Poetry and Scotch

The right to free speech may begin and end with the First Amendment, but there is a vast middle where our freedom of speech is protected by us—by our capacity to listen and accept that people disagree, often strongly, that there are fools, some of them columnists and elected officials and, yes, even reality-show patriarchs, that there are people who believe stupid, irrational, hateful things about other people and it’s okay to let those words in our ears sometimes without rolling out the guillotines.

A magnificent paragraph in an otherwise rambling article/speech by Jon Lovett. 

Chris Ryan on Arsene Wenger

Depending on how much you want to believe in mythology, Arsene Wenger invented sleep and vegetables and passing on the ground. He came to England from France, via Japan, and revolutionized the game, turning Arsenal from boring bank guards into swashbuckling, counterattacking Anglo-Franco pirates. Arsene Wenger invented Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Viera and Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie. He got Tony Adams off the sauce, moved the Gunners from Highbury to the Emirates and kept them in the Champions League the whole time, and somewhere along the line he invented going undefeated, too. He was invincible.

And on Sunday Roberto Martinez tactically pulled his pants down on international television.

Wenger is 64 and at the end of his contract. In the last two weeks, we’ve seen him completely tactically outmaneuvered by Martinez (Everton) and Jose Mourinho (Chelsea), to a scoreline of  9-1. Soccer is certainly a game of systems, and Wenger has a lovely one, but it is also a game of adjustments. More and more, the top managers in the game are those that can tweak their approaches on a match-to-match, half-to-half, minute-to-minute level. Wenger doesn’t do this. He sticks to his guns and his guns are empty. Where a Brendan Rodgers salivates over the chess match of tactics, Wenger seems bored with the idea of playing chess all together.


The Keys

  • Kramer: Do you ever yearn?
  • George: Yearn? Do I yearn?
  • Kramer: I yearn.
  • George: You yearn?
  • Kramer: Oh, yes. Yes, I yearn. Often I sit... and yearn. Have you yearned?
  • George: Well, not recently. I've craved. Constant craving. But I haven't yearned.

However, it is quite another matter in contexts where the performance of doctors or teachers or professors is at issue. In these complex contexts… activities that are not easy to quantify must first be “made auditable” by finding some feature of them to measure or rate. While this need not be a bad thing—it might, for instance, force professionals to think seriously about their goals—it can take on a life of its own.

The very act of creating measures and benchmarks and rating scales can badly distort the nature of the thing being audited, throwing off all sorts of unintended consequences. Far from a merely derived and neutral activity, auditing and performance measurement can construct a system of knowledge and then re-shape the organizational environment to make that system successful. More germane to virtue is the distinct possibility that because the disposition itself is not readily amenable to verifiable, non-subjective measurement, what will be quantified is simply some aspect that is easy to count, often a crude and not very meaningful aspect at that. This aspect, because verifiable and thus more tractable and “real,” then gets confused with the thing itself. 


“Thomas Frank has aptly described the paradox of populist conservatism in the US today, the basic premise of which is the gap between economic interests and “moral” questions. In other words, the economic class opposition (poor farmers and blue-collar workers versus lawyers, bankers, large companies) is transposed or coded into the opposition between honest hard-working Christian Americans and the decadent liberals who drink lattes and drive foreign cars, advocate abortion and homosexuality, mock patriotic sacrifice and the simple provincial way of life, and so on. The enemy is thus perceived as the “liberal” who, through federal state intervention (from school-busing to prescribing that Darwinian evolution and perverse sexual practices be taught in class), wants to undermine the authentic American way of life. The populist conservatives’ central economic proposition is therefore to get rid of the strong state that taxes the hard-working population in order to finance its regulatory interventions—their minimal program is thus “fewer taxes, less regulation.”

From the standard perspective of the rational pursuit of self interest, the inconsistency of this ideological stance is obvious: the populist conservatives are literally voting themselves into economic ruin. Less taxation and deregulation means more freedom for the big companies that are driving the impoverished farmers out of business; less state intervention means less federal help for small farmers; and so on down the line. In the eyes of the American evangelical populists, the state stands for an alien power and, together with the UN, is an agent of the Antichrist. It is taking away the liberty of the Christian believer, relieving him of the moral responsibility of stewardship, and thus undermines the individualistic morality that makes each of us the architect of our own salvation. But how is this compatible with the unprecedented explosion of the state apparatuses under George W. Bush? No wonder large corporations are delighted at such evangelical attacks on the state, when the state tries to regulate media mergers, put restrictions on energy companies, strengthen air pollution regulations, protect wildlife and limit logging in the national parks, etcetera. It is the ultimate irony of history that radical individualism serves as an ideological justification for the unconstrained power of what the vast majority experience as an anonymous force that, without any democratic public control, regulates their lives.”

Excerpt from “The Year of Dreaming Dangerously” by Slavoj Zizek.
Read it on Oyster → https://www.oysterbooks.com/book/9781781680438/The-Year-of-Dreaming-Dangerously

Aronofsky on ‘Noah’

When you think about Icarus, you don’t talk about the feathers and the wax and how the wax attached to his body and how is that physically possible that he could fly with feathers on his arms. No. You’re talking about how he flew too high and was filled with hubris and it destroyed him. That’s the message and that’s the power. That’s power to have that idea. But when you’re talking about a pre-diluvian world—a pre-flood world—where people are living for millennia and centuries, where there were no rainbows, where giants and angels walked on the planet, where the world was created in seven days, where people were naked and had no shame, you’re talking about a universe that is very, very different from what we understand. And to portray that as realistic is impossible. You have to enter the fantastical. The Leviathan in the sea. It’s a different understanding of the world, and that’s OK.



Gates: We’ve raised our kids in a religious way; they’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that’s kind of a religious belief. I mean, it’s at least a moral belief… I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.

Leads to this: http://firstthingsfirst2014.org/ 

What decision “designers, developers, creative technologists, and multi-disciplinary communicators” make differently because of signing this ‘manifesto’, I don’t know. 

The overprotected kid


On the reading list for this weekend is Hanna Rosin’s cover story in the most recent issue of The Atlantic: The Overprotected Kid.

I used to puzzle over a particular statistic that routinely comes up in articles about time use: even though women work vastly more hours now than they did in the…


But U-God — gray flecking his stubble, his blue T-shirt reading “FAME” — feels the need to warn me. “It’s still a hood, man,” he says. “N—-s will chop your head off and cut your nose off and throw shit in your butt and burn your hair on fire. I could just feel it out here. It feels like death.”


I miss camping. 

At 58, Bill Gates is not only the richest man in the world, with a fortune that now exceeds $76 billion, but he may also be the most optimistic. In his view, the world is a giant operating system that just needs to be debugged. Gates’ driving idea – the idea that animates his life, that guides his philanthropy, that keeps him late in his sleek book-lined office overlooking Lake Washington, outside Seattle – is the hacker’s notion that the code for these problems can be rewritten, that errors can be fixed, that huge systems – whether it’s Windows 8, global poverty or climate change – can be improved if you have the right tools and the right skills.