Mark Russell & the 80s, meet Wikipedia

March 15, 2007

Mix the politcal wit of Jon Stewart, the face of Elliot Richardson, the fashion sense of Tucker Carlson and the song parody skills of Weird Al Yankovic together, and you have Mark Russell.  In the 1980s, Mark Russell’s PBS specials combined biting political satire with a folksy piano-based humor.  The results were catchy songs filled with more pop-culture references than the average viewer could possibly understand.

And, it occurred to me that a) you can’t find his stuff online anywhere and b) it’s perfect for Wikipedia links.  So, without further ado, here’s my favorite Mark Russell song from the 1980s, which summarizes the entire decade, complete with every pop-culture reference convieniently explained through the magic of Wikipedia.  Enjoy.

1980 was a rotten year
When Mount St. Helens blew.
Abscam congressmen taking bribes;
Tell me what else is new.
Inflation climbed up to the sky.
Jimmy said “Trust me, we’ll get by.”
But the hostages were the reason why
By November, old Jimmy was through.

1981 was worse with another inflation hike.
David Stockman with his budget acts,
And don’t forget the baseball strike.
But, Sandra Day O’Connor made history,
Air traffic controllers got no sympathy,
And, the new gun-lobby spokesman was John Hinkley.
That’s what 1981 was like.

Many people reached their moment of fame
Back in 1982.
Names like: De Lorean, Von Bulow, and Anne Burford Gorsuch
To mention a forgettable few.
Little E.T.’s long-distance call,
The Falklands were saved. Why? I can’t recall.
And the only survivor was Tylenol,
Back in 1982.

’83, ’83,
Hitler’s diaries and Klaus Barbie.
Grenada was where,
In the glory we’d share.
We saved Grenada
Because it was there.

’84 everybody was bettin’
On Reagan
and Mary Lou Retton.
Bernard Goetz in the subway was gettin’
Target practice in friendly New York.

’85 as a year was so manic.
Philadelphia was bombed in a panic.
Over Bitburg emotions were manic,
But, at least they found the Titanic.

Speaking of Bitburg, in ’86
Kurt Waldheim’s reputation fell.
Cory Aquino took over in Manila,
Clint Eastwood, mayor of Carmel.
Rehnquist was Chief after long delay.
Andy and Fergie’s wedding day.
Our diplomacy in Libya? Bombs away!
The Iceland summit was also a bomb.

1987 was the craziest year in the decade.
It was the year that could have been.
Inside trader Ivan Boskey could’ve afforded
To keep Oral Roberts from being called home.
Fawn Hall could’ve been a movie star.
Oliver North could’ve been governor of the 51st state of Nicaragua.
Robert Bork could’ve been on the US Supreme Court.
Gary Hart should’ve stayed off the USS Monkey Business.
And the only people who behaved at all well in 1987
Were Baby M and Max Headroom:
A surrogate child and a computerized dummy.

Well, by 1988 we were all
Back on the campaign trail.
The was the anthropology of Jimmy the Greek
And the war record of Captain Quayle.
Pentagon procuremen, what a fleece.
The Moscow summit, would it lead to peace?
And, whatever happenned to Edwin Meese?
And, Elvis sited every day without fail.

1989 events went hardly according to plan.
Jim Wright, John Tower, the Alaska spill
And a budget which overran.
But, Communist countries are starting to vote,
And the wall has come down, and it’s okay to gloat.
America and Russia in the same boat!
And, in the ’90s, we attack Japan.

More info: Mark Russell


Equus

March 12, 2007

equus.jpg

Yes, sir!  I have seen Harry Potter naked!  The full monty!  The whole enchilada!  And, how was it, you ask?  Well, if you mean the guy’s equipment (and I’m assuming you do), it was fine.  Nothing porn-star spectacular, but perfectly respectable.  I will only say this about Daniel Radcliffe’s body and then I will say no more: a) he has abs I would kill for, b) his low-hanging balls were more memorable for me than his dick, c) because of this, I can tell you the pictures on the Internet are fake.

I feel guilty about opening this review that way… but, come on, that’s what half of you really wanted to know anyway.  Be honest.  For the other half of you out there, I’m happy to answer the other burning question about Daniel Radcliffe: can he really act?  The answer is a resounding, yes!

Equus is not an easy play.  It’s essentially a story told in flashback, uncovering the psychological mystery of why an otherwise nice normal kid would blind six horses with a hoof pick.  (Relax, there are no actual horses in the show.)  Peter Schaffer’s play was controversial back when it premiered in 1973.  It was one of the first stage productions to deal heavily with Freudian psychoanalysis.  This was at a time when the notion of seeing a therapist was becoming less of a stigma and more of a status symbol.  But, by today’s standards, it’s a little dated.  The pop-psychology of the “conflicted doctor” trying to “get through” to the “troubled kid” has quite honestly been told better in other scripts (most notably Good Will Hunting).  But, Equus was the first of the genre, and as such, we owe it some respect.

Oddly, for all the talk about “Harry Potter naked”, the most distracting body on stage wasn’t the naked boy or the naked girl (did I forget to mention they have some pretty convincing, albeit depressing, naked sex on stage?).  No, the body I most remembered belonged to Richard Griffiths, playing the part of the psychologist.  You may remember him, also from the Harry Potter movies as Uncle Vernon Dursley.  You may remember he was pretty fat in that role.  Well, he’s graduated from merely “fat” into full-on morbidly obese.  Now, normally I wouldn’t comment on this, except here, opposite the boyish, buffed-out Daniel Radcliffe, Griffith’s obesity was not only pronounced, it was distracting.  I really feared at times he was going to eat Daniel Radcliffe.  His shirts hung over him like a great circus tent that could’ve accommodated not only the star, but most of the rest of the cast as well.  I like Richard Griffiths; I think he’s a great actor.  But really, he needs to get some help, because I don’t think he’s going to be alive much longer at this rate.

Finally, I have to comment on the sets and “costumes”.  I understand that both are meant to recall the original 1973 production, and I think it was a wise choice.  Minimalism is the order of the day here, and while I’ve criticized other shows for their lack of creativity in the past, the stark greys and blacks of the Equus set worked perfectly.  Since the original production was “in the round“, they’ve inserted a section of the audience up on the stage, above and behind the actors.  It’s a clever move that makes the set feel, literally, more alive.  And, it adds a creepy Eyes Wide Shut sort of voyeuristic element to a play that certainly caters to the voyeur in all of us.

As for the costumes, what I’m really talking about are the amazing metal-sculpture horse heads.  As I mentioned before, there are no actual horses in the production, so instead we have faceless actors in black, with hoof-like shoes and these elaborate gleaming metal masks (designed by John Napier).  Words can’t really describe how beautiful and menacing these masks are.  It’s a bit like the Broadway version of The Lion King by way of H.R. Giger.  And, again, the gleaming metal is perfectly offset by the stark black background.

Overall, Equus is a show not to be missed.  In fact, I’d say it’s probably the second-best non-musical play I’ve seen here (after Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?).  And, as much as I hope Richard Griffiths gets a gastric bypass operation, I also hope we get to see more great acting opportunities for Daniel Radcliffe.