Sunday, August 21, 2016

12 Questions about the Olympics

Twelve questions I have about the Olympics: after reading Olympic canoeist Tom Hall’s excellent article in Walrus.

  1. Why is Canada so preoccupied with amassing more medals than other countries when the Olympic motto is about achieving personal athletic excellence?
  2. Is it right for federal support for Olympic sports to be weighted heavily toward those sports and individuals that are most likely to reach the podium?
  3. Does “Own the Podium” express an attitude that is more about nationalism than about the spirit of athletic achievement?
  4. Does the rash of arrests and dismissals—for improperly using positions on the International Olympic Committee for personal gain—have anything to say about the games themselves?
  5. Are the enormous amounts spent on Olympic venues (that can’t be sustained, maintained after their brief days of glory) justifiable?
  6. Do star athletes’ multi-million-dollar endorsement contracts with corporations have anything to say about the stated objectives of the games?
  7. Have we got the right funding priorities when Olympic and international-sport funding is increased while funding for amateur participation in a sport is cut?
  8. If 60% of the National News is about the Olympics, what stories of real significance have been cut to make space?
  9. Why don’t competitors compete naked like they did in the original Mt. Olympus contests? (I know the answer to this; I’m grateful that they don’t.)
  10. Do the Olympics contribute to international good will, or do they accentuate antagonisms?
  11. What is it with doping? How can it even be considered a legitimate adjunct of sport, Vladimir Putin?
  12. Why can’t I think of a twelfth question to make it an even dozen? (Oh, sorry. I just did.)

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Here are the latest News

Once upon a time this was news, to someone.
Do you watch the evening News? Do you subscribe to and read a daily paper . . . daily? Do you check out the News on your smart phone regularly? I mean by going to a News channel and reading what’s offered.

I’ve no idea who first called the publicizing of the day’s events, News. “New” is an adjective, not a noun. It’s not grammatically eligible for pluralization by adding an s. If there can be a day’s News, why not a day’s bigs, or smooths, obeses, wets? The day’s wets would be all about events like floods, drinking water boil advisories, contamination of rivers, rain. It would be about events that are wet, just like CBC’s The National is all about things that are happening that weren’t happening yesterday. Events that are New.

But then, objecting to the nounification of an adjective could certainly be taken as a sign of obsessive, ludditeful Englishteacherism. Humans invented their first words, and we’re still making new ones. Like prioritize, which came in to use in my lifetime although priorize already existed for use on occasions where rank just wouldn’t do. So why not orderitize, simplifitize, managetize?

Just wait. They’re coming.

But back to the news. “Here is the evening news,” the TV announcer intones. Shouldn’t it be “Here are the evening news,” now that News is a plural noun? You don’t say, “Here is my sister’s twins.” Or do you, and have I been left behind . . . again?

George Carlin has noted that there’s really only bad news. Good news aren’t news. In one of his monologues (you can find it on YouTube) he puts into words what all of us know but aren’t prepared to admit: when we turn on the news, we want to hear of immense conflagrations, wars, floods, many people killed. We want to hear about crime, about powerful people being destroyed, of people we don’t like being masterfully humiliated by people we do like. As much as news are increasingly less able to command our attention, who on earth would tune in or read the evening paper if all the stories were about success, achievement and peace?
“An Air Canada Boeing 747 Saskatoon to Winnipeg flight took off at 7:00 am as scheduled and arrived in Winnipeg without incident an hour and twenty minutes later. The captain, Arnold Pansyfoot, and his co-pilot, Diana Gottago reported that the weather was fine and “it was clear sailing all the way.” Rounding out the crew for this flight were flight attendants Danielle Perkyhat and Orville Getarealjob, a native of Edmonton. When interviewed, passenger Jonah H. Fishbait said: “The peanuts tasted really fresh!”

Good news just isn’t. Sorry.

Lately, it seems, the news have become overburdened with a need to provide what people want to hear as opposed to what they ought to hear. News are paid for by advertising, mostly, and advertisers want to see large audiences, and so even the mainstream newspapers and broadcast media have been leaning toward the most sensational, bad news. I call it tabloidifying the news. (Or should it be tabloidicizing) “Hey folks! Follow us. We ferret out the worst news our world has to offer . . . with pictures. Parental Guidance strongly advised.”

Donald Trump is well versed in two areas: 1. knowing that there’s a huge audience for bad news and, 2. understanding that the media have an insatiable thirst for bad stories. They have to have such a thirst; their very career lives depend on it.

Here are a few news for Sunday morning: I’m still in my bathrobe at 8:00 am and, I’ll be going to church later. I’ll bet you’re hungering to hear that I crashed my car en-route. Well, maybe not you, but certainly all the news junkies out there.

If I do, it will be on the evening news. If I don’t, it won’t.