The uneasy taste of victory

I like the Olympics. Some of the events make me yawn, but opening ceremonies, the beauty of the competitors, the tug-at-the-heartstrings that the television networks do so well, generally keep me watching.

But this year, I have a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m not sure how much of my attention the games are going to get. I thought it wrong to give China the games in the first place—as a parent, I generally rewarded good behavior, rather than take the approach, If we give the kid a good thing, he’ll act nicely in gratitude.

But I was willing to go along, and half-agreed with the idea that anything that brought the eyes of ten thousand journalists into an area might have positive results in the long run.

However, Tibet is still being ground underfoot, politically, economically, militarily, and the Chinese solution to that uncomfortable situation was to deny the world’s reporters access to banned web sites while they’re in Beijing.

However, the government’s solution to air pollution has been to shut factories and ban cars for three weeks, counting on the workers’ patriotism to keep them from complaining too loudly about the loss of pay.

However, water is being redirected from the farmers to supply the taps, pools, and fountains of the visitors. No rice this year, kids, sorry, have an ear of corn instead.

However, I have to agree that there are human rights concerns in deputizing the population to snitch on their neighbors.

However, they’re bulldozing entire sections of the city and shoving the inhabitants out into the countryside in what one commentator called the greatest destruction of Beijing since Ghengis Khan.

However, the thing that may have me watching a lot of DVDs the next three weeks is the revoking of speed skater Joey Cheek’s visa, because Cheek has spoken out against the violence in the Sudan—and the Sudan sends China oil. The White House says it “hopes that they would change their mind.”

Damn it, Jimmy Carter pulled us out of the Olympics in protest of (ready for a drop of irony in your morning coffee?) Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, over there on the other side of the world.

Nope, the Olympics aren’t going to leave a very sweet taste in my mouth this year, sorry.

Anyone have any DVDs they’d recommend?

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  1. sindam on August 7, 2008 at 10:15 am

    State of Play – British police procedural, except a group of journalists and their editor (played by Bill Nighy) do more investigation than the police. Gripping – my husband and I watched the first disc the other night, and were compelled to watch all three hours in one go.

  2. LaideeMarjorie on August 7, 2008 at 10:34 am


    I agree with you. This is a very difficult situation. I have to think of it as a “baby with the bathwater” thing, however, and I have decided to concentrate on the athletes who should be given their moment to shine, even in China.

    Should China have been chosen in the first place? Hell no. But it was, and as I squirm about that (and as a student of Buddhism, I squirm profoundly), I think about that 41 year old woman swimmer and how I couldn’t ask her to give us this chance. Should athletes be asked to take a stand on politics?

    Even our president (um, I’m NOT a fan) has chosed to publicly speak out this week about China’s abuses. So maybe in the long run there will be change from the pressure coming from the rest of the world? Or am I being completely naive?

    DVDs? Have you watched all of the Blackadder series? When was the last time you watched any of Preston Sturges’ movies, especially “Sullivan’s Travels”? Pick something that will bring a smile to your face.


  3. Chris on August 7, 2008 at 10:47 am

    To really take your mind off to another world, try and find a copy of Mapp and Lucia – Prunella Scales, Geraldine McEwan and Nigel Hawthorne in the most wonderful adaptation of the EF Benson novels. There was a re-release of the entire sereies on DVD a couple of years ago…


  4. vicki on August 7, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Forget the DVDs–indulge in some extra reading instead! 🙂

    Whoever is in charge over there definitely needs to take a long walk on a short pier. But I’m not really one for sports–I’d much rather watch the entire run of Beavis and Butthead than the Olympics, regardless of the location and the politics thereof. I get much more excited when the US wins a Nobel Prize. (/nerd)

  5. xanthophyllippa on August 7, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    I’m with you on the China thing. Apparently – and I don’t know how true this is – the corruption is so bad in construction there that some folks are worried that the stadium is structurally unsound. I was also completely appalled by the redirection of water as well – what on earth made the IOC ever think that China would be able to put in the infrastructure to do this in the first place??

    Anyway, DVDs: I’m especially fond of the Branagh “Much Ado About Nothing,” which has just the right balance of drama and comedy (in the classical meanings). Emma Thompson is wonderful as well.

  6. tangential1 on August 7, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Marjorie: I fully agree. As much as I hate what China’s been doing, I don’t want to punish the athletes for it. I think I will probably still watch some. I don’t actually have television just now, but I’ll probably be following the online clips of the fencing events (it’s finally regaining some spotlight!).

    As for DVDs, what are you looking for? Action, thriller, comedy, drama? Have you seen Dead Like Me? Seriously the most amusing show I’ve ever seen, but was only on for two seasons; now on DVD (and instant watch on Netlflix!). It’s got Mandy Patinkin! Hmmm…what else? Blood Diamond; Batman Begins; Juno; Flushed Away; Serenity; Hot Fuzz…

  7. carols on August 7, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I agree with you (and the others). This is a very difficult decision, support the athletes or ban China. I will probably watch some of the events (esp. swimming) but I fear only bad can come of this (and hope I am wrong).
    DVD – Foyle’s War, the entire series. Michael Kitchen as a D.S. in Hastings during WWII. Brillant series. Brillant.

  8. ladonna on August 7, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Oooh — I was just going to suggest Foyle’s War too!! Cool. I’ll probably watch the DVDs of the first three years of House (I want to be just like Greg House when I grow up) (weel, except for being male and being a doctor) (I’ll be the female librarian version).

    But I was also going to give an alternative to the Olympics if you are concerned about Darfur/Sudan et al. —

  9. KarenB on August 7, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    This is so tough – I agree with all of your points about China and wish, wish, wish the Olympics were not being held there. However, I know how much it means to the individual athletes to be able to compete on a world stage. The Olympics always seems to me to be, in spite of the flag-waving and medal-counting, an exhibition of the best athletics can be. I am not much of a sports fan (my family thinks I’m an alien), but I love watching the Olympics and cheering for those people who have worked for so hard and so long to compete on that stage, regardless of their nationality.

    Perhaps there will be some enterprising journalists who can get around the herding from the officials and give the world some clear views of China. Perhaps China will start to hear the voices of the people of Tibet and China and be able to change. Perhaps enough of the people of China will be encouraged by the example of the more free nations of the world to induce change in their own country.

    As for DVDs, I’ve been enjoying oldies – Katherine Hepburn, Hitchcock, etc. A little escapism isn’t such a bad thing!

  10. Strawberry Curls on August 7, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    I remember the Moscow boycott and the hard feelings and all that, and have to admit I had forgotten it was over the invasion of Afghanistan. Talk about irony…but different mindsets, different political philosophy and such a different administration, it takes a strong president to do the right thing when he won’t be lauded for it. ‘Nuff said.

    As for DVDs, well, I have to say my mind went immediately to the Granada series of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. ((Grin))


  11. poconochris on August 7, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    could not agree with you more about the olympics.. Equesterine activities are in hong kong but i’ll check with the web site for results. I’m encouraging everyone i know not to watch them and tell NBC also don’t buy stuff advertised.
    Can’t wait for next Russel/Holmes book. The Reader of the audio books is well wonderful just as i ever imagined.
    I agree watch the Brett series from beginning to end. I usually wait until the weather gets alittle poor then it’s heaven………….my husband and I also do a Star Wars’s afternoon,back to the future and indiana jones afternoon about once a yr.

  12. rielphaek on August 7, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Having this spotlight on China’s handling of any criticism is ideal, if painful to watch. It could be worse.
    Remember the melamine poisoning in wheat gluten exported for pet food and how the Chinese government responded?!

    As for DVDs, may I suggest The Painted Veil, followed immediately by Cold Comfort Farm.


  13. Laraine on August 7, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    I am not one to watch hours and hours of Olympic competition, since I seldom watch hours and hours of anything (except Jeopardy, which mercifully comes in 1/2 hr. instalments). Nor do I appreciate the way that any government, Beijing or otherwise, shoves aside its workers, poor, and agriculture to make way for the Olympics (anyone remember what California and L.A. did in ’84???). Methinks we cannot point too many fingers, given the way that whole streets and neighborhoods of humans were shunted aside to make way for the prettifying of L.A., and millions of cars told to forget about normal routines while the world was looking our way, in the interests of having an almost blue sky. I moved to L.A. that summer, and have never forgotten the way that the whole city looked like a prison camp, with barricading hurricane fences everywhere to make sure that ordinary Angelenos didn’t go where they weren’t allowed . . . and the horrid, horrid smog that returned as soon as the visitors went away and traffic was allowed to return to normal. Chewable air, I called it.
    So, I’m a bit like the Chinese farmer in an old Taoist legend, when it comes to whether it is a good idea to have the Olympics there or not, and whether we ought to watch or not: his take on anything, good or bad, was to simply be calm and not wring his hands over apparent bad fortune nor get excited about apparent good fortune. Maybe the Chinese government will learn a little, maybe they won’t. I want Tibet freed and the past preserved and the little man respected and treated well, but it’s not clear to me whether my watching or not will make a difference in that. I likely will do my same-old, same-old approach of watching a little of a favorite Olympic sport for a little while here or there. But, the opening and closing ceremonies? Watching. For good or ill, you won’t see all-out pomp and circumstance, celebration and drama of this magnitude again for a long, long time.
    Meanwhile, Laurie, I respect whatever your choice is; see if you can find an old independent film with Rip Torn and Conchita Ferrel, called Heartland. Or, the classic Dersu Uzala–unbeatable. Failing all else, look up the great 1965 black & white sardonic Jason Robards comedy, A Thousand Clowns.

  14. Carlina on August 8, 2008 at 9:38 am

    I completely agree with you on all counts. You summed it up nicely, including the governmental control in communist C, and I have taken similar measures as yourself in this matter. I am not watching the Olympics nor am I giving it any airtime or talk. I wish el presidente would have taken a more aggressive role in this matter, but you know how that goes…

    It’s nice to here you mention not only the Tibetan abuses of human rights, but also the governmental control China exerts on its citizens and how their human rights are being abused as well.

    It reminds me of another country just 90 miles away from the United States that the press often ignores. One of your statements in particular struck a chord:

    “However, I have to agree that there are human rights concerns in deputizing the population to snitch on their neighbors.”

    This is a daily occurrence in that little island 90 miles away from us, where persons are imprisoned for speaking out against or disagreeing the suppressive regime.

    As for DVDs, I can recommend a score of Jeremy Irons if you’ll be needed to get away from redrafting Sherlock Holmes:

    Chinese Box (for the China theme)
    Dead Ringers
    Brideshead Revisited (the Granada Series)

    Or…some oldies but goodies
    The Maltese Falcon

  15. Anna C. on August 8, 2008 at 11:32 am

    The Thin Man movies are fun to revisit.

    We might celebrate the spirit of the Olympics (anyone remember that it’s supposed to be amateurs?) by trying to go out and actually participate in some extra sporting activities over the next couple of weeks.

  16. ReaderWoman on August 8, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I am adding a post just because I can, not because I have anything new to say! 🙂 I agree, that China’s excesses will not be cured by boycotting, not watching the games, and that we do a disservice to the athletes. And yet, and yet… life generally isn’t given to us in such absolutes – and the grays that make up most of our lives, and our decisions, might benefit from taking a stand on things…perhaps just little things to begin with – and in concert with others taking small steps! At any rate, I will watch – I have two young grandsons who won’t get the political ramifications, but will enjoy seeing trained and young people striving for medals. Movie ideas? The Red Violin, Saving Grace (NOT the series, but the movie with Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson) American Dreamer (Tom Conti, JoBeth Williams) Shirley Valentine…

  17. corgimom on August 8, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    I generally don’t watch tv, anyway, but may watch the opening ceremonies since that’s about as close to world peace as I expect to see in my lifetime.

    Stand up Comedy–Eddie Izzard, Dressed to Kill
    Movie Comedy–Moonstruck, or Victor Victoria
    Kid’s–Any “Jakers” dvd you can find. Just something so endearing about a Celtic pig…

  18. AlarmingFemale on August 12, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I’m with you 100%. I don’t watch much TV, anyway, and care not so much for sports, but I wish we weren’t in China’s back pocket. It makes me sad.

    I second the Eddie Izzard recommendation, btw. Also, the Joe Strummer documentary The Future Is Unwritten is really good (if you’re a fan of The Clash or just alternative music is general).

    I’m a Laurie too. Women of a certain age, eh?

  19. mspeed44 on August 13, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Just before the China Olympics, I found the mini-series Centennial on dvd. I had forgotten just how great these 20+ hours showed the development of America–and the environmental impact we have! Get it, it’s great. You’ll cry when every person dies!!

  20. vicki on August 24, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I have mixed feelings about the Olympics in China, but at least they seemed to come off well. And I did like Roger Ebert’s different take on the games in his blog:

    Maybe it’s too rosy a view, but it’s pure Ebert, and I have always enjoyed his ability to see the possibilities and wonder in things, whether it’s the perplexing end of 2001: A Space Odyssey or something like the Beijing Olympics. It’s probably best to keep both sides of the coin in mind.

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