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Preview: Galley Slaves

Galley Slaves



If they break 150 miles, launch the Alert 5 aircraft.



Updated: 2018-03-06T02:13:58.624-05:00

 



Non-Triumphant Return

2010-09-22T08:35:32.636-05:00

The new site, JonathanLast.com, is slowly coming back online. It's now safe to return.



Totally Fucked

2010-09-08T13:17:43.581-05:00

Yup. In case you've wandered over here from the new site--or rather, the site formerly known as JonathanLast.com--basically what happened is this: A Kurdish hacker hit the site and a combination of non-existent support from the host company (that's WhoIs.com, without a doubt, the worst host company in the history of the internet) and my own paltry technical skills mean that the new site is gone. Maybe temporarily, maybe permanently. I don't know.

Anyway, in case you're curious, the hacker is SA3D HaCk3D and his email is sahd_2020@yahoo.com.



JonathanLast.com

2010-07-21T05:35:41.219-05:00

So that's the big announcement. After years of mild frustration with Blogger I've finally moved over to a better platform. You can continue to follow Galley Slaves at JonathanLast.com.

See you there.



PSA

2010-07-15T09:28:32.082-05:00

Galley Slaves is going to be closed for a couple days while I work out some changes. By next week there should be some site news. In the meantime, I've shut down comment threads to keep the spam out.



The Bron-Bron Train Derails?

2010-07-09T09:47:24.091-05:00

Czabe has some thoughts on LeBron to Miami:

In a span of 27 eyeball glazing minutes on ESPN, LeBron James morphed himself from potentially "The Greatest Player of All Time" into a jezebel Scottie Pippen.

I don't follow the NBA closely enough to know, but the superficial answers would have been (1) Go to NYC for the money or (2) Go to Chicago for the long-term run at championships. I'm not sure what goal Miami satisfies.

The most interesting question is whether or not players are allowed to formally collude in the way in which it seems James, Wade, Bosh, and possibly Paul may have. (The operative word here is "formally," not "collude." Players informally collude all the time.) Owners almost certainly couldn't act this way without running afoul of anti-trust. Legally, I suspect the players are fine--although I'd love to hear a smart lawyer's thoughts on the matter.

From the league's perspective, however, this might not be fine. It will be interesting to see how the owners--and eventually the league office--deal with this affair.

Update: If you want to know the difference between LeBron and Jordan, here's Exhibit 1,422: LeBron says that in a game of one-on-one against Barack Obama, Obama would hold his own. Now obviously, James is just being polite. That's fine.

But the exchange calls to mind this story, from a long-ao profile of Dan Patrick:

After game three of last year's NBA finals, Dan Patrick interviews Michael Jordan. When they finish, Jordan says to Patrick, "Stand up."

"Why?"

"Stand up," Jordan demands, rising.

Patrick stands up.

"How would you guard me?" Jordan asks.

"I wouldn't guard you. I couldn't guard you."

"How would you guard me?"

Patrick plants a forearm on Jordan's back.

"Yeah," Jordan snarls. "There are twenty-eight motherfucking teams that think they can guard me that way."

Patrick says, "Michael, I can't guard you. But I don't think you can guard me." Jordan, gaping and speechless, walks away.

"You should've seen the look on his face," Patrick says now. Ahmad Rashad comes up to Patrick later to say that if Dan wants to go one-on-one with M. J., Jordan's willing. "Just understand," Rashad tells Patrick, "Michael will treat it like it's the seventh game of the finals--you won't even get your shot off."



But I want an iPhone 4 . . .

2010-07-06T18:10:52.316-05:00

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Paul Krugman: World's Worst Colleague?

2010-07-06T19:20:37.459-05:00

He's giving Andrew Sullivan a run for his money with this blog entry today:

But there’s something else in David’s column, which I see a lot: the argument that because a lot of important people believe something, it must make sense:
Moreover, the Demand Siders write as if everybody who disagrees with them is immoral or a moron. But, in fact, many prize-festooned economists do not support another stimulus. Most European leaders and central bankers think it’s time to begin reducing debt, not increasing it — as do many economists at the international economic institutions. Are you sure your theorists are right and theirs are wrong?
Yes, I am. It’s called looking at the evidence.

Because, you see, no one else on the other side has ever even bothered to look at the evidence!


You could fill a small sand bucket with what I know about economics, so I'm not interested in the rightness or wrongness of Krugman's position vis-a-vis demand side economics in the present recessionary environment. What is truly amazing is that he argues not that he's probably right. Or that the evidence supports his case more so than the opposite. He has absolute, God-given certainty as to his total and complete correctness and equal certainty that anyone who differs is a fool or a liar.


Whoa.


Even he was talking about, I don't know, outlawing abortion or invading Iraq, you might think he was a blinkered ideologue.



Soccer and Diversity

2010-07-06T08:57:54.647-05:00

Another reason to object to World Cup soccer: Its appalling lack of diversity!

Steve Sailer has a fantastic post about the SWPL-ness of the World Cup:

At the highest levels of global soccer, about 75 percent or more of the top players are white. Soccer in 2010 is like basketball in 1959. . . .
The World Cup is a paradox: it's pretty random but the results always come out about the same: traditional soccer powers get to the finals. . . .
Much of the glamor of the World Cup stems from it being a mostly white sport. Do you think up-and-comers like the South Koreans would be fascinated by the World Cup if it were traditionally dominated by, say, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Bolivia? Would SWPLs in the U.S. love soccer if it were associated in their minds with "Kinshasa" rather than with "Barcelona"?

He also makes an interesting note about the paradox of World Cup soccer: "It's pretty random but the results always come out about the same: traditional soccer powers get to the finals. "


Mind you, at the end of the day, I'm pretty much with Czabe: For all its many, many faults, the World Cup makes for a pretty good time for a casual sports fan.






In Praise of Axis & Allies

2010-07-01T20:11:04.925-05:00

I'd give just about anything to sit across the board from Niall Ferguson.



A Live-Action Star Blazers

2010-06-29T11:35:16.644-05:00

Fire up the wave-motion cannon, Wildstar.

And . . . I'm spent.



David Weigel, Journolist, and the Washington Post

2010-06-28T17:55:10.063-05:00

There's so much to say, but let's start with this little dare from Weigel in his self-congratulatory, "I shall return" essay for Big Government:No serious journalist has defended the leak of my private e-mails; no one who works in politics or journalism would accept a situation where the things they said off the record could immediately become public. (Side note: On a conservative listserv, there is, apparently, an internal debate going on about leaks, after I learned of its existence and content. These conservatives have not opted to publish their private e-mails, and they shouldn’t.) But no serious journalist — as I want to be, as I am — should be so rude about the people he covers.I'll take that action. Not only is the leak of Weigel's rantings defensible, it was nearly a professional duty for any serious reporters who witnessed them on Journolist. Not doing so is like having been at the infamous Strom Thurmond birthday party and deciding not to mention what Trent Lott said. Weigel was revealing himself on a (semi?) frequent basis to be something opposite what he was advertising to readers and the public. He was making himself a story. Hiding behind some sort of Journolist Omerta policy wouldn't fly for a person of note who was overheard making bigoted remarks at a private club. It shouldn't shield Weigel. Whoever leaked his writings was a whistleblower performing a public service.(Also, "private emails" is a deceptive term of art. What Weigel was doing was more akin to posting on a bulletin board that he believed could never be seen by outsiders. Writing something that is read by a circle of 400 people, at least some of whom you have never had any formal contact with, is not sending a "private email.) The Weigel incident creates so many unhappy questions--about why 20-somethings are encouraged to pontificate instead of report; about why the Post never even bothered to call someone at Reason and ask about their prospective hire; about why any media employer would tolerate reporters being participants in a project like Journolist. One of the niggling questions that bothers me is why, in the wake of scandal, people feel the need to air-brush fallen bright young things. Remember all the chin-tugging about Jayson Blair? Oh sure, he was a plagiarist (fabulist?), but it was a double tragedy because he was such an immense talent! Ditto Stephen Glass. There's a lot of this going around with Weigel: Oh, sure, he was privately a jerk making terribly uncouth generalizations about people he was supposed to be covering fairly, but the real tragedy is that he was such a great reporter! Really? Maybe by the standards of blogging. I can't claim intimacy with his entire oeuvre, but I can't think of a single, blockbuster piece of Weigel's. David Grann? Great reporter. Matt Labash? Great reporter. Mark Bowden? Great reporter. On the next level down you have guys like Ryan Lizza and Tom Edsall. Below that, guys like the Politico crew and the platoon that does NYT and WSJ work. (Go read Brooks Barnes some time to see what great, every-day reporting looks like.) Below that I'd put a class of writers who deal with numbers and theory, as opposed to personalities and palace intrigue--people like Michael Barone and Jay Cost. They don't pound the shoe leather, but they spend a lot of time researching what they write. It seems safe to say that Weigel would be so far down the list that it's not even worth doing the math. What people mean, I suppose, is that compared to other 20-something bloggers, Weigel makes more than the average number of phone calls and goes on more than the average number of field trips. And hey, that's great. We'd rather have more of that in the blog world. But let's not re-touch this in post to make him into Bob Woodward. Or Jeff Toobin. Or ev[...]



Ron Fournier Is Andrew Sullivan's New Boss--Updated

2010-06-24T13:47:13.542-05:00

Galley Friend P.G. sends word that Fournier has been named "editor in chief" of the National Journal Group. Who knows what that title implies in terms of org chart authority.

What we do know is that two years ago Sullivan wrote this about Fournier in an item headlined "The AP Going Fox?"
Ron Fournier's dramatic use of opinion in the first paragraph of the Biden story going out on all the wires is an aggressive Republican spin. Fournier has already weakened the AP's rep for pretty straight-up reportage. It just got a lot weaker. Last spring, by the way, Fournier was lambasting Obama for arrogance. Now, apparently, it's a lack of confidence. Whatever works, I guess. But please, get a blog.
Update: Boy, Sullivan really doesn't like Fournier. Makes you wonder how he could possibly--in good conscience--work under him.

On Fournier's skills as a political analyst.

On a Fournier column about the possibility of criminal charges being filed against Dick Cheney.



Anatomy of a Soccer Scold

2010-06-24T10:50:53.872-05:00

Pursuant to this post from last week, Santino sends along the following to posts from Nation writer Dave Zirin. I'll let Santino do the talking:
Zirin on June 14: Conservatives should love soccer but don't, because they're racist.
Zirin on June 23: It's a shame conservatives love soccer so much right now because it promotes ugly American cultural hegemony.
You can't make this up. What you also can't make up is this bit from Zirin's post yesterday:
I was watching the game in the offices at National Public Radio in Washington, DC, waiting to go on the air to discuss the outcome. Remember, this is NPR: the station that defines calm, even-tempered talk. Let's just say that almost every cubicle and office let out an extemporaneous yelp. Yes, NPR went wild.
They don't shout or cheer at NPR. They "yelp."


Also precious, but not quite as fantastic is Zirin proclaiming:
The United States is not my favorite team by a long stretch. I'm an Argentina guy, myself. 
But of course.




In-Game Alert: Isner vs. Mahut

2010-06-25T19:45:41.221-05:00

If you're able, go find some Wimbledon coverage. Jon Isner is all knotted up at 43-43 against Nicolas Mahut in the fifth.

You read that right.

Match time approaching 8 hours. Isner has 85 aces and is 73 of 112 net points. Serving at 73 percent.

Insanity.

Update: The decision to suspend play was exactly right. You don't want a match--particularly a historical epic like this one--to be decided by low-light. (Which is a problem not just for the players, but for the linesmen.) Mahut shouldn't have had to ask for it, though. I would have hoped that the tournament referee would have been thinking through the decision since about 50-50.

The stats on the match are really impressive. Isner served at 74 percent for the affair so far. Both players are something like +170 on winners/unforced errors. Only 2 breaks of serve total (none since the second set) and only 16 total break chances. That's pretty clean tennis for a couple of guys who must be about to drop for exhaustion.

My default setting is to root for Isner. But after watching Mahut give up his body on those two ridiculous dives--who dives on the baseline?--his fighting spirit and reckless disregard for injury were mighty impressive. Isner was clearly trying to manage his service games and coast where he could. Mahut was fighting for every point. God bless the both of them.

It will be terrible to see someone lose tomorrow. I'm reminded of something the great Dikembe Mutombo said during Game 7 of the 1994 Finals. During half-time, Mutombo was asked about Ewing and Olajuwon and Deke said (I'm quoting from memory, so this may not be quite right), "It it like seeing two great men in the desert who come upon a glass of water and you wish so badly that they both could drink."



Contra Walter Russell Mead

2010-06-22T18:24:22.005-05:00

WRM has a typically incisive post on Brazil's retreat from its Iranian indiscretion. However, he includes this strange note:

[t]he light and casual way in which the world’s pundits (many of them utterly ignorant about Brazil’s long history of diplomatic disappointment) concluded from a single, ill-advised diplomatic initiative that Brazil had decisively changed its place in the world is evidence of just how little reflection and experience goes into world politics today.
Second, we should think about why so much commentary (and, unfortunately, serious policy making) is so frequently seduced by quick and silly analysis. 
Says the writer with Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds placed prominently on his blog roll. (Go ahead and look. I'm serious.)
The answer to Mead's question--or at least a very large part of the answer--is the internet, which favors speed over deliberation and rewards people like Andrew Sullivan rather than people like, well, Walter Russell Mead.



Manute Bol, RIP

2010-06-25T19:45:21.410-05:00

I note with sadness the passing of Manute Bol, one of the great characters of the NBA. More importantly, he was the sport's most courageous humanitarian. His life serves as something of an indictment to many current players.

I saw him play once as a kid. The Bullets were visiting the Sixers at the Spectrum and I was there way early. Before the pre-game shoot around, Bol came out to shoot on his. I watched as he bombed away from the 3-point line for several minutes. I don't think he made a single one. Sometimes his shots would miss everything. I think he clanged one off the top of the backboard.

Despite being 7'7", Bol wanted to be a 3-point threat. So much so that during the 1988-1989 season he took 91 attempts from behind the arc. Just think about that for a minute.

What's really amazing is that he finished his career shooting .210 from 3-point range. (In his final season he was a gaudy 3 for 5.) .210 doesn't sound like much, but I doubt I could ever get that accurate, while being defended, from the old NBA distance. Like everything else in his life, it was a testament to a man who believed--really and truly, not simply as a sentiment--that anything is possible.



Top Gun

2010-06-21T09:39:11.835-05:00

Caught a large chunk of Top Gun in Glorious High-Definition over the weekend, and a few thoughts occur to me:

* You could argue that the movie would not have succeeded without the brilliant second-unit photography which opens the film. It's gorgeous, amazing stuff and it captures the world of naval aviators better than anything which follows it. In fact, without it I don't know that the rest of the movie really works. I wonder if Tony Scott did it himself or let one of the assistant DP's do it, as is usual.

* If Top Gun was made today, it would be heavily reliant on CGI effects and it would be lousy. Nothing reminds you of the limits of CGI like seeing real planes flying. Sure, you don't get the sexy camerawork, you don't get missile-eye POV shots, you don't get long, arial tracking shots that swing around one plane and then zoom to another.

What you do get, however, is infinitely more powerful.

* It is nearly inconceivable that the movie never got a sequel. A sequel would have been terrible, of course. But if Top Gun was released today, no studio head alive would be able to resist trying to turn it into a franchise.

* I've said it before and I'll say it again: We'll all be sad when we don't have Tom Cruise to kick around as a leading man anymore. He's not a great actor, but he's always better than he has to be. And unlike most of his contemporaries, he takes being a movie star seriously: He never, ever mails it in. And even when he's bad, he adds value.

* Also adding value: Michael Ironside. In every damn scene he's in. Nothing against Tom Skerritt, but I'll bet that Ironside also read for the Viper role. And if it had been up to me, I would have switched those parts.



Chris Nolan Speaks

2010-06-15T10:18:57.560-05:00

AICN has the transcript. Some interesting stuff. Most tantalizing insight:

He doesn’t have email or cell phone. “It gives me a little more time to think.”

Makes you love him all the more. Also, he has reservations about 3D at the technical level:

“On a technical level I think it’s fascinating. On an experiential level I find the dimness of the image extremely alienating. The truth of it is, when you watch a film you’re looking at 16 foot-lamberts. When you watch it through any of the conventional 3-D processes you get about 3 foot-lamberts. It’s a massive difference.

You’re not that aware of it because once you’re in that world your eye compensates, but having struggled for years to get theaters to get up to the proper brightness you’re now sticking polarized filters into this thing and we’re going back worse than we were.”

- Also from a shooting standpoint, Nolan has even more issues with 3-D: “It requires shooting on video, if you mask it to 2.40 you’re only getting 800 or 900 lines of resolution. You have to use a beam-splitter.”

- Nolan doesn’t use use zoom lenses, only primes, because the image quality isn’t sharp enough on the long end of a zoom, so the idea of shooting a whole film through a beam-splitter doesn’t appeal to him. “There are enormous compromises, in other words.”



"Nothing that a good set of leggings can't cover."

2010-06-15T10:06:06.278-05:00

Arrested Development is back in the saddle, thanks to Orbit.

It's not selling out if it's funny.



Join me, and together we will . . .

2010-06-14T06:46:15.826-05:00

And you think I take Star Wars too seriously? Galley Friend T.J. sends notice that a team of French psychiatrists have released a study concluding that Darth Vader was mentally ill.
their report, which was recently published in the medical journal Psychiatry Research, concludes that young Anakin Skywalker exhibited behavior that is consistent with borderline personality disorder, which may in turn explain his decision to embrace the dark side and become Emperor Palpatine's apprentice. 
American shrinks are pushing back, though:

"Anakin shows borderline traits, but these do not persist into his adulthood," UCLA psychiatrist Dr. H. Eric Bender said. "It's important to note that any person, when put in highly stressful situations, may display certain traits, such as impulsivity, which are associated with borderline personality disorder." The paper, he said, failed to prove that Skywalker had "enduring and maladaptive patterns" over the course of his entire lifetime, which would be necessary to adopt a formal diagnosis. 
Dr. Sue Varma, assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone School of Medicine, agrees.
"Teenagers are impulsive and can practice risky behavior," she said. "They are trying to find out who they are and in playing around with identities, they show characteristics similar to borderline. But this is not enough for a diagnosis. Most teens come out the other side by their 20s."



Geeks Gone Wild

2010-06-14T06:38:02.651-05:00

Galley Reader M.C. sends along this fantastic story about how the Rube Goldberg contraption in the instant-classic OK Go video was built. Turns out, it was partly some NASA scientists geeking out in their spare time:
There were a few guiding principles behind the machine. No magic: Mechanisms should be understandable and built from found objects where possible. Small to big: The size of the modules and parts becomes bigger over the course of the video. One take: As in their other videos, the band wanted the entire piece shot in one piece by a single handheld camera. . . .
We learned something very important about physics in the process of making this video. It is much harder to make small things reliable. Temperature, friction, even dust all greatly effect the repeatability and timing of the small stuff. The first minute of the video failed at a rate that was tenfold of the rest of the machine. Remembering that rule about getting everything in one shot -- if your module is further down the line in the video, you're in big trouble if it doesn't work! The machine took half an hour and 20 people to reset. 



The Ritual Attack of the Soccer Scolds

2010-06-14T07:29:50.074-05:00

It's happening again.The most puzzling part of anti-American soccer obsession is that it's not like Americans don't like the game of soccer. We all play it at the youth level and--for the most part--have a good time. It's just that we graduate up to other sports and don't have much of an appetite for soccer played at the elite level.And what's wrong with that? Our interest level in soccer is the mirror image of our interest level in football, which, comparatively few people play at the youth level, but which has great popularity at the professional level.But the thing is, you never hear football--or baseball, or ultimate frisbee, or tennis, or cycling, or hockey, or curling--or any other kind of fans railing against people who don't share their passion as if there's something morally and politically wrong with them. Why is it that soccer fans care so much about what American's don't care about?We'll never know.I, for one, choose to be soccer agnostic in an attempt to facilitate world peace. Imagine, for a moment, if Americans really did care about high-level soccer and put real effort into producing professional-caliber players.Now imagine what would have happened if, in 2006, the U.S. had won the World Cup with the dastardly George W. Bush as president!Really, the rest of the world should be grateful that we don't care about their sport.Update: The Czabe holds forth on why soccer doesn't blow his skirt up:There are many stupid things about soccer, but the lack of scoring remains the stupidest.A 1-0 deficit, and your side is playing with the burden of 11 elephants on their backs.A 2-0 deficit and you are now just out there getting some exercise.A 3-0 defeat and the newspapers back home will call you an “embarassment.”This level of scoring just doesn't make sense. It is so hard to score in soccer, it would be like basketball played on 30 foot rims.Soccer eliminates the most fundamentally exciting thing about sports: the comeback.[...]



Tom Bissell

2010-06-11T08:49:14.285-05:00

Elsewhere I have a review of Tom Bissell's very interesting new book Extra Lives. Extra Lives is something new, I think: a travel book about video games. If you're interested in games qua games, I highly recommend it.

The most interesting section is about Jonathan Blow's Braid and the problem of dynamical meaning in video-game narrative. It's worth the price of the book on its own.



From the Vault

2010-06-10T09:41:40.430-05:00

Was talking with someone about the (criminally underrated) Minority Report the other day and immediately thought of Peter Stormare's crazy, off-kilter performance in it, which is pleasantly unsettles the film and creates the kind of nearly-out-of-control atmosphere which you never see in Spielberg pictures.

And like Dennis Hopper, I'd argue that one of Stormare's finest performances is in a commercial. What time is it?

Time to un-pimp za auto . . .

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Pure. Gold.



For NYC Readers

2010-06-09T10:28:14.343-05:00

I just got my copy of Galley Friend and Superstar Foodie Sherri Eisenberg's book about Brooklyn restaurants, The Food Lovers' Guide to Brooklyn.



If you live in (or visit) New York a lot, I highly recommend it.

Sherri has a blog about the book which is a fun read, too.