Month: January 2015 (Page 1 of 3)

⦿ Friday Links, Part 2

Part two of the big link catch-up project.

First, a profile of Lego. I had no idea the company nearly went under just over a decade ago. Jonathan Ringen explores the history of the company and how it first dig a hole, then made a series of tremendous decisions that have left it one of the strongest brands in the world.

How Lego Became The Apple Of Toys

Speaking of Apple, you may have read that the company had the most profitable quarter in the history of business to close out 2014. Ben Thompson writes about the odd collection of analysts who have been predicting imminent doom for Apple for years, and continue to do so.

It’s difficult to overstate just how absurd this is, but here’s my best attempt: last quarter Apple’s revenue was downright decimated by the strengthening U.S. dollar; currency fluctuations reduced Apple’s revenue by 5% – a cool $3.73 billion dollars. That, though, is more than Google made in profit last quarter ($2.83 billion). Apple lost more money to currency fluctuations than Google makes in a quarter. And yet it’s Google that is feared, and Apple that is feared for.

Bad Assumptions

As a part-time sports writer, I understand how hard it is to ask questions of coaches and athletes who are coming off an emotional, physically draining performance when you are working on deadline. Still, it drives me crazy how many people you see on TV who can not ask a freaking question.

Worst offense, requesting that an interviewee “talk about…” something. Lazy and rude. It shows you are not prepared and, perhaps, don’t understand the game you are watching.

Bryan Curtis at Grantland goes on a nice rant.

The Worst Question in Sports: What We Talk About When We Say ‘Talk About’

After porn and pirated music/movies/games/software, I think there is more food writing than anything else on the Web. I’m pretty sure you could spend an entire week reading just about how to cook a steak.

So here’s one more post on the subject. The argument: it is better to constantly flip your steak than to only turn it two/four times. I’m a four-turn cook. But I may have to reconsider after reading this.

The Food Lab: Flip Your Steaks Multiple Times For Better Results

I’ve never been a big flosser. After reading this, though, I admit I’ve stepped up my game a bit. All kinds of good dental tips in here.

The Truth About Your Smile

And the most important link last.

A former co-worker had a running list of silly arguments he liked to, well, argue about. Not long after you met him you would get added to an email thread with one of these important questions, and a demand for your response.

One was about the odds of a coin being flipped landing on heads or tails. Are the odds always 50–50, or are they affected by the previous flip? Another was who would win a fight, a Siberian Tiger or a Kodiak Bear.

Yes, several of us who worked for a handful of Fortune 500 companies spent valuable company time fighting about stupid shit like this.

But I love that the guys over at Deadspin’s The Concourse are of similar minds.

So, for your enjoyment,

Who Would Win If A Hippo Fought A Rhino? A Question For The Ages.

⦿ Friday Links, Part 1


That’s how I would describe my blogging performance over the past week. I not only failed to share links last week, I kept putting it off and putting it off when I had chances to post them. So here I am with at least ten sharable links.

Some pruning is clearly in order.

But that still leaves quite a collection of quality content. So, prepare yourselves for two links posts today.

Part one will focus on pop culture.

Here is just a awful, in-depth exploration of the end of Casey Kasem’s life. Its focus is on the brutal battle between his wife and his children and brother over who should make decisions about his healthcare, decide where he was buried, etc.

Casey deserved better.

The Long, Strange Purgatory of Casey Kasem

Casey played a few Mötley Crüe tracks on American Top 40 over the years. So I think he might enjoy this look into their farewell tour and the circus that surrounds pretty much everything they do.

I love what they did with the title, too.

Thïs Ïs thë Ënd

David Simon was the main man behind The Wire. He’s written a tremendous book (which was the genesis of The Wire and two other shows), made a couple other solid shows for HBO, and writes some pretty interesting stuff about society and politics on his blog.

Grantland goes deep on Simon as he preps his next HBO project.

David Simon Does Not Care What You Think Is Cool About His TV Shows

To wrap up part one, a very interesting profile of Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken. If you’ve read and enjoyed her books, but don’t know about her health condition, this piece will dazzle you. Hell, even if you know about her health status, it’s still pretty amazing that she is able to do what she does.

The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand

Now go check part two.

Friday Vid

“The Frug” – Rilo Kiley

I’m not a regular viewer of Austin City Limits, but last week, when Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis split the episode, I definitely set the DVR. Lewis threw in a couple tracks from her first band, Rilo Kiley. This was not one of those selections, but I’ve always loved it and the oh-so-late–90s video makes it a perfect share.

Big Game Forty Nine

Karma is a bitch.

No where is that more true than in sports.


In the 2013 Sweet 16 in Arlington, Texas, KU guard Elijah Johnson decided to cheap shot Michigan forward Mitch McGary in the sack early in the game.

Anyone watching the game knew the Hoops Gods would exact revenge.

They teased us, but then they did so in crushing fashion.

Johnson hit a 3-pointer with under seven minutes left to give KU a 14-point lead. Were the Hoops Gods looking the other way?

Hell no.

Johnson missed the front end of a one-and-one with KU leading by three points late in regulation. Which set up Trey Burke’s shot for the ages that sent the game to overtime.

In overtime Johnson committed two terrible turnovers – one a needless 10-second backcourt violation when he was not being pressured – and turned down a close shot that could have tied the game at the end of overtime to make a tough pass that left Naadir Tharpe with a tougher shot from deep.

Johnson scored 13 points, but turned the ball over five times without an assist.

Michigan advanced, KU went home.

The Hoops Gods, and Karma, had spoken.

Why dredge up that bad memory?[1] Because I’m using Karma to make my Super Bowl pick.

Forget that the Seahawks defense is set up perfectly to slow/contain/stop the New England offense. Forget that on offense the Seahawks have a knack for making huge plays in huge moments. Forget that, even though they won the Super Bowl last year, this Seahawks team seems to have some kind of magic on their side that you pick against at your own peril.

While those things might matter Sunday, the deciding factor is going to be Karma.

I already said I don’t think the deflated balls made a difference in the outcome of the AFC Championship game. New England was going to win regardless, so long as Tom Brady stayed upright.

But the Football Gods were watching. They’ve punished the Patriots before; see David Tyree and Spygate. They will do so again Sunday.

I don’t know if it’s going to be another late, flukey, heart-breaker of a catch, or an outright pounding. Somehow, though, the Football Gods will make Belichick and Brady and the rest of the Patriots pay.

Seattle 24, New England 21

  1. For us KU fans, at least. There was a lot of anger late that Friday night in my house.  ↩

Purple Greatness

A combo piece this morning, taking one entry from my up-coming review of January books and combining it with the movie on which it focused.

Let’s Go Crazy – Alan Light
I shared the excerpt from this a few weeks back, and the book finally hit the library two weeks ago. I snatched it up and raced through it in about a day.

It was awesome.

It details the creative process surrounding both the movie and album Purple Rain. Despite being one of my all-time favorite albums, I did not know a ton about its background. So while much of what Light shares is 30-year-old news, it was mostly new to me. And even some of the standard material is presented in a fresh way. Light was, and is, a fan, so the book isn’t terribly critical, although he doesn’t duck from how Prince’s output has been uneven since the late 1980s. And he pokes fun at the movie, which is poorly acted in many parts, has a number of awfully misogynistic moments, and has not aged well at all in several segments.

He is a fan writing for fans. Which, when it comes to this kind of book, is exactly what you want.

There are all kinds of nuggets in the book. My three favorites:
1) Chris Rock, who is a huge fan, comparing Purple Rain to Thriller. (I’m paraphrasing), “Every song on Purple Rain could have been a single. There was no “Baby Be Mine” on it.” Truth.
2) Stevie Nicks wrote her song “Stand Back” based on how she felt after hearing “Little Red Corvette.” She even had Prince in the studio with her and he, apparently, helped her hammer out parts of it. As a token of thanks, he sent the music for “Purple Rain” to her and asked if she would help him write lyrics for it. She said she knew immediately it was destined to be a classic, felt overwhelmed, and sent it back saying she wasn’t worthy of being offered a chance to help write for it.
3) I have no idea how I did not know this, but Vanity was supposed to play the lead female role. But a difference of opinion and a desire to carve out her own career caused her to leave the cast not long before filming was set to begin. Thus Apollonia got cast and Vanity 6 became Apollonia 6. I always figured that was just some cheekiness, calling the bands such similar names.

After reading the book, it seemed appropriate to watch the movie again. I remember watching the edited for TV version on VH1 when M. was a baby. But I have no idea when I last watched the entire, uncut version. Sometime in the early 1990s, if not farther back than that. So last night, instead of watching basketball or finishing up season two of The Americans, I watched Purple Rain.

Light’s analysis of the movie is pretty solid. When there is music being performed on the screen, the flick is astounding. Right music, right moment, etc. It’s tough to argue that the scenes with The Revolution and The Time aren’t the best live music moments in movie history. The opening segment, where the various characters and the setting are introduced over “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Jungle Love” are perfect. The scenes with Mazarati and Apollonia 6 aren’t as powerful or good, but they still fit into the overall vibe the movie offers. And the last 20 or so minutes, when The Time absolutely destroy the First Avenue club with “The Bird” and then The Revolution counter with “Purple Rain,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Baby I’m A Star,”…well if you actually saw those four songs performed in a row, live, in 1984, your brain might just have exploded.

Looking at the acting, Prince does ok. Some moments are awkward and forced, but he has a reasonable number of decent scenes. Apollonia seems overmatched by the moment. A number of secondary characters also have a B-movie quality about them. But Morris Day and Wendy Melvoin are the highlights. Day nearly steals the show with his enlightened, comic pimp act. And Melvoin offers a powerful and mature performance for a woman who was 19 and had never acted before. She doesn’t have many lines, but they do serve as a nice counter to the Kid’s ego and selfishness.

Despite the dated feel to the fashion, it is still a visually stunning movie. The multi-ethnic crowd at First Avenue, in their glammed-up, New Wave via Minneapolis clothes and makeup, sum up the moment while still somehow feeling futuristic.

One of the big tragedies of the movie is that The Time did not survive it. I remember their album Ice Cream Castle picking up steam just as Purple Rain was running out of fuel in early 1985. But by that point Morris Day had left the group to launch his solo career and attempt to make his own movies. He never had great solo success, and The Time only had minor hits when they reformed in the early 90s. However, as Light points out, perhaps they were not destined for their own greatness. There are persistent rumors that Prince both wrote and played most of the music on Ice Cream Castles. The Time looked great live in the movie, but could they have kept the momentum from the movie going when Prince was more interested in doing his own thing?

Which leads us to the gigantic take-away from reading the book and watching the movie: has anyone had a stretch as good as Prince had from 1982–1986? In that span he recorded three albums[1], made a massive movie, had one of the highest grossing tours of all-time, wrote and/or produced songs for The Time, The Bangles, Chaka Khan, Sheila E., Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Sheena Easton, and Stevie Nicks. His Minneapolis sound, when tweaked by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, became the dominant pop music sound into the early 90s. And while his multi-ethnic/no-ethnic worldview seemed utopian at the time, it foreshadowed an age two decades in the future when racial lines became tenuous as more-and-more Americans could check multiple boxes for ethnicity on a census form.

The Beatles in 1963 likely had a bigger overall cultural impact. But I don’t know that anyone has ever done what Prince did during that run.

Purple Rain the album remains a masterpiece 31 years after its release. “Purple Rain” the song is as epic today as it was in the climactic scene of the movie and as the closing track on the album. Purple Rain the movie? A little corny, cringe-inducing at times, and far from a great film. But it remains a visually arresting, aurally mind-blowing document of pop music’s biggest year and an artist at his absolute prime.

  1. 1999, a double album by the way, Purple Rain, only one of the biggest albums of the decade, and Around The World In A Day.  ↩

Friday Vid (Plus Song)

“Purple Rain” – Martin Sexton

Earlier this week, I ripped through Alan Light’s Let’s Go Crazy, his book about the making of Purple Rain, both the movie and album. When I returned it to the library, I picked up the DVD of the movie, which I will be watching at some point this weekend.

So, I’ve been on a bit of a Purple Rain kick. Which makes this the perfect week to share this wonderful cover of the song by Martin Sexton.

I checked out a few versions that were on YouTube, and this had the best audio, although with kind of a crappy video. And the version is not as good as the one Sexton put on his Solo album a few years back. Which has become one of my all-time favorite covers. One I feel obligated to share. Which I’m going to do below. Just don’t tell anybody. I love the section that begins at about the 4:30 mark.

Now, come, and let me guide you…

“Purple Rain”


Some kid notes

We’ve had a rash of lost teeth lately. L. lost three in just under two weeks, and is currently missing all four corner teeth. And then M. lost a tooth just before bedtime Wednesday.

As I’ve related before, my Tooth Fairy game is off its peak of a few years back. One night for L., when I went in her room and began fishing around under her pillow for the baggie with her tooth, she rustled, yawned, and then rolled over toward me. While my hand was still under the pillow.

I froze for a second, debated whether to wait another five minutes and come back, or go with the Band-Aid strategy: just find the tooth and rip my hand out of there. I geeeeently stretched a little further, found the baggie with my finger tips, said a silent prayer to the Tooth Fairy, and yanked it out. L. snorted a bit, but did not wake up. I tossed her three bucks onto her pillow and got the hell out.

M., as you may recall, is pretty hip to the game. She always leaves her teeth out on her nightstand, placed carefully for easy access. Still, when her door creaked as I snuck in, I was suspicious that she was still awake.[1] Something about the look of sleep on her face seemed forced. Whatever. I found her tooth without issue. However, she stuck a note for the Tooth Fairy into her baggie. I had consumed a pretty potent beer before bedtime, so I wasn’t in a condition to pen an immediate response. Thus, I saved it for today.

Her letter was a real gem. First, she thanked the Tooth Fairy for always bringing her and her sisters money for their teeth. Then she casually mentioned that she needed $13 for the headband she wants to buy. Like really needs it. Next up was a series of questions. Why does the Tooth Fairy take teeth? What does she do with them? Does she make a castle with them? Does she have a model of each kid’s head that she puts the teeth into?[2] Or does she make dentures with them? Finally, she made a request to get more than $3 this time, since that’s what she always gets and, you know, the $13 headband and all.

My response, errrrrrr, the TF’s response, which was printed in purple ink and using a flowery font and will be slipped into her room late tonight, says it was just the Tooth Fairy’s job to take the teeth. No, no castles or creepy head models or dentures were made from them. Rather, they were stored in a drawer with each kid’s name on it. And, no, she could not offer up more than $3. But, the Tooth Fairy suggested, perhaps M. could volunteer to “cheerfully” do some chores around the house to earn the other $10 she needs.

OK, so maybe I am still pretty solid at this Tooth Fairy gig.

C. has not lost any teeth lately, but had her own funny thing recently. Each girl got a Barnes and Noble gift certificate for Christmas. When we went to use them the week between holidays, L. bought a spy kit and C. bought a magic kit. Both came in little, fake briefcases. They’re pretty cute.[3]

As usual, C. was all-in. She practiced her tricks and then wanted to have shows. On New Year’s Day, as we were taking down Christmas decorations, she took a large piece of cardboard and made a sign promoting her shows. “Come be amazed by Curious C.!” one side said. The other had a large question mark with “How does she do it?” written inside. Then there were the show times. She had shows every 15 minutes from 1:00 to 4:00 that day. Some shows even – magically! – overlapped. One show went from 2:15–2:45, while another kicked off at 2:30. I missed those shows, so not sure how she pulled them off.

The girls all went on a cleaning spree Monday when they were home for the holiday. Not cleaning their rooms or messes they had made around the house. No, instead they decided to clean all the counters and mirrors in each bathroom, Windex windows, and otherwise do work that we normally do. As they completed their work, they left little notes around the house. C. and L.’s notes said, “Thanks for using Cleaners, Inc. We Hope You Are Satisfied.” M., who was late to join the effort, made her own cards for “M.’s Cleaning Service.”

At 11:10 pm.  ↩

Creepy!  ↩

M. couldn’t find a book she wanted and held onto hers.  ↩

Make It Stop

My usual early morning routine is something like this:
Get the girls up, get them breakfast, and then get them on the path to getting ready for school. When I reach the point where they are getting dressed, I start running through Twitter to see if I missed anything overnight.

Well, last night I apparently went to bed right before the news broke that the NFL found that 11 of 12 balls used by the New England Patriots in Sunday’s AFC title game were inflated less than required. And my Twitter feed was abuzz, from the moment the news broke to early morning Tweets from folks in Indy. One local weatherman said that perhaps the Patriots could learn something from Tim Smyczek, the American tennis player who gave Rafael Nadal a do-over after fan noise interfered with his serve attempt. You know, sportsmanship and such.

Come on, people.

The Patriots won 45–7. It was not close. They ran the ball down the Colts’ throats, just like when the teams played in Indy in November. Let’s not act like the outcome would have been completely different had the Patriots been using balls with the same amount of air in them as in those used by the Colts. Sure, the Colts receivers had a number of drops. And Andrew Luck was not terribly sharp. But, again, the Colts could not stop LeGarrette Blount. And they could not get their running game going to take the pressure off Luck and his receivers.

Maybe the Patriots got a little extra boost from Tom Brady having a better grip than Luck. And maybe his receivers hung onto balls that the Colts receivers could not because they could squeeze them a little tighter.

But 45–7.

End of story.

However, it is worth noting that even if this did not affect the outcome of the game, it’s another controversy that surrounds Bill Belichick. Another bizarre example of a franchise that likely doesn’t not need to break the rules to win doing so anyway. As Belichick is passing legends of the game in playoff wins, Super Bowl appearances, etc. I think the general opinion outside Boston is, “Sure, he’s a good coach. But he only won with Tom Brady. And they got caught cheating twice. How many other times were they breaking the rules without getting caught?”

Belichick is going to go down as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. But like baseball players who were in their primes during the steroid era, there will always be questions about how he did it. Questions that I think will keep him from reaching Tom Landry, Don Shula, Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll levels of respect.

Gut Punch vs. Embarrassment

Which is the worst way to end a season?

In an utterly crushing, heart-breaking manner, losing a game that seemed convincingly won, and in which any of a series of singular, seemingly simple, plays over the final minutes would have been the final nail in the coffin of the eventual winners?

Or to be completely outclassed and embarrassed and made to appear to be frauds to have even had designs on advancing to the Super Bowl?

I have to say A is worse, and thus people in Green Bay feel a lot worse today than people here in Indy. The Colts’ loss in New England yesterday will be but a footnote to whatever happens in two weeks in Arizona. But that Green Bay loss is going to live forever, even if Seattle does not defend their Super Bowl title. Along with the 2004 New York Yankees, they’ve become a go-to example of teams that had playoff games (or series, in the Yankees’ case) completely wrapped up only to lose them in terrible fashion.

Another vote in favor of Green Bay as the worst loss? I didn’t have to watch the entire Colts game. We were watching with friends at their house and headed toward home as halftime was winding up. As we began out 20-minute drive home, New England scored to go up 24–7. By the time the girls were in bed, it was 38–7 and thus I settled down to finish my current book rather than watch the rest of the blowout in Foxboro.

Packers fans, on the other hand? They had to watch every last brutal second of their game. The rug was pulled out from underneath them. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and Jermaine Kearse ripped their hearts out and stomped all over them.[1]

And, let’s be honest. Even the most optimistic of Colts fans realized it would take a monumental effort to pull off a win in Foxboro. A lot of us figured it would not be close by the fourth quarter. So while 45–7 was ugly and wiped out a lot of good feelings that came out of last week’s win in Denver, it’s not like the Colts were up by two scores late in the game only to walk away losers.

So the season ends for the Colts, with some good feelings about winning another division title and two playoffs games but the realization that they were pretenders to the AFC throne. And it kicks off an off-season that could be hugely important to how the next phase of the Andrew Luck era goes. Can they get a solid running back who can stay healthy? Can they solidify the offensive line? Can they find D-linemen who can stop the running game and a legitimate pass rush threat? Make smart decisions this year and the Colts will be set up nicely to ascend as the Brady-Manning era comes to a close. Swing and miss, and the Colts could fail to capitalize on the skills of the game’s next great quarterback.

But in Green Bay? Where the Colts are at the beginning of a potential window of consistent Super Bowl contention, the Packers could be on the back end of theirs. Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the game right now, but how long will he stay healthy? How long will the other stars around him continue to perform, or remain with the Packers as their contract status changes? Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have shown that a quarterback can continue to be elite deep into his 30s. But there’s no guarantee that the Packers will be this close again in Rodgers career.

This one is going to hurt for a long, long time in Green Bay.

OK, all that aside, that was a bat-shit crazy game in Seattle. The Packers smacking the Seahawks in the mouth early, picking off Wilson four times over the day, moving the ball at will early,[2] and sucking the life out of the loudest stadium in the NFL. What if the Packers had gone for it, and scored, on either of their fourth-and-goal from the one opportunities? What if Morgan Burnett keeps running after his interception late in the fourth quarter? What if the Packers don’t go vanilla to run clock? What if they grab the onside kick? What if Ha Ha Clinton-Dix makes even a half effort to knock away the two-point conversion pass that put the Seahawks up by 3? What if Wilson doesn’t still have the confidence to make two perfect passes in overtime?

My friend and I, who had no real strong rooting interest, were screaming at the TV as the fourth quarter wound down. That was an incredibly entertaining game to watch. Shame the Colts didn’t give us a reason to watch all 60 minutes in the nightcap.

  1. Figuratively, of course. If they really did that, they’d all be in jail right now!  ↩
  2. At least until they got to the one yard line.  ↩
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