Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cool Song

In honor of baseball's opening day, here's The Baseball Project (Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn, Linda Pittmon, and Mike Mills filling in for Peter Buck) and their ode to Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum of the Giants:

Fearless Predictions

Today was Opening Day of the 2011 Major League Baseball season-- hooray! I'm looking forward to six months of excitement as the teams battle it out in pursuit of a championship. Even though I know a couple of teams have already started the season on a winning (or losing) note, I'm going to ooffer my predictions for how things will look in the standings at the end of the year. Mostly these are based on information I've gleaned over the winter, involving transactions, injuries, manager changes, etc. But I can't deny that there isn't justa bit of wishful thinking involved in one or two cases. Anyway, here are my predictions:

National League East
1. Atlanta Braves (led by phenom Jason Heyward, seen above)
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Florida Marlins
4. Washington Nationals
5. New York Mets

National League Central
1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (that's right, the Pirates are ascending!)
6. Houston Astros

National League West
1. San Francisco Giants
2. Colorado Rockies
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. San Diego Padres (sadly sunk without Adrian Gonzalez)
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

American League East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Baltimore Orioles

American League Central
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals

American League West
1. Texas Rangers
2. Oakland A's
3. Los Angeles Angels
4. Seattle Mariners (Sorry Lizzie)

I think the tightest races will be in the two central divisions, with the top three in each battling down to the wire; and also the NL East, where I'm counting on some of that aforementioned wishful thinking to boost the Braves just past the Phillies. Wild cards will go to the Twins in the AL and Phillies in the NL. League Champions: Atlanta and Boston, with the Braves taking the World Series in six games (a guy can dream, right?). Feel free to offer your own picks in the comments section.

Toonerville Thursday

Everyone knows that you never learn anything if you don't ask questions. I wonder if Fontaine Fox maintained a list of all those that came before these two?

A Thought for Thursday

I really like this statement from the late Senator J. William Fulbright (1905-1995) of Arkansas:

"The rapprochement of peoples is only possible
when differences of culture and outlook are
respected and appreciated rather than feared
and condemned, when the common bond of
human dignity is recognized as the essential
bond for a peaceful world."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Song of the Day

Here's another band I just recently found out about-- Middle Brother. I'm looking forward to picking up their album. Enjoy:

Four Pictures of Sculptures

I was experimenting on my recent travels with shooting statues and other types of 3D art which lent themselves to a variety of angles or blended with their settings in interesting ways. Here are a few examples. Above is a Rodin sculpture in the garden at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

This is a classical work of one of the mythological muses from ancient Rome, which resides at the Getty Villa.

Another Rodin-- I think this one could use some work on the background, but I liked the figure raising his arms to the sky.

This last one is a little different. It's an ancient piece of ceramic, actually a very small vessel that I imagine would hold something like perfume. But it looked amazingly like an old family heirloom Christmas ornament that still gets put out on my Mom's tree every year: a small ceramic bunch of grapes. As seen here, this is just a tad larger than the object is in real life, which makes it about the same size as the ornament (though the ornament lacks the same kind of stem). It makes me wonder if the ornament is older than I thought, or if this design has just been a perennial down through the ages.

A Wednesday Quote

I wish more people in this country recognized the value in this statement by the late Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941):

"America has believed that in differentiation,
not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It
acted on this belief; it has advanced human
happiness, and it has prospered."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A New Favorite

Those Darlins are a new band to me -- I just heard them for the first time today. But I'm thinking these gals come close to the cowpunk standard set years ago by Jason and the Scorchers, and I'm glad to see the genre is being kept alive. Fun stuff!

A Note on the New Logo

Just in case anyone was wondering, the image I inserted behind the blog title above is not me. Even though I find surfing incredibly interesting to watch, and very photogenic (I love Endless Summer and Endless Summer II-- see them on a big screen), my own swimming skills are such that you would never find me out amongst the waves. Never let it be said that I would mislead my readers.

This Week's Top Five List

Art Vandalay and I were big fans of the TV program Seinfeld (or is that self-evident?), and passing references to the series come out every week or so in our between-songs banter on Dr. John's Record Shelf. This week, we were a bit more overt in our homage:

Quote of the Day

Horace Greeley (1811-1872) was one of the pioneers in the development of modern newspapers in this country back before the Civil War. He was definitely on to something with this statement:

"Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident,
and riches take wings. Only one thing
endures and that is character."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Battle of the Bands Winner

Buffalo Springfield moved on to Round Four with this tune, written by Stephen Stills. By the way, in case you are wondering what this group is doing in a competition to determine the greatest "British" rock band of the 1960 to 1974 era, it's because two of the members were Canadian (and, I somehow forgot to include them in the pool for the American competition last year, so we owed them a slot in this year's competition).

Five Pictures: The Huntington, Part 2

As promised yesterday, here are a few shots of some of the galleries at the Huntington complex. There were several different buildings, each with a different emphasis. There was no photography allowed inside the library itself, so I don't have of that building. Above is the main gallery in the European collection. At the far end, you can see their most famous exhibit: Gainsborough's Blue Boy. I have to admit it was pretty impressive to see in person, though the emphasis on portraiture in this collection did get a little monotonous to me.

The European collection is in a building that was once a home. In addition to the paintings and sculptures on display, the furniture and architecture were no less impressive. This hallway includes a broad curving staircase just out of view on the right.

Above is a room with some nice inlaid tables and desks, and various ceramics displayed on the walls. These were nice, but I must admit that I prefer paintings-- the vases and pots all start to look the same after awhile to me.

Here's one of the rooms in the house that shows how the artwork was integrated into such useful items as chairs (check out the upholstery), screens, tapestries, etc.

This was my favorite painting of those I saw at the Huntington. This is called State Fair, by John Steuart Curry, one of the American regionalists of the twenties and thirties , along with Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and others. I've always considered Curry a cut below those other guys (his most famous work is probably Baptism in Kansas), but this picture really knocked me out. It's quite large, and the detail and energy of the scene is very impressive. It reminds me of the kind of things Reginald Marsh or Paul Cadmus were doing at the same time (a kind of urban, as opposed to rural, regionalism), both of whose work I like very much. Anyway, this painting made me think of Curry as more than a country primitivist-- so now I'll have to go and take another look at the rest of his stuff.

Battle of the Bands Update

The Beatles

Round Three of the Battle of the Bands on Dr. John's Record Shelf came to end last night, with two contests in the Pop Bracket. No. 1 seed the Beatles took down fellow scousers the Searchers (5) by a 7-0 score, while Buffalo Springfield (3) edged the Troggs (10) by a surprisingly close 4-3 margin. This means that the Springfield won the right to challenge the Beatles to see who will represent their bracket in the Final Four.

Buffalo Springfield

Songs in competition this week were "Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles, "Don't Throw Your Love Away" by the Searchers, "Rock and Roll Woman" by Buffalo Springfield, and "With a Girl Like You" by the Troggs. Here are the fourth round match-ups for the next two weeks (songs will be picked by the end of the week, and posted here when they are selected): Pop: Beatles v. Buffalo Springfield; Empire: Led Zeppelin v. the Kinks; Mod: the Who v. Deep Purple; Teddy Boy: Rolling Stones v. the Animals. The longest shot still alive is Deep Purple, who were seeded no. 7 in their bracket. All the others remaining contestants were seeded 1,2, or 3. Suggestions for songs to be played n the next round can be left in the comments section.

Monday's Bon Mots

As a historian it's hard not to recognize the truth in the following statement by the journalist Tom Wolfe:

"We are always acting on what has just
finished happening. It happened at least
1/30th of a second ago. We think we're in
the present, but we aren't. The present
we know is only a movie of the past."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Great Song

Here's a real treat: a live clip of Richie Havens doing "High Flying Bird," one of the standards of the sixties folk revival:

Five Pictures: The Huntington Library

As mentioned in a previous post, one of my stops on my recent visit to Los Angeles was the Huntington Library. This is actually a large complex of galleries and gardens in addition to the library which houses one fo the great private libraries collected in the late nineteenth century by the institution's namesake railroad magnate. I thought I'd be able to see everything in just a couple of hours, but that proved to be unrealistic. So now I have a good reason to go back some day to check out what I missed.

These are all pictures of the grounds; tomorrow I'll post a few pics of what I saw in the galleries. The estate was really crowded when I get there, with lots of folks enjoying the nice day, but as closing time neared, it thinned out considerably (which is why these seem kind of sparsely populated).

Most of these are from spaces between the buildings, but I gather there are some more substantial woods and gardens scattered across the complex. Still, I enjoyed the clusters of palm trees, as above.

Mixed in with the foliage are various sculptures and giant vases and whatnot. Clearly, much like John Paul Getty and his Villa, Huntington was a big-time collector, and it's to his credit that he created this public venue for sharing what he accumulated over the course of his life-time.

This young artist was sketching a statue that is hidden by the bushes on the right. Doesn't that look like a great way to while away an afternoon?

Sunday Funnies

Here are four examples of the classic strip Blondie from 1942. At that time, it was still being done by its creator Chic Young. What's most striking about these to me is that, with just one or two details changed, they could be examples of the current edition of the strip.

Here's a good example of what I meant about how consistent this strip has been for over seventy years: compare the first panel in the strip above to the first panel of the Blondie strip that was published in newspapers today.

I don't consider that kind of consistency a bad thing-- rather it speaks to the timelessness of a classic strip.

Sunday Quote

Here's a line from the noted Renaissance alchemist and physician Paracelsus (1493-1541). It is from his work The Archidoxes of Magic, though its implications go well beyond that topic:

"But we men discover all that is hidden in the mountains by signs and outward correspondences; and it is thus that we find out all the pro­perties of herbs and all that is in stones. There is nothing in the depths of the seas, nothing in the heights of the firmament that man is not capable of discovering. There is no mountain so vast that it can hide from the gaze of man what is within it; it is revealed to him by cor­responding signs."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cool Song

I've been enjoying the music of Imperial Teen for many years. If you are unfamiliar with their work, this will provide an introduction:

Funny Stuff

I admit that I don't "get" the punchline of this strip (which is a reprint from the sixties that appeared this morning). Still, when I read it, I laughed and laughed and laughed. It just really struck me as funny. If anybody can explain what it means, feel free to tell me so in the comments; but whether you do or not, I'll continue to consider it a big chunk of comic gold.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

I don't remember seeing the Superman cartoons from the forties when I was a kid, which seems odd since there were lots of other cartoons from that era on all the time. Not only that, but the live action Superman program from the fifties was kind of ubiquitous too. I like the noir quality of this short, which seems at odds with the stories in the comics (to me, anyway) as well as the live action show. Very atmospheric...

A Saturday Quote

Peter Ustinov (1921-2004) was a good actor and a funny raconteur. Here's something he said that is worth remembering:

"Intelligent or not, we all make mistakes
and perhaps the intelligent mistakes are
the worst, because so much careful thought
has gone into them."

Friday, March 25, 2011

This Is Good

Ricky Jay is one of the most entertaining magicians working today. Here's a wonderful clip of him at his funniest:

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

Okay. The last three quizzes have solicited a total -- a total!-- of only six guesses. So this will be the last regular quiz post if there isn't a bit more interest expressed via responses. Who are the three figures in the picture above and, for extra credit, where was this picture taken? Put your guesses in the comments (and if you want to see the quizzes continue, throw out some ideas even if you have no idea).

Last week, I asked who the individual in another altered picture was, and no one knew that it was Marenka (I actually thought that one was kind of easy). So, c'mon and get your guesses in this week!

Soup Diary 110325

It was a warm day in Pasadena a couple weeks back but I was really in the mood for a cup of soup for lunch, as I was killing time before heading over to the Norton Simon Art Museum. Walking along Colorado Avenue (the main drag there), I checked out the special boards on a couple of restaurants, but everyone of them seemed to be featuring tomato soup. I like tomato soup well enough, but I can get it most anywhere, so I kept looking. Eventually I got sidetracked (ended up in a record store, as I recall) and afterward decided to head to the Museum (I had limited time to see the collection, because I also wanted to get to the Huntington Library that afternoon). So I went to the museum, saw some fine pieces (especially enjoying their early modern European galleries), and got progressively more hungry. Like most such places, they had a cafe, out in the sculpture garden, so I figured I'd grab a bite there before heading over to the Huntington. As luck would have it, they had soup on the menu; and, as luck would have it, it was tomato bisque. So that's what I had. It was okay, and it was enjoyable eating looking out over the garden (see below). But I wonder-- why did it seem like all the restaurants that day were serving tomato soup? Is this some kind of Thursday tradition in Southern California? Are tomatoes as ubiquitous in Pasadena as roses? I don't know what the story is, but I hope the next time I visit I can get something else.

More Friday Family Blogging

How's that for a big ol' smile from Helen? I wonder what's got her in such a good mood.

Friday Family Blogging

I've had such a craving for some good pizza the last few days. If only Raechelle were out here...

Friday Philosophy

Here's a somewhat lengthy, but worthy, statement from the eminent Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) on the topic of benevolence:

"It may be esteemed, perhaps, a superfluous task to prove, that the benevolent or softer affections are estimable; and wherever they appear, engage the approbation and good-will of mankind. The epithets sociable, good-natured, humane, merciful, grateful, friendly, generous, beneficent, or their equivalents, are known in all languages, and universally express the highest merit, which human nature is capable of attaining. Where these amiable qualities are attended with birth and power and eminent abilities, and display themselves in the good government or useful instruction of mankind, they seem even to raise the possessors of them above the rank of human nature, and make them approach in some measure to the divine. Exalted capacity, undaunted courage, prosperous success; these may only expose a hero or politician to the envy and ill-will of the public: but as soon as the praises are added of humane and beneficent; when instances are displayed of lenity, tenderness or friendship; envy itself is silent, or joins the general voice of approbation and applause."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cool Song

Carrie Rodriguez and Chip Taylor made for kind of an odd combo (old rock guy-- he wrote "Wild Thing"-- and young girl fiddler), but they sure made some nice music together. I don't know what to make of the video in this clip, but I sure like the song:

Toonerville Thursday

This week's focus is on the town's resident tough guy, Mickey (Himself) McGuire. I know I wouldn't want to tangle with him.

Thursday's Quote

I don't know but that I'd like to test this idea personally some day. It comes from the American humorist Artemus Ward (1834-1867):

“I am happiest when I am idle. I could live
for months without performing any kind of
labor, and at the expiration of that time I
should feel fresh and vigorous enough to go
right on in the same way for numerous

more months.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A New Favorite

Here's a song by the Mountain Goats, a band I just recently discovered though they've been around for about fifteen years (the mainstay of the band is a guy named John Darnielle). I really like the stripped down sound on this cut (which is pretty typical of their stuff):

The Last Movie I Saw

When I was in Los Angeles a couple weeks back, I had the opportunity to attend a premiere (Los Angeles premiere anyway) of the new Bertrand Tavernier film The Princess of Montpensier. The film was entertaining, and like all of Tavernier's work that I've seen, extremely well-made in an almost classical style. By that I mean that he offers lengthy scenes that allow an audience to absorb a setting while also allowing the actors to really interact with each other, as opposed to the kind of quick-cutting and attention deficit editing that dominate American films. This historical epic revolves around the appeal of the title character, a young woman betrothed first to one, then another prince (the machinations behind all this dictated by their respective fathers, whose interests hardly account for the young people's feelings), while all the while loving the brother of her first fiance. As the story unfolds, her charms enchant another Duke and, most tragically, her husband's former teacher, all against the background of the ongoing war pitting Catholics against Huguenots. I wouldn't call the movie a masterpiece, but it's great to look at and the story is never less than engaging.

What made the experience even more special, however, was that Tavernier was on hand to introduce the film, and to talk about his career afterward, along with one of the lead actors Gaspard Ulliel. I was actually lucky to be there, as the show was sold out when I arrived at the theater (the Aero in Santa Monica), but there was a standby line that I stood in for forty minutes with the hope that there would be some no-shows (the rumor circulating amongst those of us waiting was that most of the tickets had been distributed to staff at the French Embassy, which seemed reasonable given all the French I heard spoken outside the theater that night). I was about twentieth in line and ended up being the second last person to get in. Even though that meant I watched the movie from the end seat on the right side of the front row (a very weird angle, I must say), the conversation with Tavernier made it more than worthwhile. I've enjoyed several of his earlier films (especially Coup de Torchon, 'Round Midnight, A Sunday in the Country, and Life and Nothing But), and it turns out he has a real affinity for classic American movies, so there was plenty of interesting commentary about his work and how it was inspired or influenced by such predecessors as John Ford and Anthony Mann. Taken as a whole, that evening was definitely the highlight of my brief visit to Southern California.

Today's Words of Wisdom

How about something funny for a change? This is from the great comedian George Burns (1896-1996):

"If you ask what is the single most important
key to longevity, I would have to say it is
avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if
you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Classic Sixties Soul

Joe Tex wasn't quite at the level of Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye, but he was an awfully good, energetic singer with a string of r&b hits back in the 1960s and 70s. Here's one of his best:

Black and White Las Vegas

There is so much neon in Las Vegas that there's always a lot of contrast between the lights and shadows, especially at night. Here are a few shots I took on my last visit that I thought looked good in black and white.

These were all taken on or near Fremont in downtown Vegas (as opposed to the Strip). The Fremont Experience is a pedestrian mall of casinos restaurants and souvenir shops with a gigantic awning overhead stretched across about three blocks on which music videos are projected. There's generally a good crowd of people hanging around.

The picture below is somewhat more impressionistic than the others. It's a shot of Natalie riding the Flightline, a cable ride that hangs over the street. She was moving fast enough that I couldn't quite get her in focus, but I think this particular shot turned out pretty well, as far as conveyint the speed and swirl of lights.

This Week's Top Five

Maybe if my friend Evan is still lurking out there somewhere we'll get a little help deciphering this week's Top Five List from Dr. John's Record Shelf. Otherwise, it just is what it is...

Tuesday's Quote

Here's a nice succinct statement on one aspect of the nature of history from Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. (1888-1965):

"Expelled from individual consciousness by
the rush of change, history finds its revenge
by stamping the collective unconsciousness
with habits and values."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Battle of the Bands Winner

Here's the song that carried the Kinks into Round Four: "David Watts." This song was on the great album "Something Else by the Kinks" from 1967, one of the true classics of British Rock from beginning to end.

More California Pics

One opf my favorite places in Los Angeles is Griffith Park in the Hollywood Hills north of the city, and my favorite place in Griffith Park is Griffith Observatory (and not just because James Dean hung out there).

On my last visit I was there at dusk and so had a chance to get some great photos, of which these few are a sampling. It was the first time I visited when the place was crowded and the building and roof were open to visitors (in past visits I was always there in the early morning).

The design of the building along with its setting make it extremely photogenic, as in some of these shots capturing the architechture in the foreground with cityscapes beyond.

The above was just a lucky shot-- being in the right place at the right time as the girl was waving a flashlight in front of the backdrop of the lights of LA.

I like how this one seems like a castle turret overlooking the city below. I've been to the observatory four times now and I really hope I have the chance to return someday (maybe to actually get a look through the telescope!).