Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Russian Olympics, Talismans, and Puppies

The Olympics are almost winding down, but sometimes the most interesting stories are the "back stories," or human interest stories from the Olympics, and there are many.

Talisman is an arabic word believed to contain magical or sacramental properties which would provide good luck for the possessor or offer protection from evil or harm.

When I watched some of the Russian skaters, they made the sign of the cross before they skated and I noticed that some wore a tiny gold cross around their necks.  In the Russian Orthodox church, when a baby is baptized, they are given a gold cross on a chain, and it is to be worn always, but not on the outside, but inside clothing.  Before the Soviet Union collapsed, most churches were closed, and those that were open were used as museums.  I remember St. Isaacs Cathedral in then Leningrad, a beautiful church with Icons of mosaic, and religious art everywhere.  But there was a pendulum exhibit, a huge circle of pegs which were knocked down, one by one, by a pendulum which was suspended from the ceiling.  This was to show the earth's rotation, science over religion.  So, I was glad to see this show of belief in a higher being.  I envy those who have a strong religious faith because it has to be such a comfort in difficult and challenging times.

I imagine that among the participants in the Olympics, there are quite a few who have something they carry, a lucky talisman, to give them luck and protection, a photo, a stuffed animal, a cross, or something personal.

For those who love dogs, we have Olympic snowboarder, Gus Kenworthy, who found a mother dog and her four puppies under a security tent,( irony here), in the woods, and has made plans to adopt them all.  Before the start of the Olympics, there were many, many stray dogs in Sochi.  I read that some had been pets who were abandoned.  Part of the reason was that to prepare for the Olympics, homes with yards were destroyed in order to have more land to build the Olympic village.  Those residents were offered apartments, but high rises did not welcome dogs. And the construction workers who were shipped in to Sochi during those years, fed them. With no spaying and neutering program, there was a dog population explosion.

When it was learned that stray dogs were being shot before the Olympics, there was an outcry, of course, and a Russian billionaire offered to build a shelter to save some of them.  There is a shelter now, but not enough room for all.  During the Olympics there will be none that will be killed, but after the Olympics? 

In order to adopt a Sochi dog, you need a veterinarian's OK, a pet passport and someway to arrange transportation back to the states.  Hard to bring them back on charter flights back home which would be a very long trip in the hold of the plane.  Some of the wives of the hockey players from Canada, Slovenia, and the US, have banded together to figure out the logistics. Perhaps many of the dogs will be saved.  I know this is a problem in other countries.  I remember seeing quite a few of them in South America, struggling to stay alive, but not vicious, just wary and street smart.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Russian Olympics and The Brothers "K"

In honor of the Russian Olympics in Sochi, Russia and my Russian heritage (pre-1917), I will not only watch much of the Olympics but begin reading The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  This will be a daunting read by recent translators, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, who according to the critics are excellent.  

And this evening, at the opening of the Olympics, there will be ballet, classical music, and a showcase of Russian composers, artists and performers.  And, the composers almost all before 1917, I cannot help but add.

Lately, out of laziness, I read easy stuff, magazines, novels that one can read fast, but never The Brothers K.  So, from time to time I will comment on how far I have read and what I have learned.

So, here is a toast to the Olympics and of course good luck to all our athletes who have worked so hard to be there.

Hobbes will see if Dostoevsky mentions any lions

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mighty Casey Has Struck Out

Do any of you remember "Casey at the Bat?"  A great poem written about baseball, 

"Oh somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright:
The band is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout:
But there is no joy in Mudville -- mighty Casey has struck out."

This could apply to the Denver Broncos who played, not very well,
 in the Super Bowl, and lost, yesterday February 2nd.  I won't even mention the score.

The pre-game hype was overwhelming,  page, after page of articles in the local paper, on TV, in social media.

I think it overwhelmed the Broncos and they lost their confidence after the missed communication first play.

And so sadly, I paraphrase the last stanza of  Mr. Thayer's poem, which was written in the late 1880's.

"Oh somewhere in this favored land the sun in shining bright:
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout:
But there is no joy in Denver, the Denver Broncos lost the Super Bowl!"

(or by my friend Jo, "There is no joy in Denver, the Broncos, they are out!")

Remember the great Vince Lombardi who said, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

We could write blog after blog about winning, losing, how in the big picture it does not matter, but it still has to hurt, especially the Broncos, who came so far, but lost.