Sunday Salon: On Olympics and Outhouse-cocoons

I am utterly, utterly Olympics-mad.  I know that there are problems with the Games: they are emblems of globalization, funneling money into vast corporate projects with limited long-term usefulness and fostering nationalism when their putative purpose is to shore up internationalism.  But (and this is when it becomes obvious that I am a liberal rather than a radical) I can't help it: I believe in the idealism of the transnational project of peaceful competition, mutual respect, and the pursuit of achievement, even when it fails to meet its own standards.  The striving is all.

So in honor of the Olympics, I give you this cairn or inukshuk (the inspired Olympic logo for Vancouver) that D and I happened upon along the Fundy Shore of New Brunswick this summer.   Fundy sees the most extreme tides in the world: while we stood on this "beach," the tide began coming dramatically, visibly in, minute by minute.  Soon this wee inukshuk would be an island.

I have a particular fondness for the Winter Olympics, because I love obscure and poorly funded sports.  The more alien a sport is to my understanding, the more I want to watch every moment of it, and learn about the histories of the athletes who have dedicated their whole life to it.  Similarly, in the Opening Ceremonies, I weep voluminously over every team with just one athlete.  Imagine the pride in achievement, I blubber quietly to myself, to be the first Ghanaian (for instance) ever to qualify for the Winter Olympics, like the evocatively named "Snow Leopard."

What did you think of the opening ceremonies?  These are the first Olympics I have seen from outside the States (although there may have been one in my childhood that I watched from France - I can't quite remember), so I am struck by differences in coverage.  Essentially Canadian nationalism (Will this be the time when Canada finally wins a gold at home?  Will it? WILL IT???) replaces American nationalism in shaping the media coverage, all the more so in the opening ceremonies, in which Canada represents itself to itself, and itself to the world.  My Canadian friends felt that the way the First Nations performers were incorporated into the ceremonies had the ring of craven exploitation, of pretending to an attention to the history and concerns of indigenous peoples that the government does not, in fact, demonstrate in everyday practice.  In my Intro to Drama course on Tuesday, I am going to ask my students to talk about the Opening Ceremonies as a type of public national theatre, like the tragedy and comedy of fifth century Athens: how did the Games define their audience?  How did the allegory of national values work?

So, what have I been up to this week, apart from Olympics-obsessing? 

My mother was stranded here on a visit with me in Nova Scotia after Snowmageddon prevented her return to Washington, DC, so she went with me to a reading of the poems of Canadian poet-playwright and eccentric James Reaney that I participated in.  Reaney's poetry was a revelation: funny and vehement and odd beyond belief.  My poem was an "Invocation to the Muse of Satire," and began with this ritually rhythmic, deeply satisfying-to-speak introduction:
With Punch's stick (he holds it in his hand)
Beat fertility into a sterile land
and ends with another nod to the violently regenerative role of satire in society:

Has no one seen the country where your cure has nursed?
It is a land of upturned privies with occupants inside them
Crawling out through new tops like astonished moths
Bursting from their unusual, foul and dark cocoons.

I can't recommend the Reaney works I heard at the reading highly enough; more on this, I hope, when my copy of the book comes in.  They are all filled with this sort of vivid, irreverent imagery.

I just finished 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School and Bettie Sharpe's Ember (hope springs eternal in the reviewer's breast that I will have posts up about these soon), which were both profoundly satisfying defamiliarizations of their very different subjects (the nature of the architectural spaces we move through every day, and the idea of personal agency in the world of fairy tales).

Now I continue on with my long-term projects (Sense and Sensibility and the Beckett trilogy), and pick up The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, in the hope of finishing my heavy hardback copy before (hurrah!) leaving for Los Angeles at the end of the week. (Did I mention that in Nova Scotian universities, there is no Spring Break.  Instead it happens in February and we call it "Winter Break." A bit grim, eh?  Still, I shouldn't complain - the weather has been milder here this winter than anywhere else on the east coast I have ever lived.)

I am in the middle of watching Jules and Jim for my 1001 Movies Project (and, more pressingly, my Get My Tivo Cleared Off So That I Can Record More Obscure Olympic Sports Project), and it is quite, quite brilliant.  I heart Jeanne Moreau.  And so, apparently, do both Jules and his buddy Jim.  It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a love triangle so completely.  (Wait, untrue: LOST and Hunger Games both have really excellent love triangles, as do True Blood/the Sookie Stackhouse novels.  That's right, I just compared Truffaut to LOST and Charlaine Harris.  That's the way I roll.)
A couple of posts from the week gone by on Sycorax Pine:

Righto: short-track speed-skating calls, and I needs must answer.