The airing of Vancouver Olympic grievances – a list

I’m generally enjoying the Vancouver Games as it enters the seventh day of competition, but some things are sticking in my mind. Please share your “grievances” in the comments.

The fence around the Olympic Flame: I think the organizers were caught flatfooted by the fact that people may want to be close to the beautiful outdoor Olympic Cauldron. At the very least, the image of a chainlink fence in front of a symbol of peaceful competition is disconcerting.

Kudos for the organizers for making changes and creating more viewing opportunities (according to this CBC News article). However, I didn’t necessarily care for one of the organizers’ excuses:

Organizers said the cauldron is far closer to the public than Olympic flames of past Games, where they’ve usually been located in or atop stadiums.

The cauldron at the 1996 Atlanta Games was outside Centennial Olympic Stadium and it was generally accessible to the public (at the very least it wasn’t blocked by a massive fence). I remember having lunch and taking photos mere yards from that Olympic Flame along with many spectators and families.

The Lack of Curling on NBC: This is a minor gripe at most, but it is sad when FOX has more curling on a 30-minute episode of “The Simpsons” than NBC will have in two weeks on its main network. Yes, curling is available on cable channels (that I don’t have) and is streaming live online (which I don’t have access to because I don’t have the right cable package). In recent years, curling almost always gets praised as a pleasant surprise of the Games. Maybe it’s not a primetime event, but it’s lame that NBC couldn’t find time to at least air the gold metal match on broadcast (like in the afternoon).

Shoddy online coverage: There’s a huge difference between the online coverage of the 2008 Beijing Games and in Vancouver. Just two years ago, many non-marquee events were streamed live and in their entirety. Now, it’s mostly hockey and curling aired live (with other events posted after NBC has aired them in primetime). Hockey and curling are both fine sports, but the offerings are like night and day.

Tape Delay: It’s a gripe as old as NBC’s coverage of the Games. It is certainly frustrating that NBC insists on starting its primetime program right at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central) even though there are live events taking place at 5 p.m. Vancouver time. And, of course, Vancouver time is the same time as Chico and the entire West Coast which just compounds the silliness.

NBC didn’t have to do this. It could have emulated a model from Canada that I thought could work fairly well here. In previous games, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would air its primetime program live nationwide. After the end of that broadcast, the CBC would offer a special West Coast-only highlight package to help round out the night. I don’t know what the current Canadian broadcaster, CTV, is doing.

Media coverage of “the glitches”: I’m sure some of the criticism of the Vancouver organizing committee’s operation of the Games is justified, but the howling has seemed ferocious at times. The situation has drawn many comparisons to the Atlanta Games in 1996 when the media lambasted ACOG’s miscues, particularly regarding transportation (as this 1996 New York Times article details).

The disconcerting thing about the Atlanta criticism and the Vancouver gripes is that these woes somehow become part of the “legacy” of the Games. I was in Atlanta for the Games, and the woes weren’t my “highlight” of those Olympics. Yes, it wasn’t pleasant at times — I had to brave the crushing crowds on MARTA and I once had to give directions and a map to a bus driver so we could get to our destination. However, it pales in comparison to witnessing the opening ceremonies, watching track stars break world records and enjoying some of the finest art and music in my life.

Bruce Arthur of the National Post offers a nice perspective on the criticism. While acknowledging that Vancouver has been far from perfect, Arthur points out how there are at least three different views of the Games:

There is the Olympics that we in the media experience, the one the athletes experiences, and the one the public experiences. But only one of us write the verdict on the Olympics in question.

For another take on the Olympics’ legacy on host cities, The Independent looked at how cities capitalized on the infrastructure changes made for the Games. Atlanta seemed to fare much better on that score and I hope Vancouver does too.

Venting to a TV shrink now worth $172

The approximate round-trip cost to take Amtrak’s first-class Acela train from New York to Philadelphia is about $172 (depending on demand). Thanks to TV, that cost might be free for a select few.
According to an acerbic post on the Web site Gawker, Dr. Phil is going to be on Acela for a round-trip from NYP to Philadelphia on Sept. 9. While on-board, Mr. McGraw will speak with passengers about “everyday problems.”
There’s a form to fill out if you are interested in being on the train/appearing on the show. If you’re selected, the trip is free.
I don’t know if I would do it. It’s interesting that people are willing to vent their problems on national TV for about $172. That’s a relatively low price for a TV producer to pay.
There’s also a fame factor involved in meeting and interactive with Dr. Phil. Fame and notoriety seem to be strong motivators even if there is little reward.
Also, the leather seats on Acela sound pretty nice compared to a counselor’s couch.
So is it worth discussing your problem with a talk-show host if it gets you a free train trip?

‘Jon and Kate’ to do something that rhymes with ‘8’

Jon and Kate GosselinTonight is the night where there is supposed to be some sort of pay off for months of hype regarding Jon and Kate Gosselin. The couple will make a “major announcement” on their show tonight (airing at 9 p.m. ET).

For those needing a refresher, the Gosselins have managed to parlay their ability to have many, many children into the reality show “Jon & Kate Plus 8” on a network that used to be called “The Learning Channel.”

Oh, the things that we have learned! Not necessarily on TLC or the show itself, but elsewhere in the infosphere–the tabloids, the ceaseless entertainment Web sites and TV shows and their ilk. Depending on where you look either Jon cheated on Kate or vice versa (the couple has denied both rumors).

Regardless of what happens tonight, I’m sure the headline writers of the world are preparing to chronicle the announcement with no shortage of plays on the show’s title. For example, we’re all bracing for the headline, “Jon and Kate separate.”

While a separation is possible, here are some other possible outcomes from Monday’s announcement:

  • “Jon, Kate, Octomom set playdate” — think of the ratings if these two child-making dynamos get together.
  • “Jon & Kate to legislate” — if they choose to announce a joint run for elected office.
  • “Jon & Kate to sell plates” — they’re taking their show to QVC.
  • “Jon & Kate EXTERMINATE!” — the couple announces they’ve become Daleks of “Doctor Who” fame with the sole goal of exterminating inferior life in the universe.
  • “Jon & Kate kids to emancipate” — Sure the sextuplets are just 5 years old, but they’re probably old enough to know when to pull the plug.
  • “Jon & Kate fail to placate” — the likeliest headline if the announcement turns out to be nothing but fluff.

Photo credit: AP Photo/TLC, Karen Alquist, File

Chico State back on Playboy party school list – sorta

Chico State’s entry on the party school list. This is a simulation of my surfing a potentially “Not Safe For Work” site while at work.
I was interested to see the new list of top 10 party schools from Playboy magazine, especially how Chico State would measure up. Chico State was first and second on the first two lists, but disappeared from the third list in 2006.
As I reported in today’s Enterprise-Record, Chico State didn’t make the top 10, but managed to eke its way on to an expanded list of 25 campuses at number 20. The whole thing is fascinating, especially Playboy’s description of Chico’s “scene.”
I was pleasantly surprised to see Chico on the extended list. While the list could either be a badge of honor or mark of shame, I was just glad to see CSUC on the list after it was absent three years ago.
I almost missed it just looking at the top 10. I was interested in learning more about the list so I dug a little deeper on Playboy’s Web sites … while at work.
I was worried there would be images of naked ladies on the screen jeopardizing my professionalism and potentially my career. I shrunk the size of my Web browser window so I could navigate past any … obstacles. Thankfully, the specific pages the magazine referred to were devoid of nudity and I was able to quickly find the information.
So, until Playboy ranks the schools again next year, Chico State will be nestled between Michigan State University, a prominent Big 10 school, and Hampshire College, a school I had to Google to learn more about.
The magazine’s description of Chico State seemed a little off, at least in my eye. Here’s what they wrote:

Legendary party scene despite the fact that the student body is not made up of stereotypical meat-head party boys and Stepford sorority girls. Think green—and not the stoner green, the environmental awareness green.

While many Chico State students have helped promote increased awareness of environmental sustainability, I reckon it’s a stretch to say the campus is devoid of “party boys” and “Stepford sorority girls.” Just walking around Chico’s downtown core on a Friday or Saturday will uncover a decent number from both groups of people — and environmentalists too.
I couldn’t comment on the specific ratio of party boys to green sceners, but Playboy might. They developed a matrix of five categories (including a “bikini” composite category that looked at factors such as boy-girl ratio, the weather, etc.). It rated the schools in each of them and combined that information with input from students and others.
Having Playboy use algorithms to pick the top party school reminded me of the system the BCS uses to find the top football team in the country. I wonder if Playboy’s system is more worthwhile than the heavily criticized BCS.

Election 2008 is a whale of a time

The whole “lipstick on a pig” discussion got me thinking about other popular animal-based turns of phrase. Using some of them, here’s how I see the current horse race from the catbird seat:
When John McCain first introduced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a lot of people were wondering if he was selling a pig in a poke. Instead of being a fish out of water, Palin is clearly cock of the walk in the Republican Party after two short weeks.
While Palin is popular, some conservative birds of a feather are denouncing the open season to look this gift horse in the mouth. Barack Obama got in trouble for trying to put lipstick on a pig. The reference irked some because Palin noted that lipstick, and presumably other cosmetics, are apparently the only things that separate pit bulls from hockey moms.
Conservatives should chill — there’s no reason to think that Palin will let the cat out of the bag about Trooper-gate or other criticisms. After all, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
In the end, it’s silly to argue that Palin (or any other candidate) should be off-limits for questions. That dog won’t hunt and that’s no bull.

Questions about Election 2008

I shouldn’t be dipping my toes too much into the political realm, but this upcoming election has generated some light-hearted questions in my mind:
– I see posters up for something called “Bangkok Dangerous.” Is it promoting a new Nicolas Cage film or Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s abstinence-only sex-education program?
– When did “celebrity” become a four-letter word?
– Did Barack Obama make a two-point conversion when he spoke at Invesco Field in Denver last week? Or did he just stick with a safety? Why weren’t there more bad football references made about his speech?
– Much has been made of Palin’s foreign policy experience via proximity (apparently because Alaska is close to Russia, outer space and Santa at the North Pole). Is there a deliberate effort to avoid mentioning the great white menace of Canada?
Please feel free to submit your light-hearted questions as well.

I guess a Nobel prize is all right …

… but it’s no Grammy. As I’m sure many know by now, Al Gore and a UN committee won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize (BBC News article).
Earlier, I predicted Gore would be up for a Grammy for his spoken-word efforts. I guess he decided to skip the minor leagues of awards and go for the big payoff.
Congratulations on Gore and the other Nobel laureates. Although Gore has already said he would donate his portion of the $1.5 million prize to the Alliance for Climate Protection, that much money would have helped pay his utilities bill for a couple of months.

Feelings (or lack therof) on Britney news

It’s been about 4 hours since I read news that Britney Spears has temporarily lost custody of her two children to Kevin Federline. For some reason, I just can’t get too worked up about the news. At the same time, photos of Spears shaving her head or assaulting a car with an umbrella seem less funny now.
I don’t know what it is. Is it because Spears’ “downward spiral” has reached this conclusion? Is it because that, while Spears’ recent life choices have been disappointing, placing the kids with Federline doesn’t quite seem like the fairytale happy ending? is reporting the reason Brit lost her kids is because she wasn’t following the court’s orders. That makes sense. You sometimes hear about the LA justice system being lax on celebrities. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but they seem to have made decisions appropriate within the law for Paris Hilton and now Spears.
At the same time, I was pleased when Hilton was ordered to jail to serve her time for repeatedly breaking the law.
Maybe my lack of zeal for this story is that the ongoing hijinks of seemingly childish adults is potentially disrupting the lives of two small, and hopefully still innocent, children. Amid all the foolishness, the tragedy is that are other people’s lives are at stake.