So… The Olympics

Well, I did in fact tune into the Olympics to watch the Opening Ceremony. I did so with distinctly mixed feelings, given that I’m rather supportive of the idea of boycotting watching the games, since I think NBC has not adequately responded to concerns that their $800 million wall-to-wall broadcast is whitewashing the very serious human rights violations going on in Russia – particularly those affecting the gay and transgender community.

Though, with that being said, I did take some comfort in the fact that my decision to cut the cable with Comcast (NBC’s owner) means that they actually have no idea that I’m watching, since I’m using that sweet over-the-air, old-school broadcast system (and in HD that I’m quite sure is of a better quality than that throttled crap I used to get over the cable). Of course, Comcast is also my broadband provider, so my hands aren’t all that clean.

Anyhoo, the Opening Ceremonies were, for lack of a better word, dull. I actually wondered a bit about who the intended audience was – and I suspect it was actually the people of Russia rather than the rest of the world, here seeing live and in color the glories of what their leader has wrought. I don’t suggest that’s either a good or bad thing – though perhaps it’s different than what we’ve come to expect from these spectacles, which typically aim to wow the globe with the majesty, the grandeur of the host country. And this one? Not so much. It was really long and felt enervating; and perhaps it’s just a reflection of my innate American philistinism, but much of the subject matter was simply not engaging (though perhaps more people like ballet than I do – but it’s always acted on me like a powerful narcotic).

Of course, I didn’t really watch the festivities without my own preconceived agenda, namely that, even in spite of the deeply corrupt nature of the Olympics, this was an especially egregious example; and that it was being put on to glorify and entrench Vladimir Putin. Did it succeed? Well, to hear the fawning Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera breathlessly describing the goings-on, apparently so. But for me? Not so much. Plus, we’re still seeing bits like this:

Now, it’s pretty baller that a member of the U.S. bobsled team just stone-cold kicked his way out of the bathroom he got locked into – though the door made from corrugated cardboard is not exactly screaming high-end facilities.

At any rate, I really only posted about the Olympics as an excuse to post a couple of videos. First, a really spot-on show of support to the LGBT communities in Russia from a group of Swedes – singing the Russian national anthem (in Russian!). “Kind of insanely subervise,” as one of my good friends put it.

And then this. Not only because it’s fabulous – but because I think that, while mockery alone can’t bring down a tyrant, laughing at one can both diminish him and point out the absurdity of his views. Good luck gays, on Gay Mountain!

You Are Doing It Right

It is actually just as delicious as it looks
I LOVE LOKUM

IM’ing with my friend the other day. She advises that she has only one row left of the box of lokum (that’s “Turkish delight” for any readers who are unsophisticated rubes…) I brought her from Istanbul. (N.B.: for those of my other friends who only got a sample of lokum, the reasons she got an entire box were that she specifically asked for it before I left and she was super-preggo… Of course, I’m still trying to figure out why I didn’t just bring home an entire suitcase-full, given that my own personal stash of lokum was gone by my third day back. God, I am an idiot…).

Now, despite being pretty sure of her answer, I had to ask, “Horizontal or vertical? That is, one row with one of each flavor? Or one last row of all one flavor?”

She replied, “Horizontal. One piece of each. What do you think I am, some sort of monster?”

She also followed up with the advice that she’d been eating it only while her husband was at work, so she wouldn’t have to share.

And this is why we’re friends… We really get each other.

The Price Is Oh So Right

The moon landing. The birth of Little Ricky Ricardo. “Who shot JR?” Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.” The fall of the Berlin Wall. The final episode of Newhart. Alexis and Krystle’s cat-fight in the lily pond. All iconic moments in the history of television viewing.

But let’s face it – none can compare to this, the ultimate Showcase from The Price Is Right. Everything about it is amazing.

I ♥ NY

This is perfect. Yes, it’s funny – but also, in its way, rather moving. A great reminder that we are a nation of  immigrants – and that’s what makes New York and New Yorkers the best.

The Magic Kingdom

Let me preface this by saying, yes, I totally get that Disney Corp is problematic on many levels – they are the world’s largest media conglomerate, thus giving them inordinate sway over what people see and hear in terms of both entertainment and news. They were a key backer of the recently passed law in Florida the makes it illegal for localities to enact mandatory paid sick leave. Disney films and the Disney Princesses – a nearly unavoidable juggernaut for children – teach some distressing gender and other stereotypes. I could go on. And like I said, I get this.

BUT. I have a love of Disney theme parks that is uncharacteristic of my typical left-coast, bleeding-heart-but-also-leaning-towards-classist, pretentious and judgey self – and that this affection is pretty much unwavering. I’d always been a fan of Disneyland – and all the more so after a very brief stint as a toy soldier in the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disneyland (and I do mean brief – my fellow soldiers and I were cut from the parade after the final dress rehearsal. It remains one of the most crushing blows of my life, lo these three decades later…). Despite being cut, I remained a cast member for that summer – meaning I could visit the park whenever I liked. And I learned some of the back story of the park and the way Disney works.

And work it does. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Disney never does anything half-assed. Everything in the park, from the biggest and most elaborately themed rides to the paint scheme on the trash cans is exactly right, never just good enough. Anyone who’s been to one of the parks knows this. But it’s the cast members – be they performing as characters or sweeping up Main Street – who make the Disney experience so great. This is true in all the parks in my experience – though I still  have a hypothesis that it’s especially true in OG Disneyland in Anaheim. Those who work there do so largely because they’re into it. In Orlando, it’s a bit more of a company town and I suspect some locals wind up working there simply because it’s the biggest employer around. Thus, Anaheim, for me, always has an extra-special vibe.

Anyway, the whole reason this even crossed my mind was due to a recent Buzzfeed post 14 Reasons The Peter Pans At Disneyland Are The Most Adorable Thing Ever – which borrowed heavily from a charming Tumblr called Pan Fans. Seriously, check them out. Even put a smile on my grouchy ol’ mug.

It’s great seeing how Disney, which has a pretty rigid set of “guidelines” for their cast members in terms of behavior, appearance and how they interact with guests, also allows their cast members to be genuine in those interactions. That is, the guidelines may be strict, but cast members have a certain amount of freedom in their performances as long as they’re enhancing guests’ visit. It’s sort of like the difference between talking to a customer service rep on the phone who is required to read from a script versus one who is allowed to interact with you in a normal way and empowered to make decisions to bring about a satisfactory resolution. Basically, the impression I’ve always gotten is that Disney trusts their cast to act appropriately based on the situation.

Of course, Peter Pan is kind of a troublemaker (I mean that in the best way possible), so I’m sure he gets a bit of extra leeway…

petersnow

petersnow2

As long as I’m waxing rhapsodic about Disney, probably one of my favorite memories from Disneyland was one evening after the Main Street Electrical Parade. There was a charming little boy, probably around 5, along with his sister and parents, sitting next to me. He was a chatty little fellow and told me all about his adventures that day while we waited for the parade to begin.  We “oohed” and “ahhed” over the parade (it’s still my favorite, though SpectroMagic is a pretty close second). Then, as the parade ended and we waited for the fireworks, I asked if he knew who Tinkerbell was. Answer in the affirmative. “Well,” I said to him, “sometimes she actually flies over Disneyland right before the fireworks. I’ve seen her once or twice myself. Of course, she’ll only appear if everybody watching believes in fairies. And you have to really believe.” (For those of you unfamiliar with S.O.P. after the parade, Tinkerbell pops out of the side of the Matterhorn, spotlit, her wings aglow, and “flies” down a cable across the park.)

He took his belief duties very seriously, ensuring that his sis and parents were onboard. “OK, I think this might be the time she gets here. Are you sure you believe?” I asked. “Yes, I believe!” he assured me solmenly. And, lo and behold, from the top of the Matterhorn, Tinkerbell made her appearance and flew across the park. This little kid was saucer-eyed with both astonishment and glee – and I felt like a pretty cool storyteller.

And, on a semi-but-really-not-related note, I always thought this gal from The 49ers was singing, “Peter Pan, P-p-peter Pan…” – when in fact she’s singing “People can’t understand it.” But it’ll always be Peter Pan to me.

Signs of the Times

It’s quite amazing to me how stark the difference is between protesters from the left and right – at least when it comes to signs. The lefties and progressives consistently come up with slogans that are both trenchant and hilarious (as opposed to misspelled). Who says you can’t love liberty AND have a sense of humor?

To wit, three of my favorites from a Restore the Fourth rally in NYC on July 4.

stop

consuela

weird shit

All photos above by Jim Kiernan

And, just to prove my point, here is the best sign of all from outside the Supreme Court on the day DOMA was overturned.

divorce