Jun 212016

Miles Davis’s later style feels a lot like that of Kurt Cobain to me.  It’s a weird comparison to be sure, but both had this uncannily similar tendency to step back (or may be aside) from the purely technical.

When I was much younger and first listened to both these tracks, my first impression was they were both making mistakes.  Poor Miles, I thought – doing pop covers and flubbing notes.  Whereas I just assumed Cobain was just under the influence.  But if you had put a gun to my young, empty head, I’d have said they both sounded pretty damn good.  I couldn’t have said why though.  Now I can.

There’s something about those “mistakes” that’s a little too intentional.  Not in the sense that Kurt intended those two strums on the downbeat of 2:08 to be flat: he didn’t practice them exactly like that 100 times to get them like that.  There’s no sheet music where his voice breaks a little at point x.  And Miles didn’t plan to be a little slow on his fingering at 2:14 so that the transition from one note to the next would be a messy combination of the wrong set of valves being open simultaneously for an instant.  If a beginner did that during a lesson, you’d have them slow it down and try again.  But when he does it, right at that moment, after all those pure golden tones, it adds something, like that one little rock in a zen garden that’s so obviously out-of-place that you feel like maybe the whole thing was the result of natural phenomena.

They both played a little loose, in the way that only a truly accomplished artist can pull-off.  They could ride the edge of chaos just enough to make a performance a living, breathing thing.  It’s far harder than it sounds.  But it sounds pretty damn good.

Jun 172016

Another wonderful documentary about a sport I know little about.  Shit just draws you in…

Modern major-league pitching is mostly about how hard you can throw and how fast your shoulder wears-out before your career is over.  It’s antithetical to the spirit of the game, historically speaking: if I took-away nothing else from the Ken Burns documentary, it’s that this is the singular sport in which skill can outweigh pure athleticism.  I used to think it was bizarre that there were pro baseball players who seemed to have a bit of a beer gut, or couldn’t run the 100-meter dash at Olympic speed.  I kind of get it now…

Football’s about how far and precisely a quarterback can throw the ball, or how hard a linebacker can hit the other guy, or how quickly and nimbly someone can run the ball past defenders.  The trend has been towards larger, more muscular players and an increasing incidence of traumatic brain injury.  There are some really good (but sadly depressing) Frontline documentaries about the phenomenon: aging stars who suffer significant cognitive functional difficulties and/or in their later years commit brutal, uncharacteristic, straight-up insane acts of violence (like murdering loved ones and suicide by drinking antifreeze) that are directly linked to repeated concussions and subsequent brain lesions.  Recent clinical research has shown the same physiological damage in even high school athletes.  Sadly (again) this data has mostly come of autopsies of young men in supposedly peak physical condition who died far too early under strange circumstances.  The kids who don’t exhibit outward symptoms aren’t exactly lining-up to have their brains dissected.  It’s an ugly side-effect of a traditionally-loved sport, and unfortunately there’s no easy fix in-sight.  But I digress….

The standard big-league pitch has a few variations, but is generally expected to be 85-95 mph.  The idea is to simply overwhelm the human nervous system’s response speed.  Fun fact: scientific tests have shown that major-league home-run superstars don’t have faster reflexes than the average person.  Nobody can see a ball moving that quickly and hit it.  They succeed by watching the pitcher’s arm at the moment of release and predicting where the damned thing’s going to be by the time the bat is in collision range.  That certainly doesn’t detract from their skill: I don’t understand how any non-cyborg could ever pull that off once, much less consistently night after night.  Shit’s crazy.

But the knuckleball is a weird-ass pitch. It’s way slower, maybe 80mph, often more like 60.  And it doesn’t have some wild spin on it: in fact, it generally has no spin at all!  That’s sort of the point: to throw one of these, you have to unlearn anything you’ve been taught about how to consciously direct an object’s motion once it leaves your hand.  It’s like a crude mortar shell, or a cannonball fired from an unrifled barrel.  Think Napoleonic-war-era tech:  the thing just ejects, and then the elements decide where the fuck it goes.  It’s not so great if you’re trying to dismast another frigate at 300 yards, but it can wreak havoc on someone trying to intercept said projectile with a narrow piece of wood 54′ away.

Jun 162016

Don’t know much about it, but found the KidPoker documentary about Daniel Negreanu interesting.  This 3-video lesson for “advanced players” barely touches on the psychological aspect of the game – which is of course a huge component – but gives the layman some insight what strategy can look like.

It specifically focuses on “smallball,” which revolves-around being active in as many pots as possible (ie. you don’t immediately fold if your first 2 cards are garbage), but making consistently small or moderate bets to minimize risk while folding when necessary to avoid potentially fatal “trap” situations.  The boxing analogy is pretty interesting: throw lots of jabs but avoid killer hooks and uppercuts.  I was kind of expecting lots of math and card-counting-type stuff, but in this video he talks more about considering the current size of the pot and weighing risk-vs-reward and how it averages-out in the long run.

I also like Negreanu’s table-manner: he runs his mouth constantly, even when no one else is making a peep, and can’t help openly-speculating what other players are holding.  There’s almost certainly a tactical element to it, but it honestly feels like it’s more about his genuine love of the game, as if he’s hosting a clinic (or in boxing terms just sparring), even in a high-stakes tournament.  He’s also kind of a freak of nature when it comes to guessing other players’ hands.

Future – Look Ahead

 Music  Comments Off on Future – Look Ahead
Jun 042016

I like Future.  Remember when he was starting-out: heard him do a verse on someone else’s album and said, “I gotta look that guy up”.  At the time he was tough to Google – he didn’t exactly pick a unique stage-name – but I found that first album and it was worth it.  Then came the second album, and one day I walked out the door and heard the drug dealers next-door (or possibly one of their clientele) pumping that shit out on their car stereo, and smiled…

Fish like a man, nigga fish!

Lyrics (genius.com)

Bo Burnham

 Comedy, Video  Comments Off on Bo Burnham
May 222016

They say it takes 15-20 years of touring to make a good stand-up comic.  In this case “they” is a whole bunch of venerable comedians, including Louis CK and Doug Stanhope.  It’s a weird art form (for lack of a better term) that is demanding in unique ways, and there’s apparently no shortcut – it simply takes that much experience to be as good on stage as those guys are.

Bo Burnham’s currently 25, and a lot of his stuff on YouTube (including the clip below)  is from a few years ago.   What he does isn’t exactly stand-up, but he’s got that glow you see in a few really smart and talented kids (Donald Glover also comes to mind), and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of what I’ve seen so far.  I can’t wait to see what his act looks like in a decade…

Zootopia (2016)

 Art, Video  Comments Off on Zootopia (2016)
May 222016

Zootopia is an adorable, well-written, well-executed piece of holy-shit-awesomeness.  Apparently Disney is back in that business now.  The story behind that is complicated, to say the least, and I’m way too drunk to do it justice, or even understand it myself.  Here’s a boozy overview based on 10 minutes of wikipedia…

John Lasseter was “Chief Creative Officer” and “Executive Producer” for Zootopia; however, it was a product of Walt Disney Animation Studios, not Pixar.   The reason this film isn’t a train-wreck is that he basically runs both of them now.  Disney’s first attempts at acquiring Pixar during the Isner period were rebuffed, but a happier marriage was arranged once Iger took the reins and offered to make Lasseter czar of all Disney animation.  The two animation houses operate separately under his freakishly-talented leadership.

Opting-out of junk mail and phone calls

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Opting-out of junk mail and phone calls
May 192016

FYI there are a few excellent websites where you can vastly reduce the amount of unsolicited junk mail and phone calls you receive.  You can read more about them at this FTC site:  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email


Do Not Call Registry: http://www.donotcall.gov/

  • This is the simplest, most essential thing everyone should do: removes your phone number from almost all telemarketer and robocall lists.  There are some exceptions like surveys (after all, no politician’s going to let you opt-out of polling).

Direct Marketing Association’s MPS:  http://www.dmachoice.org/

  • Another biggie: DMA’s Mail Preference Service can greatly reduce mail circulars, etc for 5 years.  You can also opt-out of a lot of spam email here.

Insurance and credit-card offers: https://www.optoutprescreen.com

  • Does what it says: most of this stuff comes to you courtesy of data sold by the big credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, etc).  Opt-out 5 years via web form, or permanently if you mail something in.