December 30, 2017

The unforgettable Dennis

DENNIS BERGKAMP and his manager Marcel Keizer have been sacked by Ajax... by his former Arsenal team-mate Marc Overmars.  (link)

Dennis Bergkamp...Dennis Bergkamp....Dennis - now where have I heard that name before?  Oh yes:

December 25, 2017

Not exactly nostalgia

We caught a show Friday night in Los Altos called "The 1940s Radio Hour", a jukebox musical set in New York in 1942.  We (and about 50 other audience members in the tiny theater) were the studio audience as the Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade's last holiday show went out on radio station WOV.  Hilarity and drama ensued, but mostly very good music.

"The 1940s Radio Hour" had a run on Broadway, but it's really perfect for college or local theater groups.  You've got 15 parts, five female and 10 male.  Lots of solos, but nothing too demanding.  You do need a pro (faculty member?) to play Clifton Feddington, the beleaguered producer and announcer for the show, and you need a decent band.  But apart from that, the show is flexible enough to adjust to whatever talent is or is not on hand.

There was a fellow in our show who could sing and play the trumpet.  He hadn't done much acting before, but did a good job with his part.  The local group had a couple of ringers, but also some impressive amateur talent, notably a chanteuse who is, by day, a lawyer at Apple.

Some numbers from the show (my favorite performances, many pre- or post-war):

Let me just add: Brigitte Losey can sing.  You heard it here first.

He is the chosen one

49ers score 44 points on the NFL's best defense, team now 4-0 in the Garoppolo era.

Carlos Hyde says 49ers will win 2019 Super Bowl (link)

UPDATE:  There is an MVP argument to be made for Jimmy Garoppolo (link) ]

December 24, 2017

Christmas Garland, 2017

For many years now I have made it a bit of a tradition during the Christmas season to sit down with Max Beerbohm's A Christmas Garland.  First recommended to me in a news-paper article written by Robertson Davies (reprinted here), the book took some finding, but it was worth it in every way.  If you would like to read it but would prefer to avoid scouring dusty old websites, the full text of the book is online at Project Gutenberg.

A 1990 review of Davies' Enthusiasms offhandedly remarked that "when he edges into more recent territory, Davies naturally goes for eccentrics: Nabokov, Salinger, Ivy Compton-Burnett, John Cowper Powys, Iris Murdoch, as well as minor writers who took major pains with style, like Max Beerbohm and P. G. Wodehouse."  Since 1990, of course, both Beerbohm and Wodehouse have seen significant critical rehabilitation, and a wonderful volume of Beerbohm's essays appeared in 2015 with the diabolical title The Prince of Minor Writers.  

Even after rehabilitation - after the biographies, special editions, and Teller's completion of the tale of Enoch Soames - Beerbohm is still no more than a good secret in the literary world.  But the truth is that he is just too good to be minor.  As Updike says, "minor artistry became in him a creed, a boast; like Ronald Firbank and Nathanael West, he remains readable while many mightier oeuvres gather dust. The filigree is fine, but of the purest gold."

It is not easy to selectively quote from this year's annual reading, from the chapter by H.G. W*lls entitled "Perkins and Mankind".  The excerpt will give you a sense of Beerbohm's genius at style:
It was the Christmas party at Heighton that was one of the turning-points in Perkins' life. The Duchess had sent him a three-page wire in the hyperbolical style of her class, conveying a vague impression that she and the Duke had arranged to commit suicide together if Perkins didn't "chuck" any previous engagement he had made. And Perkins had felt in a slipshod sort of way—for at this period he was incapable of ordered thought—he might as well be at Heighton as anywhere.... 
The enormous house was almost full. There must have been upwards of fifty people sitting down to every meal. Many of these were members of the family. Perkins was able to recognise them by their unconvoluted ears—the well-known Grifford ear, transmitted from one generation to another. For the rest there were the usual lot from the Front Benches and the Embassies. Evesham was there, clutching at the lapels of his coat; and the Prescotts—he with his massive mask of a face, and she with her quick, hawk-like ways, talking about two things at a time; old Tommy Strickland, with his monocle and his dropped g's, telling you what he had once said to Mr. Disraeli; Boubou Seaforth and his American wife; John Pirram, ardent and elegant, spouting old French lyrics; and a score of others. 
Perkins had got used to them by now. He no longer wondered what they were "up to," for he knew they were up to nothing whatever. He reflected, while he was dressing for dinner on Christmas night, how odd it was he had ever thought of Using them. He might as well have hoped to Use the Dresden shepherds and shepherdesses that grinned out in the last stages of refinement at him from the glazed cabinets in the drawing-rooms.... Or the Labour Members themselves.... 
True there was Evesham. He had shown an exquisitely open mind about the whole thing. He had at once grasped the underlying principles, thrown out some amazingly luminous suggestions. Oh yes, Evesham was a statesman, right enough. But had even he ever really believed in the idea of a Provisional Government of England by the Female Foundlings? 
To Perkins the whole thing had seemed so simple, so imminent—a thing that needed only a little general good-will to bring it about. And now.... Suppose his Bill had passed its Second Reading, suppose it had become Law, would this poor old England be by way of functioning decently—after all? Foundlings were sometimes naughty.... 
What was the matter with the whole human race? He remembered again those words of Scragson's that had had such a depressing effect on him at the Cambridge Union—"Look here, you know! It's all a huge nasty mess, and we're trying to swab it up with a pocket handkerchief." Well, he'd given up trying to do that....

But then there is a moment of crisis:
One of the big conifers from the park had been erected in the hall, and this, after dinner, was found to be all lighted up with electric bulbs and hung with packages in tissue paper. 
The Duchess stood, a bright, feral figure, distributing these packages to the guests. 
Perkins' name was called out in due course and the package addressed to him was slipped into his hand. He retired with it into a corner. Inside the tissue-paper was a small morocco leather case. Inside that was a set of diamond and sapphire sleeve-links—large ones.
He stood looking at them, blinking a little. 
He supposed he must put them on. But something in him, some intractably tough bit of his old self, rose up protesting—frantically. 
If he couldn't Use these people, at least they weren't going to Use him! 
"No, damn it!" he said under his breath, and, thrusting the case into his pocket, slipped away unobserved.

But H.G. W*lls comes to the rescue:
He flung himself into a chair in his bedroom and puffed a blast of air from his lungs.... Yes, it had been a narrow escape. He knew that if he had put those beastly blue and white things on he would have been a lost soul.... 
"You've got to pull yourself together, d'you hear?" he said to himself. "You've got to do a lot of clear, steady, merciless thinking—now, to-night. You've got to persuade yourself somehow that, Foundlings or no Foundlings, this regeneration of mankind business may still be set going—and by you." 
He paced up and down the room, fuming. How recapture the generous certitudes that had one by one been slipping away from him? He found himself staring vacantly at the row of books on the little shelf by his bed. One of them seemed suddenly to detach itself—he could almost have sworn afterwards that he didn't reach out for it, but that it hopped down into his hand.... 
"Sitting Up For The Dawn"! It was one of that sociological series by which H.G. W*lls had first touched his soul to finer issues when he was at the 'Varsity. 
He opened it with tremulous fingers. Could it re-exert its old sway over him now? 
The page he had opened it at was headed "General Cessation Day," and he began to read.... 
"The re-casting of the calendar on a decimal basis seems a simple enough matter at first sight. But even here there are details that will have to be thrashed out....

The full piece is a powerful, modern take on the meaning of Christmas, as clear as the black snow in a photographic negative

December 20, 2017

Current mood

December 19, 2017

New sheriff in town

Importantly, by the time that the contracted Gladstone coal unit had gotten out of bed and put its socks on so it can inject more into the grid – it is paid to respond in six seconds – the fall in frequency had already been arrested and was being reversed.

Gladstone injected more than Tesla did back into the grid, and took the frequency back up to its normal levels of 50Hz, but by then Tesla had already put its gun back in its holster and had wandered into the bar for a glass of milk.


December 17, 2017


In world where debt collectors act with impunity... They pushed him too far... They made it personal... Now he's making THEM pay!

The targets were shocked by Therrien’s doggedness. In their world, complaints are common, but most victims give up after being promised they won’t be called again. One shady-debt player tells me he suspected Therrien was an undercover federal investigator because he’d gathered so much information on his business. “It’s an obsession, it’s unbelievable, an outright vigilante crusade,” another says...
.  .  .

“If it’s just about me, I don’t particularly give a f---,” he tells me, with an incongruous laugh. “You call my wife, and you call my grandparents? You just opened up a door that got really f****** ugly, and now I’m going to make sure that I just ruin your life.”


Also relevant:

December 16, 2017

Black Thought drops the Freestyle H-Bomb

Update: the transcript was up on Rap Genius within 24 hours.

December 14, 2017

Box score surrealism

A third of the way into the NBA season, and the Warriors are already quite banged up.  Tonight Curry, Green, Pachulia, and Young all had to convalesce.  Ordinarily, when a team loses an MVP and an All-Star it faces serious problems, but when the Warriors lose an MVP (Curry) and an All-Star (Green), they still MVP (Durant) and an All-Star (Thompson).

Nevertheless, without Green and Curry they have to go to their bench, and the good news is that there is one.  I loved the mid-80s Celtics, but man, when the Hall of Famers sat down it got ugly fast.  Against the Lakers you had the likes of Greg Kite and Jerry Sichting squaring off against Mychal Thompson and Michael Cooper, and this did not lead to good outcomes.

The Warriors, by contrast, have an interesting bench full of high character role players.  They always play well, but you wonder how they'd do in real life, like if they were on a regular team?  Tonight we found out, as the Two-Star Warriors (just Durant and Thompson) were supplemented by the likes of Omri Casspi (7-9), David West (4-5), Jordan Bell (4-5), and Shaun Livingston (4-6) against the Mavericks.  That group collectively shot 19-25, or 76% from the field, Iguodala added ten assists, and the decimated Warriors won by 15.

This is nuts, just surreal.



I am not making effective use of my time

December 10, 2017

The Best Player in Football

It's 2017, and one more sad reality we've faced this year is that the Seahawks are no longer the best team in football.

But when the going gets tough, Russell Wilson kicks ass.

December 09, 2017

I can't quite visualize it, I'll have to see it on film first

The film will most certainly go where no Star Trek has gone before: Tarantino has required it to be R rated, and Paramount and Abrams agreed to that condition.


December 08, 2017

Let's get tough with 'em, take it to 'em, challenge 'em inside...

December 05, 2017

Whatta circus

The Warriors are on their annual epic east coast road trip, and the wheels are falling off left and right. Curry has a bad hand and a sprained ankle, Draymond has a bad back, Pachulia and Iguodala are banged up; Shaun Livingston got thrown out of a basketball game, Durant has gotten thrown out of two basketball games, and also is injured.  Annnnd...they're 4-0 on the trip.

The PR staff is having to work overtime to keep up:

Last night's hero was...oh no...

Well done, Mister Phelps

Saakashvili, who has reinvented himself as a leading opposition figure here, gave [security forces] the slip and escaped to his building’s roof. There, he addressed hundreds of his followers who had in the meantime rushed to the scene at the news of his detention.

“[President Petro] Poroshenko is a thief and traitor to the Ukrainian people,” he said, and called on Ukrainians to take to the streets to resist the government...

Officers eventually reached Saakashvili and carefully dragged him from the roof — steep and slippery from an early December snowfall — and into a waiting police van. 

But the dramatics had just begun. Saakashvili’s supporters surrounded the vehicle and prevented it from leaving. Protesters clashed with police, who used pepper spray at times to hold the throng at bay.

After an extended and chaotic standoff, the demonstrators broke a window and extracted Saakashvili from the van. 

The Georgian emerged triumphantly, handcuffs still attached to one wrist, and was swept to the top of the steps of a nearby Catholic church.

“They are lying little animals,” Saakashvili said about those who leveled the charges against him. “We must throw this organized criminal group, led by Poroshenko, out of power.”


Other (link) and (link)

December 03, 2017

One day in New York

I may have mentioned this before, but Edward Lasker got himself into some very unusual chess games.

This position (white to move) is a draw.


December 02, 2017

Bay Area fans are different