Category Archives: watch

watch. abide with me.

I need a forum to express something. Since I don’t have a soapbox to stand on in Speaker’s Corner, I am turning to this blog of mine that has been on accidental hiatus. At the moment, it comes in handy.

If you are just joining me here, please note that I have loved the Olympics for as long as I can remember the Olympics. This basically means that since the moment Mary Lou Retton vaulted a perfect 10, I’ve been hooked.  Or perhaps, it was even before that, when my family stood on a sidewalk in Birmingham, AL to cheer on the passing torch relay runner. And every 2 years (yes, I love the Winter and Summer events) I give 2 weeks or more to Team USA.

As with most events, sport or performing art or concert, my favorite moments are the first moments. Everyone is full of hope and expectation. I know. It’s entirely too diplomatic of me when the point of a competition is to discover the fastest, strongest, best. But as a spectator, I cannot help but sense the excitement of every competitor. I hope for them all. The Olympic Opening Ceremonies is the ultimate and literal parade of that anticipation.

I love the Opening Ceremony for more than its display of expectation. The host of the Games opens my eyes to a culture – familiar or foreign – and I learn something. Admittedly, the Ceremony can get long. To those who make this argument, feel free to get a snack or work on a project. This only happens once every couple of years; let us enjoy it.

On Friday, I signed off social media early in the afternoon to avoid spoilers. I turned down invitations to viewing parties, in part, to ensure I would hear the back-story of each flag-bearer from Bob Costas. And I watched the cast of volunteers display some of the contributions Great Britain has made to the world.  Giant Casper-like baby and my unrealized dream of an ensemble performance by Adele, Leona Lewis, Emeli Sandé, and more aside, I believe the show to have been a good one. It is the broadcast that bothered me and continues to with each passing day.

I am not so naïve to think that we could air this ceremony uninterrupted. In fact, I’m incredibly appreciative this week of the fact that sponsors have made it possible not only for the team to get to London but for me to watch the events practically around the clock. This is not my complaint.

I do not expect commentary to be perfect. I expect it to be informative most of the time and entertaining some of the time, yes. But not perfect. This is not my complaint.

I even extend grace to the producers who continually chose the tight shots of choreographed “Brunels” in top hats (see link to ceremony guide) over other pieces of the action, mid-range, or wide-angle shots of the show. Perhaps there were technical difficulties.

My disappointment is over what could be called a simple edit – a 6-minute piece following the message typed by Tim Berners-Lee, “This is for everyone” omitted from the NBC broadcast. “Abide With Me,” a hymn linked in history to the sinking Titanic and royal weddings and to sport in the UK, was beautifully sung a cappella by Emeli Sandé while dancers with choreographer Akram Khan performed a work depicting a struggle with mortality. The heartfelt lyrics, written in 1847 by Henry Lyte at the end of his life, ring so relevant.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;

shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Ironically, NBC decided this portion was not for everyone. In fact, it seems their only response to inquiries for a reason has been that it was tailored for and American audience. I beg, wholeheartedly, to differ.

Regardless of the direct, indirect, or accidental tribute this paid to the victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London, this piece could have played an important part in the grieving process for the American audience that empathetically reacted to those attacks and most recently suffered great and inexplicable loss in Aurora, CO.  I learned long ago that mourning turns to dancing. “Abide With Me” was yet another example of how we grieve and celebrate, a reminder of how those who have gone before make us who we are now.

In my opinion, isolated and different though it may be, this was not a simple edit, but the denial of a gift for the American audience. I will not quit watching the games. I will still cry and cheer and laugh and cringe with Team USA and with NBC. I would just like to know the real answer to the question, “why?”

I’d like to thank BBC One and for sharing this skipped segment of the show. Cheers!

Watch it HERE.

By the way, if you were completely baffled by elements of the Opening Ceremony, here is the official Opening Ceremony Guide, which explains in detail the significance of seemingly disparate ideas.

If you have read this far, thank you for tolerating me. Now you can continue your Olympic viewing schedule.


watch. newsies.

It was 1992. I was nearing thirteen and still bouncing back and forth between childhood and teendom. Even then, Disney was making that transition a little easier. MMC and Kids Incorporated were all the rage, and Disney Channel must be where I first saw the advertisements for a new movie, Newsies.  I had always loved a movie musical – my life basically was one as I constantly broke out into song and dance. And, what could be better than a bunch of kids who seemed close to my age, dancing in the streets and standing up to injustice? I was guaranteed to like this one.

In those days, if we wanted to know when movies were showing, we read the times in the newspaper. I saw it – an ad for a special sneak peek showing of Newsies (made even better by the fact that it would be a double feature with the recently released Beauty and the Beast.) I knew I had to go. My mom and I bought our tickets, and as I walked through the lobby, I grabbed the special Newsies Banner, a promotional paper with biographies of the cast and stories about the making of the movie.

I read that paper until the movie began (and after a couple more times).  I loved the movie. I saw it again in the theater. I sang the songs and learned the choreography. Kenny Ortega became my hero. I bought the soundtrack on cassette tape. I recorded the movie on VHS when it aired on the Disney Channel. When all the tapes wore out, I got the soundtrack on CD and later the DVD of the movie.

I should take a moment to say that I am not usually a fanatic. The only other thing I gave this much attention to was Strawberry Shortcake at age 4.  Eventually, my affinity for both turned subtle.  Yet, as many friends can attest, I practically forced them to watch Newsies the moment I found out they had not seen it, and I often said something to the affect of, “This should really be on Broadway.”

I was not the only one.

Twenty years after the movie was released, Newsies opened on Broadway. I seriously felt 13 again as I purchased presale tickets – a birthday present to myself.

Even on the sidewalk outside the doors of the Nederlander Theater I could feel the energy. And when my friend and I sat in our seats the energy seemed to have increased exponentially. I am convinced the audience was the “happiest on earth” to borrow a phrase from the Disney company.  The opening moments were more like an invitation for the audience, the lights and smiles were lighting up our faces as much as they were the cast.  And for 2 more hours or so, all our preteen dreams came true.

At the stage door, one of the security staff asked me what I thought. “Did you like it as much as the movie?” In answering, I realized the stage musical would never replace the movie, but I could love them both.  I’m so thankful to Harvey Fierstein and Alan Menken and Jack Feldman for transforming this story after all these years. Out of gratitude I won’t pick the show apart and tell you the very few things that I did not like. Instead, I will tell you I love that it was not over-produced with too complicated a set or overly done costumes. The story, the characters, the music, and the choreography got all the focus, just as it should be. Speaking of choreography, it was enthralling. I could barely blink for fear I would miss something! It helps that these  guys are incredibly athletes!

Again, I’m not the only one that felt this way. This talented cast and great show received 8 Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Musical. Tomorrow night, even more of  “The World Will Know” (I can’t help the puns) when the Tony Awards air on CBS.

The show’s run has officially been extended, so many more will have the opportunity to attend in the coming months. I suggest you “Seize the Day” and plan your trip soon.

It is worth mentioning that Newsies has made incredible use of social media as a story about the power of the press should. There is no shortage of outlets for you to explore. Here are just a few:

Soundtrack on Spotify

Carry the Banner!

save. your heart.

Happy New Year and Valentine’s Day! I hope you paid your respects to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and our U.S. Presidents. I hope that you did not get scared of your shadow only to run back to your hole in the ground a few weeks ago. And finally, happy Leap Day!

I thought Leap Day was an appropriate time for me to post here since it only comes around every 4 years – like the presidential elections, the Olympics, and apparently, my blog posts.

In addtion to the the many holiday wishes and great activities I have failed to share, I have almost missed telling you about Heart Month. So, here is my eleventh-hour-of-the-extra-day effort: a Heart Health To Do List.

  1. Study up. The American Heart Association website is full of resources for you and anyone you know. Explore the site to learn not just about heart attacks but heart disease and many other conditions that affect your heart.
  2. Take a Quiz. This one is so much more important than “What Downton Abbey character are you?” (more on that later). Take the online assessment to learn your risk for a heart attack. It’s a really short quiz, but it does ask for your weight, height, blood pressure, and cholesterol – a good reminder for me that I need to have my cholesterol checked as it has been a while.
  3. Get certified. Consider getting certified in CPR, but at the very least watch this short video demonstration of hands-only CPR. Then, watch the real one. Also, identify where the Automated External Defibbrilators (AEDs) are in your work place and other public venues you may visit regularly.
  4. Watch this. Yes, it’s okay to laugh… as long as you take the message seriously – as a heart attack. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)

And if you find you need to make a change, try this simple one.

Go Red any month! (I’m the one that looks like she’s not wearing red. I promise I had on a red scarf.)

watch. sytycd guest judges.

…well, some of them.

My travels this summer put me a bit behind in my summer television programs. I was quite pleased with the results of So You Think You Can Dance this season. And while I am a bit behind the times, I do want to comment on one element – the judges.

These dancers were excellent. With each season it seems technique and talent improve, making the job of judging more difficult, but I was a bit disappointed in the lack of constructive criticism offered this year. The judges feedback has always been one of my favorite elements of SYTYCD. It is a large part of why I prefer this show to other reality dance competitions. I have always trusted their evaluations and opinions, but something got lost this season. Was it the absence of Adam Shankman and Mia Michaels? Perhaps. Was it the return of Mary Murphy (whose shrill screams may have just deafened me to some quality commentary)? Likely. But I would also say that the guest judges were very hit or miss. Though we weren’t voiting on the judges, and I know, no one asked, I’m offering my rankings anyway for anyone who might be interested.

10. Carmen Electra>> Travis Wall judged this night. Did we really need Carmen too?
9. Katie Holmes>> I’m sure she’s doing great work with Dizzy Feet, but I would have skipped through these redundant comments if I was watching on DVR. She did look pretty.
8. Megan Mullally>> It’s not that Megan’s comments were bad, it’s just that she was first and unfortunately, not really memorable.
7. Neil Patrick Harris>> I had high hopes for NPH, but it seemed he was taking this job way too seriously. And there were a few too many shameless plugs of self-promotion.
6. Debbie Reynolds>> I love Debbie, especially as Kathy and Tammy. She was entertaining, but I had to rank her low because I felt like this was all about entertainment, not the dancers.
5. Kristin Chenoweth>> Aside from the shutting of doors and snogging Lil’ C, I don’t remember much else. However, she was entertaining as always.
4. Rob Marshall & Kenny Ortega >> This is the tie of the directors. Rob Marshall offered some great comments but they were a little lost in the shadow of Lady Gaga’s. Kenny Ortega seemed more like a coach than a judge, but I would work for Kenny in a heartbeat given the chance.
3. Jesse Tyler Ferguson>> Humble and hilarious. And maybe as excited as I would be to be there.
2. Lady Gaga>> I must admit I haven’t followed Gaga’s career very closely. Because of her comments, that were insightful and constructive, I gained a good deal of respect for her as an artist. She focused well on the dancers and acknowledged the choreographers when needed.
1. Christina Applegate>> Best guest judge, hands down. Christina managed to prove her knowledge of the dance world by doing her job as a judge. Her use of terminology was accurate, not pompous. She made us laugh and cry. She even called out the dancers for relying on tricks. Thank you Christina for being a fan and a judge and taking us out on a high note. 

So for next season, if you bring back guest celebrity judges, let’s keep it like these top 5 or so. Since my opinion matters so much.

Thanks Cat Deeley for reigning all these and more in each night. Here’s to your Emmy nom and hope for your win!

read. watch. the help.

A lot of life in the past weeks means a lot of recommendations for you ahead. But I’ll start with my review of a great book turned film – a secret I’ve been sitting on for months.

Sometime the last week in March
It must have been the constant buzz about the book that motivated me to read it. I borrowed my mother’s copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett and found myself engrossed after only a few short pages. The bright and warm cover welcomed me in, but the story took a dark turn as if a cloud hovered over the history that hit too close to home. I remained engrossed throughout the story, but along the way I felt enraged, disgusted, grateful, joyful, and a host of other emotions. I turned page after page with anticipation of the redemption I knew had to come.  It kept me from defenestrating the book at moments of ultimate frustration both with circumstances and characters.

March 28, about 10pm
I was in the throes of a moral dilemma with Skeeter, the youngest protagonist, when I received an invitation to a special screening of the not-yet-released film version. The screening was the next night! Hesitant to let the visual of a movie invade my imagination, I asked for a few extra hours before making my final decisions about the movie.

March 29, about 1am
As it turned out, pulling a late night to finish such a great read wasn’t exactly a major sacrifice.

March 29, around 3:45pm
I fought unexpected traffic and faced doubts of not making it to the theater in time after all my reading.

March 29, around 5:15pm
What should have been a 20-minute drive took an hour and a half. But somehow, I made it (with plenty of time to sign I would not divulge any information about the movie prior to its release, hence this retroactive post).

March 29, around 9pm
I completed the questionnaire about the film, wished I could sit in on the smaller focus group that remained, and thanked my friend Abbey profusely for inviting me to be her plus one (Thanks again, Abbey!)

So that was my adventure of reading and watching The Help. My immediate responses to the film were recorded on a survey.  But with time to digest, I have found I have more to say.  Since only a few short hours separated the final sentence of the book and the opening scene of the movie, my reactions to both are permanently intertwined.

I won’t spoil any plot lines or twists for you.  But if you want to read or watch without expectations and my opinions planted in your mind, stop reading now.

What the novel did for me…

  • Told a story so powerful I was forced to face the reality of a familiar and not-so-distant past.
  • Introduced me to characters – some I hated and some I loved.
  • Kept me on the edge of my seat and of raw emotion with a near perfect balance of mystery, drama, romance, thrill, and humor.
  • Reminded me how relational all women are – a beautiful mark of the Creator of us all.
  • Left me wondering how we can hurt each other so badly and holding out great hope for our future generations. We still have so far to go.

What the movie did for me…

  • Showed me that I had something in common with each character. Though I knew from reading how I related, I was fascinated to see it. At least one item in every home reminded me of my grandparents’ belongings. I sat at Minny’s table, drank from Elizabeth’s glasses, and ate over Celia’s tablecloth.
  • Gave voice to the beautiful dialogue.
  • Brightened the era for me. In my mind, the colors of life in that era were muted, like the colors of faded family photographs.  These vivid colors helped me understand the inviting cover of the book, I thought were mismatched.

As with most novels turned films, the development and growth of the characters felt abbreviated. Thankfully, I carried that development with me easily into the movie. However, that was not the greatest contrast between novel and film. As I read, I truly understood that Skeeter was an outlier in her society. Not only was she tall, with uncontrollably frizzy hair, and fiercely independent, but she courageously found a way to give voice to the voiceless and instigated change. She was not the norm. As I watched the film, I felt the opposite. I found myself watching through the lens of today. Skeeter seemed more the norm; Hilly and the League seemed the outliers. For me, this brightened and lightened the situation, watering down the risk these women took and the courage required of them.

I am well aware that we carry our own experience and personality into stories such as these.  Therefore, many will disagree.  Overall, the film was very well-acted and directed. I believe it coped with the limitation of this genre of story-telling well. I am grateful that many who will never read the book may see the movie and know the story. I hope they will grasp the great themes and find the courage of these characters in themselves.

Finally, I cannot close without sharing my favorite aspect of the movie screening. I glanced around; every seat in the large theater was occupied. Most attendees were women.  Some were black. Some were white. Some were old. Some were young. As we laughed together and cried collectively, I could not help but think of the history in that room.  Whose mother was like Aibileen? Whose grandmother was Skeeter? Whose aunt lived like Celia? Whose saw their sister in Minny? In that moment, though I know how very far we have to go, I felt the author’s intention had been realized. “Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.”

For that reason alone, go see the movie.For many reasons, read the book.

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