Friday, August 05, 2016

And Now for Somethings Somewhat Different.....

Let's Fly Down to Rio. Not.
I have loved my visits to "Hio", but I cannot recommend this as the time to go there.  I am not expecting any trouble, as such, but the atmosphere will be tense, there will be a lot of defensiveness of one kind or another among the locals who remain, and going as a spectator will be cost-ineffective.  On the last point, I found that to be true going to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and hat was a lot less trouble.

Anyway, it still has to be a bit of a plus for the city, which (always) could use a bit of sprucing up, and the development of public transportation, if safe and effective, could be a game changer there.  I'm not expecting them to blast big holes in all those (populated) hillsides, but just an effective coastal system could be great. Rio is hugely spread out and difficult to navigate.  Finally, it will remind people all over the world that there is a place called Rio de Janeiro, and it looks like it does.  I hope that NBC gets some good dirigible rights! In general, I am against moving the Olympics to new cities all the time when there are plenty of cities with all the required facilities and of recent vintage; however, it made sense to have someplace in South America.  Now we should stop adding new ones for awhile.

The coverage should be all that one could hope for this time--another reason not to bother going.   If it starts getting boring on one channel, then there are going to be plenty of options.  That should cut down on the percentage of time we will have to watch the narrated life stories of our American athletes.  Not that they aren't interesting, sometimes, but it's good to have an option, something we did not have in the past (particularly for the Winter Olympics). I'm not going to suggest the "streaming" option in the Internet, which sounds like a recipe for madness at extreme cost (unless you get it for free somehow--and if you do, don't tell me).

So, what will I be watching?  Not the opening ceremony, for which I imagine the theme will be "What's that Smell?  Oh, It's just Bug Spray."   Thousands of people standing around, hoping not to get bitten.  I hope that tonight's highlight will be the entry of the Refugee Team, which I believe is supposed to be near the end, right before the host country.   I'm pretty conventional; I will take it slow the first week, not too much gymnastics, please.  Track and field does interest me, and then there are the finals of the team sports--I am particularly interested in volleyball (both the indoor and outdoor versions), men's tennis, rugby sevens, and women's soccer.

The last one brings me to what should obviously be the story of the Olympics:  the complete domination of the American women.  With the suppression of Russian contestants (complete in track and field, significant in many others) US men should also win their share or more, but the women could reach unheard-of levels.  In sports like swimming, gymnastics, and basketball (and tennis?), US women are going to be beyond reach.  That is why the soccer should be interesting:  the US is clearly the favorite, but there is risk.  And Carly Lloyd just blew everyone away with her performance at the last World Cup--if she can do anything like that at the Olympics, there will be no Katy to bar the door (to endorsements, finally!)

Political note:  The question will be whether Hillary will be able to lay off the potential for prideful boasts about "our women".  I hope so; there is no need--let Donald do it, because he will trip over his member doing it and thus do himself more damage

Song of the Summer
Entertainment Weekly (July 11) had an incredibly lame article in which it announced that it could not announce its Song of the Summer.. My surmise was that they had prepared an article that had the right choice but it had been nixed by the higher-ups.  In further  research today on their SotS ruminations, I saw a couple of dozen songs named, with many different contributors, but still nothing about the song which has clearly dominated the airwaves for the last two months.

Here's a clue:  According to Billboard Magazine, this song is now only the fourth ever to be No. 1 on their Rock, Alternative  and Adult Alternative listings (you would think there might be more, but that's how fragmented the music world is, now).   So, I guess Rock doesn't exist anymore, in the EW universe.   Whatever--I'm speaking of "Dark Necessities", of course, the new Red Hot Chili Peppers' single.

The Peppers have been grinding out quality rock for 25 years or more; they do have different styles they can play, but I would venture to say that their greatest accomplishment has been their consistency over time with an excessive variety of lead guitarists.  That is to say, they needed a change.

Enter Danger Mouse, the top rock producer and man behind the scenes for much of the best music of this era.  The song "Dark Necessities" has the usual Anthony Kiedis vocal styling and the frequently-observed raw insistence of RHCP's great rhythm section (Flea on bass; Chad Smith on drums), but there is something else (besides some new guy on lead guitar, really limited to a solo in the song's final minute):  keyboards, all the way through.  Our man does more than just produce the music, though he is nowhere to be seen in the "Official Video". Thank you, Brian Burton!

So, what is the problem with acknowledging the song's evident greatness?  The title, I think, reveals the problem:  the song does have a forceful tone, maybe a bit overbearingly masculine, and the lyrics' content--lightly nihilistic philosophy, with drug references--might make it less acceptable than the usual love stories that prevail in the pop world these days.

To be fair, though, the lyrics really seem to be there to fit the song's cadence, which is polished, and also both chunky and high-speed.  Just listen  past that plucked bass and hear the tasteful keyboards, and you will see how D.M. has taken the RHCP's natural gifts and raised them a level.

Political Note: I am expecting to see some of our heroes put together a fund-raiser to stop Drumpfism, but they better hurry up. 

YTD Movies
This will be my usual late-summer lament for the quality of the films being produced this year.  I don't have the previews for the year-end binge of "Oscar contenders" yet to encourage me.

I admit I haven't been a regular filmgoer for 2016's output; most of them don't inspire me to go watch. I did see "Zootopia", which was OK--looked like a pilot for a series of sequels to me--but didn't leave me with much.  I never get around to wanting to see most of the action hero/superhero stuff  (Captain America whatever, Bourne, Ghostbusters, Ice Age whatever, and certainly not "Batman vs. Superman"--what a stupid idea!). I am mildly curious to see if "Suicide Squad" ("Dirty Dozen" with superheroes) will live up to the hype, and I will see the Star Trek film.  I like that for this episode they are putting a little less emphasis on the vagaries of human behavior (though that is what Star Trek's basic theme is about), and a little more on the possible nature of alien behavior.

The one movie so far this year that truly made an impression on me was "The Free State of Jones".  A good choice for an election year, it covered a true story of a rebellion against the Confederacy in Mississippi and how it turned out.  Once again, Matthew McConnaughey rose above expectations. On the other hand, the critical darling of the first half, "The Lobster", did not appeal to me.  I like satire as much as anyone, more than most, but this one's premise--that people without a soul mate will be condemned to death in the future--didn't strike me as particularly perceptive.  It did give me a few chuckles, but generally the viewing experience was awkward and tense, and I was somewhat impressed with Colin Farrell's taking on such a weird role.

Looking just forward:  One movie for which I (perhaps alone) am anticipating the release is "The Light Between Oceans", a tearjerker set in Western Australia (a current interest of mine) with a strong cast. I am looking for a place to see "Captain Fantastic", a satire about holier-than-thou living off the grid starring the estimable Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn, of course).  And, after having seen several times the preview for Woody Allen's "Cafe Society"--a strong cast, with Jesse Zuckerberg in the usual Woody-ish role--I have not seen anywhere that the movie is actually playing. Woody may be afraid to go back into the US market with all his bad press, but that is no way to recoup the expenses of a heavy star-filled cast.

Final Political note: "Birth of a Nation", the snarkily-titled story of the slaves' rebellion led by Nat Turner in Virginia, is, to be released in October, could produce some major reaction, as the subject is a highly provocative one.   Talk about the authorities cracking down on African-Americans!

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