You won’t kill anyone, only yourself.

Michel Fournier hopes to break four world records tomorrow with his stratospheric balloon flight and subsequent free fall.  After being thwarted in 2002 by a ripped balloon and in 2003 by the French authorities refusing to let him launch over thousands of innocent citizens, he’s ready to go.  The Canadian government is giving him permission to launch over Saskatchewan, where the population is so sparse that officials doubt he’ll be able to damage people or property in a bungled fall even if he tried.  In addition, he’s spent more than $20 million so far, so he must’ve paid enough for success, right?  Personally, I don’t trust his ambition.  Didn’t he learn anything from the priest?  Besides, this isn’t even for any good cause.  It’s only for pride.

I supposed it’s no more ridiculous than any of the other things people do – mountain climbers whose final goal is Everest, base jumpers who long for the old World Trade Center, survivalists who cross Death Valley just for fun.  To a certain extent, we all want the biggest and the best, and to be recognized as a member of an elite group.  And to a certain extent, there may be nothing wrong with that sort of pride that drives you to achieve, that pushes you towards success.  I’d rather be a bit full of myself than live my life in fear and never accomplish anything for myself.  Still, pride is something where a little bit can go a long way.  Some of us remember that better than others.

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Torching Everest

It’s interesting how news reaches us, even in today’s world of instant gratification and technological interconnectedness.  Take the recent Everest record-breaking that’s been going on.  I had no idea that before Mr. Sherchan, the oldest man to climb Everest was 71 years old and Japanese.  And while I may have guessed that a Sherpa held the record for the most times to the summit, I wouldn’t have known that the amount of times was 18, until today.  I also would have had no idea that as many as 80 climbers might reach the summit on one of its busiest days.  Just think of it – one of the loneliest, most desolate spots on the face of the Earth, and now it has up to 80 people trudging up and down on it.  In the scale of the mountain, that’s not many, but it’s still many more than I would’ve expected.

Also unexpected, and garnered from this article, was the fact that the Chinese carried the Olympic torch to the summit.  A poetic gesture, I’m sure, but a little ridiculous to my mind.  Why not take it on a space shuttle, or to the moon, since the Chinese have so recently been there, and let it burn in a special case with just enough air on that desolate surface.  Or are the Olympics strictly an Earth-bound exhibition of talent?  And, in protection of the Everest relay, why did the Nepalese government ‘close the mountain’, hoping to bar torch relay protesters?  In addition to the fact that the Chinese relay team accessed Everest from Tibet (which I find highly amusing, under the circumstances), which we can assume the Chinese government would prevent any protesters from accessing, were there really threats of opposition climbing Mount Everest just to thwart torchbearers?  What are they going to do at the summit?  Grab the torch and roll down the mountain?  Throw it off the side in a gesture far from media or any kind of real publicity?  Do we still lived in the crazed, competitive era of man that compelled slightly neurotic men to run off towards the North Pole in order to get there first?  What is this intense need to win we seem to all have, and what are we all really fighting for?  Recognition?  Fame?  Pride?

I would like to see the world strive a bit more, perhaps for the greater good or just for personal ambition, but without trying to rip itself apart at the same time.

Money vs. Sportsmanship

In the wake of Speedo’s new LZR swimsuit and a rash of cries of unfairness, questions are being made as to the base nature of swimming as a sport.  Are Olympic competitions in swimming driven by the skill and effort of the individual alone, or do other concerns play a part?  Obviously the Olympic committee wants to be as fair as possible regarding the rules and the way each race is carried out, but who determines which suit you wear?  If not for endorsements, contracts, and the money that gets dropped into Olympic coffers, wouldn’t you just simply wear the suit that helps you to be the best you can be?  Why wouldn’t everyone just wear the LZR?  If it is a technologically advanced suit, or even a buoyant suit, should that be considered cheating?  Don’t we continue to break Olymic records of the past as competition increases?  Is this not an extension of that competition?

I’m not saying that I want swimming as a sport to become something like racing.  Sure, in racing there is a great deal of skill involved, but there’s also heavy technological reliance on the machines being used.  Both skills and machinery work together, I would say equally.  In swimming things are a little more one-sided.  If I put on the LZR, I’m still not going to win the Olympics tomorrow.  But it could certainly mean the difference between a silver and a gold, if not more.  And if it is so important, wouldn’t all these other manufacturers (Arena, Adidas, Descente, Diana, Nike, and Mizuno) all want to develop their own answer to this new faster, better suit, rather than crying wolf to the Olympic Board?