Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Case of the Embedded Songstress

I know many of you just read my July 30 post and passed on to other things. And that's okay. A six year old singer, no matter what her talent, may not draw your attention. That being so, and fully mindful of your reticence, I'm hopeful that you stay here long enough to listen for a few moments.

I swiped this video from You Tube. It's not complete, but it'll give you a good idea of one of her songs from her first CD. Yow! Six years old---now seven---and she's got a CD out---with a single on the re-issue [to replace the Christmas songs] that has nearly reached the top of the charts in Great Britain! When I was seven, I was worried about the approaching third grade, Kathleen, Donna, fighting, running, and other non-musical kid stuff.

Monday, August 25, 2008

More Thoughts on the Beijing Olympics and Televised Sports

We've had the opening and closing ceremonies at Beijing, and they were exciting sights, alright. One has to admire spectacles, and the Beijing ceremonies certainly fit the bill. They were orchestrated by a Chinese film-maker, Zhang Yimou, [with a little help from his friends at the Chinese Politburo] who had previously enjoyed critical film success with: 'To Each His Cinema' [2007], 'Curse of the Golden Flower' [2006], and 'House of Flying Daggers' [2004].

Let others extol the epic ceremonies and athletic excellence of the games, my thoughts are elsewhere.

Both the opening and closing ceremonies were thoroughly enjoyable, but they both had their human glitches. Some---no one will admit exactly how much---of the fireworks display was faked for television audiences. [Mostly in the West, because I doubt there are very many television sets in China.] It was said that the fireworks display happened in real life, but the 'faking' was done for television purposes only. But many think that, if it happened in real life, why couldn't it be shown that way? The Chinese were more concerned with 'picture perfect' ceremonies than Monk is with his cutlery drawer.

Another downer was the lip syncing of the sweet nine year old, Lin Miaoke, on stage and in the spotlight for billions to watch. She was cute as a button, but she didn't do any singing that the audience could hear. Her real voice singing the ode was a chandelier breaker. Oh no, the real singer of the 'Ode to the Motherland', Yang Peiyi, wasn't considered 'cute' or 'attractive' enough to be shown during the performances, yet her pictures show her to be adorable. [Confucius says in his 'Analects': Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.]

The ceremonies' musical director, Chen Qigang, claims that the 'child on camera should be flawless in image...' Of course, this was quoted after the Politburo gave him it's opinion about what solo performers should look like.

The China Daily Newspaper claimed 'she [Lin Miaoke] is well on her way to becoming a star...' without commenting on the lip-syncing. Say? Doesn't that lip-syncing on stage really make her a star? Don't our western entertainers sometimes do the same thing? Of course, in most cases, the latter actually did the singing at some other time. I know Pavarotti lip-synced his performance at the 2006 Winter Olympics. However, he recorded the song in the first place. And he was seriously ill at the time and couldn't perform in the frigid outdoor weather. He died the next year.

Remember the children's chorus? Some of the singing was also lip-synced. The powers that be were afraid that any off key, off tune, or erroneous singing by members of the choruses would not show perfection. [Too bad. Such singing would have had a natural charm.] How much more real and natural it would have been if the singers, 'warts' and all were shown singing in real time, and the choruses singing in the same way.

It was also reported that all the 'ethnic' peoples presented in the ceremonies were actually Chinese and not the various ethnicities at all. I wonder how prevalent the substitutions were? I guess the true ethnic people in China aren't perfect enough for the World to see.

And the soldiers and entertainers, poor souls, had to wear diapers for their seven hour stint preparing and performing. I suppose diapers can be necessary for long performances at times, but for seven hours? I'd hate to have to empty all the dumpsters.

Many of the Chinese performers, especially in the closing ceremonies, were masked---some, it seemed, in football helmets with masks---and unidentifiable. I wonder how many of these participants were free to choose such anonymity for such a long period. And can you imagine being one of the hundreds of unidentifiable humans creating the waves and trees, clinging to high, wired stands in the semi-dark?

I'm reminded of Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis.' Participants had to become anonymous in order to show the ability of the group as a whole. [Hive mentality.] Individualism in performance---like from good communist-controlled citizens---has to be restrained unless in sync [lip-sync?] with all the others and the huge choreographed whole. The ceremonies also brought the movie 'Antz' more into focus.

But, of course, I didn't see people or groups per se. I saw units making up the show of the hive, not even the soul because the communists don't believe in souls. There were no individuals performing, only parts of the whole in their undulating and form-shaping choreography.

And wasn't that the purpose of the Beijing games? To show the collective perfection of the hive mentality in the best light? To show how the communist society can produce beauty---free will not withstanding? To unknowingly show us how the forced 'orc-ness' of the communist peoples in China? To raise itself in World opinion by denigrating many of its citizens? [Confucius says in his 'Analects': An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger.]

The population of Communist China is about 1.3 billion people. They must live in 3.8 million square miles [much of it rocky and barren], compared to our 303 million citizens living in 3.7 million square miles. And you think you live in a crowded neighborhood? The Chinese air is polluted, and too many people are forced to live in hovels, not the beautiful neighborhoods you saw on television of Beijing or other major cities. The Chinese government permits these factory and transportation polluters of air, land, and water to continue operating so that they can send more flawed goods to the United States for hard cash. And we sit around and permit it. But I wander off point.

However, my great admiration for the work of the human mind must include the millions of subjugated individuals forced to collectively put the communist ethic in the best light. They have no choice in how they are forced to live and perform for their masters. But, I have the freedom to view it and comment on it in the light of day.

On another note, the apparently underage gymnasts who weren't allowed to be interviewed to any extent [afraid they might tell the truth?], exemplify the 'forced labor camp' mentality. Sure, the Politburo-led officials might have chosen other gymnasts, but the idea at the Beijing-sponsored games was to have Chinese athletes win gold medals and show China in the best light of World opinion. [That's why their athletes are chosen at very young ages and forced into the sporting regimen for the people for a long number of years.] And everyone knows that girls under sixteen do a better job than those older---you know, fewer injuries, lighter bodies, less individualism, more apt to toe the regimentation line, etc.

I sent an email to NBC Sports during the games. I didn't like having to view a large picture of Chinese icon, Mao Tse-Tung, in the background of the shots of Bob Costas, and I explained it to the network. I don't think we Americans should have had to watch that. [Why do you think the Chinese hung it there in the first place?] NBC ignored me. The picture is an obnoxious reminder of past Chinese atrocities, and an American television network has no business promoting Communist symbols to the rest of us.

Now, NBC is on par with ESPN as far as sports broadcasting is concerned. The commercial breaks during a live event were ill timed to say the least. Follow that with network self promotion ad nauseum, and you can understand why I watched more of the Olympics online than I did on television---in fact, it was often with the television in the background with no sound [the best way to watch most television broadcasts anyway.]

And one has to squint to be sure to see anything, what with score tables at top, other sports info at the bottom, promo pop ups at the bottom interfering with the live action, sometimes at critical points. The television screen is so cluttered, it looks like my PC with the icons and gadgets and precious little wallpaper room. Of course, promo pop-ups never happen during commercials, do they?

Besides which, both NBC and ESPN replay every decent or questionable effort of the players constantly. [I'm sure the other networks are the same.] So much so, in fact, that it's difficult to tell what's live action and what's Memorex. Even as simple a play as a baseball strike or ball is played over constantly to show the viewers how the network is so very efficient, and has so many cameras covering each play from all directions.

Is it any wonder I no longer watch the baseball All Star Game or World Series on television? I can follow it easier online. The same applies to Basketball and Football. I only watch other televised sports rarely.

Excuse me for now, I'm going to watch some athletic performances online for free and without inane commentary, playbacks, pop-ups, pictures of Mao or commercial interruptions. Is this Heaven? No it's mean it's online freedom.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Random Thoughts on the Beijing Olympics and Dunkin' Donuts

The Olympics have been spectacular so far, but then they always seem to be, don't they? It takes me several days to get the bug to see the coverage, but I ultimately do. And this year, I found that if I keep the television on with the sound off while I work on the computer, I can follow the NBC coverage much easier. And I don't have to listen to the---sometimes inane---comments.

And you can't miss anything. If it's important, NBC will replay it over and over and over and over 'till the cows come home. And its website will have highlights anyway. Add the promos and self promoting intros, and you will be seeing true athletic events only about half the time. It's much easier to watch it on the NBC or Yahoo websites---which I do. The commentary isn't so evident, and other than the first commercial, you don't have interruptions.

For live coverage, I've seen interruptions at important times to get in a commercial. With a replay you won't miss anything, but live events come across at a loss to the viewer. It must be intellectually challenged individuals who make the decision to cut in for commercials at ridiculous times.

Besides, the websites often give the results before NBC airs the events. It saves us in the personal tension and anxiety areas, for sure. It's only rarely you see the 'Live' near the NBC logo at the upper right corner anyway.

I sent an email to NBC Sports and asked it to insure the camera angle on Bob Costas was changed. I was tired of seeing the big picture of Mao Tse-Tung in the background. I think I see an improvement, but I can still see the picture at times.

Does anyone else think the Bird's Nest stadium looks like a toilet seat from above? It makes you wonder when the architect got his idea.

I'm not a runner. Never have been. But, I think modern decisions to follow, intermix, and lead the runners with cars, trucks, and motorcycles, adversely affects the lung functions of those trying to run a race. I also saw the photographers crossing the race paths between runners. How the hell do they expect runners---or walkers---to concentrate?

With the allegations of faked opening cermonies and phony ages of Chinese participants, the glosses of terrific efforts seem tarnished. How much of the opening ceremonies was real and how much was faked? 'Only her hairdresser knows for sure.'

Some of the Chinese gymnasts were amazing, but they also looked young enough for mid grammar school, missing baby teeth and all. The Olympic officials should do the right thing, but I fear that they will fall prey to political correctness and let the Chinese get away with it. But if the USA were the offending nation, there would be sanctions and medal strippings by the dozens---even without proof.

Now to Dunkin' Donuts. I tried the new eggwhite sandwich yesterday. I've seen the commercial on television so often, I think we're old friends. For my first trial, I chose the sausage type.

The sandwich was actually quite good, but the sodium content was very high at some 860mg. And, I couldn't discern any sausage in the sandwich. The sign at the drive-in was posted $2.99, but I was charged $3.99. This difference didn't register at first, but when it did there wasn't much I could do about it. I'm dependent on others for rides since I no longer drive [$$$$$$$:) :)], and I don't know how I'll resolve the problem. By the time I get to the store again, I'll be old and gray [er.]

So, when I got home, I hungered for more. I used the new Eggbeaters with yolk to make another sandwich. I had to hold my desires in check, as I could have eaten several more.

The Olympics aren't quite over yet, so I expect to have other observations. Please stay tuned and try the eggwhite sandwiches!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Pure Silver Leaf

Friends, have you got $20 to throw away?

There's a company, via a television commercial, that's hawking $20 silver leaf 'coin-certificates' minted in rectangular shapes larger than a US twenty dollar bill. Sounds good, doesn't it? Government approved; .999 pure silver leaf; commemorative of the 9/11 tragedy; face value of $20; non-circulating legal tender in Liberia [the latter fact toned down.] "Yours for face value $20."

Well, I have nothing against people earning a living by selling things. I just wish they would disclose the facts. Sometimes they do partially, of course. Remember those tiny letters at the bottom of the screen, where you're shown it so quickly even a speed reader couldn't follow it?

In any case, let's consider the above offer. The government doing the approving is the Liberian government, a small country on the West Coast of Africa. It was originally settled by free blacks and former slaves from the United States, and the religious practices, social customs and cultural standards of these ethnic American-Liberians have their roots in the pre-war American South. Including the American-Liberians, there are over 15 ethnicities in the country, each with its own agenda.

In recent decades, revolutions, murders, and instability have been the problems faced by Liberia. A recent unemployment rate was 85%! And Liberia is among the largest of the World Registry of Ships---mostly for the tax advantages, since Liberia doesn't operate any of them.

But, back to the silver leaf 'coin-certificates.'

Since silver leaf is indicated, that means that the core is made of something else with silver leaf applied to the surface---it could be brass, another inexpensive alloy, or even plaster for all I know. Based on the current cost of silver leaf, and allowing for the cost of coinage, we're talking about $3 to create each one, maybe $1 for sales and television promotion---all assuming they sell a lot of these things.

So, you get a $20 piece of Liberian currency? Not really. First of all, the ad states that the 'coin-certificates' will never be circulated as currency. Anyway, at the exchange rate of July 29, 2008, each Liberian Dollar is worth $.01562 US, or about a cent and a half. So, in US Dollars each 'coin-certificate' is worth about 31 cents. You certainly aren't asked to really buy it at 'face' value, that's for sure. You're told: "* All orders are in US Dollars"

But, the ad says "Yours for face value $20." Sooo, if that's true---and governmental authorities should be insuring that---then you should be able to buy each 'coin-certificate' for the face value: $20 Liberian [if you happen to have Liberian currency] or its $US dollar equivalent, about 31 cents. Thus the shipping and handling of $4.95 based on the wording of the ad, is about 8 cents $US. You should be able to get each commemorative 'coin-certificate' for 39 cents $US delivered.

Buy the 'September 11 commemorative coin-certificate' if you want, but don't buy it for use or investment.