Olympics, No Spoiler

Well, if you’re more than a day behind, this actually does have a spoiler, but the first “big” news for the US Olympics team was the result of the 400 IM Finals, featuring Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. So, if you hadn’t heard, Lochte won and Phelps was out of the medals. I hadn’t, until about 4 hours before it was shown on NBC primetime.

I hear there’s a lot of controversy about this online right now, but I’m afraid to read it in fear of reading another spoiler. Fortunately, my reddit account shouldn’t have any results appear on my front page, but I need to stop instinctively checking sports news on ESPN.com when I’m bored. In case you’re not also affected by this first-world problem of mine, NBC tape delays important events (particularly involving Americans) until primetime coverage at 8PM in the evening. Since the west coast is 8 hours behind London, this means that results are coming out significantly before primetime, and unlike with movies, spoilers aren’t a faux pas in sports.

It gets worse, though, as NBC hasn’t even managed to coordinate their own coverage. The nightly news from 6 to 7 on NBC Bay Area does their job in covering the latest news, including the results that will be shown on their channel immediately after the news finishes. On one occasion, they were polite enough to warn of the spoilers ahead, but even the teaser of the stories have a way of revealing results (“In just a few moments, we’ll discuss the shocking result of [EVENT] with Bay Area local athletes”). It kind of kills the excitement, as you might imagine.

Maybe this has been a problem for years now, and I have only just reached maturity to care about it now. But let’s pretend that’s not the case. Why is this any worse than Beijing 4 years ago or Turin 6 years ago? Maybe it’s Web 2.0. These days, we get news instantly. Many people still get their news from the mainstream media, but for many of my peers, reddit, twitter, and facebook are the first sources checked for news. And since they’re so tightly integrated with our social lives, the news is unavoidable as we go about our normal lives. As I noted above, I have needed to go on a bit of a social diet to avoid the spoilers.

This probably isn’t the worst thing, though that’s the part of me that greatly desires for a sense of superiority in being a luddite. In any case, it’s just another sign, I think, of how the internet has continue to hurt TV. The most obvious effect is that we’re viewing more media on the internet, but the timing of them are causing perhaps irreconcilable problems. TV, except in truly exceptional breaking news, is on a pre-determined schedule meant to feature content at certain times. The internet is a constant flow of content pushed to us when we want it. Live sporting events and news are a good example. Another is prime-time TV: TV networks feature their popular shows in the evenings, and they’ve been losing a lot of ground to hulu and netflix, which allow users to watch content when it’s convenient for them. I don’t have any numbers on it, but I would imagine that the availability of old TV shows online has cut into the viewership of the new shows that the networks want us to watch.

NBC is being criticized for tape-delaying their content and being late to the game. The most obvious solution is to show it all live, but the average viewer (including me) isn’t going to stay up all night and forgo weekday mornings just to watch. I much prefer to watch it in the evenings. Besides, it isn’t really their way: their strength is the primetime content.

So I’ll be glued to my couch for the next 2 weeks after dinner. I got an antenna last week, which is pretty phenomenal. Assuming I don’t use my computer in specific parts of the room and don’t need the 2 end tables that it’s sitting on top of, the digital signal provides a perfectly clear HD image. I’ll be working my shower and other tasks into the commercial breaks to miss as little as possible. It’s a little inconvenient, but the primetime experience is just too good to do it any other way.

中国的 Olympics

Once every two years, my desire to be anywhere other than in front of a TV evaporates. I tough out the repetitive, vapid commercials in that desire to watch sports I would never even consider watching otherwise.

It’s been awhile since Turin, but I remember sitting in my living room at home, watching NBC late at night while I should’ve been doing homework. Now, I’m sitting in Tressider Union in front of a much larger TV with maybe five or six others. My roommates and I were unable to secure a TV for our apartment, but coming here isn’t too inconvenient. And the TV is nice.

It helps that NBC has embraced the shift towards internet-streaming as well. The US v. China basketball game felt different without the commentary, but likely not significantly less enjoyable. The real benefit, however, are the off-sports that don’t seem to hit prime-time here in the US. I’ve watched handball, air pistol, archery, fencing, judo, and more, and now, I just feel bad for not supporting Stanford athletes in these very enjoyable sports.

And on Friday night, I was at an amazing jazz concert*, but I watched the entire 3 hour opening ceremony broadcast from a computer screen this afternoon. And boy was that impressive. The pageantry used scale in such an impressive manner, without losing any of the artistic design.

The most interesting part of the opening ceremony, however, came from Bob Costas, Matt Lauer, and Joshua Cooper Ramo in the NBC voice-over commentary. Regardless of actual, or even perceived, current political conflicts, China presented a welcoming, neutral, hopeful ceremony without any sinister undertones. In unusual juxtaposition, the commentators made several comments about anticipated controversy, such as Iraq coming onto the field, and current events, such as the Russia-Georgia conflict, that didn’t quite fit into the spirit of the event. And even a possible jab from Cooper Ramo, who said that the greatest point in China’s history was the Tang dynasty for its “openness.”

But I confess, it might have just been me looking for a point of controversy in an otherwise uncontroversial showing. Let me know if you noticed the same thing as well, or I was trying too hard. I would hate to be the person hearing subliminal messages in rock songs played backwards.

*the Stanford Jazz Festival All-Star Jam, including Delfeayo Marsalis, Joshua Redman, and Barry Harris; it was absolutely amazing, but I don’t think it’s writable

Recap on Life

Olympics, CS, Solo

So I’ve been a bit too busy to write, which basically means I was addictively watching the Olympics these past 2 weeks. Sure, a lot of the events aren’t worth watching, but there’s stuff to do in the breaks. I have other concerns, however.
I’m sure enough of my manhood that I can say that I like figure skating, mostly due to a family filled with females. The womens’ singles were this last week, and as exciting as it was, I was quite disappointed. The new scoring system is supposedly more foolproof, but I really think it’s killed a lot of it. I might be completely off, not knowing the details of the sport, but basically, the new system is designed to have more calculated, objective scoring than the old one, giving credit for specific moves and stuff in an effort to prevent the disaster of pairs at the last Olympics. Unfortunately, as I saw it, the athletes instead seemed a bit tense about getting all of those moves right and racking up the points with a lot of moves instead of just really cool skating. It’d be like if in band/orch/choir, the group was judged on how many notes they hit instead of how much music they made out of the music. But as I said, I’m a layman in the sport.

After the dinner concert last week, we finally got new music for the UIL season, including a really cool piece called “J’ai ete au bal” (accent aigu’s over the e’s in ete). When I got it, I looked at the front page, which covers 100 measures, and I had literally 10 notes on it. Typical, I though, flipping the page to probably the most insane tuba solo I have ever seen! It’s quite odd, because I felt quite a bit of pressure to do well. For Region Band, as important as it is, it really has been just, “whatever”, without a whole lot of stress, but having to play a solo in front of a room of your peers, and later, a panel of judges and parents, is beyond ‘nething else I’ve had to do. The first night, I looked over it and hacked through it, but the day after, there was definitely some insane practicing going on. It’s funny how it works, cuz when I play it in class and stuff, I play it, and then afterwards, go “f*ck” almost everytime, because it’s never nearly as good as it should be. People say, “good job” and whatever, but Jandaisms definitely win this time: “The only real judge is yourself”, because even if people think it sounds good, I know it should be a lot better. Guess it just means more practicing.

Frank and Fairley are absolutely insane (David, Willie, you guys are still awesome, but these guys are definitely making their move). So, without the mentioned two having ever met each other, we managed to score 87 points, a problem away from sweeping, and take 2nd place to the CyFalls team that has been on top for 3 years. We’ve gotten that close with, a basically, untested team. Those two are incredible.
Our pre-game was pretty interesting. We managed to take the grounds of the Prime Collective and update it into an updated system with Scanner, printf, and more shortcuts. We nailed a couple types of common problems to commit to memory (which most directly caused an instant solution to at least one 9pter), and just about prepared as much as a team could without ever really working together. In contest, we had an early scare, along with a slew of incorrects on easy problems, but thank goodness for Frank, who managed to cover my butt. General brilliance and good preparation covered up terrible organization, and it went really well. Good job, boys, I’m proud.

Two Things I’m not as Bitter about as I Sound

So with a basically free weekend, I got to watch quite a bit of Olympic coverage. It’s pretty sad how much drama there is even with a pretigious event such as this, but I guess, like a lot of things, when ppl care enough, things get ugly. NBC coverage is kind of irritating at times as well. While I want to get in my 30 min of half-pipe snowboarding action, I instead end up having to watch for 2 hrs while they mix it in with events that I (sorry if you disagree with this statement) think are not nearly exciting enough to be shown. For example, ski jump. Just about every person does basically the same thing, and the difference is within 5 meters for the jump between the whole range of them. And ‘ne difference between their “tactics” will fly completely over the head of the average viewer, i.e. me. Please, just save me the time and let me watch the stuff I actually care about in a contiguous section.
And then there are the Olympians themselves. I’m not trying to bash them at all, since they’ve evidently worked very hard to get to where they all, and do have their niche in life, but I’m seeing a nasty trend. As of late, the US has been struggling in Science. Although I can’t pinpoint ‘ne particular news, it is generally agreed that the US has gotten a tad complacent, so foreign countries, excluding cheaters *cough South Korea cough*, are surging ahead. Now, looking at the past 2 Olympics, the US has almost tripled from Nagano to Salt Lake City in medals (13 to 34). Now, I think that the US did send more athletes to SLC since it was home field, but that’s pretty drastic. Barring ‘ne statistical abberations, I find it odd that the “Olympic Dream” is so prominently advertised. As I said, I’m sure that these guys did lots of work and do deserve their status as the American idol for their success, but it seems like the common populous is heavily directed towards this. While we focus on their achievements, we’re striving towards being the best luge person (what do you call them) instead of finding the Theory of Everything. But as shown by the media, we’re not focusing on that: we’re watching the Olympics. And honestly, just like ‘neone else, I’d rather watch a guy go down a hill really fast than listen to a documentary on recent advances in Biochemical Engineering, but there’s a place for that, and a place for this. Talk to Aseem if you want to know the power the media holds over us.
So Valentine’s Day is coming up, which is always interesting, considering that a large amount of the populous is currently without a romantic relationship at the time. I’ll take a moment to compare it to.. the Olympics! (perhaps not the most accurate, considering that I’ve never been, and “The Dream” suggests it’s more, but just follow me for a bit) Okay, so let’s say you’re in 1st place, and then the last guy goes in, and beats you. That feeling is exactly like Valentine’s. You feel obligated to be nice to the guy who won, and help him celebrate his victory… but dammit, you just got screwed! Valentine’s is kind of like that guy’s victory party, where you just kind of wallow/rationalize in your situation. Well, you try and figure out and rationalize how you’re better off because of being unentangled, but everyone from the DNev’s to the Janie J’s to, yes, even me, still wishes that they had a bit more in life. You might be nice to the guy who got 1st, but dammit, it could’ve been you! Is it gloating? Not really: just a victory party that you aren’t the subject of. I myself have completely rationalized the situation and therefore, as I mentioned in the title, am not really bitter about it, but everyone deals with it differently. And if you do have that excitement in your life, don’t feel bad for the rest of us: we don’t need it; we’re satisfied as we are.
Enjoy the Games, and cheer for Canada.