Saturday, April 24, 2010

a tv, the internet, and a bong: live-blogging the fourth round of the NFL draft

round 4, pick 1
st. louis rams
mardy gilliard, WR cincinnati
the rams continue to get a little better in a few areas. gilliard was arguably a second or third round talent, and it's no surprise to see him go first here. bradford needs the help, bad.

round 4, pick 2
minnesotta vikings
everson griffen, DE, USC
this dude probably shouldn't be available. but the vikings snag him up early in the fourth. they have this pick because they helped the lions get jahvid best. griffen? good pass rusher, probably a good addition to an already good team.

round 4, pick 3
tampa bay buccaneers
mike williams, WR, syracuse
one of the top wide receivers in the big east goes to one of the worst teams in the league. he could be a steal for the awful bucs.

round 4, pick 4
kansas city chiefs
darryl sharpton, LB, miami
eight and a half tackles a game down at miami. not too much in the way of sacks. also, matt cassell sucks and charlie weis is a fat fat fat.

round 4, pick 5
washington redskins
perry riley, LB, LSU
this guy is actually very good, i'd have certainly guessed better than darryl sharpton, who goes one pick earlier. are the redskins a good team now? depends how much money they throw at terrell owens.

round 4, pick 6
tennessee titans
alterraun vernere, CB, UCLA
the cornerbacks started flying off the board last night. everyone wants to beat peyton manning. this guy won't really help too much. special teamer.

round 4, pick 7
philadelphia eagles
trevard lindley, CB, kentucky
another guy with great speed, but he's less than six feet tall which means he's a cornerback. like i said, flying off the board. meanwhile the eagles count on kevin kolb to win eight million games.

round 4, pick 8
oakland raiders
bruce campbell, OT, maryland
a lot of people actually had the raiders making this pick in the first round, WITH THE NUMBER EIGHT SELECTION. that was obviously crazy, the raiders waited because there were so many tackles available, and drafted very well in the first few rounds. now they get their tackle to protect the incredibly shitty quarterback.

round 4, pick 9
buffalo bills
marcus easley, WR, connecticut
almost 900 yards receiving last year, 8 touchdowns. not bad. but the bills, who were reportedly riding tim tebow's dick really hard, still are.

round 4, pick 10
oakland raiders (from jax)
jacoby ford, WR, clemson
the main weapon in the passing attack from the offense that brought you c.j. spiller. his numbers and his yards-per-catch are pretty good. oakland made a late trade to get this pick. they continue to seem smart in this draft, but jamarcus be jamarcus.

round 4, pick 11
chicago bears
corey wootton, DE, northwestern
the bears get only their second pick of the whole draft because jay cutler was totally worth it. decent player here, as the bears focus mostly on getting that shit defense a little better.

round 4, pick 12
san diego chargers
darrell stuckey, FS, kansas
chargers need to replace cromartie, who's gone to your host's beloved jets. this guy saw a lot of passes in the big 12, but he didn't get in the way of all that many. good idea, not a great player.

round 4, pick 13
seattle seahawks
walter thurmond, CB, oregon
more secondary help for a team being rebuilt. give pete carroll a year or two before he gets seriously fired.

round 4, pick 14
new york jets
joe mcknight, RB, USC
the jets trade up to get mark sanchez's old running back. jets don't care that they have three running backs already, as they saw two of three get hurt last season. mcknight is a very good player, probably should have gone in the third round at some point. jets see too good a player drop too far and snatch him. nice.

round 4, pick 15
new england patriots
Aaron Hernandez, TE, florida
it's actually scary to think about what the patriots will do with this talent. hernandez is very, very, very good and i have no idea why he's this far down. the patriots already drafted a tight end in the second round, and also got taylor price, another good wide receiver, last night. brady getting some help, scary.

round 4, pick 16
baltimore ravens
dennis pitta, TE, byu
a mormon tight end. led his army in receptions last year. actually had three very productive years. the ravens also pick their second tight end of the draft. weird. nevertheless, the ravens have gotten a lot better this off-season. flacco still doesn't scare me, but this team is very good now.

round 4, pick 17
new york giants
phillip dillard, LB, nebraska
led his team in tackles. a couple sacks. plus one interception against sam bradford's back-up at oklahoma. giants needed defense, and they've gotten defense. but i still don't think much of their running game, which they haven't looked at.

round 4, pick 18
pittsburgh steelers
thaddeus gibson, DE, ohio state
the steelers get the guy the jets probably should've. ten sacks over two years and change, plus twelve tackles for loss last year. the steelers just get better on defense, as long as that safety with the long hair stays in.

round 4, pick 19
atlanta falcons
joe hawley, OG, UNLV
a big fat-ass who can't even crack 300 pounds. fourth-rounder, all the way.

round 4, pick 20
houston texans
garrett graham, TE, wisconsin
productive player, 16 career touchdowns in college. everyone likes the tight-ends this round. confused about this one, though. the texans could use a safety and there are plenty around.

round 4, pick 21
miami dolphins
a.j. edds, LB, iowa
very good coverage linebacker at this stage of the draft. underrated player, good snag by the fins.

round 4, pick 22
cincinnati bengals
geno atkins, DT, georgia
another good player drops a little far. good tackle-for-loss guy. bengals needed the help on the d-line. i still think their offense needs work, as it looked pretty tame while getting run over by the jets last year.

round 4, pick 23
philadelphia eagles
keenan clayton, LB, oklahoma
more of a physical safety than a linebacker. clearly the eagles didn't like getting trounced by dallas in the playoffs, maybe this hard-hitter helps out against the run.

round 4, pick 24
philadelphia eagles
mike kafka, QB, northwestern
this dude looked like a big-time quarterback last year. good threat to run. he doesn't have a huge arm, but man did he play well last year, except for, um, 20 interceptions. eagles get another pretty decent white guy to put on the field before michael vick.

round 4, pick 25
new orleans saints
al woods, DT, LSU
another mammoth defensive lineman from LSU. the saints get deeper against the run.

round 4, pick 26
carolina panthers
eric norwood, LB, south carolina
very productive. 26 sacks in college. with this, the panthers might have two of the biggest "steals" in the draft. unfortunately clausen is a punk. no one likes you, jimmy. norwood, however, could be a good starter this year.

round 4, pick 27
philadelphia eagles
clay harbor, TE, missouri state
ahh, the missouri valley conference. academic powerhouse, sure, but did you know they can also churn out a blocking receiver or two? the eagles wrap up a busy fourth round. up til now, they've added a ton of defense, potentially revamping it over the next few years. then they throw in a couple players on offense to keep people happy. this last guy is very strong and very fast.

round 4, pick 28
dallas cowboys
akwasu owusu-ansah, CB, indiana (PA)
boys need secondary help. this guy isn't bad, but he won't help them. if demarcus ware doesn't get to the quarterback, weak-ass secondary might be a problem. nevertheless, i'm super happy i got to type this guy's name out.

round 4, pick 29
seattle seahawks
e.j. wilson, DE, north carolina
decent producion over a full college career. pretty big for an end. the seahawks have had a very good draft, but it shows the difficulty of being a shitty team. lots of good value picks so far, but they really need help up front on defense, and i'm sure they would've liked more than this guy, who'll probably be a back-up until someone gets hurt.

round 4, pick 30
detroit lions
jason fox, OT, miami
stafford needs to not get squashed quite so much. the lions have actually built a pretty good nucleus over the last two drafts, but stafford needs to stay on his feet. maybe the 6' 7'' fatty from miami helps.

round 4, pick 31
peyton-manningopolis colts
jacques mcclendon, OG, tennessee
i don't know shit about this guy. wasn't supposed to be drafted, but you have to figure the colts make another good pick while nobody's looking.

round 4, pick 32
arizona cardinals
o'brien schofield, DE, wisconsin
too small to be a force on the line, but he might become a decent linebacker. the cardinals, of course, had no defense down the stretch last year, and lost their god-fearing quarterback to retirement. cardinals be fucked.

round 4, pick 33
cincinnati bengals
roddrick muckelroy, LB, texas
leading tackler on an almost-national champion defense. sergio kindle was a better prospect, but this guy was a leading contributor on a defense that made a ton of plays.

and that's it for the fourth. was it worth waking up early? no, it wouldn't have been. but was it worth staying up for? again, no, but here i am. pretty relieved chris berman wasn't on TV today, but have you ever tried waking up a tub of butter before noon?

seriously, though, why do they only get people who reside in tanning beds to talk about football on tv? fuckin tv.

UPDATE: the jets trade leon washington to seattle. weak.

Friday, April 23, 2010


a few weeks ago, on godspeed you! black emperor's website:
"between now and the live-dates, there'll be rivers of noise and distraction. and the internet is a petty tyrannical monster. please remember that really all that matters is the keep on keeping on. and all that really matters is the shows. and physical engagement in the world."

right on cue, at the forkle:
a river of noise and distraction

Saturday, April 10, 2010

total nudge-fest

everyone needs to understand that behavioral economics is total crap -- a bunch of "writers" who make a lot of waves and a lot of money by finding elaborate and confusing ways to describe perfectly ordinary shit.

take Predictably Irrational, a book that spends about two hundred and fifty pages exploring the idea that people can be tricked into paying more for something than they should. you can find this book and an example of its thesis for $25.95 in the "No Shit" section of border's.

here's a gem: "Relativity is (relatively) easy to understand. But there's one aspect of relativity that consistently trips us up. It's that we not only tend to compare things with one another but also tend to focus on comparing things that are easily comparable -- and avoid comparing things that cannot be compared easily." did you catch that? we tend to compare things that are easily comparable, and we tend to avoid comparing things that are difficult to compare. this trips us up. the quote is from page 8, because tautology is always where these books start. we compare things that are comparable for the same reason we eat "breakfast" in the morning.

from this foundation (that A is A), such a book will reliably proceed to conduct a long series of bizarre experiments (in this book, many of the experiments are conducted on the author's "students"). one gets the feeling that these are all scribbled in one of those jackson pollick looking composition notebooks, frayed at the edges, cocaine residue covering every inch. anyway, check out this doozy (i'm quoting the whole thing, because nobody's reading this shit anyway, and reading the author's own words is the best way to absorb the creepiness):

Imagine that you're taking part in an experiment to test the efficacy of a new painkiller called Veladone-Rx. (The actual experiment involved about 100 adult Bostonians, but for now, we'll let you take their place.)
You arrive at the MIT Media Lab in the morning. Taya Leary, a young woman wearing a crisp business suit (this is in stark contrast to the usual attire of the students and faculty at MIT), greets you warmly, with a hint of a Russian accent. A photo ID identifies Taya as a representative for Vel Pharmaceuticals. She invites you to spend a moment reading a brochure about Veladone-Rx. Glancing around, you note that the room looks like a medical office: stale copies of Time and Newsweek are scattered around; brochures for Veladone Rx are spread out on the table; and nearby is a cup of pens, with the drug's handsome logo. "Veladone is an exciting new medication in the opioid family," you read. "Clinical studies show that over 92 percent of patients receiving Veladone in double-blind controlled studies reported significant pain relief within only 10 minutes, and that pain relief lasted up to eight hours" And how much does it cost? According to the brochure, $2.50 for a single dose.
Once you finish reading the brochure, Taya calls in Rebecca Waber and leaves the room. Rebecca, wearing the white coat of a lab technician, with a stethoscope hanging from her neck, asks you a set of questions about your medical condition and your family's medical history. She listens to your heart and measures your blood pressure. Then she hooks you up to a complicated-looking machine. The electrodes running from the machine, greased with a green electrode gel, encircle your wrists. This is an electrical shock generator, she explains, and it is how we will test your perception and tolerance of pain.
With her hand on the switch, Rebecca sends a series of electrical shocks through the wires and into the electrodes. The initial shocks are merely annoying. Then they become painful, more painful, and finally so painful that your eyes fly open and your heart begins to race. She records your reactions. Now she starts delivering a new set of electrical shocks. This time she administers a set of charges that fluctuate randomly in intensity: some are very painful and some merely irritating. Following each one, you are asked to record, using the computer in front of you, the amount of pain you felt. You use the mouse to click on the line that ranges from "no pain at all" to "the worst pain imaginable" (this is called a "visual pain analog").
When this part of the torture ends, you look up. Rebecca is standing before you with a Veladone capsule in one hand and a cup of water in the other. "It will take about 15 minutes for the drug to reach its maximal effect," she says. You gulp it down, and then move to a chair in the corner, where you look at the old copies of Time and Newsweek until the pill takes effect.
Fifteen minutes later Rebecca, smearing the electrodes with the same green electrode gel, cheerfully asks, "Ready for the next step?" You say nervously, "As ready as I can be." You're hooked up to the machine again, and the shocks begin. As before, you record the intensity of the pain after each shock. But this time it's different. It must be the Veladone-Rx! The pain doesn't feel nearly as bad. You leave with a pretty high opinion of Veladone. In fact, you hope to see it in the neighborhood drugstore before long.
Indeed, that's what most of our participants found. Almost all of them reported less pain when they experienced the electrical shocks under the influence of Veladone. Very interesting -- considering that Veladone was just a capsule of vitamin C.

the experiment is then repeated, only this time the pill's cost is 10 cents per dose; the placebo effect is halved. the conclusion: "When it comes to medicines, then, we learned that you get what you pay for. Price can change the experience."

so the perceived effect of a placebo is anchored to the price of the drug. this is something that drug dealers, for one, have known for decades: your heroin can be 90 percent baking soda, and as long as you charge heroin prices the addicts still want it. people have been pulling this stunt forever: you have something you don't want; you give it a high price and a flashy pitch; people pay you for it.

the intricate torture scenario is not necessary to prove a banal and widely accepted hypothesis. obviously people are not perfectly rational economic actors. just as obviously, this irrationality can be manipulated. it's called being a con-man. throwing in a "complicated-looking machine" that causes great pain, however, is called being an economist, an academic.

there's a lot of this sort of thing going around these days. from the widely-read Freakenomics series (and blog), to malcolm gladwell's annual inside look into how stuff happens, to Nudge by obama cabinet member cass sunstein. Predictably Irrational is an especially odious example of this trend, as it's sole focus throughout seems to be on how to trick people into giving you their money (holding a man upside down and shaking him apparently being out of style).

but there is a little more depth to this "discipline". it isn't all creepy, sadistic marketing experiments. what behavioral economists like to focus on is social policy, how to shift government policy toward more rational aims. sunstein in particular has recently been demonized by some on the right wing, which is returning to its modern roots of scouring the land, trying to ruin the careers of any "marxists" it can find.

that marx is tied to this fad of fusing state-capitalism and modern behavioral psychology is yet another sign of our resounding national ignorance. the mandate of marxism is global economic justice; the mandate of behavioral economics, by contrast, is efficiency (ever an urgent concern for capital). these guys are about as marxist as ayn rand.

of course, a lot of communists have been super-crazy, plus the berlin wall fell. when in rome, and all that.

so how does this affect the commodity nearest to my heart, music? pitchfork is there to fill the gap. after spending a breezy two paragraphs on how just-plain-creepy behavioral economics is, tom ewing hits us with this: "[I]n a low-trust and low-money environment, behavioral economics is politically irresistible: It's simple, it's barely noticeable, and it's cheap. More, it promises a kind of psychological judo. We could batter ourselves senseless and penniless against people's irrationality and selfishness while trying to change their behavior. Or we could use those very traits to 'nudge' them in a desired direction. No wonder business people, as well as politicians, like it so much-- it seems to offer solutions to all kinds of sticky behavioral problems." how quickly this shit always turns into tiny fascism, obsessed with "solving" all sorts of "sticky behavioral problems". (problems such as, "why don't people give me more money?")

seriously, though, the issue ewing addresses is: is there any way to trick people into paying for music even though they don't like to. he cites the example of mflow, an internet community that has come up with an elaborate system to re-attach a cash transmission to the distribution of music. the method employed by mflow reads like something cribbed from one of those cocaine-smudged composition books i talked about before: "You share 'flows'-- songs or albums-- with [your followers], and they do the same for you. When you see one you like, you can buy it, and 20% of what you pay goes to whoever shared it with you in the first place." kind of clever, no? can such an idea succeed? probably, for a little while. but success in this environment is not only hard to come by, it's usually short-lived. remember, the napster kid once made a lot of money selling his shit to BMG, and now it's swallowed up in rhapsody, which no one on earth uses.

of course, the success or failure of any one venture capitalist start-up isn't really important. at all. to anyone, really. what sucks is that all the ideas thrown out in the article are inexorably tied to "social networking". now i'll admit that people are communicating through their electronic dealies in droves these days. but the notion that, like the steam engine and the automobile, social networks will define human interaction for the foreseeable future? well, sure it's plausible. but it's also depressing as hell.

people who consume creativity primarily through their computers are abstracted from the vast amount of work that goes into the creation of every single piece of art. the audience has always been necessarily removed from the labors of creativity to some degree, but the fact that music now comes wirelessly from the air around us has vastly increased that distance. as long as the works lack context (beyond categorization), consumers by and large will not want to pay for them. mixing in the trivialities of social networking, replete with "friends", "badges", and "groups", doesn't accomplish much besides making the whole thing seem even more repulsive.

remarkably, tom ewing ends up agreeing. "Real life games are attractive to marketers because they impose objectives onto behavior, which makes it easier to change and to predict. But like most social media, they also bring people's networks out into the open and turn them into something you can make money off when you can't make it out out of fans themselves so easily. In this case, I can't help feeling that the social relations we form around music and fandom are better off uncommoditized." so that's his argument against. do you notice something missing here? i sure do. where the hell are the musicians?!

and, to go back to the fake opioid experiment from before, this is the problem with behavioral economics: it encourages you to see things from the perspective of capital ("marketers") and of consumers ("fans themselves"), while completely ignoring the needs of labor. in each of the solutions that tom ewing presents (or those offered up by almost anyone else when they address this issue), the role of the musician is similar to the role of the test subjects in the Veladone-Rx experiment: he goes through excruciating pain repeatedly, but the last time he's tricked into thinking it doesn't hurt.

music is something people make with their hands and listen to with their ears. (we began with tautology and we'll end there, damnit!) the best way to move forward is to throw out the complicated-looking machines and be done with the byzantine petty fascism of behavioral economics.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

phutball sunday: draft edition

i don't wanna write about music.

sam bradford is ridiculously good. his accuracy is insane. unfortunately, early last season the mormon army of BYU smashed his part-native american shoulder. about a month and a half later, he came back and promptly fell on the same shoulder, and missed the rest of the season. if he goes to a team with a shit offensive line like the rams, he might not last. if he does, he's golden. but the hit that caused that second injury really wasn't much of a hit.

jimmy claussen -- i guess he's okay. but just look at what he did to the irish: they lost to crap teams like syracuse and navy all the time, and the only thing everyone ever talked about was how good claussen was. charlie weiss turned that whole team into an extended pro day for his adopted, substantially less chubby son, and claussen ate it up. what a douche. brady quin, anyone?

dez bryant is an absurdly talented player who's receiving a crash course in The Man and How To Get Fucked by Him. last year the NCAA suspended him for eating dinner at deion sanders' house without a permission slip. they suspended him FOR THE ENTIRE SEASON! and now if anyone talks about him, it's only to mention his "off-the-field issues" and "character problems". dez bryant is from poor-as-fuck lufkin, texas; 18.8% of lufkiners live below the poverty line, including 26.4% of those under 18. apparently, in his adolescence, no one took time out from grooming him for the NFL to tell him that you can't just say yes when primetime calls and invites you to dinner (who was most likely telling him: "you're six months away from becoming the richest motherfucker to ever come out of lufkin. don't fuck it up."). Now he might drop out of the top ten picks, and maybe even out of the top twenty, costing him tens of millions of dollars. what a crock. for a good time, watch this sweet youtube of him demolishing his competition in high school. whoever ends up "taking a chance" on this "character-issue" laden superman will be very lucky.

sean witherspoon, the linebacker from missouri is very good. also dexter mccluster, who seems to be destined from the third round in spite of stuff like this. toby gerhardt is truly the great white hope (let's go, white hope). terrence cody, nose tackle from alabama, he weighs 350 pounds; fuckin awesome. tim tebow will be great because jesus, and jordan shipley is the next wes welker. i'm out.