Paintings at the Met
Without being pretentious but in an effort to look at familiar art more closely, I herewith embark on a project to evaluate the Met’s collection gallery by gallery, selecting the best and the worst – or, rather, my favorite work and least favorite, for I do not confuse my opinion with quality.
801. Delacroix and Ingres
Best: Jean Dominique Auguste Ingres, Portrait of Jacques-Louis Leblanc (1824). This is perhaps not a great or notable Ingres, but there is little of note to choose from in this gallery, and typical Ingres is still pretty good.
Whereas it took Beethoven four notes to write the most famous introduction in classical music – ba-ba-ba, bum – it took the Temptations only three notes to produce the sweetest, most tantalizing, most recognizable introduction in rock: ba, bum-bum. Then the song absolutely soars with a perfect opening line: “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May.” How can you not be happy when you hear this song? The great Smokey Robinson wrote lyrics of unalloyed happiness: “I’ve got all the riches one man can claim.”
Disappointing. There’s no attempt at rock history, as Elton John’s songs are shoehorned into the plot wherever a lyric suggests relevance, regardless of chronology. OK, so it’s a fantasy (a la Baz Luhrmann), not a biopic. But there’s not much of a plot, either; it’s a therapy session in which Elton relives his unhappy childhood, lack of love and addiction to drugs and alcohol. It would be nice if there were a cathartic denouement, in which rock’n’roll triumphs, Elton discovers himself and becomes a star. But no, he’s a star from the start; his performances seem more forced than euphoric;
The “Quality” Save
According to Wikipedia, a sportswriter in 1985 coined the term “quality start” and defined it as a pitcher’s completing six innings while surrendering three or fewer runs. Whether this is an “official” statistic – whatever that might mean – I have no idea. I have also been unable to learn whether such a quality start loses its quality if the pitcher in question gives up a fourth run after the sixth inning. Many commentators have criticized the standard as too lenient, pointing out that allowing a run every other inning isn’t so great, and a 4.50 ERA is only acceptable for a team’s fifth starter.