February 22, 2019

I know I should not take joy in the misfortunes of others. On the other hand,

Is the cosmos jerking my chain? One of Jeffrey Epstein's lawyers was Ken Fcking Starr? The sanctimonious sheet-sniffing yahoo who presented to the Congress a soft-core porn novel in the hopes it would be enough to defenestrate a sitting president, who then went on to a career turning a blind eye to sexual assaults at Baylor University, and who now apparently took up working for [Jeffrey Epstein,] a serial sex-maniac predatory pedophile? Oh, my aching pancreas, this is almost too good. In addition to being one of the least excusable humans of the last half of the 20th century, Starr is now the biggest fish in the barrel of mockery, and nobody deserves to be that more than he does.


February 18, 2019

I may be a little late on this one, but I think this is good

Most amazing thing I've ever seen on a basketball court


Various crazy things about this:
  • Embiid's outlet pass goes nearly the length of the court, with pace.  He threw it underhanded, off the dribble.
  • Curry's bounce pass went over a leaping 6-11 Kevin Durant.
  • When Giannis (also 6-11) reached to top of his leap, the hoop was at his eye-level.

Queens Marie Kondos Amazon

Note to Jeff Bezos: ever hear the phrase "Democracy Dies in Darkness?"

To Review:

1. Amazon dangled a new big headquarters like a contest, weaponizing I imagine its own ambiguity about which area near Bezo's house would be a nice commute.  Cities across America fell all over themselves making proposals, many of which involved taxpayer subsidies. (This ludicrousness, angling for a pot of public money, also involved huge amounts of public salary time.)

2. New York "wins," a nearly foregone conclusion (isn't that Jeff's place over there), after hiding the negotiating process from the local governments and the public and a making a lot of backroom deals specifically to avoid controversy, and indeed, actual democracy.

3. Locals worried, rightly, that shady is shady, that this prosperity will not reach many or most of  them*, and that they will lose their apartments, friends and neighborhoods. Presented with an "inevitable" deal, unions, neighborhoods and local pols resist, despite the prospect of what is likely to be OTHER PEOPLEs considerable prosperity - a prosperity that will only disrupt their lives.
4. Amazon- somehow shocked by the booing?- abandons the HQ idea entirely, to Nowheresville in what is best described as a Press Huff. (Which means to me they were angling for a better deal out of NY all along.)

5. In the same Press Huff Amazon notes, huffily, that they will STILL BE HIRING IN NEW YORK.

6. Result: New York still has lots of jobs, Amazon is in NYC, NYC is still a democracy, and a lot of people whose lives are in Queens will get to stay in Queens.

Conclusion for governments: Surprise. Corporations are legally obligated to serve themselves and their shareholders.  Always assume that and negotiate solely with that clarity. And your public is an ally to major projects, not an enemy, in that it will demand honesty and good results. Start with the "they don't know what's good for them, so let's not tell them" and expect egg on your face. 

Conclusion for Amazon: Do not end run around democracy to meet a short term goal. You got the fear and contempt that you earned by avoiding the ordinary scrutiny of a democratic society, by refusing and attacking unions, by a dishonest lead up. The national scramble was based on giving fake hope to little cities. With a more long term attitude, you'd have an HQ2 and probably some reasonable indirect public subsidy by now. 

Well, Queens Marie-Kondo'ed HQ2. Also noting: according to its own Press Huff about uppity locals not understanding when a secret deal is best for them, Amazon is so apoplectic it's going to refuse to take the $3 Billion in taxpayer money and will continue to hire in NYC.

February 15, 2019

Performance review

For all of my direct reports, please plot your performance on this chart in past, current, and future states, and annotate aspirational opportunities and areas of need.  


February 14, 2019

Turbans: What You Need to Know


February 13, 2019

Why are you all looking at me like that? I'm telling you THE ZULUS HAD IT COMING!

February 12, 2019

Hey kid, box out Wilt

(via beloved Warriors broadcaster Jim Barnett who is 6-4, and at 74 sometimes shoots corner threes before games)

February 09, 2019

Research project: did anyone ever play this song well?

Here are some notes on "Bang a Gong (Get it On)", Marc Bolan's glam-rock anthem, now a global standard.  The great John Peel didn't like it, they barely spoke again.  For the record, Peel was wrong.

Like its spiritual cousin, "We're an American Band" (discussed here) the song is essentially a pose.  But where "We're an American Band" is about raw power, "Bang a Gong (Get it On)" is a menacing tease, starting with a compelling riff lifted from Chuck Berry, elevating to a strong chorus, then retreating back to the original riff without a climactic resolution.

It has been covered many times, and screwed up in every way imaginable.  While the song seems simple, this is deceptive.  You have drums, bass, and vocal, there is nowhere to hide.  It is like tasting wine after eating an apple - every flaw is instantly apparent.  The best performances (e.g., Black Lips' or Rougarou's) are best because they get everything right without adding much extra.  Some bands are tempted to "stretch out" and jam.  This is an error.

You can try to dress up the arrangement and decorate it, but this is usually unfruitful (maybe Power Station is the exception).  But note the special awards section at the end.

Let us begin:

Special Awards

Best solo performance - Danny Barnes and his drum machine (2012):

Best use in a training montage:

Best bluegrass version:

Wish I'd been there award:

This just in:  The Replacements did this song.  There's a bootleg from 1984.  It's low-fi but...wow, they get so many things right.  The bass is played with power and feeling, rhythmic but not robotic.  This is literally the only performance where the guitar varies from the original chart without fucking things up.  It's sung with commitment.  I'm a Replacements partisan on all occasions and am very tempted to call game over herebut that would be going too far.  It's still not the definitive performance - that remains to be discovered, out there, somewhere.  But this is the one I wish I could have heard in person.

Hokusai with the hot hand

From my visit to the Art Institute in December, this poster is something Hokusai dashed off at a social gathering one afternoon.

This whole exhibition was quite interesting.  We tend to focus on the ukiyo-e prints of this era because of their great success in transmitting their creators' experiments and aesthetics far and wide.  It's relatively easy to put together an exhibition of them because there are so many out there.

But Hokusai and his contemporaries could paint, too.  Although this body of work is less-seen it is no less ambitious and innovative.


At 6:00, a visual hymn to the long-range bomber

The wings of the B-36 were large even when compared with present-day aircraft, exceeding, for example, those of the C-5 Galaxy, and enabled the B-36 to carry enough fuel to fly the intended long missions [10,000 mile range] without refueling. The maximum thickness of the wing, measured perpendicular to the chord, was 7.5 feet (2.3 m) thick, containing a crawlspace that allowed access to the engines.[19] The wing area permitted cruising altitudes well above the operating ceiling of any 1940s-era operational piston and jet-turbine fighters. Most versions of the B-36 could cruise at over 40,000 feet (12,000 m).  B-36 mission logs commonly recorded mock attacks against U.S. cities while flying at 49,000 feet (15,000 m).


February 03, 2019

On National Advertising Day, here is one I enjoyed

For the naysayers:

February 02, 2019

Kyle Kuzma participates in the DeMarcus Cousins experience

Cousins caught a pass from Durant, took one giant stride into the key, extended his right arm and threw down a dunk over Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, who went careening backward... So vicious was that third-quarter slam that many took to social media to eulogize Kuzma and his trade value (he had been mentioned this week as a piece in a possible deal with New Orleans). In that instance, Cousins had single-handedly changed the tenor of the game, helping propel Golden State to a 115-101 win over Los Angeles.


February 01, 2019

A million pieces of Tiffany glass

Mosaic ceiling of Marshall Field department store building, Chicago


January 31, 2019

It blinds before it kills

“The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club,” [Dunning] told me in an interview last year. “People miss that.”


January 28, 2019

Apex Heckle

The Heckle we all needed, perfectly done.

Please note: beside the potentially cataclysmic, myopic dumbness that might sink America forever, the clumsy, gutless loss of the Seattle Sonics alone should disqualify Shultz; no one up here has forgotten. 

As I said on FB, "My order is a Venti half-caf vanilla hazelnut cup of the sit the fuck down."

January 26, 2019

#3: the best Spike Jonze music video made by Spike Jonze

It's very tough to pick a single best music video by Spike Jonze. (Before I post #1 on this list, I'll go through some runner-ups with no-Spike-Jonze-limit.) But chose I must, and chose I have.

Spike Jonze first met the Beastie Boys in 1991 doing a photo shoot of the band for his short-lived magazine, Dirt. Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) had been toying with the idea of doing a photo shoot of the band dressed up as plain-clothes cops for a while, and the band eventually approached Spike Jonze to do the project.

The Beasties had so much fun with Jonze, that in 1994 they decided they wanted him to shoot a video along the same theme. MCA (the late Adam Yauch), later told an interviewer,
"We'd done videos where the production people came up with these elaborate budgets, and it started to feel really awkward on the set. So we asked Spike to work with just a couple of people, so we could fit the whole production in one van. Then we just ran around L.A. without any permits and made everything up as we went along."

I (and probably my friends, too) feel a special affinity for this video because of the silent, Super 8 action movies we made as teenagers. The production values and acting are very close. My favorite single portrayal is this guy walking suspiciously with two grocery bags:
(click on gif to play)

This "stunt" here is straight out of The Death of Raymond McMillan:

This caption is a masterstroke:

Jonze and the Beasties went on to write a script for a feature film, We Can Do This, but the project was canceled after development.

The video catapulted Spike Jonze to fame as a director of music videos, commercials, shorts, and feature films. Nine years after his photo shoot for Dirt, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director for Being John Malkovich.

Nice work, Julia

Although [The Merchants Exchange Building] was one of the few buildings to survive the quake and subsequent fires, it was heavily damaged. The City believed a quick repair would help create a sense of hope and security for many San Franciscans, and this was accomplished by [Willis] Polk, with the help of nascent female architect Julia Morgan.


As every schoolchild knows, Julia went on to be the principal architect at Hearst Castle.

The second time as farce: Roger Stone threatens an operative's dog

Mr Stone allegedly told an associate to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli’” (lie under oath) to the House Intelligence Committee and threatened to take away the person’s therapy dog if he did not comply.


January 24, 2019

Let a 1000 Alexandrias Bloom

From "Billionaires in Davos Hate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's 70% Tax on the Rich"

When Dell was asked to explain why he thinks that, he said, “Name a country where that’s worked — ever.”
Co-panelist and MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson jumped in to offer an answer: “the United States.”

January 21, 2019

We regret to inform you...

...that Prince Henri d'Olréans, Count of Paris, has died.

Prince Henri was the head of the House of Orléans, pretender to the throne of France. He is succeeded by his son Prince Jean, Duke of Vendôme.

In 2001, Prince Henri made the surprise move of cancelling Prince Jean's wedding to Duchess Tatjana d'Oldenbourg because the Duchess is a protestant. He this fact would put the succession of their issue in question.

(Regrettable. I don't think any reasonable person could have called the succession into question.)

Tick tick tick

Ten years ago, the Davos conference asked the question: “What must industry do to prevent a broad social backlash?” The answer probably wasn’t “Double, triple, or sextuple the wealth of the most prominent conference attendees, while letting median household incomes stagnate back home.” Yet that’s what happened. Make no mistake: The backlash is coming.


January 20, 2019

Four quotes on civilian bombing around the time of the Second World War

I.  Terror

“People scare better when they’re dying.”  - Frank

The Axis powers discovered early on that aerial bombardment was a powerful instrument of terror, and a useful negotiating tool.  Duch resistance fell off precipitously after the Nazis leveled Rotterdam in 1940.  See also Guernica and Shanghai (both 1937), and London and Conventry in 1940.

Rotterdam, 1940

II.  Retribution

“The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.” - Arthur 'Bomber' Harris

Harris kicked off his campaign with the "Thousand Bomber Raid" on Cologne, and it really got into high gear with the destruction of Hamburg, as show in the newsreel below.  See also Dresden and Pforzheim in 1945...there was not much military justification for these later attacks, nor for the losses of Allied aircrew in conducting them.  But the Allies were motivated by more than a desire to win the war -  revenge had been part of the plan all along. According to this article, already by June 1940 "Churchill was musing about 'a devastating, exterminating attack by very heavy bombers on the Nazi homeland'. In October the War Cabinet decided that 'the civilian population around the target areas must be made to feel the weight of the war’." And so they did, precisely so that newsreels like this could be shown to audiences at home:

III. Destroyer of Worlds

"We call this a trophy map," he said. "It's meant to convey, quite crudely, only the destruction of this city – and the absolute dominance of the Army Air Forces by the end of firebombing campaign. It's a way of capturing the might of American air power that emerged out of this conflict…. a total of 66 Japanese cities were targeted and destroyed during World War II.” - link

Faced with an enemy determined to fight to the last, in 1945 the U.S. sought to end the war by demonstrating the utter futility of resistance.  Burning Tokyo (and 63 other cities and towns) did not achieve this, but it was surely part of the rationale for the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I have no idea why the Japanese surrendered when they did - Russia entering the war may have had something to do with it.  But it is hard to make the case you're going to win - or even inflict serious damage - against an opponent that can destroy cities with impunity:

I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.... Every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you're not a good soldier.” - Curtis LeMay

January 19, 2019

The Economist editorializes, slightly

If you take back the right to set your own rules and standards, it will by definition become harder to do business with countries that use different ones. If you want to trade, you will probably end up following the rules of a more powerful partner—which for Britain means the EU or America—only without a say in setting them. Brexit thus amounts to taking back control in a literal sense, but losing control in a meaningful one. Leavers are right that the EU is an increasingly unappealing place, with its Italian populists, French gilets jaunes, stuttering German economy and doddery, claret-swilling uber-bureaucrats in Brussels. But they could not be more wrong in their judgment that the EU’s ominous direction of travel makes it wise for Britain to abandon its seat there.


#4: the best work of art in 2018 (any medium)

There's not much for me to add about Childish Gambino's This Is America that hasn't been covered in a bajillion think pieces from last year.

I'm going to make a broad generalization here: music videos with political messages usually aren't very good, either at effectively delivering their message, or as art. There simply hasn't been anything like this before last year. (If you disagree, let me know in the comments.)

E.P. Whipple, Essayist

     "The President of the United States has so singular a combination of defects for the office of a constitutional magistrate, that he could have obtained the opportunity to misrule the nation only by a visitation of Providence. Insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered, greedy of popularity as well as arbitrary in disposition, veering in his mind as well as fixed in his will, he unites in his character the seemingly opposite qualities of demagogue and autocrat, and converts the Presidential chair into a stump or a throne, according as the impulse seizes him to cajole or to command. 
Doubtless much of the evil developed in him is due to his misfortune in having been lifted by events to a position which he lacked the elevation and breadth of intelligence adequately to fill. He was cursed with the possession of a power and authority which no man of narrow mind, bitter prejudices, and inordinate self-estimation can exercise without depraving himself as well as injuring the nation. 
Egotistic to the point of mental disease, he resented the direct and manly opposition of statesmen to his opinions and moods as a personal affront, and descended to the last degree of littleness in a political leader, — that of betraying his party, in order to gratify his spite."
From an article published in The Atlantic in 1866, discussing the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

All of its chewy deliciousness can be found here

January 18, 2019

Meanwhile, in Alternate Russia...


"Like a kid on Christmas... maybe one of the best days of my life."

LOS ANGELES -- After missing almost an entire year as he recovered from a torn left Achilles tendon injury, Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins made his season debut on Friday night, scoring 14 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out three assists in a 112-94 win over the LA Clippers.

Cousins, who started and played 15 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter, received support from fans and his teammates throughout the night.


Stalin Hated It. Only an Audience as Discerning and Erudite as Eisengeistorians Will Appreciate This Video.

I proudly present Soviet Polka, 1934.

January 17, 2019

Not Idly

January 16, 2019

The weird moment when you realize...

  • Your team is on pace to score 120 points.
  • Your team is on pace to lose by 40.

It was a bewildering thing to see: here was one of the best teams in the West putting together a 38-point first quarter, scoring 83 through three quarters, and also getting run off the floor and out of the arena and over a cliff and down into the bottom of the ocean.  - Tom Ley, Deadspin


January 15, 2019

Some rough B-17 justice

On the morning of 3 February 1945, Freisler was conducting a Saturday session of the People's Court when United States Army Air Forces bombers attacked Berlin, led by the B-17 of the highly decorated USAAF Lt. Colonel Robert Rosenthal. Government and Nazi Party buildings were hit, including the Reich Chancellery, the Gestapo headquarters, the Party Chancellery and the People's Court. Hearing the air-raid sirens, Freisler hastily adjourned the court and ordered that the prisoners before him be taken to an air-raid shelter, but stayed behind to gather files before leaving. A sudden direct hit on the court-building at 11:08 caused a partial internal collapse, with Freisler being crushed by a masonry column and killed while still in the courtroom...

A foreign correspondent reported, "Apparently nobody regretted his death."


Lt. Colonel Rosenthal's entry in the Jewish-American Hall of Fame is here.

Roughly Three Dollars

Roughly three dollars,
All you need to create Science.

1. A pad of paper.
2. A pencil.
3. Keen observation, exhaustive record taking, and
    An ability to rigorously formulate
    And comparatively test
    Observed patterns to see what is consistently true.

Example: Use a pencil to study the shape of snow.

Roughly three dollars,
All you need to create Art

1. A pad of paper.
2,. A pencil.
3. Keen observation, consistent practice, and
    An ability to rigorously imagine and feed this,
    Through the act of making,
    The full impact on us of what is perceived.

Example: Use a pencil to study the shape of snow.

January 12, 2019

#5: the best Spike Jonze music video not made by Spike Jonze

After making preliminary lists, I had to make the hard decision to not include multiple videos by Spike Jonze. He directed 59 music videos, some among my favorites that I had leave out.

FatBoy Slim tried to engage Jonze to make the video for his 1998 dance hit The Rockafeller Skank. Jonze couldn't make the time commitment as he was working on Being John Malkovich, his first feature film. As a consolation, Jonze filmed himself dancing to Rockafeller Skank playing on a beat box along a Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk.

Doug Aiken, who'd previously directed the video for FatBoy Slim's Goin' Out of My Head, got the call. The result looks like the most ambitious short ever filmed in 16mm; a four-minute, fusion of La Ronde and The Odyssey with a beat you can dance to. When I brought it to the attention of my millennial co-workers, one declared it, "The most 90's thing in existence."

Coming soon: The Five Greatest Music Videos

After years of research, I am ready to reveal the top five greatest music videos of all time. I will start the countdown tonight.

If your favorite didn't make the list, it is because you have the wrong favorite. This will be a list of the greatest of all time, only, chosen by the world's foremost authority on music video quality: me.