NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. Tape delays and poor editing choices all around. Record early ratings, but record complaints too. Will those people stick around long enough to make this a loss leader? Can NBC show any event in a real way, rather than editing it for “drama.” Sports are not fiction. And fiction hurts credibility. The thing about credibility: it transcends organizational divisions. People aren’t noticing and complaining about things that NBC Sports is doing. They’re complaining about NBC. That should concern a 20th century network vainly trying to figure out the 21st century.
Sitting still with a hurt wing.
Having something else (my neck) hurt while my shoulder is recovering from surgery. One thing I could stand, I guess. There seem to be no comfortable positions when you have two things in pain. My neck, then, can stop hurting any time.
And so I did not ride my bike on the trainer today. I opted for mere discomfort instead.
If you’ve been avoiding all contact with this film until you could see it don’t worry: nothing in that trailer is actually in the movie. And I won’t tell you that Darth Vader is actually Batman’s father. You won’t hear it from me. (But Rocky did win the big fight.)
If you have seen the movie: OMG! I can’t believe that one scene!
OK, I will spoil one thing. This is a still from the opening shot:
I’ve thought, through the entire series, that Gordon was the best character. He proved it again in this installment, but still it feels like you never really get the chance to know him.
One other thing, I love the composition of that shot. I’d like to watch the movie again to study how they frame the quieter scenes. A lot of them are worth observing. But this one in particular is terrific. Two pictures of Harvey Dent. The large one, looking over all of us. The smaller portrait, sitting over Gordon’s shoulder. The exposure on half his face a bit darker this time.
For an action film, there were quite a few little gems like gems like that.
The film is worth seeing, if you’re on the fence. You need the previous two movies to make it go, if you’re one of the four people who haven’t caught them yet. It is possibly not the best of the series, but aside from a few lines of dialogue that should have been punched up, it is a quality story.
Oh, two other things. On IMDB we learned that the person who designed Bane’s coat spent two years on it. Remarkable. Also the studio wanted more Riddler. But, if you read the notes on IMDB, you’ll see that Christopher Nolan et al resisted that as “too derivative.” An odd thing consider, if you read all of the notes on IMDB or all of the comics (I don’t); many things from this movie started in the picture books.
Finally, I saw this banner in the lobby of the movie theater:
And they say you can’t get any culture in a small town. I’m mildly curious about that. Opera, at the movie theater. That’s an interesting showpiece. I should probably check that out sometime. It might make up for having watched stinkers like Sleepy Hollow, She’s All That and Phantom Menace in the same building.
And the last Twilight movie, we watched that there, too, but I block those out. With that in mind I might need something useful like a bit of opera in the movie theater.
More tomorrow, perhaps a less painful and more cheery oeuvre!
“How did you go from hurting to riding,” my lovely bride asked.
I’d just gotten so tired of hurting, that I wanted to try something else. So I rolled out the mat. I quietly put the trainer in place. I figured out how to mount the bike more-or-less one-handed. I put the front wheel in the plastic brick and had to really stretch my leg to get over the now-taller bike.
Clip. Clip. Pedal. I stood up and leaned over the handlebars. I could feel my collarbone — there is only one position I can be in where I don’t feel it right now — but it didn’t hurt.
Best 45 minutes of the day.
Now. If I can only shake this new crick in my neck.
I write this every so often, but my favorite part of the day in our home is that time where we get the last little bit of real sunlight:
A picture never captures it though. There’s too much warmth in those few precious moments of golden light. There’s too much movement in the shadows cast by the trees and the blinds. And there are just enough trees to the west to make the light dance.
This is disappointing. I put a wind chime just under the air conditioner vent. If it gets moved by the air, I thought, I’ll have great music all through August. (The air has to run pretty continuously from here on in.
But the breeze didn’t budge the chime an inch. No tinkle, no dinkle.
Thinking of some of my word nerd friends, I’m going to work in a word I like, one that crept up elsewhere today and sounds fun to say. I mean the feeling of the word and not the construct of the definition the language has provided. It would ordinarily never find a special place in this ordinary blog.
Here is that word: misanthrope.
It is a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society. A philanthropist, meanwhile, is of course, a person who tries to promote the welfare of others. We probably all know people of both kinds.
I’ve yet to meet an anthrope, however.
It reminded me, for some reason, of when I was a public speaker — one of the things I wish I were better at — I would speak to a lot of high school kids. This was when I was in college or even high school myself, which is no easy thing. Without a wide separation between the speaker and audience you have a tenuous dynamic, and, what’s more, delivering a speech to your peers is a bit of an odd experience for the speaker.
Anyway. Before the speeches I’d always talk to the important people and visit with people that liked to shake hands and do all of that. When I could I’d find the most trusting kids there and let them challenge me: give me five words I can’t get in this speech. I’d “bet” them a dollar or something, just for laughs, and take their random words: suitcase, picket fence, monster trucks, whatever.
Then there was inevitably a place in the speech where I could drop in a list of outlandish words. If I couldn’t get them all in casually, I could do it rhetorically: “You could think the most important thing on earth are puppies or suitcases or picket fences or high yield interest rates or monster trucks or misanthropes.” It was inane, but an easy private giggle.
(I never took money off of anyone. I abhor gambling. I have a distaste for all manner of betting that involves an actual exchange, I don’t even like to linger near slot machines to admire the lights and sounds, so don’t think I was stealing from trusting kids. It was something funny to do. And maybe it kept someone from being taken in by a real con.)
Every now and then, too, one of those lists of words bubbles up in my memory. They’re always worth a smile. People will think up the most random terms when you ask them to think that way.
From the PC World has Caught Up With Us Department: Friends of ours just retrieved their daughter from summer camp, where she no doubt made up many silly words and spoke in a vocabulary full of pop culture references you and I wouldn’t understand. One suspects there was swimming, and a careful attempt by camp counselors to avoid poisons of oak and ivy.
You hope the kids had S’mores and other delightful things. There was sinking. Perhaps some canoeing. The whole summer camp routine.
Except, we were told, for ghost stories.
Ghost stories are right out.
It seems that some years back, at this camp or another one, no one was clear, a particularly good ghost story was told and that turned into a problem for one of the kids. That child was quickly no doubt noticed, stigmatized and isolated, just in case things took a turn toward Lord of the Flies.
Then that poor child’s parents (and wouldn’t you like to know what kind of people they are?) found out about it. Soon after the family’s lawyer found out about it …
And now they just tell lawyer stories at camp.
I watched a movie a few days back I’ve been meaning to mention. One of those middle-of-the-day movie channel listings that never got a lot of wide publicity when it was in theaters. But it was the middle of the day, I haven’t been able to do much post-surgery, it had decent actors — and also Ben Affleck playing Ben Affleck — and was topical, so fine. The Company Men:
Yesterday was business as usual. But today, life has other plans.
So this is a big company and Affleck’s character is the first to get downsized as a redundancy. He was a hot shot sales broker who’s now adrift with a family and a mortgage he can’t afford.
“I’m a 37-year-old, unemployed loser,” he tells his wife, and himself, when he hits bottom.
And then Chris Cooper gets canned. Cooper is the kind of actor that, if I made movies, could take any role in my production he wanted. I like his work, even when he isn’t even trying hard. He tries a few things here and almost all of them are splendid. He’s a part of the old guard, you see, he came up when this big public company was just a small ship building outfit. And now he’s an executive nearing 60 and what is he supposed to do?
“I’ve got one kid in college and another going in the fall,” he worries. And he was worried when the first round of cuts didn’t even nab him.
And then there’s Tommy Lee Jones, who was one of the original people from the company. He’s the old guy with a conscience, sorta, making waves until he’s edged out by his best friend. But as Craig T. Nelson’s evil boss character reminds him, his stock options are worth millions.
So the movie is about finding yourself, or trying to, when you have lost this important part of the western cultural identity.
Kevin Costner is in this movie too. He’s a contractor. Ben Affleck’s brother-in-law. He gives him, and some other down on their luck guys, a few jobs in the winter time. He’s working overtime on a house just to get the house done so he can pay his small crew. Meanwhile the company that’s cutting people is expanding into glorious new headquarters.
The movie is meant to be antagonistic toward the evil, misanthropic (there’s that word again) corporate world. It means to portray the small business owner, Costner, who didn’t build that, as a port in the storm. The guy that does something, the man that builds something with his own hands, he’s a lot more sure of himself than a mindless corporate automaton who only moves phantom numbers.
“Easy work, huh Bobby? Pretty much like moving comp reports from the inbox to the outbox.”
Except Costner’s dealing with his own tempest. But he’s one of the good guys, and the movie all but forgets him. He’s all but a Greek hero, you see, because the economy is off — People getting fired or fear for their jobs don’t expand their kitchens, which then impacts the hardware store, so they fire a few people, and also the carpenter, this pervasive fear just manages to seep into every aspect of a community, it is almost as if there should be some economic name for that phenomena — but he’s still working hard so he can help out the even littler little guy. But he’s being played by one of the two biggest actors in the movie and is a great story, so let’s almost ignore him. It was odd.
It is nice, once in a while, to see a movie tell a story without a lot of explosions. It had that going for it. And, also, Ben Affleck.
This isn’t a national favoritism, but a concession to bias against theatricality: Aside from admiring a bit of stagecraft Olympic opening ceremonies are pointless. Their just flippant pieces of performance art, and let’s leave it at that, OK? The guys tongiht in the ultra neon Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band uniforms, interspersed with the men in top hats doing the British running man are lost on me.
That’s alright, right? There’s no merit in the contradiction of a world now smitten with ecological motifs pumping in carcinogens to remind audience members of the Industrial Revolution. Yes the fumes they pumped in for authenticity are a drop in the bucket (Or, as organizers said: Here’s what you missed when you sat out Beijing!) but it sends the wrong vaporous message. Kind of like monsters in hospitals and in your beds. Good night kids!
Or maybe I’m concentrating on the wrong things. J.K. Rowling was there and she, as we learned from the NBC narration — how on earth would we know what to make of all of this without Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira vapidly explaining things — “made it cool” for kids to read again. If I may be an Olympic buzzkill: parent’s fault.
Rowan Atkinson was Rowan Atkinson and that makes you think of all the other prominent Brits you hoped you’d see: McKellen! Bowie! Jagger! Waters! Idol! Idle! You got Daniel Craig as James Bond and you could be cynical about that, but it was a cute bit with the queen.
And while I was disappointed that the kids in the musical portion of the show hadn’t bothered to learn the words to Bohemian Rhapsody I found it more off-putting that Munich and World War II were ignored altogether. Those were decisions made by the British Olympic Association. NBC’s decisions were equally unfortunate. Saudi Arabia has female Olympians for the first time ever, not that you knew that from watching Lauer and Bob Costas pun away the evening. Here’s their entrance. Worse, perhaps, was the empty mention Costas gave the organizers for not including a tribute to Munich. He’d promised to call out the IOC, but his little spiel was so tepid it felt like someone got to him. And NBC left out a tribute to victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks. That editorial decision was made so you could see Ryan Seacrest could make sure cameras saw him next to interview Michael Phelps.
But that’s just the opening ceremonies for you. The local guy gets up to express his pride. Everyone has had a colorful party and everything came off just as they intended for the evening. And then he introduces the head of the IOC and you think whatever you think of vague international organizations without oversight.
I just show up for the torch. We discussed this tonight. Our home’s foremost expert and researcher of all things Olympics and I rated the torch experiences of our lifetimes identically.
The world was different. Los Angeles was different. The torch was different in 1984. Gina Hemphill ran through the dark tunnel and into the evening light, carrying a torch and the opening of the Los Angeles Games and the genes of her grandfather — Alabama-native, Olympic great and Hitler beater-extraordinaire Jesse Owens (perhaps you’ve heard of him?) — into the coliseum. She ran a lap around the track and even the athletes were exuberant. They rushed to greet and encourage her, and they almost blocked her path, twice. “Everybody can say they had an Olympic moment,” she said years later, and it felt like we had. Maybe it was because the Soviets stayed home.
She handed the torch off to Rafer Johnson, a decathlete from the 1960 games, who looked in 1984 like he was still ready to go for the gold. (Today he might merely compete, but to be fair, the man is 77. Looks great, too.) He sprinted up that long, long line of steps and stood above the world, and he wasn’t even breathing hard. He held the torch over his head and the flame caught, going through the Olympic rings and up to the cauldron above. It would have been even more dramatic at night. Olympic producers would get wise to television’s needs soon enough.
There was a different kind of oversight in Seoul, where they loosed hundreds of white doves into the stadium and jets drew Olympic rings in they sky with their contrails. Sohn Kee-chung brought the flame into the stadium, he was running knees high, waving to his countrymen. He was the first Korean to medal at the Olympics, at the Berlin Games in 1936, in the marathon. He passed the torch to another person, who ran it under the cauldron, who shared the flame with three others. Those three took the world’s slowest elevator ride to the to top, while the rest of the world said “OK, now what?” in 126 languages. When they got there, several of the doves were … well … if you watch this you’ll realize no one thought this through:
We’ll come to a day when we think of everything from the 1980s as washed out and blocky, a Baby Boomer response to cubism, I’m convinced of it. Archived video online will be the reason. There’s a period where everything from the advent of color television to about, oh, 2003, just doesn’t YouTube very well.
Someone else was also concerned about that when it comes to the 1992 Barcelona Games, and so they uploaded a Spanish-language high-definition version of the torch ceremony. Herminio Menendez, a sprint canoer who won silver in 1976 and a bronze and silver in 1980 ran in the flame, which looked brilliant in the night sky. He ran a lap around the stadium under a lone spotlight before passing the flame to Juan Antonio San Epifanio, who won a silver on the men’s basketball team in 1984. Now Epi is one of the greatest basketball players Europe has ever known, so it was fitting that he ran around and then through the Olympians to find Antonio Rebollo, the now famous, anonymous, archer who competed in the Paralympic Games for Spain:
In reality, he had not actually landed the arrow in the middle of the cauldron – he had fired it way outside the stadium as instructed.
Organisers dared not risk his aim failling short and landing into the grandstand and instead told him to fire it directly over the target area… some pyrotechnics-helpful camera angles would take care of the visual effect.
By then though, the opening ceremony had become an Olympic event in itself – longer than the marathon and much less gripping on a spectator level.
Ruins it for you, doesn’t it?
The Americans brought out four-time discus gold medalist Al Oerter to bring the flame into the Atlanta Games in 1996. Oerter handed off the flame to bronze medal boxer Evander Holyfield, who invited Voula Patoulidou, the first Greek female medalist, to join him. Together they ran to four-time gold medal swimmer Janet Evans who took the torch up the long, long ramp. There the music stopped, and over the stadium you heard people calling his name: Muhammad Ali.
Pretty dramatic stuff. Especially when you wondered if that remote line rig was going to work.
For some reason my memories of the Sydney Games are a bit dimmer, but it is visually arresting still. Herb Elliot, an Australian gold winner in track and field brought the flame in. These Olympics celebrated the 100th anniversary of female competition, and so a host of Australia’s female medalists carried the flame around: Betty Cuthbert, Raelene Boyle, Dawn Fraser, Shirley Strickland, Shane Gould and Debbie Flintoff-King. Finally it came to a young woman, Australian aboriginal runner Cathy Freeman, who wore a white body suit and ran up flights of white stairs, through an orchestra and then walked on water. She lit the water at her feet, which burned in a circle and then rose above her. Now we’re just letting the engineers show off:
And that makes it less interesting, really. By the time that Greece rolled around in 2004 there was a wire walker flying through the air, and then two more, floating above the Olympians. They pantomimed a long running stride, which allowed NBC to take a commercial break. (You just come to loathe NBC after a while, don’t you? I’m sure every other network in every other country took that break, too. The Games had long since become a television program.)
Nikos Galis, a prominent Greek basketball player started the final stage of the torch run. We learned that Pele, Nelson Mandela and even Tom Cruise (OMG!) has carried this torch. Do you think these guys use a good anti-bacterial soap after the honor of carrying the torch? So many people handle the torch — and even Tom Cruise! — that’s just an invitation for a cold.
The Greek torch was a handsome one though. Not overdone, just right.
Galis dished to Mimis Domazos, a famous Greek soccer player from the 1960s. Then came hurdles champion Voula Patoulidou. (Surely making her one of the few people who’ve carried the flame in more than one Olympics.) She passed the torch to weightlifting medalist Kakhi Kakhiashvili and he delivered it to Ioannis Melissanidis, the 1996 floor exercise champion in men’s gymnastics. Finally the flame found Nikolaos Kaklamanakis, a gold medalist in sailing.
He … well, let’s let the dispassionate voice of Wikipedia tell the tale:
The torch was finally passed to the 1996 Olympic sailing champion Nikolaos Kaklamanakis, who lit a giant cigar-shaped tapered column resembling a torch — not, as usual, a cauldron — to burn during the duration of the 2004 Summer Olympics. As Kaklamanakis ascended the steps to light the cauldron, the cauldron seemed to bow down to him, symbolizing that despite advance of technology, technology is still a creation and tool of humanity and that it was meant to serve humanity’s needs. The ceremony concluded with a breathtaking fireworks display.
Seemed … symbolizing … breathtaking … That’s good editorial tone. Also the writer of that passage seems to think that tech still works for us. How quaint.
More wires at the Beijing Games. And there was a children’s chorus singing things that may or may not have been words. Seven of China’s most respected Olympic medalists ran the torch around the outside of the stadium and ultimately the final honor fell to Li Ning, the country’s biggest winner at their first Olympics, in 1984.
And at the end, it just looked like that occasional firework with the impossibly fast fuse: a terrifyingly good idea that could have gone either way:
Li Ning probably had the worst view for the footage of those previous torch relays, which was perhaps the nicest touch of the show. Maybe it was that feedback or perhaps it was some other reason, but the air walking trend has at least been halted.
Let the people run, we say.
We also agreed that the Barcelona lighting was the best. But now that I recall there were shenanigans I might have to return to the 1984 and 1996 Games for my favorite piece of Olympic theater. That’s probably just an American bias, though.