Friday, February 07, 2014

Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony 2014 - Sochi Style

Olympic opening ceremonies are so long - the parade of nations in itself is a very long type of event to watch in prime time - I didn't watch much of it, or hardly any at all. I'm okay with that.

But after the long parade there is the effort to put an entire countries culture and history (in this case, Russia's) into an artistic expression that also last too long. But so it goes.

There was definitely some real impressive visuals. While at times other symbolic expressions were lost on me - but then again, I realize in watching something like this how I don't have the best grasp on Russian history.Not sure if dancing buildings help give me a sense of that history - or the fun hipster scene reminiscent of a 1950s in Russia I have never seen.

One of the things that the ceremony reminds me of is how much I do love Russian music - granted the opening ceremonies at time reminded me of watching Fantasia, but couldn't complain about the sound of Igor Stravinsky.

Visually there of course was some "unique" (positive and strange) things, but my favorite was the projection of scenes on the floor integrated with live action - the technical style of what they did was pretty amazing.

Least favorite was the very very long scene of the glowing sports figures, mostly because the scene just went on and on. The pieces reminded me of fancy lawn deer people put out for Christmas and while they were visually interesting - they became visually boring after the first 30 seconds.

There certainly is something special about the Olympics, and while the Winter Olympics don't intrigue me the way the Summer Olympics do...but all the same, it's fun to see these ceremonies, and while the artistic nature sometimes is a little bit out there, I can enjoy something like this that you know is a one time unique event.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

On The Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman

What a shock and surprise to read and hear about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

While final word on cause of death is unconfirmed, it sounds as though at this time that this was likely the cause of a drug overdose. This type of thing is truly tragic. I think not only of what a great actor Hoffman was, but also the way that celebrity culture is glamorized in a way that for Hoffman in a position of seemingly wide-opportunity and success might pursue destructive behavior of this nature.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was definitely one of the most intriguing actors of the past 15 years. I definitely remember the first films where I became aware of Hoffman as a performer. It was 1999, a year when I definitely beginning a wider interest in contemporary films and very much enjoyed his roles as Phil Parma in Magnolia and Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Already busy before that point in 1999, his film roles seemed to really pick up pace from that point forward. Of course he would get his first Oscar nomination (and win) a half-decade later for Capote, but by that time he had already played some intriguing characters.

It was always interesting to me that Hoffman's characters often were spiritual leaders/teachers such as Reverend Veasey in Cold Mountain, Father Flynn in Doubt, or Lancaster Dodd in The Master. In some ways Lester Bangs in Almost Famous is a leader in this similar capacity to young William Miller.

His characters tend to be powerful and influential, yet at the same time troubled or troubling. There's a secret depth or a sense of a misguided or lonely soul.

It shocking news to hear of his death, sad to think of those he has left behind, and disappointing to think of the roles and performances that he will never play.

Sports Superstitions and our Self-Oriented Nature

One of the things that strikes me with sports is that it's almost unavoidable as a fan to avoid having some type of superstitious feeling. Whether it's a feeling that failure to wear certain apparel certain days, sit in certain seats, or do certain things might impact the game.

This year it struck me going to an NFL playoff games the past two years I had this odd sense going to this year's game. I thought, last year when I went the team lost...will the team lose again this year since I'm hear again?

It's a silly thought. How could the game outcome be based on whether or not I was attending the game. As if I, sitting in the crowd could be a superstitious indicator of the game and the team's performance.

The team won the game (bunking the internal fear that my attendance predicated the game's outcome).

Yet, the fact that such a thought even crosses my mind baffles me. As much as I think I understand my place in the world, the universe, time, it's surprising how quickly we can flip into thought processes that truly speak to our self-centered nature. The sense that it is really ourselves who determine outcomes to games surely sneaks into other areas of our lives.

While some people seem to go through life easy-breezy without a care in the world there are others (myself occasionally included) who place over emphasis on their own involvement or impact on eventual outcomes. I do think individuals make a difference, but I sometimes wonder if I in a similar type of superstition overvalue my impact in other areas. Perhaps it's my consumption and purchase choices and the impact on global economies or companies. Perhaps it's in a professional environment.

If nothing else, I think there's so many things that people (myself included) carry some degree of stress or burden about, assuming that their contribution (small or large, perhaps even where we go, what we do, when we do it) will ultimately make a factor in something else, almost unrelated.

I don't propose a life unattached and unconcerned with our place and role in the world and lives of people. But I do propose that perhaps a little honesty, awareness, and relaxation -- and that what we wear, eat, or do in preparation and during "the big game" probably won't make much of a difference in the outcome of the game. That is, unless we're actually the one's playing the game.