Sunday, May 27, 2007

All We Have Are Togas

I was sitting around at an Indian coffee shop, actually missing what used to be the sound of Bollywood movies as lip-syncing actors danced on top of moving trains or around coconut trees. Instead, the huge TV screens screamed the arrival of the finals of some football game half a world away. Let's give this some thought. A stadium full of thousands of people, all of whom are known by an abbreviation of the word "fanatic", a word whose closest synonym is probably "nuts", and I mean that in the, you know, not the hunting squirrel or, say, the naked monkey way. Each of them pays a huge amount of moolah to watch people who to their eyes are the size of ants running around, barred from utilizing half their appendages, in an effort to get a ball into a net.

And I'm going, this is modern civilization?
Actually, I don't mind whatever people want to do. At least it's not like the American version which calls itself football, but, um, doesn't use the feet very much, and that's not even getting to how they need plated armour and ready paramedics to, you know, play a game.

Yup, people can do whatever they want to do. It's just that I think the ancient Greeks and Romans would be disappointed at what we call modern civilization. True, we did keep the stadiums and - barbarism aside - it's hard to say whether mauling stadium lions or people faking injuries constitutes better entertainment. I think it would be an easier choice if the players of AC Milan and Liverpool saluted Queen Elizabeth with "We who are about to die salute you!" in Latin. And being around all those sweaty strangers is really not far away from the oh-so-fab Roman baths, and the end prize is likely not so far away from the ancient this-is-why-they-call-this-time-to-go-potty.

When you have to go, you have to go. And sometimes, you have to share. Source: The Old Fashion Football Shirt Company

And if someone were to say that, well, back in those days the Olympics were sexist and were exclusively for men, and we've progressed much, I would say, well, when's the last time you watched women's football? Yup, I'm fairly certain that the only things the ancient Romans might be proud of is the extension and evolution of togas into the always fashionable Indian sari.

I should admit that in some small way I'm writing with the motivation of a starving artist or a snob of the arts, take your pick. While I personally don't care what a bunch of boys want to do with an round inflatable toy in the middle of a field, I do find it a little alarming that it has become the height of popular culture today. And yes, I do find it disappointing that those in the arts are, in stark and shocking contrast, largely disregarded - and not because of a matter of skill or even showmanship.

Nope. Chances are, because the arts are harder to understand. It's takes time, and yes, a little depth, and more often than not it doesn't pander to the lowest common demoninator with ready fireworks. And we can't even just boil it down to the eye candy factor; in an experiment by the Washington Post, the musically and chromosomically advantaged international violin soloist Joshua Bell was ignored as he busked in a Washington subway station.

Scholarships to universities - places of higher learning - are given for athletic ability, often times with blatant disregard to whether their field of study deals with their area of expertise, as well as scholastic achievement. In Malaysia, people are hired to play hockey or football for banks, and are assigned to some unnecessary position for paperwork's sake. Personally, I'd prefer a bank that just gives me different benefits than a bank-league winning football team... like, say, you know, dividends.

So one would imagine that I find, say, American Idol a relief in that music finally gets a piece of the pie it deserves. Quite the contrary, and while I used to find Simon Cowell's comments unbecoming of the spirit of music-making, I've since changed my mind. Frankly speaking, if someone is going to become an overnight millionaire based on at most a couple of months of so-called hard work, plus a lot of factors which have nothing to do with hard work, someone sitting on that judges' panel should be making the process at least a tad bit challenging.

Well, it is what it is, and to be fair it has been said that certain people in the arts - the orchestral community in particular - don't do enough to connect to the outside world today, and there are those among us (too many, in fact) that really do earn the title of snob, in detriment to all of us. And when it comes down to it, yes, we should be doing what we do for our own kind of dedication to our art, and the struggle of artist has a long and somewhat romantic history to it, whether in the face of an overfed aristocrat patron or next to an overpaid guy who kicks a ball into a net.

I get that. I really do.

But just once - just once - in a very long and I-promise-to-be-patient while, can't we let out the stadium lions?


Amanda said...

hahaha..You do realize we live right by the college "potty" fanatics of the world. We must go to a Notre Dame game this comming season. Though, just to give them a little credit: places like Notre Dame though they spend a lot of money on running across a field and then falling ontop of one another, do give a lot of their prceeds to other departments in the their marching band =op ...we should try learning to marcha and play across a field. maybe we'll get more atention that way.

AF said...

Notre Dame is a notable exception - I understand that their football scholarships still require and maintain a certain standard academically.

stev said...


would be great to see lions tearing into the stadium. oh wait. make that HUNGRY ferocious lions!! :D

some interesting viewpoints as well from your side including how many in the masses fail to appreciate art. yet would say other factors play a big part as well including marketing & advertising.