Movie Review: Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan (2016) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “R” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Previous ”R” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Rape of Europa.

TitleRestless Creature: Wendy Whelan
Release Date: October 9, 2016
Director: Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger
Production Company: Abramorama
Summary/Review:

I don’t know much about ballet but it’s something I’m interested in learning more about. The subject of this documentary, Wendy Whelan, is considered one of the top dancers of generation during her 30 years with the New York City Ballet.  This film captures the end of those 30 years.

Whelan had remarkable durability, avoiding the injuries that plague many dancers until her mid-40s.  At the start of this film, she’s getting surgery on her hip injury and then beginning her recovery.  Her anxiety about being away from the stage is palpable, especially as rumors spread that she’s already retired.  Her physical therapist actually has to pull her out of a ballet class to keep her from aggravating her injury.  Whelan’s commitment to physical therapy and dance rehearsal show that she is definitely a “restless creature.”

But she is also a genuinely kind person, and her colleagues and friends think highly of her.  Part way through this film, Whelan comes to a decision.  First, she is going to perform in her final season with the New York City Ballet.  Second, she is going to transition into contemporary dance, with a tour called “Restless Creature” featuring four different dance performances choreographed by four differen male choreographers.  For her final performance at the New York City Ballet, she does a one-time performance of a number choreographed just for her.  The scenes of the performance are hair raising in their beauty.  Wendy Whelan gets to go out on her own terms and its perfect.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

I’m in my mid-40s and I found this movie strangely relatable.  I mean, even when I was young I physically couldn’t do the things Whelan does, and in my own chosen field I should be able to continue into old age.  Still, there comes a realization in one’s 40s that you can’t physically do the thing you used to do, and it comes time to make decisions about how you want to go forward in your life.

I also found it interesting the distinction that Whelan makes between ballet and contemporary dance.  I mean to my novice eyes they look very similar, and a dancer like Whelan makes it look effortless despite energy exerted.  I’m glad that Whelan finds that contemporary dance is way for her to continue in a way that is more friendly to her injury.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

The documentary Ballerina shows a different side of the ballet world, focusing on the young dancers in Russia’s highly competitive Kirov Ballet.

Source: Netflix

Rating: ****


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera
N: Nanook of the North
O: Obit.
P: Pelotero
Q: Quest: A Portrait of an American Family

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

A Song and a Story: “Rave On” #AtoZChallenge


Today for R Day, we have a shaggy dog story produced from memories of hearing Buddy Holly and the Crickets performing

Rave On

Have you ever been to a rave?  Me neither.  But during the peak period of “raving” being a term to refer to a dance party, I did like to go out dancing with my friends.  My senior year at college I lived in a residence hall of an odd mixture of men, some were devout Christians, some were alternative types (we didn’t use the term hipster yet) who drank, smoke, & enjoyed premarital relations, and some of us straddled on the line between both.

It was with some of the latter that I spent the night raving.  The occasion was our RA Rahsaan’s 21st birthday, and our group of four was filled out with Chris and John.  We traveled an hour away to take advantage of Norfolk, Virginia’s finest gay nightclubs, The White House and The Late Show.  Rather comically, after my friends made it past the velvet rope, I was stopped to be informed that I was indeed entering a gay club.  Apparently, I set off the Straight Detector.  Nevertheless, I was made welcome, and enjoyed the fact that people actually danced here as opposed to “straight clubs” where people stood around and acted creepy.

We danced all night and returned to Williamsburg as the first streaks of dawn appeared in the sky.  We ate breakfast, and then returned to campus, where my friends could go to bed.  But not me.  I got dressed for work.  And while groggy, I sold tickets to Colonial Williamsburg visitors with a feeling of giddiness, knowing that I’d been dancing just hours before.  I finally made it to bed in the afternoon, but not before creating a voicemail message (it was the 90s, and voicemail was new and fun) that I sent to Rahsaan, Chris, and John with a sound effect recording of a crashing airplane.  I then crashed myself.

Later that spring, the woman I was dating at the time included “Rave On” on a mixtape in honor of the night of “raving” for Rahsaan’s birthday.


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man
N: New York, New York
O: Oliver’s Army
P: The Parting Glass
Q: Qué Onda Guero

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Movie Review: Quest: A Portrait of an American Family (2017) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “Q” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z.  This is the first “Q” documentary I’ve reviewed.

TitleQuest: A Portrait of an American Family
Release Date: 2017
Director: Jonathan Olshefski
Production Company: First Run Features
Summary/Review:

Quest is an intimate, vertite-style documentary focusing on several years in the life of the Rainey family of North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The movie covers the years 2008 to 2016, although most of the film’s action is from 2012 to 2016.

Christopher Rainey, aka Quest, is a music producer and engineer, who supplements his income with side jobs like delivering newspaper circulars. Quest’s flair at tossing newspapers onto stoops in the early morning darkness is one of the great cinematic images of the film.  Christine’a Rainey, aka Ma Quest, works long hours in a shelter for domestic violence survivors and is generally regarded as a mother figure in her community, whether she wants to be or not. Christine’a’s interviews provide some of the film’s greatest moments of introspection.  Their daughter Patricia, or PJ, is a teenager with a talent for basketball who is seen seeking out her identity.  Christine’a’s oldest son Will, is 21-years-old and simultaneously being treated for a brain tumor and becoming a father for the first time.  We see the absolutely adorable Isaiah grow from baby to toddler, and generally steal the scene when his father or grandmother are trying to give an interview.  One other figure figure in the film is Price, a talented rapper who Quest records, but also has substance abuse problems that test Quest’s patience.

The film shows many everyday moments in the family’s lives such as Quest walking PJ to the bus stop or repairing a leaky roof.  It’s clear that the Raineys are an important family in their community. Quest holds open freestyle sessions in his basement studio every Friday night where neighborhood rappers gather.  They also organize neighborhood events ranging from street parties to anti-violence demonstrations. Remarkably, the Raineys are open to even have the most traumatic event in their family life documented (HUGE SPOILERS IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH).  On a greater scale, the film represents a slice of life for African Americans during the Obama presidency, as the movie is bookended by the 2008 and 2016 elections.

Obama is heard speaking in part of the film as he talks about the Newtown Massacre and the greater scourge of gun violence in the United States. “These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods. These children are our children,” he says.  This is immediately followed by the shocking incident of PJ being hit in the head by a stray bullet from a gun fight in the neighborhood. Blessedly, PJ recovers from the bullet wound although she permanently loses an eye.  The scenes of PJ attempting to put in her prosthetic eye and coming to terms with feeling safe in her own neighborhood.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

Quest captures the beauty and love of family and community in North Philly, tempered with the constant threat of violence. The police officer who responded to PJ’s gunshot is warmly thanked, but nonetheless the police are also seen holding Quest for questioning since he meets the description of a black man who commited a crime.  Quest laughs at the meaningless of the description of a black man in a white t-shirt and jeans since it can describe just about every man in the neighborhood.  Late in the film Quest and Christine’a watch Donald Trump describe African-Americans as living in hell, and Christine’a angrily responding “You have no idea how we live!” It’s easy to recognize Trump as being willfully ignorant of the lives of African-Americans, but I believe a lot of well-meaning white Americans also have no idea how they live.  Quest is an entry point to beginning to learn.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

Earlier in this A-to-Z, I watched High School, which was set in Philadelphia 50 years before Quest and is in interesting comparison of the same city at a different time.

Source: Kanopy

Rating: *****


019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera
N: Nanook of the North
O: Obit.
P: Pelotero

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

A Song and a Story: “Qué Onda Guero” #AtoZChallenge


For the letter Q, I have more of a vignette than a story, but first listen to the song by Beck:

Qué Onda Guero

I’ve written before in this series that I grew up in the suburbs of New York and visited the City often during my childhood.  One of images I remember is passing through the predominately Puerto Rican neighborhoods of Manhattan and the Bronx, and seeing the bustling activity on the sidewalks and the overlapping sounds and music.  Everything was so different from my neighborhood.  Years later when I heard “Qué Onda Guero” by Beck, I was impressed at how the song seemed to capture this whole scene in a song.  Turns out that Beck was a white kid growing up in Los Angeles at the same time I was growing up on the other coast and his experience in Latin American neighborhoods inspired this song.  In fact, the title of the song is a slang term meaning “What’s up, white boy?”


 

2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man
N: New York, New York
O: Oliver’s Army
P: The Parting Glass

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Movie Review: Pelotero (2011) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “P” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “P” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Paris is Burning, Pete Seeger: The Power of SongProhibition, and Punk’s Not Dead.

Title: Pelotero
Release Date: 2011
Director: Jonathan Paley, Ross Finkel and Trevor Martin
Production Company: Makuhari Media
Summary/Review:

The Dominican Republic is a small nation on an island in the Carribean, yet it produces 20% of the professional basebally players in the United States. Pelotero, also known as Ballplayer, focuses on two young prospects who hope to be signed by a Major League Baseball team, Miguel Angel Sanó and Jean Carlos Batista.  Historically, Dominican players have received smaller signing bonuses than players in the United States, Candada, Japan, and elsewhere, but in recent years new records for bonuses have been set. Sanó is expected to challenge that signing record.

July 2nd is the big date in the Dominican Republic when 16-year-old players are able to sign with major league teams.  We watch Sanó and Batista over several months of early 2009 as they practice and audition for several teams.  They speak of their bonuses which they expect will be able to lift their entire families out of poverty.  The bonuses will also be used for the coaches who run the training academies on the island who do not get paid except for a comission if the player gets a bonus.  Because players cannot sign until they’re 16 and bonuses are smaller for older players, there is a history of fraud, where players (and their families, coaches, and agents) fake their ages and/or use performance enhancing drugs.

Unfortunately, both of Sanó and Batista fall under suspicion of age fraud, and undergo lengthy MLB investigations.  Due to the ongoing investigations, no team will sign them on July 2nd.  There’s a suspicion in Sanó’s case that the investigation is being used to force him to sign for a lower bonus, and the effort to prove his age involves a series of humiliating medical tests and confirmation of official documents.  In the end, Sanó is signed for less than expected to the Minnesota Twins, while Batista is suspended for one year, and signs with Houston Astros the next year.

Just a side note, this documentary has some excellent reggaeton tracks deployed in the soundtrack.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

The grim, exploitative reality of Dominican baseball is played out on the screen.  There’s a lot riding on the hope of a signing bonus, although only a smal portion of players will be signed, and then a tiny fraction of them will make it to the major leagues.  Many people in this film use terms that make these young men sound like commodities, which I find very disturbing.

Miguel Sanó made his Major League debut with the Twins in 2015, and played in the All-Star Game in 2017, and is still with the Twin but starting the 2019 season on the injured list.  Jean Carlos Batista played a few years in the Astros’ minor league system, but doesn’t appear to be in professional baseball anymore.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

The most direct comparison to Pelotero is the 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams which focuses on two boys from Chicago who enter into prestigious high school basketball programs with expectations for the future in college and NBA basketball.

The Arm is a book that focuses on programs – sometimes exploitative – that focus on training young players in the United States and Japan to become effective pitchers.

Source: Hoopla

Rating: ***1/2


019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera
N: Nanook of the North
O: Obit.

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

A Song and a Story: “The Parting Glass” #AtoZChallenge


Today’s song tells a story that hasn’t yet happened.  Join me in lifting

The Parting Glass

The traditional Scottish song “The Parting Glass” is a beautiful, but bittersweet tune.  It celebrates the joys of friends, family, and community, but also acknowledges that the good times come to an end, and your loved ones go away.  It’s traditional to sing this song at the end of a pub sing with the Revels.  I find it hard to listen to this song without getting weepy.

My hope is that one day when I die – and I will die, but hopefully later than sooner – that people will sing this song at my funeral.  What better way to say goodbye than in raising a glass in farewell?  And for once, I won’t end up crying when “The Parting Glass” is sung.


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man
N: New York, New York
O: Oliver’s Army

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Movie Review: Obit.(2016) #AtoZChallenge


This is my entry for “O” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “O” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Oklahoma City, Once in a Lifetime,  and The Opposition.

Title: Obit.
Release Date: April 15, 2016
Director: Vanessa Gould
Production Company: Green Fuse Films
Summary/Review:

The documentary visits with the obituary desk at The New York Times, one of the last newspapers with a full-time obituary staff.  Obituary writers and editors are interviewed over the course of one day as the work on finishing the obituary columns before the end of day deadline for the next day’s newspaper.  Many decisions have to be made regarding obituaries that one may not consider.  First, they have to determine whether a person is significant enough to receive an obituary.  Then they must determine how many words will be written about the recently deceased individual.  These things are debated in editorial meetings.

They also have to confirm details such as time and cause of death, which can be difficult when talking to grieving family members, some of whom are embarrassed to admit the cause of death. Deaths of noted persons late in the day can be a struggle since there’s less time to research and write about them, but the expectations are high that an obituary will be published if the person is particularly famous.  Michael Jackson’s death at an early age is used as an example.  The Times keeps a collection of several hundred “advances” where obituaries are written for people still alive, but are aging or in poor health, so that much of the obituary will be ready to go when needed. Humorously, an advance obituary was written for the aviator Elinor Smith in 1931 due to the danger of her job as a test pilot, but wouldn’t be needed until 2010 when she died at the age of 90.

My absolute favorite part of this movie is the morgue, where clippings and photographs are kept on various individuals and topics to be used as reference files.  The quirky man who keeps the morgue talks about how it had a large staff in decades past but now he’s the only one who knows his way around.  Despite the seemingly chaotic nature of the morgue, he is very insistent that it is well-organized and he can find anything needed in there.  Watching this, I suddenly feel that working in a newspaper morgue is my calling.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

The second line of an obituary always has the information of who confirmed the death, something that’s been done since an obituary ran for someone who had not actually died.  The first obituary on the page is for the most significant individual and will be the only one that contains the word “dies” in the headline.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

Last year for the A to Z, I watched Life Itself, which was about Roger Ebert and focused on the film critic’s job at a newspaper.  I think I may gradually work my way through documentaries about every section of a newspaper.

Source: Amazon Prime

Rating: ***


019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera
N: Nanook of the North

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

A Song and a Story: “Oliver’s Army” #AtoZChallenge


Would you like to buy an “O?”  Our “O” today is a cover of an Elvis Costello song by Peter Mulvey:

Oliver’s Army

One of the things I enjoyed most about Boston when I first moved here 20 years was the lively folk music scene.  Before my children were born, I spent many nights a week at concerts, festivals, or volunteering at Club Passim in Cambridge.  But in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, it wasn’t necessary to go to a club to hear great music.  Buskers would attract crowds on the sidewalks and MBTA platforms.  Sometimes you’d even see some fairly well-known artists playing a T station as they found it a good place to practice new songs and get audience feedback.

One of these artists is Peter Mulvey, who has a strong following in the indie folk scene. While based in Milwaukee, Mulvey got his start busking on the T in the 1990s.  In 2002, Susan & I spotted him playing “Oliver’s Army” on the platform in Davis Square.  When he finished playing, he told us he was actually recording an album!  I’d never seen someone recording an album before, but Mulvey did indeed release his collection of cover songs – complete with the screeching steel wheels of the subway – Ten Thousand Mornings, later that year.  We also saw him perform at Club Passim, and when Susan lost her purse, he was the one to find it, but that’s a different story.


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man
N: New York, New York

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Movie Review: Nanook of the North (1922) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “N” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “N” documentaries I’ve reviewed are New York: A Documentary FilmThe 1964 World’s FairThe Night James Brown Saved Boston, No-No: A Dockumentary, and NOVA: Iceman Reborn.

Title: Nanook of the North: A Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic
Release Date: June 11, 1922
Director: Robert J. Flaherty
Production Company: Pathé Exchange
Summary/Review:

It’s hard to pinpoint the first documentary film ever made.  The term “documentary” didn’t come into use until 1926.  But many of the earliest motion pictures made were documentaries in the sense that they documented events and everyday life as they presented the wonders of film. All that being said, there’s a good case that Nanook of the North is the first feature-length documentary.

On the other hand, not everything in this movie is factual, as Flaherty chose to stage some elements for dramatic and practical reasons.   The central figure “Nanook” is actually named Allakariallak, and the woman said to be his wife was not actually his wife.  The Inuit had adopted Western-style clothing and weapons by this time, but for the film they wear traditional clothing made of animals skins and hunt with harpoons instead of firearms.  It was impossible to fit the camera inside an igloo and have appropriate light to film, so a special three-sided igloo was built for interior shots.

Despite the film being more docudrama than documentary, I still felt a sense of awe watching these real live people from nearly a century ago, at the time my grandparents were still children.  And the Inuit we see are in fact kayaking through ice floes, hunting walrus and seals, and building an igloo.  It’s also impressive that Flaherty could make such an ambitious film in Arctic Canada with the limited technology available at the time.  Finally, Allakariallak shines through as a genuinely warm and ingenious hero of the film.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

Keeping in mind the caveats above about staged scenes, Nanook of the North still provides a glimpse into the traditional lifeways of the Inuit. The Inuit we see in the film are essentially reenacting the practices of their recent ancestors.  And as Roger Ebert notes “If you stage a walrus hunt, it still involves hunting a walrus, and the walrus hasn’t seen the script.”

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

Listen to the music of Tanya Tagaq, and Inuk artist from Nunavut, Canada, who performs traditional throat singing and creates fusion with more contemporary styles of music.  Tagaq has even performed live musical accompaniment to screenings of Nanook of the North, which is something I’d really like to see!

Source: Kanopy


019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

A Song and a Story: “New York, New York” #AtoZChallenge


Frank Sinatra returns to A Song and a Story with his take on this standard of civic boosterism:

New York, New York

Officially this song is entitled “Theme from New York, New York,” but no one really calls it that, and I’ve got another song and a story for the letter T.  If you asked me as a kid, I’d would’ve told you that “Theme from New York, New York” was an ancient song, written shortly after Francis Scott Key composed “The Star Spangled Banner,” and possibly of greater significance to my parents’ and grandparents’ generation.  It was only later in life that I learned that song originated in Liza Minelli’s 1977 movie, and the ubiquitous Frank Sinatra version was released in April 1980, when I was already six years old!

I’ve never lived in New York, but my parents grew up there, my sister was born there, and I lived within 30 miles of the City until I went to college.  I’ve visited New York City at least once every year of my life and it’s an important place for me.  My childhood coincided with a time in the 70s and 80s that was not a good period for New York with an increase of violent crime, homelessness, and deteriorating buildings and infrastructure.  And yet at every public event, sporting event, or party I went to in New York as a child, I heard this cheerful song extolling the virtues of New York.  I think people gravitated toward the song whose lyrics gave them hope in bad times.

Among my childhood memories was going to the great parties my parents’ friends who lived in the City would throw to celebrate their children’s’ baptisms, first communions, and confirmations.  At one of these parties around 1982, the hosts set up a jukebox behind their house in the Rockaways.  You didn’t need to put in a coin, just pick a song and wait for it to play.  I was part of a group of boys who repeatedly selected the theme from “Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis and ran in slow-motion down the driveway, until one of the dads put the kibosh on that.  But no one objected to selecting “New York, New York” on the jukebox, and it played with greater frequency as the party went on. By the end of the night, I remember standing on top of a milk crate conducting a chorus of drunken adults as they crooned along with Frank Sinatra to “New York, New York.”

Today people associate Sinatra’s “New York, New York” with being the Yankees’ victory song, but dammit, it means so much more to me!


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.