Tennis

Tennis is one of my favorite sports. It is also as international as a sport can get. Unfortunately, that means that most of the big tournaments are not played on the east coast of the United States, so it is hard for me to watch. I can usually watch part of the weekend matches, but I’m either at work or asleep during the week. This year, though, I was home sick on Friday, so I got to watch an extraordinary match. It was the men’s semifinal at Wimbledon between John Isner of the United States and Kevin Anderson of South Africa. The first three sets all went to tiebreakers. Anderson won the fourth set 6 to 4. So it came down to a decisive fifth set. There are no tiebreakers in the final set at Wimbledon (or at the French and Australian Opens). Anderson wound up winning the fifth set 26 to 24.

The match lasted six and a half hours. That’s more than double the typical length of a tennis match. It was riveting. It was some of the tensest, most exciting sports I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. As a fan, I was hoping it would keep going. I’m just lucky to have been able to see it.

I was able to watch most of the men’s and women’s finals over the weekend (Congratulations to Kerber and Djokovic, by the way). The announcers kept talking about the men’s semifinal. And all they kept talking about was how they had to change the rules to implement a tiebreaker in the fifth set at Wimbledon. Their big takeaway from one of the best matches I’ve ever seen was that we need to change the rules so that kind of match can’t happen again.

I was struck by the disconnect between the fans’ point of view and the professionals’ point of view. From the fans’ point of view, more of the thing they love is good. For the professionals, the players and commentators and coaches, it’s almost like being stuck working overtime. They just want to be home at a reasonable hour.

John McEnroe was probably the most vocal proponent of the rule change. And one of the things he kept saying was that it would be good for the fans if they implemented a fifth set tiebreaker. He just doesn’t get the fans at all. One of the biggest reasons we watch sports is because at any moment, you might see something that no one has ever seen before. The rule change would limit those possibilities. And tennis fans all over the world would be poorer for it.

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I’m Sorry, but I Love Led Zeppelin

A few days ago, my esteemed colleague Gene Glotzer wrote a post about his dislike for Led Zeppelin. We’d talked about it before, so it wasn’t news to me when he published it (what I actually learned was that none of you check the authors on these articles, based on how many people asked me how I could dislike Zeppelin). All of his reasons are completely valid, but I still can’t help it. I love Led Zeppelin. It may just be because Zeppelin was the first classic rock band I’d seriously listened to. I’d heard music from Journey and the Rolling Stones in commercials and stuff, but Physical Graffiti was the first classic rock album I listened to from beginning to end. I listened to Ten Year’s Gone when I was pining for high school crushes. I danced to Houses of the Holy.

The one critique that sticks with me the most are the charges of plagiarism. Those charges are 100% true, but I don’t really think about them. When I think about Robert Plant stealing Black people’s music, I think about Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley stealing Black people’s music, too. And I think about our music being stolen by clowns like Post Malone today. And I think about how white people have stolen from Black people in this land every single day for 399 years. So I conveniently forget those charges to spare myself that thought.

I openly admit that I don’t know enough about rock music to know if Zeppelin is objectively good- maybe the Ramones are more technically sound or something. But I like their music, and I think I’m overdue for another listening session of The Rain Song.

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Reputational Risk

I like to watch live sports. One of the drawbacks of watching live sports is you’re kinda stuck watching the ads. Two ads running a lot lately are for Wells Fargo and Facebook, and they are basically the same ad. They say, “We screwed up. We might have lost your trust. But, trust us, we’re better now. Please don’t leave.” That’s not an exact quote from either ad, but it gets the gist. Clearly these ads are an attempt by both companies to mitigate damage to their reputations. But, every time I see the ads, I can’t help but wonder why they bother.

Reputational Risk is something companies spend a lot of time worrying about. And that’s mostly a good thing. It’s what got Roseanne taken off the air and Kevin Spacey fired from his show. Wikipedia defines Reputational Risk as, “a risk of loss resulting from damages to a firm’s reputation, in lost revenue; increased operating, capital or regulatory costs; or destruction of shareholder value, consequent to an adverse or potentially criminal event even if the company is not found guilty.” But how often does a company actually suffer losses due to a bad reputation?

Do you remember a company called Exxon? They were an oil company who had a tanker crash, causing one of the most public environmental disasters in history. Of course you remember them, because they simply found the loose change to pay the fines in their couch cushions and went on to become the world’s richest company for a while. Think that’s a fluke? Try looking up BP.

How about AIG? They were the largest insurance company in the world. Then, they took a huge chunk of the blame for the 2008 financial crisis. Then, they continued being the largest insurance company in the world.

Volkswagen is my favorite. Never mind the fact that this company was Hitler’s brainchild. And after World War II, they didn’t even feel the need to change their name. More recently they developed a way to cheat the sensors on emissions tests. They then marketed the cars with this cheat as “clean diesel” to try to appeal to green minded people. They sold a lot of cars before it was exposed. Yet they are still vying with Toyota to be the world’s largest automaker.

Google was stealing private data from people’s home Wi-Fi. They claimed it was an accident, which doesn’t even make any sense. Then, they continued to be the most visited website in the world generating billions in ad revenue.

It would be easy to blame the people for not caring. If ruining the world economy isn’t enough to get people to change insurers, what is? But I don’t actually blame people. I think it is a failure of the regulators. We need some good old fashion trust busters. Reputational Risk is actually a big deal for small companies. Bad word of mouth can ruin them. But being too big to fail makes a company’s reputation irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how upset we get at these companies. Only governments have the power to do anything to them that will hurt. And governments just don’t seem to care.

 

 

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The Best Weekend of the Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s ConnectiCon!

Today, I’m going to put aside all the stress and anxiety, all the worries about politics and the future, all the concerns about money and dating, and nerd all the way out. I’m going to panels. I’m buying merchandise. I’m meeting up with friends I haven’t seen since last year’s ConnectiCon. I’m going to veg out in front of videogames for hours on end.

Then I’m going over to the Food Truck Festival and eating the fattiest, greasiest, least healthy food I can find. I want to eat something that will literally take minutes off my life. I don’t care if it drips down my chin and onto my shirt and makes a total mess. I’ll be pigging out on the waterfront several times today. I’ll try to work some of it off with a Lime Bike ride with Gabe, but I’m doing that because he’s interested, not because I want to burn calories. No worries today.

And THEN I’m going to watch the fireworks tonight. This is the way that we celebrate Gabriel’s birthday- ConnectiCon is always the weekend after his birthday, and this year he has tons of money to spend on whatever he wants. Why am I writing this? I need to go get ready!

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A Summer Cold

I already wrote about how much I hate the summer. Now I have a cold in the summer. It makes everything I already hate about summer even worse. Since I promised a post a day for the month of July, but I feel really crappy, I figured I cop out and just write myself a sick note. I’m going to bed now. Of course, it sure would be easier to sleep if it were winter.

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Whatever happened to Generation X?

Remember all those awesome Pepsi commercials from the 90’s about Generation Next? Some were definitely better than others, but they all had the cumulative effect of making me think that Generation X was the coolest group of hip twentysomethings to ever walk the planet.

Believe it or not, that was twenty years ago. All of those twentysomethings are now fortysomethings. I’m friends with a bunch of them- regular ass people going to work, paying bills, and not drinking all that much Pepsi honestly. Of course, our media’s obsession with youth meant that eventually they would age out of the spotlight (and it’s even beginning to happen to us millennials now that we’re creeping up the thirtysomething ladder). But even in the midst of America trying to figure out why millennials are such homicidal maniacs, there’s a lot of attention that still gets paid to Baby Boomers. We talk about their retirement, their voting patterns, and they seem to simply not want to go away. Meanwhile, we almost never talk about Gen X.

I don’t have any data to back this up, because data collection takes time and money (read: someone fund me to post half-baked ideas on my blog), but I think Gen Xers got caught in a really awkward time. The recessions of the 2000’s have basically destroyed the hopes of most millennials to ever have anything but work and crushing debt for the rest of our lives. While that realization sucks, we were fortunate that those events happened right at the beginning of our adult lives. We could come to terms with the darkening landscape and our future as contract employees forever.

Gen Xers were right in the middle of their adult lives when the world they were promised began to unravel. They looked at their parents and their homes, cars and 401Ks, and built their lives under the assumption that those things would be theirs too. And they were on track until the dot-com bubble burst, and then the housing bubble burst, and we all learned the truth: nothing rises forever, and eventually someone had to pay for all of the outrageous wealth generated during the 80’s and 90’s. That burden is falling on us.

Gen X is now forced to work endlessly to maintain the things they had right before the downturn began. It’s hard to be cool and hip and loud when you’re struggling to make ends meet, and you’re embarrassed about your struggles. Gen X is especially torn between the expectations of their parents to succeed in exactly the same way they did, and the economic reality of millennials where such success is basically impossible.

Those Pepsi commercials remain burned in my memory, so I’ll always look up to Gen X as this cutting edge group of people who were going to change the world, even as it’s apparent that they weren’t really given the opportunity to. The Boomers have refused to let go of the reigns, and the millennials are trying to wrest control away from them. And in the middle are the Pepsi drinkers, too burdened to make any noise.

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I’m Sorry, But I Just Don’t Like Led Zeppelin

This is something I’ve wanted to get off my chest for a while now. I don’t like Led Zeppelin. I never have. This shouldn’t be noteworthy. There are tons of bands I don’t like. But, for some reason, everyone assumes I do like Led Zeppelin. People who find out that I love music as much as I do are regularly starting conversations about Led Zeppelin with me. I’m polite, but I always wish we could be talking about something else. So, I thought maybe I should get out in front and publicly state my feelings and maybe people will stop talking to me about them.

I should start by saying that I am aware that all four members of the band are technically proficient. That’s not saying much, though. Virtually all records that get released on real labels are technically proficient. While they are technically proficient, I don’t enjoy the way they play. Robert Plant’s voice is whiney and annoying. I don’t like John Bonham’s and Jimmy Page’s feel. John Paul Jones is fine, I guess.

What it mostly comes down to is that Led Zeppelin is the whitest band I’ve ever heard. They have no funk and they have no soul. It makes what they do dull. The last thing I want out of music is boring, but they bore me.

Then there are all the non-musical reasons I don’t like them. The biggest of which is that they stole almost their entire repertoire. And I don’t mean that they covered a bunch of songs. I like cover songs. I mean that they claim to have written all these songs that were clearly written by other people. Other British acts, like the Beatles, Stones and Clapton, did a ton of covers, but they always credited the originals. They wouldn’t shut up about how much they loved Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Motown. Zeppelin acts like they invented music and nothing that came before impacted them in any way. Then, when they do these covers that are not acknowledged as covers, they are invariably worse than the originals.

Anyway, I just wanted to get that out there. I’d be happy to talk about music with anyone. Just please, can we talk about anyone other than Zeppelin? I’d really appreciate it.

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The Press Is Really Bad

A free press is supposed to be one of the necessary ingredients in a free society. It is how the citizens can make informed choices and hold the elected officials accountable. That sounds nice, but a free press only gets us part way there. We are currently experiencing a lot of the problems that a free press is supposed to protect us from. The thing is, the problems aren’t happening because the press isn’t free. They are happening because the press isn’t good at their job. I don’t want to single out any specific press outlets. These are problems with the press as a whole. Some might be better and some might be worse, but none of them are good.

The problems can be narrowed to a few broad categories. First, there is too much news. This problem started with the beginning of CNN and has continued to get worse. One of the functions of a good press is to act as a filter. No one has the capacity to know everything that happens. The press has to make judgements about what is important and what isn’t. They don’t make judgements anymore. They just report everything. And I mean everything. Every news source has stories about everything from Hollywood to Sports to Local Stories to National Politics to Science and anything else you can think of. It’s not prioritized in any way, it’s all just vomited out there. No one can take it all in, so people revert to consuming what they always consume and ignore most of what’s out there. The press needs to start exercising judgement so that as many people as possible see the important stories.

Next, there is no real interpretation happening. There are two types of new organizations out there. One is partisan and one tries to be objective. The partisan ones are just cheerleaders for whichever side they prefer. There’s only one interpretation possible for them. Our guys are good and their guys are bad. It’s not helpful. The ones that try to be objective might be even worse, though. In the interest of being fair, they just report what each side says about a news item. But, not everything has two or more legitimate sides. Climate change is real. Including a climate change denier in a report on climate change isn’t being fair to anyone. It’s misleading and confusing. The press has to realize that most people are not experts in science or law or tax codes or most of the things the press is reporting on. If we don’t get some interpretation, we don’t know what to think. Hearing opposing sides argue with each other doesn’t help.

Third is the thing that gets talked about the most, money. The press is no longer looked at as a noble profession with standards and ethics. It’s just a cash cow. The end goal is to generate revenue. There has always been a tension in the press between telling the stories that need to be told and making money, but we have swung way to the making money side of things. It changes the stories we hear and makes us all less informed.

There are no easy answers for how to fix things. It is a free press after all. They can do what they want. But we have to stop settling for a free press and demand a good press.

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Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek is Going to Suck

Source: http://gamerssphere.com/2016/01/08/quentin-tarantino-would-make-a-horror-movie/

If you follow movies or Star Trek, you’ve probably heard that Quentin Tarantino is working on the fourth Star Trek movie of the rebooted universe. Quentin Tarantino is going to be awful for Star Trek because he’s an awful person who makes self-indulgent, exploitive and mediocre movies.

Watch Pulp Fiction. I mean, really watch Pulp Fiction. Not as an exercise in early-90’s narrative deconstruction or a study piece for zippy dialogue, but as a movie with a beginning, middle and end, a plot, and characters. What the fuck is this movie about? Yes, it gave us Jules, but I think Pulp Fiction is just an excuse for Quentin Tarantino (not the character he’s playing, because he’s very obviously just being himself) to say “dead nigger storage,” not once, but twice. I was mildly entertained by it the first time I watched it because I always came in for the third act. It was years before I saw the whole movie, and afterwards I thought to myself, “This is what everyone raves about?”

I wasn’t impressed enough with Pulp Fiction to watch any other Tarantino movie. I skipped Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, and everything else he made until Inglorious Basterds in 2009. Again, maybe I saw a different movie, but Inglorious Basterds was overlong revenge porn with the Tarantino Touch: mining the culture and history of other people for context for his exercises in violence. I was so disappointed by Inglorious Basterds that I said I wouldn’t watch any more Tarantino movies.

That means I won’t be watching his Star Trek movie. I love Star Trek more than any other franchise, but I don’t love it enough to force myself to sit through nonsense. I still haven’t seen Star Trek Beyond because Into Darkness was so bad. There are a lot of complaints to make about the Abramsverses’ approach to Star Trek, but at its core is a fundamental misreading of James T. Kirk. Chris Pine has been made to play Kirk as a womanizing hothead who breaks the rules to get the job done. That couldn’t be further from who James Kirk was in The Original Series (TOS). That reading is based on what essentially boils down to memes of Kirk kissing a bunch of women, and misunderstanding the TOS movie trilogy of Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock and The Voyage Home (I have A LOT to say about this, but I won’t bore you here with it).

Those problems are going to be compounded by Tarantino, who has misread every culture he’s cribbed from during his improbably successful career. He’s expressed interest in doing a big-screen remake of “The City on the Edge of Forever,” widely considered the best episode of TOS. I am certain that Tarantino will misinterpret what that episode is actually about and pour his psychic bullshit onto the Star Trek canvas. Don’t get me wrong- I’m completely open to the idea of a rated R Star Trek, and diversifying the tone and style of the franchise with different stories aimed at different audiences. Just please, please, don’t let Tarantino make one of those stories, because it’s going to suck.

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Country

In my ongoing quest to catalogue my entire record collection, I just finished all of my Country albums. I have a grand total of forty-nine Country albums. That’s actually more than I expected. It means I have more Country than I do Gospel, and I like Gospel much better.

I don’t have too much to say about Country. I am including all of the subgenres, like Bluegrass, in with Country. Of all the genres, I think I find Country the most baffling. I honestly have no idea what makes a song Country. A huge chunk of Country songs follow the Blues patterns. It might have something to do with the instrumentation. Mandolins, Steel Guitars and Fiddles are very common. Of course they are found in other music, too. I almost think Country is just music sung with a Southern or a Western accent. If you know what makes Country Country, please let me know.

Of the forty-nine records I own, only three are in any kind of regular rotation: June Carter Cash’s Press On, Willie Nelson’s Teatro and Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music. All three are spectacular. They are probably funny choices, though. Ray Charles was only really a dabbler in Country music, he’s just generally amazing. Willie Nelson has plenty of classic albums, but I’m the only one who picks his 1998 release. And it’s Johnny Cash who is supposed to be THE Country artist, but I much prefer his wife’s music.

Overall, completing Country wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the other genres I’ve done. There were a lot of, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that,” moments, but they were rarely followed with a desire to listen to the record. So, I guess it’s time to move on. I think I’ll tackle Folk next. I am looking forward to that.

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