Lebron & Me

James described himself as being at about 80 percent following Thursday’s return. Data from Second Spectrum seemed to back that up. He spent only 3.9 percent of the time overall running fast, his second-lowest percentage in a game this season.

ESPN

3.9% of the time “running fast”? So basically LeBron plays like I do in my rec league games?

… his average speed on offense was 4.2 mph, his fourth-lowest in a game this season.

Oh. Okay, never mind.

Northam is done, now what?

Mr. Northam, who apologized on Friday night, was increasingly isolated, but in phone calls on Saturday morning he said he had no recollection of the yearbook image of two men, one in blackface and the other in Ku Klux Klan robes. Late Saturday morning, his office announced that he would provide a statement to the news media at 2:30 p.m.

NYT

I voted for Northam in 2017 (and then I moved to MD and voted in another governor’s race the next year… states are weird), but it’s not like I’m that invested in the guy or really know that much about him. He ran against crazy Corey Stewart, for God’s sake.

But here’s the thing — the Democratic party is creating a standard where having a history of making or being a part of overtly racist jokes (and to an increasing degree, sexist ones) is a dealbreaker for being an important political leader. Increasingly, even if it’s not seen as an indicator of current values, it is seen as either (a) a lack of character/principle, and/or (b) indicative of a background and upbringing with insufficient understanding of people’s backgrounds and situations.

And honestly… is that so radical? Sure, well-intentioned middle-aged white guys from not-especially diverse backgrounds (hello!) are going to have to answer for the incredibly bad rap track they recorded in 1998. Maybe the situation is something voters can understand (youthful insensitivity? shifting values?), or maybe it isn’t (“my God, is that a Klan costume???“). But people care, and this is a democracy, so it matters. Deal with it.

Here’s what I think is the missed opportunity, though. I would love for Northam to take the opportunity to explain what really happened. I think these kinds of things need to be talked about, so people on all sides of various forms of historical (and modern day) racism can understand people’s situations as much as possible. For instance, as a random white dude, there was something really — I dunno, “helpful and informative” seems lame, but that’s kind of how it felt — to me about this Martellus Bennett piece on growing up and playing sports as a young black kid. I had kind of inferred a lot of this years ago, but just getting the nuances of his own perspective really humanized the whole situation. It just made it multi-dimensional and interesting and complex, and it made me smarter.

The story of “I’m the middle aged governor of Virginia and I am ostensibly not racist but I have dabbled in some craaaaa-aaaazy racist stuff, here’s why and how it happened” is going to cause a very different series of reactions, but I think the perspective is still potentially quite valuable, and the story somewhat complex. Now, I don’t say “complex” to give anybody an excuse, mind you. Lots of objectively terrible things are logistically complex even when morally simple. And racism as a whole, and the wide spectrum of racist acts, is complex as well.

I shouldn’t run for governor of anything, and I’ve said and done all kinds of dumb things in my life, but I certainly don’t have any bombs like this in my closet. But if I’m being intellectually honest, and I take some of those dumb teenage things I’ve said in my life, I can actually tell you a pretty good story about the background, people, insecurities, and other things that got me there. Those stories are constructive, and useful, and they’re how people like me get better. I don’t sound like seventeen year old me today because seventeen year old me was some monster (he wasn’t), or because a suffocating culture of political correctness has cowed me into silence (it hasn’t). I don’t sound like that because I’m smarter, and more thoughtful, and I’ve lived in lots of different places with different people and gotten to know a lot of them, and even gotten a chance to talk to a few of them about issues like racism, homophobia, elitism, religion, and other potentially divisive subjects in good faith.

It’s not an after school special. It’s not Starbucks diversity training you can throw together in a day. It’s working and building trust with people who are different from you for a long time, and then not shying away from topics when the opportunity to address them comes up.

Maybe that’s all completely unrealistic for Northam. He should just go away, and a new standard will hopefully emerge over time as increasingly aware blocks of people take political action. And it’s not like he’s going to do it — he’s going with the “that’s not me, but yes, I did a lot of other things you’re going to find out about soon” approach which is basically just a slow drip of people throwing up their hands and getting frustrated.

But I do think there’s a potential silver lining here we’re not going to take advantage of, and that’s a bummer.

Voting on Veterans Day

“A ‘power grab’ to let people vote?” Shaub said in a tweet. “He also says it’s just a holiday for bureaucrats, almost ⅓ of whom are veterans. How about McConnell compromises by moving Veterans Day to the 1st Tuesday in November? What better way to honor veterans than by making it easier for them to vote?”

the Washington Post

I can’t believe even this has become a partisan issue. I actually wrote my Senator about this idea in college(!) because it seemed like such an obviously patriotic win-win to me.

The Most Hated Team

“I don’t really pay attention to storylines,” Cousins told ESPN. “I mean, they’re gonna say what they have to say. They’re gonna add their opinions. We’re the most hated team in sports.”

DeMarcus Cousins in ESPN

There is no way the Warriors are more hated than the Patriots, or maybe even the Yankees. I just can’t accept that.

Selling a Bad Idea

The speech failed not because the president lacks rhetorical skills, but because most Americans reject Mr. Trump’s arguments. Just 43% said that the wall would make us safer, while 55% said it wouldn’t. Only 43% thought the wall would be an effective way of protecting the border. Even fewer—40%—thought it was essential for that purpose, and 59% said it would be a poor use of taxpayer dollars.

William Galston in the Wall Street Journal

Emphasis added by me. I have a lot of thoughts — unsurprisingly — about Donald Trump’s constant veneration as a “marketing” or “branding” genius by people who have no experience in marketing, or often in business at all. Trump is shameless, and has a lot of very loud, obvious personality traits that Americans (unfortunately) aspire to have. Those traits are also attached to significant, inherited financial resources that he’s had his entire life.

None of that has anything to do with good “marketing” or “branding”, because both of those things are done well, they are able to withstand some level of critical analysis and scrutiny. Trump’s claims about himself, policy, the state of the nation, or why things are the way they are never hold up to any scrutiny at all.

Basically — and I’ve worked with and for a lot of people who don’t agree with this — if you build a brand that people love and believe until they actually require you to deliver on it, at which point your brand falls apart completely, you haven’t built a good brand. You’ve built a convincing lie, which is a lot less valuable than you might think. Trump is learning that now, as his “master dealmaker” brand is falling apart in front of our eyes in the most obvious possible scenario where such a master dealmaker would be incredibly useful. The only people who agree with him are people who agree with him on everything, and it’s not because they think he’s a genius, it’s because they hate the same people he claims to hate.

This isn’t a strategy for running a business, and it’s definitely not “marketing”. It’s a strategy for squeezing a couple extra bucks out of a racket before it collapses on itself.

The Blog is dead, long live The Blog

A couple years ago, I used the inevitable decline of Tumblr to shift away from the very popular, 2008-ish link blog style I had used here for years. At the time, my thinking was that I wanted to focus on writing longer-form things I put a lot of effort and thinking into, instead of just grabbing things that caught my attention and hastily putting together my two cents.

Unfortunately, while I wrote some more thoughtful things that I really liked, I also decided to add two little kids and a very demanding job. The result — weirdly enough — was that I had more time for quick little observations about things, and less time to sit down and put together something thoughtful (never mind edited). With a site structured around long-form content, that meant what I was able post was increasingly long-winded, sporadic, and not really what I wanted to make.

(I’m not kidding — a lot the posts from the last two years came together on a Sunday morning at a coffee shop with me flipping through various half-written things, squishing them together, and posting the results. If you’ve read this site for a long time, it’s probably noticeable.)

So with that, just a quick note that I’m firing up my time machine and taking the site back to the 2008 linkblog era.

A lot of people I know, and have learned to enjoy reading, have given up on the personal site format and moved their shorter thoughts to social networks, Medium, etc. — and I say the hell with that. Self-hosted WordPress continues to get more and more awesome (it has blocks now!), Twitter continues to get dumber, and I like building things. So here we go.

Of course, I still have little kids and a job, so we’ll see what kind of writing capacity a 36-year old version of the 25-year old who started this site is like. But it’s just so much easier to find things, write things, and post things (provided they aren’t too big) nowadays, and I’m going to give it a shot.

Here’s to the old days.

Everything Ends Badly, or Else It Wouldn’t End

Vice on an apparently incredibly well-known artist that I clearly have never heard of because I am overworked and a Dad these days:

There’s a stronger parallel to be drawn here, too. After the grunge explosion and the birth of so-called “alternative rock” brought on by Nirvana’s emergence in the early 90s, the rest of the decade’s mainstream rock airwaves were plagued by increasingly same-y sounding “post-grunge” acts that sanded down the depressive bile of their forebears until it sounded smooth, frictionless, and utterly corporate. Purely for analogous purposes, let’s say that M83 is Nirvana (wait, don’t go!), and the Chainsmokers are, for shits and giggles, Vertical Horizon—so far removed from the source material that the resemblance is barely there, but once you become aware of it, the soullessness it represents is impossible to shake.

Hey, I wrote about this phenomenon once, too, although I needed a clip from “Idiocracy” to make my point:

If Operation Ivy is Sears, or some other classic department store, then Blink-182 is CostCo, and the fat guy in this clip is your typical pop-punk band today. Yeah, in theory he’s emulating CostCo, but it’s been so long since that meant anything, he’s really just going through the motions, sort of hoping that by standing there and saying CostCo-related things that he’s successfully honoring his influences. “Welcome to CostCo” is basically “Defend Pop Punk“.

I actually feel better this also happens to genres of music I’m not interested in.