7 August, 2016
The Olympic “spirit” has now become obligatory. Undergirded by unifying myth and ritual, the ancient games once provided some sense of the whole; today, these “modern” games would insist upon a partial return to events lost to memory and to history–this time staged as a barbaric parody of the whole—if only they did not insist so seriously. The crashing banality of the “Olympic theme” everywhere assaults the ear, a sickening Hollywood confection played in “loops” in broadcasts so that eventually its demands on individual consciousness mark the entire spectacle with an inescapable, only too recognizable, constantly repeated and repeatable fragment of ostensibly “classical” music. The distinction between “classical” and “pop” long ago elided, no one can say precisely when or how the tune was created, only that it stamps the proceedings with a recognizable “brand,” the mode of which is “gravitas.”
10 August 2016
The Olympic spectacle features beautiful bodies that are grotesque. The bodies are “beautiful” because they are grotesques, beauty no longer having any redeeming or recognizable content immune from the insistent pathos of the Olympic “games.” How hard they all work! Each body reflects the iron logic of a supremely specialized division of labor, each one crafted and then honed for its grim purpose. The swimmer Phelps is a monstrous torpedo. In woeful Sisyphean fashion, he works his way from one end of the pool to the other, lap after lap, so that to finish is not to finish at all, but merely to invite yet another “event.” Watch him utter a few banalities before slumping away toward the empty respite of a Potemkin Olympic “village” once his daily labors are through, only to do it all again the next day.
16 August 2016
The gymnasts’ bodies are outrageous, made all the more outrageous by the tacit agreement everywhere that these bodies are not outrageous. Advertisements are thus made indistinguishable from the spectacle of bodies. “Welcome to it all” Comcast insists. The histrionic pathos of the athletes’ painful adaptation to their specialized labors does not distinguish itself from the unspeakable pathos of the everyday “couch potato,” whose consciousness is continuously assaulted and molded by innumerable choices of channels and entertainments. “If you build it he will come” a child mindlessly repeats in front of his Comcast-provided television entertainments, a budding consumer’s ritual reenactment of a memorable “catch-phrase” from a film about baseball (not an Olympic “sport”), an absurdist rationale for the pitiless bankrupting of Rio de Janeiro by the gods of global capital. God will arrive at dusk on television screens for children everywhere because Rio built his accommodations only too willingly at first, muting their enthusiasms only after it was far too late. “A revolution began” the disembodied voice of Comcast tells us; alas, it is but the anticipatory memory of a favorite TV show. So too with the ads for Ben Hur, a new “remake” of an odiously derivative older film remaking a still as yet older film that remade an even older popular novel which could never have been old in the first place. (The culture industry has long betrayed no shame in the mindless repetition of its naming practices—surely Phelps will watch it). One can no longer parse the differences between the Olympics, the insipid glory of global capital’s empire and celluloid fantasy. That Judah Ben-Hur stages ridiculous, meaningless resistance to an empire is a detail merely obscene in its remarkable insignificance.
17 August 2016
In this masochistic theater, this unspeakable, tortured warping of bodies to their specialized labors, it must be insisted that the athletes remain “clean.” The Russian “doping” scandal (the linguistic affinities between “dope” and the soporific effect of the entire spectacle are everywhere) has become ludicrous, the utter preposterousness of the Russian chicanery an honest allegory for the basic dishonesty of the Olympic proceedings as a whole.
18 August 2016
The “Today” show begins the daily Olympics broadcast, its name signaling the collapse of every possible temporal signification into a ubiquitous present. Is it the morning or is it today? One has no reason to know, nor to care any longer. Watch “Al” and “Matt” parade through the glittering streets of Rio’s wealthiest shopping districts accompanied by Brazilian “supermodels.” “Super” is a term connoting the global ubiquity enjoyed by these women, having been plucked from obscurity in order to assume the highest reaches of standardized physical grotesquery. The “supermodels” pick out clothes for “Al” and “Matt” so that the pair might take on a Brazilian “look.” The clothes look like the clothes everywhere.
21 August 2016
It is finished. No one watches the closing ceremonies. Even the continuous sense of foreboding for 2020 does not warrant it. “See you in Tokyo!”