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2008-08-14 - 10:25 p.m.

Been watching a lot of the Olympics. A little annoyed by the American-centered coverage (what's a guy got to do to see a little judo, weightlifting, table tennis, a little soccer?) but all in all, it's an embarrassment of riches. So far it's been a lot of swimming, diving, gymnastics, indoor volleyball and, probably my least favorite, beach volleyball.

I've watched some sports in my life, but what's struck me fresh is the prevalence of form. It's everywhere, these top-of-their-game, eat-sleep-train superior human beings concentrating like crazy and then instituting form form form. They are, seems to me, masters of two things: the ability to concentrate and the ability to do the particular thing they're good at over and over, at a very high level. I know that sounds kind of obvious, but in many of these sports, the lack of variation is stunning. They do one or maybe two or three things again and again. Swimming, for example, or diving. They stroke and stroke and then at a given spot in the pool, get their bodies to do a second maneuver, expertly. Then they keep doing it, until the race, the event, their whole everything for all I know, is over.

Gymnastics has got more variation, though. And it is visually mind-blowing. There's a move the girls do on the uneven bars, when flying from the lower bar to the higher bar, that is just incredible. Probably it's not such a big deal if you're an expert (the commentators never mention it when the girls do it). Essentially, they swing and hurl themselves to the higher bar, wide-open hands first, and grab it while upside-down. They basically stop themselves, catch the higher bar, using their thumbs. And it all happens very fast. The men on the rings, I don't know how to think about it without being impressed and dumbfounded. There are some things that humans can do that, if I were so inclined and under the influence of a certain number of beers, just might nudge me in the direction of some kind of belief that until then I didn't know I had.

The TV guy just said that Michael Phelps has a perfect body for swimming fast. Part of it, he said, is his "flat backside." It's true, he's impressive. I sometimes get breakfast at this place Pete's Diner, where he went a lot when he lived here. They have some signed photos on the walls. Pete's is the kind of place where, when they break eggs and drop them on the griddle, they get them from those huge cardboard trays, the ones that hold, I think, two or three dozen eggs. He just won another gold medal in what's got to be the coolest name for an event: 200 meter individual medley (I wonder how many sports writers are typing that phrase right now). A different TV guy just said "to be in total oxygen debt and to be that dynamic off the turn...."

In non-Olympic news, I decided last night, I think, to try and make two things central to my day-to-day living, to love and to create. But I was pretty hung over for most of today, so I'm just now getting around to it. Although my sister-and-law called me at work and I made her laugh a lot. And before that, my dad called, telling me about a bear they'd caught in the suburbs here and shipped up to a state forest, near him. "It was about a one-hundred-forty-pounder," he said. "Not too big." "Big enough to not want to be friendly with, though," I said. "No doubt," he said.

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