Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Costas is King

Hot damn, Bob Costas is good.  I wish he was doing the color for every single major network sporting event - for some reason , he seems to be limited to The Olympics, and I say huzzah and hurray for that - but at least HBO gives him his head. Costas Now is the single best sports show on television.  It makes me wish I had Tivo, because I have no idea when it's on, or even if it's been picked up for another season (what constitutes a season on HBO, anyway?) 

Still, it is consistently bold, smart and provocative. Costas is like me - a middle-aged sports dude who doesn't want to be thought of as the dumbest guy in the frat house.  Sports, Costas contends, is being dumbed-down and tarted-up by the nasty bloggers, the gotcha press, Fox.  Last night, I clicked over to something you never,ever see on TV - a serious discourse on the role of the media in shaping our attitudes about sport.  He had reporters, producers, athletes all mixed up and mixing it up with each other.  Buzz Bissinger laying into Deadspin's Will Leitch was worth the price of my exorbitant cable bill alone.  "I think you're full of shit," the great man barked at Leitch. He then proceeded to invoke the great sportswriter WC Heinz's name ("Have you ever even read him") and decried the decline of a skill he "spent 40 years...trying to perfect." I've got nothing against Leitch - I've never read Deadspin that closely - but I was feeling Bizzinger big time.  And yet, I'm not losing hope. I think newspapers could wind up like vinyl records - just when it dies out ,everyone will realize how much they miss it. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When is Junk Mail not Junk Mail?

Today, as I sifted through the lame pile of trash that is my daily mail, I came across what appeared to be a grocery flyer.  But then I noticed that Bernard Malamud's picture was on the flyer, and surely Ralph's isn't hip to the man who wrote about a miserable, guilt-ridden grocery clerk in The Assistant.  

It was actually a freebie tease from a web site called I'm sorry to say that I've been completely in the dark about Nextbook. To me, it sounds like some horrible job search site, or a new social networking dealio, God forbid. What Nextbook is, in fact, is a web site devoted to Jewish culture.  This insert is supposed to whet folk's appetite for the site, and reader, it did mine. 

I just came back from my afternoon constitutional having read every single article.  There was a loving essay from the New York Times' Rachel Donadio about Malamud,  an interview with British novelist Howard Jacobson (again, I know nothing about him) that was so compelling I've placed his books on my Amazon wish list.  A story about a wildly popular Israeli war novel called If Heaven Exists, and an appreciation of Yiddish poet Mani Leib. Oh, and Sara Peretsky's a Jew. Who knew? 

I didn't know about any of it except Malamud, and it was all fascinating.  Natch, I tapped into the Nextbook site and bookmarked it.  If the site is as good as that reader, well, then I'm glad I looked at my mail today.  


Prince covered RADIOhead, not PORTIShead....

Yes, a Band

I'm a middle-aged man with a rock band. Groan, right? But fuck it - it's the most fun I get to have these days, and that's no small thing.  We've been playing for a couple of years, and no one has heard us. Well, a handful of friends and 'fake' groupies - female friends.  It's been a good wood-shedding time for us.  We started off rather stinky.  Nothing cohered, we sloughed off song structure,  too much wasted time, etc.  But now, I like what I'm hearing. 

It's a covers band, OK? Leave me alone, alright? A power trio, no less. But I'd like to think our song selection isn't quite so bar-band predictable.  Yes, there's Zeppelin - but it's 'The Rover,' not 'Stairway' or whatnot. Yes, there's Sabbath, but it's 'Into The Void.'  And so on.  Now, I'm anxious to take it out and play for more than one person at a time.  This is a bit of a negotiation with my band mates, however.  It's funny, but getting the gumption to play a gig is leap of faith that not everyone is willing to take. I say, let the chips fall into the beer, and full speed ahead. I'm curious to see if we can make hay out of all this noise.  

Marvelous Marv

I know there are better sports announcers than Marv Albert. I know he's not the smartest, or wisest. But when I hear his voice on a TNT basketball broadcast, it pipelines me back to my childhood,  because Marv Albert is the soundtrack of my youth.  For decades, Albert was the voice of the New York Knicks (maybe he still is, I'm not sure) and given that I wasted my teenagery buying records and watching Knicks games on TV, Albert is - along with Bob Dylan and Jon Anderson -  a component of my wasted teenage Babel.  The Albert cliches became cliches long ago - "Yes, it counts!" "And the foul!"  But careful now;  this man is a very skillful broadcaster.  For one thing Albert, unlike every jock-asshole color guy doing TV now, understands that an announcer doesn't have to wallpaper the broadcast with his own voice.  He understands the value of leaving space, letting the game come to him rather than the other way around.  He doesn't get hysterical over every great play either.  A rise in Albert's voice - "Kobe with a spec-tacular play!" - is always enough and never too much.
The Albert-Reggie Miller team on TNT is doing a fine job during this playoff season. Never mind that the Knicks' all-time nemesis is sharing the mic with Albert.  They are smart and measured, not mad-breathless and dumb.  For this, I am grateful.  

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wolff at the Door

I shook Tobias Wolff's hand on Sunday. He was signing books at the L.A. Times book festival. I didn't know that he would be signing books at the festival, but I happened by and there he was. Unlike those autograph freaks that traipse around ULCA schlepping their rolling suitcases full of first editions,  I didn't have a copy of Wolff's new anthology of stories OUR STORY BEGINS on hand. No matter.  Author autographs have never really done it for me. I went to an Antiquarian Book Fair once and spent (indecipherable) hundred dollars on a few books - A Book of Common Prayer signed by Didion on the end matter page (!),  A copy of Philip Roth's The Breast and Sontag's Against Interpretation.  So what happened? I got all precious and kid-glovey about it. I never cracked the books open or read them. Now they were totemic artifacts- they were signed! But what's the use of a book if you can't read it, I ask you?  That's when I stopped worrying about first editions, Mylar covers and author autographs - none of those things enhances a book's value.  

Anyway, back to Wolff - I reviewed his book in the Weekly and I was truly blown away by it. It's just genius writing. So I walked up to the great man and I shook his hand.  His writing is recompense enough - the handshake was all I needed.  

Back to the Front

Oh man! It's been a minute.  Thought it would be best if I got back on the Blog  - it's what the kids are doing these days. So much to discuss, can't discuss it all.  
Did not go to Coachella. I don't think I will hereafter ever be present anywhere large numbers of people decide to take adult doses of Oxycontin and throw up in a giant dust bowl. It's not my scene, man. I heard that Prince did some wacky covers - Beatles, Portishead (!). That sounds like it could have been fun. Unfortunately, he started his set about three hours past my bedtime. The last time I waited for Godot and then a Prince concert, I had to prop up my eyelids with matchsticks. Ok, not really but you're getting the cut of my jib.  I think he deigned to hit the stage in his tiny hi-heels around 2 in the morning. It was rough, and he was really, really good.  You know what else is good? A Sealy Postrapedic mattress.  That's where I like to park myself at 2 am.  I've always been that way, really - late night shows have always been a trial for me. This was not a good thing when I had to review rock concerts for a (non) living.  I always preferred the middle-age sitdown concert to the hella late indie-whatever show.  You ever try to file a story at 8 am after a few hours sleep? It's rougher stuff, friend.   Not even giant caffeine injections can save you.  
Hey, this feels good! It's nice to be blogging again.  Don't be a stranger, hear?