Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Boris, Live

...or, the blogger relives his 20s. I don't think I have ever posted a concert review on this blog. That is mostly because I have barely seen a concert since starting this blog. In fact, I believe I have now seen three in the three years of its existence: one was some old college friends of mine, playing a church in New Hampshire; the other two were Damon and Naomi, supporting their previous CD and now this show, last night, opening for Boris. It was not always thus: in my youth, in the late 80s, I saw many concerts - some of my friends and I made a habit of it, frequenting the Channel, the Rat, TT The Bears - following local bands (The Zulus, Bullet LaVolta, Galaxie 500 [as one may surmise from my recent concert experiences], Buffalo Tom, The Blood Oranges, as well as national indie bands. Seeing The Feelies at least once (usually twice) a year; the Butthole Surfers, Meat Puppets, Husker Du, Replacements whenever they came to town, and bands like that. I didn't see many really big acts: I saw U2 and REM in arenas (the woostah centrum - whatever it's called these days), saw Husker Du, Lou Reed, The Waterboys, a few others at middle sized theaters.... Mostly clubs.... But I stopped going in the early 90s - I started listening to jazz all the time; people got married and had kids and stopped hanging around nightclubs; the rock scene got boring - Nirvana? christ, I'd seen 15 bands that sounded like them by the time they came around - why were they the ones getting big? So now - I still go to shows once in a while, but it's either people I personally know or it's those one or two bands I insist on giving money to - Damon and Naomi; Pere Ubu and its many offshoots.

Which brings us around to last nights show. In 2004, coincidentally, David Thomas played Cambridge the very night the Red Sox won game 4 of the world series: however devoted and passionate a Pere Ubu fan I may be, I never pretended to be David Thomas growing up, and god knows I pretended to be Carl Yastrzemski from more or less as soon as I could lift a toy bat. I had some fears of the same thing happening this year - a Rocky win wold have brought on a game 5, with Beckett closing out the series - could I have resisted that for a concert? I certainly hope so.

Damon and Naomi were fine - they were touring with a kind of big band - cello, horns, Kurihara - playing most from their new record, which is okay. It's taking a while to settle in - longer than their previous couple records did, for some reason. But they were fine, more than enough to get me out on the first really cold night of the year, probably even if they were going up against Josh Beckett. But I admit - Boris was the kicker. I've been listening to them almost constantly this year: Pink began separating itself from the bunch of psychedelic hard rock prog I've been listening to over the last year or so (Comets on Fire and bands of that ilk, including Ilk) - and Rainbow, the Kurihara record, has become one of my favorites in the last year or so. So I had high hopes.

I was not disappointed. It's been a while - it was about as good a show as I have ever seen. Overpowering: as loud as I can remember, certainly the loudest band I have ever seen sober (seeing groups like Ministry, the Surfers, a couple death metal bands - Rigor Mortis! - I made heavy use of the bar....) - but what was strange is how well I could hear it. All the drones and feedback Boris uses, the overtones and guitar interplay, I could hear. I can't hear anything today, but that's life. I could hear the band. And I have to say - they hit my sweet spot. Pummeling volume, hard fast songs, epic solos, double, blended guitar parts (at least with Kurihara), a good deal of variety for all that - fast songs, slow dirgy songs, experimental songs, straightforward melodic songs - sometimes all at once.... It was bliss.

I can't resist - the wonders of the internet being what they are: here is a clip from a show in Georgia, just a taste...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

World Series

There is is: Papelbon blows some kid away - boom boom boom. Made it a bit interesting, the Rockies, but - I guess I was right - this was basically San Antonio vs Celeveland - no more doubt...

So then - who's the MVP? Pabelbon? Nope - the other obvious choice: Lowell. And the question - which is better, this team or the 04 team? I suspect - 04 - they had 7 inning starters, who could keep away from the bullpen - which did make things exciting here. Though this team got 4 great starting performances - Beckett was Beckett; Schilling went 5 plus, but, did he make a bad pitch in his outing? he had fresh Okajima and Papelbon, so that game went well. Matsuzaka had his best start in months, and Lester was just plain great. What can you say? It's fun to play these games, though: I'd say this team is up there - probably not up to the 2004 team, with its 373 doubles and all - even watching this series, compared to 04 - the Cards were a far far better team than the Rockies - so I'm guessing.... In fairness though: the 2004 red sox team, I think, was, in fact, the best team of the decade. This one is good too - though #2 I think is probably the 2005 White Sox, another team loaded with starters, a deep bullpen and a bunch of great hitters, that beat some really good teams, in tight games. But this is impressive.

Back to this: as a fan, this is strange. It's nice - but it's not the end of the world (the brilliace of Manny.) In 2004 - that win - yes - that was the end of the world. This is fun, but without all the emotion. Just fun: you get to just enjoy winning. It's such a relief.

Okay: anything more? Oh, right - like in 2004, everyone chipped in - everyone in the lineup contributed, most of the pitchers did good work - and then Bobby Kielty - Bobby Kielty!!!!!! comes in and hits the game winning home run!

Anything else? Not much, I guess. I'm certainly glad they won in four - I get to go see Boris tomorrow night without missing anything. Great stuff: finally - this was a pretty boring post-season - all the sweeps and so on: but it does portend well. The red sox are likely to be around a while - they have the money, but they have a nice organization as well: all those rookies, all those young players they have, even Matsuzaka, Beckett... But they aren't alone. This whole post-season might be a kind of passing of the guard. The Red Sox will be around, the Angels - but both have some kids, Weaver and Kendrick and so on, that are as important as the big money players. And the rest - the Indians are a groups of young veterans; the Rockies and Diamondbacks are bother very young teams, that should get better. Get Milwaukee over the hump, get some pitchers in Philly? a new bunch of teams will be comign through.

So - baseball looks good right now - the Yankees are done (A Rod leaves, as Fox had to pop in t0 talk about - Jerry Remy thinks that's "disgusting" - well, they had to talk about something - the game was pretty much done. Stil - what a bunch of dinks.) The sox will take some of their place, but the rest is oging to be more open than it's been in years. Nice news.

And finally - yes - I can hear the people yelling from Kenmore square. What fun. Good night.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Misc Films Catching Up

What do we have? another day before the world series starts so another chance to get something written. I still hope to write something non-trivial for the Double Bill-a-thon but it's competing with the Sox, and I've been lazy as a dog lately.... I also want to write up a real review of Darjeeling Limited - which might turn out to be the double feature (I saw it the same day I saw California Dreamin', as it happens - 2 films about Americans on a train stranded in a far off land, one from the POV of the Americans, one not....) But not yet. Instead, a few film capsules and comments, I suppose...

First: why do I keep spending money on Ang Lee films? They're all the same damn film - the same dull melodrama spiked with some kind of twist: Explicit Sex! Gay Cowboys! Hulk Smash! Kung Fu! Jewel's tits! I don't know why I keep going. I suppose the main reason I saw Lust, Caution was to see Tony Leung - anything of his that gets released here I suppose I have to see... otherwise - why? They keep coming out, and winning awards - I suppose he's the classic Hollywood prestige director - set design and photography, classicist editing, the impersonation of substance - that's all you need, I guess, and it marks you out as "serious" in Hollywood.

I suppose I should try to muster something to say about the film itself, but it's hard to think of a point. It's basically a remake of Notorious with Claude Rains getting away with it. Without the filmmaking skills or Cary Grant, and with the infamous long kiss replaced by acrobatic sex. Which reminds me - can't anyone make a movie with explicit fucking in it where the sex looks like fun? At least stop these films - even Last Tango in Paris or Lies, for all the downer sex, the characters at least looked like they were getting off on it. This is a mopey boring film with mopey bring sex - after this, I'd settle for Catherine Breillat....

Meanwhile, not everything I've seen has stunk: in fact, it's been a pretty good couple of months. Some fine series' - Romanian films, Pedro Costa films, Michael Haneke films - Haneke will be in town this weekend (at both the HFA and MFA), following Costa who was here back in September, and Arnaud Desplechins, who was on hand last week with Kings and Queen and Life of the Dead. Kings and Queens is one of my favorites of the decade - Life of the Dead was his first film, an hour long examination of the family of a young man who has shot himself - packing an old house full of actors (from all different styles, he said), and bouncing them off each other. It's a very accomplished first film - handing the cast and space with aplomb, telling stories subtly but fairly clearly. It establishes what seems to be a pretty characteristic style for Despleshins - a rhythm he has: calm/movement - stillness and sudden movement - empty shots and spaces/full shots and spaces - which he maintains throughout his career. This one also seems to me to have a strong Rivette flavor - the old house, the huge cast, the decentralized story telling, the fact that the "real" story (the boy dieing) is happening somewhere else - along with the fact that he brings along several of Rivette's actresses - Mariane Denincourt; Laurence Cote... It's very good.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Local Nine Make Good

Well, first up - the Red Sox are back in the World Series. Coming back from down 1-3 to the Indians, which might have seemed more impressive if they hadn't come back on the Yankees from 0-3 in 2004. But still something. Last night's game was a good one - the closest 11-2 rout I've ever seen. (Kind of like how game 2 was the closest 13-6 drubbing you're likely to see.) The talk is mostly about the misfortunes of the Indians - poor Kenny Lofton*.... Of course, 30-5 in three games is a bit more than "misfortune". The big "turning pint" plays last night - Lofton being called out at second; Lofton being held at third - were probably being oversold a bit - especially the latter. I'm not sure how being in a 3-3 tie would have made Pedroia miss that high fast ball in the bottom of the seventh. It would have just made Okajima the winner instead of Matsuzaka. Still - there were breaks - though fairly even on both sides. Take Lofton held at third - he wouldn't have been on if Lugo hadn't dropped an easy pop up. Though that's the real difference: first - the Red Sox got the big breaks, the ones that scored runs or stopped a run from scoring (Manny's bad hop over Peralta; the bad call at second; Garko's 400 foot blast to the left of the line in center; holding Lofton); and second - when the Red Sox got breaks they took advantage of them: got the double play ball; delivered the baserunners who reached on errors; picked up the guys they got on when Peralta and Blake ran into each other in the "bermuda triangle" in the 8th. They made the plays, the Indians didn't. which isn't exactly true - the Indians did a good job of making plays in the field, which kept them in this game until Westbrook found his groove - but they didn't make the plays at the plate. The sox did. Which you can explain any way you like - luck? or the Red Sox are just a better team and better teams come out in the end - or they are a veteran team, and less likely to under perform over a long series. More likely, that is, to rise to their accustomed levels. Which I think is pretty much all there is to clutch play - the ability to perform at your accustomed level under pressure. Guys like Beckett, Ortiz, Schilling (who set it all up in game 6 - pitching 7 kept the bullpen 100% for game 7, which they needed: if that game had been 12-8, and Okajima or Papelbon had had to see some time, things could have been a bit more nerve wracking in the 7th game) - are all first rate players all year long. But in the playoffs, it tough situations, they just do what they usually do, as well as usual - it's harder than it looks. It's not magic - just the ability to keep your head.

I was thinking about that watching Matsuzaka pitch. Especially Garko's at bat, when he hit the double - one of those epic battles, down 0-2, Dice-K making pitch after pitch and Garko fouling them off, taking the balls... I think, though it's a bit of a speculation, that this is the kind of thing where Dice-K goes wrong. Francona alluded to it in the interview between innings - hoping he didn't try to get too fine when he got ahead of hitters. He does that - he nibbles - he doesn't challenge people, sometimes... But it's also that he seems to lose his concentration. I've seen some games where someone will do that sort of thing with Papelbon - keep fouling off his pitches, make him work... But he never seems to lose those battles. He keeps making his pitches until he gets them out - or, at worst, the hitter makes a great play to get a ball into the outfield. Matsuzaka, though, made a bunch of great pitches - then left one in the middle of the plate to hit. It's like he gets frustrated and misses the target.

I have high hopes for Daisuke - it's still pretty clear that he has nasty stuff, he's tough and smart and competitive... another year of seasoning, getting used to the league, getting used to Tek, I think the odds are good he develops like Beckett did this year. They're similar pitchers - lots of success, though without quite proving themselves - Beckett couldn't stay healthy until last year; Dice-K pitching in Japan... coming to Boston and being both brilliant and awful. But the next year, Beckett has been just brilliant - I think Matsuzaka will do likewise. He has the stuff. Maybe he needs to learn to pace himself - to trust his catcher and fielders, to trust himself to get people out. I think he probably wore himself out this year - too many pitches, too many innings - which didn't have obvious physical effects, but probably forces him to work harder to achieve the same effects, probably disrupts his concentration. I expect that to go better next year as well. Last night though - to be honest, he did his job. Faded as he went, but came up big in the bottom of the fifth again, shutting down a bit of a rally. Got to the bullpen, which last night, with Okajima and Papelbon available for extended work, and Beckett as a safety net, was not likely to let it go - just what the doctor ordered.

So on to the Rockies and their 21-1 record... That's not against teams like the Red Sox (or the Indians, for that matter) - it's not much of a predictor of what is likely to happen next. The rockies can hit, have enough pitching - but Boston has pretty much everything you could ask, they are hot themselves, they just came back from 1-3 and did it without extending their roster - though with Fox's idiotic schedule, they could have played 20 innings last night and been rested for Wednesday... It's going to be a hard road for the rockies. This isn't quite San Antonio vs Cleveland in the NBA finals (and baseball is always a contest), but it's the same idea. Deep, veteran club that has proven itself capable of more or less anything - vs a nice young team playing over its head...

* Good lord, I almost forgot this: why are people still referring to Kenny Lofton as a "speedster"? Have they seen him walk lately? My brother and I saw a game this summer, when Lofton was still in Texas, he was playing center field, right in front of us (we had bleacher seats in dead center.) And inning or so into it my brother said, "look at Lofton - he's walking on one leg." He was: warming up, jogging in and out, you could see that he didn't put any pressure on one of his legs - you could see that he was basically unwilling to bend the knee. He looked like Bill Buckner. He could still move - he could still get going and motor when he did, but it hurt to watch him - and I have to say, I felt sorry for him, then, a great gutsy player like that, stuck in Texas.... so it was very satisfying to see him tearing up the Yankees in the playoffs... and rather poignant to see him the center of the Indians' failures last night. He deserved a lot better. Too bad he wasn't on the Red Sox!

Not that we need him. The other notable point of that game I saw was that it was Jacoby Ellsbury's major league debut: a great thrill! Then he beat out a routine ground ball to short stop his second time up...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Seeking New Advances

Not that I have anything profound to say. Baseball playoffs still going on - from the looks of it, they may be going on in January. At least Boston and Cleveland are making it worth while - the only competitive series of the post-season so far. Not surprising that it's competitive - they're the best two teams and playing like it. Boston has been underwhelming, but they've been oddly resilient all year, looking about ready to choke and then not choking... so I'd say it's still about even money who wins it. Edge to the Indians, but close. The Rockies, meanwhile, get to sit around and think about it for a week - a red hot team with a chance to cool down; a young team with a week to think about how amazing it is that they're in the world series... with the best team in baseball coming up. Meaning - I'll stick to predicting the AL to win. Though the real fun, as it pours rain here in Boston, is the fact that they will be starting the world series on, what, October 23 - in either Boston or Cleveland, then going to Denver, the last weekend in October. Barring rain, snow, sleet.... that's first rate planning.

In other sports news - Yankees let Torre go. As a red sox fan, I am happy. I can't see anyone else winning in that situation any time soon. Even with the players they have, and they probably won't have them for long. Go Blue Jays!...

Meanwhile - leaving sports for a bit - plenty of bloggy goodness around. Close-Up blogathon rolling along; Montgomery Clift blogathon a couple days ago, on his birthday; next week, a double-bill-a-thon. (I have a couple movie posts I've put off so long they might end up in this blogathon - fortunately, it might fit...) Elsewhere, Tucker points to the Write a novel in a month website - an idea that always seems appealing in October, but I never seem to do anything about....

And Walter at Quiet Bubble has a couple comics posts up, including this magnificent tribute to Gasoline Alley. I may have a comics binge coming on: just bought Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics - we'll see if that leads anywhere. I'm building up a huge backlog of things to procrastinate writing about here...

Finally - sorry, no random music links. I dunno. I want to write about music, but I'm getting tired of that gimmick. We must find a better way.... But in the meanwhile, a video is in order. I picked up a Creation compilation recently - lousy sound quality: great music. I think I posted a video of the band doing Makin' Time some time back - no harm doing it again, but happily, there's more from the same show, 3 songs, including Makin' Time. Good stuff.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

My Kid Could Paint That...

...probably not, actually. My Kid Could Paint That is a new documentary about Marla Olmstead, abstract expressionist in diapers. It's a cute story - dad's an amateur painter, Marla, aged 2, wanted to play with the paints so dad let her - and she produced things that looked like real art. Someone put some up in a coffee shop - where they sold. A gallery owner started showing her work - and it sold. And sold and sold and she became rich and famous and lived happily ever after! Until 60 Minutes came calling and put a camera in the basement and got footage of dad telling her where to put the red... Scandal! Mom and dad fought back, producing a video of their own showing the tyke painting a piece from start to finish, while hoping the documentary would clear their name. But the director, Amir Bar-Lev, was having his own doubts. All the time he filmed the family and the kid, he never saw her paint anything start to finish either. Hmm, thought he. And so the film ends, with director saying he doesn't quite believe it, then telling mom and dad, so they walk off, mom in tears... and you, viewer, are left to make up your mind.

It's quite a yarn. Enough that when I first saw the trailers, I thought it was fiction - a mockumentary. (Not having read anything about little Marla before this.) And even now, I'm not so sure it isn't fiction - you can create one hell of a viral marketing campaign on the internets - which I suppose is the theme of the film. Is little Marla, 4 year old genius painter, a work of fiction? Charlie Rose and a child psychologist say no: she's a normal kid, whose father coached her into creating works of art. The family of course says no no no! she did it all! Bar-Lev says - I don't believe it, but I have nothing more to show you, one way or the other. Which plays a bit like a cop out - though it's honest enough. But ending it there feels wrong; we need something like the ending of Imamura's A Man Vanishes: where the final confrontation between film crew and subjects seems to take place in a restaurant - but halfway in, a crew starts taking it apart, and it turns out to be a set on a sound stage. Now that's how you acknowledge the artifice of a film - not having a critic or newspaper columnist tell you your film will be a lie... (At least the critic asks if he can say it, then says it, as if he expects the scene to be edited: leaving it in is a nice touch.)

The truth is - I wish Bar-Lev had followed through more on the promise that the film would be about modern art, and what it means that a 4 year old can (or can't) fake it. The point is raised, a couple times: hostility to modern art, the idea that if a kid can fool the experts then the experts are full of crap, or that no one buys art like this for what it is, just for what they can say about it. For the story. That's the only part that is really addressed, though - the ways abstract expressionism, action painting, was about the story of the painting being made as much as what ended up on the canvas. And that drives this story, clearly: people buy these paintings because a precious little girl painted them - or rather, they pay $20,000 for these paintings because the precious little girl painted them. Which, to be fair, is a significant element of modern art - it has become increasingly "indexical" rather than "iconic" - taking meaning from their production more than what they represent. But there is a lot more going on in abstract art that the conditions of their painting - and Bar-Lev doesn't do much to explore those things.

What does makes a good abstract painting vs. a bad one? It's an important part of this story: it's why people like these paintings - why people are "fooled" if they are "fooled" - why they got attention in the first place. It's also why people doubt that Marla painting them: they are too good - and they are good in ways that betray too much knowledge and understanding about art, and abstract art. They are, as far as I can see, nice paintings - pretty, pleasant to look at - with a decent sense of unity and compositional sense - they have balance, structure - the forms and colors lead the eye around, and satisfy it. They work for the same reason classic abstractions work - they look good, they are unified, they create an enveloping visual field. Which, I have to say, is one of the things that casts some doubt on them. People say it in the film - that they are too finished, too complete - kids don't cover whole canvases like that, when left to their own devices. And it seems to me (and my amateur eye) that they are too well designed - they have too much balance, of color and form.There's no sign that little Marla even knows how to draw - and these paintings don't look like something you could get more than once in 10 tries without being able to draw. Drawing takes more than just making the hand do what the mind wants it to - it's knowing what the hand should do. Marla just makes shapes and marks - it's hard to see how she could know to create paintings that look like these, except by accident. Maybe she's painting 10 bad ones for every good one, and the bad ones are disappearing - there's no sign of that though.

(This is "Dinosaurs" by Marla Olmstead. Image found at the New York Times.)

And there's more. First - I don't want to say they are great paintings - they're nice, they're pretty, but I don't know what more to say about them.... For one thing, they are about 50 years behind the times. Abstract expressionism was a product of the 40s and 50s - by the 60s it was being replaced by pop art and minimalism and conceptual art. This is important too - especially if you think this story and this film are about resistance to modern art. The real story of Marla Olmstead is that abstract art has long since ceased to be anything special. This kind of modern art is now completely mainstream, completely safe - it's pretty and fun and looks good on the wall. Which is not a condemnation - that's equally true of Pollock or Matisse or Degas or Warhol these days. But it means this story isn't quite about resistance to abstract art. It's about the acceptance of modern art, it's transformation into mainstream culture....

In any case: this is what is missing from the film. any kind of formal discussion of the paintings - or a fairly serious historical discussion of them. Just assuming the kid is painting them - what does it mean that she's working in a 40 year old style? more or less. But more significantly, Bar-Lev should have found time for some kind of analysis of the paintings. There are comments in the film related to these issues - the adult themes, the big ideas, the compositions and so on - but none of it is developed. What is an "adult theme"? a "big idea"? How do these paintings have them? why isn't that here?

For that matter - the hints that the film might be about the question of the emptiness of abstract art - "a kid could do that!" - aren't really fulfilled either. The most substantial statement of that case comes fro the gallery owner himself, kvetching that he slaves over his photo-realist canvases for ages and this kid dashes hers off in a couple sittings and gets almost as much money as he does - he even claims he pushed her to expose the con game of modern art. This rant might be more convincing if it didn't come right after the 60 Minutes revelation in the middle of the film. Now, sure - Bar-Lev could be cheating here: there's no indication of when Brunelli said those things - Bar-Lev puts them right after the 60 Minutes footage, but he might be cheating. But it sounds about right - it sounds like sour grapes, like something Brunelli would say when he thought he'd lost his cash cow. In fact, the paintings are still selling, and he doesn't seem to have stopped pushing the kid's art - though I suppose if he's in it for the money, he wouldn't... But at best, it says more about him than the kid's art (or her dad's art, if this is all a scam.)

Not that it matters anyway. Brunelli's claims aren't very convincing anyway. Painters have never been paid by the hour: the value of art, to collectors and critics alike, has never been determined by the effort put in. Ease, effortlessness, spontaneity are valued just as highly as hard work (more so, though it's usually a myth - the effortless genius. That's another aspect of this whole story that gets short shrift: the utter pervasiveness of the myth of the genius, whose work is a miracle - that's what little Marla is, just like Giotto before her!) Spirit and feeling valued as highly as skill, overall effect and expressiveness as much as virtuosity. Though all of this tends to simply circle the question of how much ability is involved in being able to create a truly great abstract painting. And that's still open for debate, guess. I got into a fracas recently over the merits of Pollock and Rothko and the like - defending them against a fairly standard array of arguments: a kid could do it, it takes no skill, it shows no skill, it's boring. All of which, to me, seems driven by a refusal to take the painting at face value, or to read it on its terms. I found a nice quote from Clement Greenberg, the great champion of this kind of art: "art is essentially a matter of means and results, not of means and ends." Whatever Greenberg meant by it, I think you can take it to mean, you can't impose your idea of what art is on the work. You can't judge the skill, the effort to create it, on something outside the work itself.

Which has wandered a ways away from little Marla Olmstead and whether or not her dad painted her paintings. But it is still related. First - because abstract paintings are not simply random patterns of paint - the good ones have structure and unity (or a significant type of disunity), that sometimes arises from randomness and chaos. Second because, the fact that a 4 year old might do something like this would not, really, discredit the work of the Pollocks of the world: it doesn't discredit painters to discover forms in nature like the forms in their work. It's probably not far fetched to say Pollock and others like him were trying, at some level, to reproduce natural forms, with their mixture of randomness and structure - it's also probably not to far-fetched to expect a 4 year old's paintings to have a similar natural mix of randomness and structure. She isn't reproducing it - she's just doing it... if she's doing it. And I suppose - it tends to undermine the claims that she did this unaided: it seems far more likely that she was guided, probably by her father. He doesn't seem to have had the ability to paint these things himself - but he probably has the eye to "edit" his daughter's improvisations into more unified canvases. At least, that is my interpretation of it.... Unfortunately - I don't know enough about art to really make the case I want to make here. I wish I did - and I wish this film had done more to make it.

And finally - I will say that this film comes at a very good time, as far as I am concerned. I've been thinking about art. I've been wondering how to work in more posts about art, music, books, and so on - not that I've been banging out the film posts recently. But I'm interested in art: I was grateful for the post I linked to above, and for Tucker's recent post on Jeff Wall - both were chances to talk about art. Arguing about Rothko, especially, sent me to the books - to Greenberg and others - and to the BMFA, to look for specific things. (Unfortunately, all their 20th century art is in storage - no Pollock! Dove! O'Keefe! Sheeler! Davis! Marin! even the Hoppers are out of sight! even the Picassos and Legers are gone! Fortunately, one can make a lot of good arguments about Pollock and Rothko from Monet alone.... And there are compensations - a wonderful wonderful wonderful exhibition of Japanese art. That should be a future post, if I have any discipline in me at all.) This film, whatever its failings, fits in well with my current mood. It makes a good jump off point for all kinds of thought about art, the media, documentary filmmaking, whatever you'd like.

The real thing - Pollock's Lavender Mist. Your kid couldn't paint that.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

More Baseball

That was quick! 3 sweeps? And thanks to TV and stupidity, a week of waiting. why not start up Tuesday? Anyone? anyone?

Anyway, we do still have the Indians trying to finish off the Yankees - and a happy reminder of the good old days of the Bronx Zoo, with Steinbrenner threatening Torre's job if he loses this series. That's very good news, for a Red Sox fan: it's hard to imagine anyone else getting much out of that Yankees team; and if Steinbrenner sticks his nose in, things can only get worse in the Bronx. So go Tribe!

I might as well repeat my predictions - nothing need change. Sox over whoever wins (since it isn't over); Diamondbacks in the NL. Which isn't to say the Indians couldn't make it close - it's going to depend on what they get from their 3-4 starters and bullpen. If they win tonight with good pitching - it could be a very tight series. (They can still lose, obviously - but... oops! there goes the Greatest Pitcher in History! perhaps for the last time ever! For about the 10th time in his career...) Beckett and Schilling continue to demonstrate why they are such big game pitchers - and will get plenty of rest... but Sabathia and Carmona are no slouches, and the Indians have a nice team on the field. It should be good.

As for the NL - both teams come in hot: but I the Diamondbacks are in fact, the best team in the league. Momentum, as they say, is only as good as today's starting pitcher. So there we go...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Baseball Post Season Guesses

Holy Cow! Baseball season is over! almost! Playoffs! A Play In to the Play Offs! etc! After last year's 0-8 debacle, I should know better than to go on record picking anything: but I never learn. It's too bad the Padres and Rockies are already underway: if not, I'd have a chance to go 0-9 this year! It looks like I'm already on the way: the Rockies are up 3-0 as of this writing, and I would not have picked them. In fact - this is a good time to offer free advice: Rockies to win it all: because if I match last year, they'll be taking it all.

But that was a fluke. I hope. No - this year I have a rooting interest again! that has to help... though not much, because, like last year, I don't see much separating any of the teams in the playoffs. There is a pretty obvious gap between the AL and the NL this year - the win loss records reflect the quality of the teams - all the AL teams look significantly better than any of the NL teams. Within the leagues, there doesn't seem a lot to pick between. But that won't stop me.

AL 1: BOSTON over Anaheim: I am not picking against the Red Sox anywhere in the post-season. That is the rooting interest - and there is more. They had the best record in baseball - and probably are the best team in baseball. They lagged after the fast start - injuries (Schilling at the beginning of summer, Wake at the end, Manny in September), fatigue, especially to the Japanese pitchers, slumps and such slowed them down - never enough to put them in serious danger of missing the playoffs, but enough to make people lose track of how good they are when they are all together. They've put things back together the last week or so - rested Okajima and Matsuzaka (who's had a couple nice starts to end the season); gotten Manny and Youk and Coco back in the lineup; the DL stint seems to have preserved Schilling - he seems fresh enough to be something like his self in the post-season; and all the injuries gave Ellsbury a chance to develop into what could be a series breaking wild card. So - I say they go all the way.... But I say that knowing well that there isn't a lot of difference between them and the Angels - who have tough pitching, enough offense, and are playoff hardened enough to win it all themselves. It's a close match: I say Red Sox out of loyalty as much as anything.

AL 2: CLEVELAND over the Yankees: granted, the Yanks have had their number; granted the Yanks can beat the bejesus out of the ball; granted the Yanks are hardened veterans - some of them played in the very first World Series, I think! Still - I think the Yankees are clearly inferior to the rest of the AL post-season pack - because pitching catches up with hitting sooner or later in the post-season, and all three other teams have genuinely superb pitching. The Yankees pitchers were also superb - in 1998 (Clemens, Mussina, Pettitte?).... The Yanks have to get past 2 teams with better pitching than they have. They might as well fall to the Indians.

And then, I think whoever wins this series will get sent home by Boston or Anaheim. The Red Sox/Angels series should determine the world series winner. I probably would have said that about the Twins and A's last year, and you saw how that turned out. But truthfully, last year was weird: usually, there are 2-3 genuinely superior teams in the post-season and they end up winning it - I think it's that way this year. Last year you couldn't really tell - you could make a case for anyone (except the team that actually won it). This year, you can make a strong case for the Sox and Angels, a solid case for the Indians, and maybe the Yankees. Go Sox!

NL 1: PHILLIES over TBD - actually, I don't know if I believe that. The Padres, if they win, have a very deep rotation, nice bullpen and all - missing 2/3 of their outfield will probably sink them though. The Phils are the NL version of the Yankees without the pitching. They should club their way through this series, but it's a closa call against SD - they should not get past the next team. And they are not going to beat any of the AL teams.

NL 2: ARIZONA over the Cubbies: I could be wrong. The Cubs didn't win all that much, but they have some very nice players, a couple strong pitchers at the top of the rotation... But I think the Snakes are more balanced - and they aren't the Cubs. Though I can see the Cubs getting hot for a month and going far. Maybe this will be a Chicago - Cleveland World Series! it's too late for the Red Sox/Cubs apocalypse - but the Indians would be an okay substitute.

But more likely, the Diamondbacks win that series - and the next one (unless the Pads get going - they're up 5-4, by the time I finished the post, so maybe... if they do, I am going to pick them t win another one)- and lose in the world series.