Wednesday, February 23, 2022

NFL Coaches Don’t Wear Suits Any More

And I am not a fan

Here’s a funny and entertaining video talking about it — the main reason is that the league wanted to optimize branding revenue and since Reebok didn’t offer suits 20 years ago, no suits allowed (video has a long and annoying ad up front, skip to 1:40 to avoid it).


It mentions both Mike Nolan of the 49ers and Jack Del Rio of the Jaguars as the last two guys to challenge this situation around 2005-6.

I’m old school about things like this. Coaches look more authoritative, grown up, and classy with suits on, because everyone does. It just sends a different and more serious message to have the leader of the team dressed like he means business, rather than wearing athletic gear adorned with logos. He stands there holding a clipboard — what does he need athletic gear for? 

Here’s Hank Stram (at right). How could you ever look more in charge than that? You can’t.

And we already get quite enough logos with the players and their uniforms, do we not? Is adding more of that — with coaches — clearing anything up for anyone, really? I find that hard to believe.

But the NFL, which is run by lawyers obsessed with two things, revenue and rules, may want to revisit this to counter several recent negative PR disasters, especially the disturbing and serious player criminality “thug” problem in the league over the last 25 years.

The league also turns itself into a cartoon show every October with the over-the-top display of pink gear everywhere you look, but fined Earl Bennett of the Bears for wearing orange shoes even though orange is one of the team’s colors: against The Rules. There’s a reason that people joke that NFL stands for No Fun League.

Against this onslaught of cultivating a poor image with bad decision making, they could help themselves in the image department by allowing coaches to dress like coaches again. 

Like this guy, Tom Landry of the  Dallas Cowboys.

This kind of thing is one of many many reasons that modern pro sports push me away, little by little, year by year: it just doesn’t speak to me like it used to.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

This Week in Military History, Barbary Wars 1804 Edition

During the Barbary Wars in the early 1800s the U.S. Navy — tired of American merchant ships and cargo seized by pirates who enslaved and held their crews for exorbitant ransom, and fearing strategic disadvantage with the capture in 1803 of a newer and more advanced Navy warship — did something incredibly daring about it

In October 1803, the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured by Tripolitan gunboats. The Americans feared that the well-constructed warship would be both a formidable addition to the Tripolitan navy and an innovative model for building future Tripolitan frigates. Hoping to prevent the Barbary pirates from gaining this military advantage, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a daring expedition into Tripoli harbor to destroy the captured American vessel on February 16, 1804.

After disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors, Decatur’s force of 74 men, which included nine U.S. Marines, sailed into Tripoli harbor on a small two-mast ship. The Americans approached the USS Philadelphia without drawing fire from the Tripoli shore guns, boarded the ship, and attacked its Tripolitan crew, capturing or killing all but two. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire.

Hugely successful — you simply cannot be any more successful than that.

Lt. Decatur was quickly becoming a national hero, and is still to this date the youngest person ever promoted to Captain in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Decatur supervised the construction of several U.S. naval vessels, one of which he later commanded. Promoted at age 25, he is the youngest man to reach the rank of captain in the history of the United States Navy. He served under three presidents, and played a major role in the early development of the U.S. Navy. In almost every theater of operation, Decatur's service was characterized by acts of heroism and exceptional performance. His service in the U.S. Navy took him through both Barbary Wars in North Africa, the Quasi-War with France, and the War of 1812 with Britain. He was renowned for his natural ability to lead and for his genuine concern for the seamen under his command. His numerous naval victories against Britain, France and the Barbary states established the United States Navy as a rising power. ... Decatur emerged as a national hero in his own lifetime, becoming the first post-Revolutionary War hero. His name and legacy, like that of John Paul Jones, became identified with the United States Navy.

At a hugely important time in American history, with a new and yet-to-be established Navy and seafaring reputation, this kind of leadership is exactly what was needed.

A map of the Barbary Coast region for visual context.

“To the shores of Tripoli” in the US Marines Hymn refers to these Barbary Wars.

Capt. Decatur was killed in 1820 at just 41 years of age in a duel with a Commodore Barron, who demanded that Decatur retract remarks he made as an officer presiding over Barron’s court-martial and later about Barron’s conduct during the Chesapeake-Leopard affair in 1807, one of the events that led to the War of 1812. It’s worth reading more, but to summarize, Barron as commander of the USS Chesapeake during the incredibly chaotic Napoleonic Wars was unprepared for battle when confronted by a British Royal Navy ship looking for deserters on board, and surrendered after firing just once. The incident enraged the public in the U.S., both because of apparent U.S. Navy vulnerabilities and a lack of respect from the British in the incident’s aftermath. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Recent Finds


Edouard Cortes, The Ferryman 


Raoul Dufy, The Jetty at Sainte-Adresse, 1906


Edward Hopper, Blackhead, Monhegan, 1919

You can find these and so much more great stuff at @artistcortes, @artistdufy, and @artisthopper — plus many other quality artists — on Twitter. Highly recommended to improve your social media feeds — which, let’s be honest here, could probably use it.

Monday, February 14, 2022

The Sometimes Violent History of Valentine’s Day

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, obviously. But 1660 years before that . . . 

The clergyman for whom the day was named was beheaded in 269 (or 270) AD by a bloodthirsty warmongering tryant named Emperor Claudius II:

Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.

To fix that problem, he banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. That’s top notch craziness.

Valentine, not being crazy, continued performing marriages in secret, and tried to convert Claudius the Cruel to Christianity — at which time a new nickname would be needed, I suspect — but it didn’t seem to work, since Claudius sentenced him to death by clubbing and beheading.

The origin of the closing salutation “From your valentine”, the legend continues, was Valentine sending a note to the daugher of the jailer and signing it that way. 

He was later elevated to sainthood after his death, and in 496 AD, February 14 was officially designated St. Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius.

So, technically speaking, St Valentine’s Day is at least in part a Christian holiday rooted in standing up to tyrants for the natural rights of normal folks.

There is still a lot of dispute about the details and history of St. Valentine’s Day. Award yourself 10 points if you guessed that it replaced a weird and violent pagan festival of sex and debauchery. 

Known as Lupercalia, this “fertility ritual” was celebrated on February 15 every year since the 6th Century BC to honor a she-wolf who nursed twin boys Romulus and Remus who were rescued after being sentenced to death by their uncle, King Amulius, for a broken vow of celibacy by their mother. No, I don’t get it either, but this was life under Ancient Roman tyrants. This article about the founding of Rome explains it a bit more sensibly. 

The festival started with animal sacrifices — of course — and then:

When the feast of Lupercal was over, the Luperci cut strips, also called thongs or februa, of goat hide from the newly-sacrificed goats.

They then ran naked or nearly-naked around Palantine whipping any woman within striking distance with the thongs.

During Lupercalia, the men randomly chose a woman’s name from a jar to be coupled with them for the duration of the festival. Often, the couple stayed together until the following year’s festival. Many fell in love and married.

Over time, nakedness during Lupercalia lost popularity. The festival became more chaste, if still undignified, and women were whipped on their hands by fully-clothed men.

Oh well, as long as they weren’t naked any more, the whipping sounds totally normal now.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

War, “All Day Music”

Listen for those beautiful five-part (!!) vocal harmonies on “all day” starting at 0:39.

Such a groove. 

Maybe listen one mo’ time. Life is short, enjoy it!

One of those relaxing-yet-energizing songs that literally always sounds right and fits the mood, at least for me.

Even better, this live performance — with plugged-in instruments and microphones and everything! — from Soul Train.

Tunes like this (from 1971) are a great example of what made the early 70’s one of the absolute peaks of the rock era. It sounds real and honest, the type of music that band with those musicians wanted to make at that time with their unique creative powers, with zero interference from nosy do-nothing record company dipshits. 

This was a time when the really good A&R guys at record companies knew how to get out of the way and let creative people create. That time would be mostly over within 5-10 years.

The album — also titled “All Day Music” — was their first release after Eric Burdon left the band, and started quite a run — their next album “The World is a Ghetto” spawned 2 big hit singles (the title track plus “Cisco Kid”, hitting #3 and #2 respectively) and became the top-selling album of 1973, and was named Album of the Year by Billboard. 

War's discography is pretty impressive during their 1970's run and includes their biggest hits like “Spill the Wine” with Eric Burdon and “Cisco Kid”, “Low Rider”, and “The World is a Ghetto" (another favorite) and the band definitely created their own unique sound, combining funk, soul, and jazz and creating pop hits with it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Time on a Line?

We tend to think of time as a point that moves on a line forward into the future, with everything in the past backwards along that line. 

This becomes even more obvious when you think about how we talk about time, using words like forward and backward, long and short, but never narrow or wide, or deep or shallow.

Thinking about time in “forward and backward” terms makes it one dimensional, just like a line, by definition — but I would suggest time can have width and depth too. 

Instead of a line, picture a box, with “L”, “W”, and “H” dimensions. Of course, the narrow/wide and deep/shallow concepts would be the “W” and “H” dimensions of the box.

If time has all three of those dimensions, the “L” obviously represents the future vs. the past, the “W” could be the various possibilities for what you can do at each moment, and “H” could be engagement with and immersion in each moment as you travel through it. 

This idea occurred to me one day recently when I was having a crisis where time stands still, and you are only focused on the present moment and whatever feelings emotions are flowing through you, and nothing else matters for a little while.

We’ve all been through it, with both good and bad emotions.

Maybe this is stupid. Or maybe not. I just know that the “one dimensional” thing seems inadequate. 

Sunday, February 06, 2022

The Four Tops, “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)”


“Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)” was released in 1973 and peaked at #4 on the pop charts in April of that year, and earned a gold record. 

An appearance on Soul Train — with epic intro by the legendary Don Cornelius and his fine threads.

Great vocals of course — it is the Four Tops, after all — and they are having a great time with their dance steps. 

Each singer gets a turn at lead, in order: regular lead vocalist Levi Stubbs, Lawrence Payton, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Abdul "Duke" Fakir.

But listen to the band too — the fills between each line especially. Guitar, percussion and how they interact. Beautiful playing. 

The vocals carry the tune as always with Soul and R&B, but I like to listen “under the surface” for what the instruments are doing and how they push the tune along. When done right, it makes for a stronger, more cohesive song, compared to just great singing and lower quality production and arrangement.

Written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, the record label’s (ABC/Dunhill) songwriting team who also wrote hits for a variety of artists like “Don’t Pull Your Love” for Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds, “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Country Boy” for Glen Campbell, “Baby Come Back” for Player, and several more. They also produced “Rock and Roll Heaven” by the Righteous Brothers.

Friday, February 04, 2022

Singers So Amazing They Absolutely Always Require More Volume


In the car on the way home one night this week this tune came on 87.7 ME-TV FM and I turned it up. Then I turned it up again, and a third time, and then a fourth.

The vocals by Karen Carpenter on “Top of the World” are perfection — especially what she does with the verses.

You’ve surely heard it many times, and for most of us the tendency with pop music is to focus your listening on the chorus, which is sensible because for most songs that’s where the “magic” lies.

But on this song, I recommend listening closely to the verses, particularly her vocal range and control, as she travels up and down the register effortlessly with tone that lasts for days. Guitar players are always on a quest for “tone” and try all kinds of pickups, pedals, and amps to find it — she’s already got tone as her God-given natural voice.

Listen for these lines, and the way she lands on the bolded words — but especially on “dream” — and how satisfying that feels, starting at 0:27.

Not a cloud in the sky,
Got the sun in my eyes,
And I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream

And again, right after, at 0:48:

And the reason is clear,
It’s because you are here,
You’re the nearest thing to heaven that I’ve seen

The great ones make it sound easy. It isn’t. Most singers have a note or two in their range that sounds a little thin, or “pitchy”. She has zero of those. And there was no Autotune back then, or Pro Tools, or other fancy technology to turn average singers into good ones, as far as you know. This was all Karen and her amazing voice and vocal talent.

There are many great female singers — Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, to name a few — but to my ears she is in their league.

Here’s a live version — the vocals and the band sound markedly different— but her voice still sounds unbelievably smooth and in control. 

Thursday, February 03, 2022

This Week in 1948: Ghandi Assassinated


He did good things for many many people and provided leadership where and when it was required, and you can read more about that at Wikipedia, but he had some controversial ideas, to say the least. 

Some things you may not know: 


As a young man fresh out of law school and unable to find suitable work in India he lived in South Africa for 20 years from 1893-1914, and experienced firsthand there how Indians as a group were subjugated with no rights, so as a result he started a campaign to win rights for Indians — but at the same time, according to this story, he apparently still thought blacks were subhuman and did nothing to help them. It’s possible this was tactical triangulating against White and Black on his part, or modern day historical revisionism by partisan stakeholders, or some combo of the two, I do not know. But racism by non-whites around the world against other non-whites, is quite common and always has been — racism is racism no matter who it targets, or who practices it.


He was assassinated by a Hindu extremist who did not like the partitioning of India into two states, along sectarian lines creating Pakistan as predominantly Muslim and India as predominantly Hindu with Buddhist and Muslim minorities, and thought Ghandi supported it — which he didn’t, but it really was a bad idea, as these efforts usually are. They’ve been at each other’s throats ever since. Who knew?


This one is really strange.

As an old man he had this very odd and hard-to-explain habit of sleeping in the same bed with young girls, every night — even family members — supposedly to test his vow of celibacy. Interesting method, that. As a young married man in his 30s, he had taken a vow of “total chastity in thought and deed”. Cecil Adams at The Straight Dope explains:

Mohandas Gandhi’s sleeping arrangements attracted public attention during the winter of 1946-47, when he was trying to quell violence between Muslims and Hindus in the Noakhali district in what is now Bangladesh. It came out that Gandhi was bunking nightly with his 19-year-old grandniece, Manu. In part this was an effort to stay warm in the winter chill, but Gandhi soon acknowledged there was more to it: he was testing his vow of brahmacharya, or total chastity in thought and deed. If he could spend the night in a woman’s embrace without feeling sexual stirrings, it would demonstrate that he had conquered his carnal impulses and become “God’s eunuch.” It turned out that Manu was not his first brahmacharya lab partner — he’d also recently gotten naked (partly, at least) with another young woman in his extended family, starting when she was 18.

Hmm … I just don’t know about all that … but just for kicks let’s grant him wide berth and assume he’s being straight with us. 

First of all, he’s almost 80 but he still needs to test himself with a 19 year old? A family member? And another 18 year old family member? I have no experience with that mindset, but it seems quite possible to take a vow of chastity and, you know, not invite girls who are barely 18 into your bed due to some compulsive need to “test yourself”. Jesus had pretty good success with that model, I hear. 

And if Ghandi was just some rando instead of a revered political and social leader, is he still talking 19 year old girls into bed with him, physical intimacy or not? It has the definite stench of taking advantage of your status to get people to do things they might not otherwise do. 

So, who knows, maybe it was what he claimed it was, but the whole thing sounds very, very weird. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

“It’s Groundhog Day!”


One of the best movies of the last 50 years.

How can you hear the lyrics of “I Got You Babe” without picturing in your head the alarm clock scene in Groundhog Day, with the goofball DJs, talking about the approaching snowstorm? I sure can’t. 

Just put your little hand in mine, There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb, Babe, I got you babe … “Okay campers rise and shine and don’t forget your booties ‘cuz it’s cold out there!”

Watch Bill Murray’s face as he gets progressively more alarmed each day realizing he’s stuck in purgatory. 

Later of course there’s the famous scenes at the diner, at the bowling alley and driving back late at night, at the quarry with the groundhog driving (“don’t drive angry!”), the daily encounters with Needlenose Ned, and so much more. 

It’s funny, with great lines and overall writing, and actually preaches accountability and self-improvement — repeating the same day forever until you change yourself and stop expecting the world around you to change to fix your problems. There’s so much to chew on, and it’s expertly put together, and actually gets better with each viewing. 

It’s very close to a perfect movie. 

As for the actual Groundhog Day the very first one was in 1887, and here’s how it got started:

Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal—the hedgehog—as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State. … In 1887, a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog.