July 4, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:06 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Possession lost on the World Cup stage as defences learn to adapt: Tactical postmortems must also factor in those things which cannot be planned for, as Spain and Germany can attest (Jonathan Wilson,  4 Jul 2018, The Guardian)

And, as so often, there is a danger when dealing with general trends in overlooking specifics. The reason for the early exits of Germany and Spain are manifold, and only partly related to tactics. Joachim Löw admitted his side had been arrogant and had perhaps not seen the warning signs. Perhaps he selected too many established names on reputation rather than recent form. The squad seems to have been riven by cliques.

Löw himself was perhaps found out: at the last World Cup he struggled to get the balance right between attack and defence and was bailed out by Miroslav Klose, who scored a vital goal against Ghana before offering a focal point to the forward line from the quarter-final on. Here, without Klose, or an in-form Thomas Müller, there was no edge to Germany's attack and so despite 65.3% possession over the group stage, their threat was limited. Combine that with their issues in checking opposing counterattacks - damningly highlighted in pre-tournament friendlies - and the only outcome can be disappointment.
It's natural, of course, that the longer a mode of play exists, the more strategies spring up to counter it. Xavi observed two years ago that Spain often struggled against a 3-5-2 (such as Chile deployed against them in 2014 and Italy in 2016) because it is difficult to press high against a team with five passing outlets at the back, particularly if they have two centre-forwards to occupy the central defenders. That was the route Russia's coach, Stanislav Cherchesov, took, and it worked - but Spain were also guilty of wastefulness in midfield in a way their champion sides were not.

No one is better on strategy and the history of strategy than Mr. Wilson, but a few American observations:

(1) When an opponent plays defensively and packs defenders into the box it tends to neutralize your advantage in skills.  at that point, if you don't have a striker or two up front who can head a ball in off a cross, you're always going to struggle to score.  You can temper this advantage if you have a midfielder who can score from range, but Spain never replaced Xavi Alonso.

(2) alternatively, you could choose to absorb some pressure yourself and then hit the other team on the break, with a more open field to play with. But, if your team is old, as both Spain and Germany are, you not only lose that second option--you just don't have enough pace for an effective counter-attack--but are going to have even more trouble getting anyone open in the attacking zone.

(3) Meanwhile, the ability to play that sort of quick counter depends on having a strong back four to cover if you lose the ball, measured in a very different way than soccer analysts think of it: not the four defenders but your goalie two central defenders and your holding midfielder.  Spain used to have Casillas, Puyol, Pique and Busquets in those spots, all of whom were great.  Neither Germany nor Spain is terribly good in those positions this year (though David DeGea should be). [by this measure alone, we'd expect Brazil to win and Uruguay to be dangerous.]

Combine it all and there's really no reason to expect an old, ball possession team with weak defense to do terribly well.

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 AM


The only question is whether the PSA is funded by the Watermelon Growers or the Fireworks Vendor Association...
Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


Happy 4th, everybody.  Seems a good day to ask what folks are enjoying reading, watching, listening to.

I have a (roughly) two hour dog walk every day, but dropped off the hounds and kept going so I could finish this fabulous podcast in three days:


American Fiasco (WNYC Radio)

Join host Roger Bennett of Men in Blazers for this story of the U.S. men's soccer team that swaggered onto the international stage and set out to win the 1998 World Cup in France. When they arrived, they faced only one serious opponent: themselves. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Freakonomics Radio, Death, Sex & Money, On the Media and many more.

It fairly cries out to be made into a movie or miniseries, a la Damned United.

Statcast Podcast:

Statcast™ is changing the way we watch baseball, and we're only beginning to figure out how it will revolutionize the game. Mike Petriello, Matt Meyers and special guests discuss what this groundbreaking technology is teaching us.  

Be sure to follow @Statcast on Twitter for the best daily video clips featuring this new technology!

Listen to or download individual episodes below, subscribe via iTunes or use your RSS reader so you never miss a single episode.

PitcherList Podcast

Having two Rotisserie teams, I listen to CBS Fantasy Baseball Today every day, but for pure baseball enjoyment, these are the two most enjoyable analytical casts. 


Chance the Rapper : Coloring Book (Kris Ex, MAY 17 2016, Pitchfork)

When Chicagoan Chance the Rapper delivered his verse on "Ultralight Beam," the opening song from Kanye West's The Life of Pablo, there was a lot going on--sly homage was being paid to West; rappers were being put on notice ("This is my part/Nobody else speak"); and, most importantly, Chance was encapsulating his past, asserting his present, and telegraphing his future. He was finally positioning himself as a rapper to be reckoned with from a mainstream podium, but he was also delving deep into Christian ideology, with allusions to Noah's Ark and Lot's wife, with his "foot on the Devil's neck 'til it drifted Pangaea."

That verse rolled out the red carpet for Kanye's long-awaited album, but it doubled as an announcement of Chance's new Coloring Book (then given the working title Chance 3), which may very well be the most eagerly-anticipated hip-hop project this year that doesn't come attached to an actual record label. West billed his album as "a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing on it," but The Life of Pablo wasn't that; it was a rap album with some gospel overtures. Coloring Book, however, fits the billing, packing in so much gospel verve that it sounds like Hezekiah Walker & the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir are going to drop into half the tracks and recite 1 Timothy 4:12 in chorale. Instead, we get Kirk Franklin promising to lead us into the Promised Land, alongside appearances by demonstrated materialistic heathens like 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, and Future--and the result is an uplifting mix that even an atheist can catch the Spirit to.

Francis and the Lights : Farewell, Starlite! (Cameron Cook, OCTOBER 6 2016, Pitchfork)

 The album's focus is, rightfully, "Friends," a collaboration with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Kanye West. It's a deeply affecting, mellow slice of alternative R&B, gliding along on a placid sea of finger snaps and interlocking vocal harmonies by all three artists, like some impossibly cool barbershop trio. When Starlite sings, "We could be friends/Just put your head on my shoulders," it's lusher than velvet. It sounds more like a lovesick supplication than a call for restraint. Francis and the Lights have been compared to Peter Gabriel before, but nowhere has this been more apparent as "May I Have This Dance," a song that truly could be added to a reissue of So without anyone batting an eyelid. Its subtle Afro-pop drumbeat and jubilant chorale of lyrics about reclaiming lost love are so evocative of mid-'80s art pop that it defiantly stands out as an example of the kind of diversity Farewell, Starlite! could desperately use more of.


Review: 'Bosch' and the Art of the Pure Police Procedural (Mike Hale, April 13, 2018, NY Times)

Developed for television by Eric Overmyer from novels by Michael Connelly, the show accommodates the modern serial drama's requirements for psychology and back story. Bosch's daughter and ex-wife are significant characters, and the unsolved murder of his mother (with its echoes of the Black Dahlia case) continues to haunt him in Season 4. (A fifth season has already been ordered.)

But the soul of the series is procedural crime-solving, and that's more than ever the case in the new season, which focuses on the murder of an African-American lawyer who was about to go to court with a brutality case against the Los Angeles Police Department. [...]

Anchoring it all is the deliberate, heavy quietude of Titus Welliver's performance as Bosch, communicating untold skepticism and disdain through an arched eyebrow or a downturned lip. Mr. Welliver can suggest an entire personality in the way he stares at a whiteboard or silently chooses which chair to sit in, and the show has matched him with other nonhistrionic actors like Jamie Hector (as his partner), Sarah Clarke (his former wife) and Madison Lintz (his daughter).

The unhurried pace of "Bosch" can sometimes slow to a crawl, the writing can be workmanlike and the secondary story lines involving Bosch's family or Los Angeles politics can be thin. But when it errs, it errs on the side of literalness rather than falseness, of plainness rather than pretension. The show doesn't require patience so much as relaxation. Surrender to its hard-boiled charms, and it will treat you right.

Those requirements do make the plots way too busy, combining as many as three of the novels into one series, but we've loved Harry for a quarter century now and it's nice to see someone make good use of many of the actors from The Wire. One especially nice tough in the latest cycle is the use of a tunnel setting that the novels' Harry would love.


The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney  

Found the book at the Thrift Store the other day, but saw his documentary years ago and have long been a member of his Cloud Appreciation Society

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

It's always been a favorite, but I'm rereading after listening to an interview with a new translator on NR's great Books podcast.

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


Our wonderful, frustrating, dynamic, messy American republic (Edward Morrissey, July 4, 2018, The Week)

[F]ocusing on America's bad outcomes misses the point. A nation that governs itself owns its own mistakes -- and has the ability to rectify them. We create the laws under which we are governed, and when we don't like the outcomes, our elected officials have the ability to correct them. Our Constitution has been amended 18 times since its initial ratification to deal with the worst of the outcomes, including slavery, and even once to correct an earlier amendment prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol.

Our Independence Day gave us the ability to set our own course, for better or worse. No doubt the worse outcomes of those decisions, and the slow process of correcting them, made our forefathers despair at times, too. The long string of injustices seen in our history belong to the people who governed at that time and plagued the people they served, but we remember them now to remind us of the responsibility we have to govern ourselves wisely and judiciously in the future. The successes and failures of self-governance provide the perspective necessary to keep a sharp check on the use of power, lest we create the disconnect that created the need for the Declaration of Independence in the first place. Sundering governance from accountability is the surest and the shortest way to arrive at such a crisis.

Freedom and self-governance may not be pretty, but it is the antidote for the ills of every other form of government. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


Plea Deal For Former Congressional IT Staffer Debunks Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories (SCOTT NEUMAN, 7/04/18, NPR)

"The Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems," prosecutors noted in the plea agreement signed Tuesday.

"Particularly, the Government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members' offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information," it said.

The plea deal said the government had conducted "a thorough investigation of those allegations. Including interviewing approximately 40 witnesses."

The investigation was led by Trump-nominated U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, according to the Post.

Awan's attorney said in a statement that his client had been the target of "political persecution."

"There has never been any missing server, smashed hard drives, blackmailed members of Congress, or breach of classified information," he said in the statement, according to the Post. "Yet Fox News and its media children continued to peddle a story in perfect coordination with House Republicans and the President."

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM