December 31, 2015

Shaddup, or next time we'll play the MVP... 30-2

Great interview of Seinfeld

Obama gets some really good answers out of him.


That is a small one, after all

Just off Old Kent Road, on a small plot of land, lies an old Soviet tank. Rumour has it that it appeared after Southwark Council refused the landowner planning permission to build a house, instead accepting his application to erect a small tank, believing that it was a nondescript storage container. Today it is a popular attraction for graffiti artists and regularly sports a new facia. It symbolises two great wars, one between communism and capitalism, the other between a man and a local council planning department.


December 30, 2015

Work of art

Brad DeLong: schlonged by reality

Well, THAT sucked

December 29, 2015

Belated holiday message

Texas journalist James M. Russell has one of the best Twitter homepages I've seen.

He directs us to this worthwhile holiday reminiscence from 1986.

Reck (1897-1967) was a legend.  Excerpts from his Oakland Tribune obit (here):
He was a product of an era when newspapers expressed the American conscience and journalism was a brawling art. He began his career as a reporter in 1919 in his native Piqua, Ohio, after an Army tour in World War I that read like an adventure novel. Commissioned before he was 21, he was wounded, left for dead in the field for three days, captured by the Germans, escaped, recaptured and finally released on Christmas morning of 1918... 
The old-timers of United Press remember him for jury-rigging a wireless set out of car batteries during a killer hurricane to become the only voice out of the stricken and isolated city of Miami.

Please allow me, once again, to Set the Record Straight

December 28, 2015

Gotta watch out for that third quarter... 29-1

Petro blues

It seemed like a good idea at the time

“Coming out of 2008 and the demographic changes in the country, Republicans needed energy, and instead of reaching for new ideas and new leadership, they reached for the political equivalent of Four Loko,” said Hari Sevugan, a senior spokesman for Obama’s 2008 campaign. “Sure it gives a shot of energy, but it eventually rots your brain and kills you.” 


Jim O'Toole

With Jim O'Toole's passing today, just a moment to note his quiet excellence at a moment in time.

The year before I was born, the Cincinnati Reds won the National League pennant behind their young pitching aces, Joey Jay (25) and O'Toole (24).

Jay and O'Toole were basically the difference for the Reds in 1961.  In modern sabermetric terms, both men were five wins above replacement value, a large enough margin to turn an average team into a pennant winner.

O'Toole is not remembered much because his career was short - he was really outstanding for just five years, 1960-1964.  But during that period he was as good as anyone.  In 1963 he started the National League All-Star game ahead of Koufax, Marichal, Spahn, and Drysdale.

Pitchers looked different then.

He is mentioned frequently in Jim Brosnan's outstanding diaries of the 1960 and 1961 seasons, The Long Season (here) and Pennant Race (here).  His SABR biography is here.

December 27, 2015


Shannon Szabados made history Saturday night in leading the Columbus Cottonmouths to a 3-0 win over the Huntsville Havoc in Alabama, marking the first time a female goaltender has registered a shutout in a men's professional hockey match.

The 29-year-old made 33 saves during the game, moving the team to 8-9-4 this season.


Where are they now, 49ers karma edition

Not that any of us has a deep emotional connection to the 49ers, but I am always fascinated by these crash-and-burn situations.  To recap:
  • Alex Smith's Chiefs have now won nine straight, and clinched a playoff spot today.  
  • Colin Kaepernick, the man who replaced Smith and led the team to a Super Bowl, is now injured and a laughingstock, and unlikely to play for the 49ers again.
  • The 49ers are now 4-11.
  • Harbaugh is out of the NFL.
In January David Neumann wrote a thoughtful article on the traits of a successful head coach in the NFL.   He struggled to find any definitive set of attributes for success, but he did notice that there were two pretty clear markers of future problems: 
  •  There have been just 14 position coaches to make the jump to head coach in the salary cap era. On average they have produced a Pythagorean win percentage of .451, well below coordinators (.492), head coaches (.509), or college hires (.516).
  • The other move that seems to generally be a bad idea are internal hires. Twenty-one of the coaches in our sample were internal hires and their .421 Pythagorean win percentage was the worst split I looked at by a wide margin. Sorry, Jim Tomsula. Being a head coach just might not be your thing. 
So the 49ers have managed, in just over three years, to discard two competent quarterbacks, and replaced a competent head coach with a first-time no-hoper.

The football gods will not be kind, nor should they be.

December 26, 2015

Some have art thrust upon 'em

After serving his prison term, Mr. Ando dissolved his gang — in part, he said, out of remorse at the death of one of his young lieutenants. 

 The decision to go into film was easy. “To be brief, I was broke,” he told Mark Schilling, the author of “The Yakuza Movie Book: A Guide to Japanese Gangster Films” (2003). While making films, he also pursued a second career as a singer. 

He added: “I just listened to what the directors wanted me to do. That’s how I learned my job as an actor.”


December 25, 2015

A Pip falls

Tonight we may lose a Pip, but we can always treasure them in our memories:

It's over, Tex, it's really over. Nice and warm down south...


Cleveland 5 for 30 from three point range...


December 24, 2015

Our 2015 Garland

Here is our annual reading from Master Beerbohm's wonderful A Christmas Garland (online here), an excerpt from "Out of Harm's Way" by A.C. B*ns*n, toward the end of which, I believe, parody approaches poetry:
Percy had heard that in London nowadays there was a class of people who sate down to their Christmas dinners in public hotels. He did not condemn this practice. He never condemned a thing, but wondered, rather, whether it were right, and could not help feeling that somehow it was not. In the course of his rare visits to London he had more than once been inside of one of the large new hotels that had sprung up—these "great caravanseries," as he described them in a letter to an old school-fellow who had been engaged for many years in Chinese mission work. And it seemed to him that the true spirit of Christmas could hardly be acclimatised in such places, but found its proper resting-place in quiet, detached homes, where were gathered together only those connected with one another by ties of kinship, or of long and tested friendship. 

He sometimes blamed himself for having tended more and more, as the quiet, peaceful, tranquil years went by, to absent himself from even those small domestic gatherings. And yet, might it not be that his instinct for solitude at this season was a right instinct, at least for him, and that to run counter to it would be in some degree unacceptable to the Power that fashioned us? Thus he allowed himself to go, as it were, his own way. After morning service, he sate down to his Christmas fare alone, and then, when the simple meal was over, would sit and think in his accustomed chair, falling perhaps into one of those quiet dozes from which, because they seemed to be so natural a result, so seemly a consummation, of his thoughts, he did not regularly abstain. Later, he sallied forth, with a sense of refreshment, for a brisk walk among the fens, the sedges, the hedgerows, the reed-fringed pools, the pollard willows that would in due course be putting forth their tender shoots of palest green. And then, once more in his rooms, with the curtains drawn and the candles lit, he would turn to his book-shelves and choose from among them some old book that he knew and loved, or maybe some quite new book by that writer whose works were most dear to him because in them he seemed always to know so precisely what the author would say next, and because he found in their fine-spun repetitions a singular repose, a sense of security, an earnest of calm and continuity, as though he were reading over again one of those wise copy-books that he had so loved in boyhood, or were listening to the sounds made on a piano by some modest, very conscientious young girl with a pale red pig-tail, practising her scales, very gently, hour after hour, next door.

I first heard of this book in Roberson Davies' Enthusiasms, and I wish there were more of it.  Sadly, that's the deal with Beerbohm - there's only a little, but it is so good.  Updike says:  "the filigree is fine, but of the purest gold."

Past garlands
2014 - "Of Christmas" by H*ll**re B*ll*c
2013 - "A Straight Talk" by G**rge B*rn*rd Sh*w"
2012 - "Dickens" by G**rg* M**re
2011 - "Shakespeare and Christmas" by Fr*nk N*rris
2010 - "Endeavour" by J*hn G*lsw*rthy"
2007 -  Belloc substituted
2006 - "The Mote in the Middle Distance" by H*nry J*m*s
2005 - "Some Damnable Errors About Christmas" by G.K. Ch*st*rt*n, and "P.C., X, 36" by R*dy*rd K*pl*ng 

December 23, 2015


It was a terrible time

December 21, 2015

Small talk

’What ho, Stinker.’
‘Hullo Bertie.’
‘Long time since we met.’
‘It is a bit, isn’t it?’
’I hear you’re a curate now.’
’Yes, that’s right.’
’How are the souls?’
’Oh, fine, thanks.’

- Code of the Woosters

The Ballad of Admiral Piett

To the end, he emblematizes the peculiar, banal evil of George Lucas’s Empire: English, white, slightly stuffy, and firmly task-oriented, a functionary in a bureaucratic galaxy governed by evil space wizards.


December 20, 2015

Never been done before

Wilson now has five consecutive games w/ three passing TDs, zero interceptions.

I believe sports fans call this "getting hot at the right time."


Dawn breaks over Kyle Wagner's forehead

[T]he Warriors are performing at the extreme reaches of professional basketball. Right now, they have an Elo of 1831, which is a franchise-high mark and the second-highest of all time, behind only the peak of Jordan’s ’96 Bulls (1853), who floated above the Warriors’ current mark for only four games in the ’96 playoffs. For reference, [The Other Front's beloved 1986] Boston Celtics have the third-highest franchise peak ever, at just 1816. A falling piano could take Steph Curry’s size 13s off at the ankle on his way to the arena tonight, and Golden State’s sustained level of play this season would already put it right there at the top of the short list of great NBA squads.


Now you know

December 19, 2015

IAYPA Update, regular season edition

It has been a brutal year for NFL quarterbacks.  Flacco (knee), Romo (collarbone, low pain threshold), and Manning, P (decrepitude) will watch from the sidelines.  Even the inevitable Tom Brady is now listed as dubious/maybe possible for Sunday's game due to a mystery illness.

Well, someone has to play the position, and so it has turned into a great year for long-disrespected journeymen like Alex Cutler and Jay Smith.  BearsFan4Evah tweets "who will take this godawful quarterback off our hands?" and around the League 30 hands go up.  Bad body language and all.

Here is a paragraph that should send chills down the spine of every NFL GM:
Mallett has been given a second chance with the Ravens, a team desperate for warm bodies at quarterback after losing Joe Flacco for the season, and backup, Matt Schaub suffered a chest injury that led to Jimmy Clausen starting against the Seahawks last week.  And with Schaub's immediate health in question, the Ravens signed Mallett...  
As the battered survivors shamble toward the gridiron for the final act of the season, here is how they rank on the King of All Quarterback Metrics.  Players are presented by name, team, and IAYPA.  The median quarterback is Brian Hoyer, HOU, 6.25 and/or Jameis Winston, TB, 6.15


  • Carson Palmer, ARI, 7.8 - Ageless wonder (35) out of Fresno, amok in the NFL.  (Salutes)
  • Russell Wilson, SEA, 7.7 - "There's a man inside"...who throws the ball downfield and makes few mistakes.
  • Andy Dalton, CIN, 7.5 - Now out with a 'weird' thumb injury.
  • Ben Roethlisberger, PIT, 7.2 - Playing at the highest level again after several years in the second tier.  Least-sacked (14) among the Epic group.
  • Tom Brady, NE, 7.2.  Always in this group.  Always.
  • Tyrod Taylor, BUF, 7.1.  The poor man's Tom Brady.  TD/att and INT/att similar, but only 57% as many attempts.
  • Alex Smith, KC, 7.1.  Too bad he's weak, uncoachable, not a winner, and not good enough to play for the San Francisco 49ers.  Under his leadership KC has struggled to an 8-5 record.
  • Jay Cutler, CHI, 6.8.  I have said it before.  A competent quarterback with bad body language and an indifferent attitude - the polar opposite of their beloved Jim McMahon - is exactly what Chicago fans deserve.  It is comedy gold.  I hope he plays there for another 20 years.
  • Johnny Manziel/Josh McCown, CLE, 6.5.  We knew Manziel was a jackass, and there was a strong suspicion that he did not have the physical ability to play in the NFL.  In 159 attempts Manziel has proven two things:  1)  He can play in the NFL.  2) He is exactly as effective as Josh McCown.  Whatever his self-destructive tendencies, he's not Ryan Leaf, he has actually gotten out on the field and gotten some results.  Active disrespect for his play is no longer indicated.
  • Drew Brees, NO, 6.5.  Undersized, just passed Marino on the TD list.  Constantly near the top of this list, he has been of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for over a decade.
  • Cam Newton, CAR, 6.5.  Not the MVP, but not faking it either.  With Wilson, one of only two surviving Read Option-type starters in the NFL.
  • Blaine Gabbert, SF, 6.5.  A serious improvement over Kaepernick.  A poor man's Alex Smith.
  • Philip Rivers, SD, 6.4.  Has, with Brees, begun to regress to the mean, but still effective.
  • Aaron Rodgers, GB, 6.3.  A huge drop for one of the best quarterbacks who ever played.  Rodgers has always taken a lot of sacks, 31 ytd, but lots of people in this group and the one above have more.  Note also the 28 touchdowns, which is pretty good for a guy having an off-year.
  • Eli Manning, NJG, 6.3.  The enigma of New Jersey continues to enigmate.
  • Derek Carr, OAK, 6.3.  Year 2:  achieved median NFL IAYPA.  Long career to ensue.
  • Marcus Mariota, TEN, 6.3.  Year 1:  achieved median NFL IAYPA.  Long career to ensue.
  • Brian Hoyer, HOU, 6.25.  
  • Jameis Winston, TB, 6.15. Year 1:  achieved median NFL IAYPA.  Long career to ensue.
  • Teddy Bridgewater, MIN, 6.1.
  • Kirk Cousins, WSH, 6.1.
  • Matt Hasselbeck, SEA, 5.9.  Ageless wonder (40) probable (ribs) for Sunday.
  • Matt Ryan, ATL, 5.9.
  • Brock Osweiler, DEN, 5.8.  Um, ok.
  • Ryan Tannehill, MIA, 5.8.  Could be a good pickup for SF as they continue their suicidal death spiral.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ, 5.8.  The Jets haven't had an elite quarterback for a very long time.
  • Blake Bortles, JAX, 5.7.  Not a laughingstock.  In Jacksonville, that's progress.
Emerging / Submerging
  • Matthew Stafford, DET, 5.6.
  • Colin Kaepernich, SF, 5.6.  Funny how a guy goes from Super Bowl talent to expendable so fast.  I'll have to look back and see if there was a change in the coaching or something.  Banned from sidelines Sunday for 'medical reasons'.
  • Sam Bradford, PHI, 5.3.
  • Joe Flacco, BAL, 5.3.  Had an incredible run for a while there, but this year was a write-off.
  • Matt Cassel, BUF/DAL, 4.8.  Not the answer.  Perfect for the Cowboys.
  • Nick Foles, STL, 4.6.  
  • Tony Romo, DAL, 4.4.  Also not the answer.
  • Andrew Luck, IND, 4.4.  Like Flacco, hang it up and try again next year.
  • Peyton Manning, DEN, 4.1.  Just hang it up.  17 INTs.
  • Ryan Mallett, BAL/HOU, 3.9.  Hated, and not without reason.  He'll make $2.5 mm next year.

Emma Rathbone has game


Achievement unlocked

December 18, 2015


Our reading for the day

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called “new order” of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.


And thank you Putin, for clarifying this

I suppose that every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every part of the world -- assailed either by arms or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace.


December 17, 2015

And still you doubt

Vladimir Putin offered up glowing praise for "talented" Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump while speaking to reporters after his annual year-end news conference...



Starting at the five-minute mark of the second quarter, through the end of the third, the Warriors went on a ... wait for it ... 67-25 run.



The Warriors play the Bucks, who they feel disrespected them last Saturday, on Friday at Oracle.

December 16, 2015

The limits of bullshit, if there are any, must be approaching

When I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan and I say to him, ‘You have a friend again sir, who will stand with you to fight this fight,’ he'll change his mind,” Christie said.
King Hussein of Jordan died in 1999. His son, King Abdullah II, has ruled the Hashemite Kingdom for the last 16 years.
It’s a mistake any candidate could make, but it speaks to a larger point. The Republican candidates are not talking about foreign policy in a way that supports their claims they are ready to be commander in chief. 

December 15, 2015

I, for one, am completely reassured

Walk like a Russian dictator

You never know when you might need this skill:

[R]esearchers believe that Putin’s gait may be caused by his roots as a KGB officer. Researchers found a training manual for the Russian security agency, now known as the FSB, and pinpointed a section that instructs operatives to “keep their weapon in their right hand close to their chest and to move forward with one side, usually the left.”

The authors think this could explain the absence of the right arm swing in Putin, and posited that they could find a similar gait in other Russian officials “who might have received similar instruction during weapons training by the KGB or other military or intelligence agencies.”


To whomever did this on Wikipedia: 1) you need to get a life; 2) THANK YOU


December 13, 2015

Let the literary love affair begin

Rowan Ricardo Phillips.  "Days of Wine and Curry."  Paris Review, December 11, 2015.


December 12, 2015

At long last...have you no shame!?

Still the best 24-1 team in the League...

Move along

Welcome to Mountain View, California

December 11, 2015


Die another day (24-0)

Well, it had to end sometime, and most of the smart money understood that it would be on this road trip.  Some had circled tonight's game in Boston, knowing that the Celtics are a good team, knowing that Warriors would be tired, and knowing that the Boston crowd would relish the opportunity to cheer their team on to a streak-ending victory.

As if further motivation were needed, the Celtics now employ David Lee, the former All-Star who last year:
  • Played well for the Warriors
  • Lost his starting job anyway as Draymond Greene and Harrison Barnes took huge leaps forward
  • Engaged in playoff heroics
  • Brought baked goods
  • Was asked to leave anyway

So, the stage was set.  And, the Warriors blew their lead.  And then they refused - after four quarters of regulation and two overtime periods - to lose:

24-0 now.

Milwaukee tomorrow night.

Not to look ahead or anything, but if the streak continues, game 29 is in Oakland.  On Christmas Day.  Against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

That could, possibly, be an interesting contest.

December 10, 2015

Well, that's a relief

Happiness won’t extend your life after all, scientists find


December 08, 2015

A little problem

The Age of Elevated Expectations (23-0)

December 06, 2015




This really cleared things up for me

What the heck is a catch in the NFL, anyway? An explainer


December 05, 2015

The VW management method

"I'll give you the recipe. I called all the body engineers, stamping people, manufacturing, and executives into my conference room. And I said, 'I am tired of all these lousy body fits. You have six weeks to achieve world-class body fits. I have all your names. If we do not have good body fits in six weeks, I will replace all of you. Thank you for your time today.' "


Outbraking - in basketball... (21-0)

Well, they're weak, so this is ok

The shoe fits


December 04, 2015

You can't explain that

[I]f Golden State could replace its entire offense with just the bottom quartile of Stephen Curry’s 3-point attempts — without him ever being fouled and with them never collecting an offensive rebound — they would have the best offense in NBA history by a wide margin.

But it gets crazier.


December 02, 2015


And now, a word or two from Igor Volsky

As Dylan Thomas once said of Thomas Hardy, perhaps the worst thing would be for someone to select from his work enthusiastically; and probably the best thing would be to read every single one of Volsky's tweets tonight.  But here is a small sampler: