Saturday, October 24, 2009
Mid-show, as planned, they played the Born in the USA album in its entirety – intense, straight-ahead, and with little between-song banter, but that only seemed to reinforce the continued relevance of those 12 tracks. For me, the album, which came out when I was 13, was largely a gateway to Bruce’s earlier work – BitUSA has plenty of its own high spots, but a few songs I’d consider filler. Bruce himself has talked of the complicated relationship he has with BitUSA as an album and as a mid-80s phenomenon – in his book Songs he writes frankly about his ambivalence and dissatisfaction with much of the final product. It was the poppiest music he’d released to that point, yet lyrically it’s pretty grim and downbeat. Only two of the songs (“No Surrender” and “Bobby Jean”) end with something of a happy/hopeful ending (“Dancing in the Dark” is another that at least doesn’t end on a somber note). Largely, the album is about loss – of opportunity, of innocence, of love, of freedom, of control – and the disappointments we find and the cynicism that takes hold as we grow older.
In concert, all in one chunk, Bruce certainly played up the poppiness where it wouldn’t totally gut the songs – still, “Downbound Train” and “I’m On Fire” earned the first mass sitdown/bathroom break of the evening. He has slyly converted “Dancing in the Dark” from the synth-pop studio cut into a guitar-driven, pogoing blast (and yeah, bringing his mom up to dance was irresistibly cute). Together, the album cuts hold up remarkably well as live numbers – the themes of the songs generally fit with the “hard times” narrative that tends to occupy the middle of his setlists on these last two tours, and many of the songs are favorite singalongs anyway. But after the final keyboard stains of “My Hometown” fade, and Bruce takes a moment to acknowledge Garry, Max, Roy, Steve, Clarence and the late Dan Federici as “the men who made Born in the USA,” he takes us right into “Promised Land,” the Darkness song that perhaps most fully expresses an earnest hopefulness. The contrast in tone couldn’t be clearer, even when he audiblizes to insert “The River” before the next setlisted song.
Anyway, nearly three-and-a-half hours of masterful stage- and crowd-play later, I could think of no better way I could have said goodbye. Not just to the Spectrum, a place where I’ve seen dozens of rawk shows, numerous Sixers, Flyers and Big Five games and Duke-Kentucky 1992, and where I took my kids to their first circus and (God help me) the Wiggles. No – I had the distinct feeling I was also saying goodbye to the E Street Band.
Fans have speculated for a while about this, but Clarence Clemons, who will turn 68 in January, truly looks like a man who is taking his victory lap. He had a lot of spotlight moments Tuesday, but C’s body has betrayed him. He’s had both knees replaced and struggles with hip and back problems. Rumor is he needs back surgery and that the recovery will be lengthy. He doesn’t move much during the show – when Bruce brought the surviving BitUSA-era E-Streeters center stage for their mini-set curtain call, Clarence had a hard time getting over from stage right. On the songs that called for C to blow baritone sax, he played without taking the instrument from its stand. Trumpeter Curt Ramm, who played on Bruce’s Seeger Sessions tour, joined the band for several songs, and it had the feel not just of augmentation, but of a subtle passing of the torch. Clarence has gutted it out night after night on this 2-year tour, but given all of the above, you can’t help but think that his performing days are, perhaps imminently, nearing an end. Tellingly, the jokey byplay between C and Bruce, so much a part of the stage show even through the Magic tour, is now limited to Bruce running over to Clarence to share the mike on a handful of verses.
So if this turns out to be the last time I see Bruce Springsteen play with a heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-shaking, booty-quaking, Viagra-taking, love-making, legendary E Street Band that includes The King of the World, The Master of the Motherf**king Universe, The Big Man, Clarence Clemons, then I can say that there was no better way to have ended a run of live ESB performances that I’ve enjoyed dating back to 1988’s Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Show at the old JFK Stadium. This was a top 3 show for me – it made me wish I had been of concert-going age in the late 1970s and early 1980s so I could have compared it with the epic shows on the Darkness and River tours.
Friday, October 23, 2009
On the rare side, only 12/175 of us have had the measles, with tonsil removal, pneumonia, mono, poison ivy and fainting also less frequently suffered. [Q: has medical practice just changed with regards to tonsils, or was tonsil removal just a bigger deal in the popular culture of the 1970s than it is today?] Most of us have had braces, but we're about 50/50 on pink eye, cold sores and overnight hospitalization.
Winners of the Elijah Price/Jonathan Vosburg Division -- for spending the most time in the infirmary -- were Meghan (A Different One), slowlylu, Kevin B, Joan H., tim, Michele M and kevbo nobo. And yet while Amy has never take a sick day, 35 of you still have suffered from fewer ailments than she has -- the Whatever Name Bruce Willis' Character Had In That Movie Division is led by Moira, Duvall, Jeff, starshy926, Russ, Katelyn, Barb and Abby G. Average of 16.52 out of 28 maladies listed, median of 17.
added on the local institution front, albeit not film-related: in nearby York County, PA, Snyder's of Hanover is buying Utz Quality Foods, helping America's largest pretzel maker (I did not know that before) expand into the potato chip world. Also, Uts!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
No, I haven't seen Restaurant Wars yet; when I do I'll update this post, but you should feel free to discuss here.
updated Friday night: I don't have anything to say about the episode itself, but I do want to talk about the preview. Because I do believe I know what Natalie Portman's dietary restrictions are, and it's a double-whammy including something which many here have called wanted to see on the show for some time ...
The ladies’ magazines our mothers read were all about making the Effort visible . . . . [T]he bulk of these magazines’ pages, as well as their covers, were devoted to elaborate cakes a mother could make for any and all occasions, like a Tom Turkey cake for Thanksgiving with jellybean eyes and a wattle fashioned of Red Hot Dollars . . . . The thing about those cakes, though, is that even though they would be summarily eaten almost as soon as you had finished, the point of them would be to say, look how hard Mom worked!
Contra Cookie's New Mom:
Ah, Cookie. Go gentle into that good night.
Cookie recommended themed entertaining for the New Mom as well, but the birthday boy’s cake was in soft focus compared to the no-fuss hand-squeezed passionfruit caipirinhas served to the adult guests. How easy it was for the New Mom to entertain! [S]he could whip up an al fresco Brazilian churrasco for sixteen in no time flat, and everyone, including the four-year-old guests of the birthday boy, devoured the pork skewers and coconut rice balls she threw together just that afternoon while the New Mom sat back and ENJOYED HERSELF — and while I, reading it, wanted to scream.
- Joss Whedon will direct an upcoming episode. Here's hoping we get to see New Directions tackle something from Dr. Horrible's oeuvre.
- Madonna has given the Glee creators complete access to her catalog. Gee, who could take the lead on "Papa Don't Preach"?
- For those of you have been late to the party or like me have all the past episodes clogging up your Tivo, the first 13 episodes, aka The Road to Sectionals, will be released on DVD on December 29.
- Looks who's on the cover of this week's EW.
added morning thought: I was at the game with my dad last night, as I will be for Game 3 of the World Series. Now, my dad grew up in Brooklyn in the 1930s as one of three siblings -- his older brother as a Dodgers fan, his younger sister as a Giants fan. My dad, however, rooted for the Yankees, and to this day still listens to Yankees games on the radio and supports them. So this (potential) matchup is going to be tough on him -- he asked me last night if he could wear his Lou Gehrig replica jersey underneath his Phillies jacket to the game. I told him that since he rooted for the Yankees the last time the teams met in the Series, he should root for the Phillies this time. We'll see.
bonus coverage: Henry Hill celebrates the Game 4 victory; Celebration FAIL.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
So I guess he had a gun too. Or: that's not how I use my knife.
[George Clooney's] guests have to put up with his notorious penchant for elaborate pranks, however, and the latest to be on the receiving end was his friend and Oceans 11, 12 and 13 costar Matt Damon, who visited the Clooney villa this summer with his wife and family.
At the time Damon was trying to lose the 30lbs he gained for his starring role in his new film The Informant! and was working out in the gym twice a day and eating nothing but small salads.
So Clooney employed a woman to surreptitiously take in the waistband of all Damon’s trousers every day by an eighth of an inch. “He couldn’t understand how he seemed to be gaining weight while he was trying so hard to lose it," recalled Clooney with a laugh.
(My corner doesn't feature either of the Cosmo Kids, but their preferred Mr. Softee truck was in residence at the time of the photo.)
This week, we'll employ bad dad's suggestion and make this round the Unbreakable round: name a physical/medical malady you haven't suffered which you assume everyone else here has.
This round veers a bit from previous ones insofar as there's not necessary something humiliating about having never broken a bone or missed a day of school, but many of us seemed to think it'd be interesting to compile the information and see what happens. So go ahead, give us your oddest gaps in personal health, and we will vote on your most interesting and rare admissions later today.
later today is now. Go vote.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
added: Pinchot now has even more to say about Denzel Washington.
I'm not one for censorship when a person has the ability to turn off the TV, but once the nozzle is in the car, you're at least a minute from a getaway. I would think that the advertisers should have some responsibility not to show things that will give kids nightmares. And remind me again -- why is sex an automatic red band while cataclysmic violence is approved for all audiences?
Yes, we'll play Humiliation again tomorrow on other topics, but this is a movie you should have seen already.
So why did it take me 15 years to see one of the most acclaimed movies of the 1990s? I certainly wasn’t too busy not getting laid during my high-school years to watch Hoop Dreams. I guess I just thought 170 minutes was an awful lot of time to invest in any film.
Sweet blessed Lord, was I ever wrong. Hoop Dreams tells an intimate story on an epic scale. It needs to be 170 minutes long just to do justice to the depth and richness of its subject. Hoop Dreams only appears to be about a pair of basketball players from the Chicago projects; it’s really about everything. It’s less about hoop dreams than about the myriad soul-shattering ways the American Dream can fall apart. It’s less a sports movie than an American tragedy.
Now here came one last pitch -- at 98.8 miles per hour. According to data compiled by Inside Edge, it was the hardest pitch anyone had thrown to Jimmy Rollins THIS ENTIRE SEASON.
"It was funny," Rollins recalled of the moment before that pitch left Broxton's hand. "Right before he threw it, I said (to himself), 'Hit a ball in the right-center-field gap . . . right over Broxton's head. That's at least one run.' "
And then it happened ... precisely ... like ... that.
Well, yeah. Because that all happened from 1989 to 1991, when Stephanopoulos was a Hill staffer for Rep. Richard Gephardt. I know I made sure to take some history classes alongside my polisci requirements ...
As for those who criticize quantitative analysis as too narrow, [University of Michigan Prof. Arthur] Lupia said that the big questions were precisely what interested him. His work has been used by the World Bank and government officials in India, for example, to figure out which villages had sufficient institutions and practices to ensure that money earmarked to build a water system would not end up in someone’s pocket. Political science can also help determine what institutions and arrangements are needed to help a dictatorship make the transition to a democracy, he added.
After the fall of Communism, “when Eastern European governments were writing their constitutions, I can guarantee you they weren’t calling George Stephanopoulos,” Mr. Lupia said.
Monday, October 19, 2009
For real, twenty years of Treehouse of Horror? (And airing before Halloween for once?) Even if only the zombielicious "Don't Have A Cow, Mankind" was true Grade-A Simpsons, there are certain cultural institutions worth our unending respect, and Treehouse is one of them. Quote away.
edited: In 2005, TVSquad's Ryan Budke ranked the Top 5 Treehouse Segments. I'd replace #4("Homer³") with "Hungry are the Damned" (first Treehouse, first Kang/Kodos, How To Cook
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Seriously, just skip this leg of The Amazing Race and read Jay Rayner's account of dining in Dubai (which, contra the racers, is for sure in recession) -- a much more entertaining, and shorter, use of your time. I'm not sure what's wrong this season, but it's not quite there.