Saturday, December 26, 2015

Taking a look at the Krrish Series: Koi... Mil Gaya, Krrish, and Krrish 3

Rakesh Roshan may not have began the Krrish Trilogy intending to make a trilogy of any sort and yet somehow these three films--Koi... Mil Gaya (2003), Krrish (2006), and Krrish 3 (2013)--fit incredibly well together. Watching them back to back, as I did over the weekend, the films tell a story not just of father and son, Rohit (Hrithik Roshan) and Krishna (also Hrithik Roshan), but also of the evolution of Bollywood itself over the decade separating the first and last films.

Friday, December 11, 2015

If I had the wings of an eagle... #NewDCU ready to go!

(A NEW ERA IN D.C. UNITED HISTORY IS BEGINNING! And we have a #Brand #Narrative video with "in a world" style voiceover to go with it!! DAMN I AM PUMPED UP! IS IT MARCH YET?!)

Last night was the big unveiling party for the new D.C. United logo and though ever so slightly butthurt at not getting to attend, it did give me a chance to reflect on a few things:

1) I cannot wait until March when games start back up again.

2) I'm pretty sure I need this sweatshirt featuring the new logo.

3) It's been three months after my switch flipped from casual supporter to D.C. United superfan.

Monday, December 7, 2015

1789: -バスティーユの恋人たち- and a little introduction to Takarazuka Theater Company

(1789 goods from the official shop.)

(The Takarazuka Theater complex in Takarazuka, Hongo, Japan.)

(The view at intermission. The woman sitting next to me took me under her wing and made sure I knew when I needed to take a picture.)

One of the first stereotypes to fall away after I started watching Japanese television dramas was that of the television drama heroine. Sure, the long-suffering “Cinderella” heroine remains popular but she’s not the only heroine to be found. There is a class of actress with no equivalent anywhere else in the world. Tall, broad shouldered, and very charismatic, they play policewomen, doctors, detectives, and even regular moms. But there’s something different about them even when they play traditional female roles. Their bodies take up physical space as if they were entitled to it, like men. That Japan with its alleged submissive schoolgirl obsession also had these all these tall handsome women on screen? My mind was blown.

As I slowly started to learn more about Japanese show business, it dawned on me that these tall, charismatic actresses didn’t just spring into existence like Athena from the head of Zeus. Amami Yuki, Maya Miki, and others, they were former stars of the all-female Takarazuka theater company (宝塚歌劇団). Takarazuka productions are known for glitz, glamor, romance, incredible costuming, a final number danced upon a giant staircase, and for the 男役 (otokoyaku, lit. male-role), the actresses in the company that play the male roles in their productions.

And for years that was the extent of my Takarazuka knowledge. I’d always enjoy seeing the actresses pop up on dramas and game shows but because there was (and is) a paucity of real information on Takarazuka in English, the learning curve seemed too high. Without context or knowledge, the video clips I saw were just a jumble of sequins, feathers, and heavy eye make-up. Fabulous but ultimately confusing.

But I was still very much drawn to the idea of Takarazuka. So this spring when I realized my travel itinerary was going to take me directly through the town where the company is based, I bought a single ticket to the show that happened to be playing that day, 1789, which I assumed from the title was going to be about the French Revolution. I wasn’t sure I’d understand anything that was going on but if you think Filmi Girl would pass up a chance to see handsome women in high heeled boots bounding across stage, clearly you haven’t been paying attention. I figured at the very least I’d have a good story to tell about my adventures with sequins, feathers, and heavy eye make-up.

There’s always an element of chance in any love story and this one is no different. Maybe if it hadn’t been this show, with these actresses, I wouldn’t have fallen as hard for Takarazuka as I did. Maybe with another show, I would have walked out of the theater content simply to have had the experience. Maybe with another show, my eyes wouldn’t have grown bright with tears as the actresses descended that staircase in the finale; my heart wouldn’t have fluttered as the air in the theater resonated with the force of the chorus' voices; I wouldn’t have felt that ache of pleasure wash over my skin during the villain’s item song... But I did.

When the show was over rather than exit the theater, I joined the crowd of ladies moving out of the main hall and directly into the gift shop to purchase glossy photos of our favorite stars. Because by the end of the finale I had a favorite star. Over the course of the production I’d become a Takarazuka fan.

Since I've come home, I’ve tried to give myself a crash course in Takarazuka. I watched at least twenty or so productions on DVD. I’ve watched interviews with the actresses. And luckily my language skills had progressed to the point where I was even able to read an introductory book for Takarazuka fans in Japanese. Now, six months later, I’m finally able to make some sort of sense of what it is I saw. I know now what it meant to see the 101st class make their debut, how special it was to see the first Japanese production of the French musical 1789 , how lucky I was to see Seijou Kaito’s final role before she transferred to Senka, and to witness Miya Rurika’s breakout performance in the flesh. Some of my initial impressions have deepened but others have fallen away as I learned what it was I was watching. I will try to convey a little of both to you.

1789: -バスティーユの恋人たち- (1789: Bastille no Koibito-tachi, 1789: the lovers of the Bastille), as the title implies, is a musical set during the French Revolution. It's loosely based on the 2012 French musical 1789: Les Amants de la Bastille

((l-r) Harune Aki as Solène, Arise Sou as Papa Mazurier, and Ryu Masaki as Ronan)

(Ronan crossing the "Silver Bridge" en route to Paris)

(Tamaki Ryou as Robespierre (l) and Nagina Ruumi as Desmoulins (r))

Young country boy Ronan Mazurier (Ryu Masaki) runs off to Paris after his father is unjustly executed by the Count de Peyrol (Seijou Kaito). There he meets revolutionaries Georges Danton (Saou Kurama), Camille Desmoulins (Nagina Ruumi), and Maximilien de Robespierre (Tamaki Ryou), who get him a job at an illegal, muckraking printing press.

(Manaki Reika as Marie Antoinette)

(The dress!)

(Miya Rurika as the sleazy Count de Artois)

Meanwhile, in Versailles, they're partying. Marie Antoinette (Manaki Reika) rises from below stage in a massive layer cake dress. She is leading a seemingly carefree life, only concerned with concealing her affair with Axel von Fersen (Akatsuki Chisei) from the king’s younger brother, the Count de Artois (Miya Rurika) and his stooges in the secret police. The King (Mishiro Ren) is sweet but stupid and blissfully unaware of the real danger they're in.   

Marie Antoinette enlists the help of the governess Olympe (Saotome Wakaba) in her affair. 

(Sao Kurama as Danton)

(The lyrics here are 世の中さえ変わったら幸せになれるいつか If the world changes, I can become happy... When?

Ronan enjoys Paris with the famously party-friendly Danton, after which the two go to meet some “ladies of the night” only to discover that Ronan’s sister Solène (Harune Aki) is among them! 

(Saijou Kaito as the whip-cracking Count de Peyrol)

Still drunk, Ronan gets hauled off to the Bastille on bogus charges thanks to a run-in with Olympe. At the Bastille he is brought face-to-face once again with the Count of Peyrol, who sings a wonderful jailhouse number at him accompanied by much gratuitous whip cracking. Is this the end for Ronan?? 

Olympe feels guilty and stages a rescue, smuggling Ronan out of jail with the help of her father, a soldier posted to the Bastille. Maybe he’s still intoxicated or--at the least--punch drunk from one too many whippings but Ronan falls head over heels for Olympe during their escape. Olympe allows herself to be swept off her feet and into a stage kiss which the woman sitting beside me made sure to watch through her opera glasses, like a pro. (I have so much to learn still!)

(The Count de Peyrol informing the rioting citizens that the King has denied all their requests. Ronan looks on from the "Silver Bridge".)

(Ronan giving the assembled citizenry some courage as the King's soldiers march out of the palace.)

Back in Versailles, the King, has been listening to terrible advice from his backstabbing little brother and seems set to continue on the path that will lead to Revolution. The first act ends with a massive chorus number to that effect.

(Robespierre's blood is boiling.)

The second act opens with the cast marching on stage through the audience to reach the stage where a couple of nobles are playing tennis. The events of the Tennis Court Oath. After a rousing rock number by Robespierre detailing how pissed off he is, he leads the assembled chorus--the common people of the Third Estate--perform a rhythmic, stomping dance, unaccompanied by any music.

(The smirking Count de Artois with a frightened Saotome Wakaba as Olympe and Shimon Yuriya as the head of the Secret Police)

And the romantic drama continues as Marie Antoinette sends Olympe with a letter for Axel von Fersen but lying in wait is the Count of Artois, who sings a showstopping villain number. Luckily for Olympe, Ronan has been tipped off to the meeting as well and shows up to save her from the Count’s evil grasp. 

But Revolution doesn’t pause for love and events pick up with a song from Desmoulins, as he plucks a twig from a tree, singing, “武器を持って” (Pick up your weapons).

(Manaki Reika, as the sorrowful Marie Antoinette)

A bare-headed Marie Antoinette, in a surprisingly touching scene, is given a chance to escape to Austria with Axel von Fersen but she decides to stay beside the king. Her loyalty is rewarded with the guillotine.

Olympe spurns a final attempt at wooing from the Count de Artois and runs off to join the revolutionaries as the pace of the battle picks up and we’re treated to a series of different musical scenes of confrontations with the military that end with the storming of the Bastille and the death of Ronan, who is shot in the back while protecting Olympe and her father.

The play ends with a dramatic reading of the Declaration of the Rights of Man from the main revolutionaries, after which Ronan rises from under the stage, like a phoenix reborn, dressed now in white. The entire cast sings a powerful number about the story moving on.

(Miya crossing the "Silver Bridge")

Once the curtains close, Miya Rurika appears without her character's wig, dressed in a powder blue waistcoast and breeches. She sings a reprise of one of the songs from the production. Her appearance signals the beginning of the Finale, a mini-revue following the main production and a staple of Takarazuka shows. Miya crosses the stage on the 銀橋 (ginkyou/silver bridge), a walkway that stretches around in front of the orchestra pit, as she sings. When she reaches the far side the main curtain rises again and a chorus of line of the most junior members of the company appears.

(I've never heard anything quite like the click of all those heels in unison!)

The girls are decked out in feathered headdresses, stockings, and short frilly dresses in the colors of the French tricolor: Red, White, and Blue. They begin a high-energy cancan dance. Legs kicking high in unison, the girls radiate fresh-faced charm. As it turns out, this run of 1789 was the debut production, the 初舞台 (Hatsubutai) of the 101st Takarazuka class and the first “line dance”, as it’s called, is a rite of passage. The girls rehearse for endless hours, attempting to match the timing and height of their kicks to those of the girls on either side of them. The result is astonishing, the chorus line moving as one multilegged organism, the sound of their heels on the stage a thundering percussion.

(Lovely Touka Yurino singing the etoile)

Feathers bobbing, the girls file off, revealing the famous Takarazuka staircase. Ryu Masaki, the Top Star and the other actresses who played male roles perform a fun, up-tempo number that leads into a dance duet between Ryu Masaki and Manaki Reika, the troupe's Top Female Star. And then it’s into the final stretch as soprano Touka Yurino, holding her shan-shan, ribbon-decorated bouquets specially made for each production, descends the staircase and launches into the etoile, the song that leads into the parade, the very final portion of the show. During the parade, the cast, um, parades down the giant staircase, shan-shans in hand, pausing at the front of the stage to take a bow.

(There is nothing like seeing the Top Star decked out in all her feathers.)

The Top Star, Ryu Masaki, in a white suit and the massive feathers that mark her status, is last to come down the stairs. She pauses to soak in the audience’s thunderous applause. Back straight. No hint of false modesty. Acting as a focal point for the audience’s emotional high. Experiencing this live was incredible. I may not have known what was happening during the Finale but I understood what it meant to rise to my feet in a standing ovation for Ryu Masaki in her white suit and feathers. To see a confident, powerful 30-something woman--power in the true meanings of the words, not the co-opted Sex and the City meaning--simply standing and accepting the audience’s affection as something she was due. My eyes watered with emotion. Just a little.

After experiencing something like this live, I had to learn more about Takarazuka. I started with the English material but the problem I ran into is that Takarazuka, because it features women playing both male and female roles, has become a magnet for Western gender studies and queer studies academics who insist on reading the theater company as subversive, whether “lesbian” or “genderqueer” or through some other narrow prism. Not only is this unhelpful in understanding Takarazuka as an art form, it’s also, quite frankly, a severe misreading of the Takarazuka tradition itself. 

This one hundred year old theater company is an integral part of mainstream Japanese entertainment and is one of a handful of odd corners of Japanese entertainment that exist exclusively for women’s enjoyment. What makes Takarazuka really special is that it gives women and girls the chance to enjoy seeing themselves in the leading role, out in the real world. Most women-centric works in any culture tend to focus on family and relationships and the woman’s own body. Takarazuka works bring women out of the household to take the swashbuckling lead role in The Scarlet Pimpernel, the melancholy spectre of Death in Elisabeth, even as slick Danny Ocean in Ocean’s 11 (the 2011 version starring legendary Yuzuki Reon is a must see).

The fantasy in Takarazuka isn’t in becoming a man or in having sex with a woman. The fantasy is escaping daily life and societal pressures for a world where you can be a swashbuckling nobleman or be rescued by one. It’s not a mistake that so many Takarazuka productions are set in Europe and other far flung locales. The distance from Japan increases the fantasy and the unreality of the production for the audience. 

My sense is that the Takarazuka hero is much like the Indian masala hero. The masala hero defeats evil corporate goons on screen only to send his fans back out into a world where they are completely at the mercy of evil corporate goons. The Takarazuka hero gives women a chance to blow off some steam before sending the back out in the real world where men still get the leading roles in life. 

Sure, in the real world, we’re still second class citizens, constantly afraid of overstepping invisible boundaries of acceptable behavior, but standing on stage, wearing the massive feathers befitting a top star, basking in the glow of the audience’s affection. The memory of the show makes that harsh reality a little easier to bear.

Before officially entering the company, girls must first complete two years of training at the Takarazuka Music School. The entrance exam is extremely competitive and aspiring Takarasiennes (who must be between 15-18 years old) compete in singing, dance, and comportment. The students who finish their training are then guaranteed a position in the Takarazuka theater company. What they are not guaranteed is success. It can take ten or more years for a Takarasienne to work her way up to become a top star. Many women drop out before that for various reasons, most notably marriage, since Takaraiennes are forbidden from marriage or public dating in order to preserve the image of a self-contained fantasy world. 

Top Stars are generally in their 30s and reign for 3 or so years. When a top star steps down she may retire from the company and enter mainstream show business--becoming the women like Amami Yuki who I noticed all those years ago--or they may quietly transfer to the Senka division, which houses the experienced, elder members of the company.

The Takarazuka theater company is composed of five different troupes-- Star Troupe, Moon Troupe, Cosmos Troupe, Flower Troupe, and Snow Troupe--each troupe has their own identity and their own top star. For example, Moon Troupe, the troupe I saw, is known for their ability in drama. The entering class of Takarasiennes are assigned to different troupes after the run of their hastubutai is completed. That doesn’t mean girls stay with their first troupe forever and Takarasiennes are often traded between troupes depending on need. If one troupe has a surplus of potential stars who are gaining in popularity, some of those potential stars may get sent to rival troupes in order to restore balance. Which, as it turns out, is exactly the situation the Moon Troupe had recently found itself in and how they ended up with the exact cast of 1789.

There isn’t just one type of top star and it takes more than an ability to sing and dance to pull it off. The top star isn’t necessarily the most talented member of the troupe, although talent helps, and she’s not necessarily the most charismatic, although that helps too. The top star is a focal point, a totem. I've watched quite a few different top stars in action over the last six months while I was cramming Takarazuka into my brain. To my eye, the best top stars are ones who don’t just shine but who raise the level of their co-stars in the process. The deservedly legendary Yuzuki Reon was like this. And, I was quite pleased to discover, for all her faults, so is Ryu Masaki.

I'd initially been rather lukewarm on Ryu Masaki. In 1789 she didn’t seem to have the charisma or talent of her co-stars. Her dancing seemed lethargic and overly reliant on big movements. And her dialogue delivery was somewhat flat. It wasn’t until I’d seen more shows, as well as rewatching 1789 on DVD many times over, that I began to understand why she was the top star and why the Moon Troupe wouldn’t be the same without her. 

For one thing, once I was more familiar with the vocal style of Takarazuka, I was able to recognize and appreciate Ryu’s steady pitch and clear enunciation. No matter the line, no matter how difficult the phrase, Ryu hits it every time, like a boss. And her lines always come across so cleanly that even the people in the back of the highest balcony would be able to understand her perfectly. 

Beyond her technical skills as a vocalist, Ryu’s charm as a top star lies in her own impish, sunny personality. This is captured most fully in the title of role of the fairy sprite Puck in 2014’s Puck. With pointy ears, a mop of golden curls, and a playful pair of overalls, Ryu is all boyish charm, taking pleasure in all the absurdities life has to throw at her. And it’s because Ryu Masaki’s raw talent isn’t overwhelming and because her personality is so open, that it gives her co-stars, actresses like quick-witted adlib expert Seijou Kaito, room to showcase their own strengths, making the production and the troupe stronger as a whole.

(Ryu Masaki (l) and Asumi Rio (r) as Oscar and Andre in The Rose of Versailles, 2013) 

What seems to have happened is that before Ryu Masaki became top star of Moon Troupe, she and another young Takarasienne otokoyaku named Asumi Rio were battling it out for the number two slot. Asumi Rio, now the top star of the Flower Troupe, is a white hot supernova of talent but she’s not very giving on stage. She sucks up attention and energy rather than sharing it. When Ryu Masaki was promoted to top star, she didn’t have the stage presence to keep Asumi Rio under control. The balance was off. 

There is an incredible 2013 production of ベルサイユのばら -オスカルとアンドレ編- (The Rose of Versailles: Oscar and Andre) in which Ryu and Asumi played an odd sort of double lead as brothers-in-arms Oscar and Andre, swapping roles every other show. 

Following the double lead of Oscar and Andre, Asumi Rio was transferred to the Flower Troupe under a sturdier top star, the legendary Ranju Tomu. But Asumi’s departure left a big gap in the Moon Troupe’s lineup. Seijou Kaito, quick-witted, very masculine, and with a marvelous contralto, was clearly sticking around and the young, rambunctious Tamaki Ryo had a promising stage presence but with Asumi’s departure, a wave of retirements, and greenhorns too green to take leading roles, there was still a big gap. Enter Miya Rurika from Star Troupe, Nagina Ruumi from Cosmos Troupe, and Sao Kurama from Snow Troupe--three very talented and rather odd looking Takarasiennes whose skills had not been fully utilized in their original troupes. Welcome to Moon Troupe.

Miya Rurika is all pointy chin and big eyes. She has a developed a flair for the darkly attractive villain roles, the Alan Rickman of Moon Troupe, if you will. Nagina Ruumi, who took her stage name from Rumi the poet, has a round, earnest face matched with a goofy sense of humor and gawky limbs. Sao Kurama is an incredible ham. Her talents in singing, acting, and dancing counterbalanced with the desire to go broad to get a good laugh. When it came time to divide up roles for 1789, it was almost too perfect-- Miya as the sleazy nobleman, Nagina taking the earnest lawyer, Sao as the jocular Danton, with Seijou as the whip-cracking sadist and hot blooded Tamaki as Robespierre.

Although the French Revolution may seem like an odd fit for a Japanese ladies theater company, the story has been a popular one in Takarazuka since the late 1970s when the first adaptation of popular manga ベルサイユのばら (The Rose of Versailles) was staged. The play, which centers on a young French woman who has been raised as a man in order to join the royal guard to protect the queen, Marie Antoinette, has become a Takarazuka staple with new productions every few years. So the typical Takarazuka audience would be very familiar with the basic events of the Revolution, as well as the romantic story of Marie Antoinette and Axel von Fersen. But, by the same token, because the Takarazuka audience is so familiar with the story of Marie Antoinette, a Takarazuka adaptation of 1789 needed to be significantly revised from the original French production.

From what I have seen and read about the original production, it was a campy, double-entendre filled, and very broad play. That is not what the women who make up the Takarazuka audience want to see. The Takarazuka adaptation has taken the story of the lovers and the music and some of the comedy but they wisely ditched the penis puns and overly broad camp humor. The king isn’t a cuckold and the queen isn’t a bitch. As woman-centered entertainment, Takarazuka heroines have dignity and agency. Marie Antoinette is given a fully rounded personality, every element played beautifully by Manaki Reika. She’s spoiled, yes, but very sympathetic.

Additionally the production needed to get the audience to pivot from focusing on the nobility to focusing on the plight of the common people. I think it works quite well, thanks to all the rousing call-to-arms numbers from the leaders of the Revolution. As well as the horrible villainy of Counts Artois and Peyrol. There's even a number from the workers of the printing press as they demand to be taken as equals with the wealthy lawyers.

This is not a pleasant production of courtly life and gorgeous gowns. This is revolution.

But the world of Takarazuka is vast and even if I was to study for ten years I’d never be able to learn everything. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. The next DVD release from the Moon Troupe is 舞音-MANON- / GOLDEN JAZZ, in February and then hopefully I will be able to see them live over the summer next year during my annual Japan trip.

I hope you enjoyed this overview of 1789 and Takarazuka. I built up a little collection of DVDs and other material over the last six months. I might be tempted to write more. I might not be. As I mentioned before, there is very little access to anything related to Takarazuka in English so if you want to get into the fandom… good luck? I’m happy to offer what little help I can.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Does Go Goa Gone hold up after a couple of years? Yes. Yes, it does.

Go Goa Gone was a film I enjoyed quite a bit when it came out in the theater, enough so that I’d had an itch to watch it again. So I did. I purchased the DVD. And I don’t regret a penny. Despite surface similarities--the lack of sync songs, the casting of Vir Das, the use of a “global” trope like zombies--Go Goa Gone doesn’t feel like one of those Hollywood-chasing “indie” films, it feels like what it is, a modern Hindi film made for people with modern attention spans. The film is certainly aware of globalization--hilariously punctured in the dialogues in regards to why the zombies have finally come to India--but Raj & DK make no concessions to “international” anything in their storytelling or otherwise. This is a Hindi film.

The action starts off in Mumbai where we meet our heroes, three buddies Hardik (Kunal Khemu), Luv (Vir Das), and Bunny (Anand Tiwari) who both live together and work together in some sort of generic white collar office job. Hardik passes his days in clouds of marijuana smoke, Luv is a “m’lady”, and Bunny resents both of them and overcompensates by taking all his responsibilities very seriously. In other words, the three are comedic gold.

After Hardik gets fired (way past due) and Luv gets dumped (really way past due, m’lady), the two tag along with Bunny on a business trip to Goa, hive of scum and villainy and bikini babes looking to party. While on the prowl, Luv stumbles into Facebook-friend-not-real-friend Luna (the lovely Puja Gupta), who invites the buddies to a super-secret-super-cool rave being held on an island just off the coast.... a super-secret-super-cool rave held by Russian gangsters looking to test out a new drug.

One trippy song picturization featuring a friendly appearance from Pitobash later (“Slowly Slowly”), the buddies wake up the next morning to find their world turned upside down. Zombies. They rescue Luna from certain death, are rescued themselves from certain death by Russian gangsters “Boris” (Saif Ali Khan, who simply nails it) and Nikolai (Ross Bucharn?), and get in a lot of good bonding moments while running for their lives.

Revisiting the film, I already knew how the plot would unfold so I was able to really sit back and enjoy the characters and storytelling (and great filmmaking) itself. The mix of comedy, horror, action, mysticism, and just enough melodrama to make us care about the strength of the bond between the friends. That interplay of emotional tones is what I love about Indian filmmaking. No country in the world does it better. (One of the biggest disappointments in “indie” films I’ve suffered through was the paucity of tones. Whether dreary or whimsical or “authentic”, too much of anything leaves this audience member feeling fatigued and bored.)

Zombie movies generally mean bodies and Go Goa Gone does not disappoint. My favorite special effect was obviously the incredible charisma contained in Kunal Khemu’s megawatt smile but I thought the use of zombies was really well done. Rather than pile them all on screen at all times, scenes alternated between crowded and sparse, from the packed rave to empty beach to a trickle of zombies back to a dreadful absence of zombies to one zombie to a pile of zombies… again, the interplay of tone. Instead of a driving, relentless slog through zombies, I really enjoyed how both the audience and the characters were given a few chances to catch our breath before having the rug pulled out from under us… again.

But above all else, I really enjoyed spending time with these characters. Hardik’s easy charm and quick wit, Bunny’s hapless existence, the glee in which Luv’s “m’lady”ing is shut down time and again by Luna, the fact that Luna herself is treated like an actual real person and not a “lady”, even Boris and Nikolai’s bittersweet ending… it was oddly relaxing, despite the zombies. I didn’t have to worry about a buffed up producer’s son with monotone dialogue delivery or a shrill bikini bimbo invading my screen, just filthy ex-hippies on a blood bender.

As long time readers have surely noticed, I am not even remotely as invested in Hindi films as I was a few years ago. Partly this is due to access, for example even Prem Ratan Dhan Payo was out of my local theater in a week and only had one show at a very inconvenient time at the next closest theater… and the other areas it’s showing in are at least an hour of travel time away. Would it be worth it? Probably, but the friend I used to go to films like this with has long since had two children and no longer has the free time to spend all day in pursuit of a Salman Khan film. Additionally, watching online or even on DVD can be really unsatisfying. A movie I might have enjoyed well enough in the buzzed atmosphere of a packed theater might turn into a movie I flip off after 30 minutes watching at home because, well, I have better things to do than suffer through an adaptation of Hamlet that seems to have left all the manic energy and mysticism of the original on the cutting room floor in exchange for extra self-seriousness at making High Art.

But when it comes right down to it, there aren’t many Hindi films coming out that interest me anymore… I don’t care for Miramax-style “international cinema” films. I don’t care for those write-what-you-know slice-of-life films about wacky families living in Delhi or rom-coms and subpar Southern masala remakes. Some may find them enjoyable and that’s fine. They just aren’t for me.

But all that said, what I do still enjoy is the overwrought melodrama of a film like Brothers, Akshay Kumar and Jackie Shroff and Siddharth Malhotra, all manly and on the verge of tears. I love the beauty of the Rakesh Roshan worldview in a film like Krrish 3. I love the sharp meta-masala of Vicky Acharya’s films… and I love the Hindi films from filmmakers like Rajat Kapoor... and Raj & DK. And I cannot wait for their next.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Look, I'm only human. I don't particularly enjoy "based on true events" films or patriotic films in and of themselves but, that being said, do you know what I do enjoy? SCRUFFY AKSHAY KUMAR CRYING AND SAVING PEOPLE!

A whole movie of this?! YES PLEASE!!

Because when it comes right down to it, Akshay is my all-time number-one favorite hero and I would watch him (loudly) read a phone book if he put his heart into it.

I'm also more willing to watch a film like Airlift because the politics appear to be more straightforward, without the poisonous topic of "Islamic" terrorism that makes my skin boil. (Hopefully) We can all agree that Saddam was a giant dick for invading Kuwait back in 1990 and the airlift of 100,000 Indian nationals back to India was pretty darn cool:

“It’s not like we didn’t make mistakes," said [Air India regional director M.P.] Mascarenhas. “We misjudged numbers a lot and, remember, we didn’t have mobile phones there. When people ask me how we did it, I say, I looked up at heaven and said, god help me.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Deep cuts.

As some of you may have guessed from my brand new instagram I spent last weekend with my grandparents out in the country. It was really nice to see them, to spend time with family, away from everything. My grandfather is an even earlier riser than I am and we spent a few mornings engaged in some pretty intense discussions over coffee before the rest of the house began to stir. My grandfather is a thinker, an observer, a creator--you can see some of his work here--and he’s extremely frustrated with mainstream media. A frustration I share. (I come by it honestly.) Of particular irritation to Grumps was an article in a recent issue of Time magazine on modern art… Here’s a topic I know really well, said Grumps, and this article is all nonsense! He didn’t understand how Time magazine, a respected (“respected”) mainstream outlet could publish such trash and, on top of that, if their modern art coverage was so lousy, did that extend to everything else in the magazine?? What is happening?

You see, Grumps is not online. He doesn’t read or care about listicles or “hot takes” or care about who’s trending on twitter. What Grumps sees, though he didn’t understand why, is the end result of our J-School media culture that prizes an odd sort of “objectiveism” in which the journalist doesn’t need to know anything about the topic on which he or she is writing. All the journalist needs is quotes from two sources on “opposite” sides and some buzzwords to generate interest. No need to fact check, to research and develop an informed opinion, to take responsibility when things go wrong… just find a angle, cobble together some quotes, post, and move on to the next piece.

It’s gotten to the point where the only mainstream outlets I read on a regular basis are the Onion and the New York Review of Books (and sometimes Harpers or Roling Stone). I’ve just grown so tired of sifting through self-important hackery, re-written press releases, “hot takes”, and groupthink. It’s all content with no context.

Grumps says I should write the book that blows the lid on the whole thing but even if I did--and that’s a big “if”--who would read it? We’re all so distracted and up our own butts. Reading and watching in order to be able to comment on things. Carving out a domain of authority in an obscure fandom in order to appear important, whether or not he knows anything about the topic at all or even speaks the language, Ronald. (I seriously can’t believe they PAY this guy for this shit.) Or mistaking access to celebrity for celebrity itself--If he’s important and I’m friendly with him then I am important--bashing anybody who might crack the elaborately constructed ego-facade.

One of the few good things to happen to me this year, a year of serious illness and death for me and my family, was bonding with my brother at D.C. United games. Once I was healthy enough to be outside and on my feet for a couple of hours, there was no place I wanted to be more than in the stands at RFK stadium, waving a flag around and cheering for the men in black and red. In the stands, surrounded by fellow fans, there’s no past, no future, only the seconds immediately in front of you as the game plays out. A fast burst of action towards goal, the time slowing to molasses as Hamid kicks some long balls which cycle endlessly back to him. Feeling the rain, the sun, the occasional beer shower, the body heat from newfound friends on either side. You are there. I am there. You can’t check your phone--what if Rolfie ends up with the ball?? No time for hot twitter takes when Pontius is racing up the wing. Eyes can’t leave the field, though my voice is hoarse from screaming encouraging phrases in Taylor Kemp’s direction and my beer cup has tumbled to the floor. Why would you want to want to watch the game from anywhere else when you could be in the middle of all that?!

And nothing gets the heart racing like treading on enemy territory. A couple of weeks ago I traveled with the fan club to New Jersey for a game at Red Bull Arena and the air was electric with hostility and excitement. Marching through the streets, banging drums and waving flags, we were there. We were D.C. United. I was there.

Soccer Twitter and the Soccer Interwebs have been considerably less enjoyable than actual soccer and the actual soccer fans I've met. Possibly because I haven’t been around long enough to find and mute all those self-important “obscure fandom” douches like I have with my other interests. I’ll tell you what I do know. I’ve been inspired by these D.C. United players, all of them, but especially Bill Hamid and Chris Rolfe. Digging through some D.C United youtube deep cuts I came across a gem of gloriously unslick PR video schlock (there are so many, Ben Olsen "off mic" is another gem) with the D.C. United “reporter” asking Rolfie to “hot or not” certain things. She asks him about “Chicago Fire, the TV show” and he’s like, “Nope” and she’s like, “WHY?!” and he’s like, “I don’t really watch TV.” And it struck me-- why would he watch TV? He’s out on the field. My grandfather doesn’t watch TV, he still gets more creative work done in a day than I do all week.

I don’t know where I’m going with this other than… inspirado. I was feeling the lack of it but it feels good to write something.

Naanum Rowdy Dhaan

Although he’s the son of a cop, Pandi (Vijay Sethupathi) thinks rowdies are way cooler. So while Pandi placates his policewoman mother (the delightful Raadhika Sarathkumar) by taking the police entrance exam, he also has a side business going in amateur rowdy-ism. But Pandi is a sweet boy and doesn’t really have it in him to actually commit acts of violence. His version of rowdy-ism is based on the filmi image and mainly seems to involve threats, con artistry, and showmanship. The menace is in the threat of the follow-through.

Pandi doesn’t seem to understand that he’s not the typical rowdy until, yes, he meets a girl. A girl who’s got a real rowdy problem. Kaadambhari (Nayantara), you see, wants revenge against the man who destroyed her family, a real rowdy named Killivalivan (Parthiban). Can a cream puff of a rowdy help a lady take on a dangerous criminal? I have to say, it was a fun ride finding out!!

Naanum Rowdy Dhaan was the first new(ish) film I’ve seen in some time and I’m glad I took the time. Although I’m sure some of the jokes went over my head because of the language barrier, what did come through was delightful. The police-rowdy revenge drama has been done a million times but what struck me with Naanum Rowdy Dhaan was how much care had been taken with the story and characters. Nobody was sleepwalking through their roles because they all had such great material to work with, even the women in minor roles--like bubbly Meenakshi playing Killi’s wife “Baby”--got some chances to steal scenes.

Vijay Sethupathi, our hero, was playing a one of my favorite hero types--the slacker. As @indraneelm commented to me on twitter, “Pandi” is the type of hero that Govinda or Mithun would have played once upon a time, just a normal guy hanging out on the street corner. Vijay doesn’t have their dance skills but he does have a likable, relaxed manner about him. And as Hindi heroes have become increasingly waxed and gym-buffed, their skill sets limited to burning through daddy’s money and influence, their moods artificial, the heroes of these small-scale Tamil films have been such a breath of fresh air.

And of course Pandi would want to emulate the rowdy-heroes he sees in films. The cops are always so uptight. Given the choice, who wants to be Singam when you could be Vikram in Rajapattai just hanging out with your buddies?

With Vijay so solid in the role of slacker, it allowed heroine Nayantara to take some risks as the girl out for revenge. Kaadambhari was an unusually complicated role not only because she had a lot of emoting to do but… (spoiler) because she is deaf! And guess which rowdy is responsible for that? Nayantara--and director Vignesh Shivan--do a great job with the showing not telling of Kaadambhari’s deafness. From having the sound cut out when we switch to Kaadambhari’s perspective to Nayantara having to focus on character’s lips rather than their eyes in order to show she’s lip-reading. And even with all that extra “acting” in the role, Kaadambhari still comes across as playful and fun, rather like Kajol playing the blind Zooni in the first half of ill-fated Fanaa. Nayantara never veers into disabled burlesque. It’s a wonderful, very fresh, very real performance.

There was a lot to like from the rest of the cast, as well. Director Vignesh Shivan seems to share my love of minor characters and packed his cast with so many I can’t possibly name them all. The random Tamil speaking white girl, the guy with the big hair, the 1 minute sub-sub-sub-subplot featuring the staring guy, the grandpa in Pandi’s gang, a cameo from Rajendran, scene stealing Meenakshi, dear Azhagam Perumal as Kaadambhari’s beloved father, the hilarious lady playing Pandi’s policewoman mother’s sidekick, RJ Balaji in the comedy sidekick role…

The music from Anirudh Ravichander was also fantastic. He’s really been on a roll with his soundtracks. Plus, on the few articles I read it seems like he was responsible for getting the film made, so kudos to Anirudh! I look forward to your next project (#4yearsofKoliveriDi.)

Enjoy a song picturization, the wistful “Thangamey”, and see the appeal for yourself. Those looks Vijay throws...

Friday, November 6, 2015

To be on stage...

Benny Olsen's "There you go, Taylor! Much better!" made me laugh really hard for some reason. Possibly because it's pretty much what I was yelling last Sunday. We're all pulling for you, Kemp!

It's halftime in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and D.C. United is one down. Of course, coming back from one down after halftime is what we've excelled at all season so anything could happen on Sunday. ANY. THING. Anything.

The more I think things over, the more I keep coming back around to what Penn Jillette says about show business. Namely, that all we, as an audience want, is to feel a connection with our fellow human beings. Juggling, soccer, music, acting... at the most elemental level, they are the excuse we need to watch. The craft facilities a window into the soul. The deep pleasures of soccer's kinesthetic empathy. The emotional empathy. The satisfaction of seeing these men work so hard on the field and, like in Columbus, the frustration when we see them give up. The joy of winning. The emptiness of loss. These are emotions that tie us to life. We need an outlet for them, a safe outlet.

When people mock fans of heroes, of idols, of fandoms like Star Trek, I always wonder what those mockers would have us do instead? Where are we supposed to channel these feelings? The need for connection, the desire to feel like a part of something bigger. Religion? Ethnic identity? Directed back into the family? How is that marriage-is-one-true-love-romance-forever-bullshit working out for everyone? Into ourselves? Identity politics? Sometimes I feel like our American culture has suffocated us to the point where all those normal feels are putrefying. And we see the swamp gas of the result all over the news everyday...

Anyways. Some muggy Friday morning deep cuts for you. THERE YOU GO, TAYLOR! MUCH BETTER!

Monday, November 2, 2015

DCU vs. Red Bull at RFK. Losing really sucks, huh.

What a sour feeling it is, losing. Sitting in the stands at your home stadium while the opposing team's fans, in this case, the evil corporate RED BULLS supporters, explode into celebratory cheers. I'm surprised our collective doom and gloom, the combined force of thousands of disappointed D.C. United fans, didn't summon a personal rain cloud, localized over the "loud" section of RFK. I think we saw the ball maybe 3 times in the second half from our seats in section 127, by the Red Bull goal. Depressing. You cheer your ass off for 90+ minutes and the team still doesn't win. The gorgeous fall afternoon mocking our collective butthurt. How dare the team lose when we were there cheering? At least that was the mood of the crowd filing out...

Well, losing is a part of life. Losing is part of being a fan, whether it's sitting through a terrible film from your favorite hero or excitedly pre-ordering an album from your favorite band only to have it be a coke-fueled wankfest.

Shahrukh's Fan Teaser: SRK in Darr x SRK in Billu x I would need a lot of money to sit through this

So... the long Fan teaser has been released. And if you are a super Shahrukh fan, I'm sure you're excited since this seems to be the culmination of everything his career is about these days, i.e. Shahrukh. If you don't particularly care for him, there is nothing in this teaser to win you over since it is the culmination of everything his career seems to be about these days, i.e. Shahrukh.

The concept seems to be Darr crossed with Billu Barber but only with about a million times more Shahrukh packed into every frame. I have zero interest... less than zero interest. I have negative interest. I know Shahrukh has fans. I know he does. But for me, personally, as not his fan, this constant need to assert his own superstardom just rings of an inner desperation that a real superstar doesn't have.

Shahrukh is a media star. He loves the media and they reflect the him he wants to see back to himself. I don't think it's a coincidence that so much of this trailer footage is existing media footage of Shahrukh. More than any other star, Shahrukh has figured out how to play on the Bollywood media's own desperation for "access," for importance. He throws soundbites at the press and they swallow it all with stars in their eyes.

The odd thing about Shahrukh is that because of this desperation for attention, his fanbase actually holds a lot of power over him. If he stops producing content of the type they want to see, they have the power to vanish and take his "superstardom" with them. The constant displays of "superstardom" surely must come out of this fear. "They're still here, they're still here..." Until they're not.

I know I have a reputation as a Shahrukh-hater but I'm really not. I'll absolutely own up to strongly disliking his current persona. Without a doubt. I've hated almost everything he's done starting with the tonedeaf "cool" Don: The Chase Begins Again back in 2006... but that doesn't mean I'm not still hoping for another Chak De India or a return to the sweet-natured, non-smug, non-cloying Shahrukh of Main Hoon Na... Veer-Zaara, Asoka... I really enjoyed these films. But they don't have Shahrukh oozing from every frame like all his current films seem to.

All I can do is wait for him to put out a film I want to see. A film that doesn't star the "Superstar," just Shahrukh, the actor.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

ゲスの極み乙女。 single review: 『オトナチック』 / Otonatic

Last week, four-piece Japanese rock band ゲスの極み乙女。(Gesu no Kiwami Otome., literally meaning "Girl at the height of rudeness." The period is part of the name, which is super confusing, I know.) released their fourth single, titled, 『オトナチック』 (Otonatic). The title is play on words, combining otona (meaning "adult" or "grown-up") with the -tic ending of automatic. And the lyrics speak to an ambivalence from Enon about becoming a real adult if it means swallowing your words and forcing yourself to smile.

The imagery of the video certainly speaks to that ambivalence, the band's tuxedo costumes making them look like kids playing dress-up. We see Enon's frustration written out ("正解の正解がわからない" or "I don't what the right answer to the right answer is") and we also see how those words can hurt if spoken. When the other members get hit with Enon's words, they're hurt. Hona Ikoka, the drummer, is splashed with ink; keyboardist ChanMari finds her hair hacked off; and bass player Kachou's bow tie is knocked askew.

But, like my all-time favorite band Belle & Sebastian, Gesu no Kiwami Otome. take those lyrics on the painful nature of existing in the world when you actually pay attention to it, and set them against unexpectedly beautiful, unusual musical arrangements. "Otonatic" goes from a quietly funky verse to a driving call-and-response pre-chorus leading into the chanted もう忘れて ("mou wasurete", "just forget it") before exploding into a harsh minor key indie rock chorus. The mix is far richer than computer speakers can provide, drums often echoing the keyboard and guitar riffs, the bass finding hooks in the rhythm you wouldn't have expected.

What sets Gesu no Kiwami Otome. apart from other groups, however, is that they weren't even supposed to be a band. They started out as a group of musicians who simply enjoyed playing together. Hona Ikoka, the drummer, asked Kawatani Enon, the singer, if he wanted to jam sometime. He said yes and invited along his friend Kyuujitsu Kachou, the bass player, who had just quit their other band, Indigo La End, in order to become a regular guy with a regular office job. Hona Ikoka brought along keyboardist ChanMARI because Hona Ikoka always used to see ChanMARI dragging her giant keyboard around the hip neighborhood Shimakitazawa (think Tokyo's Brooklyn) and thought she seemed cool. A few jam sessions led to a few gigs which led to a self-released single, which led to another, and another, and then a major record deal.

Coming from this background of four musicians playing together, we get a balance of instruments that's weighted extremely equally. The difference between Gesu no Kiwami Otome.'s sound and Kawatani Enon's other band, Indigo La End, for which he also writes and sings the songs, is striking. Indigo La End sound like a normal indie rock band. Anchored by Hona Ikoka's off kilter, self-taught drumming and Kyuujitsu Kachou's barely on this planet bass-stylings, Gesu no Kiwami Otome. take the same indie rock themes and pull them up to levels of pure sublimity.

The second track on the single is 「無垢な季節」 or "Muku na Kisetsu", meaning "The Season of Purity", a bittersweet song of awakening emotion and the beauty of a relationship that blooms and fades, which makes copious use of my number one vocal kink: male falsetto. Enon does these great vocal leaps from chest voice to falsetto, adding a whole other layer of pathos to the song. The lily, yuri in Japanese, symbolizes purity in the language of flowers. The hook in the chorus is a repeated 泣けて、泣けて、泣けてくれんだ ("Nakete, nakete, naketekurunda", "I could finally cry, cry, cry...") leading to the final line of the song: 僕だけがいつも取り残されて、夏が終わっていてく ("I'm always the only one left behind, when summer comes to an end.") You can't get more Belle & Sebastian-y than that.

The song is a high energy disco, pushing ahead so fast it's almost at the verge of tripping over Hona Ikoka's drum rolls. And just as the pace seems to slow and catch its breath, ChanMari glissandoes right back into the groove.

The other two tracks on the single don't have video or streaming so you'll have to take my word for it. 「O.I.A.」 is a solid fast-driving rock B-side. The title stands for:

俺は (Ore wa)

井の中に蛙で (I no naka ni kawazu de)

あった。。。 (Atta...)

I was

A frog

trapped in a well.

The final song on the single is my favorite, a moody indie rock number titled 「灰になるまで」 ("Hai ni naru made", "Until I become ash"). The song is done in a straight rock style, no funk. The verses, which Enon sings in his spoken word "rap" style, are quiet and sparse, switching to a pounding straight beat with some angry shouting on the chorus. "1, 2, 3 で灰になるまで歌う" ("I'll sing until I become ash with a 1,2,3...") everybody slamming the distortion in unison with ChanMARI's gentle piano providing the only bright spot of color. It's a powerful song. Listening the first time, walking around my neighborhood, I almost had to stop and sit down when the chorus kicked in. My skin prickled in pleasure at the cacophony of sound.

On the limited edition version of the single, which I bought, there's also a DVD with a few bonus goodies. Two live recordings, bass player Kachou showing us how to cook curry, and the group doing a Japanese variety show schtick in which they have to go out and interview random passers by. They are still raw on film but definitely have the charisma if they want to move forward with variety show work like other acts, such as The Bawdies, with their monthly TV show The Bawdies A Go Go!

Gesu no Kiwami Otome. are now positioned firmly in the middle tier of Japanese rock, the equivalent of which has almost completely disappeared from the American music industry. For one thing, the industry hasn't yet conceded their product to the tech companies, as happened in America, where the product became the iPod and streaming services, not the songs themselves. Bands also take interaction with fans very seriously and fans return the favor by signing up for official fan clubs (which I can't do here in America) and buying physical CDs for all the "extras" that are included (making this my main form of support). These mid-tier bands also benefit greatly from tie-ins with movie soundtracks, TV drama and anime soundtracks, and commercials, meaning that even though physical sales of CDs are down, like they are all around the world, bands still have alternate sources of income. Otonatic, itself, is a tie-in with cell phone company NTT DoCoMo.

They have a new album coming out in January. I am just waiting for the pre-orders announcement to show up.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Smell ya later, Revs!

On Wednesday, I stood in the rain with a few thousand other similarly crazy people and watched our D.C. United run the New England Revolution into the ground. We fans were nervous going in for a few reasons, not the least of which is that we were coming off that horrible 5-0 loss to Columbus and if we lost this game, too, our season was over. Would the team be demoralized? Angry? Ambivalent? Determined? And then there was the addition of volatile referee Mark Geiger, whose antics had been dubbed "The Geiger Show" by our coach Ben Olsen a few years ago. Would the ringmaster unleash chaos on the field?

The evening was wet but unseasonably warm as we filed into our seats. The crowd at RFK a bit sparse due to weather and the short notice of the scheduling of the game. A tense opening 15 minutes was finally broken by a bicycle kick from New England's Juan Agudelo that sent the ball flying over Bill Hamid's reach as we all stood there stunned. The score was 1-0 to New England. But the tide would soon turn. A fantastic save from Hamid kept us in the game; Pontius equalized the score just before halftime with a skillful header.

And then the second half. The energy in the stands was electric, at least in our corner. Flags waving, chanting, a mist of water and beer in the harsh floodlights of RFK. New England was falling to pieces and it was only a matter of time before they completely collapsed... which they did, spectacularly.

The moment comes after my boy Rolfe misses a chance to take the lead when he misses his first penalty kick all season in the 75th minute. As he explained later, "I kept believing that I was going to get another chance and I was going to score. There was a split second there, maybe a minute or two after the PK where its running through my head and I’m like 'Wow, it’s just one of those days, you know, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I haven’t played 90 minutes in a long time, I don’t know if they’re gonna take me out.’ So I just cleared my head and tried to stay optimistic and kept making runs."

That's what it's all about, right there. Olsen trusting Rolfe enough to keep him in game. Rolfe trusting himself enough to brush off the missed chances. Nick DeLeon is seemingly cornered by some New England defenders, defenders so focused on the ball they don't mark Fabi running right past them. He picks up the ball on a backheel from Nick DeLeon and sends it gliding through the crowd of confused white-and-red shirts to Rolfe who puts it in the goal clean and simple. No theatrics. It was the communication, the teamwork that was thrilling... much more so than a single bicycle kick.

Because when it comes right down to it, what good is a single bicycle kick when it leaves you injured and having to come off? What's really impressive is staying in there, keeping focused through missed chances, keeping an eye on your teammates to be in the right position when the time comes. I got chills reading Rolfe's postgame quotes later; I honestly did. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to get the job done. In this age of smartphones and analysis via gif, of endless tweets and shortened attention spans, I aspire to that attitude. It's something I struggle with everyday. Trying my best to keep my head in the game and off the hamster wheel of mental distraction.

Soccer is 90 minutes away from all of that distraction. It's 90 minutes of being present in the present right in front of your face, something all too difficult to find these days. Bill Hamid--in a very sweet video you absolutely should watch--says a soccer game is like a symphony. Who am I to disagree? (Side note: #TeamSully)

Standing in the pissy weather, Rolfe jersey thrown on over my office clothes, I should have been exhausted from work and from 90 minutes spent yelling my ass off, but I was under the spell. Coming home and watching the highlights reel a million times, trying to hold onto the feeling of standing in RFK stadium in the mist, under the harsh light, breathless from excitement... It was a good game.

On Sunday we face our arch rivals, the hideously named New York Red Bulls, in the semifinals. What will happen? Who can say... but I know I'll be there.

(Yup, just thrown on over my librarian duds... I have so much laundry to do today. Oof. Dry cleaning bill sent to D.C. United? Heh. I promise I have movie-arts related posts coming. I PROMISE!!)

P.S. Thoughts are with Chris Pontius and his hamstring. I can't even imagine how shitty a mental place it sends you to as a professional athlete with a chronic injury like that. It must be really hard to push through the mental block. Stay strong, dude. See you at Whole Foods some time.

P.P.S. BOBBY BOSWELL, YOU BETTER COME JOIN US IN THE STANDS! (Or I'm linking everybody to your 2006 Cosmopolitan Man of the Year video...)

Monday, October 26, 2015

DC United goes down 5-0 against Columbus and I'm compelled to write on being a fan.

It's taken me many, many years to come around to professional sports. For one thing, here in America, a lot of sports-talk is dominated by the same assholes who tormented me when I was in school and who made me feel like shit for not looking like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Anything they liked must be shitty, right? Multimillionaire athletes, drug scandals, wife-beating, concussions, gun violence, homophobia, bullying, and now the shitshow that is Draft Kings... that is the image of professional sports. Why would I want to get involved in that mess?

Well, I'll tell you. I became a real DC United fan. That's right, Major League Soccer. MLS.

(Little bro, DC United Mascot "Talon", and me... way back in 1998)

(Me, photo taken by little bro, in 2015. Yup. But I now often spot myself in photos of the crowds.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I know. I'm sorry. I can't stop thinking about BIGBANG.

I spent the last day or so trying to pick apart my BIGBANG experience, much like picking apart a ball of yarn tangled by my cat. I can't let it go. My librarian-brain needs to figure this thing out. I read over a handful of "professional" reviews of the concert and some other pieces and I keep returning to the same handful of threads. Americans have a limited tolerance for spectacle; at least 95% of "professional" arts critics are full of shit; what gets lost in translation when pop goes global; and BIGBANG is fucking awesome. (The last one is most important.)

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