Arrival of the Animals at the Clark

Arrival of the Animals

Lin May Saeed

Clark Museum of Art (Lunder Center at Stone Hill)

Williamstown MA

Through October 25, 2020

(Click on images for larger views)


The Clark Museum of Art is open once again for visitors. (Call ahead for tickets unless you are a member. Midweek is a good time to go.)


A small but powerful current exhibit is on display at the Clark’s satellite Lunder Center at Stone Hill, a pleasant hilltop setting with lovely views of the Berkshires. The bucolic surroundings are perfect for Arrival of the Animals from multimedia artist Lin May Saeed. She is a German artist of Jewish and Iraqi descent whose exhibits have mainly been shown in Europe. Her provocative work deserves wider recognition in North America.


Allow me to drop two quotes from the Clark’s website that I think are a bit deceptive out of context. The first concerns the assertion that Saeed’s work is about “animal subjugation, liberation, and cohabitation with humans.” Yes and no. Her horror at subjugation is certainly obvious, but hers is not a mushy liberalism that envisions kind-hearted liberation at the hands of human masters. One of the more poignant images is a drawing of an ungulate staring at an array of goods made from leather hides. When we see animals liberated, it is either by their own efforts–a bull that has trampled a matador or an all-out war against humankind–or through cooperation with other animals.


Saeed even engages in some reverse mythmaking, such as a primate counterpoint to the story of St. Jerome and the lion. We see, for instance, a not-quite-human figure on an iron gate helping a lion, and then a drawing of a simian assisting a donkey.


The website also speaks of Saeed’s use of a “new iconography of interspecies iconography.” Again, this needs more illumination. The most powerful message that comes through is that animals can get along just fine without the guidance or care of homo sapiens. We see a panel titled “Panther Relief” amidst what we realize–even before the panel informs us– is “the remains of a Persian Gulf megacity,” one that also has elements of a “posthuman world” representing several periods of history. Ultimately, this is a double pun. The panther is in repose, but is also relieved to be living in the post-Anthropocene era. We see another relief of two large cats at ease amidst lotuses. The Arabic quotation is directed more at Ms. Saeed’s multiple identities, but irony lies in the title “Lion School,” one distinctly lacking human pupils.


Saeed works in brass, paper, canvas, paper, and Styrofoam. The last is also shot through with meaning. It is material such as Styrofoam that will contribute mightily should humankind perish. It is a worthless petroleum-based junk that is made solely because it is cheaper than eco-friendly alternatives. It does not biodegrade well and fragments of it are everywhere, including in our water sources. One might call it a lightweight monument to human arrogance. It is thus fitting that Saeed repurposes it to make bas relief, and to fashion it into animals such as a cow or pangolin.


Saeed offers both a powerful message and an equally powerful warning. We are eased into the exhibit

with drawings that explore human/animal relations, including Albrecht Dürer’s fame

d woodcut of St. Jerome at work in his study, while the lion whose thorn he removed sleeps at his feet. If only it were this simple. We also see Hercules wresting with a lion in a woodcut from Niccolò Boldrini. It and others remind us that liberation and subjugation are at odds an

d that, thus far, the latter has gotten the upper hand.


Can anything save us? Perhaps creative vision. Let’s focus on just one image from Lines from Life, an exhibit of French drawings on display downstairs in the Clark’s main building through December 13. It is Eugène Delacroix’s study for his 1798 canvas “Battle of Poitiers.” Look at the sketch and then the painting. Marvel of how we get from A to B. The painting is ultimately a war scene involving bloodshed and destruction. I prefer to contemplate the good to which such vision could be put to use.

Rob Weir



Picking Turkeys Might Be the MLB Highlight of 2020

Most Overrated Players in MLB


The baseball “season,” such as it is, is barely underway and might not make it past 20 games, let alone 60. A 60-game season would be the biggest joke imaginable, were it not for the Little League extra inning rule. What next? A mercy rule if a team is trailing by 10 runs or more after six innings? But it’s neither too early nor too late to talk about players who aren’t worth their paychecks. Here’s a look at each team’s two most overrated players, mostly those who we’ve seen enough of to judge. Listed in (mostly) team alphabetical order.


Arizona Diamondbacks: It’s a team that can score runs, but also gives up a ton. It may be premature, but I doubt Madison Bumgarner is the answer. He is damaged goods. Robbie Ray isn’t awful, but his reputation far exceeds his results.


Atlanta Braves: I’m not sure why Jhoulys Chacin has a roster spot as he’s been exceedingly mediocre (77-87 lifetime) on several decent teams. As a battery mate, isn’t it time to declare Travis d’Arnaud a bust?


The Baltimore Orioles are a mess, but even a train wreck has people you’d never miss. Chris Davis hits homeruns, but that’s pretty much all he hits. He’s not worth a quarter of what’s getting paid. David Hess is an offensive threat–for opposing batters. A career ERA of nearly 6 and one over 7 last year pretty much stinks.


The Boston Red Sox are a typical Dave Dumbrowski team—great for a year and then the well is dry. They should have dumped Jackie Bradley Jr. years ago. He can catch up to anything except a fastball. They signed Martin Perez!? Really? Tampa and the Yankees once tried out a guy named Tanyon Sturtze. He was electric in warm ups, but when the game started, he couldn’t miss a bat. Perez could be Sturtze in disguise.


The Buffalo Blue Jays can’t play in Toronto because of COVID, so let’s slam the boring side of Niagara Falls. Tanner Roark has been tabbed as a quality arm since 2013, but he’s been blah for the past three. Randal Grichuk has power, but he’s been a disappointing first round pick. At age 29, if he hasn’t come into his prime he probably won’t.


The Chicago Cubs have handed out some horrible contracts, including the one they gave to Jason Heyward, whose nickname ought to be Mr. Mediocrity. But it looks good compared to what they gave Yu Darvish. Darvish is done. Admit it. Move on.


The Chicago White Sox are a sexy wildcard pick. They have mostly young guys, but we can say that pitcher Ross Detwiler won’t help them very much. They are trying to protect rookie phenom Luis Robert in the outfield, but other than Eloy Jimenez, it’s doubtful anyone is up to the task.


The Cincinnati Reds are another Cinderella pick. I like what they’ve done, but Wade Miley has never impressed me, nor does he cause opposing batters to quake. Despite an uptick last year, infielder Freddy Galvis has simply never panned out.


The Cleveland Indians desperately need a name change. They also need to question whether Roberto Perez is the catching stud they think he is.  Carlos Santana is one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived. The guy in Cleveland with that name is a first baseman on the wrong side of 30. He might still be good, but he’s at the age of overnight decline.


Colorado Rockies: Ahh, the Rockies. Always okay and seldom great. A Daniel Bard comeback would be a nice story. It won’t be. A Matt Kemp comeback would be a nice story. It won’t be. Detect a pattern?


Detroit Tigers: How many teams are thanking their lucky stars they didn’t send a haul to Motown to acquire Matt Boyd? His ERA has never been below 4.53 and that says it all. I love Miggy Cabrera, but he ran out of gas last year and at age 37 there’s no petrol station in sight.

Houston Astros: The most-hated team in baseball is, alas, a very good one that could easily win another World Series. Overrated? Brad Peacock was unhittable in 2017 and ordinary since. I’ll go out on a limb and say that once the Astros’ cheating scheme was revealed and he no longer knows what’s being thrown, Jose Altuve has been good, but not otherworldly.


The Kansas City Royals signed Mike Montgomery last year, a true puzzlement for a guy against whom batters feast. Alex Gordon has been the face of the franchise, but he hasn’t had a great year since 2015 and at age 36, it’s probably time for him to abdicate.


The Los Angeles Angels keep adding bats instead of arms, which is why they’re still also-rans. They got Dylan Bundy from Baltimore and when you get pitchers from the Orioles, that’s the definition of hope over experience. The biggest drain, though is Albert Pujols, who has had a Hall of Fame career. It’s time for him to start the clock on his election.


Do the Los Angeles Dodgers have any weaknesses? They are odds-on favorites to win the World Series, so overrated pickings are slim. I suppose one could say that Kenley Jansen has shaky moments as a closer. I’ve also never been a fan of Joc Pederson, who has power but not plate discipline.


Does anyone give a damn about the Miami Marlins? Probably not, but on a team of no-names, a few guys as well traveled as a Salvation Army sports jacket are ready for the rag mill: outfielder Matt Joyce and 35-year-old infielder Sean Rodriguez, for instance.  


Milwaukee Brewers: I don’t like power-is-all guys who cost a lot of dough to hit .230 and that means Justin Smoak is a stiff. Ryan Braun has had a nice career, but he’s approaching 37 and has been a good-but-not-spectacular player for the past several years. They signed Avisail Garcia. Does this mean Braun’s days are numbered? His $19 mil to Garcia’s $3.5 suggests they are.


The Minnesota Twins always feel a piece or two short and, somehow, 40-year-old Rich Hill doesn’t seem like the $18.6 million answer. Byron Buxton is the Twins’ answer to Boston’s all-glove-no-stick Jackie Bradley.


The New York Mets would be better off not re-signing Yoenis Cespedes. He’s battled injuries, often has a bad attitude, and has been more promise than $29 million worth of deliverance. I’ve been a big Robbie Cano fan in the past. Key word: past. Another 37-year-old making too much to justify diminished output.


My overrated players on the New York Yankees will engender disagreement. I’ll start with Gary Sanchez. He’s young, inexpensive, and would bring back a haul in a trade. Do it, because he’s a terrible catcher, injury-prone, and brawn with a low OBP. Some guys are just not comfortable in New York and James Paxton looks to be one won’t reup anyhow, so wave goodbye. His career stats are deceptive–lights-out one start and out of the game by the third in the next.


Oakland As: Another team that doesn’t spend a lot, but they laid out $16.5 mil for Khris Davis. There must be something about that name, as he’s as big a waste of money as his (semi) namesake in Baltimore. Lots of HRs and nearly four times as many Ks. Joakim Soria in the bullpen? Yeah–ten years ago!


Philadelphia Phillies: If only dumping clueless Gabe Kapler as skipper were the only issue on a team morphing into the NL Seattle Mariners. Bryce Harper is the single most overrated player in baseball. He’s not and never was another Mike Trout. Have fun with another 11 years of a contract bigger than any numbers he'll ever put up. Aaron Nola hurled one fine year four ho-hum ones. He was supposed to an ace.    


Are the Pittsburgh Pirates still playing in the MLB? I hadn’t noticed. Call ‘em the Pennsylvania Marlins. Their highest paid player is Chris Archer and he allegedly has has great stuff, but it has translated into a 60-80 over 9 years, 7 with Tampa so no “bad teams” excuses. A lot of teams would like Greg Polanco. His numbers are decent but not great, so trade him for more hopefuls because hope is all they have in the Steel City. 


San Diego Padres: Can you put a team’s entire organizational staff on this list? Okay, how about these high-priced but pretty-average players? Manny Machado has been hailed as one of MLB’s best, but for $30 million per through 2028, you need to be better than .261/32/85. Lots of people love Wil Myers. So who will step up to buy the very model of unrealized hype, all for the bargain price of $22.5 million?


What has happened to the San Francisco Giants? Why is Pablo Sandoval still in the majors? Oh yeah, Boston is paying his salary! Allegedly Jeff Samardzija is a good pitcher. I’m not sure how 80-104/4.09 stats and 2 just years of more wins than losses justifies that conclusion!


The Seattle Mariners are the D+ student of baseball. Dee Gordon is good, but overpaid and what are the odds of a 29-year-old Japanese rookie, Yusei Kikuchi, who was merely okay in Japan, emerging as a star in MLB? You could say that anyone not named Kyle Seager is overrated.


The St. Louis Cardinals have long been a smart organization that cuts bait when needed. That might start with Andrew Miller, who simply hasn’t been healthy since 2017. Would the Cards trade Dexter Fowler, another guy whose ceiling turned out to be lower than predicted? It wouldn’t shock me.


The Tampa Bay Rays simply don’t spend a lot on players, so it’s hard to pick overrated ones. One candidate though is their highest-paid player, pitcher Charlie Morton. $15 million is a lot for a guy who is 36 and has a 91-88 lifetime record. Kevin Kiermaier is the second highest paid ($8.8 mil) and he’s not a great player, so I suspect he’ll be traded. 


The Texas Rangers need to continue cutting bait with those who don’t live up to their agents’ claims. This starts with Shin-soo Choo, the little train who didn’t. Elvis Andrus is a perfectly fine player, but he was supposed to be an elite shortstop, not middle of the pack.


The Washington Nationals won it all last year, but I don’t see a repeat in the works. It’s a good club with a fabulous pitching staff it’s paying a fortune to maintain. Stephen Strasburg is quite a talent, but he’s only made 30 starts twice in ten years and makes $38 mil/yr. Anibal Sanchez is a maddening pitcher in the James Paxton mold. How does this guy have a 108-109 W/L record? 






Long Bright River a Chilling Read

Long Bright River (2020)

By Liz Moore

Riverhead Books, 496 pages



Liz Moore’s Long Bright River is a dark crime novel/thriller/family saga that immerses us in a seedy world in which opioids, prostitution, police graft, urban despair, and murder collide. Moore intends her title as a riff on the Greek legend of the River Styx, which divides Hades from the living world. In her case, she muses upon a “long bright river of departed souls” and how long it would take those who have died of opioids or are in the process of killing themselves to make the long journey between the two realms. It opens and ends with a litany of the dead and almost-dead, and follows with a great line to draw us into the novel: “The first time I found my sister dead, she was sixteen.” Well… not quite.


The central character, Michaela “Mickey” Fitzpatrick, is both our narrator and a person who straddles the line between heroine and deeply flawed human being. She is 32-years-old and has been a Philadelphia cop since she was 20. Her beat is Kensington Avenue, which is dire enough to be Hades and make you think the Delaware River is a synonym for the River Styx. Mickey grew up nearby, where she and her sister Kacey were raised by their maternal grandmother “Gee” after their mother OD’d and their father disappeared.  Mickey was just a toddler and Kacey still an infant. Gee’s home was one in which necessities were barely covered and affection and encouragement were not viewed as among them. Mickey’s salvation (of sorts) came via Simon, a cop who ran youth programs and convinced her to enter the police force rather than follow in the footsteps of a beloved history teacher. (Reasons are explained in the book.) Kacey’s path was quite different; first teen rebellion, then life on the street as a druggie and hooker along Kensington Avenue.


The phrase “life is cheap” is too mild to describe Kensington Avenue. It is marked by abandoned factories, boarded homes, seedy shops, trash-strewn streets, and flophouses–all of which double as injection sites, assignation points, and temporary housing. And, in Moore’s novel, it’s also where a serial killer has been dispatching hookers to Hades. Mickey and Kacey have had a problematic relationship for years, but Mickey certainly doesn’t want her sister to end up in the morgue. Her heart is in her throat each time a new victim is found, but she’s just a beat officer and the single mom of 4-year-old Thomas. Her desire to investigate could get her fired, as it violates the orders of a direct superior who dislikes her, and transgresses the turf of detectives, which she’s not. Not that any of them seem to give a damn about Kensington Avenue street trash. Will Mickey go off on her own?


In such novels, of course she will! Mickey will confront old and new demons, call upon her old partner Truman for help, be drawn into the paternal O’Brien side of her family–a group that makes Gee seem warm and fuzzy–and open a can of worms in which the lines between law enforcement and lawlessness are blurred. No one is quite who he or she appears in this book, including Mickey, who often struggles with her identity and aspirations. All of this suggests that if life is cheap, honesty is on offer at a steep discount.


Liz Moore’s novel is set in 2002. She researched the book in 2009, and traveled with a photographer to document the area’s social problems. Everything comes off as so grim that I checked in with a friend who worked in Philly until last year; he assured me (if that’s the right phrase) that Kensington is a pretty awful place. A subsequent Google Images search suggests my buddy was engaging in understatement.


Long Bright River is a thrilling read, though not an uplifting one. As a novel, it is marred by some literary problems. Key among them is Mickey, who often seems neither savvy, bright, nor likeable. In a thriller we need a character to open Pandora’s box, but, frankly, Mickey comes off as too immature to be either cop or caregiver. For someone who has been on the force for a dozen years, her emotional IQ and coping skills are those of someone who ought to be writing tickets for parking violations, not pounding a dangerous beat. I am aware that we are supposed to see Mickey’s emotional scars, but it’s hard to get past the idea that this gal needs serious therapy, not life-threatening challenges. I leave it Irish-American Roman Catholic readers to sort out whether Moore’s take on this culture is unique or warmed-over Dennis Lehane, though I suspect the latter.   


I give Long Bright River a qualified thumbs-up. I found its resolution both too pat yet unsettling, which I can’t really explain without delving into spoilers. Still, I zipped through the novel and was both edified and chilled by it. My major takeaway was to cross off Kensington from my list of places to visit the next time I’m in the City of Brotherly–but apparently not Sisterly–Love.


Rob Weir