Winning Time

HBO’s Winning Time is the story of the Los Angeles Lakers 1979 season.

Apparently the Lakers hate it, but I dig it. The Lakers don’t like it because they aren’t making any money from it, they have no control over how the story is told, and it reminds people how good they were in past incarnations.

Also, Magic doesn’t like it because he has a documentary coming out that covers a lot of the same territory. And being famously surly, Kareem doesn’t like it because he doesn’t like much of anything.

I await each episode because I was living in SoCal at the time and a huge Laker fan. Apart from apparently exaggerating Jerry West’s anger management issues, the casting is outstanding.

Also, the attention to period detail is Mad Men-like, meaning off-the-charts.

At the end of a recent episode the Lakers have a day off. Laker coach Jack McKinney‘s wife informs him she’s taking the car and he should go play tennis with Paul Westhead, his ace assistant. After she leaves, the workaholic coach begins scribbling in his notebook, then suddenly heads to the garage of his suburban home to grab his racquet and shiny red Schwinn bicycle.

The next 90 seconds are shot mostly via drone. The successful but simple workaholic, the home, the street, the neighborhood, the sunlight, the Beach Boy music, the Schwinn all felt bizarrely familiar. I wasn’t watching someone else’s life as much as reliving my own. My dad played tennis most weekends in the 1970s in SoCal. He didn’t ride his Schwinn, but there was one in the garage. Long story short, the producers magnificently nailed the ethos of time and place.

One other less obvious thing to note. The fact that the Laker coach’s family only had one car speaks volumes about the NBA’s fledging status in 1979.

Highly recommended. As long as you’re at least 17 years old and not too prudish.

We’re All Fools

If I was stuck on a deserted island, and could only have one person’s writing to keep me company, Richard Russo would get serious consideration.

Russo introduces his beautiful essay, “My Father, The Fool” by writing, “I’d run out of sympathy for COVID skeptics. Then I remembered my father’s stiff neck.”

Highly recommended.

Monday Required Reading

You Can Learn to Love Being Alone.

“People who pursue solitude of their own volition ‘tend to report that it feels full — like they’re full of ideas or thoughts or things to do. . . . In this way, it’s distinct from loneliness, a negative state in which you’re disconnected from other people and it feels empty.”

Putin’s Bloody Folly in Ukraine.

“As Putin spills blood across Ukraine and threatens to destabilize Europe, Russians themselves stand to lose immeasurably. The ruble and the Russian stock market have cratered. But Putin does not care. His eyes are fixed on matters far grander than the well-being of his people. He is in full command of the largest army in Europe, and, as he has reminded the world, of an immense arsenal of nuclear weapons. In his mind, this is his moment, his triumphal historical drama, and damn the cost.”

The style and substance of South Carolina basketball’s Dawn Staley.

“‘She loves on them hard,’ associate head coach and longtime confidante Lisa Boyer says. ‘She’s playful with them, she’s hugging them, she’s there for them. I think they sense the fairness. I think they sense the genuineness of her. She speaks to them — it’s not some fairy tale. She’s telling them the deal.'”

“‘I owe basketball,’ Staley says. ‘I’m forever indebted to it. It engulfed my life for the positive. The game has gotten more of my time than my friends and my family. I feel like on a smaller or larger scale, it can impact my players’ lives in some kind of way.'”

A Renowned Community of Quilters is Taking on Copycats—and Winning.

“’We put a lot of work into it, and it’s about our life,’ Charley says of quilting. . . . We used these quilts for warmth. It was about our struggle, and our survival.'”

“Charley might feel differently, she offers, if these makers — who may have, say, studied textiles at art school — sent some of their profits back to the community that inspired them. But that doesn’t happen. “This work is ‘inspired’ in your mind, because you see the quilt pattern,” Charley says. “But you don’t know my story. And you’re going to try and duplicate it — and go to Joann Fabrics to do it?’”

The Single Best Line In “Don’t Look Up”

Among many contenders. Leonardo, I mean Dr. Mindy, at the Last Supper, when he reflected, “We really did have it all, didn’t we?” “It” wasn’t the materialistic, resume building, status-driven hedonic treadmill that entraps so many. “It” was family life. “It” was being in nature. “It” was preparing meals together, telling stories, and enjoying food and wine. “It” was knowing a few people well. And “it” was being known.

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“Don’t Look Up”

A close friend asked my opinion on Netflix’s newest BIG budget film with an all-star cast.

Before watching “Don’t Look Up” I heard some of the buzz including the fact that half of people loved it and half hated it.

I’m firmly in the first camp, in fact, it’s easily among my favorite films of the year, if not the very best. At first, as I sat on my indoor bike as the credits rolled, I couldn’t imagine what the negative nellies were thinking, then it dawned on me. The film is a brilliant, hilarious satire of popular culture, but especially of our political landscape’s right wing. For the Pro-Trump, anti-vax, “Make America Great Again” viewers it had to have hit WAY too close to home. As is written in the Torah, “We see things not as they are, but as we are.”

At almost two and half hours, one reviewer who liked it said it was too long. He’s wrong, there are no lulls, it’s non-stop searing social commentary from the drop.

It’s also scary as hell. Not because of the asteroid heading towards earth, but because it feels like a highly credible glimpse into our near-term future as a deeply divided nation. The filmmakers predict our future is one where exorbitantly wealthy and deeply flawed individuals have a disproportionate effect on public life; politicians and scientists are powerless in light of those individuals; and things go from bad to worse with regards to social and traditional media.

Is it too late to emigrate to Canada? Is the border between our countries a sufficient defense against the downward spiral depicted in “Don’t Look Up”?

Some on Twitter would take exception to me labeling it a satire. They’re arguing it’s a science fiction film since Leonardo DiCaprio is married to an “age-appropriate” woman.

Must maintain a sense of humor.

Netflix’s ‘The Harder They Fall’

Real cyclists Zwift. In contrast, I soft-pedal while watching Netflix.

Full disclosure. In keeping with the times, an unnecessarily, over-the-top amount of gun violence. If you can stomach that, a great cast, the best ‘Western’ movie soundtrack of all-time, and a really excellent ending. Not proud of the fact that I stomached the gun violence.