10.17.21

eagles: we’re looking for variance, not the mean

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:50 pm by Administrator

after game 6, plenty of eagle fans are giving up on the team. fans are openly mocking the play-calling at the stadium. didinger called sirianni’s offense “off the charts dumb” after the home loss to the bucs, and in the same post-game show seth joyer repeatedly labeled the scheme a “high school offense”. while nick sirianni is taking the brunt of wrath from the fan base, jalen hurts, jonathan gannon, and individual players on the defense are also taking their licks. you would think from the outcry that this was supposed to be a team with established superstars in their prime and imminent super bowl aspirations. obviously, neither is the case.

in the preseason, i projected a 9-8 finish and a wild card win for the eagles, and i still don’t see a reason to doubt that prediction. i think we will gut out wins against the raiders, lions, saints, and giants before the bye week, and i’ve predicted a 3-1 finish against divisional opponents to finish out the season. back in august, i stated my belief that the eagles’ defense would prove to be good this year and that after a rocky start, this offense would rally behind hurts and his big-play ability. the D has been highly inconsistent but also formidable for stretches, and hurts has shown me enough to warrant my belief in the stretch run.

here’s the challenge i want to put out to eagle fans. look at the positive variance, not the average performance of this team. this is a rebuilding squad, and the most important question we have to answer this season is what the team’s potential can be within the next season or two with jalen hurts at the helm. while sirianni’s offense has struggled with the run-pass balance and too many 3 & outs (two issues i predicted we would experience in my 8/4 entry), it has already put up more explosive plays than we had in 12 games with carson wentz last year. more importantly, jalen hurts has already proven this season that he can play under pressure, lead the team late in the game, score in the red zone, and win with his legs. the average level of play that we’re seeing on the field might raise questions about whether we have a quarterback and a coach worth sticking with beyond this season; but i think that the upside is impossible to dispute. based on the range of results that hurts is showing us at the week 6 mark, i am optimistic that we will see growth (and wins) over the remainder of the season.

that’s not to say that the team’s identity on offense right now is anywhere close to figured out. sirianni’s RPO offense produces too many non-positive plays. the screen game and the running game have been predictable and easy to stop at the line of scrimmage, and hurts’s drop-backs too often result in extended plays where hurts has to improvise outside the pocket. the eagles’ two best weapons thus far this season have been runs by hurts and long passes downfield, which reflects how little the eagles are getting from their short-intermediate passing game. these are scheme issues. i have to believe that sirianni can adjust the plays to help hurts get rid of the ball faster. no, i’m not happy that we’re barely running the ball, but i think that in the tampa bay game in particular, the pass-heavy game plan should have been entirely predictable. we have a starting running back in miles sanders who still struggles to see open running lanes, has suboptimal ball security, and lacks the basic game IQ to stay in bounds when he needs to, which limits any up-side we can expect from a run-oriented offense.

the defense’s inability to stop the run has been galling, and it’s resulted in plenty of long scoring drives for opponents this year. teams playing the eagles know that the pressure up front from hargraves, cox, sweat, and barnett will be fierce, and they’ve been using runs and screens routinely to pick up chunk gains on us. gannon’s defense was supposed to be schemeless and unpredictable, but unfortunately we’ve been predictably bad at covering gaps and tackling the runner. our lack of a defensive field general and a legitimate playmaker at linebacker have never been more exposed. this is not an excuse for gannon necessarily, but on the other hand i don’t know how he is supposed to scheme a run defense when his best guys to work with at the second level are alex singleton (overachieving but not a star), eric wilson (who can’t cover), davion taylor (still learning how to play football), and genard avery (playing out of position). oh and by the way we have no legitimate nickle or dime playmakers to work with, much less a functional rotation at safety. as i’ve mentioned previously, i think howie roseman is a better GM than he’s recently gotten credit for being, but our league-worst linebacking unit is an eyesore he has to take full responsibility for, and the team’s struggles right now illuminate the flaws in our draft strategy for 2021—a year that saw us pass on jeremiah owusu-koramoah and nick bolton in the second round.

overall, we’ve lost to four legitimately good teams (the 49ers, cowboys, chiefs, and buccaneers), and we’ve beaten two teams that we were supposed to beat (the falcons and panthers). it’s too early to call the season a disappointment, and it’s too early to give up on our quarterback or our coaching staff. the fan base can certainly cry foul, as it so frequently does, but a little perspective might go a long way this early in the season. the fact is that we’ve got a much more exciting team right now than the one we had a year ago, and we’ve got at least seven winnable games on the calendar that could pave the way to a playoff berth. i still have no idea of what nick sirianni is capable of; but i think that jalen hurts is up to the challenge. i’m really interested to see what kind of team we end up with by week 18.

sad to see zach ertz go like this. but i like tay gowan. did i mention that he’s the cornerback i wanted us to take in round 4 of the ‘21 draft?

GO EAGLES

10.15.21

why we fight about israel and palestine

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:57 pm by Administrator

like many married couples i’m sure, my wife and i have a good hearty debate about israel and palestine every few months. this past week in fact, we had a heartfelt discussion over several hours about our conflicting views on the region, and i daresay that it got emotional. but as we usually do, we found our way to a detente. beyond simply agreeing to disagree, i think we got to a place of mutual understanding.

i’ll avoid categorizing my wife’s views, because they are nuanced. but i think i can say fairly that she feels great sympathy for palestinian arabs, the refugee crisis they are experiencing, and the suffering they continue to experience as a result of israeli military action and israel’s systematic settlement expansion into the occupied territories. she views the ethno-nationalistic nature of the israeli political state as the underpinning of the ongoing conflict in the region and very much wants to see not only social equality for palestinian arabs but also a deconstruction of the nation-state that arbitrarily pits jews against arabs in the entire region. colonialism, in other words, is the force that is continuing to incite the violence of invasion, eviction, and displacement throughout israel and the occupied territories.

while i agree with many of these points, i continue to enter the conversation with a vastly different point of reference: the right of israeli to exist. to many of my countrymen, including our past three presidents, this continues to be an important and non-negotiable conversation starter when it comes to approaching the demands of the palestinian authority. to me, it is irrational and provocative for regional leaders to deny israel’s right to exist, whether as a jewish homeland or otherwise. and the fact that israel’s legitimacy as a nation continues to be rejected by its neighbors directly reflects the imminent threat to national security that continues to inform israel’s policy of settlement expansion. whether they like it or not, israel is at war in the face of an existentialist threat. their policy of disproportionate retaliation may be unpalatable and even patently immoral, but it is nevertheless their tactical approach to war—against an enemy that infiltrates the occupied territories and uses palestinian arabs as human shields.

while the holocaust isn’t generally relevant to the substance of these debates, it was actually the issue that triggered our discussion on this occasion. my wife sent me a link that horrifyingly described a texas county’s newfound interest in “representing both sides” of the argument over the reality of the holocaust. i responded by saying that this school system might take its lead from palestinian classrooms, where the holocaust is entirely ignored. this comment triggered the broader debate that predictably ensued. holocaust denial is incredibly galling to both my wife and me, and we both take anti-semitism very seriously. but while i view the arabic world as monolithic in their anti-semitism (and holocaust denial), my wife believes that this is unfair stereotyping and that in fact the holocaust is fairly viewed as one of the main factors that has driven jewish settler colonialism of palestine.

i’ve realized through these debates that perhaps the main thing that distinguishes our viewpoints on the middle east is our faith in human beings. my wife believes that the religious and cultural roots of enmity between jews and arabs can be interrogated and ultimately transcended, in the interests of mutual peace and understanding. i on the other hand believe that we are stuck in tribal thinking—and that particularly when it comes to palestinian muslims and jews, the impact of their religions and the consecration of land will continue to plague the middle east for many generations to come. while my wife blames european colonialism, i blame allah and jehovah for all the unresolvable hatred and violence, and as such, i see no clear path to a deep reconciliation between these peoples. a two-state solution that validates the legitimacy of both israel and palestine is the only solution i can foresee, and the best that these two political entities can hope for is detente.

we fight about israel and palestine because the mutual cruelties are impossible to ignore and reflect what is most base about humankind: its obsession with religious mythologies, its incessant susceptibility to causes of conquest, and its egoic commitment to the oppression and subjugation of others. we want to believe in a different kind of humanity: enlightened, unbiased, and compassionate. but while that hope enlivens my wife, it embitters me, because i cannot believe

10.12.21

chappelle’s problems with transgender people

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:01 pm by Administrator

i’m a big fan of dave chappelle, and i think he’s unique as a comedian of this era. his wit, his instincts, and his capacity to infuse deep feeling into his content have all really set him apart from others in his trade. chappelle’s opening monologue for SNL the weekend after trump’s election in 2016 was one of the most moving and important things i’ve ever heard, and i credit him for being a voice of reason in that season of fury and confusion.

i think that it’s chappelle’s underlying and profound sensitivity to the crowd that so informs his particular approach to stand-up. he’s at his best when he’s had time to observe and analyze society’s idiosyncrasies and hold his own visceral reactions to them. he’s shocking when he shoots straight from the hip, usually out of anger, and some of his more memorable sets are those moments of outright passion. when he’s on stage, chappelle is always walking that fine line between exquisite vulnerability and impenetrable passion. and for every time that he’s spoken truth to power with immaculate articulation, he’s had a time when a heckler or a critic utterly derailed him.

the latest furor over his anti-transgender comments is derailing dave chappelle. and it’s not because the mainstream audience refuses to accept a transphobic black comedian. if anything, transphobia is the rule, not the exception, in our brutally heteronormative society, and i think that it’s hardly likely that the protests of the transgender community will dissuade chappelle’s extremely loyal audience from their obstinate loyalty. no, transphobia is derailing dave chappelle because he’s allowing the controversy to get under his skin. it’s painfully obvious that he’s obsessing over the feedback that he’s getting on-line about his transphobic comments. the majority of his set on netflix’s “the closer” (released just last week) was a bizarre and circuitous defense of his position on transgender sexuality, and during his show at the rose bowl last thursday, he was evidently affected by what he called his “cancellation” by transgender proponents—even though there’s no evidence whatsoever that he’s being cancelled. in fact, dave chappelle has never been more popular with his audience. the contrast between chappelle’s reality and his self-perception is striking and perhaps should be concerning for his fans.

i think that chappelle has been so deeply affected by the transgender community’s negative reaction to him because he knows that his position is untenable. he might not feel that his blatant transphobia is wrong; he’s on record saying that he feels that biological gender is fact, and in “the Closer” he appeared to defend JK Rowling, whose comments about transgender females have provoked much grief and rage among transgender advocates. but chappelle perhaps understands that his public transphobia is untenable because it does not align well with his consistent and passionate rhetoric about racism, particularly racism against blacks. chappelle in his own way has become an important figure in the evolving national conversation on police violence against black men, and he’s proven to be both comfortable and confident in engaging in the general social discourse about social justice. in this context, his transphobic content past and present has to be a thorn in his side because it demonstrates a gnawing inconsistency in his treatment of privilege and discrimination in america.

and for what it’s worth, his transphobic content really is profoundly transphobic. these aren’t one-off jokes that touch on superficial stereotypes about the transgender community, comments that can easily be passed off as tongue-in-cheek or inherently ironic. chappelle’s content gets deep into the stuff of transgender identity, when he directs the audience’s attention to transgender genitalia, transgender bathroom behavior, and the inherent deceptiveness of transgender dating behavior. unlike chappelle’s roasts of people of various races and ethnicities, his attacks on transgender people are inherently dehumanizing; with the power that the podium gives him, he encourages his audience to share in his patent disgust for the preferences, behaviors, and basic dignity of people of this community. moreover, in “the Closer”, chappelle bizarrely stereotypes transgender people as whites, implicitly nullifying the experience of transgender people of color, while justifying his parallel narrative on white privilege. it’s flimsy and doesn’t hold up in present-day discourse.

the definition of privilege is a lack of understanding the other, a lack of interest in understanding the other, and furthermore an entitlement to blatant ignorance of the other. dave chappelle, in his treatment of the transgender community, clearly exhibits all three, and thus he presents to us a singular intersectionality of our times: a black man who combats white privilege, while himself embracing heterosexual privilege to punch down on a deeply marginalized, traumatized, and persecuted transgender community. i still think dave chappelle is a wonderful human being and a very funny man. but i regard his transphobia the way i regard the ugly underbelly of this grand nation we are a part of. it is an imperfection, a hypocrisy, and a failing that can be only be described as human

10.04.21

many saints, squid game

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:48 am by Administrator

i knew that many saints of newark wouldn’t be a particularly good movie; but i had to pay my respects, regardless.

in retrospect, what i loved about the hbo show was that episode to episode, the sopranos was never in a rush to get anywhere in particular. you never had the sense over a 10 or 11 episode season that there was a particular plot item that needed to be addressed, and as such you never knew anything about how and where a season would land. not that there’s anything wrong with having a discrete destination in mind, when it comes to a mini-series. squid game (which i’ll talk about in a moment) had a clear trajectory and a specific question to resolve, and the show didn’t suffer for its tight, telegraphed structure. but the sopranos was a different kind of storytelling: circuitous, jarring, ironic, and yet ultimately self-assured. in each episode, the seeming sub-plot always brought a distinct color and meaning to what appeared to be the main plot line. scenes that seemed to meander into the personal and trivial were never superfluous. episodes never needed to culminate in cliffhangers and rarely did; they were complete stories in and of themselves, satisfied to begin and end on their own terms, rich with their own nuances and unfailingly perfected in at least one poignant moment—whether a birth, a loss, a realization, or a tragedy. the sopranos had nowhere to go but deeper.

i think of three episodes that really captured for me what sopranos storytelling was all about. there was “college”, the episode that opened my eyes to the great potential of the series. there is the central plot line that revolves around meadow’s coming of age and tony’s ambivalent treatment of her rite of passage. and of course there is the off-kilter and ludicrously contrasting parallel story of tony’s personal mission of revenge against an informer, whom he recognizes by chance on the way to meadow’s campus visit. it’s a totally unexpected juxtaposition of an awkward, funnily endearing father-daughter interaction and on the other hand a brutal stalking culminating in a particularly vicious murder scene. james gandolfini’s tony soprano holds the mirth of sordid triumph and the staid veneer of devoted fatherhood with keenness, in a way that essentializes the story of the entire mini-series. it’s perfect.

“employee of the month” is another episode that comes to mind, a story that illuminates both the ugliness and the almost irresistible allure of tony’s seemingly unlimited power to destroy. that story gets told in the context of jennifer melfi’s own personal experience of rape, which throws out any theoretical estimation of what is moral and brings home the utter weight of justice unrealized. the episode ends in a moment of decision as probing and heartrending as anything i’ve ever seen or read in my life. one cannot help but see tony’s animalistic criminality through a lens as confused as it is painstakingly human. in that space of great ambiguity and self-conflict, one can go either way: into one kind of darkness or into another. our own ambivalence toward tony and his cruel ways tilts on this balance of terrible outcomes; it is an ambivalence that makes us loathe ourselves. jennifer melfi makes the decision she must make in order to live with ourselves, and in so doing, she defines not only her character but also us, the fellow travelers in her shocking, transcendent journey.

lastly, i think of “soprano home movies”. it is another episode of painful juxtapositions: love and cruelty, family and the business, children to be adored and marks to be murdered. at the beginning, the episode is dominated by tony and his underlying tension and rage, which culminates in a riotous moment of violence that easily could have been the climax of the episode. but then the story pivots on a dime, and what is revealed in the aftermath of tony’s violence is the way that it warps the lives of others in his inner circle, like that of bobby bacala—husband, father, nice guy, and killer, however reluctant. soprano home movies is one of the few episodes that is almost overtly sentimental in its treatment of a mafioso, and if it weren’t for the rarity of this depiction in the context of the series, it might not surface as such as a salient moment, on par with “pine barrens”. but here is yet another example of the exquisite self-awareness of the sopranos, this knowing of when and how the emotional boundaries of the story can be tested and even redefined.

so we come to “the many saints”, a movie that is so deeply a failure not for its lack of talent or continuity of direction but rather for its obsession with plot, to the utter detriment of any storytelling cadence or artistry. “the many saints” so clearly has a story to tell, and it tells it with almost blockish intention, moving from one scripted development to the next. the real irony of the movie is that it seems so fixated on wasting no scenes, in its stubborn commitment to taking us from the denouement of dickie moltesanti to the genesis of tony soprano. but in its methodical succession of plot developments, it ends up wasting so many scenes—scenes empty of character, meaningful dialogue, and spontaneous resistance to what is expected, scripted, and projected. david chase had it within him to proceed with his customary humor and delicacy, but instead he bogged down this self-important production with heavy trappings that were entirely superfluous—a christopher moltesanti voice-over from beyond the grave, a pseudo-therapeutic recurring interaction between dickie and his incarcerated uncle which so immediately lacks any substantive comparison with tony’s relationship with jennifer melfi. the movie ends flatly and abruptly on a final scene lacking any of the gravitas it purports, thus forcing the audience into an ambivalent guffaw for the perfunctory and distinctly unsatisfying conclusion. it’s a disastrously bad movie that best summons comparisons to the phantom menace, in the way that it makes us so desperately miss the original material.

in contrast, “squid game” (which audiences everywhere recently finished after a day or two of binge watching) was utterly satisfying and somewhat superior to its closest comparison “alice in borderland”—another netflix show about people forced to play games that pit them against others in contests to the death. “squid game” absolutely hinges on the performance of Lee Jung Jae, whose impressive psychological range absolutely defines movies he’s starred in such as “New World”. the show itself is beautifully shot and scaled almost to excess to illuminate the utter smallness and loneliness of the hapless lives which ultimately are terminated by the game. the story is not so subtly a critique of capitalism (and western capitalism in particular), but it doesn’t at all get bogged down in the philosophical particulars. “squid game” isn’t trying to change the way we think about the world after all; it’s just trying to show us how it really is. we are riveted, because we know instinctively from the very beginning that “squid game” is the game we have been playing since we were children. perhaps death isn’t dealt so quickly and violently from our recollection; but we live a game of ruthless winners and fatally disabled losers all the same.

i play the squid game, as did my father before me, and as my son does now. once upon a time, i was ashamed to play the game. i felt great sadness about the game: this game that consigns some to wealth and its dehumanizing influence, even as it consigns most to poverty and the slow deaths of desperation and self-neglect. even now, i am a manager, and i enforce the rules of the game, even when i can see how unnatural and soul-killing this game is for those who play it. every day, i ask people to deny themselves, to deny their families, to deny their own growing unhappiness and dissatisfaction in the interests of productivity, profit, and privilege for those who do not do the work. we pay them for forty hours of work per week when in fact they work fifty to sixty and worry themselves out of another ten to twenty hours of sleep. the squid game is brutal, and it destroys lives. and it is necessary to sustaining a society of rules, by which our mutual and calculated oppression affords us predictable and rare moments of sanity and relative freedom. for these moments, we consider ourselves winners. in fact, the squid game has no winners. it only has casualties.

i hate myself for playing the squid game, and i despise myself for forcing others to play it. my direct reports. my fellow leaders. my own children. i place the shackles on their feet. i hold the gun to their heads. i tell them to work because starvation is the only alternative. i force them back to the job because i hold the leverage, because i sign the paycheck. it is disgusting. and there are moments when i revel in the bloodshed, because the game—as cruel as it is—is thrilling.

there will be a second season of squid game. seong gi-hun will return, looking for justice and for a reason. he will not find justice, and he will not find a reason. but his search will make him play the game, again and again, until the game defines him, until he is the one who sponsors the game. none of this will surprise any of us, because this is what the game has done to each of us. once upon a time, we entertained the thought that perhaps people are born to live, not merely to work. but we lost ourselves along the way, and now we play senseless games to earn our daily survival. what a shit world. what a shit life

10.01.21

the leader we need

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:41 pm by Administrator

i’ve felt my frustration with the biden regime steadily rising over the past six months, but i’ve tried my best to keep a lid on it. then today i read about (and saw) the interaction that kamala harris had with the george mason student about the situation in palestine and flipped out. this 2021 year has been a fucking disaster for the biden administration, and it’s really not too early to take stock of all these mishaps and what they really mean.

first and foremost, beyond every other consideration, it is the responsibility of the president to set the tone for the political conversation in america. that leader absolutely has to have a message and stay on message. to this point, biden has been reserved, out of the public eye, and seemingly committed to avoiding conflicts that might upset the very slim balance of power that’s tilting in his direction. instead of setting the tone, he’s trying to manage the rhetoric of his enemies. joe manchin’s narrative is dominating DC right now. that is an embarrassment to the white house and a clear sign that biden is failing to take charge, not only in his own party but in front of the broader audience.

biden failed to state a clear message up to and after the evacuation of afghanistan. he failed to sell his infrastructure plan to his constituents. he failed to take a clear and reassuring stance on covid vaccinations in this country. and he failed to share a real vision for what america stands for, both at home in the midst of a tenuous recovery and abroad in the face of many evolving alliances and rivalries. meanwhile, he has kamala harris fumbling on critical issues like the mexican border crisis and the funding of israel’s iron dome. you can be as open-minded and conciliatory as you’d like when you’re at the dinner table, but you have to be on point when you’re on camera in front of the world. kamala harris’s inability to take issue with the student’s casual characterization of israel’s aggression toward palestinians as “genocide” was feckless. it was more of the same from an administration that doesn’t have a message and seems incapable of managing vision and purpose in any conceivable manner.

second, this administration doesn’t seem to understand that the tone it needs to set has to be aggressive. biden cannot simply dismiss the precedent set by donald trump out of hand and delight in taking a more passive approach to politicking. the fact of the matter is that trump reset the expectations of the american people and established the context for the new administration. biden has to fight trumpism by actually fighting trumpism. i know that biden has little stomach for fighting words that might further divide the nation, but this is a time of war. we are fighting a war against a virus that has paralyzed the entire world. we are fighting a war against one another in the name of justice. we are fighting a war within the democratic party for identity and for power. anyone who takes the high road in the midst of a knife fight is going to get stabbed in the back.

biden has to roll up the sleeves and take this fight to his enemies. he has many people to fight right now. joe manchin is an enemy. kyrsten sinema is an enemy. donald trump is an enemy. mitch mcconnell and the republican party are the enemy. i’m not asking biden to muster personal loathing and put together a hit squad to take these people down. i am saying that biden has to control the conversation and apply the heat, first to detractors in his own party and ultimately to donald trump, who remains biden’s principal adversary in the public court of opinion. five months ago, biden should have started focusing the public eye on joe manchin and the utter disrepair plaguing west virginia. he should have been willing to sacrifice the infrastructure bill—which few people understand and even fewer people would lay their lives down for—in order to win this war against joe manchin and the republicans. that warpath might not lead to a public spending bill in 2021; but it might rally the country around joe biden the man, and that’s vastly more important for the 2022 congressional elections and the ultimate future of this country.

there’s a basic conversation about class and equality that biden needs to lean into right now, and if the infrastructure bill is the window dressing on this conversation, then it’s tax policy that’s at the foundation of it. biden is trying to generate momentum around a legislative achievement, but what we really need him to do is to crush his opponents and establish the democratic party as the only compelling voice for mainstream working americans. the futility of his efforts reminds me in an odd way of napoleon’s disastrous foray into russia in 1812. napoleon failed to deliver the crushing blow at borodino, believing that he needed to keep something in reserve to fight another day. he lost the entire russian campaign by failing to rout his enemy when he had the chance. sure, he occupied moscow; but the war proved to be much bigger than that one achievement, and it ended up swallowing him whole.

fight your enemies. trumpet your vision. take us to war. the path may be bloody, and the first two years of this administration may yield little beyond casualties, but at least stand for the thing that is worth dying for. this infrastructure bill is not that; and so it is dead already

09.22.21

missing the seasons

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:34 pm by Administrator

it’s been more than thirteen years now since i left the east coast. i miss it sometimes, in a very vague sense of missing something. when i explore that feeling, i realize that what i am missing is a time in my life, not something embedded in the place itself.

in any case, i watched a youtube last night of a random person driving through my old neighborhood. the video was from september 2017, which was just five months after my father passed, and a couple months after my mother sold the house and left town. it was strange to see the neighborhood in the immediate aftermath of our crisis, loss, and desertion.

in truth, i don’t miss the neighborhood itself. it was miles and miles of gated communities and mansions, with little to do outside of making use of the bike paths and going shopping at one of the two local grocery stores. the cultural attractions were all at least a half hour’s drive away, and even then we’re talking about places that weren’t particularly walkable at night. in most every respect, i prefer the neighborhood where i live now. perhaps the only thing i miss really is the seasons.

when i was growing up, i loved spring, because spring signaled the hope of summer vacation, and because the sudden fury of flowering cascaded into so many other sensations, romantic and otherwise. in early adulthood, i came to relish autumn and its lengthening shadows and pictures of senescence. nowadays, so far from the land where i was raised, i miss the winter. i miss the soft, weak sunlight caught up in the heavy clouds. i miss the bite of the wind and the faint smell of char, as a thin layer of fresh snow crunches under my boots. i miss that feeling of utter anonymity, as i walk silently in the darkness enshrouded in scarf, coat, and gloves, unbeknownst to everyone else tucked away in their homes. i am in a time of my life when i would love to be forgotten, to surrender responsibility, to wander into a vision quest and emerge a stranger, known only to myself. out here, the world pretends that life has no seasons, that life can continue as it always has. the winters of my childhood used to bring an end to these delusions; but this kind of winter carries no gravitas, and thus i cannot stop living as i once was, even though i have lost too much to possibly continue

09.17.21

my best life

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:46 pm by Administrator

sometimes i look at my daughter, and it brings me great joy to see how much happiness she experiences every day. whether it’s playing outside with her friends, or learning something interesting in school, or putting a cookie in her mouth, there is always something in her life that is giving her joy. there is no doubt in my mind that she’s living her best life.

my wife and my son as well do a good job of taking care of themselves, and while there is more responsibility in their lives, i do believe that it is a regular thing for them to experience pleasure and satisfaction. their wellness is a great comfort to me. and it highlights the contrasting experience of my own life. just the other day, my son asked me why i keep working this particular job i have, which is not much different from all the previous jobs i have had, and i was lost for an answer. only days later after a little bit of thought was i able to come up with an honest response: because i am trapped in a life that i do not love.

for the past nineteen years, i have been a working man. i have labored at various jobs that i have hated with varying degrees of intensity. none of these jobs were meaningless; they were all very meaningful, in fact. but all of these jobs have exacted a toll on me that i have been reluctant to pay. specifically, my work has forced me to carry the burdens of other people in a manner that i have consistently found onerous and exhausting. whether as a care provider or as a manager of staff, i’ve had to deal with people at their worst. devoting the vast majority of my time at work to people who are not physically or emotionally well is beyond taxing; it is utterly demoralizing. multiply that experience times fifty-two weeks and nineteen years, and what you get is me—the ambivalent, lost, and chronically unhappy man that i am.

my plight is no different from that of any primary medical provider, over ninety percent of whom express extreme dissatisfaction with their work according to some surveys. but at the same time, my plight is unique because i as an individual am unique. there were so many things i could have done with my life, but i wandered into this profession and for all the wrong reasons perhaps. i had a need to make a living. i thought i could leverage the work into a religious mission of some kind. i thought that this career would complement my philosophical and creative tendencies. nineteen years after embarking on this path, i find myself bereft of the religion that once motivated me to take this career path; in fact, i can honestly say that my professional work is one of the main reasons i abandoned my faith. neither has this work fueled my creative drive. it has actually sapped me of the time and energy that i would have otherwise devoted to exploration and creation.

it hasn’t all been for a loss. i could write tomes about everything that my work has taught me over the years, and of course i credit my long and difficult years journeying with poor, sick, and marginalized people for the personal growth i’ve experienced, now reflected in both my atheism and my mindfulness practices. but i can be honest now about the fact that i’m a misfit for the profession i chose. i cannot stand the structure, discipline, and constant emotional demands of this kind of work, and instead of mitigating my natural needs for spontaneity and creativity, this work has exacerbated my frustrated need for a different way of life. there are people who go through life insisting they have no regrets, and i believe that these people are liars. everyone has regrets. my biggest regret is that i became a doctor.

now, i’m not about to throw away my career on a whim simply because it was a poor choice for me. i have bills to pay. i have responsibilities to fulfill. all of this is part of the web of capitalism and industry that we are all collectively ensnared in. i protest this, but i’ll save those complaints for a more philosophical entry. the fact is that i have placed my personal pursuit of happiness second to responsibility for the past two decades of my life, and while i have paid a price for this, i have also been able to make good on my obligations to others in many ways. however, i’m approaching a period in my life when this will no longer be a justifiable excuse for my deferred happiness. must i continue laboring at this work that is so unnatural and displeasing to me, or should i put it behind me in the interests of salvaging what is left of the little time that remains?

it’s not a hard question to answer. i know for a fact that if i’m still doing this kind of work ten years from now, i will have yet another regret to add to my list of regrets: that i chose not to see what i could be outside of this profession.

i do fear what a less structured life might look like for me, sometimes. though the years of routines and predictable labor have turned me into a relentlessly dour creature of habit, they have also afforded me stability of a kind. what would become of me if i just stopped having a job? what if i took on a work that no one paid me for or held me accountable to? would i become bored? would i turn into a sloth? most of the time i recognize that i have these fears and anxieties because i was forced into a specific kind of work addiction, from a very young age. but sometimes i wonder if i will simply cease to exist if i stop identifying with a paycheck, a daily destination, a certain kind of responsibility to others.

most of the time though, i really wish that for a season of my life i could wake up every morning with no idea of what i had to do. the emptiness of things would pervade me. i might stop commodifying myself and others. i might stop experiencing such relentless unhappiness on a daily basis. i might just begin to tap into the gift that i have to give—the real gift that to this point has been totally unrevealed.

my best life is not about retirement. it is about putting things behind me that have no right to invade my life. it is about freeing myself of responsibilities and obligations that are conceptual and unnecessary. it is about acknowledging that my first priority must always be my own health and well-being, which i have sacrificed consistently and without a second thought for the majority of my adult life. i have pain, and sorrow, and much regret to work through, and i am not sure i have enough time left to work through it all. but a new beginning is the first step on that path, and for my sake, it is time for me to begin imagining exactly what that new beginning might look like

09.15.21

Eagles: great start

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:51 pm by Administrator

in my May 18th entry, i presented a revised projection of a 9-8 season and had this to say about the season opening game:

what’s our path to 9-8 and a wild card berth? i see us beating atlanta in the season opener, an important victory that will set the tone for the rest of the season. while our secondary is no match for their receiving group, the eagles will win this one with relentless pressure on matt ryan. the falcons tried to address their weaknesses on the o-line in this draft, but mayfield and dalman won’t be day one contributors. that’s just fine for kerrigan and company, who will punish ryan on third downs throughout the game. i see the eagles running the ball very effectively against a bad falcon d-line. this win will demonstrate philadelphia’s formula for 2021: running the ball consistently, and refusing to give up any big plays on defense.

this was before julio jones was traded and also before the eagles picked up steven nelson to shore up their secondary. regardless, the outcome was the same. the eagles picked up 173 yards on the ground, at 5.6 yards per carry, and it was big-time runs by sanders and gainwell in the 3rd quarter that put the game away. sirianni’s scheme kept hurts effective in the short passing game, and jalen did well to avoid big mistakes, but the running game and our defense—the pass rush in particular—are what gave us the W.

in the same entry i predicted that we would beat san francisco, and while that’s a tough call on paper, i’m going to stick by that prediction here in september. the niners have a tough front seven but have lost key guys to injury in the secondary, and i think that the eagles will unexpectedly open up this offense on sunday and challenge the niners downfield. i don’t expect the 49ers to be able to stop the eagles’ speedy downfield threats, and i’m counting on hurts connecting with smith, reagor, watkins, ertz, and goedert all afternoon. obviously this will hinge on the quality of our pass protection, and i’m betting on the eagles’ o-line. on the other side of the ball, i think that the eagles are well-designed to expose the weaknesses in the sf offensive scheme, and the pressure will get to jimmy g early and often. the niners are not a team built to come back from a deficit, and the eagles will take this win (an upset no less) handily.

let’s not get ahead of ourselves though and crown hurts and sirianni the kings of all kings. i’ve predicted losses to dallas, carolina, tampa bay, las vegas, denver, new orleans, new york (giants), and washington, and more than a few of these losses will be gruesome, marred by turnovers, and sloppy in execution, especially on offense. hurts will not be sharp every week, and i’ve predicted 17 interceptions for him this year. but he will define himself in the closing stretch, going 3-1 against division rivals and gutting out tough games to get us into the wild card round. and hurts, unlike wentz, will win us a playoff game.

jalen hurts may never be a top-5 quarterback in this league; but he’ll be good enough to make us a contender, and he’ll be likable enough to rally the fan base behind him. he may not ever produce at donovan mcnabb’s peak levels, but i do think he’s enough of a leader and a player to get us to the championship game. that’s as strong of an endorsement as you can get from me. the eagles have a super bowl window while hurts is on his rookie contract, provided that they maintain dominance on the offensive and defensive lines. that’s a tall order after 2022, so the eagles will have to draft well this year and next to stay in the hunt.

sunday’s game was a great start to the year. but keep your pants on eagle fans because it’s not going to be this pretty every week. let’s beat san francisco and keep brooks and johnson healthy.

GO EAGLES

09.12.21

on the twentieth anniversary

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:45 am by Administrator

i am sure that they imagined that even if they were able to get into the cockpit, and take control of the plane, and evade the fighter jets, and barrel into the tower, what they would leave behind would be a burning building, scarred forever for everyone to see, a testament to their cause. imagine even their awe at the magnitude of what they did, when the buildings not only caught fire but then collapsed. it was like everything holding up what is—all the girders and pipes and walls, all the concrete and metal that makes everything strong—suddenly capitulated.

there is nothing left. they could not have imagined that there would be nothing left. yes sure, there is a monument, and there are memories, but the building that was supposed to show the scars of war could not survive our cruelty and our rage. and thus there is no victory for either the perpetrator or the victim, even though we are both.

how weak we truly our at our foundations. it only shows when we destroy ourselves. it has been a long time since i ran my fingers along the fence and all the letters and photographs taped to its thin and buckling spines. i felt the softness and the ash of what was left behind. it was for me both revelation and sadness, and i was never the same.

09.08.21

macro thesis: signal and noise

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:33 pm by Administrator

i’ve recently laid out my base case scenario regarding covid. while the vaccine is mitigating disease severity and saving lives, it cannot guarantee us herd immunity. most concerningly, fully vaccinated persons are getting infected and shedding virus at levels equivalent to those seen in unvaccinated persons. this means that viral evolution is happening in vaccinated hosts, on a populational level. and that means that our current vaccines are certain to have diminishing efficacy against currently evolving variants. additionally, these variants will likely have higher replicative capacity, which means they are likely to cause more severe disease, especially in unvaccinated people.

my macro thesis for the global economy hinges on this view of viral evolution. we are not almost done with covid, as we in the united states were led to believe back in the spring. we are just at the beginning of a years-long struggle with a virus that will become endemic and remain a step ahead of vaccine development. if we are lucky, we will find a sustainable coexistence with this life form, and it will endeavor not to kill us, its valued hosts. but as a society we will emerge from this compromise both sicker and less productive than we were before.

the implications for the global economy have to be obvious. the reopening boom in financial assets has been predicated on an overwhelming belief in imminent herd immunity. like i’ve written previously, the current level of asset price inflation cannot be sustained by anything less than a 100% return to business. but endemic covid implies more like an 85% economy, with chronic workforce shortages due to illness, fear, and cultural change, and with an inevitable contraction of the economy as small and medium sized business begin to shrink or shut down due to these workforce issues. even the large cap industries will at some point have to alter strategy in response to employment data and growth projections. the recent non-farm payroll data was signal, not noise, and what it portends is economic contraction in the times ahead.

the recent taper of the S&P’s momentum reflects low volume and little volatility on the surface, but i strongly suspect it is the tip of the iceberg. those who are discerning the implications of the current delta surge are quietly exiting the market, and for sure a cohort of trend followers is likely to follow in the weeks ahead. we may not tip over into an obvious sell-off until q3 financial data is published, at which point employment data, consumer sentiment, and corporate forecasts could finally align to tell a unified story—that we are beginning our descent into a double dip recession.

so many financial analysts have recently questioned the hyper-inflation narrative, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that their skepticism is warranted. the fed has been reluctant to taper their asset purchasing programs for good reason: because the job market truly is that tenuous and contingent upon the vicissitudes of this mercurial, ever mutating coronavirus. this will be a time when good news is bad news; the good news of forestalled taper will only confirm the anxieties of many that we are devolving into a deflationary death spiral. biden’s plans for corporate and capital gains tax hikes, which will be fleshed out this Fall, will only compound the generally building pessimism around the prospects of this overheated economy. i think we are facing the specter of a wintertime crash in the stock market.

as enthusiastic as i have been about the societal implications of cryptocurrencies, i can’t see cryptos doing well in this environment of general pessimism. the prospects for cryptos, at least in the short term, depend highly on the appetite of large institutional investors. if and when they view bitcoin as a reasonable diversification play, all cryptos will surge to unprecedented levels. but i don’t see that happening in the turbulent times ahead. fear will push the institutional investors into safety plays—cash and bonds—and away from more speculative plays like a bitcoin etf. cryptos have the potential to crash worse than the mainstream financial markets in the season ahead, and for that reason i’m pretty guarded in my approach to crypto allocations. i still think bitcoin and ethereum are buy and hold assets for the long term, but investors with short time horizons might consider selling cryptos on the front end of a general market correction.

i hesitate to predict a solid asset class for the times ahead, because i think most everything will suffer. mega-cap tech stocks have nowhere to go but down from here. all “value” stocks will slide once it’s clear that a full reopening will not be possible this Fall. bonds are in what i’d call a secular crisis. developed and emerging markets can’t thrive in a deflationary global environment. commercial real estate looks like the worst bet of all, and the residential real estate market bubble cannot survive rising unemployment and declining consumer sentiment, regardless of artificially suppressed borrowing rates. gold might stand alone as the one asset that doesn’t suffer a precipitous drop, but it won’t replicate its previous pandemic bounce without another round of quantitative easing. i can’t imagine the Fed doubling down during this slower and less dramatic chapter of the global recession; but if it does, gold is the play for 2022—and beyond

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