September 30, 2013

Random sports musings

From the wild world of modern sport, our correspondent reflects:

  • It takes a special man to pull the coach off the bus to fire him, Pat Haden.  In this case, however, well done.  
    • No word on whether Kiffin's epaulettes were stripped from his shoulders and his sword broken, but we can dream.
    • Kiffin, not yet 40, has now completely wrecked three programs.  Looking forward to his next engagement.  One more stop before reality TV, I reckon.
  • Rod Brooks knows how to fix the moribund NBA slam dunk contest.  "Put a million dollars and a Bentley at mid-court...guys'll show up, I guarantee it."  
    • You are correct, sir.  
    • NBA are fools for not doing this immediately.
  • Gareth who?  Tottenham #2 in the Prem League. But they, Chelsea, Man City, all looking up at The Colossus...Arsenal.  
    • Huh?
  • Just not the same, looking at the bottom of the standings and missing the Wolves.  
    • Double relegation's a hard thing.  
    • Fans deserve better.
  • The Giants scored 719 runs in 2012, and gave up 649.  In 2013, it was 629 and 691.  Complex issue, but my read is Brian Sabean needs to work out how to make the team hit and pitch better, so they can win more.
  • Good to see Tiger Woods back on top.  
    • Ignore the haters, Tiger, you need to focus on you.
  • Lifelong archenemy Kareem gives advice to young men.  
    • It's pretty good, actually.  
  • Kareem refutes outright the idea that it's what you do on the court that counts.  After years of reflection in a monastery Bill Simmons rates him #3, behind Russell and Jordan, ahead of Bird, Magic, everyone else.  Where else are you going to put him?  Show me Magic and Oscar's numbers when the most automatic two points in the history of basketball isn't on the floor with them.  Defense and effort were underrated, as Kareem has mentioned.
  • Shut up Brian Wilson.  You're a Dodger, you have no standing in this court.
  • Thanks for the fantasy points, Joe Flacco, but seriously, WTF?  
    • And that's the guy who gets the ring and the big contract.  
    • Why not you, Alex Smith?  Why not you?

The Always Question: Does The Economic Policy Result in the Broadening or Narrowing of The Democratic Distribution of Expanding Prosperity?

Just asking, always. Which is what makes me so terribly Far Left, I guess, and why Elizabeth Warren is making presidential noises.

The Modes of Marshawn

September 29, 2013

Alex (4-0) Smith, a resume

Or, what Aaron Rodgers might have become...

6-4, 212 lbs.
Career W/L:  42-36-1
  • 2005, age 21
    • First pick in NFL draft.  
    • New team, new coach, new offensive coordinator.
    • Games started 7 / rating 40.8 / IAYPA 2.0
    • Passes for one touchdown, 11 INTs
  • 2006, age 22
    • New offensive coordinator (Norv Turner)
    • GS 16 / rating 74.8 / IAYPA 4.7
  • 2007, age 23
    • New offensive coordinator (Jim Hostler)
    • Shoulder injury from Seahawks game mis-diagnosed, character and courage questioned
    • GS 7 / rating 57.2 / IAYPA 3.7
  • 2008, age 24
    • New offensive coordinator (Mike Martz)
    • Beaten out for starting job by Shaun Hill
    • New coach (Singletary) at mid-season following firing of Nolan.
    • Placed on injured reserve with broken shoulder bone in September
    • Plays in no games
    • Takes large pay cut
    • GS 0 / rating 0 / IAYPA 0.0
  • 2009, age 25
    • New offensive coordinator (Jimmy Raye)
    • Starts as 2nd string QB but replaces Hill during the season
    • Goes to the Super an announcer for the BBC
    • GS 10 / rating 81.5 / IAYPA 4.7
  • 2010, age 26
    • New offensive coordinator after 0-5 start...Raye replaced by Mike Johnson
    • GS 10 / rating 82.1 / IAYPA 5.5
  • 2011, age 27
    • New coach (Harbaugh), new offensive coordinator (Roman)
    • Smith's family urge him to leave SF, but signs a one-year contract and helps install Harbaugh offense during strike
    • During the offseason Smith is chosen by teammates as winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, annually awarded to the player that exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage.
    • GS 16 / rating 90.7 / IAYPA 6.5
  • 2012, age 28
    • Harbaugh denies courting Peyton Manning during the offseason
    • Smith completes 18/19 passes, 232 yards and three touchdowns, no INTs, in 24–3 win over Arizona.
      • NFL record: highest completion percentage in a game with minimum of 15 attempts. 
    • Concussion the following week and is replaced by Kaepernick
    • GS 9 / rating 104.1 / IAYPA 6.8
  • 2013, age 29
    • New team, new coach (Reid), new offensive coordinator (Doug Pederson).  
    • GS 4 / rating 92.1 / IAYPA 6.1
    • 4-0
Alex Smith, who lost his job last year with the 49ers, threw three touchdown passes, and Dexter McCluster returned a punt 89 yards for another score as the Chiefs joined the 1980 Detroit Lions as the only teams in modern league history to win two or fewer games one season, then rocket to a 4-0 start the next.  (link)

Screw it, I'm just going to root for this guy.  Hard not to.

September 28, 2013

Popcorn, please

No, I'm afraid that's not right

According to the Alaska Dispatch, an iOS Maps app flaw has led two inattentive out-of-town drivers to unquestioningly follow their iPhones down Taxiway B over the last few weeks...


September 26, 2013

Type on, you beautiful ferret


Save Time in Arguments, With Judicious Use of Carl Sagan

September 24, 2013

Brace for impact!

Most expensive healthcare system in the world braces for influx of actual patients who need treatment.  But where will I get my Botox injections?!  (link)

This whole story is just a put-up job, of course, since all Americans already get all the healthcare they need, from the Emergency Room:

September 22, 2013

I don't care what anybody says...

I love this:

Does not compute

Great football coaches...

...and now this rules the gridiron:

I really am having trouble processing it.  I guess I have to buy the book and study it carefully, because this guy appears to have solved life.

Trap game

Weak team coming into your stadium after a big win, it's a classic trap game, a moment when the Seahawks could be vulner... oh ... nevermind.

In other news, Alex Smith is now 3-0.

September 21, 2013

So, what is your point?

[T]he Affordable Care act has been in the law for three and a half years, it passed both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional, it was an issue in last year's elections, the guy who was running against me said he was gonna repeal it, we won," Obama said, drawing applause.

"So the voters were pretty clear on this," he added.


Reasons to Like Tolkien (ca. 2001)

Jenny Turner, London Review of Books - the whole conversation strongly parallels the Eliot/Lewis debate on Hamlet:

[I]t’s much harder to find someone writing sensibly at length about what exactly is wrong with Tolkien’s novel. Obviously there is a problem with the elves and so on. Obviously there is a problem with the prose. Obviously there are problems to do with women, and race and racism, and the general matchstick-cathedral labour-of-madness nature of the project. But if it’s really that bad, why do so very many people like it so enormously? Are the intellectuals just flinging up their hands and saying that it is in the nature of things liked by lots of people that they will be no good?


Also, in case you were wondering how seriously Tolkien took his languages, one of the Elven languages appears to be deeply influenced by Finnish (source).  What did Tolkien know about Finnish, I hear you ask.  Well, as a teenager he became deeply interested in the Kalevala, which, as every schoolchild knows, is a compilation of ancient Finnish rune-songs, and the last surviving remnant of an oral tradition going back thousands of years.  And, to understand this lore better, he taught himself Finnish.

And then there's this.

September 20, 2013

A Man

I did not know how to be a young man.  I'm not really ashamed of that, no one knows, we all fake it, taking some advice, ignoring that which we find silly or inconvenient (defer gratification?  as if!).

We all know how to be middle-aged men, as professional demands, biology, and life's other realities sap our determination to deceive ourselves.  Generally, I suppose, we see things roughly as they are because it's too much goddam effort to do otherwise.

And I no longer have any sense that the right answer has to come out of my own head.  In fact, I am fully prepared to steal successful approaches lock, stock, and barrel.  Hence a heightened alertness for admirable people, people whose approach is worth emulating in some way.

My first nominee here - well, after Viggo Mortensen of course - would be Harold Pollack.  Here is his abbreviated bio from Huffington Post:
Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration, and Faculty Chair of the Center for Health Administration Studies at the University of Chicago. He has published widely at the interface between poverty policy and public health. His recent research concerns HIV and hepatitis prevention efforts for injection drug users, drug abuse and dependence among welfare recipients and pregnant women, infant mortality prevention, and child health. His research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, American Journal of Public Health, Health Services Research, Pediatrics, and Social Service Review. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare," was selected for The Best American Medical Writing, 2009.

This guy makes Albert Schweitzer look like Donald Trump.  But wait, there's more.  He knows everything.  Everything.

Someone asked him for investment advice.  He gave it to them on an index card, and it's spot-on and bulletproof.

Ezra Klein asks him what to listen to, and Pollack tells him:

You can follow him @haroldpollack, and you should.

A Heartbreaking Joke of Staggering Genius

Mark Peters of McSweeney's positively reviews Jack Handey's The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure, en route to an in-depth analysis of the joke he considers Handey's greatest:
  • I came here in peace, seeking gold and slaves.

Peters:  "MacGyver-like, Handey made a nuclear bomb of comedy out of the verbal equivalent of a paper clip."


September 19, 2013

Oh come on, this is stupid

See if you can spot the subtext, then let us pause and admire Fatas

My grovelling apology to Herr Schäuble

Krugman elaborates here.  This piece by Antonio Fatas is also helpful.

Apropos of that, Fatas is bloody brilliant and I've read every one of his blog posts from the last six months today.  I have always wondered why Spain stayed in the Euro, when it had done everything "right" and yet has been asked (told) to take the worst of the punishment.  He explains, or at least offers a big clue, here (see point #3).

This semi-confessional on how to teach inflation is also wonderful.

Crusher trivia question

Who was the last Whig President of the U.S.? Answer here.

via Jimmy Dore - I enjoyed it

 A little Archie Bunker vibe there.

This is a good thing

The first glimmers of a rediscovery of middle America, not just as comic fodder, ridicule, or spectacle, but as a destination.  It's a nice place to go, glad the New York Times noticed.

September 17, 2013

Easterbrook, edited

One of the league's storylines since Colin Kaepernick became the Niners' quarterback is that no one can stop San Francisco, whose offense has rolled over power teams such as the Packers and Falcons, plus gained 468 yards in the Super Bowl. No one -- except the Seahawks, who stop them cold. In their last two meetings, Seattle bested San Francisco by a combined 71-16.

Last season, Seattle allowed a league-low, Steelers-like 15.3 points per game. In this young season, Seattle is allowing 5 points per game. Seattle emphatically has football's best defense. How do the Seahawks do it? ...

The short version of the success of the Seahawks' defense is good players who hustle, communicate with each other and wrap-up tackle. Contemporary NFL defenses are so plagued by players' desire for spectacular plays that make "SportsCenter" that blown coverages and missed assignments have become de rigueur. Seattle's defense almost never has a broken play. And those lads can tackle! Seattle misses fewer tackles than any NFL defense. Lots of wrap-up tackles where the runner gains an extra yard are better than a few spectacular hits for a loss, plus frequent missed tackles. Seattle defenders understand this...

he Seattle defenders are remarkable in being a collection of late draft picks and castoffs. Only safety Earl Thomas was a first-round choice by the team he now plays for. Defensive end Chris Clemons was let go by three teams; his understudy Michael Bennett, who started against San Francisco, was undrafted and let go twice. Browner was undrafted, and played in Canada. Linebacker Malcolm Smith was a seventh-round pick, safety Kam Chancellor a fifth-round selection. Unlike teams with lots of high-drafted defenders who spend their time complaining, Seattle has lots of hand-me-downs who spend their time working. That is a classic approach to success, and classic never goes out of style.

September 16, 2013

Constant blowjobs from his harem?

Dr. Evil, via Wikipedia...

The details of my life are quite inconsequential ... Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low-gradenarcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a 15-year-old French prostitute named Chloé withwebbed feet. My father would womanize; he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes, he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament ... My childhood was typical: summers in Rangoon ... lugelessons ... In the spring, we'd make meat helmets ... When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds — pretty standard, really. At the age of 12, I received my first scribe. At the age of 14, aZoroastrian named Vilmer ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum — it's breathtaking ... I suggest you try it.[citation needed]

Can't mourn him, too political

This is the weakest shit I've seen in a long time.

Hold the memorial.  Invite the appropriate people.  But not holding it because the big bad Republicans might say something mean?

Fuck that noise.


Remarkable Coverage, Even for Richard Sherman

Sherman and his ex-coach, "lovable" Jim Harbaugh.

September 14, 2013

Another Bacon-nator

Louis Calhern, known to me as Ambassador Trentino from Duck Soup.  A few examples:

Old Louis got around.

How not to do it

Instructive website. (link)

Oswalt levels up


September 13, 2013

Ut Get Fortunatos: A Rare, Happy Angst-Joken

A Cowboy, his friend the Robot, and the Pope are arguing about Vatican II in Karaoke bar in a strip mall in Nevada.  Suddenly, two big scary-looking guys burst in the room and head straight for the Robot, who accesses his memory of extensive gambling debts, and executes panic.exe, spinning his head and waving his rubbery robot arms wildly around.  The big guys approach the table as the cowboy, realizing the Robot is a hapless Jets fan, reaches for his six-shooter.  It looks bad.  But the Pope rises to his full height with great dignity, and bids the men welcome.  Cowed by the Pope, the big guys sit down uncertainly, their fingers on triggers, the Robot's fan squeaking, the Cowboy's steely eyes drilling into their faces with deadly scrutiny.  The air is still and it is hot, and menthol smoke hangs like a curtain.  

Then some bridesmaids go onstage and start singing Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." "Oh, I love this song," says the Pope.  "Let us all listen together awhile," says the Pope, smiling gently, tapping his shoe, making everyone hold hands. 

The Angst-Jöken.

September 12, 2013

The Angst-Jöken: New for the Fall Collection


A desperate New York artist schedules a performance in which he will take a staple gun and staple a live weasel to his head while reciting the U.S. Constitution in front of a video of gold molecules vibrating.  A large crowd has arrived in the Chelsea gallery for his performance entitled "Microeconomics with Live Weasel IV" and just as he is about to staple the struggling, squeaking weasel to his head, he hears a famous art critic say to a friend: "This seems a bit hampered by visual classicism."  He looks at the weasel, who looks back with big, dark, pleading eyes, and decides to lets him scamper off.  The disappointed audience boos, as the artist, his heart sinking, walks off stage, only to notice that the newly freed weasel is outside now, looking in through the gallery window, flipping him off.

The Angst-Jöken.

September 11, 2013

Tebow's Lost Emails

Also on Grantland.

September 10, 2013

IAYPA for week 1

Top five:
11.00   Peyton Manning (DEN)
10.56   Tony Romo (DAL)
9.70     Russell Wilson (SEA)
8.77     Drew Brees (NO)
8.12     Michael Vick (PHI)

Bottom five:
4.23     Joe Flacco (BAL)
4.03     Terrelle Pryor (OAK)
3.07     Christian Ponder (MIN)
2.62     Brandon Weeden (CLE)
0.60     Blaine Gabbert (JAX)

  • Earlier this year, the Ravens signed Flacco to a six-year, $120.6 million contract with $52 million guaranteed.
  • Terrelle Pryor led all rushers in the Raiders-Colts game with 13 runs for 112 yards, 8.6 yards per carry. Passing may not be his forte.
  • Brandon Weeden threw the second most attempts (53), a distant second to Flacco (62).
  • Before Blaine Gabbert was taken out of the game (injury, we are told) he threw 16 of 35 for 121 yards, 2 picks, no TDs (Jags offense did not score in the game), and was sacked 6 times for a total of 50 lost yards.

Don't miss the "frequently bought together" section

Amazon page for Philip Rivers. (link)

September 08, 2013

Is there anything it can't do?

Unwelcome discovery

Plan to get small cell phone.

Google "smallest cell phone.

First link.

Papillon 2020...?

Antony's Funeral Oration

After reviewing every performance I could find on Youtube, there's only one that matters. In Shakespeare, as in all important undertakings, inferior people should not be employed.

For those who prefer a lighter touch, try this.

September 05, 2013

#2 son recommends your careful attention

September 04, 2013

Approaching the Crossroads

One thing I've noticed since we started perambulating about the perimeter or Mordor - Tolkien uses more spondees and sprung rhythm to heighten the tension, almost every sentence, then lets the language run again, suggesting the hobbits' slowing and dashing from shadow to shadow:

As the third stage of their day’s march drew on and afternoon waned, the forest opened out, and the trees became larger and more scattered. Great ilexes of huge girth stood dark and solemn in wide glades with here and there among them hoary ash-trees, and giant oaks just putting out their brown-green buds. About them lay long launds of green grass dappled with celandine and anemones, white and blue, now folded for sleep; and there were acres populous with the leaves of woodland hyacinths: already their sleek bell-stems were thrusting through the mould... 
A deep dim valley lay before them. On its further side the woods gathered again, blue and grey under the sullen evening, and marched on southwards. To the right the Mountains of Gondor glowed, remote in the West, under a fire-flecked sky. To the left lay darkness: the towering walls of Mordor; and out of that darkness the long valley came, falling steeply in an ever-widening trough towards the Anduin. At its bottom ran a hurrying stream: Frodo could hear its stony voice coming up through the silence; and beside it on the hither side a road went winding down like a pale ribbon, down into chill grey mists that no gleam of sunset touched.

It would be interesting to see what he could have accomplished, had he been a good writer.

September 02, 2013

Tolkien's revery

As we ramble through Lord of the Rings each night (currently negotiating with Faramir) I find myself admiring Tolkien's elaborate, verbose style.  Edmund Wilson (who did not sell nearly as many books), despised Tokien's prose in The Lord of the Rings, denouncing its "professorial amateurishness."

And I know all about that

He's right, I suppose, Tolkien does get carried away sometimes.  But would the book (I think of it all as one book) be better or worse without this sort of thing?
It was dreary and wearisome. Cold clammy winter still held sway in this forsaken country. The only green was the scum of livid weed on the dark greasy surfaces of the sullen waters. Dead grasses and rotting reeds loomed up in the mists like ragged shadows of long-forgotten summers.

I can't say I mind.  It's the sort of thing that annoyed mid-century critics, but sometimes they annoy me.  I can actually picture Wilson making a sour face as he reads this:
Before them dark in the dawn the great mountains reached up to roofs of smoke and cloud. Out from their feet were flung huge buttresses and broken hills that were now at the nearest scarce a dozen miles away. Frodo looked round in horror. Dreadful as the Dead Marshes had been, and the arid moors of the Noman-lands, more loathsome far was the country that the crawling day now slowly unveiled to his shrinking eyes. Even to the Mere of Dead Faces some haggard phantom of green spring would come; but here neither spring nor summer would ever come again. Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.
They had come to the desolation that lay before Mordor...

And I can imagine him throwing down the book as Tolkien's description of Ithilien becomes positively encyclopedic:
Day was opening in the sky, and they saw that the mountains were now much further off, receding eastward in a long curve that was lost in the distance. Before them, as they turned west, gentle slopes ran down into dim hazes far below. All about them were small woods of resinous trees, fir and cedar and cypress, and other kinds unknown in the Shire, with wide glades among them; and everywhere there was a wealth of sweet-smelling herbs and shrubs. The long journey from Rivendell had brought them far south of their own land, but not until now in this more sheltered region had the hobbits felt the change of clime. Here Spring was already busy about them: fronds pierced moss and mould, larches were green-fingered, small flowers were opening in the turf, birds were singing. Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness. 
South and west it looked towards the warm lower vales of Anduin, shielded from the east by the Ephel Dúath and yet not under the mountain-shadow, protected from the north by the Emyn Muil, open to the southern airs and the moist winds from the Sea far away. Many great trees grew there, planted long ago, falling into untended age amid a riot of careless descendants; and groves and thickets there were of tamarisk and pungent terebinth, of olive and of bay; and there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes, or with their woody creeping stems mantled in deep tapestries the hidden stones; sages of many kinds putting forth blue flowers, or red, or pale green; and marjorams and new-sprouting parsleys, and many herbs of forms and scents beyond the garden-lore of Sam. The grots and rocky walls were already starred with saxifrages and stonecrops. Primeroles and anemones were awake in the filbert-brakes; and asphodel and many lily-flowers nodded their half-opened heads in the grass: deep green grass beside the pools, where falling streams halted in cool hollows on their journey down to Anduin.

Yes, saxifrages.  You got a problem with that?

Wilson read The Lord of the Rings as a simple quest story, badly done, and consequently read Auden's admiration of The Lord of the Rings as occasioned by his own interest in quest stories:
What I believe has misled Mr. Auden is his own special preoccupation with the legendary theme of the Quest. He has written a book about the literature of the Quest; he has experimented with the theme himself in a remarkable sequence of sonnets; and it is to be hoped that he will do something with it on an even larger scale. In the meantime - as sometimes happens with works that fall in with one's interests - he no doubt so overrates The Lord of the Rings because he reads into it something that he means to write himself.

Wilson underestimated his man, of course. Lord of the Rings is not just a quest story - not even a book, or a trilogy, or a sextet.  It is a moderate portion of the dreams of a man so obsessed with languages that he invented his own, and equally obsessed with the relationship of language and memory.  Here (thanks to Kindle search) are some of the "lores" that appear in The Lord of the Rings:
  • herb-lore (several times)
  • hobbit lore
  • lore of Living Creatures
  • ancient lore
  • Elven lore
  • Shire lore

As the hobbits orbit Mordor I wonder if Tolkien is creating his own lore of the English countryside.  Perhaps he is naming and listing these things because he is afraid they will be forgotten, or already have beenIt bothers him that a human being might hear the word marjoram and not know what it is.  And he names the force that takes such things out of the world, and out of memory:  evil.

It might be bad writing, but it it is not without purpose.  And to paraphrase Tokien's friend C.S. Lewis, the world would be a better place if we had more bad writing like this.

September 01, 2013

Good idea

Announcing the TrumpHair (R) Prize for Being a Cultureless Chowderhead

Can't we all be the chosen one?

[M]aybe it's time to retire the Chosen One trope.