Archive for September, 2011


Roundup – Favre Makes a Comeback

Line O’ the Day:

There’s something wrong with a business model when the coffee on the expensive East Coast train, the Acela, is far worse than the coffee at a 7-Eleven. And that’s a fact.

So true. Never mind the fact that Amtrak loses money, and that it has inferior train cars compared to the rest of the developed world, and that it’s historically been run by incompetent people. I’ll tell you the real flaw in its business model: THE FUCKING COFFEE.

– Big Daddy Drew, Dr. Peter King Is Doing a Lousy Job As Tiki Barber’s Agent [KSK]

Best of the Best:

Teats Out: An Oral History of the Rise and Fall (and Rise) of “The Dana Carvey Show” [Mike Ryan on Gentlemen’s Quarterly]

Dana Carvey: When you put Steve Carell, Smigel, Colbert, Louis C.K., and Charlie Kaufman together and doing what we wanted—it does make sense that it was just in the wrong spot. But I’m still really proud of it.

Stephen Colbert: It was fantastic. I loved it. No complaints. It was wonderful. Dana and Robert and Louis could not have been nicer to me.

Robert Carlock: The way my perspective has changed the most is, we averaged 17 million viewers or something over the seven episodes that we did air—which now would be the biggest comedy on television by far.

Jon Hamm: Had that show come on now? There’s Cartoon Network and Comedy Central and FX and a million better venues for it to be viewed and appreciated. But back then? It’s going to roll in from Home Improvement? No way. It was way, way, way ahead of its time. And you just look at the talent that came of it, of course, and that’s the true test.

Spike Feresten: When a show is cancelled that you’re on, you kind of park it in a part of your brain and try to forget about it.

Heather Morgan: It was great to work with those people. I’m super happy that some of us are really thriving and still hanging in there. For me it’s bittersweet. It is so goddamned hard to get something on the air and all the agendas moving together.

Bill Chott: I view it as a time I wish I had been a little better prepared for, because I wasn’t as developed as a writer as I could have been. But it was the closest I ever got to my childhood dream of being on SNL. At the time it was frustrating, but I look back on it as a fulfillment of my childhood dreams.

Elon Gold: When what happened on that show happens? And it’s so rare; it’s like the original cast of SNL where practically every single one of them becomes superstars.

Carlock: The legacy for me is that you can have all the talent in the world, but it can still go sideways. And think about what your opening shot is. Those are the two legacies of The Dana Carvey Show.

Carvey: I think it’s one of the most abstract variety shows to ever have been on primetime television. You were working on ideas that were so fucking funny. It’s very rare.

Robert Smigel: If we were doing it just so that we could be written about on years later, then we completely succeeded. I think our goal at the time was to stay on the air—[Laughs] so I think we fucked up.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s…Some Dude?! [Jon Ronson on Gentlemen’s Quarterly]

“Well, don’t make it seem like I’d be dying for a choice,” he replies. “I couldn’t quit if I wanted. You know how many people in this city look up to me? I haven’t paid for my own coffee in six months.” And I suddenly realize I feel about Phoenix the same way everyone here does. I think he is an awesome superhero. As I walk out, I hear a father whisper to his young son, “That’s a real superhero.”

“Are you a real superhero?” the little boy asks Phoenix.

Phoenix looks down at him and smiles. “I’m as real as you can get.”

It’s the Economy, Dummkopf! [Michael Lewis on Vanity Fair]

The Hamburg red-light district had caught Dundes’s eye because the locals made such a big deal of mud-wrestling. Naked women fought in a metaphorical ring of filth while the spectators wore plastic caps, a sort of head condom, to avoid being splattered. “Thus,” wrote Dundes, “the audience can remain clean while enjoying dirt!” Germans longed to be near the shit, but not in it. This, as it turns out, was an excellent description of their role in the current financial crisis.

Wall Street Aristocracy Got $1.2 Trillion in Fed’s Secret Loans [Bloomberg]

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s unprecedented effort to keep the economy from plunging into depression included lending banks and other companies as much as $1.2 trillion of public money, about the same amount U.S. homeowners currently owe on 6.5 million delinquent and foreclosed mortgages. The largest borrower, Morgan Stanley (MS), got as much as $107.3 billion, while Citigroup took $99.5 billion and Bank of America $91.4 billion, according to a Bloomberg News compilation of data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, months of litigation and an act of Congress. “These are all whopping numbers,” said Robert Litan, a former Justice Department official who in the 1990s served on a commission probing the causes of the savings and loan crisis. “You’re talking about the aristocracy of American finance going down the tubes without the federal money.”

See also: The Fed’s Secret Liquidity Lifelines [Bloomberg]

Peter King Is Awfully Impressed With Your Sports Coat [Big Daddy Drew on KSK]

When (Jeff) Fisher left, (Mike Munchak) spent 48 hours preparing for the (Titans) interview… Some assistants have nice, glossy presentations prepared when they interview for a job. Munchak had nothing. “I’m not a networker,” he said. “So when it came time for one of the important parts of the interview, identifying which coaches I’d try to hire on my staff, I didn’t really know a lot of them.”

So he doesn’t prepare well and he doesn’t know anyone. HIRE THIS MAN.

/marks Titans down for three wins

“Shocking,” said (GM Mike) Reinfeldt. “He had an answer for everything. And some great ideas. We had no idea that was coming.” Not just the Paterno-spawned ideas either. Sports jackets on road trips. No hats in the building. No headphones while working out; talking and communicating was preferred. No TVs in the trainer’s room; don’t want it to be too comfortable in there. A 12-minute video presentation on the history of the Oilers going back to the old American Football League days “because you should always know where you came from,” Munchak said.

Holy shit. HOLY SHIT. Really? Those were your ideas?

/marks Titans down for -67 wins

I’d look out for Tennessee, if I were you. Sure, they may not have Chris Johnson, but they wear BLAZERS ON THE BUS. They respect the blazer. Show me another team with that kind of attention to detail.

The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight [David McRaney on You Are Not So Smart: A Celebration of Self Delusion]

The recent fuss over the over-sharing, over the loss of privacy is just noisy ignorance. You know, as a citizen of the Internet, you obfuscate the truth of your character. You hide your fears and transgressions and vulnerable yearnings for meaning, for purpose, for connection. In a world where you can control everything presented to an audience both domestic or imaginary, what is laid bare depends on who you believe is on the other side of the screen. You fret over your father or your aunt asking to be your Facebook friend. What will they think of that version of you? In flesh or photons, it seems built-in, this desire to conceal some aspects of yourself in one group while exposing them in others. You can be vulnerable in many different ways but not all at once it seems…

When Pronin, Ross, Kruger and Savitsky moved from individuals to groups, they found an even more troubling version of the illusion of asymmetric insight. They had subjects identify themselves as either liberals or conservatives and in a separate run of the experiment as either pro-abortion and anti-abortion. The groups filled out questionnaires about their own beliefs and how they interpreted the beliefs of their opposition. They then rated how much insight their opponents possessed. The results showed liberals believed they knew more about conservatives than conservatives knew about liberals. The conservatives believed they knew more about liberals than liberals knew about conservatives. Both groups thought they knew more about their opponents than their opponents knew about themselves. The same was true of the pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion groups.

State-by-state look at dangers and damage caused by Irene [Associated Press via The Washington Post]

Two men who decided to sprint through hurricane at peak of the storm were found dead Monday in a waterway in a northern town

Persian Poetry Gets the Blues [Emily Esfahani Smith on The Wall Street Journal]

Sung passionately in Farsi, “Drunk With Love” is from a Rumi poem that celebrates a sensual—even erotic—passion for the divine: “Oh love . . . the king of kings has gotten drunk, / Get up, grab his curls and pull him near. / Every thought that comes into my heart speaks of the Lover, / I’ll put my life before him, I want to kiss him and fill his mouth with gold, / face like a rose, voice of a nightingale, / I want to fulfill all his desires. . . .”

Iran’s Wet Blankets Put a Damper on Water-Park Fun: Fearful of Facebook and Frolicking Youths, Regime Cracks Down on Squirt-Gun Fights [Farnaz Fassihi on The Wall Street Journal]

But that doesn’t apply in Iran, where a seemingly innocent gathering, especially one that involves men and women interacting, can be cast as a decadent rebellion against the government. “These events are a disgrace to our revolution. Our security forces and judiciary must stop the spreading of these morally corrupt actions,” said conservative lawmaker Hossein Ibrahimi, according to official media. Although the water wars and the government response have a comically absurd quality, the recent tension shows how fearful the regime is of its young. Iran is one of the world’s youngest countries, with 65 percent of its 75 million people under the age of 30. The Islamic Republic imposes strict social codes that call for segregation of sexes in school and some public spaces and demands a conservative demeanor from citizens. Authorities are particularly sensitive to events organized through social-networking sites in light of the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings where youth mobilized through Facebook and toppled governments.

Lessons From the One-Room Schoolhouse [Sue Shellenbarger on The Wall Street Journal]

At Spring Creek, each grade has one or two kids. The lone teacher, Creighton Teter, makes as many as 30 daily lesson plans—four or five lessons for each child—along with grading papers and planning exercise and enrichment.  He starts the school day by leading his students, ages 5 through 10, in a half hour of Zumba dance or other exercise. With the help of two aides, Mr. Teter then cycles small groups of one or two grades at a time through 20- to 30-minute lessons. Between lessons, the students practice skills or do homework or learning games at their desks. Fridays are reserved for field trips to swimming lessons and arts or museum programs, plus time at a gym—led, again, by Mr. Teter, a former high-school coach. The Decker community—about 100 people—plays a big role. Everyone is invited to back-to-school night and other events—even if they don’t have children. The school’s bus driver deposits a newspaper published by the kids in all the mailboxes along her 150-mile daily route. And last year’s Christmas pageant drew a standing-room-only audience of 60. “The school becomes a community center,” Mr. Teter says.

Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man? [David Grann on The New Yorker]

Many arson investigators, it turned out, had only a high-school education. In most states, in order to be certified, investigators had to take a forty-hour course on fire investigation, and pass a written exam. Often, the bulk of an investigator’s training came on the job, learning from “old-timers” in the field, who passed down a body of wisdom about the telltale signs of arson, even though a study in 1977 warned that there was nothing in “the scientific literature to substantiate their validity.” In 1992, the National Fire Protection Association, which promotes fire prevention and safety, published its first scientifically based guidelines to arson investigation. Still, many arson investigators believed that what they did was more an art than a science—a blend of experience and intuition. In 1997, the International Association of Arson Investigators filed a legal brief arguing that arson sleuths should not be bound by a 1993 Supreme Court decision requiring experts who testified at trials to adhere to the scientific method. What arson sleuths did, the brief claimed, was “less scientific.” By 2000, after the courts had rejected such claims, arson investigators increasingly recognized the scientific method, but there remained great variance in the field, with many practitioners still relying on the unverified techniques that had been used for generations. “People investigated fire largely with a flat-earth approach,” Hurst told me. “It looks like arson—therefore, it’s arson.” He went on, “My view is you have to have a scientific basis. Otherwise, it’s no different than witch-hunting.”

Curiously Strong Remains:






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