse Explodes

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
The warehouse where the Swedish ski team keeps its supply of surstroemming has exploded, sending tons of the stinky fermented herring into a nearby village. We would normally not report this story because the BBC has already printed it. One of our intrepid reporters was dispatched to Sweden to give our readers the Blickbild's unique perspective on this story. Our reporter met up with our old friend and former Schladming police chief Hermann Mayer, who is now a special consultant for crime prevention on the FIS World Cup Alpine skiing circuit. We also had the chance to interview Lars-Ulf Olsson, who is an expert on exploding marine life. Let's find out what they have to say.

BB: Mr. Olsson, are you related to Hans or Matts Olsson?
Olsson: No. Olsson is a very common surname in Sweden. It is like Smith in England or the States, Schmidt or Mueller in Germany, or Li in China. Hans, Matts, and I may have a common ancestor, but you would have to go back very far to find one.
BB: What caused the warehouse to explode?

Olsson: Surstroemming naturally expand because of the gases created during the fermentation process. That is the reason why cans of them are bulging. If you see a can of surstroemming that is not bulging, never buy it.
BB: I can see why one can would explode because of the fermenting process. But what would cause a whole warehouse to explode?
Olsson: It was a simple chain reaction. Once one can exploded, then the heat generated by that explosion became a catalyst to make the others blow up.
BB: Because surstroemming naturally expands due to fermentation gas pressure, how can it be stored to prevent explosions?
Olsson: That is very tricky. The cans have to be placed far enough apart so that if one explodes, it won't affect the others. Whoever put the cans of surstroemming in the warehouse that blew up was obviously not experienced with the safe handling of surstroemming.
BB: Is this warehouse explosion connected in any way to the exploding whales in Newfoundland?
Olsson: They are related in a way. When whales get beached and start decomposing, the gases generated due to decomposition expand inside the whale. Pressure builds up and causes the whale to explode.
BB: Both whales and surstroemming explode from pressure due to gas buildup. What about penguins?
Olsson: I'm sorry, I am not familiar with any cases of exploding penguins.
BB: Our intrepid research team spent many hours watching Monty Python videos and found one with an exploding penguin (watch this video). Can you take a guess as to what caused the penguin to explode?
Olsson:  I would say that electricity from the TV built up inside the penguin, causing its nerves to short circuit and explode.
BB: So the exploding penguin had nothing to do with the surstroemming storehouse or the whale in Newfoundland?
Olsson: No. The penguin is totally unrelated even though penguins, whales, and herring are all sea creatures.
BB: I see. Thank you for the information. Herr Mayer, how did you get involved? What does a warehouse explosion in a remote area of Sweden have to do with the skiing World Cup?
Mayer: The warehouse that blew up happened to be where the Swedish ski team was storing its supply of surstroemming for the next ski racing season. It was in a remote location because the Swedish ski team didn't want the public to know about it. Otherwise, any recreational skier would want to break in and steal the surstroemming.
BB: According to the BBC report, there were tons of surstroemming being stored in that warehouse. Are the Swedish ski racers really going to eat that much in one season?
Mayer: They have big appetites because they are professional athletes.
BB: I see that your faithful dog Fido is with you. Did he eat any of the evidence?
Mayer: No! He took one sniff and ran away. Have you ever smelled surstroemming? There is a reason we are working in space suits with our own air supply.
BB: As a matter of fact, I have both smelled and tasted it, which was an experience that I will never forget. (short pause) Were you called to work on this case because someone in the FIS suspects foul play?
Mayer: Yes. We are looking for evidence of foul play. I know that Herr Olsson said that surstroemming spontaneously explodes naturally. But we know that there are racers out there who don't want the Swedish team to succeed.
BB: Who doesn't want Sweden to succeed? Their racers are well-liked, although Andre Myhrer and Ivica Kostelic's father may not be the best of friends these days. Even Germany forgave Sweden for abducting their witch doctor.
Mayer: We are exploring all of the possibilities. Now that Dr. Mabongo's curse has been lifted, there may be some competitors who are out to harm Swedish racers. We know that Norway is getting upset because surstroemming is getting more attention these days than ojlmsfjaegger.
BB: Do you know if any ojlmsfjaegger has spontaneously exploded?
Mayer: I haven't heard of any cases of exploding ojlmsfjaegger. Perhaps Herr Olsson knows.
Olsson: Ojlmsfjaegger does not explode because there is no fermentation or expansion of gas inside the salmon. Since the salmon part of ojlmsfjaegger is the sauce, there is no reason for it to explode. Fish sauce does not explode. Only intact fish do. I don't think that either reindeer hearts or chocolate would explode, though we would have to ask an expert on exploding deer or cocoa beans. My specialty is exploding marine creatures.
BB: Herr Mayer, has your team found any evidence of foul play?
Mayer: Not yet. But we have a list of suspects. There is Norway for the reason I already told you. Germany is also on our short list because they could have made the warehouse explode as revenge for kidnapping their witch doctor last year. Two Swedish skiers won races when they were supposed to be under a curse that prevented them from winning as punishment for abducting Dr. Mabongo. Croatia is another country on our short list. Andre Myhrer called Ante Kostelic an idiot for his course setting at the Sochi Olympics. Maybe Ante didn't really accept Andre's apology and decided to dispense his own brand of justice. The last suspect on our short list is someone from Head who is upset that Felix Neureuther decided to stay with his Nordica skis. So far we have not found any incendiary devices.
Olsson: One can of surstroemming is the perfect incendiary device. Exploding herring is just as effective, if not more so, than a grenade or bomb. And it smells much worse!
BB: That is true. Could someone from one of those teams have planted a can of surstroemming in the warehouse at close enough range to set off a chain reaction?
Mayer: We are exploring that possibility and checking every piece of metal for fingerprints.
BB: Going back to Head being a suspect...Felix is from Germany and not Sweden. Why would they blow up a Swedish warehouse out in the middle of nowhere?
Mayer: Perhaps the people at Head have the same geographical knowledge as the group that tried to invade Slovenia but ended up in Siberia.
BB: To this day nobody knows the fate of that invasion force. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank both of you for this interview. Herr Mayer, please keep us informed on your team's progress.
Mayer: I will.
BB: Mr. Olsson, thank you for your expertise on exploding fish and whales. I hope that you two can work together to determine the real cause of the warehouse explosion. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

 The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters do not spontaneously explode. When gas builds up inside them, they fart.
The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.