Sunday, February 19, 2006

The agony of The Games

Like it? 
Women's volleyball excepted, I hate the Olympics. All of them. Winter, summer -- either one'll do. Hate hate hate. This is one of the reasons why Gov. Mitt Romney stinks, by the way. He "saved" the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. If Mitt wanted to get on my good side, he would've botched that somehow.

Why do I have such an irrational detestation of the Olympics?

Is it the bizarre quasi-sports like curling and the skeleton and that cross-country-skiing-and-target-shooting combo?

Perhaps the ugly nationalism, the medal-counting that in the end makes it even easier for industrialized nations to claim their supposed superiority over non-industrialized nations, with prizes and all?

Could it be the tens of millions of dollars that could be feeding hungry people, instead spent to buy fireworks and to build sets and to pay choreographers and dancers and pyrotechnicians and unitard designers, so they can stage long, goofy dance routines illustrating the history of the host city, while everyone watching at home gets bored out of their skulls and uses that time to visit the toilet?

Yes, oh yes, and yes again.

Every time I complain about how much I hate the Olympics, how much I despise having my TV hijacked by the spectacle and schmaltz, somebody wags his finger at me and tells me to lighten up -- I only have to deal with it "every four years." Er, no.
Let's nip this in the bud before I get any letters. It's every two years, buddy. Two. You keep saying "every four years," but every two years I turn on the TV -- boom! The goddam Olympics. Enough!

I don't even sit and watch it, and yet I manage to stumble on the same dull events over and over while I'm changing channels.

Speed skating, for instance, is about making left-hand turns on a hockey rink while wearing a Slim Goodbody outfit. It's like NASCAR, except worse because there are no crashes. How many hours of the day do you need to see speed skating before you've seen enough? Eight? Eleven? Fourteen?

I hate the speeches, the commercialism, the rituals. I hate the Eurocentricity. I hate the arcane judging rules. How can ice skaters crash on their faces and still win second place? I hate the sequins and the facial glitter and the little Spandex caps. I hate the competitors who are 21 but look 12 because they're stuck in that permanent adolescence you get when you've been training to ice-dance since you were 4. I hate the day after day of tedious televised competition brought to you by McDonald's and the Motorola RAZR, packed with charts and graphics and abbreviated country names and sentimental segments about "Olympic spirit" narrated by Matt Lauer wearing a scarf to remind everyone that it's cold.

Enough about me. What's your> opinion about this utter waste of TV programming? I've developed a little quiz that I can guarantee will be more interesting than watching Swedish people play shuffleboard.

---
Do you hate the Olympics as much as I do?


1. I am circling the answers in this quiz with...

a) blue, red, black, yellow and green pen! I love the Olympics!
b) just kind of a regular pen. Is this almost over?
c) the tip of my ice skate in a figure 8.
d) red pen, because I hate the Olympics so much.


2. When the Olympics are on TV, I...

a) watch the entire thing, record it on TiVo, and watch it again. I love the Olympics!
b) watch the sport I like, hockey, and don't care about the rest. I really have to get going.
c) get yelled at by my Estonian manager to psych up for my short program.
d) When aren't the damn Olympics on TV?


3. If the Olympics were a person, and I met him walking down the street, I would...

a) ask for his hand in holy matrimony. That's how much I love the Olympics!
b) I guess there are more questions. OK, fine. I'd nod a polite hello. I don't mind telling you I'm completely uncomfortable right now.
c) leap down the street after him in a quadruple axel to bedazzle him with my showmanship.
d) lure him off a cliff, then push a heavy rock down after him.


4. If I were an Olympic city, I would be...

a) Torino! No, wait, Athens. No, wait, Salt Lake -- oh, I can't decide! I just love those Olympics!
b) Uh ... where's this one at? That one. I'm really only in it for the hockey. Oh, God, there's another question--
c) whatever city Johnny Weir and Scott Hamilton pick.
d) I hate the Olympics.


5. If I had to pick one worst thing about the Olympics, it would be...

a) the time between one Olympics and another Olympics. And commercial breaks. I can't get enough of the Olympics!
b) when there's no hockey. Like I said already, I'm really just in it for the hockey. Can I go? I have to wash the stink of human contact off myself.
c) Well, even though I didn't get the gold this time, Sergei skated a fabulous program, and I congratulate him for it, and I'll see you in 2010.
d) the Olympics.


If you answered mostly A: You enjoy the Olympics. You are probably really, scarily into the whole thing. You probably sleep on a luge-shaped bed. In a helmet. And you slide out in the morning on a homemade track to the coffee pot.

If you answered mostly B: You are a casual Olympics fan, possibly one who's in it for the hockey. You pay a moderate amount of attention to the Olympics except the hockey-related details. You also dislike answering questions and are an agoraphobe.

If you answered mostly C: You are an Olympic figure skater. You weigh about 86 pounds before you mousse your hair and put on the eyeliner. You enjoy designing and wearing sequined matador's outfits. You may have thought at some point that I was interviewing you for TV.

If you answered mostly D: Congratulations! You hate the Olympics as much as I do! You enjoy resolutely not watching the Olympics while they're on, yet omplaining about them the whole time. You win a prize -- two years of Olympics-free TV, redeemable in a week and a half!

Friday, February 03, 2006

State of the household

Like it? 
Around the beginning of the year, it's helpful to take stock -- to gauge the temperature of your family, so to speak. As my own family's personal rectal thermometer, I use a State of the Household address.

It's just like the annual State of the Union address: dull, circulated to the media hours beforehand, full of nutty promises, interrupted about 40 times, and it always cuts into prime time TV.

Also like the real speech: I gathered my dog and my two cats together in the same room. They normally don't like each other, but for the speech they tolerate each other's presence, to keep up the idea that they can be reasonable. My wife sat behind me. Even more like the real speech: She holds the actual power and makes most of the important decisions while I mispronounce words and pretend to be the boss.

I stood before the animals and laid out my speech on the lectern. Did I just say "lectern"? I meant "stack of phone books."

"Distinguished members of this house, welcome," I said.

I held for applause.

After I finished applauding, I consulted my notes. The key to beginning any good State of the Whatever address is to hammer home three completely non-specific points:

(a) "The economy is good."
(b) "We're all still here."
(c) "We're making progress."

You never have to prove any of it, but it sounds really rosy. And feel free to use "progress" in all parts of speech. Noun, verb, adjective, as an exclamation -- just have fun with it!

"Our economy remains strong," I said. "Our people are united as never before. Progress is being made. We are uniting to achieve progress in the economic sectors of the economy. Progress-wise, a long road lies ahead of us, but we will continue to make progress along that road and envision progress toward a brighter future for our children and our children's children, as long as we never lose our sense of common unity and our progressive ideas on economic responsibility."

I belched and tasted acid. I knew it was time to move on. Also, one of my cats fell asleep.

"But there is still progress to be made in our household -- not-so-nifty aspects of life in our household today, which we must unite to overcome. And overcome them, we shall, nay, we must, as we have overcome so much in our shared history to progress into the united people we are, before us all, among us, here, tonight, now."

My dog started chewing a hoof.

"One of the greatest threats to our household's health is pollution," I said, pointing at the dog. "Be it pollution in the air -- for instance the wicked bad reek from that cow hoof we may occasionally chew. Or be it carpet pollution from indoor poopings. Be it litter pollution on the floor around our household's litter boxes from Fresh Step too casually and carelessly thrown outside." I leveled a sad gaze at my animals. "This threatens our very way of life. We can't pass this problem on to future generations. Which is why I'm going to make pollution cleanup a No. 1 and a No. 2 priority."

I held for polite laughter. I had a tape recorder with pre-recorded polite laughter already queued up.

"Terrorism is also a cause for concern in our household. The borders of our cat territory are too porous, allowing dog attacks almost daily," I said. "Likewise, the cats must recognize the dog's right to exist." I leaned over the phone books and smacked them with my shoe for emphasis. "There is entirely too much teasing going on when the dog is in her crate!"

They exchanged scowls and sat there, not saying a word.

"None of us understands the high cost of health care more than our government. In my new budget, I'm going to respectfully ask both houses of Congress to stop eating things they shouldn't. Erasers, socks, pieces of ribbon, you name it. It all ends up in a pile of pinkish mush on the rug. Then we have to force-feed you Pepto-Bismol. More pinkish mush. Increased prescription drug costs. You see where I'm going with this."

The cats stood up. The dog stayed seated.

I shuffled through my index cards. "Immigration has been long a concern of many members of this house. All of us are aware of the surge in population growth this past year following the passing away of our senior member of Congress. Our population has grown from one cat to two cats, then to two cats and one dog. And there are rumors swirling in the media of a second dog in the works. And then of course the periodic attempts of illegal immigration by stray cats in the yard." I raised my voice. "I know it irritates the dog to see them out there, and you cats wouldn't give a shit if there's one stray out there or 97 of them, but we all have to be united! Do I have to go into the whole unity deal again?"

"No," my wife muttered.

Now it was time to bring it home and park the speech safely in the garage for another year. The best way to end a State of the Whatever address is to lean on three key points, even vaguer than the first ones:

(a) "I have a vision for the future."
(b) "I'm still going to be the leader."
(c) "God bless America."

"In closing," I said, dabbing sweat from my brow, "I envision a brighter tomorrow for all of our united people, a vision full of promise and hope and progress. With hope in our hearts and progress also in our hearts, I promise to lead our household into that future. God bless the United States of America!"

I was mostly finished before the rest of the house completed its Official Rebuttal. The cats scratched the dog, then ran up into the attic to hide, the dog right after them. Then the dog disappeared into the basement and came back a minute later. She smelled of shit.

"Does anybody even pay attention to these fucking things anymore?" I asked my wife.

She was aiming a 50-yard stare deep into a sketchbook. "Thanks," she said, "coffee would be great."
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