Tuesday, January 22, 2008

game on

Photo: Bill Frakes/SI

big week for the politicos--and voters--with primaries coming up in SC (dems only) on the 26th, and FL on jan 29...

super tuesday's just round the bend, on feb 5, with 24 states (including my own) holding primaries or caucuses.

in that spirit, here's a brief, interesting piece from si, in which s.l. price recounts his one-on-one pick-up game with sen. barack obama in iowa last dec:
Here's the beauty of pickup basketball: You may be a U.S. senator, a living symbol of racial healing and perhaps even the next President of the United States, but if you're gliding in for an easy layup and each point is precious, I've got no choice then, do I? You're getting hacked. So, yes, I'm hammering that arm and crashing headlong into your whippet-thin frame; and, yes, it's a foul so flagrant, so absurdly desperate, that all you can do, body buckling, is laugh. Hey, it's pickup. Everyone, even you, uses whatever he's got to win.

"Believe me," Barack Obama says, walking to the top of the key, "you can get shot for doing that."

He's not serious. I think. But he wants me off his back, and invoking jumpy Secret Service men is a wise ploy. With the race for the Democratic presidential nomination whisker-close, Obama can't afford to show up for some Dubuque meet-and-greet with a mysterious fat lip. His wife, Michelle, warned me, "Don't break his nose, give him a black eye or knock his teeth out. Or I'll have to come find you."

Actually, Michelle understands. She hails from a Chicago family that believes the game -- when you pass, when you call fouls, how you check the ball -- reveals character. Once her romance with Barack got serious, she pressed her brother, Craig Robinson, to conduct the acid test: Go play. Robinson tried to duck it; he had starred at Princeton, and Barack had been a benchwarmer for his Hawaiian high school team. "All I could think was, This guy's going to be terrible, and I have to report that back," says Robinson, who's now the coach at Brown. "And you can't fudge it, because if he turns out to be a jerk and you knew but didn't say it, you're in trouble."
Obama was confident but not cocky, unselfish but unafraid to shoot. On court he showed the same balance that has fueled his political rise; he could talk trash without seeming mean, compete feverishly without seeming angry. Yet few knew how central the sport -- "my first love," he calls it -- was to his self-image as a mixed-race child: How the greatest gift from his absent dad was a basketball, how playing gave him his closest white friends and a place where black skin wasn't a disadvantage. When a coach, a close friend, casually threw out the word n-----, Obama says, "It reminded me that race is complicated, that people are complicated, that you could have ugly strains even among people who were otherwise decent.... It does not necessarily mean they're bad people..."
read the rest of it here...
more pics from the "game" at si.com photo gallery...
more of "the point after"--the back page column that replaces rick reilly's "life of reilly"-- here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

coverage to dream about

nadal (via peter bodo's blog post, the oxymoron: nadal v. connors, 1/17/07)...

these are boon times for tennis fans. not only has the quality of the tennis at the "happy slam" been spectacular (on the men's side alone, baghdatis d. safin; hewitt d. baghdatis; federer d. tipsarevic, tsonga d. gasquet), we've actually had an opportunity to see the matches LIVE.

espn/espn2's been offering three windows for live viewing--during the first week, there was morning, prime time and overnight coverage--plus "encores" of select match-ups in the afternoons.

the programming was smart to boot: in previous years, programmers seemed to forsake quality match-ups for "americans only" broadcasts (agassi, roddick, blake, the williams sisters) or alternately, the "sharapova show," with repeats of those same matches played ad nauseam--and i do mean nauseam--until the final rounds of the tourney.

this year espn finally lived up to the "worldwide" part of it's moniker. it seems the only programming blip so far was a decision to show the williams sisters' playing early round doubles, instead of showing nalbandian--considered a serious threat coming into the open--who was locked in more contentious singles match.

not that we have been--or should be--denied the opportunity to see roddick, blake, serena and venus williams, and maria sharapova, or federer or henin or nadal, for that matter, but with the expanded live coverage on espn (and more live and taped programming on tennis channel), viewers have been able to witness the depth and quality on both the men's and women's sides, from tour veterans and up and coming players from all over the world, which is a real treat for tennis fans, and which may actually help dedicate new ones.

and let's acknowledge the yeoman work of chris fowler and the team of commentators-- cliff drysdale (a favorite), mary carillo, mary joe fernandez, patrick mcenroe, darren cahill (love him, too), martina navratilova, justin gimelstob, bud collins, among others. "cliffy" and mary jo remarked that fowler had been on air for something on the order of 17 hours and 35 minutes. that's a lot of rallying, replays and in-studio banter to have to deal with. say what you will about the commentators' style and some of the things that escape their lips--which bloggers and their enthusiastic readers (like me) have lauded or criticized without reservation--but they've helped deliver some great tennis moments. we can't take their role in this for granted. as wise man/writer-editor-blogger extraordinaire, steve tignor reminds us, there were times when live coverage of the australian open didn't exist, except in our dreams...

if you don't get espn or tennis channel, or you just can't get enough-- even with the unprecedented tv coverage--check out steve tignor's "concrete elbow" blogs, which live on the tennis.com and espn sites, and peter bodo's tennis world blog. the "action" is just as lively! i will devote another whole post to tignor's stuff, as basically anything he writes becomes one of my personal must-reads. but i owe a particular debt to bodo for his intriguing analysis of nadal v. connors this week, and the unbelieveable photo of nadal (above).

dreamy, indeed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

good karma folks

come to the bowery mission benefit, at the bowery hotel, this thursday nite...sloppy weather in the forecast, but don't let that stop you...get sloppy with us!
all the vodka/other spirits you can drink, from 7pm-10pm...
silent auction for all you high rolling do-gooders...

good cheer, good karma, how can you resist?

it's $45 in advance/$55 at the door...fully tax-deductible....

more info on bowery mission benefit/tix and goodkarmanyc at

this will be my first time to the party, but i hear from my friend, the exceedingly lovely ms. teresa, one of the event co-chairs, that very, very good times were had by all last year...

hope to see you there...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

new year's odyssey

Romare Bearden. "Odysseus Leaves Nausicaa." 1977.

two weeks into the new year, and i'm not making much progress on my resolutions.

#1) be better dressed for work (i'm actually doing ok with this one, but it's thwarting resolution #2) be on time for work (i also blame this song, and this song...this one too. ok, i'm on a serious fiona apple jag of late, but really, once i put any music on, i can't seem to get myself out the door).

i've already broken # 3, which is to read the books on my bookshelf before buying more (but i've only purchased 2 books, paris walks and another paris guide. i will actually need those for my upcoming trip, so i figure that's acceptable.

i will give myself a little more time to learn how to bake cinnamon rolls (# 4).
i am actually reading more (perennial # 5).
i also have a bit more time to eat out more in my neighborhood (#6) and visit the 2 art institutions that are around the block from me (the morgan library and scandinavia house -- # 7, # 8).

so all in all, not a terrible start...

and in other respects, it's been a fun couple of weeks.

i've had some pretty great food moments, including a long-awaited reunion with a dear friend at eisenberg's sandwich shop, for an extra sloppy, extra special pastrami and cole slaw sandwich.
i was able to catch alvin ailey at city center just before the official start of new year, an experience which merits a separate post, if i can get my act together this week.

and i caught wind of a romare bearden exhibit at the dc moore gallery (made it to the gallery on the final afternoon).
i thrill to any opportunity to see bearden's work, which i became acquainted with thanks to a course with professor robert o'meally (zora neale hurston professor of english and comparative literature/founder and director of the center for jazz studies at columbia/professor of cool). "a black odyssey" surely broadens the view for those of us who are familiar with bearden as a preeminent "jazz artist" and o'meally does provide some context for those who may wish to contemplate the homer/harlem connection, notions of "home" and the odyssey of the individual (perhaps, "with the right spirit, we too can feel at home on the road, wherever our own odyssey may lead").

i marvel at bearden's collages and recognize the significance of the cut-outs, but of the work shown at the dc moore gallery, i was most taken with the smaller watercolor versions of the black odyssey, especially, odysseus leaves nausicaa (collage version, above), the sea nymph and calypso's sacred grove (which is apparently available as a mousepad. who knew?). i also loved the ink drawings from "the iliad series."
before leaving the gallery at 724 fifth ave, i decided to detour into the tibor de nagy gallery and saw biala: i belong where my easel is (it also happened to be the last day for that show). i'm not at all familiar with janice biala, but liked a couple of the collages very much, "untitled (roma)" and "untitled (loger le bateau sur la seine)." it was a pleasant discovery.
my "wandering" was fruitful in another respect. i learned that the tibor de nagy would next feature jane freilicher, who i've been intrigued by ever since i found out she was the "jane" of frank o'hara's chez jane. i hope to check it out this week...
more on romare bearden at the bearden foundation website...
ny sun's review of romare bearden: a black odyssey here...