Friday, August 8, 2008

Live-blogging the Opening Ceremonies -- part 1

You're looking live at Beijing, where...what? This isn't live? It's on tape. Oh.

Scott is joining me, in red. I'm writing in blue. Away we go...

7:48 -- And here we are for the Summer Olympics. Yay. Lance and I will be live-blogging tonights opening ceremonies, but in the spirit of the event we will also be operating on a bit of a tape delay, just like the opening ceremonies themselves. Thus the time stamp you see on these entries will not correspond to the actual time America receives these events. In other words, if you're reading along at home -- which I am guessing most of northern Worcester County will be doing, especially Rep. Jennifer Flannigan -- you will have already seen everything we're discussing.

Well, so what.

7:51 -- As an aside, in order to prepare for this event, I've watched this week's Project Runway, which had the contestants design outfits for the US Olympic Team to wear during these opening ceremonies. Of course, none of these designs were actually used in the games, but no doubt some of them will be superior to whatever mess America throw up on the world stage. They always seem to wear some awful beret or tam-o-shanter or something that no actual person would ever wear ever.

7:55 -- NBC has some hype leading into the ceremony itself, beginning with Tom Brokaw crawling out of his coffin to provide a brief snapshot of modern China. I applaud the attempt, however brief and shallow, to provide perspective on the games. Including a maudlin section about this years Earthquakes, however, is kind of... I dunno. Iffy.

7:57 -- Now we have commentators Bob Costas and Mat Lauer reporting from inside the Bird's Nest, which would be cooler if they were actually perched inside an enormous bird's nest, with, like, Big Bird as a co-commentator. If they did it wouldn't be any more awkward that this, since the two are standing next to each other, making Lauer look like some sort of gangly giant compared to the hobbit-like Costas. I think Lauer is actually hunching over to fit into the picture.

8:00 -- Apparently there are 15,000 performers for the ceremonies, which are costing over $300 million. This better be the best staged performance of "Our Town" ever put on. I wonder if $300 million could have helped any of those Earthquake victims? Now some bronzed guy is saying that the Chinese are viewing this as the riskiest thing they have ever done. Synchronized dancing with giant masks is the riskiest thing China has ever done? Really? I've taken bigger risks ordering General Tso's Chicken. You never know how that stuff is going to be prepared.

8:04 -- I am watching Elmo and Abby Cadabry pretend to be chickens. Gordon is now also pretending to be a rooster, which is probably the riskiest thing he's ever done. There is a muppet chicken who is swooning over Gordon, probably oblivious that she is about to become General Tsao's Chicken.

8:05 -- And we have an interview with some Americans who appear to be wearing tonight's outfit. Sure enough, it comes complete with these white cab driver hats and blue blazers. They look like a rowing crew from Yale circa 1905.

8:11 -- Okay, here we go. After some obligatory shots of President Bush infecting a new continent, the ceremony starts with 2008 drummers pounding on colored tiles. Yep, the ceremonies are derived from Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" video. It does look pretty cool, but it would be much cooler if all the performers moonwalked off the stage afterwards.

8:16 -- 2008 Chinese guys wearing facepaint and sheer silver dresses and screaming and pounding their drums in unison. My Dad just commented that they appear to be summoning the Dragon Emperor. If I see one more ad for Mummy 3 I am going to beat Brendan Frasier like an ancient drum.
This spectacle is kind of scary, though. I think all over America, people are heading outside to check on their safehouses and make sure the bunker is stocked with canned goods and shotgun shells.

8:16 -- A big foam Z just swung across the screen on a vine while yodeling. Apparently the screaming and pounding worked.

8:17 -- Oh wait. I'm still watching Sesame Street. Never mind.

8:20 -- Matt Lauer is trying to provide context for the symbollism of the ceremony as though he were one of my World Lit professors. But trust me, Ann Parrish could break Lauer like a balky colt.

8:21 -- So that's what happened to Trev Alberts and Steve Emtman...

8:25 -- 52 kids representing the weeks of the year come out and... wait, they represent the 52 ethnic groups that comprise China. Hey, one of them is the Dali Lama! No word on if they have any kids from Darfur represented. The kids just turned the flag over to a group of goosestepping soldiers. Hmm. SO far this ceremony is a bit on the "we're going to crush the world" side of things. Not quite the Olympic spirit. They then play the Chinese national anthem. Do all national anthems sound like unmusical shouting to everyone outside that nation? Except, of course, the Canadian national anthem.

8:31 -- Okay, this part is cool. A giant scroll unfurls, with an LED screen on it, and a bunch of dancers come out and draw on it with their bodies. Costas just said that "already these ceremonies seem unlike any other". I could have sworn he was about to say "seeming like they've been going on for hours and hours".

8:36 -- They now have some cool moving blocks that are emulating wind and water droplets and stuff. They supposedly represent Confucian ideals, but they also bear a strange resemblance to Space Invaders. Or like that Mahjong game that comes with Windows. Now it turns out that the unified movement of the blocks is not via a computer program but via hundreds of people working in perfect unison. Hmmmm, people being used as cogs in a giant computer program. Yep, it's China!

8:41 -- Some guy named Josh, who is the NBC Chinese expert guy, is droning on and on about the symbolism of the performances and it's interesting and everything but I'm going to guess that most of the country is watching this on mute, if they haven't already switched over to Spike TV to watch UFC 72. I can't help feeling that I've seen these stage routines at EPCOT.

8:44 -- A guy is waving a giant ouija board around that has a gold ladle nailed to the center. Josh! Josh, c'mon, what's the symbolism here?! Thanks for nothing.

8:54 -- What is with the 2008 booger-green colored nymphs?

8:55 -- They represent the importance of boogers in Confucian thought.

8:57 -- And GE starts the onslaught of China-themed advertisements. I wonder how pervasive this is going to be? If the next CSI is about a Tong War, I'm going to be kind of irritated.

8:58 -- Do you think John McCain is still awake watching this, or is it about his bedtime?

8:59 -- They've had eight years to prepare for this night and NBC had to bring in an Chinese "expert?" Couldn't Matt and Bob have studied this stuff?

9:01 -- Where in the world is Matt Lauer? Obviously, not in China.

9:02 -- Michelle: "It's not karate, you [moron] it's tai chi. Who just said that?" Me: "The "Chinese expert'" Michelle: "Do they think we're so stupid that we won't understand if they call it tai chi? I hate him already." Me: *silent*

9:04 -- They were distracted by how much this looks like a scene from Revenge of the Sith, with 2000 clones of Jango Fett overrunning the Jedi. Those kids in the center represent the Jedi children that Anakin murdered to complete his transformation into Darth Vader.

9:06 -- 2008 Tai Chi performing waiters. Nice.

9:08 -- If there is one guy who should have got a whoopin' when he was in school, it's Matt Lorch.

9:09 -- Man, enough with this journey through Chinese history. How does it take this long to tell? A bunch of stuff that nobody in Europe ever cared about, the Boxer Rebellion, Communism, the Rape of Nanking, the Gang of Four, the Chicago Seven (?), Tiananmen Square, Yao Ming, now let's play ball already. Lyrics copyright Billy Joel.

9:10 -- Michelle thought for a brief moment that the top of the sphere coming out of the floor of a stadium was actually a nuclear missile. Ha ha. Jokes on us. See you in another life, brother.

9:12 -- It's the world's biggest Golden Snitch.

9:13 -- Michelle: "Sarah Brightman...on weed. I suppose she could just be amazed."

9:13 -- No, the entire Olympic Games are just a clever marketing ploy for Pineapple Express -- opening today! Check local listings.

9:15 -- AAAAH! All those giant posters of Mao have been recycled and now just feature random people's huge melons. Get those giant ugly faces away from me before I have a panic attack.

9:15 -- Do you think the kids fought over who got the white kid umbrella, who got the black kid umbrella, the Chinese kid umbrella, etc?

9:17 -- Michelle pronounces the opening ceremonies "pretty cool."

9:18 -- I'm pronouncing them "pretty long". Finally we get to the parade part. Everyone loves a parade. Not everyone loves an hour of Chinese militant symbolism.

9:20 -- Why is French one of the official languages? Weren't they driven out of southeast Asia decades ago?

On to part 2.

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