Stupid, Loathsome Things About The Winter Olympics

Curling is a loathsome excuse for an Olympic sport!Like a car crash on the other side of the highway, I can’t help but gawk at the Winter Olympics. I really don’t need the distraction, but those drones opening night were awesome, and the Slopeside Snowboarding is kinda badass. Yet there are some stupid, loathsome things about this event we need to talk about.

Let’s start with the obvious:

Curling Is Not A Sport

It’s shuffleboard with brooms but without Pina Coladas. It’s stupid. No one breaks a sweat. No one risks injury.  This is a loathsome excuse for a sport.

It’s as lame as “Rhythmic Gymnastics” was back in the 80’s, where they gave medals to young girls prancing around with a ribbon on a stick. It does not qualify as Olympic material. For one, simple reason:

If I am fit enough to do it, it cannot possibly be an Olympic sport.

Hell, Homer Simpson won a gold medal in Curling.  I rest my case.

Yet these people keep trying to sucker me into watching it, and I refuse. Our women’s team is in a distant 8th place, without much hope, and that match between Italy and the USA men’s team was not “thrilling” as they said. I’ve seen more “thrilling conclusions” on the Lido deck of a blue-hair cruise.

Suddenly I’m A Fashion Critic

I’m probably one of the least fashionable people you know, but all of a sudden, when the Olympics are on, I’m some kind of fashion expert. And boy can I be critical.

I can tell you everything that’s wrong with the national outfits in the opening ceremony. I can pontificate on why that greased-up, bare-chested Tongan guy needs to knock it off and put a shirt on. Because even I know that what’s cool in the summer games is totally creepy in the winter.

I seem to have the gift of knowing everything that should be fixed with each team’s uniforms. And I’m not shy or kind with my opinions.

Like how horrible our women’s speedskating outfits look. Have you seen them? They are a solid blackish color throughout, except, for some strange reason, they have an eye-catching pattern throughout the groinal region. This makes for an unfortunate visual.

When our gals finish a race and bend over to catch their breath, the effect is most unseemly. No other team uniform has this feature and for a darn good reason. It’s a horrible look and impossible to ignore.

The Loathsome Announcers

Don’t get me wrong, there are some real pros broadcasting in the Olympics. But there are some loathsome clowns working it too.

Like the guy working the Men’s 1500 meter speed skating event. American Shani Davis was slightly ahead of his opponent at the start of their heat. The announcer began lavishing Davis with praise and called him a transcendent skater.

Then he threw him under the bus for questioning how the American flag bearer was chosen. That seemed uncool. Why cause me to think less of the guy while you’re rampaging on how awesome he is?

But it got worse. As the announcer rambled on, Shani fell behind his opponent, had his ass handed to him at the finish line, and ended up in 19th place for the event.

But the announcer was oblivious to all of this. Shani got blown away on the ice as this guy was going on and on about how dominant a skater he was. It was embarrassing.

Had the announcer paid attention to the race and not his script, we could have appreciated Shani’s Olympic swan song. He was the first African American to ever win Winter Olympic individual medal and he held 9 World Records. We could have appreciated Shani’s past greatness and acknowledged his opponent’s greater performance that day. But not with this loathsome guy on the mic…

There are a lot of other things that set me off about this event. Like the subjective judging of figure skating, and the arcane winter events that only Northern Europeans have a chance to win.  Like lying flat on top of someone and hurtling down a trough of ice without brakes.  How do Egyptians, Jamaicans, or Texans train for Doubles Luge competition? Seems pretty exclusionary to me.

But The Most Stupid, Loathsome Thing…

Is the amount of time I waste watching this stuff. That’s right, I watch as much or more loathsome Winter Olympics as anyone. It sucks me in every time, from watching for the Armenian team in the opening ceremony, to shouting USA! USA! USA! whenever we strike gold.

I’m as bad as anyone with my nationalistic pride, and my desire for the USA to get more medals than Russia or China. But it does not serve me. It keeps me from my creative work. Hell, it keeps me from my work work. My career work, my workout work, and even my housework.

I’m distracted enough as a Manic Impressive. I don’t need this. The Winter Olympics is bad for my productivity, my health, and my happiness. So I will have to work at turning off these damn games so I can get back to work.

And if I stop watching TV and spend more time in the gym, I too may have a chest worth oiling up and showing off to the world. I’ll just need to do a ton of ab work and a lot of shaving…

 

Silver Linings To The Bleakest Time Of Year

There’s no getting around it. All the fun parts of winter are behind us and there’s a rough patch ahead.  The Superbowl is over, the upcoming holidays are lame, and flu season rages on.  This, by far, is the bleakest time of year.

It’s hard to focus on your creative work during times like this. Hard to be optimistic, to put yourself out there and to take risks. Most Manic Impressives need far more stimulation than they can get at this time of year, when all the big fun stuff seems so far off.

But for every area that may be getting you down, there’s a silver lining – something to give you hope enough to muscle through.

Sports Suck Right Now

Sure, I loved watching the Patriots lose the Super Bowl and Eagles fans dance in the streets. But all that’s over now, and we’re in the bleakest time of year for sports.

The NBA is pointless to watch now. Playoffs don’t start ’til April 11th, and the standings will barely change before then. Baseball doesn’t start ’til March 29th, and the next Sumo tournament isn’t until March 11th. Meanwhile, NBC is trying to placate us with mixed-doubles curling from the Winter Olympics.

Usually, I would escape all this and go skiing. But we haven’t had snow in weeks and none is forecast anytime soon. This is the bleakest time possible for sports, whether you’re a spectator or a participant.

The Silver Lining To Sports

Though we’re between Sumo tournaments, you can catch all the video highlights of the 2018 January Grand Sumo Tournament right here. Sumo is awesome. It’s simple to understand, it’ll make you feel good about your weight, and it should tide you over to Spring.

All The Good Holidays Are Over

The current lineup of holidays is pretty lame. You won’t get any time off for Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s days, but you’ll be encouraged to blow a lot of dough and suffer a hangover and a lot of drunken fools.

And sadly, only people in Illinois get time off for Casimir Pulaski Day.

The Silver Lining To Holidays

There won’t be any presents, fireworks or special foods, but you will get a nice 3-day weekend for President’s Day. That’s always something worth celebrating.

The Weather Here Is Great – Which Is Horrible

Last week the groundhog declared 6 more weeks of winter, but here in California, the weather’s been spectacular – sunny, warm and dry.

But this is not good news. After the horrific wildfires of last summer and the following mudslides, this great weather is the bleakest thing that could happen to us. We need more rain and snow, or we’ll be back in a dangerous drought cycle. And that just leads to more weather-based misery for us down the line.

The Silver Lining To Weather

On March 11th you can spring ahead and change your clocks to Daylight Savings Time. All that extra light will help you avoid your annual bout with SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – a condition we Manic Impressives often suffer from.

Politics

Nothing to get up about here, but lots to worry about. There’s a government shutdown looming and no real progress on immigration, health care, or foreign interference with our elections.

Meanwhile, there’s nothing we citizens can do about it right now. We’re months away from anything we can vote for or against. And now that the big stock market run-up is over, a lot of folks are worried about losing their retirement accounts in the stock market.

The political landscape is at its bleakest right now.

Silver Lining To Politics

Despite our government’s dysfunction, it has done a good job facilitating the work of private companies in furthering our space program. Did you see Elon Musk’s rocket go up this week and execute a perfect landing? The SpaceX rocket launch and landing was an incredible achievement and should make all Americans proud and hopeful. A great example of government partnership with private industry.

Though Things Are Bleakest, It’s Going To Be Okay

Like they say, it’s always darkest before the dawn. This is a tough time of year, but it’s only temporary. You will get that job offer you’re hoping for, your 401k will bounce back, and fun will return when Spring erupts in all its glory.

Until then, hang in there, and know that you’re not alone. There are a lot of us who struggle at this, the bleakest time of year. Reach out to friends, focus on your resolutions, and know that if you take a little positive action every day, you will be in a happier place soon.

 

 

 

The Threat and Triumph of Groundhog Day

Since 1840, Groundhog Day has been a quaint little tradition brought to us by German immigrants from Pennsylvania. It’s a charming idea. The whole village gathers to see if a furry little rodent will predict an early spring. Then they celebrate their good fortune or drown their sorrows.

It’s a sweet little excuse to throw a party. And either way, they get to drink themselves silly.

Sweet, But Pretty Damn Stupid

The whole premise of this made-up holiday is illogical. If it’s sunny on February 2nd, the groundhog is scared by its shadow, goes back to his hole to hibernate, and winter drags on another six weeks. If it’s cloudy, the hog comes out of hibernation and spring starts early.

That’s just dumb. If anything, being sunny would be a sign that spring is coming. Cloudy would tell most groundrats to expect more winter. Not the other way around.

And the little hog’s track record as a forecaster is pretty damn dismal. Over 177 years, he’s been right only 39% of the time.

Incredibly, wantonly, stupid.

But Not The Movie

In 1993, Bill Murray starred in the movie called Groundhog Day.  Though initially seen as just a sweet and silly comedy, after a generation of reflection, this film was added to the United States National Film Registry,  being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” You’ll find it listed just after The Godfather and Gone with the Wind, and just before Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and Gunga Din.

Murray plays Phil Connors,  a stuck up TV weatherman assigned to do a live remote from the big Groundhog Day festival. Phil travels with his crew (Andie MacDowell as his producer Rita & Chris Elliot as his cameraman) to Gobbler’s Knob, the night before Punxsutawney Phil is to do his thing.

An insufferable snob, Phil is kind of a dick to everyone he meets. He thinks the locals are all stupid hicks and he can’t wait to finish his broadcast and head back to the big city.

Metaphysical Plot Twist

As you know (if you haven’t seen this movie stop reading immediately and watch it right now), Phil gets trapped in Gobbler’s Knob by a blizzard he failed to forecast. When he wakes up the morning after Groundhog Day, he finds himself trapped in a time loop. No matter what he does, when he falls asleep at the end of the day, he wakes up again on the previous day. He is forced to relive Groundhog Day over and over in Gobbler’s Knob.

A place he detests, full of people he despises.

Over and over again.

At first, he tries resisting it. He bitches and moans and is rude to everyone. Then he fights it by committing suicide dozens of times in a variety of ways. Then he tries to take advantage of it.

He takes up smoking and eating all the donuts he can, because, why the hell not? Then he tries to seduce his producer Rita, because, why the hell not? He learns a bit more about her each day and uses this knowledge to pretend to be the kind of guy she’s dreaming of.

But each attempt ends badly, and we’re treated to an awesome montage of Rita slapping the crap out of Phil. Hilarious.

The Turning Point

Finally, he resigns himself to his fate and tries to better his lot. Mostly out of boredom, Phil starts paying attention to the personal lives of the people he’s stuck with.

He shows a little kindness and empathy and starts getting rewarded with warmth and acceptance. Every day he fixes the sweet old ladies’ flat tire, rescues the kid falling from the tree, performs the Heimlich maneuver on the mayor, and helps the homeless guy get something to eat. Over and over. He starts to like his day.

He even starts taking piano lessons (because Rita likes musicians), and over many days, over and over, he starts to get really good at it.

Though he’s still stuck in Gobbler Knob, he’s no longer stuck in hell. He’s stuck in a town of amazing possibility, where he has the chance to improve himself by getting better at each interaction of just that one day. By endless trial and error, he makes better and better choices and gets better and better results.

Phil eventually becomes a thoughtful, generous and beloved member of the town, and a badass piano player. Rita witnesses his growth and falls in love with him for real, and after repeating Groundhog Day endlessly, he finally wakes up to the day after. Yay! Happy ending!

Groundhog Day  – The Movie’s Legacy

Today, the movie Groundhog Day is a cultural metaphor and an example of “spiritual transcendence”.

Buddhists like it for its themes of selflessness and rebirth. Christians like its representation of Purgatory and the release that comes from shedding selfishness and committing acts of love. Hindus like the reference to reincarnation, and Jews like that it shows good deeds (mitzvahs) saving a person to return to earth to perform more.

Religious leaders have called it the “most spiritual film of our time”. And one egghead theologian even called it “a stunning allegory of moral, intellectual, and even religious excellence in the face of postmodern decay, a sort of Christian-Aristotelian Pilgrim’s Progress for those lost in the contemporary cosmos.”

Postmodern Contemporary Cosmos My Butt

I just like it because it shows how our lives are threatened by our repeated, poor choices. And it shows the triumph that can occur when we learn, from trial and error, like the dumb humans that we are, to improve our lives by improving our choices and our behavior.

One day at a time.

Most importantly, Groundhog Day is a lesson to us all. If we are unhappy, it’s probably because we wake up to the same set of circumstances brought on by all the choices from our past.

To change these circumstances, we must make better choices every day. If we resist it, fight it, or try to take advantage, we will still wake up in the same exact place. But along the way, we will be forced to watch the montage of life slapping the crap out of us.

So celebrate the day. Watch the movie, and wake up tomorrow willing to do things differently. To make better choices and behave in a more selfless and generous way.

Because ultimately, through enough trial and error, you too may reap the rewards and accolades showered upon that stupid, furry, forecasting rodent.