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Robert Lampros | 45 comments

One of the origin stories pertaining to the ancient Olympics, recounted by the Greek writer Pausanias, tells of a dactyl named Herakles and four of his brothers racing at Olympia for the entertainment of the young Zeus, who crowned the victor with a wreath of an olive branch. The first actual Olympics dates back to 776 BC, when athletes traveled to Olympia from Greek city-states to compete for the honor and political dominance of their cities. Politicians announced alliances at the Games, priests offered sacrifices to the gods for help in war and for national peace, and artists gathered to showcase their work. Only freeborn Greek men could take part in the events, held every four years at Olympia, until Emperor Theodosius I ended them in 393 AD to advance Christianity as the State religion of Rome.

The modern Olympic Games started in Athens in 1896, although various sports festivals in England, France, and Greece had revived the name in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The 1896 Games, organized by the newly founded International Olympic Committee, included 14 countries, 241 athletes, and 43 events. The next two Olympics at Paris in 1900 and the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 were relatively unpopular, however the Games grew steadily throughout the 20th century to include nearly every nation in the world. 10,500 athletes from over 200 countries are expected at the 2016 Games in Rio De Janeiro, to compete in over 300 events.

The economic benefits of hosting the Olympics are questionable, while the cultural and historic significance prove valuable for the hosting city. Many thousands of spectators attend and millions of viewers watch the most talented athletes in the world battle against each other, against prior world records, and against physical and spiritual limitations to prevail over formidable challenges. What happens in the arenas, gymnasiums, and pools only happens once with a unique group of competitors at the very pinnacle of the abilities they’ve spent their whole lives perfecting. Controversies involving boycotts, bribery, and performance enhancing drugs have darkened Olympic glory in recent decades, but the moment the starting gun fires, the runners launch out, and the swimmers hit the water, the pure grace of the athletes becomes clear.

It takes heart to give that much effort to something, through pain, disappointment, injury, and not give up. The sound of the crowd when the gymnast botches a landing or the runner trips over a hurdle, it’s like the floor drops out, all that training, wasted. The most inspiring part of the Games, for me, is the look on the faces of the people who finished their race in spite of a wicked fall or sprain or mishap. They don’t look as happy as the gold and silver medalists but there’s something even more real about them, a knowledge, a steadfast peace rising up from their core. They’re indestructible.

The Munich Olympics suffered a terrorist attack in 1972 when 11 Israeli team members were taken hostage and killed, as well as a German police officer, by a Palestinian terrorist group seeking the release of German-held prisoners. With the violent madness of late it’s impossible not to worry about a similar tragedy occurring this year in Rio. By now it’s surely been covered by millions of prayers for safety and protection, although more prayer is always a good idea. I pray God use these Summer Olympics to glorify Himself on the earth and bring honor and peace to the nations. I pray that anyone planning or at risk for committing any hateful acts of violence be granted repentance and brought back from the edge of insanity, and shown the Light of Christ. Lastly I pray that every person involved with the Games, especially the coaches and athletes, has the most beautiful, honorable, and rewarding three weeks of their lives, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

message 2: by Robert (last edited Aug 09, 2016 04:51PM) (new)

Robert Lampros | 45 comments The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

A classic silent film of German expressionist cinema, and what Roger Ebert called “the first true horror film,” The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, directed by Robert Wiene, was released in 1920 and screened internationally just after import restrictions from World War I were lifted. The screenwriters, Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, were pacifists whose distrust of authority is brilliantly expressed by the maniacal Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss), a deranged hypnotist who trains his somnambulic patient to murder his foes by night. The film uses a dark visual style with pointed shapes, sharp angles, and streaks of black and white paint covering the sets.

Framed as a tale told by Francis (Friedrich Feher), to an older man as they sit in a park, the story’s bizarre events and hallucinatory design instill a nightmarish dread, an evil presence lurks throughout the city, violence seems to lie in wait around every corner, and the characters scheme, deceive, and suspect each other. The plot includes a love story, a psychological suspense-drama, and a murder mystery woven together in wonderfully acted scenes set in dreamlike succession.

Conrad Veidt, who plays the homicidal somnambulist, gives an awesome performance calling to mind an extremely drowsy version of Frankenstein’s monster. Werner Krauss steals the show as the crazed doctor/sideshow magician who awakens his twenty-three year-old patient from a twenty-three year sleep before a mystified carnival crowd. Lil Dagover plays the leading lady, Jane, at times a mournful apparition and at others an elegant damsel in distress. The actors communicate the vibrant energy a silent film requires while showcasing a morbid extravagance which suits this story perfectly.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari drew international attention to the value of German cinema and later influenced American horror and film noir. Although it was shot almost one hundred years ago it still feels like a modern movie with clever twists and turns, skillful editing, exciting camera work, and set designs that look like the background of a ghoulish graphic novel. Considering that filmmaking was a relatively young art form Caligari may be one of the medium’s greatest accomplishments. Traditionally accompanied by live organ music, screenings of this silent horror classic can be found in various cities every year, most likely around Halloween.

Filming took place soon after the conclusion of World War I, when the collective spirit of the German people must have been low and desperate. The bleak surrealism probably resonated with German audiences, many of whom might have envied the character of Cesare, a man whose health condition would have allowed them to sleep through the destruction and loss their nation suffered during the war. Horror films can be an enlightening ride in the proper context, and in this case the genre’s first is among its best.

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