Olympic Fever and The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning

Sorry this is so late. I was sick this week. I'm calling it Olympic fever but it's more like the flu.

Like almost everyone else on my Twitter feed I've been down with Olympic fever this past week. Being sick like this takes a lot of time and has completely clogged my DVR. But despite my tragic illness I still managed to squeeze a book in and what a book it was. Called the Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning, it's a hilarious and sometimes gruesome story of a hitman who kills a preacher and goes on the lam to Iceland, where he is totally at sea.

Tomislav Bokšić, aka Toxic, a member of the Croatian mafia, has killed a lot of people. Some of them he killed in the war and some of them he killed because he was paid to. As the story begins he is about to flee his beloved New York and go back to his former homeland. He has accidentally killed an FBI agent and needs to go away until things cool off a bit. At the airport he is afraid he's been spotted and kills a man who looks like him, who turns out to be a televangelist. Toxic takes the dead man's ID and plane ticket and assumes his identity.

He ends up in the capital of Iceland, a country that befuddles him. There are no guns and very few homicides. Everyone is beautiful and happy and they all drive fancy cars. The city is tiny when compared to New York and the streets are empty. He is having culture shock and begins an introspective journey where he examines what has brought him to his current straits. Toxic also runs into a bizarre situation where he is kind of held captive, working very hard with little intellectual stimulation, which assists him in his evaluation of his life and choices. This is not an easy task, it's quite painful but Toxic has a hilarious voice and his musings are entertaining, albeit occasionally too graphic for my comfort level.

The writing is a little uneven but overall I enjoyed it very much. There were some lines that I absolutely loved, including one about how you can't change the lines of a play once the curtain goes up, which could be my motto.

Hallgrimur Helgason, the author of the book, also did the translating from Icelandic as part of AmazonCrossing, a newish program that plans to publish twelve Icelandic novels that have been translated into English. I'm curious to see what genres the others fall into.

In other news I am one of the many people who are disappointed in NBC's Olympic coverage. Not so much about them airing the most popular events in prime time; I understand they paid more than a billion dollars in rights and need to recoup that money with advertising dollars, but more because of how they butchered the opening ceremonies, the obnoxiousness of many of the commentators and the non-functionality of their live streaming.

Danny Boyle's opening ceremonies were incredible. I loved the theme, this is for everyone, and the sheer magnitude of the event was impressive. Now that I am majoring in event planning I am more aware of what goes into these giant bashes and was super pleased when I heard the announcer say they had incorporated all five senses into the event. By adding the smell of molten metal and wafting it into the vast audience they were engaging in a full on sensory experience.

Unfortunately NBC chose to cut vital parts of the ceremonies, including a segment that appeared to be a tribute to the victims of the London bombings just a few days after the announcement that London would host the 2012 Olympics. The official announcement stated that they aired an interview with Ryan Seacrest and Michael Phelps instead because they tailor their broadcast to an American audience. This nonsensical statement is enraging and implies all Americans are so self centered they can't think about anything other than themselves for even a few minutes. It was especially disgraceful given the inclusive theme of the evening. This is for everyone except for Americans? Apparently that's the way NBC executives think.

The NBC sports commentators are a class unto themselves. I'm tempted to think the applicant pool was given a sensitivity test and everyone who flunked was hired. Not only do they harangue athletes for being too emotional (like that's even a thing) they also complain when the athletes aren't emotional enough. They criticize bronze medal winners and seem to think that every American contestant is going to win gold, which is of course an impossibility. I wonder if someone has said something to them recently because one of the announcers working on gymnastics said he knows he sounds hypercritical, not that he slowed down with the snark at all.

Kudos do go out to the couple who did the announcing for eventing, whose names I didn't get. The woman was particularly good, explaining what the judges were looking for in dressage and talking about the three different portions of the event in a way that explained things to newbies and didn't talk down to those of us who know something about the sport.

Finally it would really be nice if the NBC live streaming site actually worked. I completely missed the dressage, the number one event for me, because it wasn't listed in my TV listings and I couldn't find it on the NBC site. That was extremely disappointing. I should be able to use their search engine to find what I'm looking for but instead it brings up old articles from a year ago. Not helpful, NBC.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is an old video of Robert Dover riding musical freestyle dressage at the Washington International Horse Show in 1988. Watching this ride was a high point of my life. It was breathtaking. My riding instructor at the time scored us some free tickets, which made it extra nice.