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Found 14 results

  1. Yes, but was he the best defensive SS since Mark Belanger? It's kind of sad when you win 8 Gold Gloves, and are only the second-best left-sided infielder on your team, arguably only the second-best defensive shortstop in your team's history (Luis Aparicio is more famous), and nobody even remembers who you are despite playing as recently as 32 years ago. (Of course, Belanger is (unfortunately) deceased, and also had a career batting average of something like .032.) It's okay, Mark - *I* remember you. What's interesting about Smith and Belanger (and no, I don't honestly think Belanger was as good as Smith) is that they both played very vertical - [brooks] Robinson and Simmons play more horizontally, if that makes any sense. Yeah, both SSs had excellent lateral range, but they just "looked" like they were playing up-and-down as opposed to side-to-side. [BTW, I welcome people who grew up loving other teams to write about them and their players. All views welcome here, and the more information, the better.]
  2. "First Blood" may be my favorite of the original "action-adventure" pictures featuring the lone anti-hero against the mob. We've all seen "First Blood," but Sylvester Stallone (who plays John Rambo) draws an interesting parallel between "Rambo" and "Frankenstein": From Amazon X-Ray: "Stallone compares John Rambo to the monster of Doctor Frankenstein, and Colonel Trautman to The Doctor, in the respect that Rambo is a war machine monster created by America [Sam Trautman is named after Uncle Sam] to do its bidding, but then he escapes and runs amok, but also wants to fit into a society who shuns him, and Colonel Trautman was basically instrumental in making Rambo into what he is and feels remorse for how he turned out and does what he can to help make things right." *** SPOILER ALERT *** Don't click on either of these if you haven't seen "First Blood" or "Mulholland Drive" It's startling how much Rambo's jump-scare knife attack against Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) appears to be a direct, visual influence for David Lynch's "jump-scare diner scene" in "Mulholland Drive." If you have the fortitude, and haven't yet seen the films, I urge you not to click on these thumbnails, although I've tried not to give too much away. More than anything else, even the darkened skin, it's the demonic grins that link these shots together.
  3. I'm watching "Firefox" for the first time since it was released in 1982. I distinctly remember the opening scene, with Clint Eastwood jogging (although, for some reason, I thought I remembered him jogging without a shirt). When I was 21 years old, I thought to myself, 'My *God*, he looks old' (he was 52). Now, my impression when I just saw that same scene was, 'My *God*, he looks young.' Unfortunately, other than seeing the movie in the theater vs. on Amazon, there's only one variable in this equation. (Actually, in a later scene, Eastwood was standing around without a shirt - he really wasn't in top shape for this film, even for a 52-year-old.) I had completely forgotten how blatantly Soviet this film was - sort of like an earlier version of "The Hunt for Red October" (1990) which I thought was just awful. However, I was studying Russian in the late 1980s, and knew enough to pick out the flaws in Red October; when I saw Firefox, Russian was like Chinese to me, so I had absolutely no idea how contrived it was. I do find it interesting just how John McCain-like Clint Eastwood's Vietnam flashback was. I also didn't realize that Firefox, like all of Malpaso's (Eastwood's Production company's) pictures since, has no opening credits after the title was displayed. One thing I'm noticing about Firefox is the incredible attention that's being paid to seemingly mundane detail (which I consider to be a huge asset; others consider it to be dull) - not a lot of action is occurring, but the Soviet atmosphere is being slowly and surely cultivated, despite the film not being shot in the Soviet Union (for Cold War reasons) - I suppose some might find the entire structure ponderous; I find it fascinating, in the way that I find Bruckner's symphonies fascinating. Just don't watch Firefox looking for an "Eastwood action movie," because you're going to spend a lot of time trying to find it. That said, Eastwood's heavily Americanized Russian accent would *never* pass muster when scrutinized by even a casual speaker, much less suspicious KGB agents screening him at a security gate - also, doesn't *anybody* around the perimeter of the ultra-secure facility know what their own pilot looks like? The special effects used for the flying scenes were known as "Reverse Bluescreen" photography, and were pioneered by John Dykstra just for this film - Dykstra was the special-effects lead for the original "Star Wars," and is almost surely a household name to anyone who cares about special effects. When the second Firefox is chasing the first, it becomes *extremely* obvious that this is a riff on Star Wars - you'll know the scene when you see it. Interestingly, not long after this, there's a scene that's a riff on, believe it or not, my favorite scene from "Wings" (1927), one pilot showing respect to the other. And after *that*, there's yet another Star War's riff - recall, "Use the force, Luke." If you want a detailed plot synopsis, there's a good one on *** SPOILER ALERT *** IMDB.
  4. I know it's a little bit hard not to cringe at the complacent sexism of this material, but Joe Tex was one of the greatest soul singers we ever had, and this was probably his definitive recording, "Hold What You've Got", from 1964. And I love it. I never had the pleasure of seeing Joe Tex perform live.
  5. I bought this book about thirty years ago, mainly because I had the attention span of a gnat. Reading long-form literature was an absolute chore for me (though I forced myself to do it), and the concept of this book, "Short Shorts," pulled me towards it like a magnet. What it is, is a tiny little paperback, composed of the absolute shortest stories I've ever read - some of them only several pages in length - by some of the most famous authors in history. The range in this book seems almost random, as the authors range from Leo Tolstoy (who offers the shortest story of them all: "The Three Hermits" - an absolutely jaw-dropping tale that's about three pages long) to Sholem Aleichem (with his twisty tale, "A Yom Kippur Scandal"), and even includes a couple of clunkers (Sherwood Anderson's "Paper Pills" - perhaps if I read this again, I'd enjoy it, but at the time, I was bored senseless even though it was only about ten pages long - of course, anyone who wrote "Winesburg, Ohio" isn't the first person I'd think to go out and do tequila shots with). Even though there are a few stories in here you won't love, the anthology as a whole is a fantastic introduction to 38 authors - all of whom are talented; many of whom are legendary - and you can read even the longest story in less than twenty minutes. You can put the book down at any point, and pick it back up five years later without missing a beat. There appear to be some used copies available on Amazon, and even though I probably paid less than five dollars for this when I bought it, I think if you can find it right now for under $10-15, you should nab it. It's great fun, it's great reading, and it's *perfect* for people who have trouble suffering through longer works of literature. From what I see, you can currently buy this for as little as one penny, and just pay $3.99 for shipping and handling (I did this with a book before, and it actually works). Don't worry about the condition it's in - it's not a keepsake, but it is something you'll want to keep.
  6. The great Magical Realism author Gabriel Garcia Márquez died today at age 87. He is one of the few authors that wrote a passage so strong, that I remember where I was when I read it. Márquez is one of my primary influencers as a writer, although I shouldn't call myself a "writer" in the same sentence with his name. From "One Hundred Years Of Solitude," at the moment when José Arcadio Buendí­a, son of Úrsula Iguarán, dies from a mysterious gunshot wound: "A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendí­a's house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta's chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Ürsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread. "Holy Mother of God!" Ürsula shouted." From this passage alone, the reader knew, beyond any doubt, that Ürsula was fully aware it was her son that died. This may be his most famous passage, and "One Hundred Years Of Solitude" is required reading, but it does Márquez a great injustice not to explore him in much greater depth. The short story, for example, "The Incredible and Sad Tale Of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother," found here, can be read in one evening, and is every bit as profound (in Spanish, "Innocent Eréndira" is written as "Cándida Eréndira," and the story is a riff on Candide by Voltaire). I wrote a passage from it the first night I ever met Chris Cunningham.
  7. Air Florida 90 crashed into the 14th St Bridge and then the river close to the Virginia side. I seem to recall that there is a tiny portion of DC on the Virginia side (is this true?), and I don't know whether the line otherwise runs down the center of the river or one side. But anyway, did it actually crash in DC or in Va.?
  8. I just watched Koyaanisqatsi for the second time. This must-see film is mesmerizing and thought-provoking. With no dialogue or characters, it tells a story through stunning cinematography perfectly paired with an evocative score. Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi word meaning "unbalanced life." It can be argued that this film is about the effect of technology on the natural world. Time-lapse and slow-motion footage of landscapes and cities throughout the United States are shown, juxtaposed with moving, minimalist music by Philip Glass. Yes, there are contrasts between the natural world and urban life, but the film is so much more. The imagery of the cities, even the slums of St. Louis, are beautifully shot. Watching this film is a transformative experience. It draws you in, transfixes you, and Koyaanisqatsi becomes a personal experience for the viewer. To appreciate this film you need to watch it, uninterrupted, preferably on a larger screen with a decent set of speakers. Don't go on Wikipedia and read a synopsis. There is no point. (After viewing the film, however, I found it interesting to read about how the images were shot.) Watching Koyaanisqatsi brought me to a meditative state. I watched it, on the recommendation of a friend, when my life felt "out of balance." I became lost, captivated by the imagery and the music that accompanies it. It altered my mood dramatically, both times. I thought I might lose interest the second time I watched it, but the experience was richer and more moving than my first viewing.
  9. Sometimes, you just gotta have cheap escapism. I'm watching an HD version of this film on Amazon, and the cinematography is fantastic. The movie starts off strong, then gets progressively more incredible (as in, "not credible"), but it's good, tawdry entertainment, as well as being an important part of American pop culture.
  10. All the talk about the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina puts me in mind of Hurricane Betsy, which is coming up on 50 years next month, and especially of the memorialization of that devastating storm by the great Texas bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins: This was released in 1965 or possibly 1966, so it must have been recorded soon after the events it chronicles. Lightnin' Hopkins is a great favorite of mine, so here's a little Guitar Lightnin': (It says "around 1966" onscreen, but this track and "Hurricane Betsy" above were both released on the album Lightnin' Strikes on the Verve "Folkways" label in 1965, I think, but it may have been 1966. It may come as no surprise that I used to have the LP.) While we're at it, let's go to Louisiana for a little mojo hand: And finally, let's go way back for a little more:
  11. In case anyone didn't know, last night was the final night of "Late Show with David Letterman" né "Late Night with David Letterman." The final episode got pretty solid reviews: "Thanks Dave: The Genius Of Letterman's 'Late Show' Goodbye" by Rob Sheffield on rollingstone.com "David Letterman's Final 'Late Show': Star-Studded Top 10, Heartfelt Goodbye" by Marisa Guthrie on hollywoodreporter.com "David Letterman Finale Draws Almost 14 Million Viewers In Ratings" by John Koblin on nytimes.com
  12. The NCAA Women's championship ended last night. Connecticut won. Again. That is 10 championships in the last 20 years. That is a phenomenal streak. It was their 3rd championship in a row. They crushed teams in the tournament. Up until the final game their smallest tournament victory was by 21. They beat a #1 regional Seed, U Maryland by 23. They beat Notre Dame in the final by 10. They were ahead solidly through the entire 2nd half. While we were wondering how Kentucky stood against all time college basketball teams upthread, there is little to ponder about U Conn. Maybe they are the best women's basketball team ever. Maybe not. If not this U Conn team and its most recent predecessor's possibly past U Conn women's teams that also managed to win 3 championships in a row. U Conn women's basketball. Its currently one of those iconoclastic long running dynasties, similar to various Yankee teams, the Montreal Canadians, the old Boston Celtics, the UCLA college teams of Wooden's last years. Now that is a dynasty and unquestionably ranking among the all time best.
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