Archive for May, 2008

6, 7, 8 – Who Do We Appreciate?

Yeah, sure, we have the Republican National Convention coming to town – big whoop.  The real news of the summer is that Spricket24 (a favorite of Broken Spines and fellow Minneapolitan) is organizing the (creatively named) Midwest Gathering on Saturday, June 7th, 2008 (or 6/7/08 or 6, 7, 8).  Out of town guests are staying in hotels near the Mall of America.  So, the Midwest Gathering starts at Lego Land in the Mall, then we ride the light rail to Nicollet Mall, and walk to Loring Park.

Everybody tell Spricket to wear her Minneapolis shorts.

While you’re riding the light rail, take a listen to Jeremy Messersmith’s Light Rail.

Duchenne smile

What does a smile say?  Are you truly happy?  Are you uncomfortable?  Did a photographer tell you to say cheese?

In his book BlinkMalcolm Gladwell refers to research done by Paul Ekman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. Ekman is an expert on facial expressions and has written many books, including “Emotions Revealed, Unmasking the Face” and “Telling Lies.

(Oliver Sacks wrote, “No one in the world has studied facial expressions as deeply as Paul Ekman. In ‘Emotions Revealed’ he presents — clearly, vividly, and in the most accessible way — his fascinating observations about the covert expressions of emotions we all encounter hundreds of times daily, but so often misunderstand or fail to see. There has not been a book of such range and insight since Darwin’s famous ‘Expression of the Emotions’ more than a century ago.”)

(Copyright Paul Ekman 2003, “Emotions Revealed,” Owl Books, 2007.)

A Duchenne smile contracts the zygomatic muscles of the cheek and eye, forming crow’s feet. The crow’s feet indicate that the smile is genuine and that the smiler is truly happy. It was discovered by and is named after Guillaume Duchenne.

What got me started on this?  A fascinating blog post by Errol Morris, a documentary filmmaker, whose movie The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2004 and the recently released Standard Operating Procedure, a documentary about the Abu Ghraib scandal.

What do the smiles on the faces of Lyndie England and Sabrina Harman mean?  How do you explain the smile? Not only are they smiling, they’re smiling with their thumbs-up – with tortured men and over a dead body. The photograph on the right suggests that Harman may have killed the guy, and she looks proud of it. She looks happy.   But, it’s not a Duchenne smile – there is much more to the story.  Keep reading.


Subdivided We Fall

In the “Big Sort”, authors Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing write about “why the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart.”  Scott Stossel writes an excellent review it in yesterday’s Book Review:

We can no longer even agree on what used to be called facts: Conservatives watch Fox; liberals watch MSNBC. Blogs and RSS feeds now make it easy to produce and inhabit a cultural universe tailored to fit your social values, your musical preferences, your view on every single political issue.

This intense geographic sorting helps account for an abiding weirdness in American politics. Congress is split right down the middle, or nearly so; the last two presidential elections have been achingly close; half the nation, almost by definition, must disagree with you politically — and yet you have probably met very few of your antagonists. “How can the polls be neck and neck,” the playwright Arthur Miller lamented during the 2004 election, “when I don’t know one Bush supporter?”

Sometimes Daily

Amanda Congdon returns!  The vlog pioneer left Rocketboom in July 2006 to try her hand at mainstream media outlet ABC News.  Unable to bridge the old media/new media chasm, she quietly left ABC in September last year.

Now, she back to her old tricks with Sometimes Daily

Bloch Head… portrait of a hater!

Bloch Head?

WSJ News Alert… “FBI agents raided the Office of Special Counsel in Washington, an independent agency created by Congress in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Agents seized computers and documents belonging to the agency chief, Scott Bloch, and staff. Agents also searched Bloch’s home. Employees said the searches appeared focused on alleged obstruction of justice by Bloch during the course of a 2006 inquiry into his conduct in office. Bloch’s agency is typically involved in senstive investigations of alleged government wrongdoing.”  If you are like me and asking yourself what the F#$@ does that all mean… read a little more on who is Mr. Bloch.

From Wiki… Scott Bloch is a US attorney, former deputy director and counsel to the Department of Justice’s Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, and presently the Special Counsel at the United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The Special Counsel is the highest position in the OSC, which upholds anti-discrimination laws and whistleblower protections for federal employees.

So where does one start in upholding anti-discrimination laws?  By ordering all mention of sexual orientation workplace nondiscrimination be removed from OSC’s website and printed materials, of course.  Bloch’s first major actions as head of the office were to choose as deputy a lawyer who had publicly taken a position against the “homosexual agenda”, and to hire young lawyers from Ave Maria School of Law, the Catholic school founded by Domino’s Pizza billionaire Tom Monaghan.[2]  Bloch stated his office lacked the authority to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. [3]

Another example of President Bush pushing the agenda of the Moral Majority?  Hmmmm…

Business in Front, Party in Back

Is Pawlenty literally grooming himself for the vice-presidency?

TPT’s Mary Lahammer reveals a stunning bit of information: Pawlenty has shed his trademark mullet.

Speculation is that McCain runs a tight ship and won’t tolerate “the Bemidji neck warmer.”

Blind Sided?

The next bout is scheduled for early June… right about the time the whole world forgets about football for a few weeks. The draft will be a month and a half old, the myriad mini-camps will be winding down, and training camp and the pre-season will still be a month or two away. Even one of my favorite and devoted football columnists, Peter King of SI, turns his attention to other things every June.

Not us. Not this Fight Club. We’re going to dive in and dissect the game while the rest of the world sleeps. Our guideline? The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, by Michael Lewis.

There are really two stories in this one book. One is an examination of the evolution of the game of football from about the time of the NFL-AFL merger to present with special attention paid to the position of left tackle. The other is a personal story of a young, prospective, immensely talented and naturally gifted athlete, Michael Oher, who hopes to play the position of left tackle in the NFL someday.

The timing for reading this book is nearly perfect, IMHO. We’ll get Oher’s back-story just prior to his last season of college football and his subsequent entry into the 2009 NFL draft. And, with this year’s draft just past us, the pundits are already looking forward to next year. So, where does Michael Oher project to go, or, in other words, how many millions of dollars can he expect to have in his bank account in one year? A few projections:

Just to get an idea for what his bank account might look like in a year, the top ten picks from the 2007 NFL Draft averaged $18.7 million in guaranteed money.

Michael Oher will very likely live comfortably for the rest of his life, thanks in large part to his hard work, determination, the love and support of his adopted family and… Lawrence Taylor. To understand this reference, read the book. But, suffice it to say that this man is nearly solely responsible for the position of left tackle becoming the second-highest paid position in football after QB. For the last twenty years, teams have been adapting and investing in protection for their most prized position, and Oher will reap the benefits.

But, for how long?

The very fact that the game has evolved like it has over the last 20 years suggests that evolution will continue. And where will the LTs (left tackles… or the Lawrence Taylor’s for that matter ) of the game fall in this process? One very unique and innovative approach to the game that is starting to gain some traction suggests that left tackles, in fact offensive linemen altogether, may become nearly unnecessary!

Introducing, the A 11 Offense:

Talk about evolution of a game! Though only time will tell how it truly does evolve.

In the meantime, Oher will prep for his last unpaid season, America will enjoy a football-free June, and we will discuss and prognosticate the evolution of America’s game.


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