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pink #6

This was our second time seeing Pink on her Beautiful Trauma tour, with the two shows separated by 11 months. Which is about right ... her shows are locked into the spectacle, so she can't really change things around much from show to show. There were only two changes to the setlist, with songs from her soon-to-be-released new album replacing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and one of her old tunes. One particular highlight this time came from the people who sat directly in front of us: a woman and her daughter, who will be 8 at the end of the week. Mom said they'd been to see Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, and the squirt really enjoyed going to shows. They made quite a team, dancing happily. I told Mom that I first saw Pink "-9 years" before the daughter was born. The kid brought her doll with her, which was darling as could be. She tuckered out at the end, but kudos to both Mom and Kid for their exuberance.

I'm going to quote a bit from my post on last year's show, because it's still relevant, and because it raises something I want to reiterate:

As for the band, it must matter that the same people have been in her band for ... I don't know, at least a decade. They aren't "A Band", they are "The Band" ... they don't go on tour as themselves when Pink isn't around. They are working musicians who play with many other artists. If you think about singers you've watched for a long time, I don't think you'd find many examples where the backup group is mostly unchanged. But these folks have backed Pink on tour long enough that they sound just like a "real" band.

I stand by those words. I did a little research. In almost every case, the band has been touring with her at least since the 2009 Funhouse tour. Just to name the ones I am sure of, there are the vocalists, Jenny Douglas and Stacy Campbell ... Douglas goes back to the I'm Not Dead tour of 2006-7. There's the rhythm section, Mark Schulman on drums and Eva Gardner on bass. Jessy Greene takes care of violin, viola, and vocals. Adriana Balic, who goes way back but missed a tour after she had a kid, on keyboards, guitar, vocals. Justin Derrico, the hot-shit geetar player. I don't mean to leave anyone out, but a couple have been around a bit less than the rest. There are also the dancers, who for the most part are more anonymous to me but many of whom have also been on multiple tours with Pink.

Reading Brian Hiatt's fine new book, Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs, I realized a truth that wasn't really a surprise, that since Tunnel of Love in the late-70s, Bruce has only rarely gone into the studio with the full E Street Band. That's how they made The River, but that's no longer how he makes albums. And, of course, Bruce has done tours without that band. But they are closely associated with each other ... the E Street Band has a recognizable identity, we think of them as being tied to Bruce. Many of them have solo careers, Max Weinberg spent many years as a late-night band leader, Steve Van Zandt was a regular on The Sopranos. But when the whole gang tours, it's Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

I'm not sure about other solo artists, but I feel like their tour bands change from year to year. Yet here is Pink, with a group so consistent that they could almost be billed a la the E Streeters. They are musicians for hire, sure ... Eva Gardner has a new album out, a couple of these folks are on shows like The Voice, and in the time-honored tradition of backup singers, Stacy and Jenny are always working with someone. Drummer Schulman even has a side-career as a motivational speaker. But it's been a long time since we've seen much in the way of changes in Pink's band. My wife saw her for the first time in 2009, and to her, the band has always been pretty much the same. The first two shows I saw, going back to 2002, had different musicians, but those were a long time ago.

Truthfully, for all they add to the concerts, Pink's band aren't as essential to the show as the E Street Band is to Bruce shows. But they keep coming back, Pink keeps asking them back, and they all seem to be having great time. It's fun to see, over the years.

I should offer another snippet from last year, since it was true once again last night. "Special mention to the opening act, KidCutUp, a DJ who did about 40 minutes and had the Arena dancing and bopping ... odd, but the DJ was one of the best opening acts I've seen."

Finally, Julia Michaels did a set. She is known for writing songs for top pop stars. Her first single, "Issues", went triple-platinum. She was energetic, although my wife felt her band tended to overwhelm Michaels' offerings.

Here is a photo my wife took of "Revenge", the song that features Eminem both on vocals and, in concert, as a giant balloon. If you follow "Eminem's" line of vision, you'll see Pink floating in the air underneath a bunch of lights, just before she flies over to the balloon and punches it out.

Eminem vs. pink


jury duty

Been busy around here in a mundane way, which explains the lack of posts. Friday night, my daughter and I went to Fireworks Night at the Giants game. Game lasted 18 innings ... we bolted after 13 so we didn't miss our BART train, got home an hour later and were able to catch the end of the game on TV. Followed, a few minutes later, by the sound of fireworks (we live maybe 10 miles from the park, although on the other side of the Bay). Since then, I've mostly been waiting to see if I would get jury duty, and sure enough, I had to report yesterday morning. Nothing much happened, and they sent us home until today. I returned this morning, and was one of the 18 selected for voir dire. I predicted in advance that I would not be selected, and told my wife I even knew the reason why, although I wouldn't talk about it ... you know how it is, you can't discuss a case and all that.

Well, I'm home now, having been thanked and excused, for what I am sure is the very reason I expected. I'll be vague ... I don't know when you are allowed to talk, but really, the story doesn't need too many details. I usually decide in advance if I want to serve or not ... I have lots of honest answers that can make me seem like a better or worse jury member ... I've been known to pull the old "my dad was an embezzler", and once even said I didn't like cops because one of them gut shot a friend. When I worked in a factory, I liked jury duty, because we got paid full time (thank you, union) and didn't have to go to work. That one lasted six days. I was on one other jury ... I should have been asked to leave, but I kept my mouth shut ... it was a case of one guy getting his face smashed in by another guy in a pickup basketball game, and I couldn't quit wondering why we were wasting our time ... but the second day, they settled, with the puncher agreeing to pay the punchee's dental bills. And I've been excused once.

This time, I was happy to serve, although transportation was a bit of a problem, and in a few hours we're going to see Pink in San Jose and I didn't want that to be a problem. But as I say, I knew I wouldn't be chosen.

You see, this was a civil case involving a wrongful death (apologies if I get the legal terms wrong) where the family of the deceased was suing the landlords of the building where the death occurred. I knew if I said anything about my opinion of landlords, I'd be gone. I wasn't going to volunteer the information ... I wasn't sure how relevant it was, and I felt I could overcome my hatred of landlords if it was necessary to help decide a case. But one of the attorneys asked a general question about people who either were landlords or who had negative experiences with landlords, and I felt I should say something. So I said I hesitated to bring it up, and I meant no disrespect to the landlords sitting in the courtroom, but I don't like landlords, and I've lived in Berkeley for 45+ years, and we make Landlord Hating into a religion.

Sure enough, the lawyers for the landlords used a peremptory challenge to thank me and excuse me.

Next stop, Pink. At one point today, a lawyer asked us if we had any things we were passionate about. I happened to be sitting directly in front of him, so he looked at his chart and asked, "Mr. Rubio?" I said, well, I'm going to see Pink tonight!


music friday: ramones 1980

We only saw The Ramones twice, and they came close together, first in late 1979 and then at the Warfield on this date in 1980. Bruce Handy, then a student writing for the Stanford Daily, wrote about that show: "The Ramones came on and everyone started jumping and this one prepubescent punkette pogoed the top of her skull into my date's nose. wiped it up with my shirt. It was wonderful.... The Ramones play with an intensity that few bands can match: the audience could not have taken much more than it got."

End of the Century had been released on February 4, and it was the first disappointing album the band had released, after their ridiculous first four albums (Christgau ratings: A A A A) and the live It's Alive (Xgau only gave it an A-, but I'd disagree). Phil Spector did the production on End of the Century, and I can't say he added anything useful. It was their highest-charting album, so what do I know. I can vouch for the fact that in 1979 and 1980, they were still awesome live.

I had a broken foot ... a few days later I'd go to my first Opening Day, our seats were nosebleeds, and I remember it being very hard to walk up those stairs. The Ramones show was easier to handle ... despite what Handy wrote, when I hung out on the edge of the pit, people were pretty careful not to crush my cast. The 1979 show was more memorable because it was in a tiny club so we got real close (in my wife's case, REAL close), but the Warfield show was great, too. The opening act was No Sisters, about whom I remember nothing.

Here they are, about a month and a half before we saw them:


you were never lovelier (william a. seiter, 1942)

There are different versions of the story, but Fred Astaire was often asked who his favorite partner was, and some think he confessed it was Rita Hayworth. They only made two films together, but yes, she was well-matched with him. I'm not an expert on dance, but for me, his partners fall into two basic categories. There were the women who were actresses who danced, with Ginger Rogers being the ultimate example. And there were dancers who ... well, the less said about Cyd Charisse's acting, the better. Eleanor Powell perhaps comes closest to crossing the lines ... she wasn't a great actress, and her name as a dancer was based largely on her excellence at tap dancing, but it's hard to say she was "limited" to tap when she was so good it is rumored Astaire was intimidated by her.

Fred and Ginger movies are a genre of their own, and their on-screen relationship overwhelms all of Astaire's other partners. (Their off-screen relationship was perhaps not so great.) There's no use trying to pick which partner was better than Ginger ... their movies stand alone, in my house, at least.

But the Not Gingers were not all the same, and Rita Hayworth stands out in that field. While she is remembered now as a pin-up queen who led an unhappy life and starred in Gilda, she was always a dancer. Astaire has said that you could show her a new dance in the morning, and by afternoon she had it down. And while Fred and Ginger made it work, Fred and Rita seem to really like each other in their movies together.

Lesley Chow wrote a fine piece in 2006, "Mish-Mash Planet: The Cult of Rita Hayworth in You Were Never Lovelier", that I recommend. In the meantime, here's a dance from You Were Never Lovelier:

Here's the most famous Astaire-Powell scene:

Astaire and Charisse:

And the greatest dance from the greatest partnership:


best ten tv characters of the last 20 years

OK, I've got to stop. Alan Sepinwall started a Twitter thread listing the ten best TV characters of the last 20 years. Which was interesting, but he's been posting replies to his own thread, each one adding another 10 to the list, and for all I know he's going to keep adding until we've all gone to bed. Plus, there's an unstated but eventually obvious note: all of his suggested best are female characters. So, just looking at the ones he has posted as of the time of this writing, working off the top of my head without coming up with any choices of my own because this is a lazy post, here are my choices for the ten best female TV characters of the last 20 years that Alan has listed so far ... you'll note I cheated because I came up with 12, so I combined two pairs from the same show. The order is semi-random. And yes, I'm sure I've left out plenty of good ones.

  • Nora Durst
  • Laura Roslin/Kara Thrace
  • Elizabeth Jennings
  • Mags Bennett
  • Fleabag
  • Abbi/Ilana
  • Fiona Gallagher
  • Livia Soprano
  • Liz Lemon
  • Karen Sisco

And an honorable mention, since I didn't see them, at least not yet, on Alan's lists ... Clexa:


drunken master ii (chia-liang lu, 1994)

Or, as it's known in the U.S. and on Netflix, The Legend of Drunken Master.

It was Jackie Chan's 65th birthday on Sunday, so I took in one of his classics, the sequel to Drunken Master. Age is a funny thing in movies. Given the things Jackie has done to himself over his career, it's amazing that he's still alive. In Drunken Master II, Chan was already 40, although he plays a much younger character (and pulls it off ... when you are a physical marvel like Jackie, age seems less important, at least at 40). His co-stars include a few Hong Kong greats ... Ti Lung (A Better Tomorrow and many others) plays his father, although in real life, he's only 8 years older than Jackie. And the magnificent Anita Mui (The Heroic Trio) plays his step-mother, and she was actually 9 years younger than Chan.

And, since I'm listing cast members, Andy Lau has a cameo that points to the numerous alternate versions that we in the States get of HK movies. The copy I watched, on Netflix, was in Cantonese with English subtitles, but Lau's character was a counterintelligence officer, which was supposedly true only in the American dubbed version. Whatever ... it was a good print, and if the soundtrack was different from the original, I couldn't tell (not saying it was different, just that it didn't seem to matter). Here's a look at some of the changes made to the American version ... I like this because you get a brief chance to see what Anita Mui does in Drunken Master. The "Madonna of the East" really shines, stealing scenes left and right. She was a true superstar, and it shows here. She makes every scene better.

As for the movie itself, Chan relies less on crazy stunts than usual. "Drunken Master" refers to a style of martial arts, and this film, like its predecessor Drunken Master, is a martial arts film more than anything else. There are some eye-popping scenes in Drunken Master II, and I don't want to overstate the difference between this and, say, Armour of God II: Operation Condor.

The big finale features a sensational battle between Jackie's drunken master and an imposing villain who is played by Jackie's real-life bodyguard at the time, Ken Lo. Even by Chan standards, it's amazing ... Roger Ebert said,"It may not be possible to film a better fight scene."

If you're thinking of a double-bill, the obvious match is Drunken Master. If you're looking for another Jackie Chan movie to watch, I like to recommend Police Story 3: Supercop with Michelle Yeoh.


double bill: john woo meets jacques demy

(These were suggested as a double-bill at The Criterion Channel.)

Last Hurrah for Chivalry (John Woo, 1979). I don't entirely buy the pairing of these two movies. But Woo loves musicals, and while there are no songs in Last Hurrah for Chivalry, there is a balletic feel to some of the sword battles. In the end, I just watched it as a Woo fan who hadn't seen this one before. It came seven years before A Better Tomorrow changed everything, and while there is some novelty seeing sword play in place of shootouts, the film is more interesting as an early look at the friendships among men that is one of the themes Woo is most famous for. The film moves along briskly, the characters are detailed enough for us to care about them, and the exploration of male camaraderie, if low-key compared to Woo's heroic bloodshed classics, at least hints at Woo's future. The women in the film are largely irrelevant, despite the attempt in the trailer to make it seem like there is some important heterosexual love. Not up to Woo's classics, but enjoyable just the same. And the Sleeping Wizard is the best.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964). Very much of a piece with The Young Girls of Rochefort, which Demy made three years later. The primary common thread is that both movies feature dialogue that is 100% sung. It sounds annoying, but you quickly get used to it. It matters that Cherbourg is such an honest portrait of romantic love ... it would be worth watching without the music (I might say it would be better, but the music is part of the charm, and there's a recognizable-to-this-day song in Michel Legrand's score). David Thomson, writing about this movie, noted, "So often, the realist's complaint about the musical is that awkward moment where the actors take a deep breath, the story goes on hold, and 'it' breaks into song. What better cure for that hesitation, or the nausea that attends it, than having every line of dialogue sung?" Makes sense to me, although I've found it easy to resist more recent attempts at this kind of "complete" musical. Meanwhile, in commenting on the music, we should not lose site of the look of the film, which is full of gorgeous, irresistible colors. It's hard to believe we're looking at a real city, which I mean in this case to be a compliment. #173 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.


before it was roaracle

It's a story likely to interest only sports fans from the Bay Area.

In 1962, Franklin Mieuli bought the NBA Philadelphia Warriors, moved them to the Bay Area, and renamed them the San Francisco Warriors. Most of their home games were played at the Cow Palace (which was actually in Daly City), and then later at Civic Auditorium in SF. The Oakland Coliseum Arena opened in 1966, and the Warriors played more and more of their home games there. By 1971, the Arena was their only and permanent home, and the team was renamed the Golden State Warriors. They won the NBA championship for the 1974-75 season, coached by Al Attles, who was just announced as part of the newest class of members of the Hall of Fame.

Then came the dark years ... they went 9 years without making the playoffs, and then, after a brief resurgence, had another streak of 12 years without a playoff appearance. After that streak was broken (for one year), they proceeded to miss the playoffs for five more years, making a total of one playoff appearance in 18 seasons. At that point, Steph Curry blossomed, first under coach Mark Jackson and then under Steve Kerr, the team's fortunes finally went upwards, and now, the Warriors have won three championships in the last four seasons.

Meanwhile, time passed until the name of their home became the Oracle Arena, naming rights for sports stadiums having become a major way for teams to get additional money. Warrior fans were famously loyal through the bad years, and when they were rewarded with champions, they rose to the occasion, such that the Oracle became known as the Roaracle.

Meanwhile, four years before Mieuli bought the team, baseball's New York Giants moved to San Francisco. Soon afterwards, their new home was built, called Candlestick Park. It went down as one of the worst ballparks in baseball history. The Giants played at that shithole for 40 years, never winning the World Series (they only made it to the Series twice), before moving to their new, beloved park in China Basin, where they eventually won three World Series.

The Warriors have built a new arena, called the Chase Center, to be opened for next season. It's location? San Francisco, next to the Giants ballpark, which this year was renamed to match its new sponsors: Oracle Park.

It's been a long time since it was affordable to attend Warrior games, but there was a period when my wife and I went to quite a few games. In particular, she worked for awhile at a car dealer that had complimentary Warrior tickets for salespeople to offer to prospective buyers. When those tickets went unused, the sales force could take them for themselves. When the tix were still untaken, my wife would sometimes grab them, which is why we spent some time sitting at half court in the lower bowl, enjoying the Warriors. These were not great teams ... this was during that first nine-year streak without a playoff appearance. There were remnants of the old champs ... Al Attles was still coach, Franklin Mieuli was still owner, Clifford Ray was finishing his career as the only remaining player from the championship team. Not a great team, but with some colorful characters ... there was Lloyd Free, who scored lots of points and changed his name legally to World B. Free, and the future Hall-of-Famer Bernard King, who one night, during a loss against the Dr. J-led 76ers that we attended, scored 50 points (to this day, I can close my eyes and see Bernard running down the wing).

But one player stood out above all others for my wife. She was a new fan to the game ... she's never been much for sports on TV, never really got into the day-to-day soap opera of a season, but she found she liked going to Warrior games in person and taking in the excitement of the individual game, if not the season as a whole. The Warriors had the first pick overall in the 1980 draft, and they chose a 7-foot center named Joe Barry Carroll. This coincided with my wife getting those freebie tickets, so we saw a lot of J.B., and perhaps since she was a bit of a rookie just like him, she took him on as her favorite player. His play rewarded her fandom ... he played every game his rookie season, averaging 18.9 points and 9.3 rebounds a game and being named to the first-team All-Rookie squad. His next season was only a slight drop. But Joe Barry was unpopular with the fans. The reasons were complicated ... if you're interested, look up the names Robert Parish and Kevin McHale ... but I always thought part of the problem was that he showed no emotion on his face when he played. Among his many nicknames was "Joe Barely Cares". This would piss my wife off no end ... not his play, which she liked, but the fans' reactions. I still remember one game, it was poster night, and the young fellows sitting in front of us were badmouthing J.B., and she started hitting them atop their heads using her rolled-up poster.

I bring all of this up because tonight will be the final regular-season Warrior game at the Roaracle, so there's a lot of nostalgia going on.

Here's Bernard King back in the day ... he wore #30 with the Warriors, which will be retired some day because the man who wears that number now is Stephen Curry.

And World B. Free, who had a pair of the biggest thighs we'd ever seen:


music friday: the magic tour

We saw Bruce Springsteen four times during his Magic Tour in 2007-2008, twice in Oakland, once in Sacramento, and then, 11 years ago today, once in San Jose. The first two shows were the last time we saw Danny Federici, who left the tour to get treatment for the melanoma that killed him a couple of weeks after the latter two shows. He was the first E Street member to pass away.

Here's "Adam Raised a Cain" from the first Oakland show, October 25, 2007:

And from the next night, "Two Hearts" with the "It Takes Two" coda:

Jump ahead a few months, to April 4, 2008 in Sacramento, and a bit of the opener, "Spirit in the Night":

Finally, 11 years ago today, in San Jose, "Something in the Night":

And, since this is Opening Day, a bonus track: Bruce Springstone with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (the story of Bruce Springstone can be found here):