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.

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