Friday, July 18, 2003


In cartoons, you see it all the time. A character blithely walks out over a cliff without any sort of support, only to fall when it's pointed out to him that gravity suggests they really shouldn't be there.

Last winter, the Red Sox hired Voros McCracken to develop statistics and research for them. Voros's most famous work is something called Defense-Independant Pitching Statistics (DIPS), which to oversimplify, says that pitchers have very little control over what happens to balls in play, and the surest path to success is to strike out a lot of people while avoiding walks or home runs. These are things most pitchers want to do anyway, but this was the first time balls in plays were minimized so much, with numbers to back it up. Considering that Lowe's success last season flies in the face of DIPS, having the guy who developed the system on staff and showing Lowe his work might be the equivelent of the Roadrunner pointing down while Wile E. Coyote stands out over open air. The best thing to do would be to shore up the infield defense behind him, but it takes a miracle to get Freddy Sanchez into a game.

Lowe really had nothing last night. In four innings, he didn't get much in the way of ground ball outs, what important outs he did get seemed to come via the K, and a few defensive miscues hurt him bad. The bullpen was mostly solid, aside from that blast mite-y Casey gave up, so at least something good can be said of the pitching. Still, it seemed to take a lot more effort than it should have - Lowe threw about 80-90 pitches in his four innings, but most telling was Chad Fox throwing 30 pitches in the top of the seventh, while Halladay had thrown something like 60 pitches in the first six. Of course, he was just having a good game - the flaw in the whole take-and-rake strategy is that when a guy like Halladay shows up and throws strikes, a hitter can be down 0-2 quickly, without much to show for it.

Despite all that, I had a fine time indeed at the ballpark. I called my brother to see if he wanted to use my spare ticket, but he had to work late. I suspect he wouldn't have minded too much when he saw where I was seated - not being a big fan of heights, being in the last row of those steep right-field roof box sections might not have appealed to him. Fortunately, I was able to unload the ticket for $20 before the game, and the guy apparently just wanted to get in because he didn't sit next to me (which is fine, because he looked kind of sketchy). I probably could have gotten more, what with the game being a sellout, but it was a single ticket, twenty minutes before game time. Besides, I have a fear that if I sell a $37 ticket for $38, I watch the game from jail. Just because the vermin scalp tickets pretty openly in front of the gate doesn't mean you can't get picked up for selling an individual ticket, right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

[RED SOX] All-Stars

I may have to reconsider my disdain for "This Time, It Counts!" That was a pretty good game last night, although I think the biggest improvement was that Fox toned their act down. There were no over-the-top ceremonies, no chatting with Joe Torre and Don Zimmer during the game, and no omni-present Jeter-cam (honestly, when I heard he wasn't in the game, I was sure Fox would put him in the booth or doing interviews in the AL dugout). No Budzilla, either. Fox basically just showed a baseball game, and it went well.

As to whether the game was played differently or was more intense because something was on the line - there's good and bad to that. Nomar only played three inning and got one at-bat, and Tek didn't play at all. I have to admit, it made the game less interesting to me; it must have been even less fun for the folks in Detroit and Tampa who love their team despite everything. I did find it kind of amusing that Soscia, whose fluke team seems less likely to go to the World Series this year than Dusty's Cubs, was apparently much more concerned with winning (versus getting everyone in) than Baker. But Baker's got that reputation, I guess, of being a guy whose main concern is making people happy. Not quite Torre, but give him enough appearances and he could be.

Monday, July 14, 2003

[MISC] Things Looking Up

Geez, has it really been almost two weeks since I entered something here? So much for the purpose of this blog being to make me a better writer by making me write every day.

Still, the scary "I don't know how I'll pay August's rent" situation is past. A new roommate should be moving in today, one Juan Carlos Jiminez-Marquez. It was great fun, yesterday, to take down all the online "roommate wanted" ads. Depositing the check for the security deposit shall be even more fun.

And, I've finally got a job interview tomorrow, after first talking to the recruiter two weeks ago. Takes long enough, sometimes. I am hoping like heck that it doesn't rain. The job is in an office park out in Newton, and the MBTA bus only goes to the end of the street, with something like a half-mile to walk after that. Already, I'm thinking about just wearing a T-shirt and putting my "interviewing outfit" on once I arrive at the place.

Speaking of jobs, here's an amusing ad - a job for a computer programmer at the Boston Globe, but the ad on BostonWorks (a Globe site) doesn't allow you to apply online. Sure, I do have a printer and stamps, but it just strikes me kind of odd to try to recruit technical people with the internet but not do it all the way.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

[MOVIES] Terminator 3

Terminator 3 isn't the big, knock you flat on your back experience that Terminator 2 was back in 1991, and still can be today. It does a lot of things very well - and is in fact exceptional in a couple of places - but is somewhat generic at times. Where the first Terminator was a taut, gritty action movie wrapped around an understated (and cleverly science-fictional) love story, and T2 had an unmatched go-for-broke intensity to it, T3 isn't anything we haven't seen before. It's biggest problem is probably that Nick Stahl and Clare Danes are able enough actors, but don't generate the emotional intensity that Linda Hamilton, Michael Beihn, Joe Morton, and Edward Furlong did in previous installments. They're nice, I liked the characters, and I understood John Connor's demons, but they only rarely were able to make the jump to where you believe that what happens to all of humanity depends on what they do.

Instead, the machines take center stage. Which isn't any bad thing - Schwarzeneggar inhabits the role of the T-101 like he was made for it, and Kristanna Loken is, especially during the first half of the movie, great fun as the T-X. She has the knack of looking pleased with herself without actually smiling, so you could just be assigning human emotions to a machine in your head, if you like your killing machines to be just that. And it's a kick when she analyzes the DNA from a blood sample with her tongue. It's not like watching actual people when they take center stage, but it's not watching a printing press, either.

The movie's biggest potential problem is that the plot is, basically, the same as that of T2 - machine travels back in time to assassinate John Connor, another machine follows, and Connor winds up attempting to get to the man who builds SkyNet. To the filmmakers' credit, they have some fun with tweaking how similar the two movies are at points - T-101 going into a bar to get clothes being a case in point. And Clare Danes as Kate Brewster is a great addition - she fits the middle ground between the "Sarah Connor, damsel in distress" and "Sarah Connor, badass" of the first two movies. She can take care of herself, but isn't in-your-face about it.

The movie's big draw is, of course, the action. It's the good stuff, with a big first-act chase scene that sets a new standard for vehicular mayhem, even compared to The Matrix Reloaded. In fact, director Johnathan Mostow keeps the tension high enough toward the end that I completely let slide something I normally would pick up on and complain about - until a character realizes the same thing, too late. Indeed, the last act of this movie is something pretty special - the comic relief slows down, and the movie actually becomes eerie, in a way, without resorting to the usual atmospheric tricks. It follows mayhem with stillness, and made me really wonder about the Terminator movies' future in a way that I really hadn't before.

T3 isn't a masterpiece, but it's a pretty darn good movie that manages to add something new to the Terminator series. Supposedly, Warner has purchased the distribution rights to T3 and T4, and I must admit to being curious where the story goes from here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

[MISC] MathCounts on ESPN???

Yikes... It's absolutely surreal to see an event I participated in broadcast nationally on ESPN (well, ESPN2). Mainly because I'm not athletic in the least, of course. But even if it wasn't on ESPN, just knowing that the competition was being taped for later broadcast, even if you're talking about The Learning Channel or one of those digital cable stations they didn't have fourteen or fifteen years ago would have froze me completely.

Of course, if you look at how I did when I participated in the event, it's debatable whether anyone would have noticed that I'd frozen.

[MOVIES] July & August at the indies

Okay, since I've just spent a good deal of time whining about the less-than-ideal experiences at some of Boston's mainstream theaters, let's counteract that with something I love: Looking over the programs for the next couple months at the "alternate" venues and commenting on them. My comments will be in blue. Also, note that films seperated by an ampersand are a single-admission double feature, but those on the same day but seperate lines are two seperate admissions.

Allston Cinema Underground ($8 admission)

Turn It Up! Music Meets Movies
5 July - 6 July: Fugazi: Instrument ($5)
11 July - 12 July: Tom Waits: Big Time
13 July: Wesley Willis: The Daddy Of Rock And Roll
18 July - 19 July: Shane McGowan: If I Should Fall From Grace
20 July: All Kindsa Girls: The Real Kids
23 July: Nobody Knows: Chronicle of An Unsigned Band
That's a lot of colons. Those $8 admissions for bands I don't know probably will keep me away.

The Hip Hop Film Fest
25 July - 26 July: Freestyle: The Art Of Rhyme
25 July: Word
26 July: Breath Control: History of The Human Beatbox
27 July: Soundz Of Spirit
27 July: Street Legends

Allston hasn't announced their August line-up yet, but apparently there will be more kung fu. Yay! I had great fun at the shows I went to, but attendance seemed to drop off between mid-May and late June.

Brattle Theater ($8.50, $5.50 for members)

Genre Films of The 50s (Mondays)
21 July: Bad Day At Black Rock & On The Waterfront
28 July: All That Heaven Allows & Pillow Talk
The films that inspired Far From Heaven and Down With Love, respectively. Meaning I may just take in Pillow Talk, especially with a good show at the Harvard Film Archive that night.
4 August: High Noon & Ride Lonesome
Haven't seen High Noon. Should fix that
11 August: The Thing & The Man From Planet X
18 August: Rear Window & The Sniper
I have seen Rear Window quite a bit, though. Still, The Sniper looks nifty.

From Panel To Frame: Comic Books In The Movies (Tuesdays)
Co-sponsored by Million Year Picnic, the local comic shop I patronize. I'm sort of surprised not to see many more conventional superhero movies; I'd like to see Batman in a theater again. Still, the "vertical" programs are short this time around, so I guess they went for the more highbrow stuff.
22 July: American Splendor
Opens at Coolidge Corner, and likely other theaters, a month later. Could easily sell out ahead of time
22 July: Ghost World
29 July: Barbarella
Saw it at SF/27, no need to do that again. Now, if it had been a double feature with Danger Diabolik...
5 August: Ghost In The Shell & Metropolis (2001)
Tempting... Metropolis was my favorite movie to come out (in the US) last year.
12 August: Crumb & Fritz The Cat
19 August: Blade

Recent Raves (Wednesdays)
23 July: Spider
30 July: Morvern Callar
6 August: The Good Thief & Bob Le Flambeur
The Good Thief is the only one in this series I got to in the regular theaters, so it'll be the one I skip. I'll probably check out Bob Le Flambeur, though.
13 August: The Man Without A Past
20 August: Ten

Chinese Period Drama Featuring The Films of Zhang Yimou & Gong Li (Thursdays)
31 July: Farewell My Concubine
7 August: Raise The Red Lantern & Ju Dou
14 August: To Live & The Story Of Qiu Ju
21 August: In The Mood For Love & Shanghai Triad
Masterpieces all, or so I'm told. Still, every trailer I've seen for this genre makes them look sumptuous but dull. I'm not saying they should mix Once Upon A Time In China 3 in or anything, but I can't get psyched for these

Special Engagements
27 June - 10 July: Le Cercle Rouge
This has a neat trailer, with a seemless blend of the original French theatrical trailer and stuff plugging the rerelease. I know this, because I've seen it a couple dozen times in the last month. Lots of opportunity to see it, apparently.
11 July - 17 July: Fellini: I'm A Born Liar
12 July - 13 July: 8½
11 July - 17 July: Versus
Apparently the print didn't get to Allston in time to actually be shown, which would have been a major bummer if I didn't know this engagement was coming. I'm all over this; the trailers before the other Ass-Kicking Asian Summer movies there are just cool as heck.
18 July: Cremaster 1&2 & Cremaster 3
19 July: Cremaster 3 & Cremaster 4&5
20 July: Cremaster 1&2 & Cremaster 3 & Cremaster 4&5 ($10 ticket)
Heh. The Museum of Fine Arts was charging $10 for each show. This could be tricky, though - the middle one is three hours, so if you're going to want to bail, it'll be during that. But once that's over, the last two apparently go quickly.
24 July: "Trailer Treats" ($12 for the 8pm "party" show)
25 July - 27 July: Lilya 4-Ever
Great reviews; I'll check it out.
26 July - 27 July: Microcosmos
1 August - 3 August: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (restored, full-length version)
8 August - 9 August: Roman Holiday & To Kill A Mockingbird
10 August: Cape Fear (1962)
15 August - 17 August: Tattoo
22 August - 4 September: The Weather Underground
5 September - 11 September: A Woman Is A Woman

Coolidge Corner Theater ($8; $5 members)

Coolidge Selects (Video screening room)
11 July - 24 July: Bonhoeffer
25 July - 7 August: On_Line
Looks the most interesting, but $8 is a lot to spend for projected video.
8 August - 21 August: What I Want My Words To Do To You
22 August - 28 August: OT: Our Town
29 August - 4 September: Boys Life 4

Summertime Blues (Mondays in July)
7 July: Bluesland: A Portrait Of Blues In America
14 July: John Lee Hooker: That's My Story
21 July: Ray Charles: The Genius Of Soul
28 July: Martin Scorcese Presents: The Blues (compilation reel)
I like the Blues, and always feel like I should know more about it, but these collide with the 50s Genre Films at the Brattle, so they'll probably lose out.

Sounds Great (New sound system on main screen - about time!)
24 July: Singin' In The Rain
Missed it at the Arlington Regent. Missed it at the Brattle. Didn't blink when the new DVD came out. And, really, even though it's some kind of classic, the trailer makes it look overstuffed with songs that stop the action dead. So, I'll probably miss it here, too.

BF/VF Meet The Director
8 July: Stonewalk
12 August: The Cloggers Of Putneyville

Kung Fu Madness (Friday/Saturday Midnites) ($6 tickets)
5 July: Dragon Fight
I'll probably be in Maine, so I'll miss Jet Li kicking triad ass. ::sigh::
11 July - 12 July: Mismatched Couples
Donnie Yen in a Kung Fu Breakdancing Spectacular? Sold.
18 July - 19 July: The Victim
Sammo Hung's best? Sold.
25 July - 26 July: Crippled Avengers (aka Mortal Combat)
Not quite as quick a sale as the others, but handicapped kung-fu could be good fun.

Crazy About Swayze (Saturday Midnites)
5 July: Red Dawn
12 July: Dirty Dancing
19 July: Road House
26 July: Ghost

80s Scifi (Friday/Saturday Midnites)
1 August - 2 August: Goke, Bodysnatcher From Hell (actually, 1968, "lost" Japanese film)
Anyone who knows me knows I'll be unable to resist that title.
8 August - 9 August: Robocop
Never seen it; probably should.
15 August - 16 August: The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The 8th Dimension
22 August - 23 August: Spaceballs
29 August - 30 August: Krull

Harvard Film Archive ($7 admission)

Cinema A-Z: Treasures From The Harvard Film Archive
1 July: A is for American Tragedy - The Crowd & McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Piano Accompaniment by Yakov Gubanov on The Crowd. I'm sorely tempted, despite being broke.
2 July: B is for Behind Bars - Down By Law & Genera Della Rovere
3 July: C is for Children of War - Forbidden Games (Jeux Interdits) & Lacombe Lucien
4 July - 5 July: D is for Divine Intervention - A Matter Of Life And Death (aka Stairway To Heaven) & Au Hasard, Balthazar
6 July: E is for Exploitation! - Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls & Possession
45 minutes were apparently cut from Possession for its US release. If I'm back from Maine in time, this could be a good twin bill to see Sunday night.
7 July: F is for Forbidden Love - The Wedding March & Camila
8 July - 9 July: G is for Ghost Stories - Dead Of Night & Hour Of The Wolf
10 July: H is for Historical Revision - Arsenal & The Nasty Girl
Gubanov again, on Arsenal.
11 July - 12 July: I is for Insanity - Pierrot Le Fou & Betty Blue
13 July: J is for Jannings... At Last - The Last Laugh & The Last Command
Gubanov on both.
14 July - 15 July: K is for Kitchen Sink - Room At The Top & Saturday Night And Sunday Morning
16 July - 17 July: L is for Love Triangles - Two English Girls (Les deux Anglaises et le continent) & Un Coeur En Hiver
18 July - 19 July: M is for Mail Call - Jour De Fête & The Kremlin Letter
An interesting double feature - Tati and what looks like a pretty good spy movie. Say this for these HFA twin bills, they're not just showing you the same movie twice!
20 July - 21 July: N is for Nostalgia - Play It Again, Sam & Amarcord
22 July - 23 July: O is for Oracles - The Thief Of Bagdad & The Last Wave
24 July - 25 July: P is for Polanski - Knife In the Water & The Tenant
26 July - 27 July: Q is for Queer Renegades - Without You, I'm Nothing & Caravaggio
28 July - 29 July: R is for Roeg Images - The Man Who Fell To Earth & The Masque Of The Red Death
Hmmm... Good stuff at the Brattle these days, too.
30 July - 31 July: S is for Simply Sellers - The Ladykillers & I'm All Right Jack
I don't think I've ever seen a Sellers movie. I should rectify that.
1 August: T is for Trailers - Trailers, Trailers, Trailers
Wow, two trailer shows within a week of each other. Great planning, huh?
2 August: U is for UK Underdogs - High Hopes & Raining Stones
3 August: V is for Vitti Vignettes - The Phantom of Liberty & High Infidelity
4 August - 5 August: W is for Women's Pictures - The Women & Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown
6 August: X is for X-Rated In America - W.R.: Mysteries Of The Organism & Blue Shorts
7 August - 8 August: Y is for Youth Gone Wild - Zero For Conduct & If...
One of the few cases on this program where one film is a clear influence on the other.
9 August - 10 August: Z is for Zombies - Night Of The Living Dead & I Walked With A Zombie
One of these Zombie films is described as a "West Indian version of Jane Eyre." Guess which one.