A Little More than a Fortnight Comes to a Close

So the Olympic fortnight comes to a close. Did you ever notice how only around the Olympics do you ever hear an American use the word fortnight? Ironically, the Olympics does not even last a fortnight, which is fourteen days. It is a sixteen day affair. Yet, Bob Costas can’t utter the word enough on any given night’s broadcast.

Speaking of the Olympics, is it me or does it just seem like people don’t care about them anymore? I read the ratings are down and I know that the Winter Olympics are never as popular as those held in the summer, but I still love them overall. Perhaps I am just nostalgic, but I find the some of the events fascinating. I mean really a number of these sports take some major brass ones, skeleton racing and ski jumping are the ones that come most clearly to mind and they’re not even the ones that have been tainted by the X-Games. Also, where else can you find yourself fascinated by cross-country skiers toting guns? Watching them this last fortnight (had to work that in here somewhere) has definitely made me ruminate on them.

As I flipped the channels of my cable-less television during an opening weekend afternoon, I was stunned to find that nary an Olympic event was on the free dial. There were about three college basketball games and a golf tournament, but no skaters, skiers, or snowboarders to be found. It made me reminisce about the Lake Placid event of 1980. Back then there were five stations and it seemed like everyone was transfixed anytime the Olympics were to be televised. Part of what I remember as a kid watching the Miracle on Ice was it seemed like everyone else was glued to the tube too. Of course there wasn’t anything else to watch back then, perhaps with the exception of CHiPs at night but my guess is that the alpine events beat Ponch reruns every time. Somewhere along the line the Olympics found a way to lose its appeal amidst the increasingly competitive mediascape. Of course deciding professionals were alright to compete probably didn’t help, especially in the Winter Games, where most of the sports traditionally have been tougher “professions.” Still, watching these snow and ice bound events have provided a lot of comedy and tragedy.

Is there a dumber sounding name for a sport than snowboard cross? Moreover, it is a shame that ABC doesn’t run the Wide World of Sports anymore, because they have a new moment for “…the agony of defeat.” It would have to be the tragicomic moment of Lindsey Jacobellis’ ill-fated “backside method grab” (loosely translated to flashy showboating) after launching off the last jump from the finish line and ending up flatly on her back as she watched her nearest competitor glide past her to the top of the podium would have to be the new clip. I have to admit I was glad to finally see an arrogant and pampered athlete finally get there comeuppance. Of course there seemed to be just deserts aplenty for the arrogant American athlete at this year’s games. Can you say Bode Miller? Even though they each got a gold medal, the pouty two American speed skaters, Davis and Hedrick, were both whipped by homeland hero Enrico Fabris in the highly touted 1500 m face off. Davis certainly seemed more worthy of praise, but I am not sure that I have ever seen a surlier winner and Hedrick just never seemed to come off as anything but a poor sport. While I am not in the habit of cheering against Americans, I do get a guilty pleasure when any of the cockiest competitors fall, regardless of country.

Although I must confess one serious disappointment, figure skating. I am not sure, but the new scoring system may have destroyed the sport, at least in the near term. It seemed that not that long ago falling during either of your routines was a breathtaking disaster. Now it is almost amazing if any of the skaters don’t find themselves flopping all over the ice during at least one of their programs. Yet, with the new video on demand scoring computers, if they were able to get their skate down before sprawling, they have the opportunity to get more points somehow. Does anyone really think that makes sense? I am all for encouraging the taking of risks and all, but when people are paying in excess of $300 a seat to watch any of these given skating events, I am guessing they aren’t there to see a practice skate. Methinks the skating world better give this issue some serious consideration or they will quickly lose their marquee status during the Winter Games, if they haven’t already. I still watched much of it, but it was not nearly as entertaining as I had hoped.

Nevertheless, here’s to all those surprise Italian winners, the likes of Apollo Anton Ohno, Cindy Klassen, the extraordinarily generous Joey Cheeks, the Austrian alpine squad, and an impressive list of Germans who seemed to be in the thick of nearly every traditional event. In spite of any issues, the Olympics always leaves me with a wonderful sense of wonder, amazement, and restored appreciation of sport.

Rediscovering Some Old Storiesand New Rings on the Horizon

Much to the chagrin of my beloved, I have been spending my week away from the classroom awash in American literature, preparing for the next month of school or so. We had originally planned to venture to the Pacific Northwest and visit one of my best and most dear friends. Alas, the combination of my lack of concrete planning and cost of the flights stymied any sincere attempt to take off anywhere. While I certainly have great empathy for Ali, who quickly found herself amidst the pressure packed prospects of a licensing evaluation for one of the programs she supervises, I have been really trying to make some solid progress. And I must say that the time I spent investigating texts have made the effort quite rewarding.

Closely reading the likes of American realist and naturalist writers (think Bierce, Crane, London, Harte, and Chopin), I have become reenergized by how good some of these guys are. There is a reason that your high school English teacher made you read them. The shame of course is that it is hard for any regular fourteen to eighteen year-old to really appreciate a lot of literature outside the poetry of pop songs. They just haven’t lived enough.

I am reminded of the handful of Great Books classes I took while in college. I was the youngest one in a group of middle aged adults, from all walks of life, united by their simple love of reading. In some ways that may have been the seedling of my eventual professional path; but I distinctly remember Tom, a factory worker who was prone to sneaking purchased books into the house to avoid the wrath of a wife who had grown claustrophobic from the stacks of volumes that had begun crowding her domestic existence, who often remarked, “I remember reading this stuff when I was younger, but it just didn’t seem nearly as good. You really have to have lived some life to really appreciate how good a lot of these works are.” Of course at the age of nineteen or twenty, I was just glad to be in the same room with other people who really liked talking about books as much as I did. Add to that fact that the same cast of characters was likely to migrate from one class to the next, over the course of the year, those experiences were the greatest classes I have ever taken. Yet, Tom’s sentiment has always stuck with me and reading some of these short stories brought it all rushing back.

I cannot recommend enough that you give some of those authors you were forced to read as a kid another chance. They really are that good, in some instances. I was really struck by rediscovering the power, poise, and rhythmic resourcefulness of a Stephen Crane. His prose is both beautiful and poignant. Rereading “To Build a Fire,” perhaps Jack London’s best work, was at once nostalgic and enlightening. There were vivid descriptions of the effects of snow and cold that I distinctly remembered and was delighted to revisit with a newfound understanding and admiration. His work has a simple elegance in subject and style that makes me completely understand why his work was hailed in his lifetime and lives in contemporary film. However, it is his use of simple, bright, and highly tuned sentences that are completely lost in a cinematic treatment. Plus, who does not remember the first time they read “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” becoming stunned, disturbed, even mortified maybe, to find that the main character had at once been betrayed and hanged, the realization setting in after being hoodwinked by the elaborate escape fantasy Bierce had constructed. All kinds of stories like these could be easily pulled from the internet (Project Gutenberg has an enormous selection) and printed. In fact, they may only take you a half hour or less to read. Try it sometime, while you head home on the train or while you are eating lunch at the counter. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, you might even like them this time.

On another topic altogether, Ali and I are beginning the process for developing the wedding rings with our favorite jewelry maker Jade Moran. I’ll keep you posted, but you can now see the official photo of the engagement ring on her site, if you like. Check out the gallery too, and maybe even consider buying something. Her work is strong and I couldn’t recommend her as a custom designer more. If you are looking for something distinct and unique, she is the one.

Also, speaking of nuptials, a belated public congratulations to Mike and Vicki on their recent plunge into matrimony. Cheers to the both of you!

A Birthday and a Blizzard

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! I am happy to say that I am bequeathing a bouquet of berries and other bounty to my beloved. While she specifically requested no chocolate covered strawberries, which has become a kind of tradition, I opted for an healthier alternative.

Photo: Ali with Fruit Bouquet

It seems the requisite remiss has left the old fritzwinkle without a recent posting. So despite my well meaning intentions, I have not exercised the discipline of cranking out news on a more regular basis. I haven’t decided whether that is due to the increasing regularity of the mundane quality I sometimes see in life, my mental meanderings veering off to dominions dull and dreary to those compelled to scan this site, or just feeling like I genuinely have had less to say. Alright, maybe that last one is pushing it, but I certainly have been feeling that wrapped up in work sensation that I don’t imagine is always entertaining to people other than me. So, apologies to all the readers, but perhaps more, apologies to Ali and her family who are generally good at listening to me prattle on about arcane compositional instruction, even sometimes doing there level best to feign interest. I suppose thanks is in order too.

In any event, this weekend the Terwedows gathered for Ali’s birthday (observed) and as anyone would expect there was much boisterous ballyhoo (as evidenced by the patriarch enjoying his potholders, below). Gifts were given, cake was consumed, and there was general jocularity on Saturday evening, all as we waited for the coming of the highly touted nor’easter. Perhaps most amusing part of the evening was the ceremonial presenting of said cake, when Ali’s stepmother, Cathy, gingerly entered the dining room with a two handfuls of inferno. The cake was ablaze with enough candles to alarm the fire marshal. I think I could literally see the frosting melting as we sang the traditional anthem. Fortunately for all Ali was able to extinguish the raging flames with a single breath, which very nearly was cause for the smoke alarm to sound. There is a photo somewhere that documents the cloud that rendered Ali invisible from across the table. I’ll have to see if it is retrievable. Until then these will have to do.

Photo: Ali with Gifts

Photo: Henry Enjoying New Potholders

Photo: Ali's Birthday Cake of Terror

As we settled in for the evening, we all still wondered when yon nor’easter was going to arrive, bringing with it a blanket of white. Since it has been a very mild winter here and there have been many a storm hyped, but few with bite, I was skeptical. Then the reports from the Mid-Atlantic began glowing on the tube, with the images eventually migrating to Philadelphia and New York. Well, it appeared later than everyone expected, but it arrived with great fanfare, unloading over a foot of drifting powder on us all along the New England coast. I arose to discover that this time the weather reporters were right. It would be one of those days where nearly everything would be shut down. Being that it was a Sunday it was not an absolute dire situation; but it became more so as Ali and I were trapped in our apartment with almost no heat and the main television finally giving out, all first thing in the morning. If there is anything that would make a body slightly surly, it is being confined to a small space of something near 58 F combined with limited visual stimuli of the artificial variety. Fortunately, the heat would start to function by the mid-afternoon. The television, however, is no in need of a cemetery and we were relegated to the mini screen backup. So, I am now in the market for a new tube, even though I would really rather not be.

Yet, the saga continues.