I went a little berserk on the twitter last night. I watched a few games back to back on NFL Rewind, and just started tweeting. I think it beats my marathon Basketball Wives tweeting sessions. Anyway, a few things:
1.) I got to see Cam Newton's 422-yard performance against the Cardinals. It should be said that the Cardinals didn't look very good on defense. But it should also be said, that they really seemed to be coming after Newton. I thought he handled the rush about as well as I've ever seen a rookie QB in his debut game. Check out Chris Brown's mock-up of Newton's first NFL touchdown--a 77-yard bomb.
2.) I know the notion of playing under pressure has been basically debunked. But watching Tony Romo's performance, and comparing it to his numbers, will make you suspicious. All interceptions and fumbles are killers, but some are just genocidal. I have no idea why Romo was running with the ball like a loaf of bread near the goal line, or what made him say, "Hey my number one receiver is hurt, I think this is a good time to test the best cornerback in the league."
With that said, I suspect the desire to take chances cuts both ways. I'm sure Romo could play smarter at the end of football games. But I wounder if the same urge to try for the touchdown, isn't the same urge that makes him a good quarterback. That touchdown to Miles Austin, really could have been picked off.
Finally, I'd love to see a statistical breakdown of QBs in the fourth quarter. The vague sense that Romo isn't a "clutch players" needs to be measured against some math.
3.) I got to chatting last night on the twitter last night with a dude who can't watch the games on Sunday because his RPG group plays at the same time. This was shocking. I really thought I was the only person in the world who generally believed "Against The Giants" to be a really cool double entendre.
It got me to wondering why nerds tend toward baseball, instead of football. I don't know if the brawny, muscle-headed rep of the game scares away geeks, but football always struck me as a game for intellectuals--chess with concussions as someone said on twitter, or RTS with actual people.
I was nerd almost as a matter of biology. But given where I grew up, I never thought of myself as such until much later. I wasn't stuffed into my locker (that was rather dangerous in 1989) and was generally pretty well liked. I never really felt socially banished. So I lack the standard nerd-narrative of pariah status.
You just had to love Ronnie Lott in West Baltimore. There wasn't much choice. The way we played the game, was the way we wanted to live You had to know what it meant for Doug Williams to ether John Elway. It was like hip-hop--a hood lingua franca.
4.) Here are some thoughts from Detroit on the NFL's worst owner:
Well, the Fontes/Ross era combined for six playoff appearances in nine seasons; the Lions made the playoffs eight times in 58 seasons prior to Fontes' arrival (well, Barry's arrival). The Lions went 9-7 in 2000, missing the playoffs thanks to Paul Edinger's game-winning FG in week 17.
As a result, Ford hired a broadcaster with no previous front office experience, watched him tear down a veteran team and replace it with a 2-14 version ... despite four consecutive seasons during which the Lions never approached that 9-7 mark, Ford rewarded Millen with a contract extension. At that point, Millen had led the Lions to a 16-48 record, tied for the 12th-worst four-season stretch since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978, and yet Ford made him reportedly the second-highest-paid general manager in the league. (I didn't even know that before. RAEG.)
At the end of his tenure, the Lions were 31-97 over that eight-season stretch (giving Millen the blame for all of 2008), ninth-worst in NFL history. The two franchises who managed worse streaks were the Cardinals, various periods from 1936 to 1945, and the Eagles, various periods from 1933 to 1943. (They each had four streaks that overlapped.) In essence, Millen took an average team and made it a WWII-era bottom-feeder. And the event that led to all this was arguably B. Sanders choosing to quit rather than to put up with another year of the lunacy that is football in Detroit.
That event is probably on par with a hypothetical ousting of Parcells, especially given what Parcells managed in Miami and what Barry contributed to in Detroit. (Five of the Lions' 10 modern playoff appearances came during Barry's career.) Ford has owned the team for 51 years. In the 50 seasons under his watch, the Lions have won 10 games or more 5 times. They've won exactly 1 playoff game. Snyder matched that total in his first year as owner (they beat the Lions, in fact, in 1999), and his Redskins have won 10 games twice in 11 seasons.
I can certainly understand the frustration that Redskins fans must feel, watching a storied franchise slowly being driven into the ditch by Voldemort, but trust me, Snyder has a long, long way to go to be the worst in the league. The fact that he's openly dumb just makes his stupidity more obvious; Ford's ability to hide in the shadows doesn't make his any less important. (We could throw in Mike Brown and Bill Bidwill for good measure; I'm not entirely convinced that Bidwill even realizes his Cardinals nearly won the Super Bowl once. If Snyder wants to lead the NFL in incompetence, he'd better be prepared for a long battle ... there are masters at work before him.)
I'd insert some word about Jerry Jones here, but I don't think I'm qualified anymore. More on that later.
5.) Another endorsement for NFL Rewind which is offering a free trial through September 19. The game really looks spectacular. Watching Newton yesterday got me thinking a lot about story-telling. I knew he lost the game, and yet on that final drive my blood was still up. It was as though I expected him to defy space-time.
It's very similar to story-telling in that way. How can we know that D'Angelo is a dead man and root for him anyway? Know what happens at the end is good. Knowing how it happened is so much better.
6.) I bought a glass bodum tea pot. I make mint tea every morning and every night. I think I'm in love.
“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”
Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the Far West Side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak. When the host asked me about my body, her face faded from the screen, and was replaced by a scroll of words, written by me earlier that week.
The host read these words for the audience, and when she finished she turned to the subject of my body, although she did not mention it specifically. But by now I am accustomed to intelligent people asking about the condition of my body without realizing the nature of their request. Specifically, the host wished to know why I felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white, was built on looting and violence. Hearing this, I felt an old and indistinct sadness well up in me. The answer to this question is the record of the believers themselves. The answer is American history.
New data shows that students whose parents make less money pursue more “useful” subjects, such as math or physics.
In 1780, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, in which he laid out his plans for what his children and grandchildren would devote their lives to. Having himself taken the time to master “Politicks and War,” two revolutionary necessities, Adams hoped his children would go into disciplines that promoted nation-building, such as “mathematicks,” “navigation,” and “commerce.” His plan was that in turn, those practical subjects would give his children’s children room “to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelaine.”
Two-hundred and thirty-five years later, this progression—“from warriors to dilettantes,” in the words of the literary scholar Geoffrey Galt Harpham—plays out much as Adams hoped it would: Once financial concerns have been covered by their parents, children have more latitude to study less pragmatic things in school. Kim Weeden, a sociologist at Cornell, looked at National Center for Education Statistics data for me after I asked her about this phenomenon, and her analysis revealed that, yes, the amount of money a college student’s parents make does correlate with what that person studies. Kids from lower-income families tend toward “useful” majors, such as computer science, math, and physics. Those whose parents make more money flock to history, English, and performing arts.
In 1992, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson got a challenge from the Dalai Lama. By that point, he’d spent his career asking why people respond to, in his words, “life’s slings and arrows” in different ways. Why are some people more resilient than others in the face of tragedy? And is resilience something you can gain through practice?
The Dalai Lama had a different question for Davidson when he visited the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader at his residence in Dharamsala, India. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear. Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’ … I did not have a very good answer. I said it was hard.”
Most adults can’t remember much of what happened to them before age 3 or so. What happens to the memories formed in those earliest years?
My first memory is of the day my brother was born: November 14, 1991. I can remember my father driving my grandparents and me over to the hospital in Highland Park, Illinois, that night to see my newborn brother. I can remember being taken to my mother’s hospital room, and going to gaze upon my only sibling in his bedside cot. But mostly, I remember what was on the television. It was the final two minutes of a Thomas the Tank Engine episode. I can even remember the precise story: “Percy Takes the Plunge,” which feels appropriate, given that I too was about to recklessly throw myself into the adventure of being a big brother.
In sentimental moments, I’m tempted to say my brother’s birth is my first memory because it was the first thing in my life worth remembering. There could be a sliver of truth to that: Research into the formation and retention of our earliest memories suggests that people’s memories often begin with significant personal events, and the birth of a sibling is a textbook example. But it was also good timing. Most people’s first memories date to when they were about 3.5 years old, and that was my age, almost to the day, when my brother was born.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Defining common cultural literacy for an increasingly diverse nation
Is the culture war over?
That seems an absurd question. This is an age when Confederate monuments still stand; when white-privilege denialism is surging on social media; when legislators and educators in Arizona and Texas propose banning ethnic studies in public schools and assign textbooks euphemizing the slave trade; when fear of Hispanic and Asian immigrants remains strong enough to prevent immigration reform in Congress; when the simple assertion that #BlackLivesMatter cannot be accepted by all but is instead contested petulantly by many non-blacks as divisive, even discriminatory.
And that’s looking only at race. Add gender, guns, gays, and God to the mix and the culture war seems to be raging along quite nicely.
The unwillingness of the former secretary of state to take questions from the press contrasts sharply with Jeb Bush’s marked affinity for public disclosure.
Howard Kurtz reported on Sunday night that the Hillary Clinton campaign has decided to open itself to more press interviews. Kurtz quoted the campaign’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri: “By not doing national interviews until now, Palmieri concedes, ‘we’re sacrificing the coverage. We’re paying a price for it.’”
Meanwhile Jeb Bush chatted July 2 with the conservative website, the Daily Caller. The Daily Caller interview broke an unusually protracted no-interview period for Bush. It had been more than two weeks since he appeared on the Tonight show with Jimmy Fallon. Bush spoke that same day, June 17, to Sean Hannity’s radio show and ABC News. Five days earlier, he’d spoken to Germany’s Der Spiegel—altogether, five interviews in the month of June. That brought his total, since the beginning of February, to 39, according to the Bush campaign.*
Chicago has seen a double-digit increase in the percentage of kids graduating from high school. Skeptics say educators and kids are manipulating the numbers—but does that even matter?
Desiree Cintron’s name used to come up a lot during “kid talk,” a weekly meeting at Chicago’s North-Grand High School at which teachers mull over a short list of freshmen in trouble.
No shock there, says Desiree now, nearly three years later.
“I was gangbanging and fighting a lot,” she says, describing her first few months of high school. “I didn’t care about school. No one cared, so I didn’t care.”
Had Desiree continued to fail in her freshman year, she would have dropped out. She is sure of that. It was only because of a strong program of academic and social supports put together by her teachers that she stuck it out. Desiree pulled up a failing grade and several Ds. She gave up gangbanging and later started playing softball. She connected with a school determined to connect with her.
Burt Shavitz, the eccentric namesake of the cosmetics juggernaut, co-founded a billion-dollar company, but lived a relatively low-key life.
On Monday, Burt’s Bees posted a tribute to its eccentric namesake, Burt Shavitz, who died at 80 over the weekend. “We remember him as a bearded, free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers and his land,” the message read. “Above all, he taught us to never lose sight of our relationship with nature.”
In the pantheon of woodsy-seeming New English business folk, Shavitz is right up there with Ben and/or Jerry. In a relatively short period of time, Burt’s Bees went from backwoods beeswax to corner store competitor as its line of cosmetics—emblazoned with Shavitz’s mug on the logo—signaled natural purity even before that became a consumer craze.
Perhaps, a better analogue for the company Shavitz cofounded would be Tom’s of Maine, which made its name with a few quirky products (“all-natural” toothpaste) and eventually diversified to become a cross-aisle competitor. The only difference is that founders Tom and Kate Chappell got handsomely paid when the company was bought for $100 million by Colgate-Palmolive in 2006.