Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Olympics: a non-athlete's take

Rick and I have been watching the Olympics. The sculpted bodies, the brief moments of competition after years of training specifically for those few moments; the heart break of failure; the incandescent glow of winning; these are some of the things that make up the beauty and drama, and the shuck and jive, of the Olympics.
The shuck and jive has been in some of the presentation. The opening ceremony featured computer-generated fireworks, and a beautiful little girl lip-synching for another little girl who is a good singer, but was judged not pretty enough to represent China. These are the things we know about to date. China has been unapologetic – of course they wanted everything to be as perfect as possible. What’s the big deal?
It has been so long since entertainment and real life merged, that I see their point: what’s the big deal? The world expected an extravaganza, China gave us an extravaganza. Who are we to nitpick how they did it? The opening ceremony is entertainment.
The games, however, are supposed to be something else: they are supposed to be real human beings engaged in real competition, and the competition is supposed to have integrity. There are supposed to be no performance-enhancing drugs, for example. As far as I know no country has figured out how to send a computer-generated super athlete to the games to compete.
The games are also supposed to be about international good will: look, we can forget our petty squabbles for a couple of weeks; athletes of different nations can come together in a spirit of cordial competition. Russia blew up that myth with their invasion of Georgia. Did you find yourself rooting for the Georgian athletes? I did.
I sit here watching these incredible people who have devoted their lives to their sport, and consider that I am watching the best in the world – if you can qualify to go to the Olympics, or even come close to going to the Olympics, it seems to me you have won gold. That’s pretty exalted company, pretty rarified air, when the world record for, say, bicycle sprinting 200 meters is just under 11 seconds and you lose big because you did it in 11.6 seconds. Six-tenths of a second? How fast is fast enough?
If you’re a gymnast and you can get up on those uneven bars and do a routine at all, much less go to the Olympics, my hat’s off to you. What a glorious thing to be able to do. It’s like flying.
Of course as I watched the gymnasts I thought with my older person’s perspective, oh man, are these kids going to hurt in twenty or thirty years. I guess it’s worth it.
This morning my husband and I were discussing real people Olympics. He said that there ought to be an Olympic Spider Solitaire event, with commentary: "OK, the American is looking good - ooh! she missed the deuce on the trey move before dealing the next layer! Ouch, that's gonna hurt her!" And maybe a Poppit competition: "China holds all the championships in this event, but the Germans and the Americans are really nipping at their heels. Last night Lieblich pulled off three super-pops and got down to three balloons without using the weight or the pushpin! You don't see that very often!"
Ain’t gonna happen, of course, but just in case it ever does, I’m right here, in training.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Watching cartoons on Saturday morning with my grand daughter, I ruminate on the evolution of the Saturday morning cartoon, and other children’s programming and animation.
The Saturday morning cartoons and children’s programming have changed quite a bit over the years. I watched Crusader Rabbit, Winky Dink, and Uncle Gary’s Fun House. My grand daughter watches Spongebob, Ben-10, and Chowder, among others.
I loved the Warner Brothers cartoons – “Ki-ill the wab-bit! Ki-ill the wab-bit!” – cartoons that had been produced for movie theaters, and really for an adult audience, from the 1930s through the 1960s. I know now that almost all the voices of those characters (Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam) were done by one man, Mel Blanc, who also worked with Jack Benny in radio and later in television. Man, that guy had an ear. The Warner Brothers cartoons were the funniest, and the most sophisticated at the time.
MGM made the Tom and Jerry cartoons. We still watch those sometimes.
The Disney cartoons were magical, but let’s face it, they were turned out for children, and the writing was aimed at children, not adults as in the Warner Brothers and MGM toons. The stories were cleaned up quite a bit for childish consumption, unless you counted the death of Bambi’s mother. It wasn’t all milk and sugar, but it sure wasn’t Grimm’s fairy tales.
The Disney animation was incredible in its complexity and depth. I was taken to see Snow White, Pinocchio, Cinderella, Bambi, Peter Pan, Dumbo, and Fantasia (tip: pack a lunch if you’re going to watch Fantasia).
My favorite was Peter Pan, but I never wanted to be Wendy, who was kind of a snore. I wanted to be Peter. I wanted to fly. Looking at the movie later from the feminist perspective, the movie was a horror. Nobody wanted to be Wendy, the responsible woman who picks up all the pieces and does all the mending for those irresponsible boys. Growing up in the 50s, girls were pretty much taught to be responsible women picking up after irresponsible boys, and by the 1970s that was out of style. It was confusing for a lot of us. OK, now I’m not supposed to get married and have a family and that’s not the greatest career a woman could possibly have? The confusion persists to this day for young women who would really like to get married and have babies. They were raised to believe there was something shameful in that. Wouldn’t it be great if children could be raised without making them ashamed of their natural impulses?
OK, I’ll stop talking nonsense and get back on topic.
There were a lot of local children’s shows back in the early years of television. Where I grew up we had Uncle Gary’s Fun Club. Truth to tell, Uncle Gary kind of gave me the willies, but that’s what was on when I got home from school, and I watched it. Uncle Gary ran old cartoons you never heard of and never will hear of because they featured a lot of racial stereotypes. He also showed the Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chase and other silent comedies. Yup. We grew up in the 1950s entertained by the stars of the 1920s and 30s. It wasn’t so bad.
I haven’t even mentioned Rocky and Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle, Super Chicken, Tom Slick, all clever creations of Jay Ward productions. Then there was the Hanna-Barbera empire, which grew out of MGM: Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Deputy Dawg, etc. H-B ruled animation for decades.
There was Superman (DC comics), and Spiderman (Marvel Comics). Beavis and Butthead, a parent’s nightmare, and South Park, which I occasionally watch and laugh at in spite of being shocked to my socks. Computer animation: Shrek, Toy Story, etc. Anime and manga and I don’t know what all other Japanese animation, some of it downright pornographic.
So when I sit on the couch with my grand daughter watching Spongebob or Chowder, I think about all these animated entertainers who have danced across the screen over the years. Some people think cartoons are only for children, and childish, and beneath adult consideration, but I think that many are well written and great entertainment, and I am amazed how many of the cartoons tell moral tales: right against wrong, good against evil. That apparently has not changed since the 1950s.
But then, I’m a goofy goober. Rahdle rahdle rahdle.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mumph and grumph.

I’ve been feeling awfully boring lately.
It’s because it has been such a busy summer. After driving to Oregon and back for the weekend last week I came home and collapsed. The mono will have its way with me once again – does it never end? So I’m back to lying on the couch, watching movies, waiting, waiting, waiting to feel better.
If you think it’s boring and tedious reading my constant complaining about how boring and tedious mono is, I can only say that (1) I’m telling the truth, and (2) if I say it often enough perhaps people will believe me. I’ve become aware that some people think I’m faking it or something, meaning I’m not available to do whatever it is they want me to do, therefore, I am faking.
I am not faking. I am tired, exhausted, worn out, worn down, alternately pissed off and depressed, and feeling like my life has been in limbo for almost a year now.
OK, earlier this summer I did quite a lot for a few weeks. That’s why I feel so crappy now. It felt so good to be living an almost normal life again, but I was wrong to think I could do that.
Oh, and last night I fell down in the hot tub, injuring my…HEEL??? Who, besides Achilles, injures their heel?
Well, never mind, it’s much better tonight and it, like the mono, like the gimpy knee, will respond to bed rest, ice, elevation, and ibuprofen.
So I’m off to bed with a not bad book and the joy of knowing I’ll be going to sleep soon. Good old sleep, weaving up the ravel’d sleeve of care, as well as my knee, my heel, and my immune system, and dare I hope? My mood.
Mumph and grumph. Better times a-comin’. Good night.