Genius moments: February 2008

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A struggle against all the odds

In 2006, Graham Calvert bet £347,000 on the American team to win that year's Ryder Cup golf tournament – he lost. And that was just a portion of his losses. So Calvert took the extraordinary step of suing William Hill for £2m for failing in its duty of care to him. Weird as it may sound, he had a point: despite the fact that he had previously asked that the bookmaker bar him from gambling again and close his first account, William Hill was quite amenable to him opening a second one. However, the bookmaker won the court case after arguing that Calvert's addiction would have led to his financial ruin anyway, which only goes to show that the old adage is true: whatever the bet, the house always wins.

Culture secretary eaten for breakfast

When the culture secretary Andy Burnham proposed on the Today programme that every schoolchild would soon be experiencing five hours of "high-quality culture" a week, in terms of visits to the opera, or art galleries, the presenter John Humphrys smelt blood. A few, ugly minutes later, Burnham's proposed policy lay half-dead on the studio floor. Humphrys declared the scheme a "sham", forcing Burnham to admit that the "high-quality culture" in question was to be funded by just 29p per pupil. It was car-crash radio of the highest order. The "Find Your Talent" scheme staggers on, however, and is being piloted in five locations.

Don't get Sarko with me, sunshine

The Cuban-heeled premier was being filmed glad-handing farmers at a Paris agricultural show when one bystander told him not to touch him. "Casse toi alors, pauvre con, va," came the angry response. The words did three things: offend a people already falling out of love with the president; make the video a web hit (now well over six million views); and challenge Paris correspondents' translation skills. Sarkozy's insult meant, variously, "Go away, you bloody idiot," "Get lost, you sad git," "Get away, you stupid jerk," and, from The Independent's John Lichfield, "Sod off, you arsehole, get lost."

Chavez: let's not beat about the Bush

You can always count on Hugo Chavez to spice up international politics, and the Venezuelan president's response to the decision of US and British courts to freeze his country's assets after he nationalised oil fields was typically robust. "Hello, president," he spat at George Bush in a radio address. "If you freeze Venezuelan assets and it harms us, we're going to harm you. Do you know how? We aren't going to send oil to the US. Take care, Mr Bush, Mr Danger." Then he cackled maniacally and stroked the fluffy white cat on his lap.

Backpacker backtracks

"Freeconomist" Mark Boyle's attempts to travel from Britain to India without a penny on him came a cropper at Calais: "Not only did no one speak the language [so we couldn't explain what we're doing], they also see us as a bunch of freeloading backpackers," Boyle wrote on his blog after hightailing it back to Eastbourne. "Given we now were pretty much out of food, hadn't slept in days and were really cold, we had to reassess the situation."

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