Why Veterans Miss War

May 29th, 2015

Sebastian Junger explores why veterans miss war:

Let it grow

May 29th, 2015

October is the 10th anniversary of Bob Iger’s appointment as Disney’s chief executive, a period that has been defined by acquisitions:

Mr Iger began putting the pieces in place for a Disney revival as soon he was told by the board that he would replace Mr Eisner, contacting Mr Jobs and expressing an interest in doing a deal. By January 2006, just three months after Mr Iger had started as chief executive, Disney bought Pixar in an all-stock deal worth $7.4bn. “I had this instinct that Pixar was the best way to fix and save Disney animation,” Mr Iger says.

[...]

The Pixar deal had big similarities with the two other landmark transactions of his tenure, Mr Iger says. As with Pixar, when Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm it did not seek external advice from investment banks. Disney’s own corporate strategy unit, led by its top dealmaker Kevin Mayer, crunched the numbers, while Mr Iger made the approach and the pitch himself. “All three deals began with one-on-one discussions,” says Mr Iger. “I began each one pitching my heart out.”

[...]

Disney’s studio acquisitions have also been transformative for the three people who sold their companies to Disney. George Lucas, who sold the rights to the Star Wars franchise to Disney at the end of 2012, has generated a paper profit of $2.2bn on the shares he was given; Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, the largest shareholder in Marvel Entertainment at the time of the sale, has earned a paper profit of $1.7bn. The biggest paper profit has been made by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs. Mr Jobs was the majority shareholder in Pixar, which Disney acquired in an all-stock deal worth $7.4bn in 2006. Today the Jobs stake is worth about $14.3bn.

How to turn a liberal hipster into a capitalist tyrant in one evening

May 28th, 2015

Zoe Svendsen’s “play” at the Young Vic, titled World Factory, is more of an eye-opening roleplaying game:

The choices were stark: sack a third of our workforce or cut their wages by a third. After a short board meeting we cut their wages, assured they would survive and that, with a bit of cajoling, they would return to our sweatshop in Shenzhen after their two-week break.

But that was only the start. In Zoe Svendsen’s play World Factory at the Young Vic, the audience becomes the cast. Sixteen teams sit around factory desks playing out a carefully constructed game that requires you to run a clothing factory in China. How to deal with a troublemaker? How to dupe the buyers from ethical retail brands? What to do about the ever-present problem of clients that do not pay? Because the choices are binary they are rarely palatable. But what shocked me – and has surprised the theatre – is the capacity of perfectly decent, liberal hipsters on London’s south bank to become ruthless capitalists when seated at the boardroom table.

The classic problem presented by the game is one all managers face: short-term issues, usually involving cashflow, versus the long-term challenge of nurturing your workforce and your client base. Despite the fact that a public-address system was blaring out, in English and Chinese, that “your workforce is your vital asset” our assembled young professionals repeatedly had to be cajoled not to treat them like dirt.

And because the theatre captures data on every choice by every team, for every performance, I know we were not alone. The aggregated flowchart reveals that every audience, on every night, veers towards money and away from ethics.

Svendsen says: “Most people who were given the choice to raise wages – having cut them – did not. There is a route in the decision-tree that will only get played if people pursue a particularly ethical response, but very few people end up there. What we’ve realised is that it is not just the profit motive but also prudence, the need to survive at all costs, that pushes people in the game to go down more capitalist routes.”

This appears to be a revelation to the people involved.

In short, many people have no idea what running a business actually means in the 21st century. Yes, suppliers — from East Anglia to Shanghai — will try to break your ethical codes; but most of those giant firms’ commitment to good practice, and environmental sustainability, is real. And yes, the money is all important. But real businesses will take losses, go into debt and pay workers to stay idle in order to maintain the long-term relationships vital in a globalised economy.

Naturally the Guardian turns this into a call for more regulation.

Re-Instituting Dueling

May 28th, 2015

Jonathan Gottschall discusses Why Men Fight & Why We Like to Watch on The Art of Manliness podcast and suggests that a re-institution of dueling codes could be a good thing:

One of the cool things I’ve read and, again, in the work with sociologists, is arguments for the re-institution of a dueling culture. For instance, in inner city neighborhoods or in prisons. We’re talking about specifically a culture of boxing duels.

The point is that what you have in an inner city neighborhood or many inner city neighborhoods and certainly in serious prisons are cultures of honor without dueling codes. If you are going to have a culture of honor, a culture where men are incredibly touchy about disrespect and willing to claim respect with physical violence, you don’t want to have that kind of honor culture without a dueling code because you have that kind of honor culture without a dueling code, then you get things like Hatfield-McCoy blood feuds. You get things like prison shankings. You get things like drive-by shootings.

The idea of a culture of boxing duels would be that it makes those other forms of violence dishonorable. You’re branded a coward and you have to eat a lot of shame if you go outside of the dueling code. So I think there’s at least an argument to be made that in certain situations, a re-institution even of dueling codes could be a good thing.

Weightlifting is Anti-Aging

May 27th, 2015

The iron pill is good for what ails you, Mangan reminds us:

For example, weightlifting enhances brain function, reverses sarcopenia, and lowers the death rate in cancer survivors. Take this last item, lowering death rate in cancer survivors: garden-variety aerobic exercise had no effect on survival, while resistance training lowered death rates by one third; so at least in this one example, you can see that weight training is a vastly superior form of exercise.

Weightlifting also appears to be superior when it comes to fighting the aging process. Resistance exercise lowers levels of myostatin, which is one of the main ways in which muscle strength and mass are increased, since myostatin negatively regulates muscle strength and mass. Myostatin levels increase with age, which may partially account for loss of muscle mass and frank sarcopenia with aging. Mice that have been genetically engineered to have lower levels of myostatin live about 15% longer than wild-type mice.

Therefore it follows, assuming that the physiology of mice and humans are directly comparable in this regard, that lowering myostatin levels through weightlifting should increase lifespan. (And, as previously noted, branched chain amino acids, creatine, and polyphenols from chocolate and tea also lower myostatin.)

Instantaneity of Communication

May 27th, 2015

Perfection of the means of communication has meant instantaneity:

But the instantaneity of communication makes free speech and thought difficult if not impossible and for many reasons. Radio extends the range of the casual speaking voice, but it forbids that many should speak. And when what is said has such range of control it is forbidden to speak any but the most acceptable words and notions. Power and control are in all cases paid for by loss of freedom and flexibility.

The Death of Boxing

May 27th, 2015

The end of boxing’s Television Era came definitively when Mike Tyson KO’d Michael Spinks in the first round in Atlantic City, on June 27th 1987:

This fight dovetailed with a number of other factors to mark the end of a long transitional era in boxing. The biggest factor was economic. Although this was a closed circuit event seen in theaters, it opened eyes to the potential money of pay-per-view just as the technology was on the horizon. I remember listening to a live sports radio broadcast just after the fight, as some rich guy called into the radio host from what must have been a huge primitive car phone and gave the blow-by-blow. By morning everybody was talking about how many millions of dollars per a second Tyson had made.

[...]

Networks were bowing out and premium channels and pay-per-view was coming into vogue. Now boxing was just available some of the time for some of the fans.

By 1997 500 million a year was being spent on pay-per-view boxing events. Boxing was now just about the marketability of big names, and perfect records were paramount. Thanks to the deterioration of Olympic Style amateur boxing as a sport [with zero-clinch tolerance — see Chapter 3 Sidebar — and no points awarded for knockdowns], the rarity of fights between the top men in a given weight class, and the infrequency of fights in general, boxers were relatively less skilled and less exciting than ever in the pro ranks. This period can rightly be seen as the time when boxing matches were largely decided by the matchmaker, with almost no pro bouts and less than half of title bouts being competitive.

The big-name promoters destroyed a sport with dwindling human resources and filled their bank accounts. A sport that began with eight weight classes in the Old Time Era now had 17 weight classes. The sport which once had eight champions now has 153! All of this subdivision of talent came to a crescendo in the 1980s and 90s at the same time that the talent pool had dwindled to a trickle. As of now, the USA, which traditionally supplied most boxers, typically only has one Top 10 heavyweight — and the USA has the biggest people in the world!

Thanks to the foresight of MMA organizations there is still a way to see the two best guys at a given weight fight, but it is not a boxing match. The fact is boxing is on life-support.

[...]

Unfortunately, the evidence indicates that boxing’s best days are in the past. What is more, it seems destined to become a marginalized hold-over sport like fencing. Such a fate would be a supreme irony. You see, in the 1920s, Aldo Nadi, greatest fencer alive, and survivor of at least one duel, decried the popularity of boxing, disparaging the fistic art as crude and barbaric and too emotional. That assessment sounds much like the criticisms of MMA by many of the boxing people I know, and by our current best, Floyd Money.

Hopefully Floyd Money does not share Nadi’s gift for prophetic irony.

Why Chuck C. Johnson Was Suspended From Twitter

May 26th, 2015

Twitter has suspended Charles C. Johnson (@chuckcjohnson) for being on the wrong side of history:

I am an award-winning journalist who has exposed frauds, ended careers, and been profiled in major publications. And now I’m trending on Twitter while my account, @chuckcjohnson, is suspended on Twitter.

Last night I tweeted that I was interested in doing some research on the twitter user, @deray a.k.a. DeRay McKesson.

@Deray is a leader of the anti-cop astroturfing currently hitting the inner city black community.

I’ve already exposed the activist, @ShaunKing, for being a fraud and potentially stealing some money from Tamir Rice. And I’ve been working with the ATF to bring justice to Michael Brown’s pastor who burned down his own church. I sued on my own dime to get Michael Brown’s juvenile records (which we are appealing to the Missouri Supreme Court.)

[...]

Twitter doesn’t seem to have a problem with people using their service to coordinate riots.

But they do have a problem with the kind of journalism I do.

Grilling Over Gas vs. Charcoal

May 26th, 2015

Which is better, grilling over gas or charcoal?

Charcoal purists will try and tell you that their preferred fuel leads to better flavor. This is, well, nonsense.

Your food doesn’t know what’s creating the heat below it, and once charcoal is hot, there aren’t any aromatic compounds left in the coals. According to the food science bible Modernist Cuisine, “Carbon is carbon; as it burns, it imparts no flavor of its own to the food being grilled.”

The characteristic flavor of grilled food comes from the drippings, not the fuel. When those drippings hit the heat source below, the oils, sugars, and proteins burst into smoke and flame. That heat creates new complex molecules that rise in the smoke and warm air to coat the food you’re grilling.

Nothing in that process relies on charcoal.

The Golden Age of Boxing

May 26th, 2015

The Golden Age of Boxing lasted from 1920 to 1946:

Socially this was the springtime of boxing, when the largest gates were drawn, and boxers were considered not only the greatest athletes but the toughest men and best fighters in the world. As with baseball many of the best fighters had their careers gutted by World War Two.

There was boxing all the time, for everybody who cared to go to a club, theater or stadium or tune in on the radio.

Just as the first experiments with motion pictures began early in the 1890s with boxing, the first experiments with televised sports began with boxing in 1931. You must imagine, with only one camera, separated from the announcer, how difficult it would have been to televise baseball or football. In our own time we take the camera-angle changes and all of the work done by the film crew and onsite film-editing staff for granted. This made boxing the obvious subject for early TV. By 1944 NBC was airing fights, and by ’46 Conn versus Louis became the first televised heavyweight championship.

Very quickly this apparently good thing crushed local boxing shows, the theaters that hosted them, and the clubs that fielded the fighters. Why watch Joe Shmoe and John Doe at the local club when you can get Joe Louis at home? As with many trends in boxing it took one or two generations of fighters for this to effect significant change in the talent pool. Less local pro shows [in Baltimore, a half dozen a week in the 1920s to as many a year in the 1990s] resulted in a steady decline in the numbers and quality of opposition faced by top boxers, eventually resulting in a gradual decline in their functional skill, particularly versatility in the ring.

Unlock the School Library

May 25th, 2015

Bryan Caplan suggests that we unlock the school library:

By this I mean…

  1. Give kids the option of hanging out at the library during every break period.
  2. Give kids the option of hanging out the library in lieu of electives.

My elementary, junior high, and high schools all had marvelous libraries. But they were virtually always closed to the student body. You couldn’t go during recess or lunch. And you certainly couldn’t say, “Instead of taking music, dance, art, P.E., woodshop, I’ll read in the library.” Virtually the only time I entered a school library was when an entire class went as part of an assignment.

Caplan is pretty transparently promoting what he would have preferred as a kid:

Socially, unlocking the library allows students to escape pointless classes, boring teachers, and obnoxious peers. It also gives kids a chance to exercise independence and self-control.

In his mind, making kids take music, dance, art, P.E., or woodshop is simply bossing them around, because adults like that.

Michael Strong suggests something I’ve been thinking about for years:

I’ve often proposed a low-cost chain of schools in which grades 3-8 consisted of nothing but reading and playing chess (or similar self-guided, cognitively rich activities that develop intellectual focus) — with no teaching of any subjects at all. It would cost almost nothing at all to supervise because the adults need to play no active role other than keep things quiet. I predict students in such a program would, after a year or two of updating their math and writing skills in grade 9, dramatically outperform most students from conventional educational programs. We are forcing students through expensive, boring, humiliating rituals for no reason at all.

The Blood Bag

May 25th, 2015

James Lafond recommends Mad Max: Fury Road as the ideal date movie for real men and their prospective sexual property, despite its weak ending:

The movie ends on a postmodern sentimental note that would have Ernst Jünger barfing in his popcorn bag. But this bullshit ending is only made possible by the truer story imbedded in the supporting cast.

He also pokes some fun at the manosphere.

(Hat tip to our Slovenian guest.)

A Sport Called Sparring

May 25th, 2015

In the 1800s boxing manuals were written and a sport called “sparring” was born:

This practice with gloves was the seed of modern boxing.

After the American Civil War gloves began to gradually come into competitive use primarily as a way to avoid legal prohibitions against prize-fighting. Up until the end of the era, in the early 1890s, the sport was still pretty much a gangland affair, even though it had generated the first sports superstar, John L. Sullivan.

By 1885 boxing contests were being fought according to the Queensbury Rules, which are the basis for, and were similar to, our current gloved boxing rules. Although these rules were originally written for matches between gloved ‘sparrers’ of the upper class, and not the actual prize-fighters, they were adapted for prizefighting to facilitate the mainstreaming of the sport of boxing. This development has a modern parallel in the recent efforts by Las Vegas casino interests to gain acceptance with the Nevada State Athletic Commission for MMA.

The events that bracket this period are the first heavyweight title bout under Queensberry Rules between John L. Sullivan and James J. Corbett on September 7th 1892, in New Orleans, and the passing of the Walker Law in New York State in 1920, which effectively legalized the rendering of a decision after a boxing match. The first two decades of the 20th Century in boxing is often referred to as the ‘No Decision Era’. Boxing was now out of the legal no-man’s land it had been in, and was poised to become a national sport.

There was a lot of technical evolution in this period, as fighters took two generations [I reckon a boxing generation as 12-15 years.] to finally adapt to the use of the padded glove.

Racial Identity in the Age of Affirmative Action

May 24th, 2015

A recent study explores racial identity in the age of affirmative action:

We find that after a state bans affirmative action, multiracial individuals who face an incentive to identify under affirmative action are about 30% less likely to identify with their minority group. In contrast, multiracial individuals who face a disincentive to identify under affirmative action are roughly 20% more likely to identify with their minority group once affirmative action policies are banned.

The Clinch

May 24th, 2015

The clinch wasn’t always a lull in the action of a boxing match:

When modern boxing fans view 100 year old film of old-time boxers they come away with the conclusion that these guys could not box well because so much clinching occurred and that their epic length fights were not that strenuous because they spent so much time “resting” in the clinch.

The fact is that clinching was often permitted because hitting in the clinch was on the menu of choices that the fighters had at the beginning of the fight. When the referee brought the fighters together before the bout in old-times it meant something. It was not just a ritual but often a negotiation. Up until 1900 [eight years into the Marquis of Queensberry gloved boxing era] hitting in the clinches—what today is called dirty boxing in MMA—was still often an agreed upon tactic.

Clinching was falling out of favor with observers though. Spectators wanted something more visually appealing, and a wider audience requires tactics that are more easily understood. By 1910 fighters could expect to be disqualified for hitting in the clinches, although it still happened a lot.

What did all of this clinching mean?

Fighting in the clinch is more anaerobic than boxing at jabbing range and is therefore more exhausting. Grappling in general is more strenuous than striking. Modern boxers generally do “rest” in the clinch because they are not permitted to do anything in the clinch and are expected to lay there until separated. Clinching is still the best defense against getting knocked out. Although it is generally not taught in the gym, it is learned there when a fighter finds himself in danger sparring.

The most notorious modern clinch fighter was Ali, who clinched a record number of times with Frazier in Manila. Ali used an overhook and a come-along. Old-time fighters were just one generation removed from bare-knuckle fighting, where hip throws and holding and hitting were acceptable tactics. They generally used an overhook sunk in above the elbow while they threw uppercuts, hooks and crosses with their free hand. This looks sloppy but is effective if it is trained for and executed properly.

You need really good hips to pull this off.

The fact is old-time clinch-boxers would have to be retrained to fight according to modern rules and would probably end up being disqualified today. This did happen. One only has to look at the many DQ losses on old-time records. Likewise, if you took a modern boxer back in time he would get mauled in the clinch and probably KO’d there too. Most modern fighters do not know how to clinch, and are generally incapable of breaking a clinch. This is why modern boxers are not able to compete in MMA until they are extensively retrained. The one prominent modern boxer who I believe would do well under old-time or bare-knuckle conditions is Bernard Hopkins. He actually trains and teaches the clinch, and employs such old-time tactics as punching the hip and thigh.

Old-time boxers often fought and trained with wrestlers. In fact, James Corbett wrestled for a half hour a day just to practice staying out of the clinch and escaping. Corbett hated fighting in the clinch but had to adapt and train. Sam Mcvey actually went to Japan and defeated a Jujitsu champion in an MMA bout. Granted the Jujitsu fighter was probably giving away 60 pounds. But none of our current heavyweight boxers would last more than a round with a good Brazilian jiu-jitsu welterweight in open competition today.

Always keep in mind that boxing as a sport has evolved away from boxing as an art and science for the purpose of being more entertaining. All of the old-time clinching might look sloppy but it was effective. Now, there are clinching countermeasures that do work, and permit a properly trained boxer to avoid and break clinches. Jack Blackburn was instrumental in teaching this style of boxing, with the result that the Black boxers under his direct and indirect influence such as Joe Louis and Ray Robinson became the best all around boxers that have ever practiced the art. It was not until aggressive officiating encouraged boxers to look to a third party to take care of the clinch in our own time that these skills finally eroded to the point that only 1 in 40 pro boxers were able to avoid the clinch of a less skilled opponent in a study of 106 cable TV bouts conducted in 1998.

Most boxing coaches spend the vast majority of their time preparing fighters for amateur competition, which has zero tolerance for clinching, often resulting in the referee being the busiest guy in the ring. The clinch is not taught as part of the fundamental skill set because it is a foul. Keep in mind that it is always, at any given time, to one fighter’s advantage to clinch. At that time, it is to the other fighter’s disadvantage to clinch.