Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Fear of Being Accurate

Well the Olympics are almost here, and with them a chance to think about sports we generally ignore.  This New York Times piece on "target panic," an affliction suffered by expert archers, is worth a read.  I especially liked the advice about how to begin to manage the problem: “Do not focus on results....when you focus on results, it builds anxiety. And anxiety is the kiss of death.”

Interesting to me is that this is exactly the way to extract yourself from a poker-playing condition known as "tilt."  Of course it's easy to say, and very hard to do, but it is THE cure.   When I start to run bad, and lose more than one or two session in a row, I try to convince myself, before I sit down to a new game, that I'm probably going to lose some money.  I'm not TRYING to lose--I haven't given up--I just accept beforehand that I probably will.  For some reason this forces me to try to enjoy the experience for what it is (like trying to find something interesting about the special effects in some terrible movie you can't walk out of).  It doesn't work every time, but it works a lot.  I'll finish a session thinking, "that was actually kind of fun" and then notice, with real surprise, that I've won $500.  (This is all online; it's much harder not to know whether you're winning or losing when you play at a casino.)

I digress.  But, anyway, a good piece.  One year when I was at camp, a bunch of pro-level archers came in to shoot at tennis balls hanging from tree branches.  They didn't hit every shot, but they hit a lot of them, and I remember thinking how fun it looked.  I could never hunt, but if I did, I would use a bow.  At least there's some sport in that.  (He says, knowing next to nothing about hunting with gun, bow, boomerang or even plastic harpoon.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Ever since Jon Pareles savaged them in The New York Times a few years ago, Coldplay has been a band that the cool kids won't touch. Actually, the cool kids probably don't give a rat's ass what the New York Times Arts and Leisure section says about a band, but the cool adults sure do. It didn't help that their next album, the lethargic X & Y, confirmed about 2/3 of Pareles' accusations, snarky and New York Times-ish as they were.  (Is that an adjective?  It should be.)

For all that, I've always liked Coldplay. I like Chris Martin's voice: I like a lot of their music, and I generally support their entire aesthetic.  They have the courage to be positive, to sing about big things without irony or cynicism.  Sometimes that makes them sound pretty vacuous, but on the other hand it also allows for moments of real spiritual beauty ("Yellow," for example, is a song I still find incredibly moving).  Are they as emotionally or musically sophisticated as Radiohead? No. Can Chris Martin come off, as the Brits say, as something of a nob? Yes he can. Still, I always wince when someone starts slamming into Coldplay.  It's just too easy.  Why not burn a few disco records while you're at it?

And I really like the new album ("Vida La Vida"). It's definitely their best to date. Adding Brian Eno to produce was a great idea; there's a little more sonic complexity; the album tends to be faster and heavier than their previous work, and Martin keeps the falsetto to a minimum.  It's got at least three great songs on it ("Yes" is my favorite of the moment) and it rewards relistening; a lot of the songs get better the more you hear them.  

It's probably not the best album of the year (not that I would know) but it's definitely better than In Rainbows (Radiohead's newest album).  So, you know, give it a listen.  Let me know what you all think.... (Except you, Johannes) 

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ante Up

I encountered this video on Andrew Sullivan's blog. I've watched it at least three times a day since the first time I saw it. It gets better with each viewing. My favorite moment right now comes after the second voice (Bert) takes up the rap--Ernie's interrupting "hos" crack me up every time.

Man this is funny.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Feeling Good

I have become semi-hooked on the show "So You Think You Can Dance." If you've never seen it, the premise is simple. Each week dancers are randomly assigned a partner, a kind of dance style (Tango, Disco, Foxtrot, etc), given a choreographer, and forced to learn a routine in that style. At the end of the show, callers vote on who has done the best. The worst two dancers are sent home; then, the next week, partners are reassigned and new styles are assigned.

For reasons that don't bear that much going into (it has to do with the way the bottom tier of dancers are voted off) sometimes the dancers have to perform solo routines. Most of the times these are eminently forgettable. A few, however, are incredible. I especially like the hip hop/breakdance solos. This one, by the freakishly strong and acrobatic Gev (voted off last week) is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Some Predictions

I'm following Major League Baseball this summer, in large part because I like watching "Baseball Tonight" every night before I go to bed. I've probably only watched a handful of actual games, and none in their entirety. But will I let that stop me from issuing many (semi-) bold predictions about the second half of the season? Of course not. Here goes.

1) The Tampa Bay Rays (Devil no longer, for those who haven't been watching) will not make the playoffs.
2) The Anaheim Angels will win the AL.
3) The Phillies will win the NL.
4) The Mets WILL make the playoffs.
5) Eric Young will be fired from Baseball Tonight and never allowed to set foot in front of a TV camera again.

Well, ok; the last one's not so much a prediction as a hope. A fervent, fervent hope.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another Bink-Related Entry

Since acquiring a small dog, I've been thinking a lot about Calvin and Hobbes. There's a certain expression that Elliot assumes--always after he's inflicted some depredation on our apartment--which this strip perfectly summarizes:

That's it--Calvin's got it. "What? What are you concerned about?" I guess you'd have to call it innocence, though it seems like beyond even that.

OF COURSE he's unravelling an entire roll of toilet paper. Of COURSE he's eaten three strips of masking tape, and then chewed a hole in his bed. Those things are nearby, aren't they? What do you expect him to do? NOT eat the masking tape?  WHERE WOULD BE THE FUN IN THAT?

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I've been watching tennis since I was six years old. I've seen all of our era's greats: McEnroe, Connors, Agassi, Sampras. I've seen maybe 60% of the Grand Slam finals in the last fifteen years. I have never seen a match like this one. I never will. Superlatives are overused and comparisons are odious, but still: this year's Men's Wimbledon final was the greatest tennis match I have ever seen. I will be amazed if a better one is ever played. Both men hit shots that no other tennis player has ever been able to hit--over and over and over. It lasted five sets, almost five hours. It was epic. More than that, it was sublime. Insofar as watching sports can ever approach the sensation of experiencing great art, this did.