I have not seen any of the movies nominated for Academy Awards this year.
When I read that Steven Spielberg – Steven Spielberg! – does not think it important whether Connecticut legislators voted for or against slavery, I’m not putting my money down to watch his movie. (My wife is from Connecticut; you should hear her.)
However, we did see a movie Saturday night that won an Academy Award in 2008. The public television station in our region, WNET, Channel 13, has a Saturday night series of indies that keeps us close to the tube. Many of these movies are true and accurate in the best sense – emotionally.
The indies follow another series of so-called classics featuring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Fred Astaire and Gary Cooper that we find hopelessly brittle and out-dated., But the indies touch us almost every week.
Saturday night we caught up with Once, the John Carney film, about an Irish busker and a Czech immigrant who meet on the streets of Dublin and within a week make music and change each other’s lives. How did we miss it when it came out?
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won the Oscar for best original song, Falling Slowly. On Saturday I realized the movie has been turned into a Broadway musical (I’m a little slow.)
The caliber of the indies series is consistently high -- an American Indian man going home to die (Barking Water), a young Spanish woman working for an aging intellectual (Amador), and two young teachers in New York, one Muslim, one Orthodox Jewish, whose lives and values are so similar (Arranged.) The films take us places both exotic and as real as the inside of our own hearts.
How did we not know of all these films? I guess because of the money-making machine that produces blockbusters that get hyped for mass audiences -- and the awards.
But I am resistant – this year, more than ever, when I hear that Spielberg shrugs off an historic vote in Congress, or Ben Affleck invents a phony chase in Iran, or Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal hype torture because it heightens the plot, .
Goodness knows we have enough birthers and climate-change deniers out there. Can we afford a disdain of facts in pop movies? Facts matter. So do insights into the human heart. We stay home Saturdays for the indies on WNET.
Judging from the lovely messages Robbie Rogers has received, his friends and teammates care for him and would surely welcome him back.
Rogers needs to work out the complications from his coming out the other day, and most of us have no idea what that involves.
He is part of the new generation that has been around gay issues from the start – friends who had gay parents, friends who came out, people who had the comfort to live their lives more in the open, plus all the references in pop culture that were not there in past generations.
It’s easier now, even if incrementally. The older generation still gets a little nervous when the subject comes up; the intolerant religious flank is watching a new generation pay no attention.
Rogers has already scored and created important goals for the national team through his ability and instincts. He is only 25. When the time comes around again, it would be wonderful if he played the sport at which he excels.
He also could contribute something vital: he could be the first openly gay male in one of America’s major leagues. Rogers could come home, to the right team in Major League Soccer, which has enlightened leadership that enforces penalties on homophobic slurs. That league will not permit ugly stuff from the crowd like the chants Rogers could expect if he stayed in England. (Ask Tim Howard about the lyrics he hears making fun of his very mild case of Tourette’s syndrome.)
My guess is that the time is right to openly welcome a gay player in an American league, as has already happened on the women’s national soccer team. Megan Rapinoe, one of the best and most popular players, came out a year ago. For that matter, her coach at the time, Pia Sundhage, one of the more mature and interesting leaders, is gay. The world did not end.
The pressure would be considerable in a male league, from media scrutiny, from fans, probably from some conservative fans and sponsors and the inevitable religious groups. Blazing a trail as a gay player would be challenging, but then again so was sitting at lunch counters for blacks in the 1960’s and so was playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers for Jackie Robinson in 1947. It’s a different time.
Those sweet messages to Rogers from his pals tells me they already get it, and will be there if he decides to play again. I hope he does.
Your comment is welcome.
The International Olympic Committee has turned itself into a reality show. For money and approval from the networks, it has pushed one of its oldest partners off the island.
The shameful ban of wrestling after the 2016 Summer Games is the next logical step since admitting professionals in the 1990’s. Once the Games opened the door for Dream Team basketball types and Grand Slam tennis stars, there was not enough room in the village for old friends like wrestling, which has merely been around for over 2700 years.
Wrestling is a great sport. I covered it for years early in my career, had great respect for the training and intelligence of the athletes. It is also a sport for various body types. The I.O.C. dumped it over the side.
In all its sanctimonious self-promotion, the I.O.C. cites history. But now it is clear. Under Jacques Rogge and his masters from the networks, nothing is sacred. They are not caretakers for so-called Olympic sports. They are hucksters on the corner saying “check it out, check it out.”
I realized that in 2012, the first time I ever watched the Olympics on television after a childhood of following baseball and a working career of being at the Olympics.
When you cover the Games, you don’t watch canned network television. Instead, you eagerly choose to spend a day in the blessed company of weight-lifters and fencers and wrestlers, the odd sports you never see from year to year, but love when you get around the true believers. The I.O.C. was always prattling about being caretakers of these sports, but they were lying to us.
I also noticed in 2012 that the television production involved an endless loop of women’s beach volleyball, the same shot, from a camera held close to the sand -- legs and butts and swinging ponytails. Sure, beach volleyball is great competition among real and deserving athletes, but the I.O.C. was telling us something: it will scuttle old friends, with no conscience. Think of that when they come around again.
I didn’t mean to write this long, but I got carried away. For the real inside look at wrestling and the Olympic movement, please read the column by Mike Moran, the long-time spokesperson for the United States Olympic Committee, still the repository of conscience and tradition. Over to Mike:
How refreshing, in the dark of winter with snow on the ground, to see all that young talent at the Grammies.
My wife and I laughed at the great commercials, geared to a younger audience – not the remedies for old-age ailments we see on MSNBC. Different crowd. Guess the kids on the Grammies don’t have achy knees yet.
I’ve lost all touch with current pop music – got enough Satie and Marley and McGarrigles stocked up to last my lifetime – but the performers were so accessible, so good, so attractive, that we watched right through to the tribute to performers who died in the past year.
I knew about Dave Brubeck and Levon Helm. But there was a shock when I saw the name Mike Auldridge.
It brought me back to the fall of 1972, when I was covering the award ceremony of the County Music Association in Nashville. (Had an interview with Loretta Lynn coming up.) I was staying in some chain motel east of I-65, and overnight some zealous promoter slid a couple of vinyl 33 1/3 albums right under my door.
One of them was Old Train by a sensational fusion bluegrass group called the Seldom Scene. Another album was Mike Auldridge – Dobro. I never turn down anything free, so I stuck them in my luggage and played them when I got home. And I still play them today, particularly because of the dobro of Mike Auldridge on both albums, so thoughtful, spare, clear.
The best track on Dobro is Rolling Fog, credited to Paul Craft and sung by Auldridge, who apparently did not do many solos. His mellow baritone is timeless -- as good as men like to think they sing in the shower.
Find a place to creep in, underneath my door,
Whisper to me, while I’m sleeping,
Make yourself at home.
Knowing that the Seldom Scene was based in Alexandria, Va., I always figured I'd be in DC and notice they were playing in some club, but it never happened. I did interview John Duffey and Dr. John Starling, a surgeon and soloist, on the phone for the Times before their gigs in the New York area, but I never caught them. Why?
I’ve been singing along with the Seldom Scene for a long time, courtesy of my turntable that fascinates my grandchildren no end. I missed the obituary for Mike Auldridge in the Times on Dec. 31 but vinyl is coming back, and I just played Rolling Fog on a damp gray Monday morning.
Thanks to the Grammies for letting me know about Mike Auldridge.
Feeling smug on Sunday evening, I worked on a project that was due. (Retirement is hell.) I came down at 10 PM and, doggone, the Super Bowl was still on. What did I miss?
Thanks to the blackout, I got to see most of the last quarter, and came to this conclusion: the officials were quite right not to call pass interference on the last desperate play.
Not that any sport wants situational officiating, but interference would have to be blatant to be called on the last fling downfield – arms being yanked out of their sockets, a kung-fu kick to the ankle, stuff like that.
Of course, the receiver and defender are going to be getting physical with each other in that spot, but that was no time to over-react.
All day Sunday, I was looking forward, as I always do around the Super Bowl, to an outbreak of pitchers and catchers to make me feel warm all over. This week there is something even more immediate – the U.S.-Honduras World Cup qualifying match in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday at 4 PM, eastern time.
The match is being carried on something called BeIN which is not included by my carrier. Looks like I am going to have to find a pub that carries this BeIN.
Some friends are upset because the U.S. looked so miserable in that 0-0 draw with Canada in Houston last week. I can only say that match had nothing to do with World Cup qualifying. It was the equivalent of a baseball spring training game, when the regulars don’t quite make the bus ride. In other words, it was a scam on paying customers. Michael Bradley is in Honduras. One Keano glare from him, and intensity will rise.
In the meantime, there are reports of hundreds of matches being influenced in recent years by a gambling ring out of Singapore.
Soccer is a tricky sport to fix, in that scoring is so random. If you want to get to a player, try the keeper – there have been a few with a gambling jones over the years.
But the person you really want is the ref, that solitary figure running around in the midst of 22 players.
The prominent clubs in Italy were penalized after the 2006 World Cup for a long pattern of influencing matches. Juve spent a year in Serie B. Officials from the richest clubs were able to request friendly refs for their matches. What did friendly mean? Unclear. But all it takes is one friendly call.
Talk about situational refereeing. When I first started to follow Serie A back in the late ‘80’s, lesser teams would play their hearts out for 70 or 80 minutes against Juventus or AC Milan or Inter Milan, but near the end of the match something would happen. A Juve player would become entangled with an opponent in the penalty area. The two would go down, both writhing. The ref would come a-running, suddenly energized, point to the little disk 12 yards from the goal. Rigore! Penalty kick!
It happened so often that I accepted it as a fact of life in Serie A. I’m looking forward to Wednesday’s match. Officiating in the Caribbean can get pretty situational, too.
Your comments always welcome. GV
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.