Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Hurry hard!

I keep missing opportunities to be part of the Biggest Audience Ever Gathered Before a Television Screen. I didn't watch the Superbowl, I didn't watch the men's Olympic hockey final, and if I don't watch the Oscars next week I can only imagine the consequences. Will some hooded men take away my cable? My glasses? My remote control with worn-out mute button?

I enjoyed the Vancouver games, with their distinctly Canadian flavor. Who decided to save a few Canadian dollars by acquiring a Zamboni knock-off, which didn't get the job done? Who built the malfunctioning torch tripod? It was all wonderfully cheerful and relaxed, especially after the industrial precision of Beijing. Canadians have to relax -- they have learned to wait politely while everything is said to them in two languages. Americans, by contrast, get snappish if they think you're talking English too slowly. Some of them go completely Lewis Black if they're even offered a choice of languages by a phone menu. ("Para continuar en espanol..." "I'm American, goddam it, speak English!") Of course, francophone Canadians can be assholes, too. Some of them wouldn't get off a burning plane if you only instructed them in English. ("Qu'est que c'est, fire? Je ne comprend pas.")

The opening ceremony tried a little too hard to sum up the country's history and culture, from First Nations to what looked like Maynard G. Krebs delivering a rap. Could they have found a less appropriate, more depressing song than Joni Mitchell's "Hallelujah"? Maybe "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"? I guess every such event has to have aerial acrobats, but after all, Canada was the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil. And colorized movies. And subtitles for opera. Hey, why are we friends with these people?

Closing night was more fun. They hit every cliched view of their country, and hit it with the goofy stick. Catherine O'Hara deserves a special gold medal for being the first person to get intentional laughs at the Olympics, an enterprise which takes itself with staggering solemnity. The showgirls in maple leaves, the small child dressed as a puck, the dancing Mounties and giant inflatable beaver -- the only thing missing was Sergeant Preston and his lead-dog King, skimming across the Yukon to the Donna Diana overture, the image of Canada I grew up on. High culture, too. You have to have a Big Tenor -- Domingo in Barcelona, Pavarotti in Torino -- and there's no one bigger than Ben Heppner.

When the Russians arrived to accept the flag and give us a preview of 2014, they went with their heavy hitters: Tchaikovsky, ballet and Valery Gergiev, who must have logged more time in the air than NORAD. A formally-dressed choir sang the Russian national anthem for ten minutes, as if to make up for all the medal ceremonies where it wasn't played. Based on this (and Vladimir Putin's continuing efforts to rehabilitate Stalin), I'm not expecting many laughs in Soshi. The competitors had better plan on bringing their own condoms (several hundred thousand were distributed in Vancouver, I'm told).

What can I say about curling that hasn't already been said? Love it or hate it, it's just there, and it makes a good argument for adding boccie to the summer games. (I love the idea of three elderly Italians being helped onto the medal platform.) How important is CNBC to the Business Community? It was pre-empted for hours and hours of curling, and nobody cared. Anything that pre-empts fare like Dr. Phil and "The Biggest Loser" is fine with me. I would watch figure skating even without the tragic back-stories. I would watch speed-skating even without the Spiderman costumes. I would watch skiing even if it wasn't raining on the slopes. I miss it already.



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