October 30, 2016

Brilliant Orange, illustrated

Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer
by David Winner
The Overlook Press, 2002

David Winner's book is nearly all that I could have hoped, and includes a July 2010 postscript written just before the World Cup Final in which Spain defeated the Netherlands 1-0.  Sadly, there's no additional commentary on the 2014 campaign, in which the Argentinians eliminated Team Orange in a shootout following a 0-0 tie in the semis.  But the tragi-comic story continues:  the Dutch continue to 'disappoint' late in the World Cup tournament, when in reality they have no right to be there at all given that their population is smaller than New York's.

The book raises many interesting questions.  How do we balance collective effort against individual genius?  Is it better to attack, defend, or wait for the best opportunity?  Is soccer a contest of wills or a space management exercise?  Can soccer be systematized?

My only complaint about Brilliant Orange is that it is not illustrated, at least no in my Kindle edition.  Herewith a few quotations I thought relevant and some excerpts from the book, with accompanying illustrations:

First Principles

  • A win by an unsound combination, however showy, fills me with artistic horror.
  • Only the player with the initiative has the right to attack.
  • When you have an advantage, you are obliged to attack; otherwise you are endangered to lose the advantage.
- William Steinitz, Chess Champion of the World 1886-1894


It was very cold and the pitch was very bad because of snow. The game itself was very bad. Germany’s goal was an own goal by Cor van der Hart. Abe Lenstra scored two goals for Holland, not very magnificent goals – just reflex shots from five yards – but the emotion was enormous. When we won 2-1, I saw my father jumping and crying because we’d beaten the world champions. There must have been between six and eight thousand Dutchmen there, and they invaded the pitch and carried the players on their shoulders. In the train going back, everybody was celebrating wildly. I’d never seen my father like that – he’d gone mad, singing and dancing. Later I realised it was because of the war, because of the feeling about the Germans. It was a very strong feeling for all the people there, that we had some kind of revenge for everything they had done to us. Nowadays my father says I understood it wrongly: that it was just about soccer. But it was more than soccer alone.We have to admit that one of our weak points is that we always have to start talking about the war and about revenge when we play against the Germans, no matter what the sport is. I wrote after 1974 that for me it was over; we don’t have to talk about those things anymore. But in 1956, it was understandable. My father had been in the war – he had been put in prison for a short while. The game made him so happy. There was light in his eyes.
- Kees Jansma

The Avatar

The sayings of Cruyff are strange but sometimes very beautiful. He said: 'Every disadvantage has its advantage.' If you want to be intellectual, you can say that is dialectics in its most pure form.
- Hubert Smeets, Dutch intellectual

The sheer beauty of Dutch play was a revelation. Cruyff was the star, of course, a graceful human whiplash dancing away from tackles, ripping defences with his speed, guiding sumptuous passes around the field, exhorting and instructing teammates.
- David Winner

Dutch football is based on the equality of all the players. It cannot be built, say, only around Johan Cruyff. Even with Cruyff it was not built around Cruyff. When it worked well, it was a team of equals with everyone expecting each other to be equal. For the team to work, the team has to be the star, not the players.
- Jan Benthem

I’ve always thought possession is nine-tenths of the game, and Ajax played possession football. It was lovely. I used to just sit back and relax. After a game I’d think: 'Crikey, that was good'.
- Vic Buckingham, Team Ajax trainer 1959-61, 1964-65

Without the ball, you can't win.
- Johan Cruyff

The Decline and Rise

[Van Der Meer] shows me another picture...the moment when the world understood that Van Gaal’s Bosman-ravaged Ajax was finished — is captured in a single image. Four black-and-white-shirted Juventus players — Lombardo, Zidane (who has the ball at his feet), Inzaghi and Vieri — are attacking in a neat curved line five metres from the Ajax penalty area. Facing them are just two Ajax defenders, Bogarde and Mario Melchiot. Goalkeeper Van der Sar is on his line. Juventus won the match 2 - 1 and later crushed Ajax 4 - 1 in the second leg in Turin... What can be more dramatic than this? Four Italian attackers converging on two Dutch defenders. It’s a terrifying image.’
- David Winner

Twenty years ago, as Barcelona coach, Cruyff began a process that has transformed Spanish football. The Iberians, once renowned for their fighting football and brutal defenders, now specialise in exquisite quick passing and all-round creativity.
- David Winner

You know, there was always a tension between Cruyff’s vision and normal pragmatic football. He made what he did seem so normal that others thought they could do it too. But they can’t do it. So, how long will it last?...  Did you ever see the beautiful little haiku-like poem Xander van der Drift wrote for Johan magazine? [a football magazine of the late 90s and early 2000s named after Cruyff] He wrote it in 1999, and I agree with it very much. He meant Cruyff is our giant, and it will hit us one day. It goes: “Question of the 21st Century: where were you when Johan Cruyff died?”
 - David Winner

October 26, 2016

Samar, man

The survivors of the Battle off Samar -- now in their 90's -- received a special honor onboard the USS Midway Museum Saturday on the anniversary.


Good wishes Captain Evans, wherever you are.

October 25, 2016


About six months ago my family embarked on an experiment in which we agreed, once a week, to watch a movie together.  Since these are family events, we have a somewhat limited range in the kinds of movies we watch.  At a certain level I'd enjoy the opportunity to share Beast Cops with the family, but I think there are laws against that kind of thing.  If there aren't, there should be.

Anyway, it's gone better than I expected.  Key findings so far:

  • Artistic achievement:  Kubo and the Two Strings
  • I am alone here award:  I enjoyed The Prisoner of Zenda, but my family hated everything about it and blame me.
  • Best superhero fight:  Civil War, brilliant, ridiculous, Spiderman steals the show...just like a real comic book.
  • Best superhero movie:  The Winter Soldier.
  • Best Star Trek movie:  Star Trek Beyond.
  • Not as bad as I feared:  Secret Life of Pets.  I was braced for two hours of pain, but that bunny is  awesome!  I love that bunny!
  • Biggest meh:  Zootopia is gorgeous, well-crafted, well-acted.  But I feel like I should have liked it more than I did.  Too preachy?  Too goody goody?  I loved the Bob and Ray tribute, however.
  • Others:  As noted previously, Robin Hood and Shaolin Soccer are awesome.

No wonder everyone's so angry

Robert Morse, a trouper every inch of the way


October 23, 2016

It was a different time

By one account 250,000 people tried to get into the Polo Grounds to see the game. It was baseball's "Woodstock" moment. By 12:45 the gates were locked for a scheduled 3:00 first pitch. Legitimate ticket holders were refused admission. Fights broke out everywhere as fans tried to get their money back from scalpers. Two men fell to their deaths.

A mob burned down an outfield wall to gain entry but were beaten back by charging mounted police. According to Cait Murphy in her book Crazy ’08, Presidential candidate William Howard Taft’s brother Henry got in by crawling through the sewers, accompanied by a future Attorney General.


October 21, 2016

So long, thanks for the laughs

It begins for the Golden State Warriors:
“We played our hearts out that whole playoffs, the whole season, and then you’re going to call us cowards and not put your name on it,” Thompson said. “Get out of here.”
Yeah, it's over.

So long boys, have fun stormin' da castle!


Phexit means Phexit, assholes

"America has lost now. I've realigned myself in your ideological flow," Duterte told business leaders Thursday in Beijing.

"And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It's the only way."

Trade Minister Ramon Lopez told CNN that the Philippines "would not stop trade and investment with the US."


Fortunately nothing important runs on Linux

Disclosure of the nine-year-old vulnerability came the same week that Google researcher Kees Cook published research showing that the average lifetime of a Linux bug is five years.

"The systems using a Linux kernel are right now running with security flaws," Cook wrote. "Those flaws are just not known to the developers yet, but they’re likely known to attackers."


October 20, 2016

The first time I heard that song

Thursday, July 6th, 1984.  I was in Fenway Park, up in the cheap bleacher seats by the wall, a row or two behind a couple of insanely devoted fans.  These guys - one thin and quiet, the other fat and loud - were there for every game, scoring it on professional pads and punctuating the play with various remarks. The fat guy was LOUD, and he got his money's worth:
  • One night the Blue Jays were in town with their not-very-menacing 3rd baseman Rance Mulliniks and he screamed "IN YOUR PANTS RANCE!" 
We all feared him

  • There was a big sign for a shoe store with the tag line "Where did you get those shoes?"  One night Tony Armas was playing deep in center and the guy screams "TONY WHERE DID YOU GET THOSE SHOES".  Armas pointed at Rice in left.  High fives all around.
  • Whenever Dwight Evans came to bat, he'd scream "DEWEY! DEWEY! DEWEYYYYY!"  One night he almost hyperventilated and fell over while doing this, which made it even more special.
  • When Wade Boggs would come up he'd scream "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADE!"
  • He hated Bob Stanley, a fairly ordinary reliever who often came into games and doused the flames with kerosene.  When Ralph Houk brought Stanley in a big game late in the year I was over in the grandstand, and could hear this guy's "NOOOOOOOOOOO!" with perfect clarity.  His concerns were well-founded - Stanley got crushed and the Sox lost.
So on July 6th the Sox started a new guy against Chicago, big rookie right-hander they'd brought up named Clemens.  We hadn't seen a lot of him, but it was obvious he had great stuff, and in this game he was just a monster.

The White Sox had a guy named Ron Kittle, who led the league in strikeouts the year before, and would lead in At-Bats per hit in both 1983 and 1984.  Clemens was throwing smoke with control, and Kittle was not being selective.  When he came up with one out and one on in the top of the 9th he'd already struck out three times.  The count went against him quickly, and with two strikes on him, the fat guy started singing:


And maybe it was my imagination, but as the overmatched Kittle went down in flames for the fourth time that day I thought I heard everyone singing it, the whole crowd and the angels in Heaven.  It was the rightest thing I'd ever heard.  

Then Squires struck out and the game was over.  I went out into the summer night, skipped the Green Line crowds, started the long walk home.


[Addendum:  I did not know this until I looked it up, but the Fat Guy surely did, because he seemed to know everything.  From Wikipedia:  "In 1977, Chicago White Sox organist Nancy Faust began playing the song when White Sox sluggers knocked out the opposing pitcher. The fans would sing and a sports ritual was born."]

Eisengeiste Election Forecast: Прощай, motherfucker

October 19, 2016


October 17, 2016

You *cannot* bench this guy

October 16, 2016

The ordeal of Carmelo Anthony

"I just looked at it, and it was disrespectful."
- Carmelo Anthony, on being named the 15th-best player in the NBA

Carmelo Anthony is unquestionably one of the most gifted basketball players of his generation, a nine-time all-star, and also the possessor of a scoring title (2013) and three Olympic gold medals.  But, unfortunately for his reputation, no NBA titles or MVP awards.

Anthony has long had a reputation for selfishness.  When coach Mike D'Antoni left New York in 2012, Willing Davidson of The New Yorker wrote:
The consensus—denied by both—is that Anthony and D’Antoni could not agree on an effective court strategy. D’Antoni is the architect of a famously programmatic offense in which every possession runs through a quick-witted point guard. Anthony prefers the Melo system, in which everything runs through himself.

Basketball statisticians have not been kind.  Back in 2014 Michael Erler criticized ESPN's new Real Plus-Minus stat on the grounds that it thought Carmelo Anthony was good:
I know it's fashionable to rake Anthony over the coals for his lackadaisical defense and ball-stopping on offense, but I'm sorry, at some point common sense has to intervene. If Anthony is your ninth-ranked small forward, your stat is faulty.

But the recent Olympics prompted some re-thinking, perhaps even some rehabilitation.  In August Kyle Wagner at FiveThirtyEight wrote:
Anthony is a different player on the international court than when playing in the NBA. Internationally, he’s a spot-up shooting, ball-moving zone-buster; in the NBA, he’s an isolation-heavy volume scorer. It’s not as though Anthony is a fundamentally different player abroad — he’s a perfectly good spot-up shooter in the NBA when he finds time and space to spot up — but the nature of the international game and that of the Team USA roster change the way he influences a game.

Wagner makes a good point about his being a high volume scorer.  Particularly on mediocre teams there's often a guy who gets stuck having to shoot more than he should just because the team just doesn't have enough good players.  But there are players who take a lot of tough shots and make a lot, and players who take a lot of tough shots and miss a lot.  This chart of the top twenty players by total attempts (2015-16) helps us see which is which:

So, yes, Carmelo is a high-volume shooter, but he is an inefficient high volume shooter.  The man who led the Association in attempts last year, James Hardin, is viewed by some as a selfish player (not by me:  he ranked 6th in assists).  But while Hardin takes a lot of shots he actually has fewer misses per attempt than most.  Anthony takes fewer shots than Harden and makes a lower percentage of them (.463 on two pointers vs. .494).

Hopefully the chart also makes it obvious that Curry's MVP award was well-deserved.  Curry took about as many shots as Harden, and they were harder shots to make (402 three point attempts vs. 236).  And yet Curry had 114 fewer misses than Harden.  When you factor in that Curry plays defense and Harden doesn't, it's not a close call.

A couple of other thoughts on the chart:

  • I regret to say that it forces me to re-assess my condescending view of LeBron James.  Damn, he really is good.
  • I'm happy to say that the chart strongly suggests Kevin Durant is also really good.
  • Carmelo does not look compelling here.
You might argue that Klay Thompson looks better than Anthony because Curry spreads the floor, giving him better looks.  Certainly Thompson benefits from Curry's presence - he led the Association in catch-and-shoot baskets last year.  But how big an effect could that be?  Thompson took 79 more shots than Anthony but had five fewer misses.  You could say Thompson benefits from Kerr's offense, which is true - but when Anthony had a 'system' coach in D'Antoni, he couldn't make it work.  It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Anthony is a fairly mediocre high volume scorer.

That's a problem because he doesn't do a lot of other things to enhance his standing.  Here are our top 20 'volume' guys, with their per-game rank in other helpful activities (assists, rebounds, steals).  I've taken the harmonic mean to reward players who do well in several categories:

Again, there are lots of guys who look better than Anthony here.  Westbrook and James, in addition to being effective high volume scorers are the only ones who also rank in the NBA top 50 in all three categories.  Curry, playing fewer minutes per game than most of these guys, ranks 11th in assists, 3rd in steals, and is outrebounding most of the other guards here.  Let's acknowledge that he's good, ok?

Taking it all together, I see only two players - James and Curry - who excel vs. peers at high volume scoring, then do a lot of other things well, too.  Anthony, by contrast, is a below-average high volume scorer, and also below average vs. peers in his peripheral contributions.

Rehabilitation can only go so far.  I just can't see Anthony as a top 15 guy.  Not an MVP candidate, not a pantheon guy, not an immortal.  Top 50 today?  Sure, no question.  But the reality is that he is nowhere near the top fifteen.  He's just a very good NBA player, one of the few hundred best basketball players who ever lived.  It's a hard thing, but he'll survive.

Study it up, people

1992: Bill Clinton is elected president. The era of general prosperity that follows only serves to confirm the fact that Hillary Clinton is the Antichrist...


October 10, 2016

IAYPA YTD (min 100 attempts)

The guard changes - five weeks into the NFL season, only three of the top 10 IAYPA quarterbacks are over 30.  The stalwarts of the past - Drew Bees, Ben Roethlisberger, even Aaron Rodgers, have drifted down the league table.  Even Alex Smith - for years the NFL's most resolutely median IAYPA performer - is a bit off his game.

In their place there comes an assortment of men who've taken different paths to the top.
  • I don't know what's gotten into Matt Ryan, but I doubt if it's anything permanent.  The Falcons started 5-0 last year, and it all ended in tears - I suspect regression to the mean looms.
  • Dak Prescott is another matter.  Watched him last night, first whole game I've watched in years.  He made every decision correctly, placed every throw exactly where it was supposed to be - went 18-for-24 with a TD and no interceptions.  That's 155 attempts without an interception since he came into the League, a record.  They say they don't make pocket passers anymore - well, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.  There is no quarterback controversy, Romo has to go.
  • Trading for Sam Bradford:  not a dumb thing to do, apparently.
  • Russell Wilson - the 'man inside' the Seattle offense remains a top performer.
  • Who is Trevor Siemian?  I have to find out who Tervor Siemian is.
  • #11, Derek Carr, has brought the Raiders out of the wilderness and back to respectability.

At the other end of the scale we have the hapless Killer B's, Blake, Blaine, and Brock, along with the descending Ryan Fitzpatrick....and Joe!  Joe Flacco!  What are you doing here with these bums?  And Aaron...and Cam...!

Drew Brees and Eli Manning both get the Methuselah Award, delivering slightly-above median performance in their mid/late 30s.  Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, both all of 22 years old, get a pass.

Ax Gang's got a little problem

Girls?! That's not the GOP *I* know

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway lashed out at the Republican lawmakers who are jumping ship by saying that “some of them” sexually harass women in the Capitol. She did not name names but told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews last night that some of the members are known for “rubbing up against girls” and “sticking their tongues down women’s throats uninvited.”


October 08, 2016

A man trapped between two forms of cowardice

  • 9/29 - Jon Huntsman Jr. says he'll vote for Trump (link)
  • 10/8 - Jon Huntsman calls on Trump to drop out of the race (link)


His own running mate, Mike Pence, criticized Trump and pulled out of a scheduled appearance in Wisconsin on behalf of the campaign later Saturday.


It's like this Don: the bigger they come, the harder they fall

Letterman explains

I don’t know anything about politics. I don’t know anything about trade agreements. I don’t know anything about China devaluing the yuan. But if you see somebody who’s not behaving like any other human you’ve known, that means something. They need an appointment with a psychiatrist. They need a diagnosis and they need a prescription.

Kids, if you turn off the light, the moths will stop coming.


October 06, 2016


October 05, 2016

The Rasputin of Baseball

I got your benign neglect right here

Scene from Luke Cage

The villain, Cottonmouth, considers a policy of benign neglect towards the hero, Luke Cage.

I like it here. It's nice. I THINK I'LL STAY.

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, appears prepared to defy the Communist Party’s established script for transferring power and delay the designation of his successor until after a party congress next year, unsettling the party elite and stirring speculation that he wants to prolong his tenure.


October 04, 2016

Cameras, for security...

...or for massive botnets, whichever you prefer.



Flatland Sound Studio - Wave Arp from King Deluxe on Vimeo.

Too black! Too strong!

Luke Cage has too many black people, apparently.


"I find your car very boring"

I'm not a big follower of fan of the various vehicles owned by millionaire professional athletes, but Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham has the best. According to the broadcasters on Sunday's Jets game, he flies this to practice.


October 01, 2016

NO. You fuckers stick it out to the end with the rest of us.

Reflecting upon Trump’s actions, Matt Borges, the Republican Party chairman in battleground Ohio, said, “Can this thing just end — please?”

“My God,” he sighed, “what a nightmare.”