Tag Archives: Michael Phelps

“Shaming…” is, itself, repulsive.

18 Nov

But I knew it’d come to this.

This article on dealing with male sexual abuse, How to Stop the Predators Who Aren’t Famous, uses the word “to shame” for how to deal with sexual predators (whatever that is or, rather, whoever we choose to define as such) several times, without the slightest compunction or socio-historical apprehensions that that word should carry with it.

Our mission should be a cold, legal, detached one that will make sure that the men who committed these acts of emotional and/or physical violence to vulnerable others are brought to justice. (And women, though I remember how many were baying for Brigitte Macron’s blood when her husband first took office and it churns my stomach.)  It’s not to make a moral example of them.

The need “to shame” is as dangerous — if not more — and revolting as the behavior we would like it to stigmatize.  It’s a moralizing, slippery slope, one that has proven particularly dangerous in American history.  I know the sweet hard-on many Americans seem to experience at the public humiliation and character assassination of an individual.  Resist it.

Hester Prynne

From @hester__pynne

And see my Michael Phelps posts.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

I told you they wouldn’t leave him alone.

19 Aug

Digging up dirt is their business, and the higher the target, the more cheap glory accrues to their little souls.  We have one of the greatest athletes in history, photographed by one of the greatest artists of our time (do we understand that that’s what the Greeks did?), and they’re worried about the “rules.”  The idea that super high-end professionals likes Phelps’ agent and p.r. people, the entire Louis Vuitton corporate world, and Annie Leibovitz and her p.r. people, all knew about this rule — which is new, by the way — and deliberately flaunted it, is absurd.  But let’s see how this plays out.  There are no limits to people’s pettiness. 

If they take away any medals I’m going after somebody; I’m not kidding.

Beautiful work on Leibovitz’ part — goes without saying.

The other part of the ad below.

“Swimming champion Michael Phelps might be in hot water with the International Olympic Committee after photos of his posing in a bathtub for part of a Louis Vuitton ad campaign were leaked on the Internet.

Phelps was photographed for the campaign in a bathing suit and goggles in a bathtub reportedly by photographer Annie Leibovitz. The photos were released during a time when Olympic athletes are banned from participating in marketing campaigns.

The regulation was introduced this year by the Olympic Committee and is known as Rule 40, prohibiting athletes from participating in advertising from July 18 to Aug. 15, which included periods before and after the Olympic Games.

The photo of Phelps in the bathtub next to a Louis Vuitton bag, however, popped up on the Internet in early August, appearing on Paper Mag and the Los Angeles Times, among other websites.

Athletes who break Rule 40 can face sanctions, including financial penalties and disqualification from games, which can mean a loss of medals, as outlined in the Olympic Committee’s guidebook. 

The U.S. International Olympic Committee and Louis Vuitton declined to comment. Representatives for Leibovitz did not immediately return calls from ABC News.”

For other Phelps posts see: Michael Phelps“;  “An angry man — that is my subject.”; Ποιόν σοι εγκώμιον προσαγάγω επάξιον, τι δε ονομάσω σε, απορώ και εξίσταμαι“…απορώ και εξίσταμαι.” , which explains other Greek heading, or check out tag box at lower right.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“…απορώ και εξίσταμαι.”

14 Aug

I was going to leave my boy Mikey alone for a while, because the games are over, obviously, and because he deserves some time without us intruding on his life all over the place.  But a couple of people want to know what the Greek heading on my last Phelps post meant so I’m back bothering him again.

It says:

Ποιόν σοι εγκώμιον προσαγάγω επάξιον, τι δε ονομάσω σε, απορώ και εξίσταμαι.

“What praise can I approach you with that would be worthy?  By what name address you?  I stand beside myself in wonder.”

It’s from the Orthodox service of the Salutations of the Virgin (Chairetismoi), which are a series of services sung on Friday nights during Lent — Saturday mornings for the Russians.  I have no idea why it’s sung during Lent; the subject matter is Lent-irrelevant; and I also have no idea whether it’s actually a Vespers or a Matins service, since Greeks have a habit of singing Matins the night before, “in anticipation,” which I like because I don’t like getting up in the mornings for church or anything, and because night-time seems more appropriate for what Rebecca West calls “the dark and mysterious Orthodox rite,” but the Russians are probably right to sing it in the mornings because they’re greater sticklers when it comes to issues of office accuracy (which means it must be Matins) and because Friday nights during Lent are really supposed to be when the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy, the most “dark and mysterious” of all “dark and mysterious” Orthodox rites, should be conducted anyway and now nobody knows what I’m talking about.

It’s also – I’m being serious now – called the Akathist hymn, the Un-sitting hymn, because it should be heard standing up, but all Orthodox services should be heard standing up; pews are an innovation of Greek-American churches, and Russian churches don’t even have the stalls for older people that Greek churches have always had.  It was supposedly first sung during an Avar siege of Constantinople in the 7th century, which was then miraculously lifted.

The lines above are addressed to the Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel.  It must’ve been truly wonderous to hear it set to an Ottoman-era composition, but it’s now sung to a banal nineteenth-century tune that ruins the poetry.  This was part of the halting but thankfully limited “modernization” of the music of the Greek Church that occurred in that and the early twentieth century; I wonder if the influence of Anatolian refugees and clerics put a stop to it.  But the more central a hymn was considered to a service’s meaning, the more likely it was to have been set, at some point, to a boring, semi-Western, “Mary-had-a-little-lamb” melody (like the hair-pullingly tedious Ainoi on Good Friday night, which seem to last for hours and which many — unbelievably — consider the highlight of Holy Week), in order to encourage, you know, congregational participation along Protestant and Neo-Catholic lines, as if it were more spiritually edifying to sing badly in a group (we’re not Black, you know) than to listen to the technically demanding music of the Church — essentially a branch of the Perso-Ottoman classical tradition — performed by highly trained cantors.  Maybe I’ll remember that next time I’m at the opera.

(There were a group of young – teenage – cantors here in Astoria in the nineties who were real prodigies and who used to dig up the older compositions for these hymns and ambush the congregation with them; I used to love to hear their clear tenors and baritones and technically perfect drone silence the bewildered aunties.)

The last clause, “απορώ και εξίσταμαι”  “I stand beside myself in wonder” is used sometimes as an ironic archaicism by Neo-Greeks to mean: “You’re shitting me…” or “Are you for real?” or like when a kvetching girlfriend says: “You know, I really can’t believe you…”  But I doubt most of them know where it’s from.

Anyway, it may be weird to choose a hymn to the Virgin with which to sing the praises of Michael Phelps, but the lyrics just hit the perfect tone of wonder and adoration due an athlete — and man — like him and Mikey’s a Cancer so he’ll get the Mother thing.

Another fresco from the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Decani in Kosovo (click), but I can’t for the life of me figure out what episode in either Christ or the Virgin’s life it’s supposed to represent, unless it’s the time Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem and lost Jesus because he was at the Temple discussing the Torah with the elders, but he was twelve in that story…

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Ποιόν σοι εγκώμιον προσαγάγω επάξιον, τι δε ονομάσω σε, απορώ και εξίσταμαι

4 Aug

No more to be said.

“The medal was Phelps’s 22nd over all, the most by any Olympian; his 18th gold; and his 6th in London. Phelps’s week has been something of a farewell tour, marked at different times by sadness or smiles, memories and melancholy. He has seemed to soften around the edges, letting people into a life so long closed to outsiders as he pursued swimming history, but he never lost his edge.”

The vultures’ll continue hounding him, come up with the tritest dirt; as soon as they had to stop dissing him when he shook off his initial losses in London, the sleazebag press had started going off on stories about why his father was absent — a real wound for him — and not like Lochte’s, red-faced and slobbering over his son after every event.

Knowing his anger and sensitivity about his relationsip with his father, I can only imagine how that infuriated him; and can now guess at how the 2009 witch-hunt and the American public repentance machine he has had to bow to all these years must’ve twisted up his guts in rage: Michael Phelps.  Maybe now he can fulfill my fantasy and publicly declare: “I’m Michael Phelps and fuck all y’all.”  And take a good, deep hit.  And not just a hit.  Drink.  Eat whatever what you want.  Sleep late.  Travel.  Fuck a lot.  And then eventually think about what’s next.

‘Cause whatever this tough, driven, generous and fundamentally All-American good-natured kid does next, he’ll kick ass and the gods’ll all be behind him as he does.

Twenty-two medals — eighteen gold.  The greatest Olympian in history.


“But tell me: how did gold get to be the highest value? Because it is uncommon and useless and gleaming and gentle in its brilliance; it always gives itself. Only as an image of the highest virtue did gold get to be the highest value. The giver’s glance gleams like gold. A golden brilliance concludes peace between the moon and the sun. Uncommon is the highest virtue and useless, it is gleaming and gentle in its brilliance: a gift- giving virtue is the highest virtue.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

By Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images (GOTTA click)

For other Phelps posts see: Michael Phelps;  “An angry man — that is my subject.”“…απορώ και εξίσταμαι.” , which explains the title of this post; and “I told you they wouldn’t leave him alone” or check out tag box at lower right.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

And another gold, cabrones!!

3 Aug

100m Butterfly — his twenty-first Olympic medal; his seventeenth gold.

And another gold!

3 Aug

200m Individual Medley — his twentieth Olympic medal; his sixteenth gold.


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com


26 Jul

The photo Phelps took for his Olympic I.D. card in London.  He had just gotten up from a nap.  “That’s a hot picture,” Phelps said, laughing…

Maybe he’s finally matured enough to give the gossip-sphere the finger.


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Michael Phelps

26 Jul

Another favorite athlete.

Michael Phelps, of course, has been let out of the mothballs of American moralism for a few months now.  He brought his polis glory at Olympia, did good by the friggin U.S. of A for a long time and then was clapped in the stocks and packed away into a closet for the major crime of having taken a bong hit of some plain old weed like everyone else.  Subway, I think, never totally withdrew their sponsorship, but, in general, the kid was abandoned for years till some commercials started reappearing again recently – but the whole thing, until the absolute eve of the Games, has been kind of low key and sotto voce.  “60 Minutes” had an interview with him Sunday night that I didn’t stand to watch for cringe of the sorries and guilts and mea-culpas that his p.r. people are probably still making him recite.  In any event, it’s obvious from the spate of light porn ads we’ve been subjected to that Ryan Lochte is the media’s swimmer sex-star for these Olympics, though there’s no indication — as London preliminaries have shown — that he’s as fierce a swimmer as Phelps.

Here’s a piece that I wrote back in 2009 when Mikey committed his major crime because I was so enraged by the whole incident, complete with American sheriff huffing and puffing about putting the bad guy away.  It’s not just about Phelps; it’s about athleticism, manhood, heroism and the twisted, perverted notions of all of the above that contemporary America suffers from, and as America goes, the rest of our world; one always wants to hope not, but one’s hopes are usually disappointed.


February 2009


I’m writing to everybody because I think it’s important for as many of us as is possible to speak out against one of our most recent episodes of moral nonsense: the Michael Phelps issue with the bong picture and the whole issue of the criminalization of marijuana generally

My main intent is not to argue in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana use, but I have to start there to move further.  There are people better equipped than I am to argue that case, but I just need to state clearly that keeping marijuana use illegal is ridiculous and that eventually it’ll be recognized as an even bigger and more futile moral absurdity than Prohibition was.  Unfortunately that recognition will not help the people who have been harassed and incarcerated for it, the young people whose records have been pointlessly marred with meaningless arrests, the minors trapped in America’s private jail gulag, or those whose already underprivileged lives have been damaged irreparably by these laws.

I’ve never even smoked pot, but the moral randomness of this position is so mind-boggling that it makes my hair stand on end.  I’m not a doctor or a biochemist, but I can tell you for a fact that marijuana use is not even close to as destructive as even casual alcohol use can be.  And I can tell you with even more certainty that it’s not nearly as damaging to the body and spirit as the garbage that two-hundred million obese Americans shovel into their mouths every day without any legal interference at all.  McDonald’s will kill you or radically lower the quality of your life far faster than pot will – in fact, I think it should be illegal.

But beyond that, what I most want to put out there is my disgust at the spiritual and aesthetic bankruptcy of American culture that this whole circus has once again revealed: not just the trite outrage, the moralizing, the canned language of the ridiculous apologies and Protestant confessions, or the Puritan hand-wringing which always carries with it that nasty whiff of pure persecution that it has so often slid into in our history and into which it can easily slide again.  Spiritual and aesthetic bankruptcy are equivalent states – I can’t think of a better way to put that right now; how about “it is meet and right” to honour the beautiful — and even more than the unjust scapegoating and even real civil rights abuses this kind of stupidity can lead to, it’s another kind of emptiness that galls me: the fact that Michael Phelps is nothing for us but someone we can rip apart like this; that we’ll commodify him or trash him, but no sense of greater meaning ever comes from who someone like him is.

What do I mean?  I mean that in a healthy civilization Michael Phelps would put on his crown of laurels, call a press conference and say: “I’m Michael Phelps and fuck all y’all…”  And he wouldn’t even raise his voice.  “Look at me. I got fourteen gold medals. I’m a god.”  And step away – sorry, no questions.  Because gods don’t even apologize for their crimes, much less their little pleasures that are none of your business anyway.   But he can’t do that because we’re too little.  We’ve lost the sense of awe or worship or grandeur that could have received that.  We no longer understand a radical assertion of self; shitty selfishness we get alright — in the disgusting immorality of our politics and of our business and economic practices — but a radical assertion of power or beauty or manhood just freaks us out and we’re blind to the spring of good things that assertion can become for all of us.  We don’t know what to do with him.  We don’t even know how to destroy him, how to dismember him and eat him like some captive Aztec deity in the hope that we’ll gain some of his strength that way or be saved or whatever it is one wants out of absorption of the numinous.  So we make this magnificent kid grovel and humiliate himself for no reason.  And then we feel better about our own misery and impotence and impoverished spiritual world.

Carlyle said: “Great souls are always loyally submissive, reverent to what is above them; only small, mean souls are otherwise.”  Mean souls is right.  The whole sickening schadenfreude again, which that poor pendeja Paris Hilton didn’t even deserve, much less Phelps…  The wholly squirrelly attitude of  “ha, ha, big stud who thought he was above the law gets taken down a notch…put in his place…” even from intelligent quarters like the New York Times, like this inane piece of pettiness and daddy-preaching from George Vecsey.  We’ve lost any sense of real pride in a phenomenon like Phelps, but we’re all so quick to point out hubris when we think we see it.

Everybody is so happy to call him a dork now, a stoner, a callow fratboy.  But if we see him as nothing but a callow fratboy, that’s our problem, not his; it’s because we don’t recognize the Divine in anything anymore.  If you can look at Michael Phelps and not see the innocence of a Parsifal or a Galahad, you’re the callow one.  And if you don’t see that innocence, it’ll never be transformed into the heroism or strength of a Parsifal or a Galahad either.  You’ll dumb him down and box him in with ethical pettiness — meaning castrate him — so he stays like you.  You just see fratboys, so you’ll get fratboys; all that’s proof of is how far your spiritual imagination extends and that we’ll continue to progressively slide even further into a nation of callow fratboys than we already have.  Every culture gets the culture it deserves.

Kellogg’s dropped their sponsorship of Phelps….  Oooooo….  We’ve let Kellogg’s – Kellogg’s, malaka! the cereal! the vendor of bad carbs and high fructose corn syrup! — become a voice in this fake moral debate.  I wonder what the folks at Oscar Meyer have to say…or Wonderbread…or Pop-tarts, though I’m sure one company owns all of them.  We obviously haven’t turned a single page since the 50s then, and we deserve no sympathy.

Meanwhile, the first thing I thought when I saw that photo and the only real moral issue that it raises for me — the issue of who that scumbag was, the “friend” or fellow partier who took that picture and distributed it to the media — isn’t ever even mentioned!  The betrayal, the cheapness, and the way we cheaply use this traitor’s cheapness as an opportunity to do our moralizing and to turn Phelps into Hester Prynne, that he was probably even rewarded for it…. THAT doesn’t seem to scandalize or bother anybody!  Apparently betrayal and opportunism are now American moral ideals but the simple pleasure of a bong, enjoyed by a kid who more than deserves it and made us so proud…THAT’S a crime….

So, here’s some Cavafy that I think says it all — at least for those who “understand and step aside:”

One of Their Gods

“When one of them moved through the marketplace of Seleucia
just as it was getting dark—
moved like a young man, tall, extremely handsome,
with the joy of being immortal in his eyes,
with his black and perfumed hair—
the people going by would gaze at him,
and one would ask the other if he knew him,
if he was a Greek from Syria, or a stranger.
But some who looked more carefully
would understand and step aside;
and as he disappeared under the arcades,

among the shadows and the evening lights,
going toward the quarter that lives
only at night, with orgies and debauchery,
with every kind of intoxication and desire,
they would wonder which of Them it could be,
and for what suspicious pleasure
he had come down into the streets of Seleucia
from the August Celestial Mansions.”

(Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard)

So step aside creeps and shut up — and be grateful you were there to see him pass.

(Below is the original Greek and a Spanish translation too)


Ένας Θεός των

Όταν κανένας των περνούσεν απ’ της Σελευκείας
την αγορά, περί την ώρα που βραδυάζει,
σαν υψηλός και τέλεια ωραίος έφηβος,
με την χαρά της αφθαρσίας μες στα μάτια,
με τ’ αρωματισμένα μαύρα του μαλλιά,
οι διαβάται τον εκύτταζαν
κι ο ένας τον άλλονα ρωτούσεν αν τον γνώριζε,
κι αν ήταν  Έλλην της Συρίας, ή ξένος. Aλλά μερικοί,
που με περισσοτέρα προσοχή παρατηρούσαν,
εκαταλάμβαναν και παραμέριζαν·
κ’ ενώ εχάνετο κάτω απ’ τες στοές,
μες στες σκιές και μες στα φώτα της βραδυάς,
πηαίνοντας προς την συνοικία που την νύχτα
μονάχα ζει, με όργια και κραιπάλη,
και κάθε είδους μέθη και λαγνεία,
ερέμβαζαν ποιος τάχα ήταν εξ Aυτών,
και για ποιαν ύποπτην απόλαυσί του
στης Σελευκείας τους δρόμους εκατέβηκεν
απ’ τα Προσκυνητά, Πάνσεπτα Δώματα.



Cuando uno de ellos atravesaba el ágora
de Seleucia al caer la tarde,
en la figura de un hombre joven, alto y hermoso,
perfumada la negra cabellera
y la alegría de la inmortalidad en sus pupilas,
los que al pasar le contemplaban
se preguntaban uno a otro si alguien acaso le conocía,
si era tal vez griego de Siria o un extranjero. Pero algunos
que le observaban más atentos
comprendían y se apartaban.
Y mientras él, bajo los pórticos,
entre las sombras se perdía y la luz tenue del crepúsculo
hacia los barrios que despiertan
sólo en la noche para la orgía,
la embriaguez y la lujuria y todo género de vicios,
admirados se preguntaban cuál de entre ellos era éste
y por qué placer equívoco
hasta las calles de Seleucia descendía desde la augusta
beatitud de sus moradas.

Versión de José Ángel Valente

For other Phelps posts see:  “An angry man — that is my subject.” “Ποιόν σοι εγκώμιον προσαγάγω επάξιον, τι δε ονομάσω σε, απορώ και εξίσταμαι”“…απορώ και εξίσταμαι.” , which explains the title of the other Greek-heading post; and “I told you they wouldn’t leave him alone” or check out tag box at lower right.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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