Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Time for a Reverse 540, Lindsay, and have some FUN

I've been thinking a lot about Lindsay Jacobellis, and I've come to the conclusion that a lot of people in the sports media don't get the snowboarding/skateboarding culture, and at the risk of sounding cliche, GenX in general.

I wanted to smack Bob Costas this weekend when he was interviewing her. OK, "What were you thinking?" was a legitimate question, but she basically replied that she was having fun, she got lost in the moment, and, well, it happened. And I believe her. That interview was preceded by a video bit with NBC lecturing Jacobellis, saying that yeah, Greg Norman choked at the Masters and Leon Lett hotdogged in the Super Bowl (thanks, Gila, for helping me get those names right), but this was different. How so, NBC? Is it different because they're guys, and heck, guys will be guys? Just exactly how is this different?

Lindsay was having FUN, Bob. FUN. Remember FUN? That's the concept we try to teach kids: that's what sports are FUNdamentally supposed to be about. FUN. In fact, I remember the days when the Olympics were strictly for amateurs. You couldn't be a pro and be in the Olympics. None of this "dream team" crap. People going out and playing these sports for the pure joy of it. The money would taint it, was the feeling. That's why we love the 1980 Hockey team. And Lindsay herself isn't that shook up about it. That's the sport, just like Apolo Anton Ohno shrugged off falling in his race four years back. "That's short track," he shrugs, very Dale Earnhardt, "That's racin'." That's the nature of the sport. That's why its FUN.

And the comparison to Norman and Lett is bad for another reason. In fact, they're the ones who should be raked over the coals, not Jacobellis. Norman and Lett are pros. They've been at this for a long time. They're seasoned veterans who are used to the media spotlight.They should know better. Let's not forget that even if Lindsay had brought home the gold, outside of a Burton Snowboards endorsement, she's not buying lakefront property with her winnings. At best, she'll be making a fraction of a percent of the $$$ from her sport that Norman and Lett make. So, let's rake this easy target over the coals. After all, she's not a pro. After all, she's half the age of the two other people you said could be excused for their messups. After all, nobody's every heard of her before this, nobody even knew her sport existed, and she doesn't have the limelight experience that these pros have. So, Bob, you just go and take potshots at this easy target. Because this time it's different. It's different all right. You don't get it, that's how its different.

Here's what I want to see happen, here's my fantasy: I want Jacobellis to come back in four years, and instead of being a good little girl smacked down back to behave like you want her to, I want her to train the hell out of herself so that when she's sailing down to that gold medal, not only does she grab that board, she doesn't just simply hot dog it. I want her to foot-long serious Klement's Italian Sausage it. She should end the race next time around by digging deep into her gen X snowboard skatepunk background and finish it with the flourish that only a reverse 540 can throw. Take that, Bob Costas!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Scheherazade: The Right Way to Tell the Story

I've been to enough writer's conferences where much time is spent on determining the right way to tell a story. Once I even conceded that writing may not always be the right way to tell the story (big of me, eh?). Friday night, Stella and I went to see the Milwaukee Ballet dancing Kathryn Posin's take on the story of the Arabian Nights, and I must say, the ballet is the absolute correct medium to tell the story of Scheherazade.

It was sensual and beautiful. Every year I take Stella to see the Nutcracker, every year I wait until my favorite portion, the Arabian dance, and every year I wish that could go on longer than it does. And so when I saw that Scheherazade was returning (missed it the first time), I was really happy. What a treat-- a whole night of Arabian Dance! The sets are minimal, focusing all the attention to the dancers, as they go through those stories from my youth -- Aladdin, the Magic Horse, and my favorite this evening, Sinbad the Sailor. It was a wonderful ballet to take a 7 year old girl to for a variety of reasons. First, the minimal sets encouraged us to take what they gave us and let our imaginations fill in the rest, as though we were reading the story. Particularly effective was the use of flowing blue fabric and dancers dressed in that same fabric to suggest the cruel sea that Sinbad finds himself lost in.

But it's the overall story that I was happy to share with Stella. This isn't a princess gets swept off her feet and lives happily ever after deal. Scheherazade has a job to do: she basically saves her people from massacre and murder, particularly the women of her culture. She is able to accomplish this not only because she is beautiful physically, but she is intelligent, well-read, clever, loving, and strong in her resolve. She earns the love and respect of a king who is under a very evil influence, and ends up being the influence instead. King slips (big time!) but by now, Scheherazade and her stories are so powerful that they (with the help of one of her characters, Aladdin's lamp genie) can even overcome mass destruction and death. Now that's a female protagonist a feminazi can proudly take her little girl to see! Its also nice to see, in these Taliban-tainted times, portrayals of middle eastern women with these traits, with plenty of powerful sexuality. We forget that the part of the world that forced burqas on their women is also the part of the world that gave us belly dancing and incredibly sensual music. Plus, the role of Scheherazade is danced by Kara Wilkes, who (and everybody goes on and on about this) is a taller than average, and thus a powerful looking woman. She's got a wonderful duality between power and tenderness, grace and strength. Stella was in awe of her and, yeah, so was I. Ballet in general has those traits, led by graceful power, and was thus the perfect medium to convey this story.

Opening act was an abstract thing called Coronach, directed by Lila York. "I didn't get it," the dad of a father-daughter date we shared a table with during intermission admitted. It wasn't a story, and admittedly, Stella was just as bored with it as the daughter with whom we compared favorite episodes of Puffy Ami Umi. I enjoyed it, although it went a bit long. As I told the dad, "I knew it wasn't a story ballet, that it was sort of like modern art in that it was there to be enjoyed in and of itself." It looked cool. I think I put up with it because I've been watching figure skating all week, and the purpose of figure skating at the Olympics is to show off your ability, not necessarily tell a story, so I was in the frame of mind to accept showing off ability, snippets of cool effects and dances that could probably be part of a bigger, more sensical production. (It reminded me a lot of the songs of Kim Deal.) But both me and the dad explained to our daughters that big productions like this usually have opening acts that you may or may not necessarily like. Sometimes, the audience hates the opening act, even if the opening act ends up being bigger than the headliner. I told Stella to her astonishment, "One time Jimi Hendrix opened up for the Monkees and got booed off the stage." Stella, a Hendrix fan, couldn't believe it. "So sometimes, it really pays to really pay attention to the opener."

"I was still bored," Stella replied. So there you have it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

To Be or Not To B-Ball

Nice sweet little blowout from the Bucks to the Seattle Supersonics. The sonics never had a chance. The Bucks came out shooting, and Seattle's D just couldn't get it together. Gave the Bucks a chance to rest their starters and let the bench get some good time in. Dan Gadzuric is almost a second string starter, and he's quite the defender. Joe Smith could use a little more shooting practice.

Seattle looked awful in the black socks. There is not one stich of black in their uniforms, so that black socks rule played out here. What's worse is that Seattle's uniforms look like college uniforms. College uniforms from the 70s. Brian says these are the Sonics' uniforms from the 70s. The uniforms don't look bad in and of themselves -- I actually like this retro look. But if you're going with a retro look, you should do it all the way down to the socks. The correct socks for these uniforms would have been white tube socks, with three stripes at the top: a yellow sandwiched between two greens, with, of course, matching green Chuck Taylors on their feet. Then, they could complete the look with some form-fitting shorts, just like everybody used to have in the 70s.

I'm reading more and more about the whole black tights discussion, and it's really annoying me. Some people are comparing the look to that of ballet dancers as though being compared to a ballet dancer was a bad thing. Ballet dancers are world class athletes in their own right. Baryshnikov and the hundreds of other straight men ballet dancers never had any problems attracting the ladies, contrary to crude stereotypes. (And gay male ballet dancers rarely have problems getting laid, for that matter.) Besides, if they really looked like ballet dancers, they'd have the aforementioned form fitting shorts so the ladies would get a preview of what's in the package. No, the better simile would be Shakespearian actors. The baggy shorts look almost like an Elizabethan tunic with those black tights. Casting call: Andrew Bogut as Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and Michael Redd, as, of course, Othello. The two of them really do look rather swashbuckling in those black tights. I think I'm talking myself into liking this look, for I do love the theatre! En garde!

What a relief, I don't have to diss any kids tonight as regards the anthem. I kind of feel bad about Saturday night, but they really did suck. For this evening, the Bradley Center brought in some leather sportscoat-wearing lounge stylist by the name of Jerry Stephani, who crooned the anthem tastefully and soulfully: he had good dynamic range, but wasn't obnoxious about it. Very nice, a classy if not lounge rendition.

Lots of Valentine schtick from the promos and the mascots tonight. Bango the Buck brought out his "girlfriend," to plenty of snickers about Bango's name as they scurried off to the tunnel to do whatever bucks and does do. The Energee girls came out in red and black and did a routine to yet another forgettable pseudo-funk thing. Adorable little toddler girl and boy run around the court with valentines to each other, and the "Kiss Cam" was running during a seemingly long time out.

Ah, but the non-basketball highlight of the evening was definitely Chicago's The Bucket Boys, the halftime entertainment. Great stuff. Brian nailed the description: "The Drummers of Burundi on a Budget." Four guys sitting on stools, with, between them, about 6 of those five gallon white plastic buckets that bulk paint or fast food pickles come in, each guy holding a pair of standard drumsticks that probably cost more than the buckets. You can just picture the leader of this group, on break during his day job, thinking to himself, "There has got to be a better way of making money with these buckets than slogging pickles," while tapping out a rhythm with some paint mixing sticks or wooden spoons, remembering that tour of STOMP he'd seen a few years back on a high school field trip. The light bulb goes on, and now they're performing at halftime shows and getting standing ovations. These guys were as tight as any drumline James Brown would hire.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bucks v Memphis: Tightly Under the White Shadow

A satisfying win from the Bucks this evening. Fairly tight game the whole way through.

I still have not decided what to make of Terry "The White Shadow" Stotts. I know it's his first season with the Bucks, and he's probably still feeling his way around, but he just seems so bemused by it all, and this attitude might be transferring to the team. The Bucks themselves don't seem frustrated by their performance this season, they just go out and play. Maybe that's a good thing, but it might do them some good to be pissed off by their record, by their frustrating and often heartbreaking losses. Its like they've just accepted that they're "playas," but not "contendas." They should be contenders, but they're not. Maybe its not pissing them off, but its pissing me off. Whatever, tonight they were pretty, and the bench was nice and deep, but that still isn't waning my anticipation for the return of Mo Williams from injury.

I'm sorry, Northlake High School Band, but your rendering of the anthem this evening basically shows you're not ready for the big time. It's bad enough your entire woodwind section was out of tune (or maybe the brass were out of tune, and the woodwinds in) but first, you come out wearing jeans. Jeans? That's your uniform? Is the school that poorly funded that you can't afford some tasteful black pants? Not, those jeans made you look just as sloppy and unprepared as you ended up sounding. The anthem was, in a word, terrible. No dynamics, nothing. Worst part: you didn't even do the ritard during "o'er the la-and of the free." Not only did you not ritard, you played it like five quarter notes, instead of, at a minimum, a dotted quarter followed by an eighth and then the three remaining quarter notes. Sounds like a band teacher too lazy to spend a couple of days working on a standard rhythm run that third graders could get. This would have been endearingly cute had you been a class full of third graders, but you are high school students. Have you ever played the anthem for a crowd bigger than 200? Have you ever played the anthem at all? That's how bad it was. It sounds like the teacher just passed out the sheet music and this was your first run-through. No, you've had at least 5 home football games and you're halfway through prep basketball season. There's no excuse for this. You should know this song and be able to play it well by now. I'm sorry, I know you're not the UW-Madison Marching Badgers, and I know I'm being harsh, but I'm doing you a favor by telling you this. Go home and work on your delivery before you come back to the big city. Oh, and sell some nasty frozen pizzas and use the money to get yourselves a strobotuner.

I was in a particularly harsh mood tonight overall. They had the pee-wee game at halftime, and it was cute, but geez, these kids were traveling and double dribbling like there was no tomorrow. Brian disagrees with my stance that they should have been calling these (or at least the really blatant traveling, like the kid who held the ball while he ran around the paint like it was rugby). He says they'd never get any shooting in if they did. He's probably right, but this only points to bad coaching. Why teach kids that violating fundamental concepts of the game is acceptable? I can slide on the 3-second lane violation, and a shot clock is ridiculous for kids, and I'd be willing to pass on backcourting and goaltending to keep a game moving. But traveling and double dribble? I don't see the coaches at the Ys letting the pee-wees get away with this --they stop play until the kids get it right. I know that's not much of a "show," and yeah it was cute, but note to self: don't enroll my kid in the McDonald's PeeWee Hoops program --the coaching and skills work leaves me wanting. The kids could shoot -- they left them at regulation height, I'll give 'em that, and there were no fouls whatsoever. But I'm sticking with the YMCA or MPS Recreation to teach my kids how to play the game correctly. The lady sitting next to me agreed: it does kids no good to get them started with bad habits. If it means a 10 minute quarter takes a half hour to play, so be it.

Black socks report: The Memphis Bobcats have enough black in their dominantly orange uniforms to justify black socks, but the overall effect is way too Halloween-ey. Its like these seven-foot pumpkins were on the court and I'm not even going to reference that overrated Chicago band, because they did nothing to justify that adjective. And maybe its time, since all the sports pundits are talking about it, to comment on the black tights favored by Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut. It's hard for me to criticize that, because I often sport that look myself. Its comfortable, and I understand the functionality. If I had to go running up and down court all the time, I'd wear the tights. It's much easier to do in tights, or leggings: having something to keep raw thighs from rubbing against each other or loose fabric probably would help a lot. Plus, their tights are probably made of some super-technical wicking material that keeps their legs warm, dry and in top condition. And, the black looks better than white tights that Redd was wearing for a while there. (Oh, and purple or any other color would be altogether wrong, so don't even go there, boys.) But here's the thing. I'm a girl. And I have thunder thighs. You mean to tell me that world-class athletes have chafing issues that a little cornstarch can't fix?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Everybody Dr Chow Tonight!

After basketball, headed over to Points East Pub, to see Dr Chow's Love Medicine. We've pretty much eaten our entire babysitting budget for the Bucks this winter, so the only time we get to go out and see bands is when a band we want to see is playing the same night as a Bucks game. For once we were lucky -- Dr Chow is always a treat, and we have plenty of friends among Dr Chow's fan base, so its musically good plus we can get some socializing in. And Dr Chow delivered as usual. Opens with some covers of Nuggets-era garage standards ("Too Much to Dream" and "Evil Hearted You") and eases us into their solid originals. Good hippy dance party. I certainly partied it up.

The thing is, at the risk of sounding like bitter oldtimers, we've been going out only for tried and true stuff, and Dr Chow is tried and true. We just don't get out to see new bands like we used to. If I'm going to drop money on a sitter and go out, you had better deliver. So the only way I get to see new bands these days is if they're opening for somebody I trust. Floor Model, tonight's opener, was a nice treat.

Floor Model is a two piece, guitar and drums, that answers the question: "What if the White Stripes had formed on the West Coast in the early 80s, right about the time Penelope Spheeris was filming The Decline of Western Civilization Vol 1?" Everybody seems to be doing the guitar and drum only thing, except Floor Model has a good drummer. (Let's face it, Meg White can just about play the drums, but she gets away with it because she's as Cool As Kim Deal), and they even cover a White Stripes tune (that neither I, nor my friend who has more White Stripes albums than me, could name). Their guitar player is Jeff Calleson, who has that midwestern cynical earnestness (or is that earnest cynicism) down to a T, which takes the edge off that SoCal punk sound. His songs run topics from Charles Bukowski, to a great little minor-key ditty whose verse goes "You're Not The Fonz" that references the beginning of the Happy Days theme. It the kind of stuff only a guy living in Laverne and Shirley's hometown could have written, in both tribute and disdain. I'll tell you though, the Stripes thing is getting old. I know it's easier to manage a 2-piece band, but while Calleson's songs can stand on their own, they could also withstand the punch that at least a bass player could offer. And by the way, Jeff, get yourself a decent amp, or do something about the EQ on that thing you're playing through now. Ouch! These old ears can't take that much high end. Also, Jeff, you'll be needing a backup guitar. You won't always have the Mr. Congeniality of the Milwaukee Music Scene, Paul "The Fly" Lawson, there to lend you an ax and change your strings for you when you bust a string. Otherwise, fine set. If you're playing anywhere on a night we have Bucks tickets, you have made it to the "Worth Paying the Sitter an Extra $20 to Stay Out Later For" list.

Speaking of the Fly, he was in great form as Dr Chow's guitar player tonight. Fly is one of the overlooked gems of the Milwaukee music scene. He is such a nice guy, though, that I think he's too polite to show off his chops if there's another guitar player in the band, so when he's the only guitar player, itÂ’s a treat because then you get to hear the Fly at his best. Let's see more of this!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Upon Watching Keith Richards At The Super Bowl

I'm watching the Rolling Stones at the Super Bowl halftime show. As a Packer and closet Bears fan, its the only part of this evening that held any interest for me (well, OK, it's always good to hear from Aretha, too.) And so that's all I care to write about. Face it,they're in their 60s and they look and sound great. No lip synching, and apart from a shaped stage, no real frills. No orchestra, no dancing girls, no wardrobe malfunction. Just the Stones. They were great. Boomer hit. New stuff that rocked, then classic hit, with snotty intro from Mick, as he mused that they could've played Satisfaction at the first Super Bowl. Even Keith looked good. Keith is, in an odd way, a hero of mine. He's just so indestructible. Ya gotta love him for it. Statistically, he should be dead. I'll probably never see it. Neither will many of us.

Face it. Keith Richards will outlive us all. He can drink a whole bottle of vodka with nary a hangover. He is immune to cholera, smallpox and anthrax. He can eat fish from Lake Erie, and can eat beef from Britain, Oregon and anyplace else Mad Cow disease has been found. He could survive even a roundhouse kick from Chuck Norris. He will survive nuclear holocaust. No, really, hear me out. Flash forward, if you will to the Day After Nuclear Holocaust: London is just a pile of rubble, just like that scene from The Blues Brothers where Carrie Fisher blows up the skid row flophouse that Jake and Elwood stay at. But suddenly, there's movement under a stack of bricks -- a humanoid form emerges. It's Keith Richards! He rummages around his jacket and produces a pack of cigarettes. He pulls one out and puts it to his lips. He then taps all over his body where pockets would be and only then does he realize the gravity of this situation, crying out in desperation and dismay, "Where the fuck's me lighter?"