Monday, February 27, 2006

Over? Si.

I lost count somewhere around 578, but my guess is every print and electronic media outlet in America has or will put some variation on "World Says 'Arrividerci' to Torino Games" on its headline dek today. Because, it seems, that's what the Olympics are all about. In America, at least.

And I'm not just talking about pissy bitch Bryant Gumbel here either. But, since, hey Bryant: How many African Americans are there in Slovenia? Answer: none, because it's Slovenia. Stupid. Why not spend a little less time wondering about how American the Olympics are and a little more mental energy thinking about places on the globe where ethnic minorities are literally being wiped off the planet?

And the next person to call them 'pseudo-athletes' gets my foot in their ass. Irina Slutskaya and Johnny Wier aren't athletes because what? They have nice asses and wear sparkly costumes to work? Fuck you. Object to winter sports on aesthetic grounds if you must. Say curling isn't your cup of tea. But don't pull out the bullshit Dan Jenkins "cross-country skiing isn't a sport. It's how a Norwegian goes to the Safeway" argument, because yeah, it IS how a Norwegian goes to the Safeway, and if we went to the Safeway like that here in the US we'd probably have one of the highest standards of living in the world, too. But no, this is a NASCAR Nation, and we'd rather drive. Fine. Which one is more of a real athletic activity, now?

Anyway, we don't ski here in the US, apparently. (Or if we do ski, we drink whilst we do, Bode.) I think once we did, before Bloaty McBuildup folded like a cheap card table up on the mountaintop. (I guess we'd all better, because he's falling apart! Hi-yooooooh!) I can't tell what skiing should be anymore, because NBC's coverage of skiing was like its coverage of everything else: All US, all the time. so fucking predictable. I get that NBC wanted to hold our interest for as long as they could, considering how much dough-re-mi they've sunk into televising the games, but for as much coverage as there was, the US slant to virtually ALL of it made me want to whoops. And, of course, there were the three stooges in the Fake Paneling Lounge (with, I think, a fake fireplace? Jesus.): Bob "Little Bobby" Costas, Jim "Lamps" Lampley, and Jimmy "Oh Christ, pour soap in your ears so you don't have to listen to him" Roberts, telling us how awesome these games have been for the US. Except for Lindsay Jacobellis. That bitch needs to apologize to America for what she did! I love the idea somebody floated of Costas, Lampley, and Roberts all rubbing each other down after broadcasts, telling each other how great they were that day.

"You were awesome, Jimmy."
"Thanks, Bob. You rocked, too."
"Nah, I was a little--you think so? Really?"
"Hecks yeah, Bob."
"You were real great Bob."
"Thanks, Jimmy. You too, Lamps."

Now that's about as up close and personal as it gets. (For the record: I believe the Lake Placid Games in 1980 is where the term "Up Close and Personal" was used first. I may be wrong about that, but my point is that ABC kicked ass with its Olympics coverage two decades ago, and those featurettes were one reason why. The ones I remember most concerned sister and brother Hanni and Andreas Wenzel. Two downhill skiers. From Lichtenstein. The only way you'd get a story about a Lichtensteiner today is if he or she had two heads.) But if a "surly" black man decides not to skate in a race he may not have won anyway in order to concentrate on a race he did win, now that's a fucking story. Hero, villain, America!!! (Sorry, another parenthetical:Fuck you, whoever wrote the story about Shani Davis living on the "gang-infested streets of Chicago's South Side." Because he grew up in Hyde Park, home to that notorious gang magnet, The University of Chicago. Yeah. One of the great universities in the world, smack dab in one of the best neighborhoods in the city. True, Hyde Park is cheek-by-jowl with some less-than-great areas, but Davis hails from Hyde Park, and the point is the point. NBC made it sound all "Ooh, hopeless child torn from bullet-ridden streets, saved by the power of sport in a white suburban enclave" when he comes from a great South Side neighborhood, and the Evanston Skating Club has always been multiracial. It's Evanston, not Winnetka. But I guess NBC doesn't want people to know that Shani Davis'
story is maybe the average athete's story. In other words, as average as his talent is not.)

Again, I know NBC's producers think the only way to keep lazy-ass NASCAR Americans glued to the Games is All US, All The Time. But fuck, man, give us more credit than that. Technically, the coverage is the shit. (The ski-jumping cameras? Amazing.) Let's aspire to the level of Jim McKay and not Geraldo Rivera. Because if NBC goes to Beijing in two years with this kind of game plan, with the Games happening 14 hours ahead of TV time, I guarantee that only about 7 people will be watching. Including Bryant Gumbel.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sweet Genius!

Over to the right there, where the links are, you can see one for 'Rob Lindley, Talented Guy.' I've known Rob for going on eight years now, and he's always been a consummate performer and a fine musician. I've realized recently, reading his blog, that he's also become quite a good writer. His talents came together this evening in a superb entertainment called "Hit Factory."

Rob is an experienced player at the Chicago cabaret scene, having previously been married to a cabaret singer, Morgan Duke, and as a member of the trio Foiled Again. Foiled Again were the artists featured tonight in "Hit Factory." The two women who together with Rob make up Foiled Again are Allison Bazarko, soprano, and Anne Sheridan Smith, alto. I've known Anne and Allison for years as well; all four of us sang together at Navy Pier back when that still meant something, and they formed the trio while we were all still there. They've been a big wheel in local cabaret for a few years now, and "Hit Factory" started as a cabaret evening of theirs back about 2001. Briefly, "Hit Factory" was and is an evening of songs written by the composer's beehive known as the Brill Building, where great songwriting teams of the nascent rock-'n-roll wera seemingly sprang up like weeds, pounding out their chapters of the Great American Songbook in this deco building on lower Broadway in NYC. Rob's been mildly infatuated with these songs and their creators for a long time, and he's finally turned it into a full-fledged musical. Porchlight Music Theatre's new lab program, Off the Porch, presented a reading/performance of the piece Monday night at the Mercury Theatre here in Chicago. Foiled Again starred, and Rob wrote the book.

Bad stuff out of the way, because it's almost beside the point: There isn't really a play here. Actor John Francisco narrated the evening, and he basically served as a tour guide through the life and times of the writers and the mania they created at the Brill. (Porchlight Artistic Associate Sarah Morello directed the piece.) Occasionally, one of the trio would move center stage and speak what sounded to me like direct quotes from the songwriters themselves. None of this seemed necessary to me, because A) I'm not a fan of shoehorning songs into a format just because it might say "musical," and B) there's nothing inherently theatrical about these songs.

These, what songs. What writers! Gerry Goffin/Carole King! Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich! Bacharach and David! Rodgers and Hart! (OK, not the last one.) Rob's expertise in curating a cabaret evening was palpable here, because he served up not only the big hits ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "Da Do Ron Ron," "Leader of the Pack") but also obscuros like Bacharach and David's "Me Japanese Boy, I Love You" and Carole King's tongue-in-cheek answer to Neil Sedaka's "Oh! Carol!" which is, yeah, "Oh Neil." All were fantastically put over by Foiled Again, with schilky-schmoov vocal arrangements by Allison, and a fine five-piece band led by Doug Peck.

It would be easy to dismiss Anne Sheridan Smith as the sassy alto belter, Allison Bazarko as the doe-eyed thrush, and Rob Lindley as, um, the guy. Too easy. All three were given a chance to do the funny, do the touching, and do the rock, and all three did so in spades. The highlights of the evening for me were Anne and Allison two-handing it with two very different songs, "Look of Love" and "The Look of Love," Allison singing the former, a "look at the two of them" torcher; and Anne singing the more familiar Bacharach/David number, looking fabulous in a tight black dress. (Allison and Rob looked great too.) Rob's pure, unadorned reading of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" was the penultimate number, nearly wiping out the room before all three closed it out with a kickin' version of the Phil Spector/Jeff Barry /Ellie Greenwich epic "River Deep, Mountain High."

I may sound like I'm fawning over my friends. So what. I've known how good they were for a long time, and God willing, you'll all get that chance. So the next time you see the words "Foiled Again" in the paper, stop and pop, because I urge you to see them wherever they'll be next, doing whatever they'll do. I personally hope it's a less-talk-more-rock version of "Hit Factory: Songs of the Brill Building." Because these three should be riding this songbook to some phazzy phat cash.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Here We Goes Again

So there's one God-damned Democrat out there with a pair of balls?

Seriously, when John Sununu, for Christ's sake, starts sounding more egalitarian than the Democrats, it's no wonder my party sucks.

And I'll cry if I want to.