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Posts tagged ‘Television’

Top five reasons why a new blog post is so very long overdue

It’s been well over a week since I have posted on my blog, and I tell you, it eats at me. I just haven’t found [see blog title]. But really, I have some legitimate excuses, uh, reasons, for not posting in a while. Here are the few of things that have eaten up all of my [see blog title].

Hurricane Sandy (2012): 60 km Wind Area Forecast

Hurricane Sandy (2012): 60 km Wind Area Forecast (Photo credit: Canadian Pacific)

1) Worrying about Hurricane Sandy. I type this faster and more anxiously as the wind whips up outside, and even though here in Boston we are well away from the center of the storm, school has been cancelled and the T has been shut down, so we are all four at home today. Read: no me time. Just lots and lots of we time. Which is great, great, great, of course. So instead of finishing my next post, which has been sitting in my draft folder for some time now half-finished, I have been drawing Bubble Guppies for T:

And I didn’t win the Art Award in sixth grade because why? No, I’m not bitter.

Daddy is taking charge of C’s homework (brought to you by the letters S and U, cut from magazines), so I have a few minutes on the computer. I’m typing fast. And when the time for the heaviest winds arrives, I’ll close the laptop and start pacing back and forth in front of the TV as Pete Bouchard tries to conceal his excitement about storm surges and gust MPHs and astronomical high tides. These meteorologist guys live for this, don’t they? They rub their hands in glee while we worriers wear pasta pots on our head waiting for the trees to come crashing down upon us.

English: The 2003 Tour de France on Alpe d'Hue...

The 2003 Tour de France on Alpe d’Huez, with Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso, Haimar Zubeldia, Roberto Laiseka and Joseba Beloki. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2) Everyone else is blaming Lance Armstrong, so why can’t I? As a cycling fan, I have been completely consumed by the stunning revelations about Armstrong’s alleged doping. Of course, when T was asleep and C was at school, I dropped all important chores and tasks to read the 200-page “reasoned decision” published by USADA, as well as the Tyler Hamilton book. I have had Cyclingnews constantly open in my browser. And like many others, I have been dismayed at charges too hard to ignore, and at watching elder statemen of the sport fall one by one. Another day brings another admission of guilt, another tarnished record, another achievement that was too good to be true. I’m not an expert, so I don’t feel qualified to say much about it. So I will leave it to known Mod and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins to say it best:

“It’s a sport I love and have always loved. It’s a shame that cycling is being dragged through this again. It’s not a shame he’s been caught. As you get older, you start to realise that Father Christmas doesn’t exist. And that was always the case with Lance.”

Bradley Wiggins racing to Gold in London 2012 ...

Wiggins wins the gold in the time trial, London 2012. (Photo credit: EEPaul)

You have to love this guy. I choose to believe Wiggins has never doped, because that’s what he says, but who’s to know for sure? Who can we trust? Ever? It’s sad that I wish Cyclingnews would publish a list of definitively clean riders, so we could have something to hold onto while the sport goes through this wrenching, scorched earth period that it must endure to restore its integrity.

3) Oh yeah, there’s that election. And Halloween.

C’s “master plan” for Halloween. Or the election???

4) We took a trip to NYC to visit my family and take C to see the Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid. Out on the flight deck of the old aircraft carrier, we passed rows of fighter planes with teeth painted on them and helicopters just wide enough for one person; I imagined them flying like whirring envelopes. And there’s the Captain’s bridge where you climb narrow stairs to talk to WWII veterans who were stationed on the Intrepid, and see an officer’s cabin where there’s a calendar from the year the ship was decommissioned (1974) still on the wall.

Beyond all of that, a temporary bubble houses the shuttle. Inside, the Enterprise floats above our heads in a cloud of blue, like that model of a huge, blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History. Just as hushed, just as commanding of respect. I wonder how the Enterprise will fare during the storm? It’s been through much more, I suppose.

The glowing ship.

5) Sorry, I had to watch Downton Abbey again. It just had to be done.

Obviously.

There are a million things to do, and there always will be, and they are calling me now. But it still makes me glad to know the blog is there, and I will get back to it in the next few days. But as I write this, the house is shaking; there is a big gust. My heart is beating faster. T will wake up soon. I’ve drawn the shades but I know the branches are bending and leaves are streaking by. I’ll need to start pacing soon, and pottering around, putting Legos back in bins, making meatballs, reading stories, vacuuming up crumbs, doing all the things I do to put the fear and worry at the back of my mind.

I hope everyone stays safe!

Are you being “show-shamed”?

Actress Tyra Banks at the 2000 Cannes Film Fes...

Fiercely real. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s mid-week, mid-winter. My friend Michelle has brought her boys over to play. We often spend these afternoons hiding in the kitchen, minimally intervening as the boys run around the house with capes, and maybe shirts, on. We don’t even sit; we just lean against the counter, eating leftover Cheddar Bunnies.

What’s on for you this evening? An often-asked question as the playdate winds down. We steel ourselves for the long goodbye, the tortured putting on of shoes. So what cultural feast will you and your gentleman husband attend? my friend asks. The ballet? Infinite Jest book club on Skype with friends in Paris, or Singapore? Late show at the Middle East? Candlepin bowling? What, pray tell, what? Don’t keep me in suspense!

“It’s America’s Next Top Model night!” I raise the roof. Sincerely, but not with 100% effort, floppy hands.

“I’m so jealous,” she says. “I have it on my DVR but I have to wait till my husband’s not around to watch it. He show-shames me.”

Finally, show-shaming, as Michelle terms it, must come to the light. Those who suffer, in their marriages, or friendships, reach out your hands, with whatever effort level you can muster, and take mine own! And hear tell of this secret suffering!

How do you know if you’re being show-shamed?

Do you watch a TV show that your husband, wife, or anyone you might live with, thinks is stupid? Well, how do you know they think it’s stupid? Do they say, “this is stupid,” and then leave you in peace to watch your program while they go practice yoga or dissect scripture or something, and then return when you’ve finished your stupid show and turned on The Wire? Show-shamed!

Do they, when you summon said stupid program from deep within your DVR (they should have password-protected folders for this kind of thing!), come into the room, roll their eyes, sit down with their iPads, and silently judge you as you watch, while all the while you know they’re listening even though they are pretending to read some BS on Instapaper? Show-shamed!

Do they, as you try to watch, interrogate you as to what exactly it is you like about said horrible show, openly lecture you about the program’s lack of value, remind you that they would never deign to watch it, and then imply that you are foolish for watching it, causing you to, over time, abandon watching the program in this person’s company, or even entirely? Show-shamed!

Do these people think they are so great, and that every program they watch is practically Shakespeare, and approved of by Entertainment Weekly, Salon, The A.V. Club, and other respected outlets of media criticism? But that your shows are for dummies? Like you? Show-shamers!

Do you, when watching a program deemed stupid whilst alone, rush to shut the television off when your show-shamer comes in the room, to avoid any of the above? Oh, the show-shame! 

I must thank Michelle for giving a name to this sad, but I’m willing to bet common, phenomenon. She thought of the term, she tells me, after watching a Sex and the City episode, “A Woman’s Right to Shoes,” in which Carrie feels “shoe shamed” after a friend judges her for how much she spends on her Manolos. And now, Sex and the City itself is a show that probably causes a great deal of show-shaming in households all over America. How funny. How sad.

Look. One of the things I like best about my husband is that he will cop to liking America’s Next Top Model. We both know it’s stupid, and we both watch it to revel in disbelief at the ridiculously large amount of self-esteem Tyra Banks has. Skip this next part if you are a show-shamer and you don’t want to hear any more nonsense about Top Model: [I mean, right? Who's with us? We just can't abide the way she has to stand above, literally above, her poor little minions, and call them up one at a time to hand out photos and rejection. She's like the bossy neighborhood girl who always had to be the teacher when you played school, calling all the shots, handing out scraps with big "F"s on them. But she's the millionaire, so f*ck us, what do we know? We actually don't even watch the show anymore since she fired everyone who was ever any actual good from the show. "But what about Ms J!" my husband said, with genuine concern. "I'm worried he won't find another job!"]

This attitude has won my dear husband big points amongst my friends. It’s all very endearing. And we have a lot of fun when we can watch TV together and yak about it. That is, if he approves of the show. But, when he doesn’t: show-shamer! Par excellence! Get ready for some more French: j’accuse!

When I am watching a show he doesn’t like, he exhibits all of the show-shaming behaviors above. Plus, he loudly professes his fondness for all the shows that typical major-league show-shamers like: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire (of course!), The Walking Dead. Louie. Game of Thrones (double of course!). And that pinnacle of all television shows, for those who really know quality: Buffy the Vampire Slayer The programs that advertise your membership in the club of fine, even hip, taste in television, that you are proud to shout your fancy for from the rooftops. That show you are smart, have good, nay, edgy, taste, and are participating in the New Golden Age of Television.

I like some of those shows too. Very much. But can’t I also watch Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team without the judgments? Or the 2o millionth season of Survivor? Or very minor (to you! To me they are huge!) European road cycling events on a small cable network without feeling like a weirdo? Or waiting till he’s not around? There, I’ve said it.

And then there’s one more kind of show-shaming, the kind that I feel particularly embarrassed about I am called out on it. Example: we watch Parks and Recreation. It’s a good show, no shame there. Then, as soon as it’s over, and I mean milliseconds after, he grabs the remote to delete it from the DVR, forcing me to beg, “Wait! Don’t delete it!” But it’s too late. It’s gone. Because it’s an affront to him to waste precious precious DVR space on something we’ve already seen. Oh, the humanity!

I like to watch things over and over; to me, a lot of what I enjoy about TV is spending time, in a sense, with characters I like, or being transported to a little world I like to visit. So EXCUUUUUSE MEEEE  that I’ve put my Gavin and Stacey DVD in AGAIN YES I KNOW I KNOW HOW IT ENDS. I see the smirk. I see he pities my strange, weak, (yet charming? maybe?) foible.

Gavin & Stacey main characters, left to right:...

I’m not being funny, I could watch this show a million times. It’s lush! 

So we’ve outlined the terms of show-shaming. The judging. The eye-rolling. The third degree. The difficulty abiding shows that are not approved by television critics and your very coolest Facebook friends/ComicCon attendees. And then there’s the related condition. It’s easy for them to dislike your programs. But you don’t want to watch Game of Thrones? Philistine!

I could go on but I feel like this post will snowball into a general discussion of the everyday conundrums of marriage, or living in close quarters, and a paragraph that starts, “And by the way, why can’t you find things in the refrigerator?” No. This is not an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond (which I personally enjoy show-shaming my mother about). I just put this to you:

What, ye show-shamed bretheren, is the solution? What do we do about it? Do we stand firm in the face of show-shaming, and ask for equal time for our shameful shows, whatever they are? Do we force the show-shamers to watch our banned programming with us, and try to get them to see whatever good we see in it? No! Because that is exactly what the show-shamer would do. Try to get you, nay – force you! to see their side.

The answer? Acceptance. That is all we can ask. For those of us with small children to contend with during the day – pipsqueaks who hold all the power in the household and the remote as well – an evening by the television, after the power-brokers are in bed, is hearth-time, where we come together, sometimes, and express ourselves in this modern and depressing way. My husband and I share our home, we share our lives and hopes and dreams, but we are still entitled to our own opinions and tastes. Though we committed to share a television when we stood at that altar all those years ago, it’s OK that we don’t like all the same things. What would that be like? Yikes. We still agree on the things that are the most important: we love our kids, our families, our community. We neither of us care for seafood. Beyond that, our separate interests should make us interesting to each other, not alien. So let’s remove judgement from at least this small, but dear, portion of our lives. One that’s totally within our control.

So if, show-shamer, you enter the room when a shamed show is on the screen, simply do not judge. Say, “Oh, you are watching that delightful episode of Gavin and Stacey again. The one where they have the surprise barn dance for Gwen’s birthday. That’s nice. I’ll just be here, folding this laundry, supporting you.” Or the beshamed can say, “Oh I can finish this up later, that’s no problem. Why don’t we watch a Louie? I hear Parker Posey’s in this episode. That will be great!” See? Oh, the domestic bliss.

Sleeper (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

If we have to watch Buffy, can we at least watch one with Spike in it? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back to mid-week, mid-winter. The boys are asleep. We’ve heard the last of them, and Max and Ruby, for the day. But there’s a friend on our doorstep! It’s Michelle, bearing red wine. A Malbec, from Argentina. There is a plate of the finest cheeses and charcuterie, perhaps some cornichon, balanced on a child’s chair in front of the TV. The CW is on. Tyra’s going to teach the young models how to booty-tooch. Then, a photo shoot in which they have to pretend to be Greek salad. And we will freely enjoy. But if Michelle even thinks about suggesting we watch the Real Housewives of New Jersey or some such crap, back out into the cold, dark night she goes!

Are there any of you out there feeling show-shamed? For any type of TV show, cheesy, classy, or otherwise? There’s room for all points of view in show-shaming! Any type of show can bring on the shamer’s chilling gaze!

And if there are any show-shamers among us: show your faces! You will not be judged here! Maybe you will a little bit. But still! Tell us, why oh why?

When watching grown-up TV with your kids goes wrong, #3: the Miss Italia pageant

Miss Italia 2012

She’s going to Euro Disney! Giusy Buscemi, Miss Wella Professionals Sicilia, is Miss Italia 2012. (Photo credit: Fiatontheweb)

It’s September 10: the last day of summer vacation. Kindergarten is starting the following day. So let’s take it easy. Playground in the crisp morning, a late nap for T; C is working on his latest Lego Star Wars set: “The Battle of Naboo.” I’m pottering around. I gasp -

September! That can only mean one thing! When is Miss Italia starting? Oh no! Have I missed it? I drop all the awesome tasteful crafts I make in my spare time according to the laws of Martha Stewart magazine, and run to the TV. Translation: I drop the Martha Stewart magazine I read with feelings of inadequacy (Why did I insist on all those garish colors at the boys’ birthday party? Children love parties with an all-white theme!) and make a very short leap to the TV. Channel 1772 – the Italian-language station, RAI International. I subscribe to the channel just for stuff like this: so I can practice my Italian by watching people speak the language in its most natural form, which is arguing and carrying on.

Sure enough, it’s on when I turn to the station. And it’s live, in the middle of the afternoon here, and not even listed in the channel guide, which instead lists a program called Techetechete’ (I looked it up, and I still have no idea). But, look, there is Fabrizio Frizzi. Our hapless host. He hasn’t quit yet, like that other host did once. Phew. There are still 20 contestants in the running, down from 101 (and there are only 20 regions in Italy!), so that gives us a few solid hours left. And sure enough, I enter in on an argument. More, as I mentioned in my previous post about the pageant, polemiche. Polemics.

I sit down to watch while C sits at the dining room table with his Legos. Miss Italia runs for two nights, for at least three hours per night (it used to run for four nights, before it was half-cancelled last year). Who knows what I missed on the first night? Well, let’s imagine:

The judges, aided by voters from home, aka, “il televoto,” whittled down the contestants from 101 into smaller and smaller groups. When elimination time comes, the cameras panned to each woman individually, when she’s told if she is in or out. If she was out, close-up on the face: looks of annoyance and/or despair, and/or pretending not to care. That gets replayed immediately, giving the audience chances to lip-read for any cursing or bestemmie, blasphemies. The rejected Miss are kept bordocampo, on the sidelines – all the better to catch any tears, or storming off, or colluding with the other rejects to storm the stage. They are definitely allowed to step up to the mike to protest their eliminations. Last year’s winner no doubt then sang a song. More eliminations. Pause to watch le Miss dance around to a Madonna song, or with scarves maybe (this actually happened on night 2, something similar no doubt happened on the night 1). Then the proceedings are hashed out by the judges. Then more arguing with a crew of assembled journalists kept on hand to mix it up. And so on. Pause to plug tourism in the new host town, Montecatini Terme, in Tuscany. It’s a nice place; no arguments there.

Montecatini Terme, Toscana, Italia

Montecatini Terme. Oh, Italy, for stuff like this, we’ll forgive you this crazy pageant. And Silvio Berlusconi. And Fabio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back to the argument at hand. The judges are defending their choices for the Top 20, as well as the inclusion of the televoto, up against an audience full of angry mamme e babbi whose daughters weren’t chosen, or fans whose region wasn’t represented.  From the next room, I hear C spouting fake Italian: “Fresha pizza! Bacalabaraciabara! Mutandi Wow!” All those dreams of raising my children with the Italian language, come to naught. Where’s my copy of Marcovaldo by Italo Calvino? We’re dumping Captain Underpants at bedtime, I don’t care who understands what.

He comes in the living room. “Why aren’t those people on your show speaking regular?”

“They are speaking regular. We speak English here. But in Italy, they speak another language. Did you know that this is what Nanny spoke when she was little like you? She lived in Italy and spoke Italian. So did your great-grandparents, my grandparents. Nanny still speaks Italian sometimes.”

Oh yeah! Malavita! Chist’ o cazzu! Fresha pizza again! Well, at least I’ve gotten two Italian terms, common in my house growing up, into his vocabulary. They’re not that nice, but still.

I think it would do him good to hear the language for the remainder of our afternoon at home, so I keep watching as he plays. I don’t think he’s watching the screen from the next room, so I don’t feel the need to elaborate at this moment on the extremely sexist nature of the program. At this age, all I can do is keep stressing to him that boys and girls, men and women, are capable of the same things. That they can both be doctors, or nurses, or Jedi knights. That the queen of his Playmobil castle can be just as strong as the king.

Of course Miss Italia objectifies women. At least, unlike the American equivalent, the Miss America pageant, it does not pretend to be a scholarship competition. Le miss just stand around in bathing suits most of the time (though this year, bikinis were banned), and when they are dressed, they are beautifully so, instead of looking like a bunch of Blanches from Golden Girls at age 22. Most of the contestants are there to try to get a job presenting one of the three million talk shows on Italian TV, and winning this is a good way to do it.

Look, I know it’s bad. It’s terribly antiquated, even for an antiquated country. But I like it for pretty much the same reason I like the Tour de France, or the Olympics, or Champions League soccer. It’s long, and mainly monotonous, giving me the chance to sink myself into this European dream, where I can pretend I’m not on some street in Massachusetts with a boring name, but in a villa, or a garret, or a even a hovel in the heart of Europe. Which is mainly where I ask Calgon to take me.

I watch shows like this on RAI to listen to the language, as its spoken now; I like to hear poetry in the names of the Italian regions, read 101 times and splashed across le fasce, the sashes: Miss Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Miss Valle d’Aosta (that’s practically France; she never wins), my family’s home regions: Miss Campania, Miss Calabria. These women, in their own superficial way, represent deep ties to these little towns in corners of Italy where their families have probably been living for a thousand years, places where they claw their ways out of the regional pageants near churches where their ancestors were married, the camposanti where they’re buried. It’s dumb, but it’s true; it’s a slice of a life of a place I dream of. I only wish I could see the commercials too, for the banal little items that fill these lives: boxed pasta, furniture sets, cheese like Nonna made, spreadable ham (really!). But we don’t often get those – they don’t apply to us and our market, so they are usually cut out and replaced with a Miss Italia best-of reel, of winner after winner crying, their hair and eyebrow thickness changing through the years.

C keeps fervently working on his model of the Battle of far-off Naboo while I watch eliminations, indignations, altercations, explanations, and further complications. Then he saunters into the living room with his Lego accomplishment, a smirk on his face announcing a big joke prepared:

“The Battle of Naboobs. Like those,” he said, sing-song, pointing slyly at the TV.

Like every good Italian daughter, I should have listened to my mamma.

“He hears everything,” she told me just the other day. “Even from the other room. So watch it!” Every discussion of breastfeeding, ill-fitting undergarments, everything boob-related has apparently gone straight into his ears, bounced off the TV set, and come right back at me. So much for his big language lesson. Instead, a pun on the female anatomy. And is anyone else’s five-year-old going through a private-parts obsession lately? Because that remark is one of many made concerning any part of the body usually covered by underwear, male or female. Aren’t they supposed to be in some sort of Freudian latency period or something?

As the lone female in this household, I have my work cut out for me, I see, as spokesmodel, er person, for womankind.  And the moment for these lessons has come more quickly than I would have thought. As in so many aspects of parenting, I feel like I am constantly playing catch-up to my kid; like I am parenting the child of a few weeks or months ago, though he has already made leaps since then, and continues to change so much, all the time. So, step one, a new reality: even more careful about what I say. And step two: watch Miss Italia after bedtime. Stick to better quality Italian-language shows during the day, like…Techetechete’? I don’t know. I’ll get back to you on that one.

The Battle of Naboobs. Sigh. (via tvblog.it)

For more of my parenting foibles, see also:

When watching grown-up TV with your kids goes wrong, #1: The Tour de France

When watching grown-up TV with your kids goes wrong, #2: National Geographic: Volcano!

The world is waiting…for my thoughts on the Olympics so far

London -- View from Tate Modern

London — View from Tate Modern (Photo credit: Nietnagel)

You might have noticed I lit up the internet with some live tweets of the Opening Ceremony. I feel like I should go along with peer pressure and say that it was brilliant and totally out-of-the-box, but I thought it was a bit uneven, and a waste of Kenneth Branagh.

I mean, how did they come to spend so much time, given everything that is great about Great Britain, on “the kids” pretend-Tweeting each other? What is this, From Justin to Kelly? I get that the kids today love social media, but young’uns looking at phones and writing jolly messages has become a very un-dynamic shorthand for reaching out to youth culture. All those incredible songs in the background, wasted, while people walk/dance around in weird costumes. And in the presence of all these amazing young athletes, we’re spending a good quarter of the Opening Ceremony on people and their ubiquitous phones.

And again, the National Health Service section: out of everything Danny Boyle and crew could have chosen to represent Britain, why this? I’m just wondering. I think that health care for children is incredibly important, I really do, but given the big swath of screen and stadium you have to fill, why fill it with children faffing around on beds? Visually, it’s just not that interesting.

I did like the opening film about the course of the river Thames, and the Tube, though that marker at the beginning looked like a gravestone. I also liked the pastoral scene, even though the choreography as it progressed felt like one overly-long set change, rather anything composed to look at. And I obviously loved the Rowan Atkinson/Chariots of Fire bit. That was hilarious, and to me, showcased British wit and personality so well. If it were me, and I am fending off phone calls from Sochi as I write this, I would have maybe used Branagh as a narrator, ala Our Town, throughout the ceremony, bringing him back periodically to spout off some appropriate lines of Shakespeare, as he does so well. I think that would have helped tie everything together, instead of these uneven blocks of action. And here’s my other big idea: I liked how the grass gave way to a floor that looked like city streets. How about running a river, mimicking that distinctive bend in the Thames (cue Eastenders theme song), through the stadium? I think that incredible river is a perfect emblem for London and the Games. OK, Sochi, I’ll do it.

***

Michael Phelps’s sister, you seem very nice. I even stomached that interview with you, the other sister, and your mother with that insufferable Ryan Seacrest because I thought you seemed so nice. But, as a pretend friend, I’m telling you: move on from that necklace you’re always wearing. The big huge red one. (Check out this London 2012 fashion rundown for a photo) I like the necklace in and of itself, but I feel that for the past six million years, every time I’ve seen you cheering for baby bro somewhere, you have been wearing it. It’s a statement necklace: you make the statement, then you get rid of it and make another statement. It’s not a string of pearls. People are going to remember that you keep wearing it. You’re not Kate Middleton; you have nothing to prove by rewearing your looks. Even your mother switches up her chunky jewelry.

So, sis, unless it is some kind of good luck charm and he loses if you don’t wear it (which we now know is not the case), how about you retire it, auction it off for charity or something, and let your fancy brother buy you a new one, like from Erickson Beamon, or J. Crew? Or, f*** it, Chanel? He can afford it.

***

Finally, my favorite win so far? The Great Britain Mens’ Gymnastics Team! I know I am supposed to be rooting for Team USA, but that was a great win, even though the Japanese team killed the buzz a bit at the end there…still, if someone picks up Bud’s mantle and makes a London 2012: Tales of Olympic Delight or somesuch, I smell a Greenspan! A Greenspan being my new term for excellent, documentary segment-suitable stories of Olympic glory. Stay tuned for a complete list of Greenspans (TM) as the Games progress! No, Ryan Seacrest, you are not eligible…

***

And FINALLY finally, one last Allez Wiggo. Click on the link to see the perfect backdrop to cap the end of an inspiring season.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Does Zara Phillips have to do everything, people of England? No, never mind, Bradley Wiggins will take care of it. And he’s got his priorities straight.

More importantly, Nancy Hogshead: I thought you were amazing in 1984, and I still think you are amazing.

And the gold medal for watching the Olympics goes to…

London Olympics 2012

London Olympics 2012 (Photo credit: Andrea Vascellari)

Me! Team USA!

As a teenager, I found a questionnaire I filled out for school as a nine-year-old. Who was my hero? Nancy Hogshead, I wrote.

Nancy Hogshead? The name no longer meant anything to me. But it stayed in my head. Who was this person that I looked up to in 1984? That I valued more than my parents, or Madonna, or Garfield? And should I be embarrassed? It took the invention of the internet a several years later to figure out the identity of this hero I had long forgotten.

Nancy Hogshead won three gold medals and one silver in swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Ah, that makes perfect sense, I realized. That’s why I became an ace swimmer at UCLA and won those five gold medals in Atlanta in 1996. I knew I was in Atlanta in 1996 for something. Thanks, internet.

I can’t attribute a stellar athletic career to Nancy Hogshead, but she is probably responsible for something else: how so very much I love the Olympics. Watching them, that is. I haven’t missed a moment since 1984. And now, as they are set to begin on Friday, I have that happy, carefree feeling that I get every other year, because two solid weeks of fairly uncomplicated patriotism, loud athletic fashion, underdog glory, and a tiny hint of schadenfreude are on their way to my television screen. And computer. And iPhone. Oh, the coverage. I love television events that aren’t called programs, but “coverage.” They just go on and on…I can just melt into it.

And it’s just in time to ease me out of my Tour de France addiction. AND better yet! They are about to begin in my second-favorite city in the world! Which is perfect, because my first-favorite city and home metropolis, New York, probably could do without the aggravation of putting on an Olympic Games. Enough already.

So what can you do if you can’t wait till Friday, when you can obsessively watch each and every participating nation parade into the Olympic stadium so that you can pick out some early favorites and make a top ten best (and worst) team outfits list? And then plan a viewing schedule that best coincides with nap times and camp? Here’s how.

If Showtime is not showing a round-the-clock marathon of Bud Greenspan Presents: Tales of Olympic Glory, which as an imprecise but apt name for this television series, they are severely missing out on some good synergy…what? They’re not showing it right now? Oh. That’s too bad. Guess you’ll have to read this blog to find out what you’re missing.

The late, great documentarian Bud Greenspan made a TV series that showcased a collection of the most inspiring stories to come out of each recent edition of the Games. While b-roll and properly-licensed footage ran, an announcer gravely, deeply, and with little – no – zero emotion provided a voiceover telling stories of self-doubt which turned to triumph, or fear which turned to tragedy, which turned to glory. Stories of economic/national/parental obstacles, or bodily harm overcome. And so on. The modern Olympics, since they began, are filled with thousands of these stories. I don’t know about the original Olympics – they didn’t have Showtime then. But probably.

I love all of Greenspan’s documentaries, but every time I see that dear man’s name come up in my channel guide, I manage to see the same episode: Nagano ’98 Olympics: Bud Greenspan’s Stories of Honor and Glory. And each time I turn on this show to indulge in said honorable and glorious tales, I see the same two tales again and again: the American speedskater Kirstin Holum, and the Italian skier Deborah Compagnoni. Which is fine. I love those two stories.

Kirstin Holum was an American high school student from someplace, I forget where. Unfortunately I can’t find any of this on YouTube, as I was positive I would, so work with me as I try to conjure up the key details. She made it onto the U.S. Speed Skating team, blah blah blah, and competed against her rival, some Norwegian or possibly Dutch lady who was very good, and very complimentary toward Kirstin when she came in, I believe, sixth. After the race, Holum’s coach said something to her like, “Look! You get a certificate for coming in the top six! Yay!” And…that is it. That’s the whole story. No meth addiction to fight through, she wasn’t raised by wolves or anything; she was just a high school girl who got to the Olympics. Which is awesome. But then…

…we get to Bud’s wrap-up of the scene, as we watch Kirstin skate away to collect her certificate or whatever. Again, I paraphrase: “Kirstin Holum, one of the many in a firmament of stars, that break through the atmosphere, kiss us on the face, so that we make understand glory before she disappears back into the universe.” I kid, but I’m not off by much. The word “firmament” was definitely in there.

Now, this girl came in sixth in a pretty minor, as it goes, sport, and he’s bathing her with language usually reserved for Jesus. I am loving her achievement, but this firmament business is overmuch, wouldn’t you say? The tone of the whole series is this grave and earnest. And I don’t usually go in for grave and earnest, but I have to say, you’ve got me, Bud. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because that’s one of the best things about the Olympics, to me: let’s allow ourselves (and by ourselves, I mean myself) just a few unironic, earnest moments every couple of years. Let’s drop our masks, and revel in someone else’s success, be inspired by their efforts, and hope that it may mean something bigger.

I, personally, have no desire in my life to skate, or swim, or do any sport competitively, if at all, but if these Olympians can do it, then that makes me happy. And I guess that’s why my happiness for them is so uncomplicated: it’s envy-free. If I were settling down to watch two weeks of people going for glory in the fields of awesome blogging, say, or tantrum-free parenting, then I might find it a little harder to watch. And by the way, did you know that later, Kirstin Holum left the sport and became a nun? You go girl. Sorry about the Jesus remark.

On to story #2. Deborah Compagnoni, as deep, serious, voiceover man will tell you, was the “female Alberto Tomba.” You know Tomba la Bomba, right? Compagnoni is a child of the Italian Alps, and as voiceover man talks, she walks through the green, sloping Tyrol in an oversized, Benetton-esque sweater and faded jeans. The Italians would call that kind of girl acqua e sapone: soap and water, pretty and natural. Long story short, she’s tough as nails and came back from severe knee injury to win another medal in her third Olympics. She’s one of the most famous Italian sportswomen, and, as the internet told me, later went on to marry Alessandro Benetton, so she’ll never have to pay for those chunky sweaters again! This is a great, straightforward sports success story, but I have to tell you, if I am asked to fill out another questionnaire in my adult life, under “hero,” I’m putting Deborah Compagnoni! I have no good reason, really: she’s not curing cancer or stopping global warming. That I know of. I just would love to be an acqua e sapone girl growing up in the Italian Alps, then national sport hero, then fixture of the Italian social scene married to a fashion magnate! Wouldn’t you?? And she looks amazing! Come on!

So we’ve established that I love the Olympics because I 1) enjoy occasionally basking openly in the happiness of others 2) enjoy living vicariously through glamorous international types (which is also why I enjoy the Tour de France). There are lots of other reasons, but this has gone on long enough. Suffice it to say I hope to add more stars to my Olympic-watching firmament over the next few weeks: big, bright ones like la Deborah, and others that glimmer faintly from nunneries like Kirstin. Here’s to hoping that Olympic fever will catch on with my children, and they’ll find their own Nancy Hogsheads, for future questionnaires. Here’s to loads of the kind of drama that makes sport great; really baffling outfits; underdogs that stun the world, and oh yeah, I did say schadenfreude.

That’s for you, Mama Phelps. I’ve already seen enough of your mug on TV in obnoxious commercials, not to mention your attention-hogging in the stands while people are trying to swim in the Olympic Trials. Give someone else a turn, am I right, Mrs. Lochte? Enough already.

Growing up Italian in a mac-and-cheese world

I grew up in a two-family house with my Italian grandparents. So my childhood sounded pretty much like this video below. Feel free to skip it, if you’re a ‘merican, but if you have such a grandmother, mi raccomando – WATCH IT

I only wish I had a talent for puppetry and thought of it myself. All I would need to change is the hair. My Nonna had very fine, silky black hair. Plus she wasn’t that cheerful. She was funny, though. Her response to the question, “How are you?”  was “Staiu moriendu!” – I’m dying. And her farewell (forgive the approximated spelling of Calabrese dialect): “Stat’attiendu, ca ti chiappa ‘ngunu!” Be careful, someone might kidnap you.

Growing up in a bilingual, first-generation-American household has helped shape how I look at the world, how I look at America, how I look at a box of macaroni and cheese (never ate it until college, LOVED IT, never told my grandmother about it). And now that my grandparents have passed away, and our family moves away from the culture we grew up with, how do I pass on this part of myself to my children? How do I keep their Italian heritage alive for them, now that they live in a mac-and-cheese world? Actually, C hates the stuff, he prefers meatballs. So at least there’s that, Nonna, can you hear me? I can sense her glowering at me from on high.

To start, I am trying to make sure they at least hear the Italian language. I am not a native Italian speaker, so it’s not natural for me just to speak it to them all the time. But I learned it in school, and am well-versed enough in the dialect that I often use Calabrese terms. There are some things you just can’t translate. Especially insults. Like calling someone “caccata” – you just know it when you see it, and English suffers for not having an equivalent term. Or lagnusu – it’s a slob, but someone who is a slob to the core of their being. And there’s scustumato, malavita, and hopefully you’ll never get called ‘numbala, or good-for-nothing. On the flip side, being sperta, if you’re a girl, or spiertu, if you’re a boy, is the highest compliment. You’re on the ball, you’re quick, you know what’s what without being told. I still aspire to be sperta. How am I doing? Well, I’m typing on the computer instead of cleaning my house, so not so good.

My children don’t take naps, they go ninnano’. And when my son doesn’t like what he gets, it’s chistu o cazzu - this or…let’s say “nothing.” He doesn’t have to know cazzu is a bad word; he just has to know he ain’t getting an alternative. Then there is the childhood favorite uffa! (one of T’s first words), and many more. There’s also the yelling. Yelling is caring in an Italian house.

When C and T were babies, I would often watch RAI International, the Italian-language TV channel, while I was nursing, hoping that some Italian would passively enter their bloodstreams. We would watch this insane cooking/talk show, La Prova del Cuoco, or my favorite, the Italian version of Dancing with the Stars, Ballando con le Stelle. Indulge me for a moment and let me tell you a little about them. Please? I have no one else to discuss them with.

I also had to watch these shows with the babies because, like many Italian television shows, they are so long they would fill up my DVR if I didn’t keep up, and my husband would go crazy (che ‘merican!). One episode of Ballando is four hours! Partly because they have to do a lot of vamping while they “tabulate” the audience votes so they can deliver the results the same night, and partly because of the fighting. Oh, the fighting. It’s the actual reason I watch Italian TV. Le polemiche, as far as I can tell, are as integral to Italian TV as product integration and Ryan Seacrest are to American TV.

On La Prova del Cuoco there was an old dude (Beppe Bigazzi) who sat in a throne off to the side of the stage, commenting on everything the host (Antonella Clerici) and the other cooks got wrong. They’re not cooking the mushrooms the right way; they don’t know the proper provenance of a particular recipe. Oh, this guy was a delight. He could derail the show for ten minutes.

Another all-time favorite is the 2007 edition of the Miss Italia pageant. This aired right after C was born so it was perfect. First, because it took RAI literally twelve hours over four nights to pick out the appropriate broad in a bikini. Then: Mike Bongiorno, the late and venerated Italian TV presenter, introduced his co-host, one Loretta Goggi. She walks on stage, and as she schlepps down this giant staircase she starts beefing and QUITS THE SHOW. On the spot. She just leaves this 80-year-old guy holding the bag, because she was enraged that it took the producers twenty minutes from the start of the broadcast to bring her on stage (she came on after some comedy bit). It was amazing. The reigning Miss Italia offered to fill in, because Bongiorno was just standing there, not knowing what to do. Way to capitalize, I say. La Goggi came back the following night, I think, but she and Bongiorno wouldn’t even look at each other. And they had to carry on like this for a million hours. Of riveting TV.

And then, Ballando con le Stelle. I once thought I was going to write a blog just on this show, but there is way too much there to recap. I just don’t have the time (see blog title). Four hours a week and it would always go over. Before I get to le polemiche, let me just say this for the show. I’m not sure what the opinion in Italy is of Milly Carlucci, but I think she is a very capable captain of some very rocky seas. And I don’t know why, but I can understand her Italian absolutely perfectly. With no gaps in comprehension. So for that I love her. Also, the costumes on that show are (mostly) gorgeous, not some grown-up version of Toddlers and Tiaras gear like they have on the American edition of the show.

Milly keeps things moving best she can as five judges have their interminable say on the dances, and then the celebs and pros give it right back to them. And if that doesn’t take long enough, they always bring in a bunch of journalists and other personalities of dubious provenance to sit bordocampo, next to the stage, and offer their opinions. At length. And they’re always trying to pick fights. Which is not hard to do because fights happen at the drop of a hat. I remember one series in which all the celebs and pros got together and threatened to quit if the judges didn’t recognize their abilities with more respect. Because these judges LOVE to give out 0′s, 1′s and 2′s. It’s not like on the American version, where if you get a 6 that’s a horrible score. There is one judge (who’s Scottish, by the way) who causes apoplectic displays of gratitude in the celebs if she gives them a 6.

All of this was nothing compared to the season that featured a dark, brooding actor named Lorenzo Crespi (just google him and see what ridiculous photos come up – NSFW). Crespi walked off the show just before he was supposed to dance, and no one could find him. He just left his pro standing there alone on the stage amidst the confusion. One of the co-hosts actually took his personal cell phone out on stage to try to call Crespi because he was nowhere to be found. He was probably somewhere in the bowels of RAI’s television studio at Foro Italico in Rome, punching a wall with great passion to the sax strains of “Baker Street.” This chaotic scene was the apex of a season of Crespi railing against his treatment by the judges, angry with every critique, and endlessly proclaiming himself more gifted than the other celebs. Then after he left, the producers milked le polemiche for all it was worth, further stopping the show to analyze, over and over again, what had happened. And badmouth Crespi. Here is just a tiny bit of it:

The whole affair was fascinating, unprofessional, and clearly partly done to grab attention. All of these polemiche are. But at the same time, I admire this mad behavior, because the personalities involved are so willing to drop their masks. These are not choreographed meltdowns, like the kind you see on Bravo reality shows. These people are outright losing it, and they don’t care who knows, because in that moment they feel so passionately about what’s happening. These perceived injustices have become their truth, and that makes them lash out in a most theatrical way. It’s a bit like a Luigi Pirandello play, in which Italian life itself is spectacle and it’s lived accordingly, in a constant state of high drama.

Bigazzi, la Goggi, and Crespi, come to think of it, are like four-year-olds, or at least like my four-year-old. Preschoolers are a little dramatic too, wouldn’t you say? The sky is green, say, because he says so, and to tell him otherwise provokes a fierce spiral of indignation. C is still figuring out how to manage a life that may not always jibe with his expectations, so he converts what he believes into what he sees. Like the play title, Cosi’ e (se vi pare): it is so, if you think it’s so. Appearance is all. This might make him, at times, un pochino scustumato. But it’s also what makes him sharp, what might make him him spiertu one day. I suppose to get at the great passion, you’ve got to take the tantrums. So maybe C is more Italian than I perceive him to be, after all.

30 Rock and a Wiggly war: in which I find out inadvertently that Sam was fired from the Wiggles

The wiggles during a visit to NASA.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night’s 30 Rock skewered the Wiggles. What th–? Who th–? I say! How dare…! I feel I must defend the Wiggles as I had to defend poor Caillou. Another show that is deeply unpopular among adults, but loved by the little ones.

I have to say, as pro-Wiggle as I am, isn’t it kind of random that a popular primetime network TV show would devote an episode (or storyline in an episode) to ragging on the Wiggles? Within the kid world, they are huge, sure, both here in the U.S., and in their native Australia where they are permanent national heroes. Either Tina Fey promised her young daughter that she would work her favorite band into the show somehow, or she is so sick of hearing her daughter’s favorite band (I imagine) she decided to stick it to poor Murray, Anthony, Jeff, and Sam. Either way, I must admit it was a funny parody – making sociopaths of a sweet, pure-hearted group of children’s entertainers that personally wished my son a happy birthday at a concert at the Nassau Coliseum (except Jeff. To quote Stephen Colbert, you’re on notice, Jeff).

WAIT A SECOND!!! WAIT!!!

I just went on Wikipedia, as is my wont, to get a refresher on my Wiggles trivia to impart to all six of you, dear readers. Like verifying that they were one of the first bands to perform a live concert in New York City after the September 11 attacks, I recalled. Like banning all alcohol from their tours (booze is fine in the audience, kiddos, but not on the tour bus). What a bunch of sweethearts, right?

Then I read they sh*tcanned Sam and let Greg back in the yellow jersey! Oh, Wiggles. It’s all about the watermelons, as they say in Australia when referring to one-hundred-dollar notes.

In case you have been living under a rock for the past few years (by “under a rock,” I mean in the adult world, what with your fancy restaurants and movie-going and all), Greg Page, the original yellow-shirt-wearing lead singer of the Wiggles, left the group in 2006 due to illness. He was replaced by Sam Moran, a back-up singer for the group. It was all smiles and ceremonially turning over the yellow jersey. That’s great, but I need not remind you that Lance Armstrong, you ain’t.

Now, it’s 2012. Sam Moran is abruptly dumped (on his daughter’s second birthday, according to this article from Australia’s Daily Telegraph). Greg Page is reinstated. Allegations ensue. Here’s a couple: perhaps he had some financial difficulties (according to the Daily Telegraph: “He [Page] hit a financial setback when he lost a large part of his Wiggles fortune in a bad property development deal, and decided to return to the group.” Or maybe, there was a failed attempt at a solo career (just a guess – there was a grown-up music solo album). In 2011, the Wiggles earned $28.2 million Australian (or about $29 million American) dollars. You do the math.

Sam Moran - SInger/Entertainer

Sam Moran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Greg’s health condition, orthostatic intolerance, the cause of his leaving the group in 2006, is still present, and according to Greg in this incredibly uncomfortable television interview, “the condition is managed.”

And Anthony? Oh, Anthony. The blue Wiggle. He always appeared the most affable of the bunch. And he says, in the uncomfortable interview: “What Sam does now is Sam’s thing. His contract has come to an end,” Field said. “Sam was just doing a job. He was a hired hand … I haven’t spoken to him.” And according to this article, Anthony was the cause of a “toxic” atmosphere; he didn’t speak to Sam offstage unless he absolutely had to. Blurgh, as Liz Lemon would say. Poor Sam.

And, says the Daily Telegraph, “While it is estimated Page received a $20 million-plus payout when he left (including royalties for music rights), Moran was locked into a contract rumoured at just $200,000 a year.” And he only received $60,000 as a severance fee earlier this year. That is not that many Australian dollars. Why don’t they call them Joeys? That’s not so many Joeys.

But you could tell, even just watching the performances and the videos, that for Anthony, the Wiggles are all about Anthony (J’accuse!). It is a bit of a Field family business. His brother, Paul, is the Wiggles manager. I have seen the mug of pretty much every member of his family grinning like maniacs back at me from the screen. His wife is Greek, for example, which is great, but when they do songs in foreign languages, which is also great great great, Greek is way overrepresented. Like when they did “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” with Leo Sayer, they did half of it in Greek with Greek costumes. Random. We get your wife is Greek, Anthony. Give some of the other languages a chance. My kids have Greek ancestry but even I am looking to mix it up a bit. Or I was – we don’t watch the Wiggles so much anymore. My son has moved on, and I do feel a little maudlin sometimes when I hear “Rock-a-Bye Your Bear.”

Look, I know that the Wiggles are not running a charity, blithely recording music to entertain my toddler so that he’s happy when we’re in traffic on the Hutch. Of course it’s a business, a big one. And never mind the merchandising: they know jerks like me will write to Oz to get a Wiggles tablecloth for my son’s birthday party. But just like I naively extra-admire celebrities that stay out of the gossip magazines, I wanted to believe in the Wiggles. That they were among the good guys. That they were doing it out of love for children and music, and all of the fame and money was just a bonus. Well, that’s just dumb. (But do you notice that Murray Cook, the red Wiggle, is absent from these interviews and articles, at least the ones I’ve read? I like to think he has it a bit more together than the others — maybe that’s because he gave C the biggest happy birthday wish. C probably didn’t care too much, but I was psyched, and impressed.)

I can understand wanting the original yellow Wiggle back in the band, and Greg is great as a performer, but why be so hard on Sam Moran? When Greg retired, the Wiggles decided to keep the band going — presumably for the incredible amount of money — so they took on a “hired hand.” He did his job well; to the fans, Sam was a true Wiggle. Why treat him with so little respect?

I am fond of the Wiggles – I think so many of their songs are good; I appreciate their simplicity, and the warmth with which they address their young audience. I like how they keep old nursery rhymes and children’s songs alive, and it was fun to get a little glimpse of Australia through their show (did you know Australians call bell peppers capsicum?) But it’s not a good feeling to watch their discord and greed laid bare like they were Oasis or something. They seem to have been taken back by the attention this has generated, but they shouldn’t be. It’s pretty hard to hide that level of acrimoniousness. So good luck, Sam! Maybe I’ll buy your album. No, probably not – I’ve already thought way too much about this. Oh, now I feel bad. Maybe I will.

 

 

Watching TV uphill in the snow both ways

Family watching television, c. 1958

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I watched my child try to swipe a TV screen with his finger because he didn’t like what was on, I realized that kids’ television viewing habits have changed so much since I was a kid. Well, I realized it before that, but I realized I wanted to write a blog post about it then.

When was I a kid? Well, I’m in my late thirties now – NO – I’m in my mid-thirties. What’s a few years diff to you? Who are you, the KGB or something? The fact that I even know to fear them should tell you I am talking about late Cold War kids TV viewing. You know, like that episode of Head of the Class where they go to the U.S.S.R. and argue with Soviet teens about capitalism. Did you know that the “Mission to Moscow” episode in 1988 was the first American sitcom to be filmed in the Soviet Union? Yeah, I did. I wonder how?

So here are a few viewing habits, then and now:

THEN: The first TV I remember in our household had no remote (not even a clicky two-button clicker like my grandparents had), but a keypad. So I became a human remote: my father made me sit in front of the set and channel-surf for him. Fortunately there were only a few channels. The Yankees were on Channel 11. This repetition so engrained the TV station numbers in my head that though I have lived in the Boston area for 11 years, I still put on New York’s channel 2 when I look for CBS, instead of channel 4. 4 is always going to be NBC to me. Etc.

NOW: My little one is real proud of himself when he gets the remote in his hands (even though he doesn’t know what to do with it), such is the power of this device.

THEN: If you missed a show – sorry! That was it. The Sound of Music came on at Easter. If you didn’t tape it on your VCR (bonus points for pausing to skip the commercials), well, thanks, Easter Bunny. See you next year. Until VHS rentals – this allowed repeat movie viewing, but that episode of Square Pegs? Once missed, lost forever. Also: if you wanted to know who was that guy in that show, and is he the same guy from the other show? Sorry. Can’t help you. No internet. And that was OK.

NOW: My son doesn’t understand that even with a DVR, Netflix streaming, Apple TV, Hulu, etc. I cannot conjure up any show at any time. Which is why, when the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon premiered a few weeks ago on a Sunday morning, I made a little thing out of it and let him watch it live, giving him the sense that TV could be an event, with other people in their homes watching with the same sense of anticipation as yourself. But that meant he had to watch the commercials, and I have to say: this practice of FF-ing the F-ing commercials I have been doing – that’s some good parenting! Because every commercial was for a toy that it is scientifically proven that he would want. No wonder my mother was so stone-cold – THEN: I watched commercial after unskippable commercial as a child. Did I get a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine? NO. Did I get Hungry-Hungry Hippos? NO. Easy-Bake Oven? HELL NO. But I did convince her to get Shake n Bake – once.

THEN: At my elementary school, we watched cartoons in the auditorium instead of playing outside on rainy days. The cartoons we watched were relics from the dawn of the television age. I was telling my Dad this the other day, saying I remember a clown coming out on an ink bottle, for one. “Koko the Clown!” He knew it right away. We also watched Betty Boop. These cartoons weren’t even from my Dad’s generation – they were from the twenties and thirties: HIS father’s generation! They were short films, they weren’t even TV shows! Can you imagine elementary schoolers today sitting in a damp, dark auditorium, watching Howdy Doody, or Roy Rogers? Or watching cartoons at school at all? Or knowing what an inkwell is? What do they do with kids on rainy days now anyway? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

It seems things – media, technology – are so much more ephemeral now. The connection to a generation before, even with the wealth of information available to us online, seems much more tenuous. THEN: I used cassette tapes to listen to and record music for pretty much all of my childhood and teenage years. I still knew how to operate a record player, and even owned one. NOW: when my older son wants to listen to music (he loves the Beatles, so there’s proof that some things can last. The little one? Ted Nugent. 4eva.), he asks me to turn on the MUSIC XBOX. I have no further comment.

Anyone have any TV memories from childhood they’d like to share? HEAVEN FORBID a few of my dear friends and relations comment on this blog!

When watching grown-up TV with your kids goes wrong: the Tour de France

Andy Schleck in Paris - Tour de France 2009

Andy Schleck in Paris – Tour de France 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought I’d repost my entry on the Tour de France, and update it with a few notes as it heads to Paris. (And if you want to know what I really think of Bradley Wiggins‘ sideburns, see here.) All I can say is that I should have planned our summer better and put C in camp while the Tour was on, because it starts live every day at 8 am, and before we head to the playground or the swimming hole or wherever we go that day, we’re watching, darn it! And if les enfants ask to switch channels, I will pronounce a firm “non” and fob them off with a baguette…

***

I might defend Caillou, but it’s not like I want to watch that bald a****** all the time. Sometimes, I want to enjoy a television program with my child – it can make for the start of an interesting conversation. Plus, why does my four-year-old always have to be in control of the remote? Can’t a mother take a break and watch her own program for five minutes? But sometimes my well-intentioned attempts go awry. Here’s the first in (hopefully) a series of posts about fails in which I’ve encouraged my four-year-old to watch grown-up TV.

The Tour de France: I can’t be bothered to ride a bike myself (unless my sister takes me to SoulCycle and that’s only because I think I’m going to see a celebrity), but I love watching professional cycling. I love everything about it: the arcane terminology (peloton! lanterne rouge! rouleur! domestique! le doping!); the strategy; the soap-opera-level fighting between teams; the beautiful scenery they blaze past, and the European-ness of it all. I think I like that part best of all.

Plus, watching the Tour is a major time commitment – it’s on for about three hours a day for about three weeks in July. And thanks to the excellent coverage on NBC Sports, I want to watch the whole thing. So I need a buy-in from my kid. Come on! It’s a hot day, the baby’s sleeping, take a little break with your mother and watch a little bit of cycling! We’ll have a cold drink. We’ll talk about the beautiful castles and forests they cycle by. I’ll try to explain the strategy. As we watch I will encourage a personal dream I have in which my two boys grow up to become the American Schleck brothers – they’ve already got the elfin, adorable part down! C could be like Frank, the older, quietly tenacious one, and T could be Andy, younger, a charmer. How proud must their mother be: two brothers, riding together to the top of their sport! Mine could do the same – right? And I, as their faithful and doting mother, could tour Europe with them – The Ardennes! Milan-San Remo! The Vuelta a Espana! – traveling with their team, cooking them well-balanced meals, doling out words of encouragement, fighting off the press and those kissy-kissy podium girls.

It started pretty well – C loves to ride his own bike, so he was pretty into it. He loved to hear about the different-colored jerseys, and what they mean, and how the riders work together, and work so hard to achieve their goals yada yada, and then…CRASH

With apologies to poor Johnny Hoogerland, C just wanted to watch this over and over. And in the telecast, crashes get showed over and over – and there are lots of them. So then, that’s all he wanted to watch. But the crashes aren’t part of a dream du maman. So au revoir, maillot jaune. Au revoir, peloton. Au revoir, dream.

[Update: I should add that Andy Schleck himself, my favorite cyclist, fell victim to a crash at the Criterium du Dauphine, in the run-up to the Tour, and broke his a*s, well, his sacrum. And I did tune in to a press conference on a Luxembourgish website to watch him announce that he would not be riding the Tour. Yes, I actually did that. I feel terrible for him (and his mother), and while I am sad I can't watch him take the yellow jersey in the mountains this year, I am looking forward to his return to cycling when he is fully recovered. His brother, Frank, is still in the race and I hope he sticks it to everyone in the Pyrenees.]

[Update #2: I love Phil Liggett, his call of the Tour de France made a cycling fan out of me. But since I can't possibly comment on Frank Schleck's departure from the Tour, except to say it makes me so sad, I thought I'd give good old Phil a few notes.

1 - It's NI-bali, not Ni-BA-li. Forza lo Squalo dello Stretto.

2- It's Nissan ALT-ima, not Al-TI-ma, bless you for not knowing the pronunciation of such a banal automobile.

3 - I know I link to Johnny Hoogerland's infamous crash above, but I have to say, Phil (and Paul Sherwen), I don't think we need to mention that he flew headlong into a barbed-wire fence during last year's Tour EVERY time his name comes up. We already know; he already knows, and I think he'd probably like to be known as something other than the guy who got hit with a flying Flecha, and then (this one is pointed at the people who make those cycling montages for the TV coverage) cried on the podium when he got the Most Combative award later that day. So let's not mention it anymore. Unless it helps his lawsuit. If that's true, go on and mention it whenever you like. Allez Johnny.]

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