Sunday, August 28, 2022

Was King Arthur Real?


American Tolkien


Wikipedia - George R.R. Martin

Lev Grossman in TIME Magazine (2005 - Six years before the HBO show):

"George R.R. Martin is fond of sudden reversals. The tasty but poisoned dish, the false god who abruptly proves all too real, the unsalvageable rogue who strikes a hidden vein of decency when we--and he--least expect it. Martin is also partial to sacked castles, bear pits, disastrous battles, cynical betrayals, public executions, assassinations, ill luck, duels to the death, ambushes in forests and corpses left rotting in green hedgerows. The world Martin writes about may bear a passing resemblance to Olde Englande, but it is not a Merrie one.

Martin isn't the best known of America's straight-up fantasy writers. That honor would probably go to upstart Christopher Paolini (Eragon), or Robert Jordan (the endlessly turning Wheel of Time series), or better yet to ageless grandmistress Ursula K. LeGuin (A Wizard of Earthsea). But of those who work in the grand epic-fantasy tradition, Martin is by far the best. In fact, with his newest book, A Feast for Crows (Bantam; 784 pages), currently descending on bookstores and ascending best-seller lists, this is as good a time as any to proclaim him the American Tolkien.

A Feast for Crows is the fourth volume of a series with the deceptively Renaissance fair-y name A Song of Ice and Fire. It's set mostly in the Seven Kingdoms, an unstable amalgamation of nations caught in the act of vigorously ripping itself to shreds following the death of King Robert Baratheon. Martin shoots the action from many angles, with a dozen narrators, the better to reflect its gritty, twisty, many-sided nature and its vast cast of would-be queens and kings, rogues, bastards, bandits, madmen, mercenaries, exiles, priests and various uncategorizable wild cards. Martin may write fantasy, but his politik is all real.

In the wrong hands, a big ensemble like this can be deadly, but Martin is a tense, surging, insomnia-inflicting plotter and a deft and inexhaustible sketcher of personalities--including Tyrion Lannister, a bitter, cynical, high-born dwarf (he's Martin's Falstaff) and Brienne the Beauty, a huge, unmarriageable, monstrously ugly woman who fights in full armor and usually wins. Martin has an astonishing ability to focus on epic sweep and tiny, touching human drama simultaneously. The supernatural plays a role, but only rarely.

What really distinguishes Martin, and what marks him as a major force for evolution in fantasy, is his refusal to embrace a vision of the world as a Manichaean struggle between Good and Evil. Tolkien's work has enormous imaginative force, but you have to go elsewhere for moral complexity. Martin's wars are multifaceted and ambiguous, as are the men and women who wage them and the gods who watch them and chortle, and somehow that makes them mean more. A Feast for Crows isn't pretty elves against gnarly orcs. It's men and women slugging it out in the muck, for money and power and lust and love."

English Premiere League Map


From Premiere League Table.

Champions League or World Cup


New York Times - "What the Champions League Is Lacking"

"Reluctantly, the Champions League — and the constellation of Europe’s great clubs who have come to regard it as their objective and birthright — will cede the limelight to the World Cup: five prime weeks in the middle of the season handed over to international soccer, that anachronism of a bygone age, glossy club soccer’s unwelcome, ugly cousin.

There is no shortage of reasons for club soccer to resent this intrusion: the financial ramifications of losing those weeks of television real estate; the potential risk of injury to players paid not by their national associations but by the clubs; the sense that the engine of the sport is being forced to stall so that the hood can be polished.

But greater than all those, perhaps, is the unhappy reminder that, while the Champions League is the most glamorous and most exclusive club competition on the planet, it is only the most glamorous and most exclusive club competition on the planet. The qualifier — “club” — tells a story of its own. For all the money, for all the power, for all the stories and the scenes, the World Cup is still the biggest show in town.

It is worth pausing to reflect on why that might be; after all, it does not fit neatly with what we assume modern consumers — sorry, fans — want from sports. As discussed in this space a couple of weeks ago, audiences are drawn to soccer games by two factors in particular: the familiarity of the brands — sorry, teams — involved, and the stakes for which they are playing.

The World Cup, like the Champions League, delivers both in spades. There is no brand recognition quite like being a nation state, with your own seat at the United Nations and history of governmental corruption and fully equipped army, obviously. And there is no tournament quite so doused in risk as the World Cup, in which one misstep can waste four years’ work.

In every other aspect, though, the World Cup comes up short. It cannot match the Champions League for prize money, or for star power — Haaland, like Mohamed Salah and the noted nation state of Italy, will be absent from Qatar — or, most crucial, for quality. The Champions League, now, is where the finest soccer in the world is played. The World Cup, by contrast, is pockmarked by flaws.The World Cup, like the Champions League, delivers both in spades. There is no brand recognition quite like being a nation state, with your own seat at the United Nations and history of governmental corruption and fully equipped army, obviously. And there is no tournament quite so doused in risk as the World Cup, in which one misstep can waste four years’ work.

In every other aspect, though, the World Cup comes up short. It cannot match the Champions League for prize money, or for star power — Haaland, like Mohamed Salah and the noted nation state of Italy, will be absent from Qatar — or, most crucial, for quality. The Champions League, now, is where the finest soccer in the world is played. The World Cup, by contrast, is pockmarked by flaws.

That is unavoidable, of course. If Manchester City lacks a striker, it can go out and buy the best one it can find. Spain, as it has helpfully proved over the last several years, does not have that luxury. Like everyone else, it has to make do and mend. Its coach does not have the opportunity of endless training sessions to hone a system that might accentuate the team’s strengths and disguise its weaknesses; a few days is all that is available.

And yet, still, the World Cup possesses the quality of a Black Hole; it draws in the light from even the brightest stars around it. The first phase of the Champions League, like the early rounds of domestic soccer, will have the feel of an appetizer, for fans and players. Games will be played with an awareness that nobody wants to miss the main course."

Secret Cinema

BBC - "Secret Cinema: What inspired the creator of the interactive film event" (2018)

What should EVs sound like?


New Yorker - "What Should a Nine-Thousand-Pound Electric Vehicle Sound Like?"

Japan and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (S.D.G.)


New York Times - "Why Is This Colorful Little Wheel Suddenly Everywhere in Japan?"

"In the United States, when people have heard of the development goals at all, it is often from right-wing media portraying them as part of a radical socialist plot. A less polarized, more community-oriented (and perhaps less cynical) Japan has coalesced around the goals as a feel-good, and in theory do-good, endeavor."


"There have also been concerns that companies and government agencies are publicly supporting the goals as a way to burnish their image rather than make real change — a phenomenon that has been labeled “S.D.G.s washing.”"

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Welcome to Wrexham

Executive Produced by Rob McElhenney (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mythic Quest) Ryan Reynolds (Van Wilder, Deadpool) 

2022 World Cup Jerseys


Qatar World Cup Stadiums (June 2022)
World Cup Fashion (June 2018)
2018 World Cup Kits Inspired by Historical Designs (April 2018)

The Story Behind The Rings of Power


TIME - "The Secretive, Extravagant, Bighearted World of The Rings of Power, the Most Expensive Show Ever Made"

"Published in three volumes from 1954 to 1955 by British scholar and World War I veteran J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings revolutionized the high-fantasy genre. A hobbit named Frodo, an unassuming creature with hairy feet, is aided by a fellowship of a wizard, two men, an elf, a dwarf, and three other hobbits as he attempts to carry a magical and corrupting ring created by the villainous Sauron to a volcano so it can be destroyed.

The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King established enduring themes—environmentalism, the power of friendship in the face of evil, and how even the smallest person can change the world—that have found their way into megahits like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and Stranger Things. In the early 2000s, Peter Jackson adapted the books into a near perfect film trilogy, the last installment of which still shares the record for most Oscars won in a single night. Jackson later split Tolkien’s The Hobbit into yet another three-part film series. Together, the six movies grossed nearly $6 billion worldwide.

Anyone attempting to take on Tolkien would inevitably live in Jackson’s shadow. But that didn’t deter Hollywood: Dozens of writers pitched Amazon on series ideas in 2018. Many conceived origin stories for Tolkien’s best-known characters—like ranger turned king Aragorn and the wizard Gandalf—a popular device employed recently by shows like Netflix’s Ratched and Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Payne and McKay had a different take: they told the company it was sitting on a gold mine and didn’t even know it. The extensive appendices that appear at the end of The Return of the King serve as a prequel of sorts, outlining the rise of Sauron and creation of the titular rings. As the showrunners put it, Tolkien had left the stars. They just needed to make constellations. “We beat out people they would have felt more comfortable giving it to because this was the show,” says McKay.

The duo sketched out a new series that turns the five-minute prologue of Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring film into five seasons of television set in the Second Age, over 3,000 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. The evil lord Morgoth has been defeated. Middle-earth is flourishing, but the flaxen-haired elf Galadriel is convinced that Morgoth’s missing servant Sauron is amassing power. Audiences will explore the dwarf mines of Khazad-dûm and the seaside kingdom of Númenor; they’ll encounter harfoots, the nomadic ancestors of hobbits, as well as Isildur, the man who will eventually take the one ring from Sauron but fail to destroy it; and they’ll meet a mysterious stranger—maybe a certain familiar wizard?—who falls from the sky in the first episode.

When McKay and Payne scored the Rings of Power job, their old boss J.J. Abrams offered advice: “Trust your instincts,” he wrote in an email. “But say, ‘I don’t know’ a lot.” So they filled their fellowship with people who did know how to tell an epic story, beginning with fellow Bad Robot alum Lindsey Weber, 42, who has handled Star Trek and Cloverfield productions, as their executive producer. They used the practical and digital visual-effects companies co-founded by Jackson, Weta Workshop and Weta FX, and consulted with the Tolkien estate, particularly his grandson Simon Tolkien. J.A. Bayona, who helmed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, directed the first two episodes, and Bryan Cogman, who worked on Game of Thrones, came on as a consulting producer to offer his experience with episodic television."


George R.R. Martin Back for House of Dragons


"“House of the Dragon” is derived from Mr. Martin’s 2018 book “Fire & Blood,” which is different from the main novels in his series. It’s an epoch-spanning history of the Targaryens, as recounted by various scribes.

That chronicle format gave “House of the Dragon” writers a detailed plot blueprint but with leeway to invent scenes and dialogue. Mr. Condal conferred with Mr. Martin during a year of script development, including some time spent at a secret cabin in Colorado where the author was working on his next novel. Mr. Condal, who had promised him an “exceedingly faithful adaptation,” got Mr. Martin’s go-ahead before sharing drafts with HBO. “My feeling was, if George is happy, that is the huge first hurdle, and that everything should be judged from then on,” he said.

“House of the Dragon” was made to be accessible to brand-new viewers while supplying “Thrones” fans with more of what they loved. The first episode features succession drama, sibling rivalry, gnarly combat, a brothel scene and dragon fire. While the original series had three dragons, the spinoff will involve 17. "


The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Written & Directed by Peter Farrelly (Dumb & Dumber, There's Something About Mary, Green Book)
Starring Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, Bill Murray

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Public Money for Private Stadiums


By Dan Moore

"Baseball stadiums are never only about baseball. Their utility is both more dynamic and more poetic; as writer and critic Paul Goldberger put it in Ballpark: Baseball in the American City, baseball stadiums are the “ultimate American metaphor.” The metaphor works on at least two levels. As spiritually public places containing “a garden” at their heart, ballparks evoke a tension between “the rural and the urban”—the Jeffersonian preference for the pastoral; the Hamiltonian impulse toward the industrial—that has “existed throughout American history.” Done right, they evince what beauty that tension can produce, the creative potential of this American conflict. But so, too, do baseball stadiums—through design quirks, topographical accommodations, structural evocations of local history—represent characteristics particular to the cities and time periods in which they were constructed. They’re expressions, in this way, about nothing less than how we live.

It’s perhaps by virtue of this fact that baseball stadiums also inspire in fans a unique and very personal kind of devotion and pride. We love our stadiums. Fans whose teams play in stadiums that are iconic—Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium—tend to regard them with an almost religious sort of reverence. Fans whose teams play in stadiums that are not yet so historic, meanwhile, often treat the prospect that they one day might as a reason for hope. This is why all new parks, when they finally open to fans, receive heraldic welcomes. Now this, we say, as we trundle wide-eyed through the pristine silver turnstiles for the first time, is the beginning of something new."


"Baltimore is another example. Though Camden Yards has not been nearly as costly for Maryland as stadiums have been for other state and local governments, it has still lost the state a fair amount of money. According to economists Bruce Hamilton and Peter Kahn, authors of a 1997 case study on Camden Yards that appears in Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, even in the halcyon period after Camden first opened, when the Orioles were selling out every game, Camden Yards never broke even. In 1997, the Maryland Stadium Authority recovered “approximately $6 million in rent” from the Orioles “and another $5 million in admissions tax revenue,” as it was entitled to by the Orioles’ lease, but the annual cost to the state of operating the stadium was much more than that—about $20 million. As years passed, meanwhile, auxiliary development did not pop up at scale. “You don’t have to look far to see [Camden] hasn’t translated into an influx of development even within a mile or quarter-mile of the ballpark,” Louis Miserendino, a visiting fellow with the Maryland Public Policy Institute, told the Sun in 2017. According to Hamilton and Kahn, the verdict is clear. “Public expenditure on [Camden Yards] cannot be justified,” they write, “on the grounds of local economic development.”

Of course, “economically” is not the only way politicians or the public justify subsidizing pro sports. They also hold that subsidizing sports teams is warranted for incalculable social, psychological, and cultural reasons. Which: valid. Many people love their teams the way they love members of their own family and they don’t believe investments in them need to return a profit. And even for people who don’t closely follow their local teams, the presence of those teams can still provide valuable, intangible benefits. Like investments in parks or libraries, investments in something like a stadium can contribute to the general public good by, say, cultivating community, inspiring pride, alchemizing a newly tangible civic identity, or by simply giving strangers something to talk about at bars or in line at the grocery store. “If the real reason for extensive subsidization of major league team sports is public consumption,” Roger Noll, a Stanford economist and the editor of Sports, Jobs, and Taxes, has written, “the validity of economic impact studies is not very important.” As Schmoke, the former mayor of Baltimore told me, “We didn’t go into it thinking that this was going to be a major moneymaker for the city. We thought that it was an important amenity, like museums, things that bring people together. And our sports team had always brought people together.”

And—and!—some subsidies can, in fact, turn out to be moneymakers. Several stadiums of the post-Camden era, like those built in San Francisco, Columbus, and Sacramento, have bolstered the economies of their home cities by importing economic benefits from areas outside the city limits and by galvanizing other kinds of development in areas around the stadium. This raises property values and encourages economic activity even on days when there are no games being played or events being held: key markers of stadium subsidy success.

Such success, however, is rare. As Mark Rosentraub, professor of sport management at the University of Michigan, told me, it’s only obtainable under specific political criteria, including, importantly, high amounts of private investment to complement and effectively offset the public investment. In Sacramento, the Kings paid for more than half of their new arena. In San Francisco, the Giants paid closer to the entirety of the tab. (San Francisco paid for infrastructure and site acquisition.)"

Prey (Predator Prequel)

Written by Patrick Aison
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Starring Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Michelle Thrush, Stormee Kipp, Julian Black Antelope, Dane DiLiegro

The Bear

Created by Christopher Storer (Eighth Grade)
Starring Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ayo Edebiri, Lionel Boyce, Liza Colón-Zayas, Abby Elliott

Canoe Slalom World Championships


From Axios Sports on 8/2:

Germany dominated the 2022 Canoe Slalom World Championships, which concluded over the weekend near Munich — 50 years after the sport debuted at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

How it works: Canoe slalom is a race against the clock on a whitewater course. Athletes compete in two types of boats — canoe and kayak — and try to navigate a combination of upstream and downstream gates.

  • In canoe, the athlete uses a single-blade paddle and is strapped into the boat with their legs bent at the knees and tucked under their body. In kayak, they use a double-bladed paddle in a seated position.
  • The type of gate is designated by color (red for upstream, green for downstream). Touching a gate incurs a two-second time penalty and missing one will cost you 50 seconds.

Medal table: France (60) has won the most world titles, followed by East Germany (49), Germany (35), Czech Republic (34), Czechoslovakia (33), Great Britain (30), West Germany (25), the U.S. (25) and Slovakia (25).

The intrigue: A new head-to-head event called extreme slalom, which begins with competitors sliding off a ramp and splashing into the water, could be added to the Olympic program in 2024.

  • Contact is very much allowed and it "really is a case of anything goes," per the International Canoe Federation's website. 
  • Athletes must navigate buoys and only have a short window to roll their kayaks (360 degree flip). Races take about a minute.
🎥 Watch: Final day broadcast (YouTube)