Category Archives: Athletics

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.

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Andrew Dances

A performance by a 21-year-old named Andrew on the BBC’s The Greatest Dancer last Saturday brought the audience and the judges to their feet, and offered a brief respite from the crudity and ugliness that have characterized so much of the last two years.


More about Andrew

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.

The Circus Comes to Town

Every year, the Smithsonian holds a Folklife Festival on the Mall in Washington during the last week in June and the first week in July. This year was special, because 2017 marks the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s 50th anniversary.

Most of the recent festivals have followed a similar format, celebrating a US state or region, a foreign culture or area, and/or a traditional occupation. In 2016, for instance, the two main themes were “Basque: Innovation by Culture” and “Sounds of California.”

This year’s festival was easily the most fascinating and entertaining I’ve ever visited, because the main attraction was a tribute to…Circus Arts!

And it was wonderful!


One of the displays was this classic Circus Wagon.

You could watch close-up performances by clowns and jugglers…

…and not-so-close-up performances by acrobats and trapeze artists.

In addition to the open-air displays, the festival included full performances in its own Big Top, and in one of the Smithsonian buildings. But for me, the best part was the panel discussions featuring circus people talking about their careers and training and lives in the circus. Heard some awesome stories during my two visits to the festival.