Some musings on the Olympics
Actually, the intentional mispronunciations by "anchorman" Bob Costas and others are an old method of conveying disrespect. My favorite example is from when I was a graduate student in Economics in the 1970s. Students and professors would congregate in the department coffee room to discusss the events of the day and other topics. I mentioned to one of the more tedious know-it-all professors that I enjoyed watching the TV show "Kung Fu," a Western, of all things, with the star, David Carradine in the lead role of Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine. The professor, never having seen the show, ridiculed it, calling it "King Fu." I was comforted in the knowledge that he was himself roundly ridiculed in the department for being a crappy teacher and mediocre economist (macro).
Such is the phenomenon of Olympics coverage. It's a mixture of hype, hyperbole, jingoism (milder these days, thanks to the rest of the planet's revulsion of the "U.S." criminal regime's various atrocities), and, most importantly, selling product (Not products. Product sounds more masculine, more emphatic.). I wrote a comment in Salon, exploring the excitement-generating nature of the Olympics broadcasts. (One rare exception in the Olympics broadcasts is Jim Lampley, who is even-handed, respectful, and insightful.)
One of the great absurdities of the coverage is how the commentators refer to the "American" athletes as "Team USA," while the other constestants are "China," "Russia," "Cuba," etc. This is consistent with the corporate fad of "branding" everything. You can support the "USA" when you have a "brand" to support.
Still, I keep watching, and was rewarded last week by a performance that is tied for the greatest I have ever seen. It was by gymnast Shawn Johnson in the floor exercise portion of the "all-around" event (A video of the performance is hard to find. Here's a good example from last year.). She only received the silver medal, but judging in women's gymnastics is highly subjective, influenced by outside factors almost as greatly as performance.
It matters little. Johnson won the gold medal in balance beam Tuesday night, so she goes home a champion. But the floor exercise last Thursday was something to behold.(you might be able to see it by following this link. NBC is very stingy with its videos.)
What made her effort so memorable was the complete freedom and abandon she exhibited in going through her routine. The look on her face was of pure joy, focus, and confidence. She was "in the zone" as Michael Jordan described the state of consciousness. For me, she is the great hero of the Olympics, the best exemplar of what the games are all about. We all need inspiration, and the best inspiration comes from higher consciousness in action. (Here's some pictures)
For a nice finishing touch, Shawn Johnson wore peace symbol earrings in her interview with Bob Costas after winning the gold. Costas had no trouble pronouncing her name. He also didn't mention the earrings.
Among other impressions of the Olympics, they are a glaring example of the wide swath of imperialism and the slave trade practiced by the "European" colonial "experiment," and its derivative nations. The athletes of "African" descent included actual "Africans," but also participants from "Great Britain," the "U.S.," "Jamaica," "Cuba," "Brazil," "Colombia," "Saint Kitts," "France," the "Bahamas," "Barbados," "Trinidad and Tobago," and too many others to mention. Here's a list of all the "countries" represented.
The "Chinese" sponsored a gymnastics gala of medal winners Wednesday night. Though I appreciate the performances in women's gymnastics, sometimes it borders on prurient. The routine by "American" Nastia Liukin on the balance beam looked more like pole dancing than athletics.
Boy, that Michael Phelps sure can swim!
The most annoying inclusion in the Olympics coverage was of former "Romanian" and "U.S." women's coach Béla Károlyi. Apparently he was excluded from coaching for his past behavior with the young females, qualifying him as a commentator for NBC. He was an embarrassment, with practiced hysteria and over-the-top cheering for the "American" team. There was something creepy about his fake enthusiasm.
Could there be a more egregious sport than "beach vollyball?" It's visually hard to watch, with all the glare from the sand, but the puzzling thing about this sport is that it qualifies as an Olympic event. The women contestants wear bikinis skimpy enough to get them arrested in many places around the planet. How about bed of nails volleyball? Or two feet of water volleyball? Hot coals volleyball? Trampoline volleyball? Pogo stick. Hmm. Pogo stick. Now there's an Olympic event.
Actually, with all the skimpy outfits in the various events, maybe the Olympics should just go full Monty, so to speak. It would be closer to the original events in ancient "Greece," and would increase viewership tremendously. One can only imagine the hype.
I cross-posted this entry in Smirking Chimp, and someone made a comment, which I had to answer. Both appear below:
Out of curiosity
"The routine by "American" Nastia Liukin on the balance beam looked more like pole dancing than athletics.
Why "american" in quotes? She moved here when she was 2.5 yrs old.
Are you against naturalization?
Don't think she's a REAL American, and if not why not?
And on the pole dancing comment - are you an afficianado or merely speculating?
cewillir on August 21, 2008 - 4:56pm.
You may have noticed that I place the names of all "countries" in quotes. That is because any "country" is an imposition on the land, and, as we are seeng in the "Caucases," these impositions are temporary and subject to abrupt change. I do still capitalize the names, adhering to literate standards of the "English" language.
Or, as John Lennon once put it, "Imagine there's no countries; It isn't hard to do; Nothing to kill or die for; And no religion too; Imagine all the people; Living life in peace."
It's kind of hard to speculate about pole dancing. If you mean to to buy or sell in expectation of profiting from market fluctuations, then no. If you mean to meditate on or ponder a subject, not quite. If you mean to take to be true on the basis of insufficient evidence, no. It looked like pole dancing, though of the horizontal kind.
As far as being an aficionado, if you mean a person who likes, knows about, and appreciates a usually fervently pursued interest or activity, then no. The only pole dancing I have actually seen was a trailer of Demi Moore in "Stripper." Maybe it was just a picture. It was so long ago I forget.
My understanding is that pole dancing is when a person, male or female, dances in an erotic fashion around a metal pole, making suggestive moves with the pole as a prop. Though the prop in the case of Nastia Liukin was wooden, thicker, and horizontal, and she didn't remove any clothing, the routine had little to do with gymnastics, and was highly erotic. In that sense, it sure looked like pole dancing.
As far as anyone being a "real" "American," that assumes that there is such a thing as an "American" in the first place. I refer you to the explanation above. If the concept of an "American" is an illusion in the first place, then to be a real example of an illusion is an oxymoron, sort of like the son of a barren woman, an example often referred to in the scriptures of "India."
Having said all that, Nastia Liukin is as "American" as anyone else, and I wish her well. She can dance however she likes. Sexualizing the Olympics, though, degrades the athletic aspect of the games, and reduces it to just the kind of spectacle that fuels the greed of corporate media giants like NBC, and of course the corporate sponsors of the "games." If you get a chance to watch a video of the routine, see what you think. The finale was not a competition, just a showcase for medal winners to entertain the crowd. Bread and circus, so to speak.
JAH on August 22, 2008 - 3:03am.
By the way, the other performance that is tied for the greatest in my experience was also by a female, Sarah Hughes, ice skating in the 2002 Winter Olympics. She showed the same level of freedom and abandon.
Here are some links to Shawn Johnson pictures and videos from the DesMoines Register.
Here's what the Wall Street Journal had to say about Shawn Johnson.
A song to fit the theme of the Olympics, if you can make it play.
Here's some Olympic music.
Here's some more, complete with a slogan.