Archive for March 22, 2011

NCAA Bracket: Hockey Edition

March 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Every year at this time, Ron’s View turns its attention to college hockey, a great and greatly under-reported sport. We’ve been studying the bracket for the NCAA tournament, which starts on Friday, and searching the mainstream sports outlets in vain for analysis. Our own analysis suggests that it will be yet another exciting tournament.

Past readers of my hockey coverage will know that I have my favorites, starting with Harvard, which isn’t invited to the tournament this year. After Harvard, I have an attachment to its Beanpot brethren: BU, BC, and Northeastern. (And when Joel was at Northeastern, I was even rooting for them over Harvard.) And pre-dating Harvard in my hockey heart is Denver University, which my brother attended in the late 1960s, bringing home stories of their hockey prowess. And for good reason — they won back-to-back NCAA championships during his junior and senior years. More recently, I’ve developed an attachment to a new hockey power, Miami University, which lost the championship in such heartbreaking fashion two years ago when BU came back with two goals to tie in the final minute and a goal to win in overtime.

This year, three of my sentimental favorites are in the tournament: BC with the #3 overall seed, Miami at #4, and DU at #7. Then there’s Yale, the #1 seed, which I suppose I can regard as a substitute for Harvard, though back in my Boston days Yale may as well have been a Division III team for all the attention we paid them. And what do you know? These four schools are in four different brackets. It’s just possible that they will all skate into the Frozen Four.

Let’s take a closer look.

Yale gets not just the #1 seeding but a virtual home regional, down the shore a bit in Bridgeport. There they will host #16 Air Force on Friday, while #8 Union plays #9 Minnesota-Duluth. It’s a very favorable bracket for Yale. I don’t see anyone stopping them.

The #2 seed, North Dakota, meets RPI Saturday in Green Bay, the winner to play against #7 Denver or #10 Western Michigan. It’s hard to pick against UND and DU in the first round, but their second-round matchup could go either way. Denver might just get through.

BC, the #3 seed, is being shipped out to St. Louis to open against #13 Colorado College, while #5 Michigan plays #12 Nebraska-Omaha. I think, as with the previous region, that the two top seeds should win the opening games, but once again, the meeting between them is tough to call. Let’s go with BC.

That brings us to Manchester, New Hampshire, where #4 Miami has to travel to play — get this — #13 UNH. What kind of reward is that for a top-four seed? Why didn’t BC get placed in that region? Why does Miami have to play UNH in what is a virtual UNH home game? But wait. It gets worse. The other regional game is #6 Merrimack versus #11 Notre Dame. If Miami beats UNH, they could find themselves playing Merrimack next, and Merrimack, though across the state line in Massachusetts, is even closer to Manchester than UNH is. I have a feeling that second-round matchup won’t take place. I’m going with Miami and Notre Dame in the first round, setting up a regional final between the two CCHA rivals, with Miami advancing.

There you have it — a Frozen Foursome of Yale, UND/Denver, BC, and Miami. The draw would then have Miami meeting Yale in the semi-finals and BC playing, oh, let’s just say Denver. Might we have an all New England final? I would like to see Miami win it all, but I won’t bet against this.

Check back in a week.

Categories: Hockey

Asian Art at the Met

March 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Equestrian Portrait of a Noble, attributed to Bakhta, ca. 1775

With James C. Y. Watt soon to step down as head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Asian art department, the NYT devoted a long article last Thursday to his successor, Maxwell K. Hearn, the Met’s longtime curator of Chinese art. As some readers know, I have a certain interest in Asian art, and so I read the article closely. Holland Cotter summarizes well the enormous expansion in the Met’s collections that have moved it from an Asian art backwater to a major center.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Asian art galleries are some of the most reposeful spaces in New York City. It’s hard to imagine that they were banged into place, room by room, from practically nothing over the last 40 years, though they were. Or that they continue to mirror changing times, a changing museum and a changing Asia, though they do.

. . . [Watt and Hearn] witnessed and participated in an astonishing phenomenon: a catch-up act of acquisition, construction and exhibition-making on a grand scale.

From the early 1970s to the late ’90s, under the direction of the art historian Wen Fong, who was Mr. Hearn’s mentor, a room of sculpture gradually and laboriously turned into 50 galleries. Thanks to the beneficence of a generation of gift-giving New York collectors, a bunch of pots became many thousands of objects representing every major Asian culture. And thanks to the prestige its new Asian wing brought, the Met got some huge Asian loan shows.

Both Mr. Hearn and Mr. Watt refer to the period as a golden age. And both acknowledge that it is over.

Private collections of the kind that came to the Met can no longer be assembled in the West. China and India, now economic colossi, have a corner on the market. Museum loans from Asia are increasingly tricky to negotiate, and to pay for, now that the Met, like most museums, is economically pinched. And while Asia is constantly in the news, Asian art remains a hard sell. Foot traffic in the Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Southeast Asian galleries remains light.

Clearly, Mr. Hearn, in his new job as curator in charge of the Asian department, has confounding issues to contemplate when he takes over in July.

In describing the growth of the Met’s Asian art collections, Cotter mentions the role played by John Crawford:

John M. Crawford Jr., who in the 1950s had formed what Mr. Hearn called the most important private ensemble of Chinese painting and calligraphy in the West, lived virtually across the street from the museum, but had never exhibited his art there.

“When the Crawford collection was shown in New York in 1962,” Mr. Hearn said, “it was at the Morgan Library. That’s how out of it the Met was.”

When the museum’s Chinese painting galleries were finally finished in 1991, Mr. Crawford was invited to take a look. “At last you have a space big enough to hold my collection,” he said, and gave the Met everything.

Attractive though this story may be, the timing is a little off, what with Mr. Crawford having died in 1988. A few years before he died, I had the good fortune to visit Mr. Crawford in his apartment, which was not so much “virtually across the street from the museum” as a few blocks down, and to see some of his collection. I’ve long cherished the memory of that day.

I recommend that in addition to reading the article, you have a look at the charming video that accompanies it, in which Mr. Hearn sits down at a table with a 14th-century Chinese painting and proceeds to scroll through it (it is, in fact, a scroll), explaining both the art and the text within.

Cotter closes by quoting both Watt and Hearn on how far the Met’s Asian collection has come:

One by one, the galleries that now form the Asian wing — China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia, Korea — were carved out and built in what Mr. Watt refers to as “the last major event in the development of the museum.” Mr. Hearn, despite time out for language and graduate school, was there for every step.

“It took 27 years,” he said. “Now we have the most comprehensive collection of Asian art anywhere.”

Categories: Art, Museums

Coffee Ritual

March 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Gary Wills reviews Hubert Dreyfus and Dorrance Kelly’s All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age in the current issue of the New York Review of Books, and what a review it is! Wills wastes no time getting to the point, describing the book as ” inept and shallow.” Wills explains that

The authors set about to solve the problems of a modern secular culture. The greatest problem, as they see it, is a certain anxiety of choosing. In the Middle Ages, everyone shared the same frame of values. One could offend against that frame by sinning, but the sins were clear, their place in the overall scheme of things ratified by consensus. Now that we do not share such a frame of reference, each person must forge his or her own view of the universe in order to make choices that accord with it. But few people have the will or ability to think the universe through from scratch.

So how can one make intelligent choices? Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly call modern nihilism “the idea that there is no reason to prefer any answer to any other.” They propose what they think is a wise and accepting superficiality. By not trying to get to the bottom of things, one can get glimpses of the sacred from the surface of what they call “whoosh” moments—from the presence of charismatic persons to the shared excitement of a sports event.

Not having read the book, I don’t have a clue how fair or accurate Wills is in his depiction of it. But the part of the review I really love is the passage near the end, which includes a quote from the book itself.

They argue for the calmer joys of craftsmanship. They take us through five pages on the sacred craft of the wheelwright and then through four pages of the “revered domain” of making the proper cup of coffee—the sacred beans, the sacred cup lovingly tended, the company worthy to share this holy communion. The liturgy takes patient experiment and rapt devotion:

If it is the warmth of the coffee on a winter’s day that you like, then drinking it in a cozy corner of the house, perhaps by a fire with a blanket, in a cup that transmits the warmth to your hands might well help to bring out the best in this ritual. If it is the striking black color of the coffee that attracts your eye and enhances the aroma, then perhaps a cup with a shiny white ceramic interior will bring this out. But there is no single answer to the question of what makes the ritual appealing, and it takes experimentation and observation, with its risks and rewards, to discover the meaningful distinctions yourself.

This experimentation with and observation of the coffee ultimately develops in you the skill for seeing the relevant features of the ritual and ultimately develops the skills for bringing them out at their best. These skills are manifold: the skill for knowing how to pick exactly the right coffee, exactly the right cup, exactly the right place to drink it, and to cultivate exactly the right companions to drink it with. When one has learned these skills and cultivated one’s environment so that it is precisely suited to them, then one has a ritual rather than a routine, a meaningful celebration of oneself and of one’s environment rather than a generic and meaningless performance of a function.

Thank God we have been delivered from the meaningless inwardness of Augustine and Dante, to worship at the shining caffeine altar.

As someone who has never drunk coffee, yet must accommodate to the coffee needs of those around me, I couldn’t help but enjoy this passage. Maybe I should learn from it, but instead I feel blessed that I’m free of the ritual, and pleased that I can continue to bask in righteous superiority.

Categories: Books, Philosophy

Airplane Etiquette

March 22, 2011 1 comment

The WSJ’s weekly The Middle Seat feature last week focused on airplane etiquette, and just in time, as we prepare to head off on a trip next month. The article focused on six situations with which we are all familiar:

1. You’re in the middle seat, between two strangers. Who gets the armrests?

2. A tall man sits down and his knees jut out wide, encroaching on your space.

3. You’re in the window seat and two strangers in the middle and aisle seats are asleep. You have to go to the bathroom.

4. On a long flight on a full plane, some kids are getting restless, speaking loudly, and kicking seatbacks.

5. Your seatmate brings a smelly meal on board and loudly starts munching.

6. Do you recline your seat?

Assorted experts offer responses, from which we discover, as experience already suggests, that we are far from consensus on how these situations should be handled, besides the obvious approach of not flying.

As for the last question, I’d go with one of the experts, frequent traveler Richard Wishner, whose solution is to “Put your knee in the back of his seat.” Alas, I’ve found this to be better in conception than in execution. Maybe my knees aren’t strong enough.

Categories: Flying


March 22, 2011 Leave a comment


A few days ago, on the eve of our entrance into yet another war, I wrote a less than careful post on Afghanistan and Libya. There’s much I’ve wanted to say since, but I’m so troubled by the rush of events that I hardly know where to start. Then again, anything I might say has been said already. Thus, even though the other topics I have in mind are lightweight by comparison, I will proceed to write a few ephemeral posts.

Then again, blogs are supposed to be ephemeral, aren’t they? So here goes.

Categories: War