Made Yankee Fan in Boston: Goin’ Back to Houston, Houst . . .

Yesterday, in our dour assessment of the New York Yankees’ performance in the 2019 ALCS, we said oy.

Today we turn to this old Jewish proverb: One chops wood, the other says Hey!

That’s our cue:


The Yankees staved off elimination by mugging Justin Verlander for four runs in the first inning – welcome back Aaron Hicks – and hanging on for the next eight.



James (The Gopher) Paxton traded his standard first-inning homers for a run-scoring wild pitch, but then settled down to throw six stalwart innings. The bullpen went lights out and the Yanks packed up for two – maybe! – in Houston.

See you there.

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So Far the Yankees Have Folded Like Origami in the ALCS

As a Made Yankee Fan in Boston for the past 45 years, it pains me to say that the 2019 New York Yankees – easily the most likable squad in recent memory – have been their worst selves in this increasingly sad American League Championship Series.

Innumerable runners stranded. Inexplicable pitching decisions. Incessant flailing at the plate. Insufficient grit.

Exhibit umpteen, with high/lowlights.



Given my status as Patient Zero from Yankees Gone Chernobyl in 2004, I’ll never say never.

But . . .

Justin Verlander vs. James (The Gopher) Paxton tonight?


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Newly Renovated MoMA Is Museum of Modern Arguing

From our Beaten to Death with Croutons desk

Here’s what everyone can agree on: New York’s Museum of Modern Art will unveil its four-month, $450 million, 47,000-square-foot expansion on October 21st.

Beyond that, it’s strictly an art critic slapfight.

Let’s take just one example: This pairing of Pablo Picasso’s 1907 iconic “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” with Faith Ringgold’s 1967 painting “American People Series #20: Die.”



Here’s Wall Street Journal Arts in Review editor Eric Gibson in a piece headlined “Bigger, Yet Somehow Smaller.”

Most significantly, MoMA has abandoned the longstanding chronological, movement-by-movement display that made it to modern art what Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is to Renaissance painting: the indispensable textbook . . .

[T]hat overall concept is marred by instances of special pleading and political tub-thumping, the latter nowhere more egregious than in the gallery containing Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907). This is the painting that launched the Cubist revolution, seedground for many of 20th-century art’s subsequent innovations. As you would expect, it keeps company with later Cubist works by Picasso and his comrade Georges Braque. But hanging with it is Faith Ringgold’s “American People Series #20: Die” (1967)—a painting of a race riot.

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Let’s be honest: The two are oil and water, despite a wall text arguing otherwise.

It’s not just the wall text arguing otherwise – it’s also New York Times art critic Holland Carter in this piece.

The gallery itself is a virtual Picasso shrine, with his 1907 “Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon” at the center, and related pictures ranged around it. But there’s a major out-of-time entry here too: a 1967 painting, acquired in 2016, by the African-American artist Faith Ringgold depicting an explosive interracial shootout. Titled “American People Series #20: Die,” it speaks to “Demoiselles” both in physical size and in visual violence. And just by being there it points up the problematic politics of a work like Picasso’s — with its fractured female bodies and colonialist appropriations — that is at the core of the collection. MoMA traditionalists will call the pairing sacrilegious; I call it a stroke of curatorial genius.

Let’s be honest: Those two readings are oil and water. Stir vigorously, eh?

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Trump Is a Chump™ (WSJ Trump Hotels Advertising Edition)

First, let’s stipulate that Donald Trump is the least self-aware U.S. president since post-stroke Woodrow Wilson.

Let’s also stipulate that the Cheeto-in-Chief is more transactional than your neighborhood ATM. As one observer noted, Trump has no standards and no principles – just context.

Even so, this small-space (one-ninth of a page) Trump Hotels ad in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal is about as tin-eared as you can get.



Always keep the big picture in mind?

That, by definition, requires a mind.

Which, given the evidence, Donald Trump is decidedly out of.

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Dead Blogging ‘Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice’

Well the Missus and I trundled up to the Coolidge Corner Theater yesterday to see the documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (through September 26) and say, I get the same chills from her singing as I did 50 years ago when I heard this.



From the moviehouse’s website:

In Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, Ronstadt is our guide through her early years of singing Mexican canciones with her family; her folk days with the Stone Poneys; and her reign as the “rock queen” of the ‘70s and early ’80s. She was a pioneer for women in the male-dominated music industry; a passionate advocate for human rights, and had a high-profile romance with California Governor Jerry Brown. Ultimately, her singing voice was stilled by illness and forced her into retirement but her music and influence remain as timeless as ever. With moving performance footage and appearances by friends and collaborators including Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice celebrates an artist whose desire to share the music she loved made generations of fans fall in love with her — and the sound of her voice.




And just in case you’ve forgotten how absolutely riveting Linda Ronstadt’s voice was, there’s this.



And this.



The documentary also tracks Ronstadt’s foray into the Great American Songbook, her jaw-dropping performance in the Pirates of Penance, and her spirited return to her Mexican roots.

Amazing voice. Remarkable career. Terrific film.

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Ric Ocasek NYT Obit Runs Same Day As Wife’s NYT Ad

Tip o’ the pixel to The Missus

September 15th Jon Pareles New York Times obituary of Cars frontman Ric Ocasek.

A Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, he wrote songs that updated classic sounds and managed to please both punk-rock fans and a broader pop audience.

Ric Ocasek, the songwriter, rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the Cars, was found dead on Sunday afternoon at his townhouse in Manhattan. He was 75.

The New York City medical examiner’s office said the cause was high blood pressure and heart disease. Mr. Ocasek’s wife, the model and actress Paulina Porizkova, said in an Instagram post that he had been recovering from surgery.

Coincidentally (or not): September 15th full-page Bloomingdale’s ad featuring Ocasek’s wife Paulina Porizkova in the Times.

As Ocasek sang in Just What I Needed:

You always knew to wear it well and
You look so fancy I can tell
I don’t mind you hangin’ out
And talkin’ in your sleep

Sleep the big sleep, Ric Ocasek.

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Sharpiegate Rumpus Misses the Real Scandal at NWS

Yes, Donald Trump is an idiot for mobilizing his entire sadministration – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Weather Service – to back up his chronic moronic claims that Hurricane Dorian would ravage Alabama, even though the storm came nowhere near the Yellowhammer State.

And yes, Donald Trump is likely a criminal for altering an official graphic of Dorian’s projected path.

From Business Insider:

“Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both,” the relevant part of the US Code reads.

That’s monkey business as usual in Trumpworld.

But the real scandal is Trump’s monetizing the National Weather Service. And it’s revealed in Michael Lewis’s book The Fifth Risk, which details how Trump loyalists are taking over federal agencies.

From Ari Shapiro’s interview with Lewis on NPR’s All Things Considered last October.

Inside the Department of Commerce, there is the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service has, over the past few decades, gotten extraordinarily good at predicting the weather. … And it saves lives — lots of lives — every year with hurricane and tornado forecasts.

Barry Myers of AccuWeather has been nominated to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

The person that the Trump administration has appointed to run this operation [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Weather Service] is the CEO of AccuWeather — who’s campaigned for the last couple of decades to prevent the National Weather Service from communicating with the American public so that AccuWeather can make more money doing it.

This is a catastrophe for anybody who is in the path of dangerous weather.

As Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik reported this week, it’s just a matter of time before Myers gets the job.

As we reported in May, the Myers appointment raised fears that it would snare NOAA in a massive conflict of interest. The nomination has remained in limbo ever since, though it could be brought to the Senate floor for confirmation at any time by a wave of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hand.

And that’s the projected path of Hurricane Donald.

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Rafa! Rafa! Rafa! Nadal’s Signature Victory at the US Open

Rafael Nadal’s monumental win over Daniil Medvedev in yesterday’s U.S. Open men’s singles final was pure Rafa: Dominance, happenstance, hesitance, dominance.




The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay – as always – captured it perfectly.

Let’s be candid here: Nobody expected much from Medvedev. I don’t know if even Medvedev did. Nadal in a final—your first final!—is an absurdly hard ask. “[Nadal] plays like he’s broke,” Jimmy Connors told Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim before the match. Nadal may be a man who enjoys wearing a $775,000 Richard Mille watch, but he still scuffles like he’s trying to pay off the bill at the Red Roof Inn.

Everything else you need to know about Rafa you’ll find in his post-match press conference.



Rafa on how he adapts his game to his age: “I just think about how you can’t predict about life – this world and this life changes and you need to be for accept everything, so today is a day to enjoy.”

Watch the whole press conference. Rafael Nadal is not just an exceptional athlete. He’s just exceptional.

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The Arts Seen in NYC (Pierre Cardin Is Totally Brilliant Edition)

Well the Missus and I trundled down to the Big Town the other weekend to spend some time a-museuming and say, it was swell.

After navigating the usual midtown Manhattan mishegas to get to our usual hotel, we took the 2 Flatbush train to the always engaging Brooklyn Museum, which offered multiple exhibits of interest.

For starters, we checked out Rembrandt to Picasso: Five Centuries of European Works on Paper (through October 13), an exhaustive – if slightly exhausting – exhibit of “more than a hundred European drawings and prints from our exceptional collection, many of which are on view for the first time in decades.”

From the remarkably spontaneous etchings of Rembrandt, through the bold graphite lines of Pablo Picasso, the exhibition explores the roles of drawing and printmaking within artists’ practices, encompassing a variety of modes, from studies to finished compositions, and a range of genres, including portraiture, landscape, satire, and abstraction. Working on paper, artists have captured visible and imagined worlds, developed poses and compositions, experimented with materials and techniques, and expressed their personal and political beliefs. Other featured artists include Albrecht Dürer, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Francisco Goya, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh, Käthe Kollwitz, and Vasily Kandinsky.

Except . . .

There was not a single etching or drypoint by James McNeill Whistler, one of the greatest artists ever to put needle to copper.

What . . . the . . . hell.

Other than that, a terrific exhibit.

Next we took in Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion (through January 5), an absolutely fabulous retrospective of a designer who revolutionized fashion, fabrics, furniture, and functional items like lighting.

Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion is the first New York retrospective in forty years to focus on the legendary couturier. Drawn primarily from Pierre Cardin’s archive, the exhibition traverses the designer’s decades-long career at the forefront of fashion invention. Known today for his bold, futuristic looks of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Cardin extended his design concepts from fashion to furniture, industrial design, and beyond.

The exhibition presents over 170 objects drawn from his atelier and archive, including historical and contemporary haute couture, prêt-à-porter, trademark accessories, “couture” furniture, lighting, fashion sketches, personal photographs, and excerpts from television, documentaries, and feature films. The objects are displayed in an immersive environment inspired by Cardin’s unique atelier designs, showrooms, and homes.

Cardin was an absolute genius, as this exhuberant exhibit duly notes.



A total knockout.

From there we wandered over to Garry Winogrand: Color (through December 8). Winogrand is mostly known for his black-and-white photography of New York icons



and New York streets.



But the Brooklyn Museum exhibit gives us a different look at Winogrand.

Garry Winogrand: Color is the first exhibition dedicated to the nearly forgotten color photographs of Garry Winogrand (1928–1984), one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. While almost exclusively known for his black-and-white images that pioneered a “snapshot aesthetic” in contemporary art, Winogrand produced more than 45,000 color slides between the early 1950s and late 1960s.

There are eight slide shows lining two sides of the exhibition room, and they are totally engrossing.



An excellent opportunity to spend some quality with Winogrand’s distinctive work.

• • • • • • •

Bright and early the next morning we subwayed out to Corona, Queens to visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum, which “sustains and promotes the cultural, historical, and humanitarian legacy of Louis Armstrong by preserving and interpreting Armstrong’s house and grounds, collecting and sharing archival materials that document Armstrong’s life and legacy, and presenting public programs such as exhibits, concerts, lectures, and film screenings.”

The Louis Armstrong Collection is Louis and Lucille’s vast personal collection of 1,600 recordings, 650 home recorded reel-to-reel tapes in hand-decorated boxes, 86 scrapbooks, 5,000 photographs, 270 sets of band parts, 12 linear feet of papers, letters and manuscripts, five trumpets, 14 mouthpieces, 120 awards and plaques, and much more.

The digital collection is fun, but the experience of being inside the house is really special. This New York Times piece captures some of it – including clips from those home-recorded tapes – as does this house tour/bio.



Totally worth the trundle.

Back in Manhattan we swung by the Guggenheim Museum to take in Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection (through January 12).

The first-ever artist-curated exhibition mounted at the Guggenheim celebrates the museum’s extensive collection of modern and contemporary art. Curated by Cai Guo-Qiang, Paul Chan, Jenny Holzer, Julie Mehretu, Richard Prince, and Carrie Mae Weems—artists who each have had influential solo shows at the museum—Artistic License brings together both well-known and rarely seen works from the turn of the century to 1980.

Each artist was invited to make selections to shape a discrete presentation, one on each of the six levels of the rotunda. With the museum’s curators and conservators, they searched through the collection in storage, encountering renowned masterpieces while also finding singular contributions by less-prominent figures. The resulting exhibition presents nearly 300 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and installations, some never before shown, that engage with the cultural discourses of their time—from the utopian aspirations of early modernism to the formal explorations of mid-century abstraction and the sociopolitical debates of the 1960s and ’70s.

Here’s an overview.



We especially liked Cai Guo-Qiang’s Non-Brand, the big wall on the first level that featured “figurative works [that] lack the ‘brand, or the sought-after, recognizable style associated with a famous artist,” such as Kandinsky, Joan Miró, Joseph Beuys, Pablo Picasso, Louise Nevelson, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko.

Then again here’s what Peter Plagens had to say in the Wall Street Journal.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Non-Brand” gathering is a mess. Its arcane-within-arcane concept throws up on the walls of one of the Guggenheim’s big galleries a plethora of small works by artists famously known for a different style. The salon-style hanging is cute but, barring available stepladders, visually counterproductive. Worse, the nominal curator includes several of his own really bad paintings.

Shows what we know.

(P.S. Roberta Smith was much more kind in the New York Times.)

Also at the Guggenheim is Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story (through November 6) but the waiting line was a half hour long so we about-faced and strolled up 5th Ave to the Cooper Hewitt.

Full disclosure: As I’ve mentioned more than once, the Missus and I have long longed for the days of mustard tin and pop-up book exhibits at the Cooper Hewitt, but those days are decidedly gone, as witness Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (through January 20).

Designers are forging meaningful connections with nature, inspired by its properties and resources. Their collaborative processes—working with nature and in teams across multiple disciplines—are optimistic responses at this moment when humans contend with the complexities and conditions of our planet. Compelled by a sense of urgency, designers look to nature as a guide and partner.

With projects ranging from experimental prototypes to consumer products, immersive installations, and architectural constructions, Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, co-organized with Cube design museum, presents the work of sixty-two international design teams. Collaborations involve scientists, engineers, advocates for social and environmental justice, artists, and philosophers. They are engaging with nature in innovative and ground-breaking ways, driven by a profound awareness of climate change and ecological crises as much as advances in science and technology.

We like the building, though – Andrew Carnegie’s old 64-room crib.

To clear our heads, we slipped back down 5th to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to admire Jewelry for America (through April 5).

Spanning three hundred years, Jewelry for America explores the evolution of jewelry in this country, from the early eighteenth century to the present day. Its five chronological sections reveal changes in styles, materials, and techniques, all woven into a sociohistorical narrative. Some one hundred examples from The Met collection—including recently acquired and rarely exhibited objects—are displayed.

Best for last: Relative Values: The Cost of Art in the Northern Renaissance (through February 28, 2021).

Bringing together sixty-two masterpieces of sixteenth-century northern European art from The Met collection and one important loan, this exhibition revolves around questions of historical worth, exploring relative value systems in the Renaissance era. Organized in six sections—raw materials, virtuosity, technological advances, fame, market, and paragone—tapestry, stained and vessel glass, sculpture, paintings, precious metal-work, and enamels are juxtaposed with pricing data from sixteenth-century documents. What did a tapestry cost in the sixteenth century? Goldsmiths’ work? Stained glass? How did variables like raw materials, work hours, levels of expertise and artistry, geography, and rarity, affect this?

The exhibit is a total gas: It basically tells you how many cows it would take to buy each item (one cow = 175 grams of silver or 5,350 loaves of rye bread in Brussels).

Representative samples:

Kudos to Elizabeth Cleland, Associate Curator, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.

• • • • • • •

On the way back to Boston we swung by the Wadsworth Atheneum, which New Yorkers would describe as “a nice little museum.” And it very much is, with plenty to see.

Start with the ongoing exhibition From Expressionism to Surrealism: Highlights of Modern Art from the Collection.

A special installation of treasures from the Wadsworth’s collection including works by Ernst, Munch, Matisse, Picasso, and Rousseau. This intimate presentation of works of art made between 1900 and 1950 illustrates expressionist and surrealist approaches to painting.

After that we checked out another ongoing exhibition, The Bauhaus Spirit at the Wadsworth Atheneum, which “is expressed throughout the Wadsworth’s collection in art, furniture, and architectural design.”

Representative samples:


Yet another ongoing exhibition is Sport and Leisure: Sailing on the Sound, which is very, well, sporty. The marquee exhibit right now, through September 15, is Be Seen: Portrait Photography Since Stonewall, which “explores how artists have used portrait photography to challenge, subvert, and play with societal norms of gender and sexuality.”

After our nice visit to Wadsworth Atheneum, it was home again home again jiggedy jig.

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Campaign Outsider Book Club™: Anna Burns’s Novel ‘Milkman’

I could not recommend this book more highly.

But don’t take my word for it – Milkman won the prestigious Man Booker Prize last year and the Orwell Prize for political fiction this year.

Patrick Radden Keefe, whose best seller Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (which I also could not recommend more highly) won this year’s Orwell Prize for political writing, praised Anna Burns’s experimental novel as “[a] trancelike evocation of tension and predation during the Troubles.”

Burns presents 1970s Northern Ireland as if viewed through gauze, a world of vagaries bordering on the opaque.

Exhibit A: People and places don’t have proper names, they have descriptors.

In the former instance, the eighteen-year-old narrator herself has no name (she’s middle sister), but she does have a car-parts-hoarding maybe-boyfriend and three wee sisters – to balance out her three older ones – and a lecherous first brother-in-law and a running-obsessed third brother-in-law and a longest friend who informs middle sister of her status as a local beyond-the-pale, mostly – but not entirely – because middle sister has a habit of reading-while-walking, which strikes the local populace as, well, beyond the pale.

Joining her in that category are nuclear boy, who suicides over his dread of Cold War mutually assured destruction, and tablets girl, who randomly and routinely poisons various locals, including middle sister.

Places, on the other hand, are largely defined by the ever-present ‘political problems.’ In the big picture there’s ‘over the water’ and ‘over the border’ – presumably England vs. the Republic of Ireland. Locally the divide is ‘this side of the road’ and ‘that side of the road’ – presumably Catholics vs. Protestants.

And through it all runs a narrative voice that curls and corkscrews and ultimately collapses in on itself.

[In] a district that thrived on suspicion, supposition and imprecision, where everything was so back-to-front it was impossible to tell a story properly, or not tell it but just remain quiet, nothing could be said here or not said but it was turned into gospel.

The prose Burns crafts is as complex, convoluted, and claustrophobic as the environment her characters inhabit.

And then there are the paramilitaries who dominate that environment: on one side the defenders-of-the-state, on the other the renouncers-of-the-state.

(Oh yeah – almost forgot: There’s also ‘the usual place,’ where dead renouncers are laid to rest.)

And then there’s Milkman, a presumed high-octane paramilitary renouncer who’s stalking/courting middle sister who resists/shuts down emotionally even as her lecherous first brother-in-law launches rumors of an affair between Milkman and middle sister which doesn’t exist but regardless blooms into gossip that circulates and recirculates and eventually resolves into the aforementioned gospel.

In the end I will 1) leave you to discover the rest, and 2) leave you with this: Milkman is the most stunning piece of fiction I’ve read in many a year.

And middle sister – funny, ironic, self-aware, self-disparaging, self-despairing, self-defeating – is a narrator altogether strange and haunting, sort of a Belfast Ishmael.

You really should read this book.

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