An Olympic Memory

Atlanta hosted the Olympics in 1996, back when the budgets for them weren’t quite so gigantic, and they needed kids to be a part of the opening ceremonies. A letter came out in our backpacks one day, and while I don’t remember this clearly, my parents and teacher all recall how immediately intent I was on being a part of it. Practice, rehearsals - I think I figured out it was a special thing and immediately asked to go. Well, they ran a lottery for the slots and my friends Anna and Parker (and maybe some others?) won places. I didn’t, but my enthusiasm got me noticed, and thanks to some fortune, I had an opportunity to join up.

I don’t remember much, but a few things stick out. Riding on the bus next to Anna when we went to pick her sister up at another elementary school I had never been to before, and listening to the people on the big platform constructed on the seats in the stadium as they directed us. Hot days under the sun at high schools practicing our places, the envy I had of the kid that just had to stand on a guide dot. The chaotic day they took away the dots - and the amazing smoothness of the second run-through when we realized we still knew where to go. I remember the seemingly giant tunnels under the stadium in my seven year old eyes,  the embarrassment of changing into my costume in a small space with all of these moms everywhere, leaving the stadium through the firework zone while they were going off - and watching one hit the driveway in front of us, and then getting home while the parade of nations was still going on. The sadness when I didn’t get a flashlight for our closing ceremony number, and the excitement when I watched the X gamers practice their craft by the stadium.

But most of all I remember the feeling of running out of our tunnel and seeing the infinite stars of camera flashes around the stadium, the likes of which we’ll likely never see thanks to the modern smarkphone. There was also a little thought in the back of my head that I enjoyed - “I could just run THAT way and the entire world would see me!” - but did not heed. I remember the sounds of John Williams, our accompaniment to so many hours of making our dove flap. And it all happened because of enthusiasm.

One Last Thought on the NSA/Facebook

The data we put on Facebook isn't all "ours" - the internet isn't ours. Facebook has control over the data I enter there, and we have a free market choice to use Facebook knowing that. We're going into an era where the social contract of community via the internet will require a "voluntary" abridgment of rights, unless we either choose platforms that won't share data or radically curtail the gov'ts collection abilities. I think the former impossible because of economics, and the latter because of politics.
This isn't 1984 - it's Brave New World, but instead of Soma, we have cat videos.

For the sake of time, here's Peggy Noonan representing my view:

From her blog:
...Because of the built-in bias in the system—the bias to do too much, to go too far—the creation of an invasive American surveillance state is probably inevitable. Politicians are people who can do math. The number of people who want to be safe, they are certain, is far greater than the number worried about abstract issues of privacy. Moreover, they figure voters are more or less like this: They’ll have their little blog debates about privacy right up until a bomb goes off, and then they’ll all go into a swivet and join a new chorus: “Why didn’t you protect me? Throw the bums out!”
There is no way a government in the age of metadata, with the growing capacity to listen, trace, tap, track and read, will not eventually, and even in time systematically, use that power wrongly, maliciously, illegally and in areas for which the intelligence gathering was never intended. People are right to fear that the government’s surveillance power will be abused. It will be. There are many reasons for this, but the primary one is that humans are and will be in charge of it, and humans have shown throughout history a bit of a tendency to play every trick and bend and break laws. “If men were angels,” as James Madison wrote, limits, checks, balances and specifically protected rights would not be necessary. But they aren’t angels. Add to all this simple human mistakes, innocent and not, and misjudgments. And add to that sheer human craziness, partisan lust, political mischief of all sorts.

In which I discuss Game of Thrones

Not entertainment or the arena
Deaths back then
The good are predictable
Violence is horrible
Choices have consequences

I stayed away from Game of Thrones until this year - enough people were talking about it that I decided to get into the series one weekend and, a half-embarrassingly short time later, I've read large parts of books 1-3 and caught up on the series.

First, some accolades: this is a show that keeps us interested and engaged with just tidbits of various characters from episode to episode. A few weeks back, the show was tracking storylines at 10 different locations, as represented here in a spoil-free list that will make sense to show fans. We're blessed by writers that can accomplish exposition rapidly - and have much more screentime thanks to HBO's commercial-free nature then other hour-long dramas.
  • Dragon Lady
  • Wolf King
  • Wolf Girl
  • Wolf Cripple
  • Stag Legit King
  • Lion / Sapphire
  • Crow / Wildling
  • Crow / Mother
  • Tortured Squid
  • The Capitol (Mockingbird, Spider, Lions, Roses, Wolf)
The next praise-worthy bit is how much the show can establish and humanize characters for us, even while it seems like every episode features someone dying, prompting tweets like:
“Why doesn’t George R.R. Martin use twitter? Because he killed all 140 characters.”
What does the show not get right? For one thing, it relies on actors (espeically women actors) that are too uniformly attractive - and who remove their clothing too much. For a show that relies on efficiency, these scenes mull slowly along close body-shots that seem to serve no other purpose than titillation.

However, on the other area of debate, I'm rather understanding of the gore in the show. Martin's deaths - all of them - have a point, and a role in establishing a rule that in this universe of Westeros - NO ONE is safe. Not the protagonist, not the hero, not the child, not the one who must avenge. There was plenty more story to be told about our friendly Starks - but George R. R. Martin wants us to follow him over the bodies of these beloved characters, and the show's efforts to show us what felled them is in the pursuit of accuracy - and a warning about the kind of world that has existed in the purges of Mao and Stalin. Tens of thousands - millions - have died for lesser crimes than shown on their show. We would do well to remember that.