This is pretty funny

Grantland: The Further Adventures of Johnny Football.

It’s a bizarre phantasmagoric alt-future by way of @DadBoner:

Week 1: Home vs. Rice

The Thursday night before the game, Johnny Football shows up at the school pep rally with his good pal Six-Pack. Six-Pack’s well known around campus because he’s 300 pounds, nobody’s ever heard him talk, and he wears only ponchos. The students go nuts when they see Manziel, and start chanting his name until he takes the stage. Six-Pack comes with him, and when the crowd finally quiets down, Johnny Football grabs a trumpet from one of the band members and tells Six-Pack to play. “You’re all going to listen to him!” he screams at the crowd. “This is art!” The students go quiet, but Six-Pack has never played the trumpet before, and he just kind of blows into it randomly while Johnny Football does a swervy hip dance and shouts a song whose only words are “Where are my chiquitas at?” When it’s over, he disappears into the crowd and shows up for an 8 a.m. lecture the next day wearing a fake mustache and smelling like soil. Weird thing is, it’s not even his class.

It gets more gloriously weird. Via my attorney, naturally.

Who Is Johnny Football?

This ESPN Magazine profile takes a look at the weird fishbowl this guy lives in — and the pressures that come with it.

He’s not the second coming, but he IS an obviously talented player, and he’s gotten enormously famous very, very quickly. The article notes something pretty amazing: early last season, it was still possible for him to use a fake ID.

Returning to Reza Aslan and Jesus

Here’s how you know who Fox is, and what’s wrong with the “normal” media:

The Daily Show also interviewed Aslan about his book, and the discussion was deep, wide-ranging, and substantive. The Daily Show. On Comedy Central, which is not, as you probably know, a news station.

Stay with it; Aslan gets the “extended web interview” treatment to allow for a deeper conversation about the history of Christianity, about the historical Jesus, about his place in his time, etc. It’s fascinating.

The Times on the TSA

This is solid:

It is time to stop pretending that annoying protocols like these are all that stand between us and devastation. The most effective security innovation post-9/11 was also the simplest: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, which has made it virtually impossible to hijack an aircraft.

Southern Sheriffs: Stay Classy

Apparently, cops around Baton Rouge are still arresting folks for sodomy despite Lawrence v. Texas. The DA refuses to prosecute, but the arrests continue; we’ll let them explain why:

“This is a law that is currently on the Louisiana books, and the sheriff is charged with enforcing the laws passed by our Louisiana Legislature,” Casey Rayborn Hicks, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, said. “Whether the law is valid is something for the courts to determine, but the sheriff will enforce the laws that are enacted.”

Wow. How much dumber could Fox get?

Proud halfwit Fox anchor Lauren Green just can’t figure out why a Mooslim would write a book about Jesus, and never mind that the Muslim in question is a scholar in comparative religion.

She gets hilariously schooled. It’s awesome:

GREEN: This is an interesting book. Now I want to clarify, you’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?

ASLAN: Well to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees — including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades — who also just happens to be a Muslim. So it’s not that I’m just some Muslim writing about Jesus, I am an expert with a Ph.D in the history of religions…

GREEN: But it still begs the question why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?

ASLAN: Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.

More coverage at Dangerous Minds. The crazy idea that this EVIL BROWN MUSLIM would have the gall to write about Jesus is, apparently, one of this week’s talking points over there, btw.

Wow. Just… wow. Check out the GOP project “Groundswell”

Faced with an increasingly nonwhite electorate and the fact that words like “GOP”, “Tea Party”, and “Conservative” tend to connote racism for many people, these goofballs are going to try to solve the problem, in part, by rebranding the Tea Party as “Frederick Douglas Republicans” (sic).

I am not making this up. Click through for TPM’s discussion, and follow over to MoJo for the referenced article. It’s an excellent example of how top Republicans are spending way more time on marketing than on substantive work.

Dept. of Shocking Statistics

From this very interesting article:

Microsoft’s share of connected devices sales (in effect, PCs plus iOS and Android) has collapsed from over 90% in 2009 to under a quarter today.

Emphasis mine.

In other words, in the space of four years, the overwhelming majority of devices on the Internet went from being Windows machines to being either iOS or Android.

And yet, Ballmer STILL has a job.

Dept. of Not-No-But-FUCK-NO


The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users’ stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.

Books of 2013, #29: The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

I’m mildly embarrassed to admit this, but I’d actually never read this before — or, actually, any Chandler (or Hammett, for that matter). I’m really sorry I waited this long. The Big Sleep is an early giant of this genre — and while Dashiell Hammett came earlier, it’s arguably the ur-text of the whole realm.

Reading it, you get a weird little cognitive dissonance here and there as you run across events or dialog that seems like cliches — but then you realize it wasn’t a cliche in 1933. It’s like watching Stagecoach and noting the “tired” Western tropes — they weren’t tried when John Ford used them. Phillip Marlowe is the hard-boiled private eye, refined from Hammett’s Sam Spade: he’s full of whisky and wisecracks, isn’t afraid of violence, and follows an uncompromising personal moral code. Spade and Marlowe’s children are legion — most notably Robert Parker‘s Spenser, but there are countless others ranging widely through genre (for example, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, and Richard Kadrey’s Stark within the world of urban fantasy).

It’s not a long book, but it’s a rich one. You’ll find yourself reading some portions aloud to yourself, even slipping into a snappy patter as you do it, just for the sheer pleasure of saying the words:

“Tell me about yourself, Mr Marlowe. I suppose I have a right to ask?”

“Sure, but there’s very little to tell. I’m thirty-three years old, went to college once and can still speak English if there’s any demand for it. There isn’t much in my trade. […] I’m unmarried because I don’t like policemen’s wives.”


I sat down on the edge of a deep soft chair and looked at Mrs Regan. She was worth a stare. She was trouble. She was stretched out on a modernistic chaise-lounge with her slippers off, so I stared at her legs in the sheerest silk stockings. They seemed to be arranged to stare at. […] The calves were beautiful, the ankles long and slim and with enough melodic line for a tone poem. […]

She had a drink. She took a swallow from it and gave me a cool level stare over the rim of the glass.

“So you’re a private detective,” she said. “I didn’t know they really existed, except in books. Or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotels.”

There was nothing in that for me, so I let it drift with the current.

A bit later:

I grinned at her with my head on one side. She flushed. Her hot black eyes looked mad. “I don’t see what there is to be cagey about,” she snapped. “And I don’t like your manners.”

“I’m not crazy about yours,” I said. “I didn’t ask to see you. You sent for me. I don’t mind your ritzing me or drinking your lunch out of a Scotch bottle. I don’t mind you showing me your legs. They’re swell legs, and it’s a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings. But don’t waste your time trying to cross-examine me.”

You can hear those rhythms far and wide now, but in 1933, they were new.

Go. Read. Seriously, even if “detective fiction” isn’t really your thing. Chandler was way, way more than a genre writer. His works are well worth your time.

Books of 2013, #28: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

Dude. Gaiman. Done.

Seriously, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a brilliant and delightful meditation on childhood, a vein Gaiman seems fascinated with lately (cf. Coraline), but that’s fine by me. Ocean is a modern fable or fairy tale, with supernatural menaces and allies obviously perceived only by our young protagonist, but it’s in no way tired or old hat; it’s a great story, and worth your time.

Books of 2013, #27: The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks

I probably wouldn’t have bothered with any of Banks’ non-SF works, except, well, he died, and then my friend and longtime Heathen Lindsey X passed her copy of this on to me. I dove in.

The Wasp Factory a slim thing, and there’s not much I could say about it that hasn’t been said by deeper thinkers than I. It’s somewhat bleak, and certainly violent and sometimes disturbing — the more sadistic passages of Consider Phlebas have nothing on this. I felt Banks’ voice for sure, despite the age of the work (it’s his first novel), but I missed the wide-ranging inventiveness of his Culture books. I found myself somewhat surprised by the nearly universal accolades this book got; it’s a fine work, sure, but I didn’t feel the need to shout it from the rooftops. It’s still worth your time, though — as I noted, it’s short, so it won’t take much of it.

A Brief Summary of the Last Several Minutes

“Hey, I need to figure out how many times I’ve done [thing I do with email], so I need to gin up a fancy search.”

(Fiddles with native search tools. Curses.)

“Hey, didn’t I see something about a cool search utility for Apple Mail somewhere?”

(Checks local notes.)

“Yup, sure did! And there’s a free trial! Man, this is gonna be easy!”

(Downloads. Installs. Runs.)

“Oh. Right.”

Screen Shot 2013 07 19 at 3 56 30 PM

(The sad thing is that this doesn’t represent even most of my mail; I don’t have anything like complete archives for stuff pre-1999/2000, which for me means 12-13 years are missing. On the other hand, the index will happen faster as a result.)

Fraud or Supression?

Occasionally some particularly gullible Republican will suggest to me that voter fraud really is the reason for all these voter ID initiatives. They don’t believe me when I point out that there have been effectively zero prosecutions for people voting where they shouldn’t, and that this kind of fraud isn’t likely to sway elections even if done on a massive scale.

But forget intelligent analysis. Why not just listen to what Republicans actually say about their own motives?

Books of 2013, #26 & #30: Caliban’s War and Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

I’ve never bothered combining two posts before, but it seems fair with these books — the last two of a trilogy I started a year or two ago with Leviathan Wakes.

Corey — the pen name of collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck — has created here a pretty solid little hard-SF space opera. The initial scene is set with the first book (seriously, start there if this appeals to you): in the not-too-far future, mankind has settled the moon, Mars, parts of the asteroid belt, and some of the gas giant moons. Our story involves a somewhat disgraced pilot (Jim Holden), tension between the Belters, Mars, and Earth, a hard-boiled-ish detective, a missing girl, mysterious alien tech, political intrigue, and a pace that’ll keep you up nights. There’s lots to like here.

The second book, Caliban’s War (which I finished over a month ago; I am so VERY behind on these posts), is perhaps a bit better, though it relies more on stock characters than the first, and the recurrence of a central theme (“missing girl”) is only mostly excused by the starkly different environment in which the pursuit happens. The mysterious alien tech is better understood, and bad things are happening because we meddled with it. (Who saw THAT coming, right?) The best part here is that a new main character is a irascible and bluntly charming Indian woman (Chrisjen Avasarala) who works political angles within Earth’s government with an aplomb that wouldn’t be out of place from Frank Underwood.

The final book, which I read partly because “vacation” and partly because of the momentum I felt after reading the second, is more of a let down. They move the pieces around, and we return to our ersatz Han Solo as a main character while adding a few new ones who are nowhere nearly as much fun as Avasarala. There’s a clumsy plot that calls back to the first book, and a sort of on-rails experience regarding the “big reveal” about the alien technology, where it came from, and what it’s ultimately for.

Still, none of these books take more than a day or two to read, so you don’t expect them to be plotted like Swiss watches. They were fun, and I’d probably give something from Corey another go, but I’m pretty sure I’d skip anything else in this particular universe; it’s clear they love it, but it’s equally clear they hold on to some elements book to book more than perhaps they should.

The Weird, the pro, and the dead

On this day in 1937, Hunter Stockton Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky. His suicide in 2005 remains a goddamn shame, because I’d love to hear what Hunter would write about PRISM or Trayvon Martin or Obama or Romney or Ted Cruz or even Tim Tebow. But we won’t get that.

Thompson wrote about politics, about sports, about counterculture, and most famously about drugs, but my favorite passage of his remains this, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, about the failed promise of broad societal change in the sixties:

It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant…

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning…

And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply PREVAIL. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high water mark — that place where the wave finally broke, and rolled back.

Of course, it’s earlier in the book that we hear his most famous words (“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert…”). By the way, this is the picture from the first edition’s back cover:


(That’s Oscar Zeta Acosta on the right, the inspiration for Raoul’s friend and attorney Dr Gonzo. Acosta disappeared in Mexico in 1974; in 1977, Thompson described him as “One of God’s on prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and to rare to die.”)

Thompson’s culinary advice is also solid, as shown here in his description of a nutricious breakfast:

The food factor should always be massive: four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned beef hash with diced chiles, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of Key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert… Right, and there should also be two or three newspapers, all mail and messages, a telephone, a notebook for planning the next twenty-four hours and at least one source of good music…

All of which should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked.

Modulo the Bolivian marching powder, we see no reason why this shouldn’t become a national standard.

Godspeed, Hunter. We miss you.

More on Zimmerman and Martin

Cord Jefferson over at Gawker has written a really solid piece about being young and black and male in the US that pretty much everybody ought to read.

Especially if you’re confused at all about why people are upset.

Here’s a bit:

It is a complicated thing to be young, black, and male in America. Not only are you well aware that many people are afraid of you—you can see them clutching their purses or stiffening in their subway seats when you sit across from them—you must also remain conscious of the fact that people expect you to be apologetic for their fear. It’s your job to be remorseful about the fact that your very nature makes them uncomfortable, like a pilot having to apologize to a fearful flyer for being in the sky.

I’m reminded of Kiese Laymon’s amazing piece as well, which ran in the wake of Martin’s murder last year. If you’re unfamiliar with “How To Slowly Kill Yourself And Others In America”, do yourself a favor and read it too.

Dept. of Comic & Music History

Neil Gaiman shared this link on Twitter yesterday; it covers interesting backstory about how a then mostly unknown Tori Amos came to write “Tear in Your Hand” after reading a borrowed copy of “Calliope” (Sandman #17) in 1990, and how complementary shout-outs ended up in subsequent issues of Sandman (most notably the fact that “Tear” is playing in the background a few years later, in issue, #41).

Rantz tells the story well. Go read it.

Today’s Winner in the Stupid Service Provider Category


Think of them as sort of a corporate Dropbox, kinda; we use it for all the kinds of file exchange we need to do with customers, including distribution of software as well as the exchange of log files or databases for troubleshooting. It’s secure, and has features that allow us to set up folders with limited permissions to segregate clients & etc.

What’s bone stupid is their support, and especially their reporting.

First, there is no way to get a total of your disk usage in real time. This is vexing, because they charge for storage overages. Cleanup operations are necessarily multi-day affairs, because the report showing disk space is only updated overnight.

Yeah, I know. It gets more impressive, though.

Second, what reporting they provide astonishingly bad. Every one — storage, bandwidth, charges, etc. — lacks a total. I’m serious. Who runs a report without wanting a total? Even the “summary” reports lack totals — thereby calling into question just exactly what they’re summarizing.

“But Chief Heathen,” you ask, “can’t you just download the data and get the totals yourself?” Well, yeah, sort of. But you don’t escape the halfwittery that way; turns out, the “Excel” format bandwidth report (for example) has the bandwidth column explicitly formatted as text, so you can’t get a total without manually recasting the column first.

That’s an extra step on top of additional extra steps that shouldn’t be required. This service isn’t cheap. I should be able to log into the administrative back end and quickly see bandwidth usage by month, charges applied by type, etc., but ShareFile doesn’t seem to think that’s important. Since their self-service plan sucks so badly, their phone reps ought to be able to give me this data — but they can’t do that, either.

Heathen Central recommends you shop elsewhere.

Dept. of No Surprise

30 months after their rollout, the TSA has finally complied with the law mandating public comment on their porno-cancer-scanners.

97% of respondents hate them. This is, of course, in stark contrast to the mealy-mouthed push-polls the TSA has been touting saying people don’t really mind them.