February 18, 2017

Meanwhile, at Yosemite...


February 17, 2017

Well, yeah

"Man is condemned to be free."  So said Jean Paul Sartre, the French existentialist.  And perhaps only a French existentialist could think that we are "condemned" to be free.  It's the kind of thing that would occur to you as you sit in a Parisian cafe on a rainy afternoon, smoking unfiltered cigarettes, and feeling the enormity of existence settle on your shoulders as you gaze in ineffable, inexplicable horror at the glass of beer in front of you.

[The podcast, which is very good, is actually about Epictetus.]


Zombie John McCain is all out of bubble gum

  • "[The founders of the Munich conference] would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarianism.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see towards immigrants and refugees and minority groups -- especially Muslims.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the growing inability -- and even unwillingness -- to separate truth from lies.”
  • "They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent."


February 12, 2017

The bards will sing

Following the Super Bowl Steve Young appeared on the Tolbert & Lund show on KNBR and explained the now-legendary fourth quarter - we present our own partial transcription here, in free verse:

It was brutal
It was inspiring
brutal to watch

There are comebacks
that you just can't stop
But this one was self-inflicted in some ways

And that's what's so hard,
especially with so much on the line,
at the Super Bowl

Look, as you manage games
because you know
someone says
I'm a game manager, he's a game manager
they usually use that as a cut on a quarterback,
he's just a game manager
a lot of the job is game management

There's some other phenomenally important things
that really just extend the game, extend the ability of your team
to go score and win and all that stuff

but a lot of quarterbacking
is nuts and bolts

And when you get away from that,
especially with the Super Bowl on the line
I use the word criminal,
that's probably too strong
but it's just
it's how you lose
it's how you lose Super Bowls
it's how you lose any game to be honest with you

But on the other side -
the frenzy that they allowed

You know that it was twenty eight to three
They had a shot
They had a drive that went three and out,
and I'm like

oh, you've got to go end this

because otherwise you're going to get the flurry of all flurries
from one of the greatest players ever, whatever you wanna say

He's comin'

If you give him a shot he'll start calculating in his mind
and the whole team is built this way
and they know - they're very mature as a group -
they're not going to go away
they're not going to disappear and fall flat

They're comin'

But you can end it
by going, even 31
'cause you knew the score
how are they going to pull that off

They don't do it

They go twenty eight and nine
and miss the extra point

Ok, now you know you need a field goal
You need that extra field goal to get away from three scores
And so when they miss the extra point
oh, doesn't really matter, neither here nor there

Then they go to the onside kick
a little desperate in my mind
Bill, what're you doing?
It's a little desperate

And it doesn't work and
I'm like ok, now you've got the ball on the 40

Now, with your season, career, everything, on the line
Get five, ten, fifteen yards
and end this.

I know people say
it's fourteen minutes in the fourth quarter,
whatever it was:
end it right there.

Doesn't happen.

Now it goes
Now they get the field goal
so now it's twenty eight to twelve

Tolbert:  Remember, real quick, remember Steve - after that onside kick, they got nine yards on first down to go to the 31 yard line to get in field goal range, and then Matthews holds and outside of field goal range they go.

That's the second time that's going to come up, right,
because they were running the ball
very effectively
and every time they seemed to hand off
so....see, now you've frustrated me even more because
I'd forgotten about that one
I'd forgotten about that one

As a guy that's played a long time, you know
you're making the same calculation they are.

You know you're in trouble
because now he's two scores down

I get it, two point conversions,
I get it

But now everybody smells success for the first time
Now you've really got to end it
Now's the time
because you don't want to get into this flurry.

So they run the ball, remember,
and it's nine yards again
they try to throw incomplete or whatever
oh I remember, they run the middle and it goes nowhere

So that's third and one
He's in the shotgun
Full blitz is coming
I'm sitting there watching this
Here comes the blitz
Are you throwing?
What are you doing?

He takes the deep drop
the linebacker comes
the running back misses him
or misses the assignment
Here comes
the linebacker free

And he takes a - he's lookin' the other way -
he takes the big drop
and the big windup to throw the big sail route
you know, the classic 28 yard sail route
with the whole season on the line

and then he gets the strip sack
and you think to yourself

you know what?
you deserve it

you do

Whatever's comin',
you might pull this out
you might sneak this by
you might somehow -

but what's comin'
you deserve now

That was my reaction

Because I've been there
I've lived it
I'd made mistakes
I get it
When it happens, own it

Whatever's comin'
is now on you

So then that happened.
So they go down and make it twenty.

And then they make one of the great
throws and catches
in the history of Super Bowls
or any game.

Julio Jones makes that catch down at the 22
but Matt Ryan steps up
and off-balance
throws a laser down there
and it was beautiful

And then you say to yourself
ok, you lucky suckers
you moved this ball down

Now you can end it for good

You get a second chance to end it
'cause a field goal,
in my mind,
ended it.

And, so, you're at the 22
You remember
They ran, did nothing

And then, in your mind the thing that cannot happen is
what Tom, you didn't play football
but you know this, what cannot happen?

Tolbert:  Sack.  Sack.

It cannot happen
cannot happen

Honestly, if a pass is called
You just know, 101,
I cannot go down.

I've got to figure out a way to throw the ball near somebody
I have it in my mind this ball's coming out

And you see him go back
he gets pressured
he tries to go make a play
and down he goes

and I think to myself you guys deserve this twice now
now whatever's comin', I'm done with you guys
and so it ends any chance
and you say oh my gosh

and here comes Tom

February 11, 2017

OKC shows why it has the reputation it enjoys today

The fans, so amped pregame but so frustrated as the lopsided score materialized, resorted to one final cupcake chant as Durant completed his national TV postgame interview, victorious in his emotional return.


Based on a conversation with Dr. Kapital

February 07, 2017

Professor Irwin Corey accepts the National Book Award Fiction Citation for Thomas Pynchon, 4/18/74

Mencken once said, "He who underestimates the American pubic - public, will not go broke." This is merely a small indication of this vast throng gathered here to once again behold and to perceive that which has gone behind and to that which might go forward into the future...we've got to hurdle these obstacles. This is the main deterrent upon which we have gathered our strength and all the others who say, "What the hell did that get?" - We don't know. We've got to peforce withold the loving boy... And as Miller once said in one of his great novels- what did he ... that language is only necessary when communication is endangered. And you sit there bewildered, and Pinter who went further said "It is not the lack of communication but fear of communication." That's what the Goddamn thing is it's we fear - communication. Oh - fortunately the prize has only been given to authors - unlike the Academy Award which is given to a female and a male, indicating the derision of the human specie - God damn it! But we have no paranoia, and Mr. Pynchon has attained, and has created for himself serenity, and it is only the insanity that has kept him alive in his paranoia. We speak of the organ...of the orgasm...Who the hell wrote this? And the jury has determined to divide the prize between two writers - to Thomas Pynchon for his GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. Now GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is a token of this man's genius...he told me so himself...that he could...in other words, have been more specific, but rather than to allude the mundane, he has come to the conclusion that brevity is the importance of our shallow existence. God damn.


February 06, 2017

Damn, Charles

A lone Anchorage prison guard sits at the receiving end of Alaska's failed mental health system, trying to keep 28 acutely disturbed men from harming themselves or others.

The Mike Module, as the unit is called at Anchorage Correctional Complex, is staffed by a single corrections officer and a single nurse except when clinicians visit. I sat down with two retired officers to find out what that job is like.


What's wrong with Anchorage, Alaska



February 05, 2017

The Talented Mister Brady

Four-time Super Bowl MVP?

* Throws clipboard over shoulder *

We'll take a look at the whole body of work another time.

HOUSTON – Down 25 points in the third quarter, Tom Brady delivered the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history on Sunday, befitting of his status as greatest quarterback of all time.

Previously no team that ever trailed by more than 10 points in a Super Bowl had come back to win. New England was down 28-3 late in third quarter...


Deadspin's take:

The Impossible Band

Ringo events are often sloppy affairs.  This one is not.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to White House: NO

"Appellants' request for an immediate administrative stay pending full consideration of the emergency motion for a stay pending appeal is denied."


February 04, 2017


Memo to economists: SHOW YOUR WORK

I know Krugman is famous for his acerbic writing style, because he has the New York Times bully pulpit, etc.  But I read him religiously because he show his work.  He explains why he thinks what he thinks.  Recent example:
Germany in effect has an undervalued currency relative to what it would have without the euro. The figure shows German prices (GDP deflator) relative to Spain (which I take to represent Southern Europe in general) since the euro was created. There was a large real depreciation during the euro’s good years, when Spain had massive capital inflows and an inflationary boom. This has only been partly reversed, despite an incredible depression in Spain. Why? Because wages are downward sticky, and Germany has refused to support the kind of monetary and fiscal stimulus that would raise overall euro area inflation, which remains stuck at far too low a level. 
So the euro system has kept Germany undervalued, on a sustained basis, against its neighbors.

For me these tend to be one-sided conversations because hardly anyone else does this, relying instead on argument from authority.

Paul is good.  Be more like Paul, everybody.



Why does [Cuban emigre] Rodriguez draw Trump with missing facial features?

“That's the way I see him,” Rodriguez said. “I see him as someone that's very angry, and it's pretty much his mouth that's moving all the time, so that's how I tend to show him in some of my work.”

Rodriguez added that the Der Spiegel cover is a statement about the kind of country he wants to live in.

“I don't want to live in a dictatorship,” he said. “If I wanted to live in a dictatorship, I'd live in Cuba, where it's much warmer.”


January 30, 2017

Much better than I remembered

January 29, 2017

I'll plump for orenda, with some sukha as a backup

 BBC report words for feelings that have no English equivalent.


Don't pretend you don't remember

For a middle school assignment on the 70s, a supercut of trailers, show intros, clips and ads:

January 28, 2017

Useful phrase

Whenever the subject of big data comes up, I just say this, in exactly that way.

January 27, 2017

Also brilliant

Freaking brilliant

Beautiful cipher

Rob Sheffield's piece on Mary Tyler Moore is superb.  (link)

The picture he used is perfect.  It's all right there - the good looks, the ambition, the insecurity, the anxiety...a face seemingly not sure whether to express hope, doubt, joy, or pain:

I never knew what to make of Mary Tyler Moore, exactly.  She was beautiful, of course, but in a hyper-detailed stylized 70s way that makes no more sense to me now than it did then.  In the opening credits she walks mechanically around a reservoir in a jump suit...why?!  She was the best looking person on her show and probably the best looking person in tv comedy, and it was absolutely the least important thing about her performances.

She was a hell of an actor from Day One.  Carl Reiner said he knew she was right the minute he saw her audition - he hired her on the spot.  Not hard to see why:

But it was Day Two that got really interesting.  I'd watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show and try to figure out what they were doing with the character - I know Ted's dumb, Murray's smart but wimpy, Lou's tough but kind...but what's Mary?  What's the deal with her?  What does she do?  Where is this going?

And the answer was: nothing.  She did nothing.  Sure, she'd be in every scene - they ran the whole show through her - she met people, she did duets with Ed Asner, Ted Knight, Georgia Engel and a dozen other great talents.  Everything revolved around her from the opening shot to the ending credits.  But most of the time she was Zeppo - the more you looked at her, the less there was.  She was always shadowboxing with the audience, playing a character baffled by life, smiling brilliantly, subjected to indignities, and always refusing to choose a path, particularly one that might lead to love, security, or who knows even happiness.

She said, Macy-like, “I'm not an actress who can create a character. I play me.”

The show seemed to be about the liminal space between her failed engagement and the next big event - a promotion?  matrimony?  - in her life.  In the meantime she was pressing on, focusing on work, tuning most everything else out, vamping...just like her boss.

We're not so different, you and I.

There was talk of making Lou and Mary a couple, but Moore didn't want that.  Mary Richards commits to nobody and nothing.  She hovers in indeterminate space in a life that, for better or worse, is the product of her choices and no one else's.

Day Three was Ordinary People, her Holy Grail, she said.

As Moore departs, I still wonder who she was.  She was so good at deflection and redirection.  In this appearance on Carson she counters so well that the segment turns into an extensive Carson confessional:

How can you miss someone you never knew?  How can you mourn someone whose face you never really saw?

But I do.

[UPDATE:  A good piece about her on 'Fresh Air' today.]

January 25, 2017

The Desert Island Option

Contemplating the option of moving to a remote, uninhabited island (as one does) I was reminded of, and ordered a copy of Walter de la Mare's magnificent Desert Islands.  It is a wonderful miscellany book containing an essay by de la Mare followed by dozens of excerpts on the topic.  I love the book because it is hand-made, a labor of love, and not remotely linear.  Point 'A' and Point 'B' are both included, but are nowhere near one another.  There are a multitude of equally interesting points along the alphabet scattered more or less randomly through its pages.

Late in the book de la Mare shares this bit - a late addition to the proceedings, he says - the Preface to The Voyages, dangerous Adventures, and imminent Escapes of Capt. Richard Falconer...well, here's the full title (read the whole book here):

No wonder Falconer caught de la Mare's eye, the man knew how to make an entrance.  The Preface holds the high standard set by the title:
I am told, that a Book without a Preface, is like a New Play without a Prologue, or a French Dinner without Soup; and tho' I cannot tell what to say, yet I am resolv'd to say something, tho' perhaps not any thing to the Purpose. So far I hope you'll allow me to be an Author. I shall give you, gentle Reader, (if you are so) Three of my Reasons why I publish these following Pages; which, I must confess, are not so well polish'd as I cou'd wish, but Truth is amiable tho' in Rags. The first and chiefest, to get Money; for tho' I have a considera∣ble Income, yet I can never bring both points together at the Year's End; but however, don't blame my economy, since I owe you nothing, and if I am beholden to any Body, it is to Honest Chetwood, my Bookseller; (I beg his Pardon if I miscall him, tho' I don't believe it will anger him in the least, for all Men love to be term'd so, whether they deserve it or no) being he will run the greatest Risque if my Book does not sell. Second, to save my Lungs, and a great deal of Trouble in repeating to my Friends these following Adventures, for now they may at a small Expence get 'em by Heart, if they will endeavour to stretch their Memories. Third and lastly, to appear in Print, which was, I assure you, a great Motive with me as well as with a great many others of the same Rank, that make Work for many Prin∣ters, tho' as little to the Purpose as my self. I could give a Catalogue of some of 'em, but that wou'd be making my Preface exceed the Bulk of my Book. Tho' I cou'd put the Booksellers in a Way to save Money in their Pockets, and that is to persuade a great many Authors to print their Lucubra∣tions at their own Charge, and that might make some of the poorest to desist; but for the richer Sort of Authors, there's no Help, it's like the Itch, and they must write to be scratch'd tho' the Blood comes. The follow∣ing Sheets, however extraordinary they ap∣pear, I assure you upon the Word of a Man are Truth, and I hope they will entertain you; but if they don't, and you should chance to slight 'em, you will not anger 
Your Servant, R. Falconer.Canterbury, Nov. 7. 1719.

That's one page, there are 304 more.  The estimable de la Mare did a couple of other books like this as well - Behold This Dreamer (1939...get that gorgeous Faber edition if you can), and Love (1946).  They are treasures.


January 22, 2017

Congratulations, you hoser

Tom Brady, man.  The only quarterback in history to deliver seven playoff performances with a passer rating higher than 112...the first in 2005.

Oh wait, there's a flag on the field...

Upon further review, Brady's squeaker last week was revised downward, so according to the updated Football Reference Immortality screen (here), this latest outstanding performance will only bring him up to six, in line with the great Joe Montana.

Whether this result will stand up after a linear correction is made for higher passer ratings overall in recent years remains to be determined.

(Puts away clipboard)

And oh yes, good show, Mr. (91.6) Rodgers*, thank you for all the excitement and we look forward to revisiting your efforts again next year.  And yes, bards will sing of your 2016 season for a thousand years, as well they should.

* Questionable musical choices notwithstanding, this is worth watching.

January 21, 2017

Zaza's lucky year

You are welcome

Pretty good Bollywood station in San Jose.


January 20, 2017

Perhaps therapeutic

LA Kitten Rescue kitten-cam.


For some, a day of celebration

All I can muster today

Another victory for Trumpist devolution

Once again the Army will select a foreign-made automatic pistol - not a steady, accurate, reliable sixgun - as its side-arm of choice.  Trump says nothing.  Sad!


January 16, 2017

The significance of Diebenkorn, via NYRB

Universal acceptance, however desired, has its problems. The critics and historians, as they heap on the praise and outdo one another in feats of analytical subtlety, can smooth out the quirks and complexities that give an artist’s work its stand-alone power. Richard Diebenkorn was beginning to receive this kind of bland adulation even before he died in 1993 at the age of seventy. His achievement, so full of surprises and perplexities, has been muffled and sanitized. His evolution from the jagged melancholy of the figures and landscapes that he painted in the 1950s to the quietism of his later Ocean Park abstractions has been fast-tracked into an Olympian ascent. He’s been enshrined in the museums. I worry that an artist of whom nothing negative can be thought, much less said, is an artist who doesn’t really matter.

(link - paywall)

Saw it again last night, loved it

January 15, 2017

Sorry, still not 112

[T]here’s a case that Rodgers’s 36-yard pass to Jared Cook that got the Packers to the Dallas 32 with three seconds left is the most impressive throw in playoff history. Not most dramatic, mind you — there’s always the Immaculate Reception or the Helmet Catch or even Fourth-and-26. But as far as being impressive goes? Rodgers’s throw is in the conversation for no. 1.


Immortality screen update

(Checks clipboard)

Sorry Mr. Rodgers, a passer rating of 96.7 does not qualify.

Yes, we understand you are the greatest football player in the world today, but the numbers are the numbers, sorry.

There is also this is this slightly damning passage from an article today:
When the Green Bay Packers have won in the postseason under coach Mike McCarthy, they have mostly been able to take a knee at the end of the game and let those final seconds be their closing argument regarding which team was better. 
When they have lost, however, more often than not it has been a major meltdown in which their ticket to the offseason was delivered on the final play of the game.  Five of McCarthy’s seven playoff losses have occurred that way, four of them in overtime, and one in each of the last three seasons.
I know this is a bit unfair, but the position you are applying for is Greatest Quarterback of All Time.  Successful candidates for this position should not lose the big ones at the end.

I'm afraid we'll have to grade this application INCOMPLETE.

(Puts clipboard away)

I'm sorry, but we do look forward to seeing your work next week.  Good luck.


Bass sax ftw