--Pithy Epigraph Goes Here--
Opening Ceremony: I treat all such events as glorified half-time shows, therefore my hallmarks are Elvis Presto (Remember that Super Bowl? This is the Stalker of half-time shows) and the Motown half-time at Super Bowl 32 (An A simply for Martha and the Vandellas.) In this case, I like the introduction to Japanese Culture: Raising the pillars to block out evil spirits, having the Sumo Wrestler (The Hawaiian) stamp out the evil spirits still trapped inside, and the children dancing in the straw boots and raincoats. Even better, the athletes were brought in right away and the actual ceremony was short. Lighting the torch was ho-hum, but how do you beat Muhammed Ali, Barcelona's Archer, or Lillehammer's ski-jumper? The song the children sang was insipid and the Ode to Joy went on too long, but I liked the idea of five continents singing together. All in all I give this ceremony a B+.
Coverage: Already an A+. The Japanese have dedicated their two sattelite channels to almost 24 hour, commercial free covereage, and they've presented a schedule that includes every event, from downhill to curling. All athletes are shown, rather than the host country's (remember seeing any non-Americans during the Atlanta games?) Some commercial channels are simulcasting, and although no English language sub-channel is available (for rather surreptitious reasons explained below) I can't begrudge them that.
Olympic Oaths and Pressure: After the resolution of the downhill course controversey described in an earlier letter, the next controversey was the decision of the Nagano Olympic Committee to allow the Japanese team captain to deliver the athlete's oath in Japanese rather than the traditional English. This was based on the notion that because Japanese don't speak English well the pressure on the Team Captain would be too great. This concern over a man who is in fact one of the top ski jumpers (Nordic Combined ) in the world. Speaking English is of course more pressure than strapping skis to your feet, hurtling yourself down a ramp at high speeds and jumping down a mountain in front of three billion people. An F for F%#k you.
Stereo: We can't get an English sub-channel because this would mean Japanese TV couldn't broadcast the Olympics in Stereo. They've used this argument before regarding American movies but no one can quite explain the technical difficulties. But, hey. It is their country. Grade: Push.
Finally, from the pre-olympics, The Power of Prayer: I may have told you this before, so if this is a repeat I apologize. If you remember, I once said the NAOC was concerned about the mild winter we were having. To rectify this, the NAOC got together with Shinto priests at Shinto shrines all over Nagano-ken to pray for snow. The snow came the next morning. And I mean came hard. We got three feet in two weeks, Nagano got well over six feet, even Tokyo got six inches which nearly shut the city down and caused one of the greatest collective fits of whining you've ever heard in your life. I give this all an A because what a wonderful thing to hold up to our Fundamentalist Christian friends. Pray to the Shinto Gods of Snow, and get results.
> Thanks for the first of your amusing commentaries. I have only seen a
> minute of the broadcast here. On Friday night I turned on CBS and saw the
> villainess from The Power Rangers dancing around on the top of a cake
> in the middle of a stadium singing something about "the children," decided
> the Democrats were back to fund raising in the Orient, and turned channels.
Ditto on that. That was the low point of the ceremony. Especially since there are about 400 better looking Japanese singers who could have sung that song. It was, however, reasonably short. In other news:
Snow: Irony I: After all the concerns and prayers over lack of snow, the first four days of alpine skiing have been postponed because of snow. Irony II: If the Downhill had started where the Japanese had wanted it to start, it could have gone on as scheduled. Snow delays: F. Ironies: A+.
Japanese Women's Hockey: At first they looked intimitated--they opened against Canada after all--then they looked bad. Their one goal made national news. Two games, two losses, points: 24-1. Grade F, way F.
Coverage: Sliding a bit, mainly due to the snow outs. Also, if you don't see it live, you don't see a highlight if a non-Japanese wins. If a Japanese wins, which one just did in 500 meter speed skating, look out. You'll see interviews with his mother, his coach, his gardener. . .oh, and with him. He'll then get to use the favorite Japanese sports cliche: "I wasn't nervous. I wasn't thinking about winning. I just wanted to do my best. I knew that if I did my best I could win. The win is nice, but I'm just happy I did my best." This covers everything from Hockey to Sumo. Coverage: B+ (Haven't seen a single athlete profile during a match, though. Still A+ in that regard.) Cliches: D.
Overused Phrase I never want to hear again: Klap Skates. It's the latest in speed skating technology and has been used at least 6 times a day for the past three months. Klap Skates: A. Use of the word Klap Skates: F, for enuF already.
No reports of traffic problems yet, but I haven't heard any reports from non-Japanese news sources since the Games began. I'll start investigating that.
More news from the Nagano Winter Olympics. It's actually been a quiet few days, especially since the weather has been spotty. Nonetheless, some fun things have happened:
Traffic: The predicted traffic difficulties have finally occurred, especially on the shuttle busses between the venues and the train stations. It is often faster to abandon your bus and walk. However, one bus driver refused to let off his bus load of photographers. The photographers at first tried, half-jokingly, to summon the police, claiming they were being kidnapped. They then started jumping out the windows. Grades: Both parties get an A. (Photographers deserve everything they get.) (N.B. Your humble editor is a photographer--DL)
Mary Jo Wana: A Canadian snowboarder, described by his fellow Cannucks as "An Asshole," was stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for Marijuana. The athlete claimed he hadn't used pot since 1997 and therefore what he was pissing must have been a contact high he got during a going away party he attended three weeks before the olympics. The Canadian Olympic Committee defended him by saying that pot was not a performance enhancing drug--it could in fact could be performance dehancing--and that pot was not on the list of banned substances. The Sports Arbitration Board agreed and his medal was returned. He now faces an investigation by Japanese Authorities who have a particular dislike for blonde north-American assholes. Grades: Smoking Pot: A. Smoking Pot during the Olympics: F.
Downhill: The premiere skiing event of the Olympics proved to be a wild ride for many of the best skiiers in the world. The raised starting point provided a hairy switch back at what would have been the starting point had the NAOC had its way. The skiiers had to make a sharp right, followed quickly by a very hard left at the bottom of a short hill. If you were going too fast, you had to twist in the air and hope 1) your skis stuck when you landed and 2) if your skis stuck, they were pointing in the right direction. Many skiiers went flying off the course, or cut the corner too sharp. One skiier--Austrian Hermann Maier, the best in the world--was so out of control he landed on his head in the middle of the run and went bouncing head over boots into all three retaining fences. Without this corner, the run would have been much too easy. Only one skiier slipped up below that turn, and he merely wasn't paying attention to what he was doing. The Frenchman who won skiied brilliantly, slowing down at the top and cutting loose after the dangerous corner. Downhill course: A. American Downhillers: C-. The French in general: C+.
Ski Jumping: A Japanese ski jumper who choked in the last Olympics and cost his team the gold, choked again this year on the Normal Hill, costing himself a Gold. He took it all in good stride, although he did admit he didn't like being the Greg Norman of jumping. (re: Greg Norman's epic choke at the Masters in Augusta.) The skiier came back to win a bronze in the Large Hill after landing the longest jump of the day (136.5 meters). He didn't win the gold, though, because he didn't land with a perfect, kneeling tele-mark landing. This is the only skiing event where style is as important as distance. Ski Jumper: B+, Ski Jumping: weird, Landing Style Points: F (I say they longest jump wins and as long as they land on their feet, who cares how it looks.)
Bulbous Naughty Bits: The silliest controversy of the Olympics thus far has involved the "sexual nature" of two man luge. You not only have two men (or a man and a woman) lying butt to balls on top of each other, but in the case of two men, the groin straps which keep the top man on, also make the man's naughty bits seem extremely large. This has prompted many jokes and complaints and embarrassed the sport's organizers. It has also prompted wildly colored uniforms be worn to help "disguise the artifically enhanced genitals." (I swear I'm not making this up.) All this is moot as Two-Man Luge is an extremely silly sport any way. Controversy: A. Enhanced Genitals: B-. Two-Man Luge: D for Dumb.
Technology: This year, many Olympic officials are equipped with watch-sized wrist cellular phones straight out of Dick Tracy. They haven't hit the mass market yet, but promise to be big. Wrist Communicators: A. Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (my phone carrier): F. (For all f%#king monopolies must f%#king die.)
The Yen: Had dropped substantially before briefly climbing back up. Nonetheless, it's 8 yen better per dollar than before ForniGate broke, meaning my income has gone up 2,400 dollars per year thanks to the President's sex-life. The Yen: B-, Direction it's heading: B+, Monica Lewinsky: B-, Oral Sex: A+.
Germans: The German national team has chosen to get closer to Japanese Culture by being the only team to stay on Temple Grounds. They said they like the gardens and the peaceful, tranquil nature of the temple. The local monks have been pleased, although were a bit overwhelmed when the German Team shipped in 18,000 liters of German beer to tide them over for the 15 days plus of the Olympics. German Team: A, German Beer: A+
Sorry about the delay in this final report card. I'd originally intended to see what some of the fallout from the Olympics was and then got busy at work and exhausted at home. Nonetheless, here's the final word from Nagano:
Best Event: The last few days proved to be very exciting, especially if you were cheering for the Japanese. The Ski Jump Team finally came away with a gold medal after an exciting series of jumps. The man who'd choked in Lillehammer appeared to be on his way to a throatful again with a very short first jump. (Although, in his defense, it should be pointed out that he was jumping blind. It was snowing hard enough he couldn't see the landing zone.) His last jump was stellar (137 meters or 445.2 feet). The event wasn't decided until the final jump, when the last Japanese jumper sealed the victory. After the event the crowd began chanting choke's name and everyone was in tears. Japanese Victory: A. Subsequent and endless replays and analyses of the jump competition: F for enuF already.
American Women's Hockey: Let's see, six unanswered goals to win 7-4 after Canada scored four unanswered goals, and all this in the third period. Then they beat Canada again for the gold. A+ all around. Best looking hockey teams: Canada and Japan. USA: C+.
Worst Lies: 1) The US Men's hockey team asserting they weren't out partying even though half of Japan saw them in the bars. 2) The US Men's hockey team asserting that the chairs in their rooms were damaged by the tremendous girth of the men sitting on them and not by a collective temper tantrum after we stunk up the ice against Czecho. The men could not explain however, how their girth accidentally hurled a fire extiquisher out the window and onto a Greek skier. Men's Hockey: A-, Lying: F, usefullness of lying: B+, lying despite witnesses, F.
Biggest Upset: Czecho vs Canada in Hockey. This was also the best game, featuring the best goalie in the world vs the second best. Both lived up to their reputations as the game ended in a 1-1 draw, remained scoreless during a 10 minute overtime, and was decided in a penalty shoot out. Great stuff. Czech Republic: B, Czech Republic nickname "Czecho": C, Czech Beer: A+. (Hey, the gave us Pilsner.)
Medals and Mascots: A+. I liked the medals given to the top three in each event. A mix of precious metals on a black laquer base. Very sharp, although a bit large I must say. The Snowlets were a pretty cool mascot, although the purple one was rather ugly and therefore sold less. They are based on a child's drawing of local owls and named after Snow Let's. (Let's Snow.) This makes more sense when you consider a prominent chain of Japanese news stands is named Let's Kiosk. Snowlets: B, Japlish: B+, Let's Kiosk: A.
Worst Scam: Figure Skating. Participants are given credit for their reputation and how well they practiced, allowing big names to be forgiven mistakes that crush newcomers. The attitude being "Oh, he fell better"? Imagine this in football: Well, Denver has lost four times, whereas Green Bay has won three times and has looked better towards the end of the year, so even though Denver scored more points, we're going to give the Super Bowl victory to Green Bay. Figure Skating: F all around. Tara Lipinsky: B+. Michelle Kwan: A. Nicole Bobek: Goddess.
Transportation: The serious traffic nightmares anticipated before the Olympics failed to materialize except in certain places mentioned before. The real problem was the train system which despite a 1,000+ percent increase in traffic failed to add either extra trains or extra cars. Transportation: B-. Japan Railways: Normal use B+, during olympics C.
Worst Quote: Japanese coverage continued at an A to B+ level throughout the Olympics, despite constant rescheduling. I did manage, however, to see 20 seconds of CBS broadcast after the Figure Skating event when Japan cut to an interview with Tara Lipinsky. Bubble Headed Bleach Blonde Interviewer: (To the gold medal winner, after she'd just skated the program of her life to win an upset victory at the age of 15.): "What did you think of the marks?" She wasn't being ironic or trying to use understatement; she actually thought this was an important question. CBS: F. David Letterman: A+. Letterman’s Mom: A+, Bubble Headed Bleach Blonds: Generally Silly, but Generally Good Looking.
Best Name for a Rock Band: "Hide, with Spread Beaver."
Best name for a Rock Tour: (From the Japanese Band "The Yellow Monkey") The Punch Drunkard Tour.
Unluckiest People: The residents of Nagano. Many said they felt they been occupied by the Nagano Olympic Committee. One senses they had little choice in the unfolding of the olympics, especially considering cars were banned in Nagano City during the olympics, and the locals were actually ORDERED to attend evening ceremonies. When it became obvious you attract more flies with honey than with commands, the order was changed to a request. NAOC: C-. People of Nagano: A, Nagano Ski Resorts: A (By Japanese standards, C+ by world standards.)
Most Patriotic Country: (Not including the proud host.) Canada. They waved a big Canadian flag at the closing ceremonies and I've heard reports that Canadian flags were the most prominent in and around Nagano. My Canadian friend says the Quebec thing probably caused this as it forced Canadians to define themselves and not just hide under the wing of the British Commonwealth. (All the benefits of imperialism, none of the guilt?) By the way, the failure of the Canadian Hockey team to medal has left most Canadians in mourning and may result in a parliamentary investigation. (I'm not making this up.) Canada: Don't know, never been there. Canadians: A. Canadian Hockey: 4th place. Uncontrolled displays of Patriotism: C-. Patriotism in general: C.
Best National Anthem: Japan. Worst: Oh, Canada. The Star-Spangled Banner: C.
Best Uniforms: Canada's Red and White letter jackets and backwards red berets: A+. Japan's blue field coats: B. Germany's all black field coats: A. USA: C (it's the same JC Penney's crap we always wear.)
Dippiest Dresser and Dancer: The Mayor of Salt Lake City.
Closing Ceremony: What I saw of it was an A. The dancing children were back, but this time they were singing a better song and the Power Rangers Villaness was no where to be seen. The hand held fire works cannons were cool. The fireworks display was superb, but in Japan they always are as the Japanese have inherited China's love of colorful explosives.
Overall assessment: I have to give this olympics an A, despite the idiots running the NAOC. I've heard no major complaints from outside news sources, except about the US Men's Hockey team. The Japanese, who won more medals than in any other Olympics they've been in, have been as psyched as I've ever seen them. They do have an annoying propensity for overkill (re endless replays of ski jumping) and they also tend to ignore any medal winners who aren't ski jumpers. The speed skaters get some recognition, but the Mogul skier (who is also a goddess) gets little recognition and the guy who came from nowhere to win the short track speed skating hardly gets mentioned at all, even though his may have been the biggest upset. (Inexplicably, the Koreans rule this sport.) I didn't go to any events as, to me, the Olympics are like football: a sport best watched on television, unless you're with a college crowd.
Not much else from here. We are in the annual Fifteen-Year Old Freak Out. A period of two months preceding the High School Entrance Exams during which many stressed out teenagers attack their teachers and have to be restrained (which just happened at my Junior High today) or simply commit a bevy of crimes including robbery and murder. Last year a 14 year old beheaded a sixth grader and attacked two fourth grade girls with a hammer, killing one. This year a 15 year old stabbed a teacher to death, and two 15 year old girls killed a 68 year old man because they said he owed them about 20 dollars in yen. There have been more, but I've already rambled on too long. The good news is, the exam is next Wednesday. This means we're probably due for a rash of teen suicides from people who don't get into the high school of their choice.
I wish I was joking.
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Created October 2002