Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chaos and 'success' at the Olympics

From the Guardian:
It is hard to believe anything will surpass the organisational chaos and naked commercial greed of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta or the financial ­disaster of the 1976 Games, which ­bankrupted Montreal, yet with every passing day the sense of drift and nervousness about the Vancouver Games grows ever more noticeable.
There are plenty of good reasons to hate on the Olympic Games, and this one in particular - though I'd put the destruction of 1800 units of affordable housing and an accompanying process of gentrification which has made Vancouver the most expensive city in the world to live in right at the top, instead of the 'chaotic... transportation system' - but it's amazing to me that everyone is taking the spit out of Vancouver after the relatively free pass that Beijing was given.

Remember the Beijing Olympics. Y'know, the one that featured city with such unsafe air that they pulled cars from the roads in the weeks leading up to it, that faked the opening ceremonies several times and in several different ways, that destroyed the housing of tens of thousands of people to build their venues and 'relocated' them outside the city to live in places and with people they didn't know and couldn't choose, that said they would allow protesters to apply to protest but heavily discouraged applying and then disallowed every application that was made, and which built a $450 million stadium that's been used for only one (!) sporting event since the close of the 2008 Olympics and so is going to be turned into a shopping mall (!).

And we're meant to sincerely believe that Vancouver's Olympics might be worse than that? Wikipedia tells me that the cost of 2010 games is $1.6 billion for operations and $6 billion when including all infrastructure costs. And the city is expected to lose something in the neighborhood (or at least this is what I was hearing a couple weeks ago, before they started canceling events and flying extra extra snow in) of $150 million. The Beijing Olympics, on the other hand, were very roughly estimated to cost $15 billion for operations and $40 billion in total. (Though I've heard $65 billion, elsewhere.) There's no way they avoided losing billions - or tens of billions - of dollars.

But, again, according to Wikipedia, the 2008 games were a "logistical success". That's reassuring.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Quick comments on the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics

  1. The opening show devoted huge amounts of attention to the First Nations traditions of the west coast. I've read a couple of complaints about this focus, (and I commented on early complaints about the branding of the Vancouver Olympics in general) but they largely - the latter link more than the former - miss the mark. It's telling that there was no real attention paid to Aboriginal people in their particularity: they spoke and danced as a mostly undifferentiated collective, while the spotlight and starring roles fell exclusively on/to the white celebrities. I don't know whether to describe the role of the Aboriginal people in this show as a fetish or a reflection of white guilt. Maybe it's both.
  2. At one point in the show, while representatives from all the participating First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities danced in the center of the stadium in some orgasmic fantasy of exoticized pre-historical (that is, pre-European) peace and love - this part was definitely in the 'fetish' category - I snarkily asked Victoria when the white guys were going to show up with guns. And then, with no intended irony, a bunch of mostly white people in entirely white outfits encircled them and stood, watching. It turned out that they were security, providing a barrier between the athletes, who were about to parade in, and both the dancers and the audience. That didn't lessen the creepiness, though.
  3. The head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee made note of the various peoples of Canada: "Aboriginal Canadians, new Canadians, English Canadians, and Francophone Canadians." I'm thrilled to hear he's caught up with the 40 year old Official Multiculturalism discourse that says Canada is a state with 'three founding nations' rather than the older 'two founding nations' rhetoric. Too bad that he managed to toss everyone else into the ridiculously inadequate "new" category.
  4. On a kinder note, the choice to use five athletes in lighting the cauldron - when it's customary to use one - was nice. VANOC said that when we found out who was lighting the cauldron, we'd say 'of course'. And they're right, this time. It was also nice to see people running alongside the truck that carried Wayne Gretzky to the outdoor cauldron. After 106 days where I was unable to escape hearing about the torch relay, this was the one moment that felt genuine and not wholly contrived.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Theory-of-Everything: Lost season 6 version

To start: Let's call the Lost timeline where the plane crashed on the island Lost-Prime. And let's call the one where the plane lands Lost-X. And we'll call the gimmick that had us moving between one and the other a flashsideway, because that seems to have already caught on.

My need to find a theory of everything comes from Jacob's line in the season 5 finale, which was repeated in the recap: It only ends once. What this means (I think) is that Lost-Prime and Lost-X can't be separate timelines or alternate realities - we can't be witnessing what would have happened versus what did happen because that would allow for two endings.

So this is my either very right or very wrong answer: Lost-X is actually happening (within the story) after Lost-Prime. Something will happen at the end of the series in the Lost-Prime timeline that will send them back and make it so that they never crash - and what follows will unfold in the flashsideways, which we're meant to think are totally unconnected but actually provide us with the various characters' resolutions.

Here's where I'm coming from:
  1. The very first detail: the mysterious cut on Jack's neck. They made too big a deal out of this for it to be a meaningless detail. It can't possibly matter within Lost-X, but I have a feeling that we should be watching out for Jack to see if he acquires a neck wound toward the end of Lost-Prime.
  2. Juliet says "it worked". Ostensibly, we're meant to understand that she somehow knew that Lost-X had been created, but I think that it's more than that. Recall that Desmond was similarly close to the pocket of energy when the hatch blew up, and that his consciousness was dislodged and began to shift in time. My guess is that what we were supposed to understand was throwaway dialogue - the bit about going out for coffee sometime and Sawyer saying sure - is dialogue that we'll hear her speak in Lost-X, when she and Sawyer meet again for the first time.
  3. Subtle character changes. Sure, Hurley saying he's lucky and Sawyer appearing to be nice are probably red herrings - it'll probably be made clear when they get character-centric flashsideways that Hurley was being sarcastic, which is not unusual, and that Sawyer is casing Hurley. But the Jack and Locke scene was weird and not easily dismissed. Locke was an angry guy before the island, but that anger seemed to motivate him. This Locke is a cynic and a skeptic - not angry, just defeated. And this Jack is surprisingly open-minded. Sure, he's tried to fix the unfixable before, but it was out of some pathological need to fix things and people. You don't get the sense, though, that the suggestion that he can help is about him.
But why does it matter? Well, regardless of who they are and where they come from, Jacob and the Adversary appear to be playing some sort of cosmic game to prove the other wrong. (As suggested by the season 5 finale, they've played this game before.) Ostensibly, Jacob believes that people are good and his adversary that people are bad. Periodically, one assumes, they cause a group of folks to wash up on shore so that they can play a game with them.

Whether the ship/plane is itself full of despondent people or they choose to focus on them in particular and remove the rest from the field of play is up for debate - surely, the various lists play a role in this process - but the key figures in the game are all very much damaged*. As he tells Ben, the Adversary thinks that they're pathetic, whereas Jacob thinks they can be redeemed. (This is not unlike an issue of
The Sandman, from the 'Brief Encounters' trade, where Dream and some of his siblings have a wager about whether Emperor Norton can be corrupted, and whether it's enough to dream.)

So my guess is that the Lost-Prime line will get dire and depressing: people will die, the Adversary will appear to win. And meanwhile, things will turn out okay in the Lost-X line and those pathetic lives won't look quite so pathetic at all. (There will be clues, too, even if they're as subtle and the Jack and Locke clues.)

Next week's episode is titled 'What Kate Does', and I suspect that Kate will do something important in both of the timelines/dimensions - it may even be the case that her story appears to end in both - and maybe one will be happy and the other one sad. Except that it only ends once. The ending she gets in Prime? To paraphrase Jacob, that's just progress on the way to hitting the reset button/bomb.

[* This is why Jacob responds to Ben's pleas with 'what about you?' Ben may be damaged, but he isn't in play, and that literally makes him inconsequential. (No one said that Jacob isn't a dick.) Except that Ben isn't, because he's still a variable and can do stuff like, say, kill Jacob - who knows whether the parameters of their game and the players they've chosen will be an issue in the end, though.]