Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Toyota Land Cruiser
"The Balkans Boom"
The Ringer - "The Balkans Boom"
By Jordan Ritter Conn
"But the NBA’s Balkan boom spreads well beyond a few guys named Nikola. There’s Dragic, Nurkic, Saric, Marjanovic, multiple Bogdanovices, and many more. Players from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro dot rosters all across the NBA. In all, 14 of the league’s 450 current players are from the former Yugoslavia. And the two most famous, of course, are Jokic and Luka Doncic—the Slovenian who seems all but certain to someday follow in Jokic’s footsteps as the next Balkaner to win NBA MVP.
These are small countries. If you combine the populations of the former Yugoslavian nations, they’re still smaller than the state of Florida. Yet it seems like you can’t watch an NBA game without seeing at least one player whose last name ends with “-ic.”
Which is the reason I’m here. To find out why."
The Athletic - "‘It was a crazy night’: How the Balkan Boys bonded in the NBA bubble"
By Jovan Buha
Settling in Austin, Texas
New Yorker - "The Astonishing Transformation of Austin"
By Lawrence Wright
"Aperson can live in many places but can settle in only one. You may not understand the difference until you’ve found the city or the town or the patch of countryside that sounds a distinct internal chord. For much of my life, I was on the move. I grew up in Texas, in Abilene and Dallas, but as soon as the gate opened I fled the sterile culture, the retrograde politics, the absence of natural beauty. I met my wife, Roberta, in New Orleans. She was also on the run, from the racism and suffocating conformity of Mobile, Alabama. In our married life, we have lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Cairo, Egypt; Quitman, Texas; Durham, North Carolina; Nashville; and Atlanta—all desirable places with much to recommend. We travelled the world. I have spent stretches of my professional life in the places you would expect—New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., all cities that I revere, but not places we chose to settle.
Unconsciously, during those vagabond years, we were on the lookout for home. I nursed a conception of an ideal community, one that combined qualities I loved about other places: the physical beauty, say, of Atlanta; the joyful music-making of New Orleans; an intellectual scene fed by an important university, as in Cambridge or Durham; a place with a healthy energy and ready access to nature, such as Denver or Seattle; a spot where we could comfortably find friends and safely raise children. I’m not saying that we couldn’t have been happy in any of the places I’ve mentioned, but something kept us from profoundly identifying with them.
In 1980, I joined the writing staff of Texas Monthly, in Austin. The population then was a little more than three hundred thousand—the current size of Lexington, Kentucky. Thirteen per cent of Austin residents were University of Texas students; another five per cent were faculty and staff. The only other significant presence in town was the state capitol. You could park free on most streets. Of the limited offering of restaurants in town, we favored the Raw Deal, a greasy spoon where, for five bucks, you could choose between the pork chop and the sirloin, accompanied by red beans and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Above the register was the surly admonition “Remember: you came looking for the Raw Deal—the Raw Deal didn’t come looking for you.”
Life in Austin was offbeat, affordable, spontaneous, blithe, and slyly amused, as if we were in on some hilarious secret the rest of the world was unaware of. Even then, the place had a reputation for being cool, but in my experience it was just extremely relaxed, almost to the point of stupor. There was a reason that the director Richard Linklater titled his 1990 portrait of the city “Slacker.” I was happy to be in Austin for a while: it embodied all the things I still loved about Texas—the friendliness, the vitality, the social mobility—yet it also stood against the mean-spiritedness of the state’s politics, despite being the capital city. Staying, though, violated my resolution to keep my distance from Texas. But Roberta declared that she was never going to live anyplace else."
TV's Best—Sunday Night Football
New York Times - "A 90-Second Cure for Existential Dread, Every Sunday Night"
"The “Sunday Night Football” song extols not the thrill of football, nor the value of sport, but the highly specific ouroboric pleasure of turning on NBC to watch “Sunday Night Football” on NBC on Sunday night. The most frequently recurring version of the song, “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night,” is set to the tune of Joan Jett’s 1988 single “I Hate Myself For Loving You.” I do not enjoy football, or any sport other than Olympic women’s gymnastics finals when the United States is in first place. My comprehension of the rules is nil and my desire to learn them would have to be represented by a negative number. Nor am I a fan — or nonfan — of Carrie Underwood. Yet, when I hear the first word of the song explode from her confident lungs — “Oh,” pronounced “Hohawhunhohhuhawnhohn” — my consciousness abruptly recedes. Mechanically, I sprint to the living room and stare, bewitched, until the segment’s conclusion
The sly genius of American football is that its accouterments — Super Bowl ads with feature-film budgets, stupefyingly cutting-edge bumper graphics — replicate, even or especially for those with no interest in football, the draw of football itself: a celebration of human aptitude and a diversion of attention away from anything more important. Through judicious application of Carrie Underwood and C.G.I. technology, the “Sunday Night Football” song offers a brief yet total respite from the horror of Sunday night."
Saturday, February 11, 2023
Copying the Internet
New Yorker - "ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web"
By Ted Chiang
"Obviously, no one can speak for all writers, but let me make the argument that starting with a blurry copy of unoriginal work isn’t a good way to create original work. If you’re a writer, you will write a lot of unoriginal work before you write something original. And the time and effort expended on that unoriginal work isn’t wasted; on the contrary, I would suggest that it is precisely what enables you to eventually create something original. The hours spent choosing the right word and rearranging sentences to better follow one another are what teach you how meaning is conveyed by prose. Having students write essays isn’t merely a way to test their grasp of the material; it gives them experience in articulating their thoughts. If students never have to write essays that we have all read before, they will never gain the skills needed to write something that we have never read.
And it’s not the case that, once you have ceased to be a student, you can safely use the template that a large language model provides. The struggle to express your thoughts doesn’t disappear once you graduate—it can take place every time you start drafting a new piece. Sometimes it’s only in the process of writing that you discover your original ideas. Some might say that the output of large language models doesn’t look all that different from a human writer’s first draft, but, again, I think this is a superficial resemblance. Your first draft isn’t an unoriginal idea expressed clearly; it’s an original idea expressed poorly, and it is accompanied by your amorphous dissatisfaction, your awareness of the distance between what it says and what you want it to say. That’s what directs you during rewriting, and that’s one of the things lacking when you start with text generated by an A.I.
There’s nothing magical or mystical about writing, but it involves more than placing an existing document on an unreliable photocopier and pressing the Print button. It’s possible that, in the future, we will build an A.I. that is capable of writing good prose based on nothing but its own experience of the world. The day we achieve that will be momentous indeed—but that day lies far beyond our prediction horizon. In the meantime, it’s reasonable to ask, What use is there in having something that rephrases the Web? If we were losing our access to the Internet forever and had to store a copy on a private server with limited space, a large language model like ChatGPT might be a good solution, assuming that it could be kept from fabricating. But we aren’t losing our access to the Internet. So just how much use is a blurry jpeg, when you still have the original?"
The Writing of Ted Chiang (Jan. 2020)
Arrival (Oct. 2016)
LeBron James Record
NBA.com - "LeBron James surpasses Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for NBA career scoring record"
ESPN - "LeBron's 38,390-point scoring record a triumph in longevity of mind, body"
New York Times - "The Story of LeBron James’s 38,390 Points, by Those Who Were There"
NPR - "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reflects on his strained relationship with LeBron James"
LeBron is 1,325 Points from the All-Time NBA Record (Oct. 2022)
Directed by Ben Affleck
Starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Viola Davis
Movie on Nike Sneaker Man Sonny Vaccaro (Apr. 2022)
Monday, February 6, 2023
Deadline - "Zazie Beetz & Tom Hardy Set For ‘Lazarus’, Early In The Works Series From Apple TV+, A+E Studios & Range"
"We hear that Oscar nominee Tom Hardy and Atlanta Emmy nominee Zazie Beetz are set to star in the Apple TV+ drama series Lazarus, which is still nearing development and closing deals. The project is a co-production between A+E Studios and Range Studios and being sold to Apple.
Lazarus is based on the Joona Linna book series by Lars Kepler (pseudonym for Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril), which has been lauded by such outlets as The New York Times, Washington Post and EW, selling more than 17M copies worldwide.
In the series, an emaciated young man is found wandering along a train track. Thirteen years earlier, he and his sister went missing, presumed victims of the notorious serial killer Jurek Walter. To find the sister, police detective Saga Bauer must go undercover in the maximum-security psychiatric hospital where Walter has been kept since his arrest years ago. Hardy will play Walter and Beetz will portray Inspector Saga Bauer, in what I hear is akin to Hannibal Lecter-Clarice Starling-type roles.
SNL - The Big Hollywood Quiz
Old Movie Studio Logos
Netflix Designs Own Font (Mar. 2018)
Saturday, February 4, 2023
Seattle Mag - "Washington’s Great Taco Time Divide"
"I arrived in Seattle 13 years ago, and even as a food writer, the chain never hit my radar as anything noteworthy. Sure, I drove past the gaudy mirrored location in Wallingford. Even ate at the Interbay one with a friend who’s a diehard fan. But Taco Time does little to stand out to folks who aren’t already familiar. For newcomers, these restaurants fade into a landscape crowded with other drive-thrus. Not to mention Del Tacos, Blue Water Taco Grills, and the ultimate in soulless Mexican food, Taco Bell. A white guy named Glen Bell founded that chain in a Los Angeles suburb in 1962—the same year a white guy named Frank Tonkin Sr. debuted the first Taco Time Northwest here in White Center. According to family legend, customers didn’t know how to pronounce their signature menu item, ordering them as “tay-cos.”"
"The usual, of course, was Taco Time. When he’s stateside, Coté eats chicken soft tacos and crisp burritos just about every week. His level of fandom once earned him a spot in one of the restaurant’s ad campaigns. In July 2018 he embarked on a project—which he calls simply “the quest”—to visit all 77 Taco Time Northwest locations.
The journey began when Taco Time introduced an app, and with it, the ability to see your purchase history. Coté had already logged about 10 locations, just going about his life. Today he keeps a meticulous spreadsheet that records details of his official visits—69 and counting. The rules: He must go inside to order and, ideally, eat in the dining room. Drive-thrus don’t count."
Bill Simmons's NBA Trade Value Rankings
The Ringer - "Bill Simmons's Trade value Rankings"
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
2. Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
3. Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)
4. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
5. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
6. Ja Morant (Grizzlies)
7. Joel Embiid (76ers)
8. Zion Williams (Pelicans)
9. Devon Booker (Suns)
10. Kevin Durant (Nets)
11. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder)
12. Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves)
13. Evan Mobley (Cavaliers)
14. Tyrese Haliburton
15. Paolo Banchero (Magic)
16. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
17. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
18. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
19. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
20. Darius Garland (Cavaliers)
21. Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
22. Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers)
23. Jrue Holiday (Bucks)
24. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies)
25. Franz Wagner (Magic)
26. The Rights To Any Probable Top-5 2023 Pick
27. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
28. Pascal Siakam (Raptors)
29. Trae Young (Hawks)
30. Paul George (Clippers)
31. Domantas Sabonis (Kings)
32. Larui Markkanen (Jazz)
33. LaMelo Ball (Hornets)
34. Josh Giddey (Thunder)
35. Chet Holmgren (Thunder)
36. LeBron James (Lakers)
37. Desmond Bane (Grizzlies)
38. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
39. Dejounte Murray (Hawks)
40. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
41. Jamal Murray (Nuggets)
42. OG Anunoby (Raptors)
43. Mikal Bridges (Suns)
44. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
45. Cade Cunningham (Pistons)
46. Scottie Barnes (Raptors)
47. Jalen Green (Rockets)
48. Jabari Smith Jr. (Rockets)
49. Shaedon Sharpe (Trail Blazers)
50. Walker Kessler (Jazz)
51. Jalen Williams (Thunder)
52. Andrew Wiggins (Warriors)
53. De'Aaron Fox (Kings)
54. Jalen Brunson (Knicks)
55. Tyler Herro (Heat)
56. Tyrese Maxey (76ers)
57. DeMar DeRozan (Bulls)
58. James Harden (76ers)
59. Anfernee Simons (Trail Blazers)
60. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
61. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
62. Jerami Grant (Trail Blazers)
63. RJ Barrett (Knicks)
64. Julis Randle (Knicks)
65. Kyle Kuzma (Wizards)
66. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
67. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
68. Jordan Poole (Warriors)
69. Chris Paul (Suns)
70. Rudy Gobert (Timberwolves)