Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Herrmann!

This being the 100th birthday of the late Bernard Herrmann, at least for another hour or so on this coast, it seems worth noting again that he's an exceptional film composer. The links have rotted from this four-year-old post about his Hitchcock film overtures but my affection for them remains the same; I wish the copyright holders would just put those opening credits on Vevo and let them stand freely as short film pieces, which they do pretty well.

Vertigo remains my favorite of Herrmann's film scores, narrowly beating out Psycho and Taxi Driver, so it's intriguing to hear it serving as a spacey femme fatale signifier in the obligatory, batshit-goofy prologue to Lady Gaga's recent "Born This Way" video. (In fact, based on the slow statement of the main theme I believe it comes from Esa-Pekka Salonen's recording of Herrmann suites with the L.A. Philharmonic, a disc that I've gotten a ton of mileage out of although its extreme tempos have worn on me a bit.) As a pop appearance of a Herrmann score it's not nearly as charming as the Psycho sample in Busta Rhymes' "Gimme Some More" from a dozen or so years ago, but it points to a continuing place in the popular imagination for Herrmann's work, or at least for the orchestral cinema music which he exemplifies.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sechzehn Blumen für Leopold

Here is my obligatory Bloomsday post. Rejoice in the day! If you haven't yet read the epic, densely scatalogical modernist tome that is Ulysses, there's still time before midnight.

Here is also my more or less annual recommitment to getting my "Molly Worth" whatsit back onto the web in its full glory, such as it is. Former President Reagan shall not have died in vain to give me the day off work on which I Photoshopped that together.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Today's Jellyfish News

. . . Or, not really news per se, but an interesting jellyfish article that was teased atop the NY Times website for a while today. My pet fascination with jellyfish is largely about their complex life cycle, but the story of their surprisingly developed nervous system makes for good light science reading, too. The best bit is at the very end, describing the mangrove-swamp-dwelling box jellyfish that's developed a complex eye that always looks up at the water's surface. Apparently they use visual cues to stay close to the mangrove roots that are their preferred habitat.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Burgh Ball in Queens 2K11

One of the office manuscript editors, Dan, is an enthusiastic Mets fan, and for the past couple of years he's been buying a big package of tickets and selling the ones he doesn't use. But he always goes to the midweek day games, so I took a day off work with him today and went down to watch the Mets and Pirates wrap up their four-game series. Now I can say I've watched Paul Maholm blow a seven-run lead. I also grabbed Dan's tickets for Memorial Day and watched that game with Stu and Stu's friend Craig.

So I've had a lot of baseball in my life this week! I may have caught both Pirates losses in their four-game visit, but the atmospherics were let's-play-two prototypical both times. Today the air was fresh, the sun was bright, and a brisk wind was blowing trash all around the field, which is to say ideal weather for Queens.

Dan's baseball fandom has an old-fashioned cast to it, keeping a scorecard going and all that, so he's a fun game companion. We usually have a two- or five-minute morning chat in the office about baseball goings-on and our respective sufferings; gametime conversation was largely that, expanded to three hours. Around when the score had crept up to 7–5 he said, "You know, I was kidding when I said how disappointed you'd be to go home after watching the Pirates blow a seven-run lead," to which I replied "Yeah, I don't doubt this stuff any more" or one of my other interchangeable laconic Pirates statements.

If I can digress briefly into the onfield action, may I note that the seventh run (the fourth in that inning) scored on a first-pitch passed ball by catcher Dusty Brown, a runner having gone from second to third base because Brown let a throw home get behind him right before that. In short: catcher Dusty Brown scored a key run all by himself from second by failing to catch two consecutive live baseballs that went to him. And let's not even get into what Jose Veras did in relief.

Neil Walker did hit a highly entertaining 430-foot home run into a right-center billboard, although he was somewhat outdone a couple innings later by Carlos Beltran absolutely destroying a ball on a sailing line drive into left.

Monday night was a fine game as well, Armed Forces Recognition Day at the park for Memorial Day weekend. So they had a crew from Afghanistan piped onto the scoreboard by satellite video, and a fighter-jet flyover, and generally a healthily honorary milieu going. And the evening was clear, with a pink-purple sunset passing through. The ballgame was a bit chippier, without many balls being hit all that authoritatively till the Mets broke things open late. But it was fun to watch Charlie Morton pitch without being "Charlie Mortoned" (as Nate coined it last year in one of our voluminous Pirates-related email exchanges). I'm happy to see Morton doing well, and really he just lost the game because of several unlucky ground balls getting into the outfield. And of course it's always fun to watch Pittsburgh sports with Stu.

Citi Field didn't impress me when I went there the first time a couple years ago, but it's growing on me a little bit. I still think it's too big to be ideal. Dan's seats are up in section 514, right behind home plate but of course up a ways. You do get an especially nice view of the outfielders tracking fly balls that way.

I saw a couple of Pirates fans in the crowd wearing actually current player jerseys (Walker, McCutchen), so you can tell that, at the moment, things are looking up for the team. Or at least somewhat less down.