'Sing 2' broke me

February 27, 2022

The other day, I took The Little One to see Sing 2 in a theater. They’d enjoyed the first Sing movie, and I’d found it inoffensive, so I figured it might be a treat to see this one on the big screen, with big speakers.

Instead, I came away feeling as if I'd just watched a deeply cynical bit of popular children’s entertainment. (Spoiler alert, I guess, if you’re intent on not knowing anything about Sing 2 going in.)

I remember Spring Training

February 21, 2022

As late as the 1990s, a family of four could go to Spring Training in Arizona and enjoy a relatively inexpensive vacation watching Major League Baseball teams practice and play practice games. I know, because several times my family drove down from Northern California to take in several days of the Cactus League.

I remember all four of us going — my dad, mom, brother, and me — and I remember going with just my dad. I remember we stopped at Disneyland at least one time. But the thing I remember most vividly, given that all this happened from the time I was 5 to perhaps 10 years old, was the sheer casualness of it all.

In case you were unaware, American city streets are terrifying if you’re a cyclist

February 14, 2022

I bought a bicycle a few weeks ago — a low-end six-speed that retails for $300, but was marked down 25 percent because the store where I got it is closing for good next month. It’s exactly what I wanted: A bike able to handle 15 to 20 rides per year, and cheap enough I wouldn’t be all that upset if it got stolen.

So far, I’ve ridden on the Great Highway during a time it was closed to motor vehicles, and I’ve ridden along paths in a park near my home. I climbed a 50-foot hill at about a 20 percent grade and felt like a Tour de France winner. I also nearly squished a squirrel that darted out from a bush and just missed my front wheel.

As much as I’ve enjoyed these excursions, I’m also now viscerally aware of how most places I’ve lived, including my hometown and current city, San Francisco, do pitifully little to protect and encourage cycling.

It’s a myth that sunlight is the best disinfectant: On comedy and Joe Rogan

February 6, 2022

One of the funniest comedians I saw multiple times at the Comedy Cellar in the early 2000s in un-Google-able, because as I recall his stage name was Hood. No last name, just: Hood. I may not even be spelling that correctly. (Update 2/28/22: I found himHis full name is Hood Qa'Im-maqami, and, as expected, some of my memory was off.)

In my memory, this was a part-time gig for him — he had a job in finance, maybe? — but I remember he was a standout performer because he was uproariously funny, his bits had layers, and the three or four times I saw him, he killed. Perhaps that was a function of him not using the Comedy Cellar to work out new material, and so while other comics were using these nights to shape their jokes and search for just the right edges, Hood’s act was much more polished because he wasn’t going anywhere else with it.

Hood said he was Iraqi, which colored much of his material in 2002, when I first saw him perform. One of the times I saw him, he started his set talking about how, because of all the racists, he’d started letting people think he was Italian. Somehow, he had the audience scream-laughing as he talked about what it was like to move through New York in the wake of 9/11 with assholes left and right accusing him of being a terrorist, sometimes openly. He moved on to other topics, but also ended his set with a bit that involved his son, and the final joke was a callback, as he recounted telling his son, “Finish your spaghetti, Luigi.”

All that’s to say that Hood, in my memory, was courageous with his comedy. At a time when Middle Easterners were being attacked and shunned, he got up on stage and used jokes to say that was a fucked up thing to be happening.

I thought about Hood when, once again, a bunch of comedians leapt to defend Joe Rogan against people complaining that Rogan has said a bunch of racist shit on his popular podcast over the past decade-plus, and furthermore, that Rogan has given his platform to numerous guests who proffer harmful pseudo-facts and ignorance dressed up as intellectualism and out-and-out racism (and more racism) (and more racism).