Weekend Reading, 3.15.2015

This is a new feature here at the blog: Weekend reading links. Take some time to check these out:


“There is Only One Direction” is an essay by writer Samantha Hunt. It may be the best thing I've read all week. At first, you’ll think it’s about being an adult fan of One Direction, until Hunt begins tying together fandom, parenting, and death. There’s even a guest appearance by Patti Smith. 

Here’s a preview: 

“The day they remove my right ovary, Zayn fails to show up at the world premiere of the new 1D record. It seems right in terms of my reproductive health. The boys make excuses, say it’s a stomach bug. I know it isn’t a stomach bug, but I make excuses also because I want to live.”

B.B. King’s Best Songs: A Playlist

In honor of B.B. King, who passed away this week, Ted Gioia has compiled an 8-song playlist to introduce you to his music. Spanning various phases in King’s career, it shows off the blues man’s signature touch, tone, and presence. 

If I personally had to recommend one King record, though, it would be “Blues is King”, the record he recorded in 1966. He had good reason to have the blues that year: His wife filed for divorce, his bus was stolen, and the IRS slammed him with a hefty bill for back taxes. 

For more on King, this site has a wealth of biographical information, concert videos, and interviews. 

“Color-Blind Policy, Color-Conscious Morality.”

Ta Nehisi Coates has a provocative piece at The Atlantic called, “Color-Blind Policy, Color-Conscious Morality.” It’s a critique of the progressive approach to issues in the African-American community which, as Coates describes it, is quick to critique moral failure within the community but slow to talk about the racist policies and history that have eroded that community’s foundations. Instead, policy focuses more broadly on class: 

“…[Y]ou will hear no policy targeted toward black people coming out of the Obama White House, or probably any White House in the near future. That is because the standard progressive approach of the moment is to mix color-conscious moral invective with color-blind public policy. It is not hard to see why that might be the case. Asserting the moral faults of black people tend to gain votes. Asserting the moral faults of their government, not so much. I am sure Obama sincerely believes in the moral invective he offers. But I suspect he believes a lot more about his country which he chooses not to share.

“This affliction is not solely Obama’s. Consider that in a conversation about poverty, featuring America’s first black president, one of its most accomplished progressive political scientists, and one of its most important liberal columnists, the word “racism” does not appear in the transcript once. That is because the progressive approach to policy which directly addresses the effects of white supremacy is simple—talk about class and hope no one notices.

This is not a “both/and.” It is a bait and switch. The moral failings of black people are directly addressed. The centuries-old failings of their local, state, and federal government, less so. One need not imagine what a “both/and” approach might sound like, to understand why a president of the United States can’t actually offer one. At best, one can hope for reference to “past injustice.” But in a country where Walter Scott was shot in the back, where Eric Garner was choked to death, where whole municipalities are—at this very hour—funding themselves through racist plunder, fleeting references to “past injustice” will not do.”

Food for Thought:

There are a lot of think-pieces being published about the New England Patriots and Deflategate. Rather than posting a link, here’s my 1/2 ounce on the topic. 

The issue in question seems minute, but only if you take the NFL’s commitment to parity out of the question. The truth is that any team, on any given Sunday, should be built in such a way that it can compete with any other team. The salary cap and draft system bias the whole league towards fairness. If deflating the footballs gives a 1% advantage – or .1% advantage – it erodes the integrity of a game that has committed itself to competitiveness. In other words, it’s a big deal. 

It’s an especially big deal when – in light of the league’s parity – you think about the psychology of the game. One team walks out with a mild, almost insignificant advantage. *But they know it.* That’s a much bigger deal. Confidence leads to momentum. And momentum, in the NFL, is everything. 

It is also significant that the Pats – and Brady himself – could have eliminated a significant amount of suspicion and gossip by fully cooperating with the investigation. 

Lastly, the Patriots’ defense of their org seems to assume that NFL fans and officials are just plain stupid:

“Mr. Jastremski would sometimes work out and bulk up — he is a slender guy and his goal was to get to 200 pounds. Mr. McNally is a big fellow and had the opposite goal: to lose weight. “Deflate” was a term they used to refer to losing weight. One can specifically see this use of the term in a Nov. 30, 2014 text from Mr. McNally to Mr. Jastremski: “deflate and give somebody that jacket.” (p. 87). This banter, and Mr. McNally’s goal of losing weight, meant Mr. McNally was the “deflator.” There was nothing complicated or sinister about it.” 

‘Oh… that explains everything. You referred to one of your equipment managers as “the deflator” because he wanted to lose weight. Let’s drop the investigation and reinstate Brady.’ Give me a break. 

*** In the interest of full disclosure, I am a rabid fan of the Indianapolis Colts, and Deflategate only confirms what we have known for a bit more than a decade. ***