Russia is corrupt. Anyone who denies that is either living in a dream world, or is a Putin shill. As the Sochi Winter Olympics come to an end tomorrow night, and those Americans there finally return home and are no longer at risk of arrest for speaking truthfully and with American-style candor while on Russian soil, I predict that stories of Russian both corruption and just general outrageousness will precipitously increase. We saw one just last Sunday night, on CBS 60 Minutes, that contained nothing really new, mind you, but was clearly timed to coincide with the Sochi Games; and which portrays Russia as it really is. Definitely view it, if you haven't already.
This story is about one small bit of Putin-esque anti-Americanism which may have sneaked its way into the very first American gold medal ceremony on February 8th; and which no one, to date, seems to have noticed. And so, who knows, this may end-up becoming a "you read it here first" sort of moment. Time will tell.
If I'm right about what I've here written, though, not only is Russia predictably and not-surprisingly bad for what I'm here suggesting it might have done, but the NBC television network may be uncharacteristically and surprisingly complicit in its cover-up. Time, again, will tell.
ANALYSIS and OPINION | by Gregg L. DesElms | Saturday 22 February 2014
The very first American to win gold at Sochi was slopestyle snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg. And that, of course, made we Americans proud and all that; but when he got his gold medal, and the US national anthem was played, something was wrong. I'm a musician (though entirely amateur, mind you), and so I know what I'm both hearing and talking about with something like this. Plus, my TV set is high-end, with an equally-high-end audio system and speakers, and so, trust me, the US national anthem that was coming through those speakers both was and still is being faithfully reproduced.
And I am not prone to "hearing things," in life. As Sheldon Cooper says on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory," my mother had me checked.
When the NBC Television Network broadcast Kotsenburg's medals ceremony on what was, in the US, Saturday evening, February 8, 2014, the version of the US national anthem that was played was not the version to which most Americans are used. The familiar-to-Americans version is the one we've all heard since our childhood; the one we sing at ball games. It's one that contains mostly all major chords and lots of consonance; and is full and rich and bright and bold and positive.
However, the one that played that night, during Kotsenburg's medals ceremony on February 8th, through my television's high-end audio system and speakers, contained mostly minor chord progression, and overarching dissonance. It sounded, frankly, like a Russian durge. Seriously.
I'd give almost anything, at this point, to have a recording of it; and if anyone reading this happened to have recorded it either to VCR (yes, they still exist) or PVR/DVR, I'd love to get my hands on a copy. I'd go to YouTube, but NBC is so jealously guarding its video that as any of it appears there it is so quickly removed that it's simply impossible to find.
But that's only part of the reason I'm asking for someone's recorded copy. After all, the video of Kotsenburg's February 8th medal ceremony is on the NBC Olympics website, right? Well, yes and no: As you'll learn, further down, herein: the video of Kotsenburg's February 8th medals ceremony does not contain the version of the US national anthem that I heard that night on TV. More on that in a moment.
If you have a copy of the original Kotenburg medal ceremony from February 8th, as broadcast on the NBC television network, plus contact me. Just Google me: I'm the only Gregg DesElms on the planet, and my website is either the first or second Google search result; and my contact information is right on that website, available in a little pop-up window (so please make sure pop-ups are not turned-off in your browser when you try to view it). Or try clicking right here to go straight to my contact information.
At any rate, don't get me wrong, the tempo and basic melody of the music, that night, was accurate and easily and unambiguously recognizable to anyone as the US national anthem. But, seriously, it was as if the obviously-Russian either composer or conductor who arranged it and then recorded it with the obviously-Russian orchestra that played it wanted to take something of a musical swipe at Americans -- perhaps as some kind of socio-political statement -- by effectively sabotaging our national anthem with minor chords and dark and durge-like dissonance where major chords, consonance and brightness normally belong.
I remember playing the familiar old version of the US national anthem -- the one we all know and love and sing at sporting events -- in high school band. I played all the brass instruments (except the French Horn) back then, and so I knew all four trumpet parts, all three baritone parts, the half-dozen trombone parts, etc. And as drum major, I was used to leading the band, and so knew pretty much all the other woodwind and even percussion parts, too. So, trust me, I really know this music and what I'm talking about, here.
Those who have ever played the US national anthem in a band -- especially if they've played second and third parts, and especially if they're baritone, trombone or tenor sax parts -- know that there's a counter melody that does, indeed, contain some minor notes and a little dissonance. Those who know what I'm talking about will understand this: That night, it was almost like only those playing that counter melody were properly mic'd, and so it was almost like all that minor-noted dissonance was featured, while that major bright notes were in the background.
And so I considered, for a while, that maybe that's all that happened: that maybe when the recording was either mic'd or played, only the counter melody part somehow ended-up coming through my TV's speakers... maybe a technical SNAFU at NBC, or something.
But then I thought -- no, really thought -- about the US national anthem that I knew and have played a gabazillion times; and that counter melody to which I sometimes sing when in a group, or whistle while hearing it on TV. I know that music, I tell you; and what I heard that night was not just the counter melody somehow taking the lead. It was more than that. There were decidedly classically-Russian-durge-like chord progressions that are simply not present in any known US national anthem arrangement. They were unmistakable; and clearly intended to Russia-fy the beloved US national anthem...
...exactly as someone as awful as Vladimir Putin would secretly ask someone running the Sochi Olympics to do in order to screw with the US in light of its strained relationship with Russia during the weeks and months leading-up to the Winter Games.
Interestingly, the very next evening (Sunday, February 9, 2014, in the US), when the NBC Television Network broadcast the medals ceremony for Jamie Anderson, the US gold medalist in the women's slopestyle event, the version of the US national anthem played for her was more correct. Yet -- and this is important -- it still wasn't completely right. It still had a few telltale classically-Russian embellishments here and there, indicating that it was still arranged and played by a Russian orchestra, and was not something dubbed-in to the broadcast by NBC. After all, think about it: if NBC had done such dubbing, you know it would have used a familiar, completely American version. This version that I heard at the second medals ceremony in which an American won gold was, on the night of Februay 9th, still ever-so-slightly discernable as being arranged and played by Russians who can't play anything without throwing-in at least a little Russian influence; but it was so close to being right to the American ear that everyone's fine with it. Heck, even I'm fine with it.
Every US national anthem played during a medals ceremony at Sochi, starting with Anderson's ceremony on February 9th, has been that newer and not-perfect-but-still-acceptable-to-the-American-ear version. But, godasmywitness, the version I heard on TV during Kotsenburg's gold medal ceremony on February 8th was... well... again... dare I use the word -- sabotaged -- by, I'll bet, the Russian orchestra and conductor and arranger for just that one first US gold medal ceremony, just to make some kind of weird, former-KGB-like, Putin-esque point.
But wait, it gets even weirder... and herein might be an even bigger part of the story: When I finally found the time -- oh, I guess it was around February 12th, I suppose -- to hunt-down a video of Kotsenburg's medals ceremony on the NBC Olympics website, what I heard coming through my computer's speakers (which are also high-end) was the more-correct-to-the-American's-ear version that was played for Anderson's (2nd of the) US gold medal(s) ceremony on February 9th; which version has also been played for every medals ceremony in which Americans won gold ever since.
You should have seen me just sitting there, staring at my computer screen, eyebrows furrowed, trying to figure out how this was possible. I'm not a conspiracy theorist: I believe, for example, that Oswald acted alone. But if I really did hear what I'll go to my grave convinced I heard on TV during Kotsenburg's February 8th medals ceremony, then it simply wasn't possible for me to be hearing this very different version through my computer speakers a few days later...
...that is, unless NBC, in post-production, dubbed the version of the US national anthem played during the Anderson medals ceremony on Februay 9th (and in every ceremony in which the US won gold thereafter) into the Kotsenburg ceremony's Februay 8th video that it posted to the NBC Olympics website.
Or, I suppose it could be even weirder than that: Maybe the Russians, to this date, still play, in the stadium at Sochi during medals ceremonies where Americans take gold, that awful durge-like version that I first heard during Kotsenburg's ceremony on February 8th; but NBC is, for its American audience, dubbing-in, in post production (since we're seeing it here, in primetime in the US, many hours after it all actually happens; and so NBC has plenty of time to do it) a version that's more acceptable to the American ear. And actually, if that's what NBC is doing, it's journalistically ethically bad, but it's the kind of thing that I suppose could be considered acceptable in the world of purely entertainment television.
Still, I don't want to believe either of those what-would-be-cover-ups-by-NBC (if they were true) scenarios. Though it's a sporting event, it's reasonable to assume that NBC is using the same journalistic ethics as are used in hard news productions. Certainly even sports reporters are trained the same way as hard news reporters in journalism school; and I doubt if there's a newspaper, or radio or TV (or news-and-sports website) newsroom in which the sports people would be allowed to violate journalistic ethics when the hard news people would not be.
And journalistic ethics dictates that one cannot make even the slightest change to how things really are, just so they'll look better to the reader or viewer. For example, in my photo journalism courses, I learned (and in my actual work at newspapers, it was strictly enforced) that it's not even ethical to "flip a negative," meaning to flip-over a film negative when printing it onto photo paper so that, for example, a person is facing the opposite direction from that which s/he was actually facing when the photo was taken.
Sometimes someone who's laying-out an article in a newspaper or magazine (or now, on a website) will wish that a photo of someone in the story were facing the other direction; and the reason that matters is because every news layout person is trained to never have someone "looking off the page." In other words, if the photo is on the reader's right side of the page, then you want him/her to be looking to the reader's left, as if look across the page. If the person in the photo is looking to the reader's right, and said photo is on the reader's right side of the page, then the person in the photo is said to be "looking off the page;" and that's a graphical design taboo.
Some unethical article layout people, though, will, hoping no one will notice, "flip the negative" and reverse the way the person's looking, just to make the page look right. It's a very bad thing, though, journalistically ethically speaking.
And, yes, of course I know that these days, there's no film or actual negative involved in news and/or sports photography; it's all digital, now, and so any "flipping" is done on the computer screen. But the concept is still the same. It's flat-out journalistically unethical to "flip" any photo (or video) -- be it of a person or a thing or a landscape... whatever -- in any form of media. Only unethical commercial advertising layout people tend to ever do it; and they'd be fired from a real news organization if they ever got caught doing it there. That was my point.
All that said, sometimes when one is watching a video on some entertainment-only cable channel or something, one will occasionally see the video flipped: the person talking looking to the viewer's left at first, then there's a cut-away to something else, and when the video of the person talking returns, s/he's now facing to the viewer's right; then maybe back again later. Some video producers think it's "cool" to do crap like that, but it's very annoying to we oldsters... especially those of us who have real journalism training, and to whom journalistic ethics actually means anything.
So, then, if NBC dubbed the version of the US national anthem used in the medals ceremony on February 9th (and in medals cremonies thereafter) into the medals ceremony video from February 8th for its NBC Olyimpics website; or if NBC is dubbing a more-acceptable-to-Americans version of the US national anthem into all medals ceremonies where the US national anthem is played starting on the 9th and onward (because the Russians won't stop with the dissonant and durge-like version)...
...then, I'm sorry, but those breaches -- and serious ones -- of journalistic ethics which apply to even sports coverage.
At the same time, we must remember that we're talking about Russia, here; and that NBC is in Sochi at Russia's pleasure. What if it turns out that NBC really did dub, but the reason we've not heard about it is because the Olympics aren't yet over, and NBC hasn't gotten out of that godawful country yet; and so it just doesn't yet want to talk about any of this.
What if it turns out that once it's all overwith, and all the American reporters are finally back home, we begin hearing horror stories of how they had to tow certain lines while in Russia which they'll only be free to discuss once they're outta' there!
Americans think that Russia's different from back in the old Soviet Union days; and, indeed, for the first few years after Mikhail Gorbachev did as then-US-president Ronald Reagan asked, and "[tore] down that wall," and dissolved the USSR, etc., things were more free there. The future, there, actually looked kinda' almost bright, in fact! Many of us were excited.
But current (and for the past 16 years) Russian president Vladimir Putin is former KGB; and part of the USSR old-school. Under his leadership (a term I use loosely), Russia has become, in many ways, even worse than when it was part of the USSR. I refer you, again, to the piece last Sunday night on CBS 60 Minutes telling the disturbing story of US citizen, millionaire, and now-former Russian businessman Bill Browder and his unbelievable oddyssey in that corrupt and godforsaken country. The evidence of Russian awfulness, just generally, is everywhere; but that 60 Minutes piece is a good way to get the feel for it, if you're not already aware. I could go on, and on, and on, though. The problem is well-known.
I'm one of those liberal/progressives who doesn't completely trust US media; and so it's nice to be able to see how the BBC covers US events; or how Al Jazeera does it; or how the German DW network does it; or how the Japanese NHK does it, etc. Every American should take the time to see how our country is covered by those networks, just to give things a little perspective, and to help keep American media honest. I used to include Russia's "RT" network in that list, but the more I watched it -- and remember, when I write this, that I'm more left-leaning than right-leaning, in life -- the more I began to realize that RT, really, in the end, is little more than the propaganda arm of the Putin government, aiming its distorted message at Americans; just as the US's FOX NEWS CHANNEL is the propaganda arm of the US Republican Party, aiming its message at... well... mostly the gullible elderly, according to statistics... but you get my point. I am, then, very sad to see Larry King on RT; though his refusal to just retire gracefully is even more sad. But now I digress. Sorry.
My point is that for Putin, et al, to think that it's okay to use RT to propagandize Americans -- and, even both worse and also more tellingly, that he thinks we don't notice that that's what he's doing -- is exactly the kind of arrogance (actually, it's more of an arrogant cluelessness, exhibited, history shows us, by many of the world's oppressive leaders over time) that's required in order to pull a stunt like I'm thinking maybe I'm the first person to report, here, with this story, about this whole national anthem thing.
Now, all of that said, I'm not an idiot; and I am reasonable. I also understand technology, what with that being my consulting firm's primary area of expertise for pushing 40 years. And so I realize that this whole thing could just be the result of some kind of technical SNAFU by NBC on the night of February 8th. I acknowledge that it could be something as simple as that when the Russian orchestra recorded the US national anthem, the microphone placement was such that the bright and consonant part with the major chords somehow dominated one stereo channel, and the dark and dissonant part with the minor chords somehow dominated the other stereo channel; and then on the night of February 8th, somehow only the channel with the dark and durge-like dissonance was played either to the exclusion of the other channel, or so much louder than said other channel that it seemed, to the ear, like only the dark and dissonant part was what we were hearing through the TV that night; and that a proper and more balanced version is what was actually played in the stadium, and so is what made it to the video of Kotsenburg's medal ceremony on the NBC Olympics website.
Yes, I concede that's possible; and if it is, then I have egg on my face, here, indeed. And if it turns-out that that's what's happened, then, fine: I'll wear that egg. I'm a big boy. I can take it. And I always wear my mistakes.
But, you know... [sigh]... I dunno: everything... every part of me, to the depths of my soul, tells me that I'm not wrong about this; that there really is something goin on, here; that I heard what I heard, and that what I heard that night was not merely the sometimes minor-keyed and dissonant counter melody of the US national anthem...
...a counter melody, by the way, that I can whistle from memory because I played it so many times in band, in my youth. I know what that counter meolody sounds like! It's burned-into my memory. I even like it!
What I heard on my TV during Kotsenburg's medals ceremony on February 8th, though, as broadcast to my television set by the NBC television network affiliate in the San Francisco Bay area's KNTV, channel 3, was not merely the accidental dominance of the counter melody part...
...not even as attempted by a Russian orchestra which might instinctively try to play it a little bit Russia-fied.
No, I'm sorry: It was worse than that; more deliberate. More "take that, ugly Americans!"
I know what makes Russian music Russian music: the stuff that makes so both memorable, and so classically Russian the timeless works of such as Chesnokov, Stravinsky, Borodin, Cui, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky (both of them), Sokolov, Rimsky-Korsakov, Auerbach, Chernavsky, Prokofiev and other Russian masters. You could hear it in the very music played during the opening ceremonies at Sochi, where the Russian influence on even western music was palpable; and I suspect you'll hear it again in the closing ceremony tomorrow night. Watch for it, this time with what I've here written in mind. The Russian influence on virtually any song touched by that culture is unmistakable...
...and is nothing bad, I should make painfully clear. I love the Russian musical touch. It's amazing: bold, and huge, and dramatic, and soulful; full of angst, and informed by centuries of that country's rich, fascinating and often tragic history. There's not a darned thing wrong with such music...
...except that not one single bit of it belongs in the US national anthem!
If, during times when the Olympics have been held in the US, we took the classically-Russian-sounding Russian national anthem and America-fied it, by removing its dissonance and minor chord progressions, and replacing them it major, bright and consonant ones, it would be an outrage the would even anger the most conservative, anti-communist (Insani)Tea Party member!
Americans usually honor other cultures (er... well... unless it's the Mexican culture, and the Americans involved live in Arizona... but, hey... that's a rant for another day) by maintaining the integrity of such as their national anthems as our orchestras play them. We do that no matter how upset we might happen to be at said culture's country's leader at the time screw with such things. Some things in life are just not messed with. They're just not.
Yet it seems -- and I stress that word, because while I'm pretty sure I'm right, my mind is open to someone ultimately proving me wrong -- that the Russians deigned to mess with us and our national anthem at the Sochi Winter Games, even if only for that one performance of it on February 8th during the medal ceremony for the US's first gold medalist there: Sage Kotsenburg.
What will ultimatelly surprise me -- and pain me, though -- if it turns out that it's what happened, will be NBC's covering it up by later dubbing, in post-production, February 9th's Anderson medal ceremony's version of the US national anthem back into the video of Kotsenburg's February 8th ceremony video on the NBC Olympics website.
So, while I know I'm not nuts -- despite my ex-wife's quite probably insisting otherwise, if asked -- I could absolutely be wrong about all this. There could, in fact, be a very reasonable explanation for why what came out of my TV's speakers on the night of February 8th was very different from what came out of my computer's speakers a few days later when I watched what was purported to be the video of that February 8th moment on the NBC Olympics website.
Maybe what was played in the stadium during the February 8th Kotsenburg medal ceremony, and so what got onto its video on the NBC Olympics website, really was the same version of the US national anthem that we all started hearing during Anderson's medal ceremony on February 9th; and that we have continued to hear at every subsequent Sochi medal ceremony where a US athlete is standing highest on the podium, ever since.
Maybe, as I earlier here wrote, there was a technical SNAFU just on the NBC televsion network that caused only one stereo channel of Kotsenburg's ceremony's US national anthem -- the channel that contained all the durge-like minor chord progressions and dissonance -- to come out of both speakers of my TV that night; though both channels played properly through my computer speakers a few days later.
But, I'm sorry, my gut tells me there's more to it than that. My musical knowledge tells me that what I was hearing through my TV's speakers on the night of February 8th was more than just the occasionally-dissonant (but still bright) counter melody track of the US national anthem which was simply made slightly more dark and dissonant than the normal American version counter melody because it was a Russian orchestra playing it; and, c'mon: those guys can't do anything without tossing-in a little dark Russian dissonance.
It was, I tell you, more than that. But I can't demonstrate or prove it because I didn't happen to record it, and anything put on YouTube (that is, assuming anyone even so did, in this case) from their recording of it gets taken down so fast that no one can see it, anyway; plus the only known recording of it on the NBC Olympics website has, if I'm right, been doctored in post-production.
Speaking of recording, from the "Gregg DesElms's Missed Opportunities" department: I remember going to bed after the post-local-newscast additional Olympics coverage on the night of February 8th, which coverage extended and hour or two past midnight and into the morning of February 9th. And so I didn't yet know that the routine, for the whole Sochi Winter Games, of at least the San Francisco Bay area's channel 3 (if not all NBC-owned and affiliated channels around the country) would be to completely repeat evertt night's 8:00-PM -to-11:30-PM broadcast until the wee hours of the morning. If I had known, before I went to bed that night, that the Kotsenburg medal ceremony would be repeated at three or four in the morning, I'd have set my DVR to record it while I slept. At least then I could prove what I've here written.
But, alas... [sigh]... oh, well. Win some, lose some, I guess.
If there's anyone reading this who can help with a pristine, as-it-was-originally-broadcast on the NBC television network on the night of February 8th (and not as it quite possibly got later edited for the NBC Olympics website) copy of the Kotsenburg medal ceremony, please contact me. I would love to be proven either right or wrong about all this. It has really been bugging me...
...hence the reason I've finally here written about it.
NOW, AS A REWARD for wading through this piece, below is a video of the hands-down best national anthem ever performed at a sporting event by anyone, ever. No, seriously: Ever! Granted, it might not very amazing to young people who have become jaded by their performing idols' breaking rules and doing the unusual. But back when this video was made, we were all mostly still just a buncha' tight-asses whose eyebrows would raise at anyone going against the norm...
...and boy, oh, boy did this performance go against back then's norm! If you're not old enough to do it, then trust me when I tell you that if there were some way for you to have been around back then, you'd have thought this was ground breaking. Even now it holds-up. There has never been anyone quite like Marvin Gaye, and there never will be again. Before you view the below video, you might want to watch one of Gaye struggling through the national anthem in 1979 at a prize fight between Larry Holmes and Earnie Shavers II at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Click here to watch that one first, just so you can see how far he had come by the time he delivered this unforgettable performance four years later at the 1983 NBA Allstar Game at The Forum in Inglewood, California: the hands-down best national anthem performance, to this day, ever delivered at a sporting event.
Marvin Gaye singing the US national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star game at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Fourteen months later, Gaye would be dead -- just one day before his 45th birthday -- killed by his own father, who delivered a fatal gunshot to Gaye's chest as he sat on his bed at his parent's house, talking with his mother. He had been staying there -- nay, had retreated there -- after cocaine-induced paranoia and other illness during his 1983 "Sexual Healing" concert tour had left him weak and in need of care by his mother and father.
At the 2004 NBA All-Star Game, his daughter, Nona Gaye, tried to recapture the magic of that 1983 performance. Though it was good, as you'll see in the below video, it still wasn't anything like the original. Nothing has ever been, in fact. Marvin Gaye was the real deal.
At the 2004 NBA All-Star Game, singer, model and actress Nona Gaye, daugher of soul-singing legend Marvin Gay, accompanies a video of her father's ground breaking national anthem performance at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. He died 14 months later from a gunshot wound delivered by his father.
The unlicensed Smith & Wesson .38 caliber handgun used by Gaye's father (Marvin Gaye, Sr., a by-then-former minister in the House of God), to kill his son had been a present from him on Christmas day, 1983, to provide his father with protection against those who might break into the house.
Gaye, Jr., sadly, was also deeply depressed and even suicidal by that time; having tried to jump out of a moving vehicle while saying that he just wanted to end it all, only four days before his father shot and killed him. Friends and family stated, at the time, that Gaye had begun exhibiting signs of depression and paranoia; and now, in retrospect, some say they recognize a possible affective disorder... maybe even the beginnings of schizophrenia. He had taken to wearing multiple overcoats, and intentionally putting his shoes on the wrong feet; shuffling and mumbling and seemingly hearing voices. He is said to have been talking a lot, by the end of winter, 1984, about not being able to "take it, anymore;" and wanting to die.
Relations between Marvins Jr. and Sr. had become very strained, and they tried to avoid one another most of the time. On the day of Marvin Jr's death, his mother and father had been arguing over an insurance document; and at one point Marvin Jr. either just pushed his father out of his room, where he had been talking with his mother; or he hit and kicked him while so doing. In either case, his father then went and got the gun, returned to his son's room, and immediately fired one shot directly into his son's heart, killing him; and then he stepped closer and fired another round into his by-then-dead son's body.
Gaye, Sr., was later found to have had a tumor at the base of his brain which some say contributed to his lack of restraint and criminal behavior. It was removed, after which he was declared fit to stand trial. At trial, Gaye, Sr., insisted that his son had beaten him, and that he was afraid of him; and the photographs from the physical altercation between them on the day of his son's death seemed to support that. The judge then allowed Gaye, Sr., to plead no contest to voluntary manslaughter. He was give a six-year suspended prison sentence, and five years probation.
During his probation, his wife of 49 years divorced him. He moved into a nursing home in 1986; and died of pneumonia in 1998, just days before his 84th birthday.
Wait... how'd we get on him, again?
If you can help me get to the bottom of this whole national anthem thing, please let me know.