22 March 2005

miscellany, etc.

I fear I may be a little too "old school" for the blogosphere. The whole idea is that you're just supposed to spew out random thoughts as they occur to you, but after nearly three decades of relentless spit and polish, spewing doesn't come easily. Nonetheless, a few tidbits:

• Amy Taubin's remarks on Brick in her Film Comment Sundance report (not available online) speak to the heart of what I was getting at in my previous post (with attendant brief argument in the comments). After (mistakenly) rejecting writer/director Rian Johnson's high-school-as-noir-underworld conceit as fundamentally misguided, she allows that...

As a filmmaker, however, Johnson is clearly talented. He demonstrates a great facility with film language, a prodigious knowledge of film history, a knack for purloining the right images, and also an ability to create some ravishing ones of his own. What suggests that he's something of an idiot savant is the total absence of any kind of libidinal or emotional juice beneath the clever surface.

That's an accurate assessment, as far as it goes, and the film's emotionally stunted "idiot savant" quality is precisely what prevents me from embracing it as I'd like to. Ultimately, it's all surface—though the last line of dialogue, suggesting a bottled-up grandeur that's apparent nowhere else, still somehow manages to draw blood. (Cutting instantly to "Sister Ray" doesn't hurt.) But there are two kinds of filmgoers: those who can be thrilled by a dazzling surface, even as they acknowledge the hollowness it masks, and those who I find really fucking annoying.

• Here's a nifty no-limit hold'em strategy that's been paying big dividends for me of late: When you're on a draw, and the turn card provides you with a second draw—however marginal—play it fast. In early position, make a large bet out of nowhere; in late position, raise as a semi-bluff. You're doing this not simply because your odds of winning have slightly increased, but because you're liable to bust your opponent if your backdoor draw comes in on the river.

Example: In late position, I call a moderate raise holding 6s4s. Flop comes As 9s 5c, giving me a small flush draw. The preflop raiser makes a pot-sized bet; I choose to call. (Sometimes I'd raise here—depends on my image at the time, how I'm running, who my opponent is, the usual stuff.) Turn is the 2d, giving me four additional outs to a gutshot straight. He bets, I raise 3x, he calls. River is the 3h. I deliberately wait a couple of shit-what-do-I-do-now beats, then move all-in (for $400 or so). And he calls, because it looks for all the world to him like I raised the turn on a flush draw (which I did), missed (which I did) and am now trying to steal.

Yes, much of the time you'll lose the $50 or whatever that you spent on the turn. But the implied odds for the times you'll hit make it a profitable play in the long run. If you play no-limit the way I do, you aren't trying to win a series of small to medium-sized pots (though that's fine if it happens)—your goal is to hit one or two hands with which you can send someone home, or at least back to his wallet.

• I now live directly above a tiny little restaurant called The Olive Vine. This is a good news/bad news kind of deal. The good news is that the food is delicious (if you're in the neighborhood, I particularly recommend the merguez pizza) and the staff is unfailingly attentive and courteous. The bad news is that the Olive Vine moved to its current location—as I say, right underneath me—because they burned their previous location down the street to a oven-roasted crisp. (See the "update" in the link above.) Tell Needlenose Ned "The Head" Ryerson I'm ready to buy some fire insurance.

• Cats frequently sleep in positions that look as if they can't possibly be comfortable. Or maybe it's just my cats.

• When oh when.

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