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HI INTERNET

You know what really rustles my jimmies?

The Olympics.

Not the athletes.  Never the athletes.  So far as I can tell, they’re pretty consistently awesome people.  They come together from all over the world, united by their passions, gather in a massive village that is essentially a single ongoing party/orgy, and do what they love for weeks straight before a crowd of millions of adoring fans.  The athletes are awesome.

No, it’s the network.  NBC.  Our American Olympics source.

Let’s just start by saying this: The Olympics stream for free in Europe.  Free.  As in, not costing anything. Over the internet.

In the U.S., Olympics are accessible in bits and drabs, ‘highlights’ tapes separated by advertisements.  They can’t be easily watched in full except over cable TV, again interrupted by commercials—and even then you’re not getting the whole picture.  Rather, you’re seeing the events in which American athletes participate, and it’s on them that most of the commentary centers. We cut into the event just in time to watch the American team run/swim/throw/shoot, listen to a bit of babble about their lives, and cut over to the next United States event. Or to a commercial.  Certain events are given more airtime and more priority, because they sell better.

And then there are the questions.

After each event, the NBC reporters descend on the American athlete, and ask questions designed to insinuate fierce competition and highly strategic, analytical thinking.  They’ll ask “how does it feel to be going up against the world champion?” “How does it feel to have successfully defended your title?” “What’s it like going into this thinking about your recent losses in (x category)?”

Each time, the answer is consistently the same.

The athletes don’t give a crap.

They’re happy to be in the Olympics.  It’s a massive honor to even compete.  They’re focusing on their own performance, not their title, not their competitors, not their losses.  Winning isn’t even on their radar in many cases.They’re trying to be the best they can be.

Watching Missy Franklin splinter a world record in swimming provides a great example.  She comes into the finish line, looking ecstatic.  The swimmers to either side—a French competitor on her right, an American teammate on her left—call her over for hugs.  All three girls are jubilant.

Then in comes a reporter, asking her how it feels to have broken a world record, netted her fourth/third/second/whatevereth medal, focusing on the competition, etc.  And Missy doesn’t care.  She’s over the moon.  She’s in the Olympics, man, and she’s certainly just beaten her personal best time.  Her teammate doesn’t give a damn either.  Both athletes look like Avenger fangirls about to have dinner with Tom Hiddleston.

TO COIN A PHRASE.

This post, rather obviously, comes on the heels of a previous rant about the American (western) conflation of achievement with self-esteem.  And here is where we can see that the athletes are way ahead of the news network.

They understand, in other words, the point that I spent an entire post making last time.  The point of the Olympics isn’t to win. It isn’t the raw achievement that matters.  The point of the Olympics, to the people who participate in it (or maybe I’m just projecting my own idealistic fervor onto them, but either way) is being the best you can be, improving yourself as a person, crushing your records and preconceptions.

The Olympics are like Fight Club!

You are not your gold medal.

I really wanted to work in that analogy.  I mean, how could I resist? Seriously.  Ahem. But I digress.  And now I’m covering ground that I’ve already covered.  Blah blah blah, self-empowerment, do what you want, don’t be afraid to ask questions in class, stick it to the man, etc.

So instead it’s time to move on to something else.

Literally.

Did you know that there are literally people who don’t understand what literally means? LITERALLY?

It doesn’t help that some dictionary definitions are shifting as more and more people use the word incorrectly.  Because popular usage defines correct usage.  Because if everyone decides that pianos should be played using the strings instead of the keys, obviously that becomes the proper way to play the instrument, and there’s no need to build pianos with keys EXCEPT NO.

Because a piano without keys IS CALLED A HARP. IT ALREADY EXISTS. And to use ‘literally’ as emphasis instead of WHAT IT LITERALLY MEANS is to turn a piano not just into a harp, but into a HARMONICA. Something it was never intended to be in the first place.

So here is your fair warning, world.  If I hear you use ‘literally’ wrong, I will call you on it.  Anytime, anywhere.  Dinner conversation, television broadcast, across the room at a party, I will literally turn around, give you the dirtiest look imaginable, and drop the most scathing comment my caffeine-maddened brain can concoct on the spur of the moment.   I will leap in through the window like some kind of grammatical Batman.  I will climb down the chimney like a wrathful Saint Nicholas.  I will go all Liam Neeson up in this and I WILL FIND YOU.

So use literally correctly.

AND NOW THAT THE MOMENT OF RANDOM INTENSITY IS OVER, LET’S TALK ABOUT LACEWINGS.

BEHOLD ITS SPLENDOR

Green lacewings are like ladybugs, but they are the Louis Black to ladybugs’ Eddie Izzard.  Infinitely meaner, more predatory, and more violent, they hunt and exterminate aphids with extreme prejudice.

They are very pretty bugs. If you live in the continental United States, you’ve probably seen them, and if you don’t, TAKE ME WITH YOU SO I CAN WATCH THE OLYMPICS.   They have pale green bodies like vine snakes, slim and muscular (for bugs).  Their wings look like living diamond, crystal traced with veins of black, white, or green, depending on the lighting, and they are held back over their abdomen like a sheath of diamonds.  And their compound eyes, set in their heads to provide binocular vision, glitter scarlet or gold and catch the light like faceted rubies.

They’re clever little things too.  Some species can detect and react to the sounds of hunting bats, taking evasive action (which usually consists of an Iron-Man-style nosedive with wings clamped tight to their body in an attempt to minimize their acoustical signature) to avoid the larger winged predator.  They also communicate through vibrations transmitted either through the air or through the surface they rest upon, in a complex system of courtship and communication unique to each species.

Also, some are admittedly vegetarians.  But we’ll ignore them because predators are cooler.

Their larvae burst from the egg, shed once, and immediately swarm up their hosting plant, devouring anything smaller than themselves.  Their hunting strategy makes up in enthusiasm what it lacks in sophistication: they walk around blindly waving their heads from side to side until they bump into something, at which point they grab it and eat it.

This habit of voraciously consuming anything that moves makes them perfect pest control, just like with ladybugs, and they are used for this purpose as a sort of biological weapon, the perfect predator to hunt the perfect parasite, which sounds like a movie that I would totally watch.

To recap: They’re pretty, they’re beneficial to the local environment (and the odds are good that any one individual lacewing is part of the local native subspecies), and they probably don’t conflate their self-esteem with the number of aphids they eat in their life.    ALL AROUND A GOOD ORGANISM TO HAVE NEARBY.

And I’ve decided to end this blog post on a rather “Well then, that was unexpected” note, so here it is.   THE END.

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