Category Archives: Athletics

Adam Rippon + Joni Mitchell + Ben Platt = Serene Beauty in an Ugly Time

Olympian  Adam Rippon turned 30 on Monday, and flipped the usual tradition on its head by giving a present to everyone else. You don’t get to be “America’s Sweetheart”, as he once described himself, without occasionally doing something really wonderful.

“Today is my 30th birthday. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything and everyone in my life. Thank you for always sending love and positive energy my way. I hope I’m always able to do the same for you.”

He skated to a cover version of “River”, by Joni Mitchell, one of the indisputably greatest singer-songwriters of the 20th century.  The song’s lyrics made it a perfect choice.

This version of “River” was sung by Ben Platt, Evan Hansen himself, who won the Tony and pretty much every other Best Actor in a Musical award, for his 2017 performance in Dear Evan Hansen.


So there it is. No theatrics, no dazzle, just a simple little performance bringing together the works of three masters of their arts to create something beautiful.

David Rakoff’s Thoughts on Rent

NSFW:  Language

I didn’t see the televised not-really-live performance of Rent last night, but I read some of the reviews this morning. While I was searching for them on the web, I found this wonderful old recording of David Rakoff’s thoughts on the musical.

He was not a fan.

I’ve been a fervent devotee of this passionate and humane writer since I first saw him when he was a guest of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

Among other honours, Rakoff won the Thurber Prize for American Humor. You can see why in his two-minute Advice to Graduates.

David Rakoff died after a horrific battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma on 17 August 2012. This is his funny, sad, and beautiful Final Performance.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival — Catalonia on the Washington Mall

I went down to the Mall last Thursday to check out the Catalonia section of this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Perfect day for it.

Just a few hours earlier, the Mall had been filled with tens of thousands of people watching the Fourth of July concert and fireworks, but by morning, every trace of them was gone. The Park Service is really good about clean-ups.

This Human Tower Team, Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls, can trace its history back more than 200 years. At the Festival, they gave a small sample of what they do. Here’s a video of a somewhat more impressive performance:

Of course I went for the food. I had Catalon Pa Amb Tomàquet, which is garlic and tomato toast, with Serrano ham. Lousy picture, great sandwich.

When US troops arrived in Europe after D-Day in WWII, Europeans were impressed with the height of Americans soldiers. Things have changed since then, especially in Scandinavia and Holland, where the local teenagers now tower over typical US visitors.

The only place in Europe where I’ve ever felt taller than most of the residents was in Spain. I thought about that as I watched the dance of the Associació de Geganters i Grallers d’Oliana.

Powders for street décor. They’re used to create “carpets” like this one:


The image at the top of this post is from the Folklife Festival’s website.

Altered Carbon — Two Teasers and a Trailer

Netflix has adapted Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan’s award-winning 2002 cyberpunk novel, into an initial 10-episode series. The company released a couple of teasers late last year, and a full trailer this week. Here are the teasers:

[No, I haven’t accidentally slipped a porn video into the blog. That initial image is just Netflix being Netflix. They call these things “teasers” for a reason.]

And here’s the new trailer:

Ah, the “old brains in new bodies” trope!

I don’t know about this one. On the one hand, Joel Kinnaman and James Purefoy are both solid performers. On the other hand, the CGI is less than dazzling. It looks on the cheap side.*

All 10 episodes of Altered Carbon will become available on 2 February 2018.


*On the third hand, some of the most impressive CGI-heavy trailers I saw last year were for Ghost in the Shell, and that didn’t turn out so well, did it? I’m still a little embarrassed about getting so overheated about that one.