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BCB After Dark: It’s already Opening Day

The swinging pre-party for night owls, early-risers and Cubs fans abroad is ready for Opening Day.

San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the swank nightclub for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. So glad you could join us. Bring your own beverage. We’re still working on the slogan.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and in to the afternoon. Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of good things to talk about as the day goes on.

Last time I asked you if you thought Cubs legend Anthony Rizzo would still be with the team in 2022, after Rizzo announced that he wouldn’t listen to new offers now that the season was underway. A full 58% of you feel that the Cubs and Rizzo will work it out in the end and Rizzo will still be manning first base next season.

For what it’s worth, team president Jed Hoyer seems to agree with you.

Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. As always, you can just skip to the bottom if that doesn’t interest you. You’re not going to hurt my feelings.

If you’re familiar with one piece of jazz, it’s probably Louis Armstrong singing “What A Wonderful World” since it’s played at every graduation ceremony and a whole bunch of other ceremonies. It’s also in many ways closer to traditional pop played by a jazz great than an actual piece of jazz music. (These genre definitional things will drive you crazy. Best to just ignore them.)

But after that, the song you are probably most familiar with is the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five.” It’s kind of the perfect “late-night jazz club” song, which is why it gets used as bumper music on TV and radio shows all the time. That 5/4 time is so distinctive and memorable that everyone is familiar with Brubeck’s opening piano line, Joe Morello’s beat on the drums, Paul Desmond’s sax and Eugene Wright on the bass. I probably don’t need to introduce you to the song, but if you want to listen to it, just click on the link above. “Take Five” was a hit on the pop charts in 1961 (two years after it was released) and was the first jazz single to sell a million copies.

But the album that it comes from Time Out, is worth listening to from beginning to end. Before I explain what makes it so important, I should explain a little background.

The Cold War was fought on several fronts and one of those fronts was the “soft power” of cultural diplomacy. Hoping to avoid military conflicts and economic trade wars, the United States tried to win over the “hearts and minds” of people throughout the world through the export of American culture abroad. (This has been controversial for decades and has been labeled as “cultural imperialism” by its critics. This isn’t the time or place to go into that debate.) The State Department promoted world tours of American artists, writers and musicians to show how the American way of life was better than the Communist one. One of those tours was the “Jazz Ambassadors” program that enlisted Dave Brubeck and his quartet to tour the Middle East.

While in Turkey, Brubeck became fascinated by Turkish folk music that was played in a 9/8 time, which was totally foreign to most Western composers and unheard of in jazz. He set out to write a jazz song in 9/8 time which he called “Blue Rondo á la Turk,” which became the first song on the Time Out album.

But Brubeck didn’t stop there. Indeed, he and his bandmates composed an entire album of pieces of music in oddball time signatures. “Take Five,” as mentioned, is in 5/4 time. “Three to Get Ready” alternates between a 34 waltz time and traditional 4/4 time. “Everybody’s Jumpin’” and “Pick Up Sticks” are in 6/4 time.

The result is an album that is both wildly experimental and completely commercial. There aren’t many works of art in any field that can boast being both of those.

Here’s the second song from Time Out, “Strange Meadowlark.” Brubeck starts out playing the piano in no discernible time signature at all before eventually working into a 4/4 beat as the song goes on.

You can listen to the entire album here.

My 13-year-old daughter is not your typical 13-year-old girl in many ways. (Please don’t call her “weird.” She hates that.) Sure, she’s a cheerleader and is fascinated by Japanese anime and manga. That’s pretty typical. But she’s got some other more unusual obsessions as well.

A couple of weeks ago, she was going to bed on a Sunday night when Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent classic Battleship Potemkin came on Turner Classic Movies. She asked if she could stay up and watch it. We told her it was on HBO Max, she could watch it anytime and now it was her bedtime. I assumed she only wanted to watch it because she wanted to put off going to bed. I assumed wrong.

Every couple of days over the past two weeks, she asked “When are we going to watch that Russian movie?” As it turns out, she really wanted to watch Battleship Potemkin. I don’t know whether it’s because she’s a fan of silent films or she’s just a communist. (Actually, I know that silent movies fascinate her. I don’t know about the communist part and I’m afraid to ask.)

So I watched Battleship Potemkin yesterday with her. It’s a film that pretty much always ends up among the top ten or so films ever made. It’s required viewing in every film school. Silent pictures aren’t normally my thing, but I certainly appreciate the orgy of steam, guns and machinery that Eisenstein put on the screen. It’s also a piece of effective propaganda. As a lapsed historian, I pick up the Marxist-Leninist ideology throughout.

There are no real characters in the story, which fits in with Marxist thought that the stories of individuals only distract from the true story of class struggle. The main character, if there is one, is Grigory Vakulinchuk, who was the leader of the mutiny on the Potemkin and serves as a martyr to inspire the masses to rise up in revolution.

Of course, Battleship Potemkin has perhaps the most famous scene in the history of cinema: the massacre on the steps of the Odessa Palace.

That scene has been paid homage and/or parodied so many times in film history that anytime you see a movie or TV show set a scene with a shot up a long flight of stairs, you pretty much expect that a baby stroller is going to show up sooner or later.

There is a reason that the scene keeps getting referred to, however, and that is that Eisenstein created one of the most moving and effective pieces of visual drama ever. The soldiers move as if they are machines, much like the steam engines that Eisenstein featured in the film as well. The people being massacred, on the other hand, are full of emotion and life. They search for the humanity in the soldiers and plead with them to show some. They are met with nothing but cold lead.

Anyway, one could write an entire book on Battleship Potemkin and many already have. I asked my daughter what she thought of it and she just said “It was good.”

The film is in the public domain, although some restorations may not be. You can watch the entire film on YouTube for free.

So now I’m going to go watch Godzilla vs. Kong.

Welcome back to all you baseball fans who skipped the last two sections. As we expand BCB After Dark to more nights in the coming weeks, I’m going to have to cut back on the movies and jazz. I really don’t have four nights a week of movie thoughts to share with you. So those of you who only want the baseball question won’t have to skip through as much every night. I’ll still try to do the jazz and movies twice a week though.

Today is Opening Day already. It’s a time when every team is in first place and there is no reason the Cubs (or any other team) can’t win it all this year, as long as you have true belief in your heart. Sure, for 29 of those teams, raw reality is going to come crashing into their world sooner or later, and for some teams it is likely to be really soon. But who can’t be optimistic about their team on Opening Day?

Well, maybe you can’t. That’s today’s question. The Cubs weren’t so bad in 2020, but the year itself was pretty much the worst. But the Cubs offseason heading into the 2021 season did not earn high marks, either here or from anyone else. Most prognosticators have the Cubs finishing third or fourth in the division, although they pretty much all say that the division is so weak that anyone but the Pirates could win it.

So after all that, how optimistic are you on Opening Day? Is there sunshine in your heart or are you still dealing with the 2020 blues? Has getting a vaccine (or not getting a vaccine) made you more or less optimistic about life and the Cubs?


How optimistic are you about the Cubs on Opening Day?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    They could go all the way!
    (5 votes)
  • 51%
    I’m reasonably optimistic!
    (57 votes)
  • 31%
    Meh. I don’t have many expectations.
    (35 votes)
  • 6%
    I have a bad feeling about this
    (7 votes)
  • 6%
    Ugh. Wake me up when September ends
    (7 votes)
111 votes total Vote Now

That’s it for tonight. We’ll see you again on Monday night/Tuesday morning and enjoy the rest of your Opening Day.