Monday, August 22, 2016

7 Things About Olympic Coverage

It's become something of a part of the Olympics experience to bash the Ameri-centric terrible coverage. I read this post over at Vox about the coverage and it clarified some things for me.  First, if women watch more Olympics coverage, that explains why I see so many more laundry detergent and juice commercials as compared to other sporting events. Also, if NBC is treating the broadcast coverage as an entertainment package, while the sports that air on other channels get treated more like sports, that explains a lot about why the cable coverage, and the online and app coverage has such a different feel.  
However, I think it still fails on some really important levels. 
1. It's clear to me that they are monitoring social media coverage.  I hear commentators talking about Twitter comments, referencing articles that got lots of social media boost.  And that's great. But that's reactive.  If moms are your target audience, then you should never have done a package where you tried to position a gymnast who was adopted at the age of two as a hardship.  You should never have referred to the people who adopted her as anything other than her mom and dad. It shouldn't require social media backlash for you to recognize that as a misstep.
2. Viewing the Olympics as entertainment rather than sport still doesn't mean you don't need to be prepared to change quickly.  When Simone Manuel won the first Olympic gold as an African American, social media lit up with posts about why that was important, not just for her, but for us as a country.  Now, I confess, maybe it was unexpected that she won, but come one, NBC has my attention and it's squandering it.  I'm basically getting all the info and color I need elsewhere.  And Simone Manuel herself, said when she won, this was so important because of the history of African American swimmer in the US.  She handed that to them. They were not ready.
3. No matter where the Olympics are, there are many things happening at once. During the tennis (which aired on cable), they made use of picture in picture, split screen, and other such things, so that we could keep an eye on the men's semifinal or peek at the mixed doubles final while still watching the ladies bronze medal match. I did one time pull out the app so I could stream one game while they finished showing me the medal ceremony for the other.  But that was fine.  Splicing swimming that's happening live, with pre-taped gymnastics creates a challenge, but there are still better ways to make the prime time watchers happier. 
4. If your target audience is women, then the rampant sexism in the coverage is especially inexcusable. Female athletes are all shown with family, talking about how their family supported and helped them, and often their coaches and spouses are given credit for much of their success.  There's discussion of how they are regular gals who like getting their nails done.  Male athletes work hard and succeed because they are gifted men who only have family if that family happens to be seated in the stands watching them.  I mean, I suppose it's possible that almost all the male athletes are single, coachless, and parentless. And none of the packages on male athletes showed them going to get their hair done. 
And when a female gymnast pulls out a notebook and the color commentator quips that it's a diary, only to be corrected by the female commentator (and the camera that zoomed in) that she was checking the math on her start score, let it go.  Don't get so stuck in your ridiculous world view that you keep insisting it's a diary when it has been proven not to be so. 
5. And let's talk about the questions to athletes. Stop asking athletes about other athletes.  What Michael Phelps thinks or says about his teammates is nice, but it's nuts that so many athletes - instead of basking in their own achievements - are constantly asked to validate or comment on what others have said about them. And stop trying to craft a narrative with your question, that's not only bad journalism it's bad TV.  When you ask an athlete about their performance, if they have answered, move on, don't ask the same question four more times.  What will your grandmother think of that performance? How about your coach?  Your teammates?  Watching an athlete struggle to be polite because they have already addressed the question doesn't create better TV. 
6. There is no excuse for NBC having covered the Olympics for so long, and having no depth in their coverage of other countries.  If this ties back to dated stereotypes about what housewives in the Midwest know, let me assure you, housewives in the Midwest can think of more famous Jamaicans than just Bob Marley, and if they can't, they know how to google.  
7. People who watch the Olympics know they are watching sports.  Yes, they may never show an interest in handball again, or not for another four years, but they know these are sports. Useful sports commentating benefits both the people who don't know anything about sport and manages to not entirely irritate people who do.  I don't tune in to football and expect them to explain basic things.  These commentators are so hamstrung they are literally repeating the same five things to me each event.  It's not only irritating if you've ever watched an Olympics before, it's irritating if you watched yesterday. 
But I will confess, there was an Olympics sized hole in my heart today.  Even if I am a little grateful to get back to regular TV.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sing in On Season 2 Episode 4 Mid-Atlantic Quarterfinals UPenn

So, um, yes, it does bother me that the prior quarterfinal episode was called #1 and we're calling this one UPenn.  Thanks for asking.

We start in UMass with Archie from the S#arp Attitude (S#harps) who is meeting up with her best friend Brandon from the Hexachords for lunch. Archie says him now being a member of the Hexachords has been really hard on them. Brandon says having your bestie in a rival group is like having a best friends who is also friends with your worst enemy. They should totally talk to Amanda and Michael from last year about how to deal with this. Brandon brought Archie sushi, which she reminds him he doesn't like, but will eat. And
then she asks about Linnea. Brandon thinks Linnea might not be "vibing" with the group. Archie brings up the song dedication from Acapellooza. Brandon knows Linnea meant well - it was just a bad idea. Archie gets down to what I suspect is the real reason for our gathering today.  She is gig manager and the S#arps cannot afford party bus to quarterfinals on their own, but if the Hexachords could pitch in.  Brandon is worried it would be awkward for Linnea. Archie suggests might help the groups get to know each other
better. Brandon does not think Sam and Linnea are going to have an easy time together, or they might resolve everything in the two hour ride.  Bad or good, he does not think there is much chance of an in between. Brandon says he doesn't know how he will keep this a secret and this is where I get suspicious. So the idea is to surprise both teams with a party bus they don't know they have to share? Are the producers paying for this bus? How do the groups think they are getting there?  And look sharing a bus with people you don't love is a thing that happens daily, and is not a big deal.  But why not be up front?  Why try to mess with your fellow group members heads right before the supposedly biggest performance? 

In UPenn, Rohan of Off the Beat (OTB) tells us it's almost quarterfinals, but they've been working so hard they deserve a break.  So they have arranged to play
trampoline dodge ball with the University of Maryland (UMD) Faux Paz. Jasmine notes that Faux Paz beat OTB last year in the semifinals but they "won" karaoke recently
and will hopefully win dodge ball. They chant, "Who are we? OTB!"

Mitul from the Faux Paz speaks for those of us who are like, isn't this a singing group? He is, shall we say, less than enthused at this athletic idea of group engagement. David feels OTB has identified him as a threat, and they are aiming most of their balls at him to get him out. Jasmine admits her throwing skills are weak, so she has been handing balls to Rohan. OTB does win and hopes this is an omen for quarterfinals.

At UMass, Sam from S#arp Attitude tells us they have called on the "aca-gods for some aca-help''. They have called in Isaac from the Nor' Easters! Flashbacks to last year Archie reminds us they won ICCA's in 2013, and made it to finals last year. There is squealing.
Isaac tells us the Nor'Easters aren't competing this year (interesting), but the north east still a tough quarterfinal.
They show Isaac their version of "DNA" by Littlemix.  Isaac is pleasantly surprised, but offers them tips to tighten it up to make them a little more badass. There is much discussion of vary degrees of ass bending.  Isaac expects them to kick ass.

Over with the Hexachords, Craig-starting rehearsal with improv to loosen everyone up. They are riffing about the classroom and it is silly and goofy and fun. Brandon tells group he met with Archie and basically she's super confident and so they should consider that serious.
Craig has an arrangement of Whitney Houston's "So Emotional" that they run through. Brandon offers Linnea a suggestion, and tells the camera he is worried about Linnea's
ability to be the only alto instead of part of large group except.  In rehearsal no one seems to be treating this as anything more than a normal rehearsal note, so I hesitate to fall into the trap of letting the show do that to me, but I want to remind Brandon, that while yes smaller groups do have a very different sound and expectations, and sure, it's an adjustment whenever new members join a group, Linnea was the beatboxer for the S#arps, she was not one of many voices, she was the sole percussionist. But like I said, nothing in the clip indicates that Linnea or anyone else sees this as anything more than normal suggestions.

OTB has arrived at Temple University for the quarterfinals. A number of groups cheer when the question is asked how many are first time competitors. Jasmine says pressure is on OTB as last year's winners. She reminds us the top two groups get to go on to semifinals, of the ten teams here today.
They line up to pick their performance order. Rohan is hoping for seven, but especially not one, two, or three  He picks three.

And we go back to UMass, where the S#arps have also brought in Shams, formerly of the Nor'Easters to help with their music.  (I'm just going to point out that Isaac was also music director for the Nor'Easters, although certainly that didn't stop the Nor'Easters from making use of Shams' suggestions.) The S#arps have competed in the ICCA's three times and never placed. Shams chides them for arriving six minutes late. Archie says all Shams' tips are stressing them out about how much work they have to do.
Sam is worried about her voice cracking on the solo so has been sliding up to the note and Shams points out that the slide just tells the judges that she doesn't knowif she can hit it. She's crushed, but he's very confident she can get there. Sam reminds us she was a dancer in high school, only became a singer in college. Shams suggests may want to
put "DNA" last, because its their strongest and the the judges - who tend to save the numeric portion of the scoresheet for last might give them higher numbers.
Sam is concerned as this also requires an overhaul to the choreography, but agrees to do it for the group.

Back with OTB, they are doing their vocal warm ups backstage. Jasmine compares vocal warm ups to stretching muscles before exercising, and is nervous that Rohan is not
warming up properly. He feels he's at one hundred percent confidence.
And look, David, Shanto, and Josh from the Faux Paz are here in the audience. Jasmine reminds OTB, don't get too hyped and start going too fast. "Chill your tits." Do it like it's a fancy rehearsal. Haneol leads them through a visualization of OTB winning.  They cheer, "Off the Beat!''

We don't get to see all ten other teams (sadness), but we do see or hear about the following groups:

Westchester University's Under Arrest

The Drexel University-Treblemakers (which seems like it's getting to be a popular group name for some reason) sing Zedd's "Clarity".

The UPenn Pennchants do a fascinating choral rendition of the Backstreet Boys' "Larger Than Life".

Bryn Mawr and Haverford College's Counterpoint A Cappella sing Keri Hilson's "Pretty Girl Rock".

And we will later learn that Lehigh University's Melismatics are also in attendance.

Now, unlike the way that the Faux Paz quarterfinals was shown, we do not get one uninterrupted song, we get parts of two of their songs interspersed with much commentary. 
First up is Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine". Eleanor has the solo on this and it is a dark, earthy rendition.  Rohan tells us when she made the octave jump, he knew
they were in it. Jasmine is relieved. We next see Jon Belon's "Simple and Sweet". I am assuming there was a song in between that went fine, since this appears to be the end of their set.Rohan has the solo on this, and the choreography is a little more complex than what we saw for for the first, since they have picked up the tempo on this. Rohan is strutting across the stage and hits that high note with a crack.  I don't want to spend a ton of time reminding everyone about last year, but you might recall this happened to one of the groups last year in the quarterfinals.  In case you missed it, they show the Faux Paz whispering in the audience that he missed a note. And Jasmine asks the camera if that just happened. 

So, armchair judge here.  I recognize that on TV you lose some of the energy of the live performance. But to me, the crack is not the biggest problem here. I believed what I saw of Eleanor's performance.  I believed she was heartbroken.  Rohan does not seem as confident singing this song as we have seen him be,  It might just be an off day, it happens to everyone. OTB is doing this song fine, but I am not being carried away.  It is just not quite there. 

Backstage, Eleanor says they didn't do as great as they have in some rehearsals but whatever happens happens and it was great. Rohan has gone off to the bathroom where the producer asks him to talk about what's going on.  He thinks he is the only error in the set, so if they don't make it to semifinals, it's on him. When he rejoins the group, it's clear they can all tell he's taking it very hard.  Brian tried to cheer him up saying the soloist is only ten points. 

Back in UMass, there is a graffiti wall and the Hexachords show up to make their mark.  In a not at all staged moment, the S#arps show up after with their spray cans and spray over the Hexachords markings. 

Back at quarterfinals, the three members of the Faux Paz come backstage, so not attempting to be sneaky at all.  OTB asks what they thought and they very kindly say that it was a fun set.  Josh tells the camera that honestly it was anti-climactic, and David says they may advance but he's not really worried about them as a threat.  I think while OTB may have asked for brutal honestly, the Faux Paz aren't seeing any point in saying it wasn't great when they are still waiting to hear from the judges. Brian is hoping they at least get second.

And, the judges are back, and they start with the special awards.  Outstanding soloist goes to Eleanor of OTB!  We do not see if any other awards are given.

And the top three groups:

3rd-Under Arrest
2nd-Off the Beat
1st- Melismatics

They are relieved to be going to semifinals, but Jasmine is worried as they got first last year, so while they get to move on, they need to make some tough choices.

And so far, both groups we are following have taken second in the quarterfinals, so the final quarterfinal we'll see with two groups going head to head will be interesting.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Things That Seem Untrue

I usually attempt to vague up the inciting incident for posts, the idea being to look to the broader lessons not this one thing.  But I think it might actually seem like I'm talking about something else here, this week/month/year being what it was. So, there was some Twitter conversations a few days back that covered a few things. Librarians should read diversely.  As in lots of books, by lots of kinds of people, writing lots of kinds of things.  
And immediately there was pushback.  (I already read a lot, I'm not that kind of librarian, my patrons only want one kind of book, etc.) So, among other things, that discussion produced this post over at Book Riot: I Can't Even with Librarians Who Don't Read Diversely. Things in the comments quickly got squirrely with folks saying race shouldn't matter, good books, are good books, and a number of other things far more overtly racist.  Many of the comments were deleted for violating policies, and some folks then took to Twitter, railing at the Book Riot Twitter for stifling their free speech. 
So, hi.  Let's talk.  
1. You are not entitled to free speech on anyone's website.  Not even here!  
2. If you didn't think saying something like white people just happen to write better books was racist, the problem isn't the site or the moderators it's you.  See also, books by and about white people just happen to be my favorite genre. 
3. If you are not a librarian, the post wasn't directed at you.  The point was that librarians are in a position where it is in fact part of their job to know about books beyond the scope of things I happen to like.  
4. If you are not a librarian and the post angered you, it may have hit a nerve.  You may have chosen to lash out on behalf of nameless librarians who just happen to like books by white people better. This is a thing you can work on.  Yourself, or perhaps with the help of friends.  
5. If, as one person claimed, white people are tired of being called racist for just happening to like things by white people better than all the things, um, yeah, that's a viewpoint you are allowed to have, it just happens to be racist.  Because hi, claiming things from the dominant culture just happen to be better is racist.  
6. I'm a casual Book Riot reader, but off the top of my head I can think of six or seven posts they've done this year about suggestions for reading diversely, in addition to the second year of their Read Harder book club. So, if you claim to be a regular reader of Book Riot and yet you still don't even know where to find books by or about diverse people, then you seem to be either lying or not a very good reader.  
7. Also, if you've never ever been called a racist in your life, I understand why having that happen for the first time would be disconcerting.  Racism is everywhere.  It's really hard to avoid.  Think carefully about how what you said or did might be harmful.  And if you are the same person who said these days people are always getting called racist just because they happen to like things by white people better, then, you seem to be in conflict with yourself.  You might want to think on that.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sing it On Season 2 Episode 3 Acappellooza

We start with members of the various groups explaining the ICCAs to us:

-There are thousands of a cappella groups.
-Three hundred participate in the ICCA's
-There are ten finalists
-And one winner.
Glad we cleared that up.

At University of Maryland (UMD) a chyron tells us that the Faux Paz have two weeks to semifinals.  They grab the judges scoresheets from their quarterfinal, which you may recall they came in second, getting them to the next level, but causing some concern.  Although they did also get an outstanding arrangement award.  So, I am going to assume that this conversation just now is to recap the discussions they've been having for six weeks. 

Lynique doesn't understand why the judges dinged them for not having enough depth.  Josh thinks some of the depth had to do with them not having enough dynamics.  (Dynamics, as we will see, become a bit of a recurring theme this episode, and were also something mentioned last week.) Mitul tells the camera that there are two types of scoring, some technical, some subjective.  Lynique says some of the suggestions seem contradictory.  Josh feels the consistent comment is that the balance was towards the guys.  They show a clip of "Mad World" and while it was a compelling performance, there's something too that comment in that, if you had your eyes closed and had to guess how many guys were singing, and how many girls, you probably wouldn't guess there were four female singers.  This isn't a knock on the female singers, it's just, as the judges have said, a note that the balance is off, and if their arrangements are counting on female parts, that's potentially an issue. They could also eliminate a guy or two, or alter the arrangement, but none of those ideas seem to be on the table.

Todd says it would be a lot to add people this late.  They would have to be great, already up to speed newbies to make this help more than it hurts. Mitul is super sad as he realizes they would all have to relearn the choreography if they add more people.

It is asked, could they just stick with what they have? Mitul is in favor of that, but Lynique thinks the set will really rock with a few more people.  It is mentioned that they had more people last year, so I think that is also their comfort level.

Over at UMass, the S#arp Attitudes are getting ready for the Acappellooza that we get our episode title from. Archie explains it's an annual gathering of UMass a cappella groups. Sam is still mad that Linnea left the group, but thinks the S#arps are stronger now. And because apparently this is another theme of this episode we are going waxing.  I have no idea why group grooming is a thing that "Sing it On" has decided we all want, but here we are.

Melinda explains that she is not really into waxing or shaving, she thinks body hair has a purpose.  She however, is also not willing to say no to Sam, so has agreed to come.  I'm going to say, that while I know this was a thing that the show suggested (given it's appearance last season also) I found this whole segment very uncomfortable, and not just because waxing hurts (although that too).  These people are adults, who do know how to say no, and whatever, no one made them do this, they could have gone for smoothies as a group instead, but Sam appears to be telling people what parts of their body they need to wax, and no one seems comfortable to be waxing for an audience much less the cameras.  But in the end, Melinda gets her underarms done, Taryn her eyebrows, Archie her upper lip, and then Sam, who consults the aesthetician, gets her eyebrows and upper lip done.

In UPenn, Off the Beat (OTB) has arrived to discover a TV screen set up in their rehearsal room.  Brian, it turns out, has 'secretly' gone to the quarterfinals at UMD and come back with footage of the Fauz Paz.  Now again, I'm assuming show intervention, not because I don't think this is a good idea or anything.  Rohan expresses surprise at Brians's crazy, but really, it's not that crazy.  Where I call shenanigans is that, first, Brian could maybe scout a team that they're up against for their own quarterfinals. Now I know they made it to semifinals last year (and, ahem, the Faux Paz won) but they also have to get through this year's quarterfinals.  Also, Brian appears to have stayed long enough to determine they came in second and yet, does not seem to have brought footage of the winning group.  Okay, I'll stop with my conspiracy theories, because OTB does sit down to watch it, and Jasmine encourages them to pay attention to the Faux Paz musicality, to see how powerful it is that all of their expressions look completely in the moment. Brian tells the camera he wants the ICCA's more than anything, so maybe in his head it is just the Faux Paz in his way. OTB agrees that was a great performance that only got second place, so they all need to step it up.

Back at UMass we are now at Acappellooza and S#arp Attitude is in a dressing room getting ready.  Archie says it's a fun event  Sam says it's the first performance in front of an audience (with the new members). Archie reminds them these are the groups they'll compete against in the ICCAs. They move out into the hallway to practice their blocking. They mention they want to make sure to watch the Hexachords. They go back to the dressing room to grab their stuff and the Hexachords are in there.  Dun, dun, dun. Things are weird.  It's hard to tell how much it's because there are cameras there, or it's just awkward to see your old a cappella group while you're hanging with your new a cappella group, or it's just weird to have your pre-performance routine overlap someone else's. Anyway, S#arp Attitude clears out.

Linnea, now of the Hexachords says it was so awkward.  Craig says they have to leave all that behind on the stage.  Linnea thinks they should dedicate "Bad Blood" to S#arp Attitude.  There are awkward ha's and Brandon tells the camera that he didn't want to tell her how to handle her stuff, but it really seemed like it was going to cause more drama than it would help. Linnea's thinking is that acknowledging it will let them move on, which, oh dear, sweet, Linnea.  I get what you're saying.  But, no, dedicating a song called "Bad Blood" to people you haven't talked to since you left their group, will not get you closer to moving past it.

Back at UPenn, Rohan tells us they have been having six hour rehearsals as they hit hell week.  They have brought in an alumnus (ding, I should have made bingo cards) to help.  Jonah Platt who is now on Broadway, has also brought along his, as he says, much more famous fiancee Courtney Galliano, to help.  (What a great fiancee. I love a cappella, but I'm not sure this is how I would choose to spend my day. Helping my fiance's college group.)
Jasmine says their set tells the story of a breakup. Jonah and Courtney provide tempo and choreography suggestions.  Brian expresses concern that his hips don't move the way Courtney is suggesting and gets pulled out in front for remedial hip wiggling. Jonah emphasizes that dynamics are what set you apart. (Ding!) Overall Jonah and Courtney feel the group is in good shape, this is all just tightening up. OTB is happy they came to help. They chant, call and response style, "Who are we? OTB!"

In UMass, Sam of the S#arp Attitudes explains that Acappellooza is a great way to scope out the competition. Sadly for me, since I love a good list of a cappella group names, we only get a see small snippets.  One of the groups is called Dynamics!  (I told you it was a theme!) They sing Marvin Gaye's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". The Vocal Suspects sing Clean Bandit's "Rather Be".

Linnea of the Hexachords says it's a great way to see how the other groups sound, but based on this, she doesn't think there's much to worry about.

S#arp Attitude takes the stage to sing V Bozeman's "What is Love?" which Archie tells us is from the show "Empire".  Archie starts the song, and has the lead.  Off stage the Hexachords seem super impressed with her vocals. Brandon of the Hexachords mentions he and Archie used to be really close.

Linnea explains to the camera that she wants to acknowledge the bad blood and move on. On stage she simply says they want to dedicate the song to S#arp Attitude. S#arp Attitude is listening backstage and it is probably not surprising that they think this sounds more like a call out than a mending bridges kind of maneuver.

The Hexachords, as mentioned, do sing Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood". 

S#arp Attitude, is irritated, one member pointing out that Linnea left them.  Sam explains that S#arp Attitude is cool and the Hexachords are music nerds. One of the newer members says that, all that aside, she thought the performance was really good.  Sensing concern, Melinda explains that the Hexachords are all vocal majors, they are highly trained, and that S#arp Attitude has heart and sass and choreography. Archie reminds us that all female groups are underdogs in the ICCAs.

The Hexachords meanwhile think S#arp Attitude had great choreography, good facial expressions, and a killer solo. Linnea tries to explain this tension is super hard, and I got distracted because there is a cat climbing a table behind her.  Does the UMass theater have a cat?  I must know!  Okay, so essentially, Linnea feels it was hard being a member of S#arp Attitude, but she misses them, or at least wants it to not be weird.  And look, we've all been there, friend groups shift, and re-form, and you have to figure it all out again.

In Maryland, Mitul needs to trim his beard for his picture.  I could explain more, but we really just spend two minuted watching Mitul get his beard shaped. The Faux Paz have decided to call back two girls from their earlier auditions and basically run them through a whole rehearsal and see how that goes. Tiffany and Olivia. Josh warns them he will probably call on them a lot to make corrections and no hard feelings they are just in crunch mode.  (Spoiler, he does). They are working through Panic at the Disco's "Emperor's New Clothes".  Lynique feels a little bad for how much they get called on to change this or that.  In the end they send them out while the existing Faux Paz discuss.  Josh says he gets the choreography concerns, but really feels that the lower alto upper tenor sound they bring is what they need.  David brings them back in and does the tricky thing where he tells them he has bad news, they are going to need so much rehearsal. Lol.  And that's it for this week.

Edited for spelling.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. I posted about the adoption of hapa by non-Hawaiians before, so found this post from the NPR code switch team very thoughful. 
2. I assume most of you know the story about those sprinters who became bobsleddders, but one US sprinter became a rugby player
3. I noticed the athletes being given something along with their medals and after some searching found this (which is from the Rio website, so is understandably biased) about the little sculptures the athletes get, and other ways they have incorporated sustainability into the games.