Saturday, July 29, 2006

What could have been...

Today, I was supposed to be up in Chicago to see the worlds most loved soccer club Columbus Crew take on one of their more despised rivals, the Chicago Fire. I was especially looking forward to it, due to the fact that Chicago finally got their new stadium and I have not been there yet to see it. Then work got in the way, and as you can tell I am obviously working hard right now. Now, don't worry I have been to Chicago to see the Crew play at more than a hanful of times. And in all those journeys, I have yet to see the Crew win a game up there. Whether it was an inexpicable Mike Lapper backpass leading to a goal, or Jeff Cunningham getting around the keeper only to put the shot wide something ridiculous always happened when I went to Chicago. The Crew's supposed house of horrors is RFK Stadium in DC, but I have even seen them win there in my travels. Of course that was before Grand Dragon Nowak coached DC. It still kills me though, I have seen this team win on the road at DC and NY and not in the closest city. Ugh.

At any rate perhaps its better that I am not going, given that luck in the past. Add to that Columbus being on a 10 match winless streak. Add to that that I would be coming home with what would likely be a decent hangover after a night on the town. Add to that considerations that I have an indoor game tomorrow evening that I'd rather not play hungover. But, it's still discourging not to see the game. Columbus played well enough vs English side Everton to get a draw. And that has the spirits of siome fans including myself rather high.

In fact, after the game passion on the message boards was getting as high as it's been all season as we all wondered aloud Why the hell doesn't coach play Rozental. For those who haven't been paying attention to Columbus this season (all 6 or 7 of you?) Rozental is a 29 year old Chilean midfielder. He is also our highest paid player. Many argue he is easily our most skilled player as well. He showed very well vs Everton which made us wonder what would the last 2 months have looked like with him on the field? But apparently he has not fit into the system that Coach Schmid wants. It's a baffling puzzle to all of us. Yet, there is hope that he may recieve a start tonight, or at least significant time (more than 10 minutes I hope) according to the Columbus Dispatch.

So this has me thrilled of course until I realize that since the date of this game was changed, it has now become an HDNet exclusive broadcast. I pay $50 for my damn dish every month so I can pay $69 once a year to watch all my Crew games, and the most intriguing one of the season, I will not see. I had gone from seeing it in person to not at all.

Now, I could spend the night hitting refresh on my computer. I've done that before. But, most likely I will try to forget about the game for a few hours. I'll need to turn off my phone to avoid calls from freinds at the game. Either by way of Netflix or going to see A Scanner Darkly to occupy my time. All in all it doesn't look like a terrible Saturday evening by any means. It just coulda been better...

Friday, July 28, 2006

Luna - Tell Me Do You Miss Me

"I think when a band breaks up people get sad because they feel like it's part of their youth that has been lost" - Dean Wareham, Luna

Last night I watched Tell Me Do You Miss Me which is a documentary set on the band Luna's final tour. It was one of the more bittersweet films I have seen.

We'll all go mad together, cause that's what friends are for...

Luna has been one of my favorite bands since my sophmore year in college. I was late arriving to the party, but I heard a copy of their album Penthouse and was immediately taken by them. The vocals, the sinewy guitars, the imagery of the lyrics it all fit together so well to me. From that moment on, I bought all Luna cd's that I could get my hands on. They were as band that recieved so much critical acclaim but never really burst through to the mainstream. They filled the smaller clubs that they played in though, and all of us sang along with every word to their songs. Because of that, I sort of always felt like they were "my band" as I think numerous fans did. There were at least a handful of fans that echoed that sentiment throughout this film. But, in the end, among the pressures of touring, and just getting by the band had chose to call it quits.

Fancy drinks and lucky toasts, I like this town the most...

I spoke with my roomate before we even watched this about how odd it would be to see the band in a van taking about money issues and just getting by, living just like any other struggling band. The sound of their music and the tone of their lyrics just seemed so elegant. The road shots in teh film are incredible. You have the band singing of fancy drinks and lucky toasts and being out all night chasing girlies and the images of them in the van from town to town. Small club to small club. The thing is that the band never seemed bitter about the situation. Compare this film to Radiohead's Meeting People is Easy and Luna come across as a very grateful group of individuals. They come out and say that to an extent they are fortunate to be able to go out and play music and do these tours for a living, even if they come home with no money to show for it. Still, looking back I find the mood and images of their music such a contrast from the life that they actually led on the road. It was a bit of an eye opener.

Maybe if I yell at you, you'll trust in what I'm saying...

Since college their hasn't been any girl I have dated that hasn't been suscepted to Luna. If not by me playing it in my car, at least I have made certain parts of their catalogue a soundtrack to certain parts of my relationship. I know this was mentioned by a fan in the liner notes to their live CD, but Luna is the perfect kind of band to fall in and out of love too. It's innevitable. They cover it all. I saw Luna live only two times. That is a lifelong regret. The two times I saw them, somehow I wound up in a argument with my girlfriend at the time. We would wind up at odds before the show, I yelled to prove a point. By the end of the show after the music had washed over us both we were fine. The music fixed it. It always did. When, relationships went pear shaped, as they more than often did in my case, I would turn to Luna for moments of solace and to mope for a while, before they innevitably encourged me to stop moping and go out and live a bit.

Say a prayer for me, tell me do miss me...

The documentary begins and ends with Luna's final show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. You see the band at various points on the road talk about the final few shows and how it's gonna be hard. You hear them discuss what will be their final song. You see Dean read a telgram from a former band member the wishing them luck and offering advice. You see fans outside the venue talking about what Luna meant to them. But mostly you see the band enjoying playing their songs, and the fans very appreciative towards the band.

I has a smile on my face througout the whole film, that fought it out with an overwhelming sadness watching the band deal with their final tour and knowing that I would not be able to see them play live again. For those who aren't fans of Luna, I would still say this film is very watchable. The band is engaging and honest. It's edited so damn well. It does look great. And, of course, it sounds excellent too.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Yasijuro Ozu's Good Morning

In the past 6 months I have really developed a bit of a taste for Yasijuro Ozu films that I just did not appreciate a few years back. I don't know if I saw them at the wrong time or what. Maybe I was so submerged ramshackle all over the place direction like Darren Arronofsky that I just didn't appreciate Ozu. Instead of a constant zoom in or out or ridiculous cuts all over the place Ozu films seem like a series of still lifes at times or postcards. The stories seem to be simple too yet at some point it clicked and I still have not even been able to write about Late Spring I feel whatever I write will not do justice to how much I appreciate that film and how it affected me. When Good Morning arrived via Netflix I didn't know what to expect. Would I enjoy Ozu's "comedy" as much? The answer was no, but it doesn't mean Good Morning was a poor film by any means.

The film tells the tale of two children who after nagging their parents over and over for a tv are told to be quiet. They then choose to take the advice litterally and are quiet for weeks. The story shows how this affects the family and community. It opens up like other Ozu films with a few still shots of scenery surrounding where the films action will take place. The first is of a TV reception tower. I already knew this would be a different film. Next thing I know I am looking at children pushing eachother's heads and farting. Yes, farting. Their are fart jokes a plenty in this film. That, I did not bargain for and I was taken back by. It's difficult not to take expectations into a film, especially after a director wowed you so much before. And it took me a while to wrap my head around flatuence jokes in an Ozu film.

Other than that there is no change in how Ozu tells the story. His camera stays seemingly low to the groud during all dialogue. There is very little camera movement, the action seems always be be centered in the frame. And, overall the film still works, even if I found it slightly disappointing.

Still too, some of the familiar themes of Ozu stay her in the difference between generations or generational conflict. The kids refusing to talk leads to gossip amongst the neighbors about the parents of the children, who suggest that the mother may be holding a grudge. You see the father concerned that television may produce 1 million idiots. You watch adults strugle to connect beyond meaningless conversation after the children tell them they talk too much. Perhaps the television will show the children to talk of something more, or as one Rick Prelinger put it, "They don’t want to grow up into a world of meaningless rituals, a world where two twentysomethings in love can’t get beyond mannered talk about the weather. It's doubtful that the children were thinking that deeply, but in this film Ozu shows generational differences in a more lighthearted way than in many of his others. And for that it is reccomended, if not essential, viewing.

Welcome Back

After a brief hiatus one of Indianapolis's better blogs makes a very welcome return. Welcome back to Jim and 11 am Air Raid.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Me and You and Everyone We Know

Sometimes it just seems that some movies try to hard to be profound. That was the feeling I got when I watched Me and You and Everyone You Know. It's frustrating in a way, because there were parts of the film that I really enjoyed. And there were definitely characters that I enjoyed.

I saw someone mention that towards the beginning of the film when we follow Miranda July following a car with a goldfish on it's hood, it is reminiscent of silent comedies. I hadn't thought of that before, but it is probably true. Yet, even the dialogue associated with that scene I liked. I loved the scene when she tries to pick up the shoe salesman as they walk down the street and play it out like the walk is their whole relationship. I really, really enjoyed her character overall. I enjoyed the character of the shoe salesman as well. I didn't really care for so much when the film drifted from those two. The childrens stories seemed a bit odd, unbelievable, and very much undeveloped. Stories that branch off the children's stories are I guess meant to be antecdotal yet part of a larger whole and it just didn't work for me.

I admittedly had a bad attitude about this film, as I have mentioned before it just seems too many "indie" films of the past few years are covering the same emotional territory. Yes, you are slightly different from those in the mainstream. Yes, you feel the same lonliness though, and the same need for love that everyone else feels. If only you could find that person that is the same. Luckily for you, they exist by the thousands in the indie film world.

I've read over and over that this film shows people searching for a connection, that its uplifting, that its a commentary on technology and our society. It may be all of these things. It just seems to me that it's all been done before, better, and truer. I did like parts of this movie though, I did think it was excellent to look at. I will keep an eye on what Miranda July does in the future as I did like her performance. I just think that perhaps the story could have been better presented as a short and it overreached it's bounds here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

This past weekend I was able to sit down and watch a documentary that had piqued my interest a long time back. Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music is a film that focuses on the Christian Music scene and industry, specifically through the eyes of Christian rock/alternative bands and their fans at Cornerstone Festival.

I have had a long relationship with Christian rock and music. I was very active in my Church youth group from late Jr High through most of high school. I had been on numerous youth group retreats where only Christian music was allowed. This was right about the time that Tooth and Nail Records had started up, so I had some interesting rock options that were just starting to expand the idea of what Christian music was. Bands like Starflyer 59 and MXPX got their start on Tooth and Nail. Still, I remember trying to pass off U2, REM, and for some reason Queensryche as "Christian" music. Over the past ten to fifteen years since that time, Christian music has become quite the industry. And Cornerstone festival has everything from Christian thrash metal, progressive rock, techno, to hip-hop. Everything is represented.

In this documentary you see many artists talk about how conflicted they are about the Christian music scene in general. Many discuss how it is difficult it is to achieve credibilty as a band when their label pushes them as a Christian (insert bands name with mainstream success here). Some talk of how they have avoided Christian labels for this very reason. Some talk about not having a problem with being labeled as a Christian musician. Some would rather be labeled as a Christian who happens to be in a band. Some feel a responsibity towards the kids to play intesting music for them that they didn't see in the Christian music scene as they grew up. Critics from outside the scene are interviewed and given a say on the artistic merit of the music. So are some name producers siuch as Steve Albini.

The film certainly raises a ton of questions and if watched in a group is sure to provoke discussion afterwards. If you hate the industry so much why are you part of it still? Why do I feel strange when a praise and worship song breaks out in the middle of a rock concert? Do Christian musicians have a responsibility to adress faith directly or indirectly in their lyrics and music? Is the scene itself something that God would be pleased with? Or is it instead just preaching to the choir/converted?

The film's presentation itself seems amataurish at times and I am unsure I agree with Jeff Gibbs assesment that it looks and sounds great. But this is overshadowed by the fair portrayal of the musicians. And it should be stated that the filmakers did create what seemed to be an trustworthy rapport with their subjects. You could tell that the musicians had struggled with many of these issues on their own and just wanted a sounding board to discuss them. And while, you may not come away from the movie with any definitive answers to the questions, and probably actually with even more follow up questions, thats not entirely a bad thing. The film at the very least provokes thought and discussion. For that the filmakers and the artists they profile, should be commended.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Godard - A Portrait of the Artist at 70

A few months back (March) my birthday was filled with an abundance of Jean-Luc Godard gifts. I recieved a framed screen capture of the famous madison scene from Band of Outsiders, a vintage poster of Band of Outsiders (my favorite movie ever), the Criterion DVD of Contempt, and Colin McCabe's Godard - A Portrait of the Arist at Seventy. And what would you know, only 4 months later I finally finished the book.

It's no secret that McCabe is a complete and total Godard fanboy. At one point he even called Contempt "the single greatest work of art to come out of post-war Europe." He does not mince words when it comes to his admiration of the filmaker and in part that is what makes the biography so enjoyable. The book almost comes across as a love letter to Godard and his films. But, it isn't just the films he examines, he tries to find out what it is that makes Godard tick as well. So, you have a whole chapter on his upbringing and family tree. This chapter while at times tedious at least shows a total dedication on McCabe's part.

The second chapter gets into Godard's early film criticism, Cahiers du Cinema, and discussion of some of Godards early shorts and how he started to break into filmaking. There is talk of Godard's admiration for Nicholas Ray, Hitchcock, and Mizoguchi. Unsuprisingly there is an emphasis here on Andre Bazin who was a great influence to Godard and Truffaut alike. At the end of this chapter McCabe talks of the death of Bazin and claims that film criticism hasn't been the same since he died.

Next, McCabe devotes a whole chapter to the breakout of the French New Wave, and his films with Anna Karina. Full books of course can and have been written on these films. That being the case, sometimes this chapter feels a bit rushed, and as if it doesn't have as much insight as some of the other chapters. For instance, there is only two paragraphs on Band of Outsiders, which of course was a massive disappointment for me while reading. Nonetheless, the writing on Contempt and on the actual relationship between Godard and Anna Karina, and between Godard and his primary cinematographer of that era Raoul Coutard was satisfying.

It's when you get to the final two chapters though that you begin to understand why McCabe didn't go so far into depth on Godard's most well known period. While there is plenty of resources out there to read on those films, there has not been as many on really any of his films post Weekend. A full chapter is devoted to Godard's films in his Marxist period and his relationship with Anne Wiazemsky. McCabe goes into great depth on some made for tv films of Godard from this period which I have not seen, and doubt I will ever be able to track down. But, the final chapter may have been my favorite.

In the final chapter McCabe talks at length about Godard's work post 1980, his Histoire(s) du Cinema project, and his relationship with Anne-Marie Mieville. McCabe is of the opinion that some of Godard's best work has come in these later stages of his career. His praise for the Histoire(s) is absolutely gushing. But at the same time, he notes some of Godard's shortcomings, noting that his Anti-Americanism is in part irrational, and has hindered some statements he has tried to make in later films. I think that is in part why I found this chapter to be my favorite. I loved how McCabe focused on Mieville as a muse for Godard, and the beauty of their relationship with eachother. Some of the films he speaks of, I have not seen, but I want very much to believe that these films are great, that Godard still can create work that is vital. And McCabe makes a convincing case. And yet, at the same time, as I said, he does honestly point out some shortcomings. I found myself re-reading this last chapter a day after I finished the book.

Clearly, if you have no interest in Godard this book would bore you to death. But if you have even a passing interest in his films, or in film history in general, I think you can find a lot to like here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Another lunch break find...

There has been a lot written on The Searchers in recent weeks due to it being the 50th anniversary of it's release. I myself struggled with parts of it as I mentioned a few days back, but felt that it was worth multiple viewings just to sort out the questions and the viewers reactions to questions posed in the movie.

Jim Emerson's Scaners blog has an excellent piece on the film here. It's a reaction piece to an article that was critical of the film, and Emerson goes at the article with vigor, but more just states what he loves about The Searchers

He has too many great thoughts to quote. And the one's I do wanna quote give away the movie to those who haven't seen it. At any rate, just read the piece now. The only thing that approaches a great film, is great writing about great films.

Jim Emerson's blog will be added to the links page shortly.

Little Miss Sunshine

I recieved preview passes to see Little Miss Sunshine yesterday evening. I was skeptical as hell going into the film. The film has won a few audience awards and critics awards at several festivals but that made me even more skeptical. In the past 5 years or so it seems every independent film that crosses into the mainstream has the same formula. Quirky characters battling lonliness and finding love. Hell, I have one of those at home via Netflix now that I have a bad attitude about, but will watch anyway since its been so highly reccomended. This is slightly different in the way that its a family drama/comedy. And it seems to be in the totally bizzare/quirky family mindset of Arrested Development which will be a formula copied numerous times over the next few years, I think.

But despite my bad attitude going into the movie I found myself liking it quite a bit. I was perhaps in part manipulated by the music which featured quite a bit of Sufjan Stevens. The music definitely fit the melancholy yet happy vibe that the film was putting out there. I also did laugh out loud at numerous points. Alan Arkin was great, Greg Kinnear was very good, and Toni Collette was actually outstanding. Parts of the plot were predictable, but predictability doesn't really ruin a movie if the story remains genuine. And while contrived at points and indie-formlaic you got the idea that the writer and actors really were having a good time and believed in this project.

I really think this film is gonna be one of those end of summer sleeper hits. The quirky little movie that you will here being talked about on Oprah and by soccer moms and everywhere else really. Good for them, its a good film and inspite of some shortcomings it definitely works. There will probably be better films that are overlooked in favor of this, but this has a story that will connect with a much wider audience. I am interested to see how it is recieved upon wide release, and see if I am right here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blog Titles of the Year

In stubling around GreenCine Daily I spent my lunch hour perusing some other film blogs, and unless Jim decides to ressurrect the late 11 a.m. Air Raid I am suggesting that these two blogs have the best titles (and good content to boot) on the entire www.

Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule - What's not to love about that title. Well, one the fact that it may be changing soon. Myself, I can take or leave Sergio as a filmaker, and the infield fly rule, well, it is one of the stranger yet neccessary rules in the worlds greatest game. But, fotr the merging of film and baseball so poetically Sadly, this blogs author may be looking to change the title. I hope he doesn't.

Like Anna Karina's Sweater - If anyone has been paying attention to my amateurish film ramblings you know that I am more or less in love with Anna Karina, and you should be too. At any rate, it's a title I wish I thought of myself. And it's a great blog too, complete with contests.

Confession Time

The past few weeks I have been entirely sucked into The Hills on MTV. I can't justify it, but that won't stop me from watching I am just going to say I find it extremely entertaining. The formula is a total weakness for me. Put any group of good looking people in California by the water and set them up in ridculous relationships, and give them an apparently limitless supply of money which can have them out on town in all the posh nightspots in town (even when half of the are underage!) and I'll be there. I'll be watching. It's ridiculous. The OC hooked me in the same way. At once I am entirely jealous of them and find myself diskiling them... but then, I realize I am no class warrior, and when you get right down to it, I would love their lifestyle, at the least in small doses. Since thats not a possibility right now I will sit and watch these clowns and be envious. This isn't a cry for help, though I know it's sad and a bit of an illness. I know that I will keep watching. At least as long as my schedule permits. It's only a half hour a week, right? But for the life of me I can not figure out what Lauren is still doing with Jason...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Searchers

Apparently when I add movies to the Netflix queue I do so in handfuls by director or genre. This isn't by any means a bad thing, and one can hardly complain about getting two John Ford films in a row. Last night I recieved and watched John Ford's The Searchers. Tons has been written on this film and most of it by people far more learned than myself, but that has never stopped me before.

First off, when you read or hear about this movie you hear two things. First, it's one of the most influential and important American Films ever made. Second, it's John Ford's powerful statement against racism and prejudice.

Let's talk about the supposed statement first. The way that Ethan (John Wayne) is portrayed in this film, sometimes it is hard to see this as a statement against racism. And that is always gonna be a problem when a larger than life man (Wayne) is cast as a hero but spends a great majority of the film showing a very prejudiced attitude against Native Americans (specifically Comanche, here). And there are scenes that are meant to override the great majority of the film where Ethan seems proud to be racist against the Native Americans. Whether or not these scenes work to overide the majority of the film is entirely dependent upon the viewer. For me, it was very uncomfortable to watch at times, given the outward racism of the character. And, in the end I am not entirely sure that I would say that this film is a powerful statement against racism. Love of family and brotherhood are apparent, but I uncomfortable saying that was enough to make the entire film a statement against racism. I have no doubt in my mind that Ford's inentions were to make a statement, I just don't believe that it comes across entirely, or unmuddled. Is unmuddled a word?

As for the film itself, and the performances, it's incredible. A film like this deserves to be seen in an anormous theater or at least a great widescreen televison. Unfortunately, for me, it was viewed on a ridiculously old Quasar television, but at least in the widescreen format. Ford's repuation is deserved when it comes to shooting landscapes. And, there are definitely shots in this film that deserve their place in American cinema history. Wayne is phenomenal and convincing (maybe too convincing) in his role. The story itself, Wayne searching for years for his kidnapped (by Comanche Indians) niece with a 1/8 Cherokee companion sets up for a decent amount of suspense. It's a film that while an uneasy watch, definitely deserves it's reputation as a classic of American Cinema, and probably deserves repeated viewings if only to wrestle with one's own reaction to the story, and its more unsavory parts.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A triumphant return to league play

Sunday evening, for the first time in a handful of years I ventured outside my small social circle and comfort zone to join a soccer league. I was nervous as hell to be honest. But I had already made the committment which includes a $55 entry fee, which is no small chunk of change for myself, and I didn't want anyone else to need to pick up my fees, so I had to plunge in.

I have kicked around in the past few years sure, and been involved in a pickup game here and there with a few players down at the old northside fields down at 16th Street. But this was different. This was an actual league, with actual score being kept and actual results. To make matters more interesting I knew only two other members of 3 other members of my team. One was my roomate, and one other was gonna miss this weeks game due to family committments. So, this was gonna be a first impression I made on some people.

There was first day of school type anxiety for me all day leading up to the game. Add to that I would look like the coolest cat on the field with my 1995 edition RecSpecs sports goggles. My roomate and I joked around about how many muscles we were gonna pull. And if either of us had directions to the "ego hospital" for after the game. Before the game I thought I may be fit enough to run throughout the game, but was overly concerned about that pesky skill component.

When I got to the complex I noticed the teams name we were up against was Strikers. And that this was a team made up entirely of free agents. Guys that were serious enough to enter themsleves in a league cause they wanted to play, without even knowing any of their teamates. They were just shuffled together. For some reason, this made me think all their skill levels were well beyond mine. It made me view them as very serious. Our team name is Eagles which is destiny, I suppose. Perhaps we will get into the championship game and choke.

A few minutes into the game I realized I grossly overestimated my own fitness level. Luckily, I may have overstimated that of the other team as well. When recieving the ball it was a relief to find that I actually had a second or two to look up and see where teamates were without a defender immediately on me. Then defender from the opponents told me to tell him if his elbows got too high in defending me. This wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. After twn minutes we were up 4-0 and I already had a goal, and another shot which the goalkeeper deflected and my roomated pounced on the rebound for a goal. I'll credit myself with an assist there. :)

In the end the Eagles were victorious by the score of somewhere around 9 or 10-1. Yours truly finished the game with 2 goals and two assists. It wasn't nearly as traumatic an experience as I thought it would be. Granted I have a ways to go to get to match fitness. And granted, I took some ill advised shots when I may have been better off passing off to a teamate, but that has always been a weakness of mine. Overall, it was just great to get out there and be playing again. And now instead of joking around with dread about next week, I am just honestly looking forward to it.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

As if the Phillies weren't depressing enough...

A few years back I was much more involved in the sports and outcomes of games affected me more than they should. I broke a hand after the Eagles lost the Super Bowl. I punched a hole in the wall during an Indiana vs Duke basketball game. I broke two cell phones throwing them across the room after shit went wring for the Columbus Crew. Days are much calmer now. I don't really have the energy to get very upset about sports anymore. I saw last season's Philadelphia Eagles debacle coming. The Phils will forever be terrible. I never expect the US or Croatia to win the World Cup, so while frustrating the World Cup didn't provide the mental breakdown it would 4 years ago. But in spite of all that, if their is one team that can actually affect my emotions for days at a time, it is the Columbus Crew. And coming into today's game the Crew is winless in their past seven games. Ugh.

At this point one might think it might not be able to get any worse, but the Crew is playing DC United tonight. I hate DC United. I loathe DC United. How an Eagles fan feels about the Cowboys, this is how I feel about DC United. And this season Columbus is yet to beat them. Tonight is the last chance, and it's in DC where the Crew wins about as often as often as a complete lunar eclipse. So odds tonight are not good. And what's more? As mentioned in this article the Crew has 13 of their thirty players currently on the injured list. That's nearly half the team. That's an absurdity. In MLS you are able to travel with 18 players to away games. The Crew doesn't even at this point have 18 healthy players to travel.

Yet tonight, for some reason, I will set aside two hours to watch the game, and the requisite 1 hour afterwards to just pace back and forth while bitching on the phone to friends in Columbus who have seen this shit over and over again for the past 10 years. This is a summer Saturday evening in the big city, kids!

If their is a silver lining its that I do start up in an indoor league Sunday evening. At the rate the Crew is going, if injuries continue I might see a dream come true of putting on the jersey and walking out the tunnell as a member of the Columbus Crew. Sure the indoor game is different than outdoor, so I will probably need a month to reach match fitness. At that point I figure the Crew will be up to 19 or so players on the injured list. I won't ask for much contract wise in the first season, but I will ask for the number 9 jersey and a date with a Crewzer of choice. Given our likely two starting forwards this evening have a combined zero goals between them, I figure I can at the least match their output. At this point, all of this seems more likely than a Crew win tonight.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Last night I got around to watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and I gotta admit, I liked it far more than I would have anticipated. In fact I think it's one of the better films I have seen recently. Furthermore, I watched Solaris earlier in the week, which is a fantastic film, and rated it 4 stars on Netflix. The Man who shot Liberty Valance got 5 stars from me. In other words, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is about as good as it gets.

I'm convinced it's nearly impossible to watch a John Wayne film in 2006 without seeing it as a parody of the image of John Wayne that has been passed down through time. Yet, starting from the beginning, where he starts referring to people as "partner" and his overall cadence you begin to realize that he is more than a capable actor and is able to really carry most scenes. James Stewart, who in my mind will always be a giant, stars alongside Wayne and is phenomenal as usual.

This is apparently one of director John Ford's last westerns and in the end the story seems to be an overall comentary of the Old West and storytelling in the Old West. Visually, it's easy to see why Ford is thought of as one of the greatest directors of all time. The use of light and shadow throughout the film sets up tension when needed. The pacing of the story is perfect, and two hours go by quicker than they really should. The story is as much a love story or a friendship story as it is a commentary on the Old West, and is to use grandiose words, timeless. I have The Searchers and Young Mr. Lincoln still to get too in my Netflix queue and am very much looking forward to viewing both.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Charleston, South Carolina - Field Report

Just got back in yesterday from a little three day jaunt down to Charleston, South Carolina for some training for the Childrens Museum. I knew I would spend 9-5 Monday and Tuesday in holed up in a training room, and I knew I would spend much of Sunday afternoon in a pub watching the World Cup final (a fitting end to the most disapointing World Cup ever!) but I was still thrilled to walk around and see a new city.

First, though let me give a mention to the fans of the Charleston Battery. I walked into the Blackbaud Stadium complex and then to the Three Lions Pub which is attached to the stadium to watch the game. Before the game I heard more or less a full match report from Mikey of Charleston's game the night before. He was listening to it via internet radio and was thrilled with a road victory for Charleston. It was great to see fans of a lower division side discussing their team the morning of the World Cup final. I loved seeing that passion for their team. Beyond that the Three Lions Pub and all the fans their were total class and made the game, even after Zidane's temporary insanity a joy to watch. I only regret that I had to leave the day before seeing Charleston win their match last night.

The city of Charleston itself is great to walk through. It's got a Colonial vibe, not unlike the historic areas of Philly or Boston, only much more humid. And unlike the few historic blocks in Philly or Boston, all of downtown Charleston is caught up in this vibe. The architecture is unique around every corner, the people for the most part are friendly and the the town itself is very walkable.

As for resturaunts, I would guess there are about 70 per block. That is an exaggeration of course, but there is plenty to choose from. Sunday night I has some very good Thai, and Monday some rather mediocre sushi. But that's okay. The Thai food was fantastic the night before and more than made up for it.

As I walked around the town I was stunned at how much money surrounded me. 20 year old kids were driving Saab's and BMW's. Tons of spolied rich girls walking in groups of 6-7 all talking on their cell phones, all carrying full Urban Outfitter bags. It was like a bad episode of The O.C. when you passed those groups. But, they weren't so annoying that they ruined the whole experience.

The final evening I had gin and tonics at a bar overlooking the harbor. Under a full moon. And the palmetto bugs that I was warned about were nowhere to be found. Fantastic. It's not a place I could picture living for a few reasons, but I sure as hell would accept being sent down there for another conference!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Phillies, a 162 game long nightmare.

"If there's a way for us to make a mistake, we find it...We're definitely finding it. That was Charlie Manuel after the Phils lost last night to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The same Pittsburgh Pirates that are a National League worst 30-58. This would seem to be a really embarssing loss if not for the fact that the Phils themselves are not much better at 38-47. When you come to realization that your team is absolutely dreadful, losses to the Pirates are no different than losses to the Cards, Giants, or any of the other teams in baseball who can seemingly beat the Phils at will. The All Star break is only 2 days away, and the season is virtually shot. The Phils are 12.5 games behind the mets in the division and I believe 7 or 8 out of the Wild Card. Fantastic. So let's look back at some highlights from the first half of the season shall we?

Actually, lets start with the offseason. With a rotation that was more or less questionable coming into the season the Phils traded Vincente Padilla for Ricardo Rodriguez. Going into the season Padilla was 50-48 career with an ERA comporable to AJ Burnett who got a 50 million plus deal from the Blue Jays. The Phils traded him cause they didn't want to pay him four million dollars. The Phils have since cut Rodriguez. Padilla is 7-5 with a 4.47 ERA in Texas. That would be the best record and ERA of any Phils starter currently in the rotation. Nice trade, jerks.

Brett Myers of course has a better ERA, though he has less wins. He of course could have more wins if he actually had run support. Or if he didn't beat his wife in public outside of a Boston nightclub. The Phils, in typical Phils fashion, handled the situation dreadfully and let him pitch two days after his arrest in Boston. Since then Brett took a leave of abscence. For two years we have heard about the maturation process of Brett Myers. I don't see how beating your wife in public is evidence of that. I don't care if this guy would go 13-0 the rest of the season, I never want to see him in a Phils cap again. You just don't beat a woman. That's an absolute, there is no question about it. Brett, you are an asshole and a coward, and the Phils front office isn't much better for letting you pitch after that. Fuck you, both.

Our arguable #1 starter Jon Lieber showed up to Spring Training looking like he spent the whole offseason at a buffet. He was dreadful, before being placed on the DL reinjuring himself, presumably trying to lift 7 cheeseburgers at once. Or maybe Brett Myers hit him, mistaking Lieber for his wife. His first start back was last nights lost to the second worst team in baseball (the Phils are now the worst despite what the record says).

Jimmy Rollins on base percentage is lower than my high school grade point average. That's not good.

Bobby Abreu has hit one home run in the last 35 games. He batted cleanup for a number of those games.

Mike Liebrethal is the highest paid catcher in the National League, and he is on the disabled list seemingly eternally (though he did make a rehab appearence last night even money says he injures himself today).

Pat Burell? You know, teh guy they called Pat the Bat? Has he even been playing? I couldn't tell from the box scores. Oh yeah, he is. Batting .190 since May. You suck.

Really the only bright spots are Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and it's at the point where I feel bad that they are stuck on this team.

Last year the wild card race came down to the final weekend for the Phils, they finished one game behind. This season, hopes were high, if a bit cautious, but nobody expected this. Maybe we should have though. This is a team with more last place finishes than any team in baseball history. Amazing.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Headin to Charleston, SC

A few weeks back I wrote about some bad luck which had the museum flying me to Charleston, SC the day of the World Cup final. Well, through some begging, pleading, and switching of schedules, I have worked out a flight that will have me touch ground a few hours before the final actually starts, provided there aren't any delays.

And what's more? I have a excellent place to watch the game. Just .3 miles from my hotel is Blackbaud Stadium, home of the A-League side the Charleston Battery. (Coincidentally the training I am being flown down for is with Blackbaud who is a software developer.) And in the stadium itself, on the second floor is The Three Lions Pub which according to everyone I have talked to who has been to the place, is a phenomenal English style pub. And from the video tour on the page I linked it does look to be something special.

So, yeah, sometimes good things work out for good people. I hope to be able to get out and enjoy some of Charleston as well, as I have heard only good things about the city. If anyone has been and has any recs of things to see or do for me, fire away. I will only be there Sunday-Tuesday though. Truthfully, I wish it was longer, but oh well.

And as you are watching the final, remember, way back when, this guy predicted France to win the whole damn thing which may be the only damn thing I got right this whole year.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Scott Walker - The Drift

Over the weekend a few friends and I stopped in at Luna Music Midtown. I had no intention of purchasing anything. I had already spent enough over the weekend at the damn race track. A friend however based on a load of good reviews purchased The Drift by Scott Walker. Truth told I had not heard anything about the album and knew nothing about Scott Walker before this weekend. As we were driving out to a swimming pool Monday, he called from the car ahead and told me he couldn't listen to the album anymore and to come up and get it from his car. Once I put it in my stereo I was intrigued and I have likely listened to this now about seven times over the past few days.

I don't know how to even describe this. I want to say dark. It's definitely dark. But I love me some Joy Division, and while others consider that to be dark as hell, numerous Joy Division songs make me wanna dance. Truthfully. This on the other hand is actually dark. Walker's voice is a eerie baritone. It's piled up against soundscapes that in interviews have just been called "blocks of sound." I'm not sure if that would make any sense unless you have actually heard it. The subject matter goes from a song from the point of view of Mussolini's mistress who chose to be hung upside down with him as Mussolini was hung, to Elvis Presley singing to his stillborn brother Jesse. There are very few sources of light on this album. The light that does come is in blasts or shrieks that are uncomfortable if only because if the total contrast from the rest of the album. It's a difficult listen. What's more? The beating of raw meat as percussion in at least one song. As a vegan, I am not at all comfortable with that. Then again whole album is really uncomfortable. It's not an album that I find myself heartily reccomending to people. Or maybe I am, maybe thats why I am writing about it.

Yet, I find myself coming back to it to listen to over and over again over the past few days. I am convinced that it's a masterpiece in some way. The jacknuts over at Pitchfork seem to agree. Yet, the fine people over at PopMatters agree as well. I am also convinced that in about 3-4 days, or maybe even today I will find this far too difficult to listen too, and will put it away for a few weeks or months before bringing it out again.

At any rate, there is a mini-site (as opposed to a full site?) for the album which can be found Here. The site is as dark and confusing as the album, yet if you look hard enough you can find a link to a video for a song, which not yet seeing, I don't even trust to play at work.

At any rate, once this morbid fascination is through hopefully I will get back to listening to some other fine new stuff like Grant Lee Phillips nearly impeccable album of 1980's covers, amazingly enough titled nineteeneighties. Cause really, if anyone is gonna cover New Order's Age of Consent as a folk song, it may as well be him. And trust me, it's fantastic. And more singalongy then Mr. Walker.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Formula 1derful Recap.

It's been a few days since the US Grand Prix but I feel like I am still recovering. I was hoping not to need to put Ferrari fans or Schumacher up there but so it goes.

Overall, my experience over the weekend was a total blast. Yes, the race was predictable, at least after that first turn crash in which 8 cars went off. This year, we wound up on a mound near a screen so we could actually see the start and keep a bit more aware of what was going on. My friend Eric a McLaren fan, in two years now, has yet to see a McLaren do a race lap. For myself, I was pleased tos ee my favorite driver, Giancarlo Fisachella, get to the third step of the podium, and most of the race for me was kept interesting by hoping he wouldn't have a meltdown as he often does.

To me though, more than the race, (even as an ardent fan an apoligist I think Mike gets it right) I love the whole atmosphere surrounding it more. I walked around most of the morning of the race just taking pictures of different people with different flags and face paint and props. At some point I hope to get those up on flickr or here. On Friday, we ran into some cats from Scotland and talked to them for about 20 minutes about scotch and the atmosphere at the track. On Saturday we saw them in kilts being interviewed on the big screen. When we asked them why they came to this race as opposed to any of the others they could go too, their answer was the people. When asked the same question on the big screen by the interviewer, he gave the same answer.

Truth told that gives me a sense of pride about the city that possibly should be reserved for other things. Truth told, Formula 1 itself as a sport is an oppulent waste of money all for entertainment purposes. Yet, when the event is put on in my city, and you walk around and you realize that people seem to be having a good time, and that they have only good to say about the whole event and city I sorta feel my chest pump out a bit.

Yes, obvioulsy it would be great if the Barcelona of North America was known as a mecca for theater or live music rather than the racing capital of the world. But for the time being, with the 160 million dollars that tourists pour into the citu over the Formula 1 weekend, it's good to know they are at least leaving with a positive impression.