Olympics and Excellence Rant

It was a hard year to be a fan of the Olympics.

“What about the human rights issues?”
“What about the horrible corruption?”
“What about the crisis in the Ukraine?”

They are all really important issues. And dismissing them is unjust. But we are also a society that focuses on the negative. Every two years, I’m thrilled to celebrate global excellence.

In normal life we’ve replaced recognizing excellence with celebrity. And the best part of celebrating celebrity is that they will eventually screw-up and you can watch them fall.

But most of our athletes are different. They’ve spent their live training. They’ve been supported through most of it by only family and team mates. Our medalists may achieve some measure of fame, but most of the 200+ athletes we sent will be getting up this week either planning a new life or going back to training and competition.

But for two weeks I cheered their successes. I held my breath during competition. I was broken and breathless by failure.

Why? I find it aspirational. Hard work. Determination. Perseverance through hardship. Dedication. These are values I cherish – maybe not emulate but cherish.

And success and excellence. It seems we worry so much about failure, we encourage mediocrity. Bah.

Bah I say.

So I liked the Olympics. I enjoyed my two weeks of watching the world’s best compete. I miss its absence.

Two years until Rio.

Weekly Recap

I have this whole Olympics rant in my noggin. But I’m discombobulated today so I won’t write it.

I set my alarm for an hour too late. Fortunately I have a backup alarm, but I’m still running late.

Well not late, late. I’m caught up and waiting for the bus now. But my brains are still behind.

The big news of the week was the rash of Star Wars enthusiasm. We made new characters on Friday. The guys are buzzing. Hopefully some of that enthusiasm carries into the game.

It is cold again. Flarking February.

But it already grows light. That is good.

After two toughish weeks at work we need to show progress today. I have an 8 am deadline. I guess I should check on it.

Take care. Watch out for rogue hamsters.

Weekly Recap

Wow. My weekend finished with a splash.

The highlight of the week was different though. A buddy called whom I hadn’t heard from in a long while. I suck at keeping in touch with friends.

It had gotten to the point when when I thought about calling I was worried about explaining why it had been so long since I called.

But we had a great chat. It takes about 5 minutes to catch someone up on my life. And then I seem to forget my mildly amusing anecdotes once they are committed herein.

Fortunately she had lots of cool stories. All in all it was a nice chat. Quite happy.

Finished the Dresden campaign Friday night. Out with a whimper – my climatic encounter never challenged the heroes. A was starting to wear them down through attrition but that isn’t satisfying. And I gave a nemesis a poor send off as he favoured a mindless frontal assault instead of previous tactics. (That was intentional. He was incensed beyond reason, but I didn’t get that across either.)

Then we decided on a new system to try. I won’t say it is a new campaign yet as the system might suck. But I think there is enthusiasm.

The game is Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars: Edge of Empire. (When I asked Tim to buy it for me I texted ‘FF SW EoE CR Pls.’ – but he understood my overly cryptic request.)

The system is crunchier than Dresden, but still have a strong narrative aspect. Also like Dresden it uses custom dice.

Like Dresden it has a familiar setting. But the game is set in a specific locale of the Star Wars universe. ‘The wretched hive of scum and villainy’ of the Outer Rim.

Next week will be character creation and maybe an adventure start. Everyone always loves character creation.

I saw Winter’s Tale in theatres yesterday. It is a fantasy about good vs. evil that spans 100 years. Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe and Jessica Brown Findley ( Downton Abbey) star. The first half is very good. The second half was a disaster. (Although there were still nice moments.)

I liked it but can’t recommend it.

Which brings me to last night. I came home from the movie. I had bought some batteries to see if I could play Guitar Hero from my chair. (I can!). I was just settling into a groove when there was an urgent knock.

“You’ve got a leak! It is flooding the suite below,” said the building maintenance dude.

It turned out I didn’t. But I too was being flooded from the suite above me. My front hall, bedroom hall and master bath were all underwater.

When they went up to fix it for awhile it sounded like a waterfall in there.

They sent a professional wet vac dude to clean the water. Now I have an industrial fan blowing. It is very loud. My bedroom felt like a sauna last night due to the humidity.

I was worried about walking across the wet carpet to bed. So Dave came over and he rigged up the bedroom so I could park there overnight. Fortunately the water didn’t make it all the way to my room so footing within was ok.

The fan will run until Tuesday. It is very loud. Then the condo folks are coming back to assess damage. I wonder if I should also get a second opinion on what needs replacing. Since it came from above it could be the feeling and floor drywall in addition to the carpets and lino and cupboards in the washroom. The idea of renos panics me. I hope not much damage was done.

So last week is in the books.

Take care. Hug someone. Check your pipes.

Weekly Recap

Dudes!

There were no great happenings last week. But it was just a nice week.

As we get to the end of the cold snap, you start to, falsely, feel the end of winter coming. Realistically winter continues until the end of March. But average temps are increasing. I hope this will be the last cold spell of this length and intensity.

Already the light has brightened. When I got home yesterday I needed the lights. But I didn’t need the light from the condo hallway to find them.

Big for me was taking care of business. My old business that is. I finally engaged a accountant to shut it down. All my records are gathered and handed over. It is a load off my mind. One I never talked about because I knew I’d get no sympathy. It is one more thing the wheelchair made easier – going through my records without worrying about falling.

And work itself was grand. Crazy, but grand. Two major projects went live last week. Only five left before the end of the year. And significant progress was made on those as well.

I also had a meeting with my old boss Stuart. That always makes me happy. I quite like him.

Mom popped in. Out of nowhere she showed with dinner on Tuesday night. It was a treat. Except the soup. But her presence and the rest of the food was excellent.

She tried to trick me into liking squash soup by calling it vegetable. But I’m no more susceptible to her rises now than when I was six. I ate most of it so she would give me desert. So I can still be bribed like a six year old too.

Comics were cool. The new Invaders series is fun. And there was a new Ms. Marvel #1. It was excellent. Marvel has a great track record of creating young heroes who learn to cope with the responsibility of their powers. Spidey is the obvious template. But I could likely name ten others. Hmm let’s try.

Nova, Power Pack, Ms. Marvel, Runaways. Hmm. Cloak and Dagger. The young teams might be cheating: Young Avengers, New Mutants, New Warriors – there were other themes there. Nuts. I’m sure I’m missing some obvious ones to reach ten.

But the new Ms. Marvel is excellent. One issue in and there is a well rounded interesting character there.

Played Stone Age on Sunday. I was in the back, but with a plan. I ended the game strongly in the lead. But not so much that my brother’s final scoring didn’t win him the game.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday I watched the Olympics. That will be what I do for the next week and a half. It sucks that all the events happen either at night or during the morning while I’m working. I only catch the recasts which are always edited to force a narrative and focus on Canada.

On the other hand I’m not sure I could have taken the stress of watching some of the events live.

I bought a new RPG on Sunday. But I screwed up and got the wrong product. The Star Wars Edge of Empire game seems well suited to is. The promo material makes it scifi in a setting we love. It emphasizes narrative gameplay elements. And, while it has the force, it keeps its impact low.

I think I like it based on the product I bought. I also went dice crazy. The game uses special dice. I bought three different sets.

Finally, I want to recommend The Lego Movie. I know I had a giant rant yesterday, but it was still an excellent show.

Take care and stay warm.

Oh – and thanks to the firefighters who spent a week outside in some of the worst weather of the year raising money for MD. Since I’m driving the proceeds I quite appreciate it.

TTFN.

Everything is Awesome!

I’ll do a recap tomorrow. Today I want to talk about the movie I saw yesterday, The Lego Movie.

I believe it was the best 2 hour toy commercial I’ve ever seen. It was inventive and energetic and quite funny. Did you see Wreck It Ralph last year? Same genre.

I recommend it.

Except it bashes you over the head with three or four morals. Bash. Bash. Bash. Not that the movie was ever subtle but it used a giant moral shillelaghs. Bash.

Ever that wouldn’t be so bad if i didn’t vehemently disagree with at least one of the lessons.

Emmet is the hero of the movie. He is The Special from prophecy fated to save the world. But Emmet is not special. He is dim and unimaginative and distinguished only in his lack of distinguishing characteristics.

The Everyman is a common trope. It makes a relatable character. Depending on the story the Everyman might turn out to have a quality and succeed or he might be beaten by the system.

But those aren’t the paths of the Lego Movie. Emmet will succeed, not despite his mediocrity, but because of it. All he needs is belief in himself.

Everyone can be The Special. Even a nerf herder like Emmet.

I dislike this. If everyone is special than no one is. The word loses meaning. We are elevating the mean and diminishing excellence. There is a good reason. We want kids to feel good about themselves. To believe they can be a success. To feel loved.

Contrast that with the Olympics. Over 200 of Canada’s best are competing. And based on one measure we are leading the medal count as it stands this morning.

As kids those Olympians were told they too could be special. They were told they needed to believe. But they were also taught to seek perfection. Taught to win. Taught that belief alone isn’t enough. Drive, hard work, overcoming failure and training are required.

They all go happy to have the honour of competing. But they have all gone to win. To excel.

I saw a clip with McMorris (our first medalist) from just before he injured himself.

“Doing 1440s must push the limits of the human body. What happens if you push too far?” Asked the interviewer.

“That is what hospitals are for,” quipped the snowboarder.

In his next race he broke some ribs. They were still broken when he competed at Sochi and earned a bronze.

Emmet has people who believe in him, but who provide him none of the tools he needs to achieve.

We hate to see people fail. So we are deprecating competition. In doing so we eliminate the winners as well as the losers.

I believe that we all have the potential to be special. To excel. But only the rare few do. That isn’t bad.

Those who excel give us inspiration. Those who fail give us motivation. Those who are content with mediocrity provide nothing. Why encourage kids to that middle path?

The theme song of the movie is “Everything is Awesome.” At first it is used ironically, but at the end it celebrates its message.

“Everything could be awesome if we dig deep and really put our backs into it,” doesn’t have the same ring. I fear for the next generation of Olympians.

Notes on a speech I won’t give

Earlier this week Tim asked if anyone would like to speak at the St. Joe’s College formal. Although it sounded like a blast I didn’t volunteer. Tim spoke last year and I worried that there’d be too much overlap.

But since then I’ve been unable to stop thinking on what topics I’d cover. What follows are notes from which I’d derive such a speech.

Living with the Basilians – debates with Fr. Jeff and Fr. Tim, our pride in Fr. Firth entering the turkey trot – we’d get a turkey for eldest participant, Fr. Steve’s general wackiness.

The Star Trek wars – there were daily struggles between the geeks who wanted to watch and the non-geeks who wanted anything but.

Annoying and amusing dorm mates – I angered one learning to juggle, knocking on Ernie’s door, mission control

Room Trashing – my newspaper incident, the bricks incident, moving Fr. Steve, the garbage can on water incident.

Angelo’s.

The cup – three-peat up to six pack. Team Kamenka – when you weren’t good enough for Anklers. Pong in a bath robe. (Oh and the follow who seriously sprained his ankle during a vicious pong rally.)

Movie nights. Awkward fights.

Other stupidity? The sign incident. The window at Angelo’s. Late night bleeding in the emergency room while they ate my chocolate bar.

Gaming in the classrooms. An epic Star Wars campaign.

The importance of the right president in the feel of the dorm.

Stair dancing. Oi.

Getting kicked out of honours.

The food – especially Rosa’s buns.

Last chance mass – the last Sunday service in the city.

Jersey night and Dean. Still tough.

I’m stuck here. Brainstorming just circles around that one night.

That is just a big list of stuff. I might add more later. To be a speech, I’d need to find a theme. Then winnow it to the right bits.

A lot of what I remember are the crazy stupid bits. But I remember one of our formals when the speaker listed such stories. I immediately wanted to compete – ours were stupider, crazier, more daring.

I might go more earnest. The great people. The fight for the cup – the early years we thought we needed to win so there was a huge push. Later we knew it was ours to lose. Losing Dean and how that changed us. Do triumphs and losses instead of wackiness.

Or maybe a different angle. I’ll keep thinking.

Entertainment notes

Phillip Seymour Hoffman – I first saw him as the toady in the Big Lebowski. He was funny. Then he was in a bigger role in Magnolia and was awesome. And then some scene stealing scenes in Almost Famous. “You are not cool.”

I didn’t like all his roles. But he was always worth watching. I regret the movies I won’t ever see with him. I can’t imagine the loss for his kids.

Lone Survivor – War movies have such negative buzz these days that I keep forgetting I like them. I quite enjoyed this flick. Some of the jingoism is a bit much, but the core theme was a kindness is repaid. And the end when the American military machine finally gets to be unleashed is awesome. (In the original fear inspiring meaning).

In the vein of Blackhawk Down. A solid action flick that isn’t stupid.

Sherlock – I finished the Sherlock series three last night. I loved it. The second episode was my favourite. Perhaps because I like speeches.

The third episode was a bit of a departure. No mystery to solve. Less clever/funny bits. A villain who is truly repulsive.

But it didn’t feel the same. I am not sure it quite worked. And the end denouement was too long. And the series cliffhanger wasn’t up to the series one and two standards.

Not my favourite episode.

Still it was an excellent series.

Those are my notes.