January 29, 2018

A new collection of H.L. Mencken’s “The Free Lance” columns

Filed under: Books, History, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In Reason, Bill Kauffman reviews S.T. Joshi’s new selection from H.L. Mencken’s Baltimore Evening Sun essays:

The longtime Baltimore Evening Sun columnist, American Mercury editor, and rumbustiously splenetic critic, who graced this orb from 1880 to 1956, would not be published in any major newspaper today. The reasons he foresaw over a century ago, when he decried the “cheap bullying and cheaper moralizing” whose purpose was the extirpation, the annihilation, of anything resembling a robust exchange of ideas. Two beliefs puffed up the righteous censor, according to Mencken: first, “that any man who dissents from the prevailing platitudes is a hireling of the devil,” and second, “that he should be silenced and destroyed forthwith. Down with free speech; up with the uplift!”

Plus ça change and all that.

S.T. Joshi, who has chosen his primary scholarly interests — Mencken, H.P. Lovecraft, and Ambrose Bierce — with a fine eye for readability over reputation, has assembled a selection of Mencken’s Evening Sun “Free Lance” columns of 1911–1915 into a book called A Saturnalia of Bunk and contributed an informative introduction to it.

Henry Louis Mencken churned out six of these 1,200-word meringues every week, a vertiginous pace that makes Joyce Carol Oates look like Harper Lee.

Logorrheic bloggers aside, does anyone really have that much to say about the controversies of the day? Mencken once nicked Bierce for reprinting his early work, which was “filled with epigrams against frauds long dead and forgotten, and echoes of old and puerile newspaper controversies.” Is A Saturnalia of Bunk similarly irrelevant?

Happily, no. Although Mencken’s fusillades against, say, blue laws have grown fusty, his rousing conclusions — “the militant moralist tries to steal liberty and self-respect, and the man who has lost both is a man who has lost everything that separates a civilized freeman from a convict in a chain-gang” — have lost none of their punch.

These columns, composed while their author was on the shy side of middle age, afford, says Joshi, “a nearly complete view of Mencken’s political, religious, social, and cultural philosophy as it had evolved up to this point” — and this philosophy would largely remain constant for the rest of his rooted life. (Mencken, a dyed-in-the-wool third-generation Baltimorean, a sardonic citizen of his place, made his home in the house in which he grew up.)

October 23, 2017

Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota: stout defence and field goals galore in 24-16 Vikings win

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford didn’t practice at all this week, so he was clearly not going to be playing against Baltimore, this meant that backup Case Keenum automatically became the starter for the game. Keenum didn’t show his abilities to their best during the game (20-of-31 passing for 188 yards and a passer rating of 67.7 and a pick), leading to placekicker Kai Forbath being the key scorer for Minnesota (six field goals from 52, 51, 43, 43, 34 and 32 yards, but a missed extra point to keep him humble), while Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker threatened to score from well outside normal kicking distances (48, 57 and 47 yards, yet the game announcers seemed sure he could make it from inside his own 20 yard line). Still, ugly games count just the same as awesome ones, so chalk this one up as an ugly win.

Both teams were missing key players: Baltimore was already down most of their top receivers (Breshad Perriman, Chris Matthews and Jeremy Maclin) when Mike Wallace took a hit from Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo early in the first half which put him into the NFL’s concussion protocol (Sendejo was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the tackle, which negated a fumble recovery by Xavier Rhodes). Minnesota was missing both Stefon Diggs and Michael Floyd, which gave rarely used veteran Jarius Wright an opportunity to shine, making some clutch catches to extend Viking drives. Nick Easton had been ruled out, so Jeremiah Sirles got the start at left guard, and both Sirles and starting left tackle Riley Reiff suffered injuries during the game, so backup tackle Rashod Hill and rookie guard Danny Isidora got into the game as replacements.


September 11, 2014

Roger Goodell’s dilemma

Filed under: Football, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:52

USA Today‘s Tom Pelissero updates the state of play in the Ray-Rice-is-a-terrible-human-being case:

The NFL has hired former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to investigate the league’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence case after a report Wednesday that a league executive received videotape evidence five months before it became public.

New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney will oversee the investigation, and the final report will be made public, according to league’s statement, which noted Commissioner Roger Goodell has pledged the full cooperation of NFL personnel and access to all league records.

The announcement came hours after the Associated Press published a report citing an unnamed law enforcement official who said he sent a tape of Rice punching his then-fiancée to an NFL executive long before the video surfaced on TMZ.com on Monday, leading to Rice’s release from the Baltimore Ravens and his indefinite suspension by the league.

The law enforcement official — speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation — also played the AP a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

The NFL commissioner may have thought he’d put the Ray Rice issue behind him after the elevator video was released to the public, but now it’s being alleged that the league actually did get a copy of the video before Goodell suspended Rice for a token two-game stretch. Ace thinks this might have been Goodell’s reasoning for doing as he did:

Could that be Goodell’s spin? “I knew about it, but I had to protect a source”?

Although this spin won’t save Goodell, part of his thinking might have been this:

1. This punch is atrocious, a potentially lethal full-on boxer’s knockout punch.

2. However, the evidence of this is currently being withheld from the public by law.

3. Even though I know about this tape, I cannot use it as the basis for my decision, as it is in my hands illegally.

4. Further, I could not explain to the public, nor to the NFL Player’s union, the reasons for a severe punishment, because they would cry foul and cry “PC over-punishment!” unless they see this horror in real time, which I have seen, but they have not, and maybe never will.

I don’t know if that’s what they were thinking (assuming Goodell saw it, and frankly, I don’t know how he could not have seen it — This is his job; punishing a player for an infraction is not something you delegate to the branch office in Cincinnati like Lois Lerner did (wink, wink)), and I doubt this would cut much ice even it it were.

Even if Goodell didn’t think he could suspend Rice indefinitely absent the public unveiling of the tape — Two Game Suspension? When another guy just got a four game suspension for some minor substance abuse rap?

June 26, 2014

QotD: Football players are “not the brightest people”

Filed under: Football, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Football is football. I mean, come on guys, we’re talking about a bunch of football players,” he said. “It’s not tough to learn an offense. At the end of the day, you have a formation, you have protection, you have a direction to run the ball and you have a route to run as a receiver. It’s not that tough. If you can’t learn an NFL offense, then obviously you shouldn’t be there. … I’m saying, we’re not the brightest people, so therefore how hard can an NFL offense be?

Joe Flacco, quoted by Sarah Ellison in “Late For Work 6/25: Joe Flacco Opens Up About Relationship With Gary Kubiak”, BaltimoreRavens.com, 2014-06-25.

December 9, 2013

Vikings lose in last-minute scorefest

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:22

I only got to watch the last few minutes of this game, as the local (Buffalo) channel was the Bucs-Bills game and even the Winnipeg station that usually carries Viking games had the Colts-Bengals game on. Even at that, the game lasted just long enough that Fox cut away from the game with four seconds left on the clock to begin broadcast of the Seahawks-49ers game. In that slightly-more-than two minutes, I saw most of the scoring in the game.

Initial reports on Twitter indicated this might be a 0-0 tie, with neither team able to generate much for the first few series. By halftime, the score was 7-3 in Baltimore’s favour. The big story of the half was Adrian Peterson’s injury, with all kinds of rumours flying about the relative seriousness (at one point, he was reported to have been sent by ambulance to a local hospital). Peterson was seen on the sideline later in the game, wearing shoes and no obvious cast, brace, or walking boot, so we can hope the injury will not impair his ability to finish the season. Another injury had nearly as much impact on the Vikings, as offensive guard Brandon Fusco left the game with a knee injury and didn’t return. Fusco has been the most consistent player on the line this season. Tight end John Carlson and cornerback Xavier Rhodes were also injured during the second half.

The weather was a factor in the game, but not as much as the game in Philadelphia, where up to eight inches of snow was reported at midfield. The TV announcers made several comments about the grounds crew not clearing the snow, so @Justin_Rogers posted a summary of the NFL’s rules on snow removal. @ArifHasanDN screencapped the most relevant portion:

NFL snow removal rules

It’s common for fans to decry the officials over the course of a game, but it’s rare for players to do so. Adrian Peterson was upset enough about the officiating that he probably will be getting a fine from the league over this tweet he sent out near the end of the game:

Another tweet from Eric Thompson explains why the Vikings can claim to be a bit better than their actual record:

From just before the two-minute warning to the end of the game, with the Vikings leading 12-7 the score sheet goes like this:

  • Baltimore TD after 4 minute drive. Add two-point conversion. Score 12-15.
  • Minnesota TD on a 41-yard Toby Gerhart run. (Only the third time this season Baltimore has given up a rushing TD.) Score 19-15.
  • Baltimore TD on a 77-yard kick return by Jacoby Jones. Score 19-22.
  • Minnesota TD on a 79-yard catch-and-run by Cordarrelle Patterson. Score 26-22.
  • Baltimore TD after a terrible pass interference call against Chad Greenway which wiped out what would have been the game-clinching interception. Final score 26-29.

After a wild finish like that, it’s almost anti-climactic to say that the loss pushes the Vikings out of post-season contention (with only three wins on the season, it would have taken a few miracles for them to get into the playoffs anyway).

Adding further insult, the Vikings couldn’t even get out of Baltimore without further problems:

1500ESPN rounded up a couple of homeless guys to do their post-game wrap up:

May 27, 2013

Recreating ancient hairstyles – the “Hairdo archaeologist”

Filed under: Europe, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:36

BBC News has an interesting short video on the intersection of hairstyles and archaeology:

Janet Stephens earns a living trimming, straightening and dyeing the hair of customers seeking the latest look.

But the stylist from the US city of Baltimore is more interested in the hairdos of the past.

Stephens is a hairstyle archaeologist who specialises in recreating how women in ancient Rome and Greece wore their hair.

She spoke to the BBC about a museum visit that marked the start of a long journey of discovery on which she solved a historical mystery and had her work published in an academic journal.

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