HOW’S YOUR BRACKET?

A Cinderella Story

 

I’ve just discovered something new.  Which is great actually because I’ve been going through, to put it mildly, a bit of a slump.  I won’t sugarcoat it:  it’s been a bad time.  And at my age I’m not sure you could even call it a middle-aged crisis anymore, which really sucks.  Life has felt small, mean, and tough.  And while I know that everyone has ups and downs in this life,  lately I sure did feel like screaming at the universe “HEY!!  Universe!  Throw me a frickin bone here!”  Then something entirely unexpected came along just to remind me that life is in fact interesting, inspiring, hilarious, and vast:  I got introduced to March Madness, and the whole crazy world of Sports Center, ESPN, etc.

I do realize this has been going on for quite a long time, I’m not a complete idiot and you certainly can’t entirely avoid the sports headlines, but frankly I always ignored it.  Gonzaga?  Oh really?  Is that a type of cheese?  Kansas State?  Ugh.  How boring.  Purdue?  Whatever.  Then my brother, who now lives in London but does love to follow his favorite American sports stuff, sent me a strange text out of the blue: “Be sure and fill out your March Madness bracket in time!  We are all in!!!“.  I was sure he sent this to the wrong person so I texted back “Huh??“.

What is this “Madness” of which my brother doth speak?

Huh??

Anyway, to make a long story short, I enlisted the help of my friend Jeff who lives in Kentucky and definitely takes part in such foolishness and I FILLED OUT A BRACKET!!!  It’s easy!  Try it!  But then…well…I did set a small wager with my brother so I had to start watching the games and the updates and the backstories and the predictions and oh boy!  This. Is. Amazing. Life-Affirming.  Stuff.  Let me explain:

Generally speaking I’m more of a theater/literature/philosophy person, but let me tell you:  SHAKESPEARE HAS NOTHING ON SPORTS CENTER.  The feuds, the rivalries, the dramatic upsets!  The characters…villains, heroes, charlatans!!  How have I not known about this??  A few examples from just ONE episode of SC:

  • Alvin Gentry, coach of the New Orleans Pelicans:  OUTRAGE over bad calls that have gone on ALL SEASON!  His players have been PERSECUTED for God’s sake!!
  • Stan Van Gundy, coach of the Detroit Pistons:  also OUTRAGE at the way his players are being treated!!!  It’s absolutely DISGRACEFUL!  And he’s speaking up for the first time!!!
  • Leonard Hamilton, coach of Florida State:  Mature wisdom, calm reflection, and a virtuous modesty over an amazing and apparently quite unexpected victory.
  • The entire team from the University of Virginia:  Bitter tears, extreme frustration, and a RENDING of their uniforms at having lost to a NOTHING team whose mascot is a RETRIEVER for God’s sake!  “…the soul’s slow agonizing descent into a state of such loneliness and despair as to be finally indistinguishable from Hell.” ~ Macbeth

Virginia

Ah yes indeed.  Who needs the classics when you can just turn on Channel 26 in the Time Warner cable line-up?

And then there’s this:  Isaac Haas, 7′ freak-of-nature who is the BMOC of Purdue’s team, has a sister with severe epilepsy.  He has been a loving and devoted brother, very personally affected by her increasingly devastating illness.  As his star has risen, he has not forgotten her:  he started a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to get her a seizure dog.  Oh my God.  Watching this story I cried like a baby…you would’ve thought it was a showing of The Notebook.  I was so proud of Isaac!  Gives one hope for the future of humanity!  I love college basketball!!

As for my bracket…well.  You see, I chose the NOBLE SPARTANS as this year’s champions…excellent record, superior athletes, good ranking.  Of course you know they lost in the 2nd round.  Everybody knows that.  And so, my bracket is now up in flames.

Thanks Spartans.

 

“Life … is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” ~ William Shakespeare

I disagree, Will.  You just need to make your picks and fill out your bracket.  It’ll cheer you up a lot.  I promise.

 

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MOLLY’S GAME

Some people learn the hard way.

 

I know I do…but is there really any other way?  How do you really know the depths of your integrity or the dimensions of your heart unless you bump up against life in a way that tests it?

Although her story is extreme, the experiences of Molly Bloom (the so-called “Poker Princess”) really started me thinking about lessons and motivations in my own life.  Well…that’s when you know you’ve seen a great movie, when it reaches in and gets you pondering like that.

Insanely well-written (by the great Aaron Sorkin) and barreling along at high speed, we follow the trajectory of a woman who was seemingly raised to train hard, push herself, achieve excellence, and go for the gold.  Literally.  And she ends up applying those skills in the dice-y arena of high stakes (VERY high stakes) poker.

Ah…but there’s more to the story.

Not just the “HOW?” but the “WHY?” is fully explored here, and I was reminded that there is a lot more going on in life than just the surface events.  Not everyone has a taste for these deeper motivations, but ya know what?  They are there, and they are RUNNING THINGS, whether you choose to examine them or not.

Every level of gambling is explored here:  financial, emotional, physical, spiritual, and of course, addiction.  You may start out risking just money, but at what point does it turn and you are wagering your very soul?  I’m not kidding.  It both captivated and scared the bejesus out of me.  (Some of the poker game scenes got me so nervous I wished I had one of those fidget spinner things to take the edge off.)

As the character of Molly, Jessica Chastain is on her best game (pun intended).  Whip-smart and intense and mesmerizing to watch, she is believable both as a sharp, opportunistic young woman who goes too far down the rabbit hole, and also one who painfully learns who her friends are, what she stands for, and where she draws the line.  She gets my vote for a Best Actress Oscar.  Especially this year, when women all over the country have been wrestling with much the same thing.  #metoo

Ultimately Molly must answer this question:  I may be able to gamble with and destroy my own life, but can I do that to others?  Under enormous pressure, she has to dig deep for the answer, and no bluffing this time.

When you leave the theater ask yourself, honestly, what would YOU do?

 

 

Reflections on a Life-Changing Introduction to Ziggy Stardust

I had certainly never seen anything like that in my little, sheltered, suburban life.  (Had you??)  I still remember vividly the exact first time I saw this creature…and it changed me forever.

 

OK look:  People don’t think of me as a rocker.  They never did, it always took them a bit by surprise.  To be fair, I have never looked the part, I’m pretty white-bread all-american non-threatening rule-following type of girl.  On the surface.  But that’s okay, nothing wrong with flying under the radar a little bit.  Let people think what they think.

A rocker underneath, and those who know that side, well, they KNOW.  And you know who you are.

Herewith is the story of how I got in touch with my INNER ROCKER and broke through the, like, dull, unenlightened, like, totally mid-western haze into GLAM ROCK:

I was at home in suburban Chicago, babysitting for my little brother.  I was 13 years old I think.  So, 1973.  Nothing had happened to me yet.  And nothing was going on.  Nothing.  Like, bummer.

Anyway, there I am watching TV.  It’s late.  I’m feeling bored, clicking through the channels, looking for something… not sure what.  I ended up on the Public Television station, (yes indeed, those were the days!) and there was this highly bizarre personage:  bright red mullet, emaciated sunken cheeks, rainbow eye make-up, skinny bone white appendages, and, I think, high heels.

ZIGGY CATSUIT

WTF, A CATSUIT??

Wow-wee!  I immediately knew… NOW something was going on.  At last!  Thank you Jesus!

Ziggy Stardust was such a freak!  Freak.  Freak!  Freak show!  And it went on and on.  The costume changes, the music, the challenging strut, and insolent yet seductive facial expressions.  Each one fn freakier than the next:

mick-david-bowie-ziggy

Zow-eee!  Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am!

It scared the SHIT out of me!

And I could not turn away.  I watched the whole thing, feeling vaguely awakened in some way that I wasn’t really in touch with, and a bit appalled, (actually quite a lot appalled cuz I was a goody-goody-type).  I honestly didn’t understand!  Especially the pink lip gloss, bodysuits, pale white thighs.

What was this madness??

By the end of the show I still didn’t really UNDERSTAND, but I knew I liked it.  A lot.  And I became just obsessed!  Such was my introduction to glam rock, and the end of a certain part of my childhood.

Let’s be clear:  when it comes to Ziggy Stardust and all that ambiguous posturing, you either get it or you don’t.  Am I right?  And do I really need to get into all the “CONTEXT STUFF”?  OK, here’s some context for you:  It sounds almost quaint now, to say that this outlandish character coming into our suburban Chicago living room through the TV screen that night, like, blew my friggin mind.  It just was so powerful.

Not just the outrageousness, but the talent, passion, and performance artistry.  Turned me right round, baby, right round.

Can you think of anything with that kind of impact now?  With 24/7 updates, and people seemingly willing to do anything in front of the camera?  And many things amazingly commonplace.

Lady Gaga anyone?  Marilyn Manson?  How about Caitlyn Jenner?

David Bowie was so brave, brilliant, sly, and ground-breaking.  Thanks David.  R.I.P.

Aladdin Sane

Aladdin Sane

Hey, I know I’m not alone in this, I’m sure many of you have amazing and compelling memories of David Bowie and his music, please take a moment and share them in the comments section… even just place/song/date!

“This is Major Tom to Ground Control

I’m stepping through the door

And I’m floating in a most peculiar way

And the stars look very different

Today…”

Space Oddity, David Bowie