May 27, 2017

Naigrin

Here is a nice little documentary on Daniel Nagrin, one of the greatest dancers of the 20th century.  I greatly admired Nagrin's book How to Dance Forever, and found it really helpful as I tried to learn some steps in my 40s.

Nagrin was the expert on this.  He was born in 1917, bringing down the house on Broadway in the 50s, dancing modern art pieces like Strange Hero in the 60s, and still doing really hard stuff in the the 1970s.  He seemed to figure out before everyone else that the main thing holding back achievement in middle age was acknowledgement of the limitations of middle age.  He simply proceeded as if he could dance into his 60s, then did so.

I was sitting in a tea shop in Chinatown about 10 years ago, and hit a particularly good passage in Nagrin's book, which I read to my wife while we were sitting there talking.  I happened to look up and saw a well known comic actor eavesdropping with amusement.  So he and I will always have that moment:  him amused at my earnest discipleship, me amused that a guy whose magnum opus was Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo would look down on Nagrin, who put sincere effort into his performances.

In the documentary below Bill T. Jones says Nagrin was "for me, the epitome of artist as warrior.  The battle is against sloth, insincerity, and indecision.  He believes that the artist must win this battle, through daily effort."  Nagrin himself said he watched a film of one of his performances late in his career and caught himself thinking "he's not pretending."  That's about as good an artistic credo as you could ask for, I think.




I don't know enough to say if that particular ethos played a role in his longevity.  He certainly seemed to think so, saying "it's important not to die young.  You've got to last."

I wrote Nagrin a brief fan letter a few years before he passed away, and he sent back a nice thank you.

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May 26, 2017

Great app

There's this editor called EMACS that you can get on a Mac...

(link)

May 25, 2017

Surprised to see me here...?

This is what it's all about.  I know we had to go through the formality of the regular season, we have to go through the playoffs...  But at the end of the day didn't we all know, and don't we all want to see...The Trilogy...?!   Well, let's settle it.  Everyone's healthy, they have a week to prepare, you've added maybe the second best player in the world in Kevin Durant...LET'S GO!  
- Reggie Miller














Because fuck the wild horses

Rats with hooves, I call 'em.

(link)

May 24, 2017

Farewell Mr. Moore




May 23, 2017

Get me some of that Stargoon

"The neural network has really, really bad ideas for paint names."

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May 22, 2017

Objection withdrawn


Speaking of avoidable risky situations...

Botha was leading a group of hunters western Zimbabwe on Friday afternoon when they stumbled upon a breeding herd of elephants in Hwange National Park, the Telegraph reported.

Startled, three elephant cows charged the group. Botha opened fire, according to News24, but a fourth elephant rammed him from the side, lifting him with her trunk. One of his fellow hunters then fired a shot. The elephant collapsed on top of Botha, killing him, News24 reported...

Botha's death comes just weeks after one of his friends was killed by crocodiles during a hunting expedition in Zimbabwe. Scott Van Zyl, 44, was with a local tracker and a pack of hunting dogs when he disappeared in mid-April. A week later, his remains were found in the carcass of a crocodile shot and killed by local authorities, the BBC reported.

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Well...

May 21, 2017

Better days in LA

In 2008, over 1,600 people were hit by a bullet in Los Angeles, but the number fell by around 500 last year, Beck said. The city also experienced 384 homicides in 2008, but the number was 290 last year.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Beck said. “The proof is that we have a less violent society in Los Angeles because of gun buybacks, because of smart legislation, because of good cops and because of the strong will of the people to recognize that guns are what turns a minor dispute between young people on the street from a shouting match to a funeral.”

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42 or 357?

What with all the Russian spies and other menacing characters around my neighborhood, I have thought in light of my advancing age that I ought to get a piece for my drawer.  You know, for punks.

Apart from the usual objections of "morality" I also have struggled with the national problem of overabundance: there are so many options, it is genuinely difficult to make a rational choice.  But I am making some progress.  I am not a sportsman or drug dealer, so long guns and Wonder Nines are out.  It needs to be something small, ideally concealable, but able to, you know, perforate baddies.

I had been considering the Walther PPK.  The merits of this fine firearm need hardly be rehearsed here, and how many personal defense weapons have such an impressive pop culture pedigree?



More prosaically, the slide burn issue has been addressed (after eighty years) with an extended tang.  It's a very good gun, as the estimable Hickock45 attests.

But the PPK has its problems.  It is hard work to shoot: the slide is stiff, and it kicks hard.  With some practice you can get proficient with it, but it's hard to imagine, in a sudden household firefight, tossing it to my wife and having her wield it effectively.  And in reality, most other compact guns have the same problem: the ones with stopping power are hard to shoot, and the ones that are easy to shoot may be too mild to achieve the desired results.

And there the matter stood with me, until the Glock 42 swam into my ken.  Glock took a lot of heat for the 42 because they decided to chamber it for .380 ACP instead of 9 mm.  This makes the gun more expensive to operate because 9mm ammunition is cheap and abundant:  it can be found on deserted beaches and school playgrounds all over America.  The .380 ACP, by contrast, must be bought in a store, with money, instead of stripping it from the bodies of the men who were so foolish as to betray you.

The PPK, which also uses .380 ACP is certainly the prettier of the two:
But the Glock has one huge advantage over the PPK and other "concealed carry" weapons:
[A]fter getting the hang of one of those little 9mm’s, switching over to the Glock 42 feels like cheating. With almost no effort at all, the front sight simply snaps back onto target after each shot. If all centerfire handgun calibers were equally effective for self-defense, the favorable combination of small size and light recoil found in the Glock 42 would instantly render obsolete dozens of other carry guns that are either more difficult to shoot or more difficult to carry.  (link)
So...have a couple of these babies around the house, toss them to the wife and kids when trouble starts, and the bad guys are going to learn what "downrange" really means.

But, the nagging thought pursues me...as appealing as it is to shoot people, what's the point if the ammo isn't up the the job.  We've all heard these "I emptied my Beretta Bobcat into a perp and he didn't even drop his milkshake" stories.  When we shoot someone, we want them to know they've been shot, and fall down without unwanted additional activity.

I am of two minds about this.  One part of me notes that this particular round has a long history of killing people, including (according to Wikipedia) the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophia.  That must count for something.  And when friends tell me the round has poor stopping power, I notice none of them accept my offer to be shot with the harmless ineffective little pea shooter.

On the other hand, this is not a game, and as a rawboned Alaskan used to negotiating safe passage with brown bears and wolverines, I know just how important it is that the things we shoot, stay shot.

As I think about it, most gunfights are over very, very quickly.  Whomever puts a round into their target first probably wins - if the round is up to the job.  So, reframing the question, is there a reliable and easy-to-operate small weapon that can put serious ammo to work instead of these .380 Lucky Charms or whatever you call them.  Well, I can think of 38 reasons to consider a J-Frame...



"Remarkably accurate and easy to shoot for a gun this small," Hickock says.

But only five shots.  Well, would you rather have five 38s or six 380s?  It's a difficult question.  My current thought is that the greater power of the .38 round in the J-Frame is not enough to offset the shooting ergonomics of the Glock 42.

But...you know...some of those J-Frames can handle a .357 Magnum load.  Oh yes.  Yes they can.

Tactical Tim says "you can have five rounds of .357 Magnum on your person for just a touch over one pound."  Therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome not included:



So are you going to go with the one that loves you, or are you going with the one you love?  I really admire the understated murder efficiency of the Glock 42, but as a middle aged man I'm not sure I want more potency issues to worry about.  The M&P 340 resolves those questions with total finality, but at what cost?

At what cost?

May 19, 2017

Also: founding member of the ACLU



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Last show 5/28, info here

May 18, 2017

Stay tuned for our big post on the best pate foie gras to eat while playing the Volga gambit

Last 30 days

An interesting crop of obituaries

Using this space for excerpts and linked to Roger Ailes obituaries:


Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we're that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans' worst fantasies about each other.

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Bill O'Reilly, USA Today

When stuff hit the fan, as it will when you are doing daily political commentary in a polarized nation, Roger had my back. Even in the beginning when my ratings were not dominant. He defended me in public even while sometimes mocking me in private. He was genuine, charismatic, profane, generous and sincere in his beliefs. He could be brutal verbally but if you were straight with him, he would protect you.

Over the years, I saw Roger literally save people from destruction. And more than a few. He didn't have to do it, there was no benefit to him. In the callous world of TV news, that kind of generosity is rare. If a Fox person had trouble, Roger was the guy to go to. But you had to be honest...

It's easy to make judgments from afar — but fair people know that seeking the truth is a complicated and demanding process. In my opinion, few sought the comprehensive truth about Roger Ailes.

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Michael Carlson, The Guardian
While working successfully for big tobacco to stop Bill Clinton’s healthcare reform, Ailes also began producing a syndicated TV show for the radio “shock-jock” Rush Limbaugh, which became a massive hit. He took over the failing CNBC business channel, tripled its profits and made stars of the combative host Chris Matthews and stunning business reporter Maria Bartiromo, setting a formula he followed at Fox: men apparently chosen for bombast and women for looks. But when a second channel he started for NBC, called America Talks, was taken from him and turned into MSNBC, Ailes left the network in 1996 and teamed up with Rupert Murdoch to launch Fox News.

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Clyde Haberman, New York Times

As [Fox News'] chairman and chief executive, Mr. Ailes was widely feared, particularly by conservative politicians who sought his favor. He cultivated a swaggering persona, accentuated by bursts of obscenity-laced anger. Once, he became so enraged that he punched a hole in the wall of a control room.

“I don’t ignore anything,” he acknowledged in a 2003 profile in The New Yorker. “Somebody gets in my face, I get in their face.”


Years earlier, Lee Atwater, whose remorseless approach to politics matched that of Mr. Ailes when they worked together on George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign, described his colleague as having “two speeds: attack and destroy.”

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Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times

[Former CNN president Rick] Kaplan said Ailes was also a brilliant TV producer who was keenly aware that even with talking heads, he was working in a visual medium. Fox News always had state-of-the-art graphics and animation. His penchant for putting attractive women on the air, with legs displayed on the set, was well known.

“Roger has a very visually pleasing network in terms of look and color and form,” Kaplan said. “Roger cared about what it looked like.”

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The Onion

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TOF Comment
Say what you want about the whole sex predator / wrecking American political discourse thing, I thought this book by Ailes, first published in the late 80s, was excellent.  Following its advice helped my career.  Goes in the same bin as the Cosby albums now, but still.

May 17, 2017

Let's rock

And then there were four:
  • Warriors
  • Spurs 
  • Cavs
  • Celtics
The last three teams to win an NBA championship, and the franchise with the most championships in NBA history.  The Celtics of course have no right to be here, except they beat everyone else, so whatta you gonna dooboutit?

The greatest Celtic of 2017 is named Isaiah Thomas

This could be a pretty interesting wrap-up to the season.  Highlights include:
  • Pictured above, coming out of Tacoma, Washington, the 60th and final pick of the 2011 draft, you've got five feet nine inches of "who's stopping me?"
  • You've got LeBron, who has won three championships, and Gregg Popovich who has won five, and Steve Kerr who has won five, and Kevin Durant who has won zero, and Steph Curry who lets you get comfortable with a 25 point lead then drops 40 points on you on 26 shots.  
  • The Warriors were a little soft last year so they signed David West, JaVale McGee, and Zaza Pachulia, who collectively weigh 795 pounds, have 15 fouls and zero fucks to give per game, and this is the last chance for any of them to get a ring.  So...probably fewer 'Warriors are getting bullied' stories this year.
  • LeBron has been in the last six Finals, won three and lost three.  This next one, if he gets there, probably decides his legacy.
  • The Cavaliers have won eight straight playoff games against no losses, which is weak because the the Warriors have won ten.
There are no: suckers, chumps, pretenders, pushovers, wannabes, posers...ok, there are posers.  But there are no easy outs left, just good teams with good players and coaches.  And no guarantees for anyone.  Your max contract gets you nothing here.  We're just going to play some ball now, and see who's best.

The Warriors might win, probably will win.  If they do, who's going to say it was easy?  Who's going to say there was no competition?  If they don't...well, try harder next time fellas, it's a hard game.

It's war, the most beautiful, wonderful war anyone could ask for.


[5/19 UPDATE:  It is, so far, a massacre.  Cavaliers are now 10-0 this postseason following a 44 point wipeout of the Celtics tonight.  The Warriors are also now 10-0.  Both teams lead their series 2-0...]  

May 14, 2017

I might start to care now

Durant and Curry scored 74 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, the most they’ve ever combined for as teammates. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are on the same team. It still feels really weird to write that. But if you want to know why the Warriors got Durant, this game is the answer. San Antonio led by as many as 25. But Durant and Curry are the Warriors’ kill switch. There is no such thing as being out of it if you have them together. You cannot step on Golden State’s neck. If one of them is off, the other is there to make up for it. If both are on? Take cover...


Leonard, who was reportedly getting an MRI on his ankle Sunday night, is obviously essential to whether the Spurs can make a series out of this. But even if can play, he can only guard one of them.

(link)

May 11, 2017

Mindful little chocolate pretzels

You know mindfulness has jumped the shark when the garbage bag-sized bag of (Non-GMO, Fair Trade) chocolate covered pretzels your wife bought at Costco advertises itself as: "a mindful and sophisticated way to snack."  Well, la-dee-da, call me the Dalai Lama and get me a tuxedo, I'm going in.


I'm also gonna need a shot of insulin and a wash rag later.  kthxbye

Also: Little Chocolate Donuts

May 07, 2017

Feeling better, thank you

Hats off to Ron Kroichick of the Chronicle, who has blown the lid off the Shaun Livingston story:
The Warriors knew Livingston didn’t fit the ideal profile of a modern NBA player, given his shot selection [won't take threes - TOF], but they also discovered the Brooklyn Nets were much better in 2013-14 when Livingston started (35-19) than when he didn’t (9-19).
It didn’t take long for Gelfand and his front-office colleagues to realize Livingston’s efficiency mostly offset his aversion to three-pointers. For one thing, defensive players rarely affect Livingston’s shot; Gelfand jokes that a “hand in his face” actually means a hand at Livingston’s chin, given his height, leap and high release.

Game 1 vs Utah: 20 minutes, 5 shots, 9 points


(link)

They were all alive until they met you, Raul

"Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care," the Republican congressman from Idaho said in response to a statement by a woman that the "lack of health care was essentially asking people to die," according to local CBS station KLEW.

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May 06, 2017

Doesn't seem right - has Putin approved this?

Over several hours of slide shows and presentations, representatives from the [family of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner] urged Chinese citizens gathered at a Ritz-Carlton hotel to consider investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a New Jersey luxury apartment complex that would help them secure what’s known as an investor visa.

The potential investors were advised to invest sooner rather than later in case visa rules change under the Trump administration. “Invest early, and you will invest under the old rules,” one speaker said.

The tagline on a brochure for the event: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”

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Eisengeiste FACTCheck™ - Ball of Confusion

In this modern age of "fake news" it seems no one can be trusted, even pop culture icons.  In today's post we are going to interrogate a modern cultural work using our proprietary Eisengeiste FACTCheck™ process, an up-to-the minute tool informed by big data, algorithms, and state of the art knowledge bases such as Wikipedia and The Daily Mail.

The object of today's interrogation is a work by an "African-American" musical group known as "The Temptations" (double entendre intended, surely), who in 1971 expressed discontent with their song "Ball of Confusion".

Disloyal?

Well, Mr. Temptation (if that is your real name) stand by for an objective assessment of your claims. Get ready, because here we come!  Readers can listen to the song for themselves here.

(The song begins)

People moving out, people moving in. Why? Because of the color of their skin.
  • FACTCheck:  Although causes of the 'white flight' from urban areas in the 1960s and 1970s are debated by historians and sociologists, it does appear that, in fact, people were moving out and moving in because of the color of their skin.  This phenomenon may have even persisted into modern times.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

Run, run, run but you sure can't hide. 
  • FACTCheck:  Presumably intended figuratively, as anyone can hide at almost any time.  But, to the degree that this describes the futility of trying to not be noticed in a society with heightened attention to race and ethnicity, it does seem accurate to say you sure can't hide.  
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Vote for me and I'll set you free. Rap on, brother, rap on.
  • FACTCheck:  In point of fact, many politicians have promised to seek greater attention to civil liberties when courting the black vote in America, but African Americans remain marginalized.  Americans' general assessment of politicians is highly negative.  The ironic twist to the lyric is therefore justifiable.  
    • FACTCheck Assessment: TRUE

Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the...(preacher.)
  • FACTCheck: See The Economist's pre-election article on Obama's final State of the Union address, which states that "America is in no mood for healing." 
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

And it seems nobody's interested in learning but the...(teacher.)
  • FACTCheck:  In recent weeks scientists around the United States have protested the anti-science view of many leading politicians.  The very existence of such protests, however, suggests that the claim that "nobody's interested in learning" is at least dubious.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  ARGUABLE 


Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation.
  • FACTCheck: This appears to be a rhetorical exhortation.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  RHETORICAL

Ball of confusion. Oh yeah, that's what the world is today. Woo, hey, hey.
  • FACTCheck: The claim that the world is a "Ball of Confusion" is a complex one, and a final determination will depend on a weighing of all available evidence.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  UNCLEAR

The sale of pills are at an all time high.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, the pharmaceutical revenues are at an all-time high [see chart].
    •  FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

Young folks walking round with their heads in the sky.
  • FACTCheck: True, although drug use is not confined to the young.  Nor are the alarming effects of substance abuse limited to pills:  in 2015 a  German homeopathy conference descended into chaos as adults aged 24-56 consumed hallucinogens with ill effects, including “staggering around, rolling in a meadow, talking gibberish and suffering severe cramps.”  
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE, but incomplete

The cities ablaze in the summer time.
  • FACTCheck: Yup.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE then, TRUE now
Watts, 1965
Residents view incendiary munitions in Aleppo, 2016 (source)

And oh, the beat goes on.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, the beat does appear to go on.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

Evolution, revolution, gun control, sound of soul.
Shooting rockets to the moon...
  • FACTCheck: In points of fact rockets were shot to the moon in the late 1960s and 1970s, although this has not been the case in recent years.  
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE, but incomplete

...kids growing up too soon.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, children reach adolescence sooner than they used to [see chart.]  
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE


Politicians say more taxes will solve everything.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, the Republican Party controlled the White House when the song was written, and all three branches of government in the modern era.  The GOP Platform of 2016 emphasized reform of the tax system, and explicitly expressed skepticism about the efficacy of higher tax rates.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  NOT TRUE

And the band played on.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, the band does appear to play on.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

So, round and around and around we go.
Where the world's headed, nobody knows.
  • FACTCheck: Robert Litterman, former head of risk for Goldman Sachs, notes that one of the most concerning aspects of climate change is not the certainty of a bad outcome, which is disputable, but the increase uncertainty about future outcomes as carbon concentrations rise.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

[Instrumental]

Oh, great googalooga, can't you hear me talking to you.
Just a ball of confusion.
Oh yeah, that's what the world is today.
Woo, hey, hey.
  • FACTCheck: This appears to be a primarily rhetorical exhortation.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  RHETORICAL

Fear in the air, tension everywhere.
  • FACTCheck:  One paradox of the modern situation is that some indicators, such as consumer confidence or the options market-derived CBOE Volatility ('Vix') index suggest an elevated level of confidence in the future.  Other sources, however, suggest notable anxiety, such as Gallup's finding that 45% of Americans worry "a great deal" about global warming.  The American Psychological Association warns that "two-thirds of Americans say they are stressed about the future of our nation, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans."
    • FACTCheck Assessment: UNCLEAR

Unemployment rising fast...
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, unemployment has fallen steadily since 2010.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  NOT TRUE

...the Beatles new record's a gas...

...and the only safe place to live is on an Indian reservation.
  • FACTCheck: Indian reservations are not safe, either.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  NOT TRUE

And the band played on.

Eve of destruction, tax deduction, city inspectors, bill collectors,
Mod clothes in demand, population out of hand, suicide, too many bills,
Hippies moving to the hills. People all over the world are shouting, 'End the war.'
  • FACTCheck: That about covers it.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

And the band played on.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, the band does appear to play on.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  STILL TRUE

Great googalooga, can't you hear me talking to you.
Sayin'... ball of confusion.
That's what the world is today, hey, hey.
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya.
Sayin'... ball of confusion.
That's what the world is today, hey, hey.
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya.
Sayin'... ball of confusion.
  • FACTCheck: This appears to be a primarily rhetorical conclusion to the song.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  RHETORICAL


FACTCheck™ Assessment

In our review of "The Temptations" song "Ball of Confusion" we noted 24 claims that we viewed as potentially assessable, and evaluated each one on its factual merits.  Five of these were ultimately judged to be either UNCLEAR or largely RHETORICAL, making it impossible to make a final determination as to factual content.

The remaining claims were assessed as follows:



We conclude that "The Temptations" have a point.  It is objectively true that the world was and is at least 79% a "ball of confusion."  In addition, in our judgment the song has a sweet, sweet opening hook.

The question of what to do is a matter for further research.

May 05, 2017

Thank you

As Chase Stuart wrote at Football Perspective, Cutler is the definition of an average quarterback, averaging 0.03 adjusted net yards per attempt more than the league average for his career. For this, the Bears paid him $97 million...  

That Cutler was able to be an average passer for so long is something few humans on earth can claim; the ones that can are all megamillionaires... 

As Jay Cutler leaves the NFL behind as an unloved Chicago nonlegend, I ask Bears fans this: Are you ready for Mike Glennon and Mitchell Trubisky?

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In our time - the Battle of Lincoln

William Marshal's great encore performance, amongst other significances.  "Louis went home, leaving England's Anglo-French rulers more Anglo and less French than he had planned."

(link)

May 04, 2017

This is tranya. I hope you relish it as much as I.

One of the funds is designed to deliver 400 percent of the daily performance of S&P 500 .SPX stock index futures, while another fund will aim to deliver four times the inverse of that benchmark. That means a fund could go up 8 percent on a day the index it tracks falls by 2 percent.

(link)

May 03, 2017

Helpful tip to coaches around the Association

It was kind of clever last year, running 7-footers at Curry to get him to alter his shot, mix it up.  But my advice now is:  just stop.  As discussed, this is what he did to Gortat a few weeks ago:



"But," I hear you say, "that wouldn't happen to an athlete like Rudy Gobert, The Stifle Tower, a true athlete and candidate for Defensive Player of the Year."

Um, yeah.  Behold:



Tell your big man:  if Curry's backing up near the three point line, just let him go.  Unless you want to be in his Hall of Fame video.

May 01, 2017

Ryan Leaf's letter to Ryan Leaf

File under: Holy Crap

(link)

April 29, 2017

Gonna miss these guys

I fly almost every week, Virgin whenever I can.  I truly appreciate the complete absence of long-winded achtung monologues from the cabin crew.  Instead they have nice boarding music, and for safety instructions this video:



Ok, it's not Abbey Road, but as airline safety instructions go, it's top of class, and raises the possibility that the people working for the airline are actually enjoying themselves (for completists, here is a behind-the-scenes documentary).

Hopefully Alaska will keep at least some of this as they exterminate the Virgin brand, and continue to operate a beating-free, bunny-safe airline, unlike some other operations I could name.  And, who knows, why not offer customers a little humor, pleasantness, and dignity.  Lord knows the industry has tried everything else.

The Fourth Master

Greek theatre (I only ever ready about it in British books, for some reason) seems always to be about the tragedians:  Aeschylus, stern, formal, noble; Sophocles, wise, clear-eyed, yet soulful; and Euripides, the controversial upstart, the realist, the man who, upon examining prior Greek tragedy found it somehow too trite and full of easy answers.

Aristophanes, the clown, is generally glossed over or gets a few lines at the end of the syllabus, although he does get five pages in Richard Jenkyns' very good Classical Literature:  A Pelican Introduction.  But, having re-read Frogs this week again for the first time since college, I am convinced Aristophanes is the one who would be right at home in modern society.  The Jon Stewart of ancient Athens, his comedies were packed with political messages and fart jokes, denunciations of demagogues and fart jokes, deep philosophizing, and also fart jokes.  And, although his work was technically the Old Comedy, even Wodehouse (a New Comedy man) might admire his plotting.

Translation is a serious problem with Aristophanes.  Some of the jokes are so sexual or scatalogical that older translations gloss over them, giving us a text that is less literal AND less funny.  Here is an example:  in Frogs Dionysus dresses up as Heracles and heads for the underworld to retrieve a proper tragedian for Athens, as both Euripides and Sophocles had died the year before.  Dionysus can barely carry Heracles' club, and despite a bit of coaching from coaching quickly proves he not ready to wear the big man's sandals.  It plays like this in Paul Roche's enjoyable 2005 translation:
AEACUS: [peering from the threshold] So it’s you, 
you insolent piece of shit! Yes, shit, shittiest shit! 
You beat up our dog, Cerberus, 
and after nearly throttling him dragged him away with you. 
That hound was in my care. 
Now you’re well and truly in the soup. 
The black-hearted rock of Styx confronts you. 
The bleeding peaks of Acheron beetle above you.
The greyhounds of Cocytus and the dreaded Echidna § 
are ready to rip up your insides, 
and the giant eel of Tartesia will squeeze out your lungs. 
Besides, the Theirasian Gorgons will chew your bleeding 
balls and your 
guts as well. 
I’m off split arse to bring them here 
and give you hell.

Roche continues...
[AEACUS hurries away as DIONYSUS faints.]XANTHIAS (his servant): My, my, what d’you think you’re doing?
DIONYSUS: My butt runneth over. Let us pray.
XANTHIAS: Get to your feet, you damn fool, before anyone sees you.
DIONYSUS: But I feel faint. Do get me a sponge for my . . . my heart.  
XANTHIAS: [leaves and returns with a sponge]
Here, use it.
[He watches DIONYSUS wiping his bottom.]
Golden gods of Olympus! Is that where you keep your heart?  
DIONYSUS: Can’t help it— it got a fright and skedaddled down to my behind.
XANTHIAS: You’re the most abject coward, human or divine.
DIONYSUS: Me, a coward, just because I asked for a sponge? I’m the bravest man alive, bar none.
XANTHIAS: What would someone else have done?
DIONYSUS: A coward would have lain sprawled in his stinking mess, but I not only raised myself but sponged myself clean.

Here, via Project Gutenberg, is the same exchange as translated by  Benjamin Bickley Rogers (1828-1919):
  XAN. Hallo! what now?
  DIO. I've done it: call the god.
  XAN. Get up, you laughing-stock; get up directly, Before you're seen.
  DIO. What, _I_ get up? I'm fainting. Please dab a sponge of water on my
  heart.
  XAN. Here!
  DIO. Dab it, you.
  XAN. Where? O, ye golden gods, Lies your heart THERE?
  DIO. It got so terrified
  It fluttered down into my stomach's pit.
  XAN. Cowardliest of gods and men!
  DIO. The cowardliest? I? What I, who asked you for a sponge, a thing
  A coward never would have done!
  XAN. What then?
  DIO. A coward would have lain there wallowing;
  But I stood up, and wiped myself withal.

Roche's translation has been reviewed critically by various pedants, but it has this going for it:  as well as being reasonably accurate, it is pretty funny.  And Roche, who did this translation in his late eighties, was clearly out of fucks to give. This is exactly the right attitude.

Here is a performance of the play (with good subtitles) from Cambridge in 2013:



Other highlights, keyed to the above performance:
  • The Frog Chorus, which was the first bit of classical literature that ever made me laugh (starts around 13:00).
  • The Debate of the Tragedians (starts around 37:00), in which Aeschylus ultimately defeats Euripides by pointing out that all of his best verses can be completed with the phrase "a cruet of oil" (e.g., 44:07).
  • The Dilemma of Dionysus (48:37), which Roche translates as: "they’re friends of mine, these men, and I certainly don’t want to decide between them or make an enemy of either. One amuses me. The other is a master."  
That last one is worthy of Wilde, and perfectly in-character for Dionysus.  But it's also a serious moment for an audience sitting in a ruined country, reflecting on where it all went wrong.  The failure to make peace on favorable terms?  The catastrophic expedition to Sicily?  Aristophanes makes the audience face it:  the giants are gone, and the greatest ones have been gone the longest.  And yet, even at this late stage of corruption they remain more focused on amusement than mastery.

As the Laird said the other day, thank goodness that's all behind us.
  • For your further listening pleasure:  Mr. Bragg et al on Greek comedy (link)

April 28, 2017

Guest blogger #2 recommends

April 26, 2017

The hell with ya

Oh here we go, ESPN laying off another 8,000 people I've never heard of.  Oh the drama, the agony...wait a minute...YOU LAID OFF ETHAN STRAUSS?!


Here is a good article by Ethan Strauss.

April 25, 2017

Aristophanes checks in

The Big A gets after Cleon in The Knights:
  • A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue.
  • Mix and knead together all the state business as you do for your sausages. To win the people, always cook them some savoury that pleases them. Besides, you possess all the attributes of a demagogue; a screeching, horrible voice, a perverse, crossgrained nature and the language of the market-place. In you all is united which is needful for governing.
  • You [demagogues] are like the fishers for eels; in still waters they catch nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their fishing is good; in the same way it's only in troublous times that you line your pockets.
(link)

Oh wait...we can just ignore him


(link)

April 24, 2017

Detour

Ebert:  This movie from Hollywood's poverty row, shot in six days, filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative, starring a man who can only pout and a woman who can only sneer, should have faded from sight soon after it was released in 1945. And yet it lives on, haunting and creepy, an embodiment of the guilty soul of film noir. No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it.

Thomson:  Edgar G. Ulmer was Viennese. He had designed for Max Reinhardt and F. W. Murnau, and he came to America in 1930. He began directing in 1934 and worked for thirty years, usually on B pictures. He seems always to have been hanging on by his fingernails, yet he was plainly very smart and highly talented. Half a dozen of his pictures (Ruthless, The Naked Dawn, for instance) are still classics of the underground that existed before “independent” film came along. He was interviewed, and he talked like a pirate king. Yet how did he survive? And how is a film like Detour endurable? I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. The film is a portrait of hell, and brilliantly done. It was made for Producers Releasing Corporation, with Leon Fromkess as producer. The credits on the picture say that Martin Goldsmith wrote it from his own novel. Benjamin H. Kline did the photography. The film runs 67 minutes.




David Thomson, "Have You Seen . . . ?"

(link)

April 23, 2017

Two Centers

Jusuf Nurkic of the Trailblazers played game 3 on a broken leg.  Here is what he had to say about that (in his rich Eastern European accent):

  • "I think nobody was expecting I play tonight.  But I try. I had to try."
  • "We know I'm not the same guy I'm supposed to be on defensive end and offensive end. But we decide to try. The start was pretty OK, but (the) pain level was high. I try to fight through, but sometimes just couldn't."
  • "That's a normal thing. I play with broke leg. So (there) should be pain."
  • "It's OK," Nurkic said, when asked how his leg felt afterward. "It's a broke leg. I can't heal in one day. I gave it my best (in) this time. I wish I was healthy. But, unfortunately, I'm not."
[ UPDATE - Nurkic's nickname is:  The Bosnian Beast ]

(link)


Nenê (birth name: Maybyner Rodney Hilário) decimated OKC tonight, with 12-12 shooting in 24 minutes.

He was big.  He was strong.  He was mighty.  He was brutally effective.  He breathed fire. 
OK, maybe not the last one.  But the Rockets backup center and designated hit man was a sizzling 12-for-12 shooting, which tied the NBA playoff record for most field goals without a miss and practically burned down the house at Chesapeake Energy Arena. 
“It was kind of a man’s game and he’s a man,” said coach Mike D’Antoni.  “He was unbelievable in all facets.  That’s Nene.  It doesn’t surprise me...”
He tossed aside any and everybody in an OKC uniform that crossed his path, knocking them over in their orange uniforms like they were traffic cones and he was a tank.  He took interior feeds from James Harden for dunks.  He followed up missed jumpers by his teammates for dunks.  He went into the brutal rugby style scrums in the paint and ripped away rebounds for more dunks. 
Nene did everything in the 113-109 win that gave the Rockets a 3-1 lead in the series except drag the Thunder back to his cave and beat them over the head with a club. 
(link)

The terrifying shortage no one is talking about

[W]e need to seek out new, sustainable poisons so we aren't reliant on foreign poisons. This is the only way we can guarantee our country's poison security, which is something we need to start thinking about. Unless mankind's course changes, we are headed for brutal wars over our poison supply. It may not be like the movies -- people wearing tire armor in a verdant, poison-free, flower-filled hellscape -- but it is coming.

(link)

April 22, 2017

The Economist: Why Aren't Millenials Buying Diamonds?

A cogent, comprehensive explanation.