Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 12/30/19: *The Usual Suspects* Disappointed Me, Milk Bar on *Chef's Table*, Big East Tilts and the Zags

1. Every once in a while, I like to watch a movie again that I enjoyed quite a few years ago and see how I experience it now. I don't quite remember the details, but I remember renting The Usual Suspects back in the mid-90s and I remember being a part of conversations later, particularly in the LCC theater dressing room, when I enthusiastically agreed with others who raved about how much they loved this movie.

Something changed.

I didn't enjoy it much at all, starting last night and finishing it today.

In fact, as the movie developed, rather than being compelled by the characters and the story, I felt my apathy grow. I knew the movie was working toward a twist at the end that had blown me away over twenty years ago. I vaguely remembered what it was, but I wanted that surprise to hurry up and arrive because I wanted the movie to be over with.

The surprises that so jolted me in my forties left me unmoved and definitely not blown away today.

I guess this movie, for me, is analogous to Benedick's meat when, in Much Ado About Nothing, he quips: "A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age."

(Much ado about nothing. Not a bad description for my response today to The Usual Suspects.)

2. Before I started a mini-marathon of college basketball viewing this afternoon, I found an episode of Chef's Table on Netflix to watch. It featured Christina Tosi, the innovative baker who started the wildly successful franchise of bakeries called Milk Bar. In August of 2018, in Manhattan, Erik Martin escorted Melissa and me to a Milk Bar not far from MOMA and I ate a dish of nostalgia-filled, junky, but awesome Morning Cereal soft serve ice cream. Now I know about how Christina Tosi's will and imagination, along with some help from her friends, brought Milk Bar into being and I learned more about what she understands about people and why they love to eat what they eat and how those insights, along with her superb skills, make her franchise so successful.

3. I love watching teams in the Big East Conference play each other and conference play is now getting underway. FS1 telecasts the Big East and I enjoy their broadcasts a lot. This afternoon thoroughly enjoyed the wit and economy of Tim Brando and Bill Raftery teaming up to call the action as Villanova and Xavier squared off. Over the last two months, I've enjoyed watching Villanova gel as a team and they are increasingly reflecting the thinking of their head coach, Jay Wright. They don't have any single big stars, but their team is versatile, able to adjust to how their opponents defend them, and score by either driving to the cup or making three point baskets.

Brando and Raftery stressed in today's broadcast that Xavier coach Travis Steele had instructed his Xavier players to defend the Wildcats more vigorously beyond the three-point arc. Villanova responded early by sacrificing three point attempts for hard drives to the hoop, and, as the game progressed, three point opportunities began to open up and Villanova got some key shots from downtown. Xavier played Villanova tough, but the Musketeers had fallen behind early in this game and, despite their best efforts, were never able to come all the way back and overcome Villanova's early advantage. It was an entertaining tilt -- the final score was 68-62 -- and I can hardly wait for these two teams to tip it off again on February 22nd in Cincinnati.

Debbie and I went over to Christy and Everett's at 6:00. Christy had laid out the ingredients for taco salad, including a very tasty pan of seasoned elk hamburger and I made myself a couple of salads while watching Gonzaga paste Detroit Mercy. The Zags must be the nation's most potent offensive squad. Their offensive prowess was on full display tonight.  Immediately, they jumped out to a quick and game-lasting lead, making nearly 75% of their shots in the first half. About half way through the second half, I decided I'd seen enough of this blow out and Debbie and I returned home. The Zags triumphed, 93-72.

Back home, I had recorded tonight's second Big East matchup: the surprising DePaul Blue Demons hosted the Big East preseason favorites, Seton Hall. I was eager to see DePaul because their early season success was unexpected and was fired up to see how All-American Myles Powell would play for the Pirates after being out for a couple of games with a concussion.

Because I started watching the recording of the game before the game had finished, the last four minutes didn't get recorded so I didn't get to see these last four minutes -- live and learn. But, I was very entertained by what I did see. Both teams played hard-nosed defense, with multiple blocked shots and challenges around the rim and an assortment of steals and disruptions in the back court. Myles Powell led Seton Hall on both ends of the floor, not only scoring 27 points, but coming up with five steals and making free throws late in the game to clinch Seton Hall's come from behind victory, 74-66.

The Big East teams were successful in their pre-conference games the last two months. Last year, the teams in this conference played each other very tough in conference. I loved watching them play each other, but they were not successful in the NCAA national tournament. Once again, it looks like the in conference games this season will be tightly contested -- no one or two teams look at all dominant. I'll love that. I have no predictions about how the conference standings will shake out nor how these teams will fare in the post-season. All I know is that I love watching them play one another.

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