That Was Sweet

Ten years ago this month Mércia and I took a three week vacation in Spain and it remains probably the best trip we’ve taken together, but one of the highlights for me will always be seeing a game between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at the Nou Camp Stadium. Full disclosure: I’ve been a dedicated fan for years.

Yesterday’s 5-0 absolute pasting of Real Madrid by Barcelona was exceptionally sweet. This may be the single biggest rivalry in club football in the world; arguably bigger than Celtics/Rangers and pretty much any regional or city derby match up.

What you saw was one team that communicated well and whose players had an almost telepathic read of the game. Leo Messi’s pass to David Villa for the fourth goal showed how thoroughly gifted he is as a player. While he didn’t score a goal, Messi’s skill as a playmaker merely underscores his versatility, his ability to read the game and adapt. In other words, to play as a member of a team and not a star.

I also believe it showed Pep Guardiola’s skill as a coach. He has crafted the play carefully, his style meshes well with the talent on the team. It’s truly impressive how quickly David Villa has fit in.

As for Real Madrid, there is too much talent on the team to ignore, although frankly, I’ve never really understood why Sérgio Ramos is taken so seriously. For their own good, it’s time for them to focus on fundamentals and team play. They looked completely disorganized, especially in the second half.

Blog vs Forum

So the main complaint given in DougJ’s circle-jerk post (wherein the advent of more dispute on the front page of this blog has somehow been labeled as an ‘Atlantic style circle-jerk’) is that too much of the argument is occurring in posts rather than comments. I guess I’m confused.  Why is one more circle-jerkish than the other? And is this a blog or a forum? Some people come here to comment. Others come to read posts and don’t comment. Why should the commenters get to decide how the arguments take place? This smacks of readership capture. I say, if a blogger wants to argue in post-format vs comment-format, well that’s good for the thousands of non-commenting readers who come here. If not, hooray for the commenters. And why should it really matter? This seems like a complaint very unique to Balloon Juice.

But wait til 2012

Dave Weigel has a piece up about how there won’t be much Republican infighting in 2011. I’m sure he’s right. Generally, Republicans don’t argue with each other much during the legislative season because they aren’t interested in governing, they just don’t care enough to argue about the boring, concrete things that go into making laws. If things become sufficiently symbolic — flag burning, keeping brown people out, the Dubai ports deal (not that the reaction there was totally irrational), TWOC — they’ll fight to the death, but they’re not going to battle with each other over whether the CBO estimate for that is $100 billion more than the CBO estimate for this.

But when the presidential campaign season starts, they’ll go for each other’s throats. I remember reading in 2008, on Ben Smith’s blog, I can’t find the link, that he was astounded by Republican presidential candidates routinely crotch-kicking each other in ways Democrats never did (for better or worse). The details are a bit Inside Baseball — I remember the oppo report on Giuliani judicial appointments and lots of nasty stuff directed at Romney — but ask yourself if you’ve ever seen Democrats do anything like the push polling Bush did about John McCain’s “black baby”.

The Republican party of today is built on winning elections by fighting hard over imaginary issues. I don’t think there’s quite as simple an answer for what the Democratic party is built on but there is more interest in bloodsport over policy details and less on bloodsport during elections.

Yes, But WHAT Is Our Children Learning?

As part of a semi-off-topic discussion of the current unemployment problem on an earlier thread, one commentor brought up an issue I have been wondering about:

1) All of those eager beaver foreign engineering students? Dollar to a doughnut, most of those students have their education being paid for by their governments. This is more than likely not the case for many of the supposedly “lazy” American potential engineering students. Remember these are people who CAN do the math. Incurring a disabling level of indebtedness to have only SOME chance of working in their field while likely, as a consequence, being forced to delay starting up households and families because of that privately-held indebtedness serves as a powerful disincentive to embark upon that career.
2) Coupling this with the easy availability of foreign H-1B engineers in THIS country, it looks as if going into engineering could easily be seen as a sucker’s game. Not only do you go deeply in the hole to get qualified, but when you emerge saddled with debt, the CORPORATE LOBBYISTS have guaranteed that you will have to compete with what are essentially modestly-paid indentured servants for a job.
3) One might hope that universities would make more of an effort to recruit more American students for the engineering department, but if the cost of doing this is to pony up ever-scarce scholarship monies THEMSELVES, as opposed to merely holding out their hands to receive scholarship monies supplied to their foreign students by THEIR GOVERNMENTS, well, the answer is right in front of your face.
And the trajectory for a declining standard of education in productive occupations for American citizens is ever more firmly entrenched.

Y’see, the “Most Popular” article on Slate for most of the long weekend was an article by Chad Harbach, “MFA vs. NYC“, about the immediate future prospects for professional fiction-writers in America. I do not think the article spoke well for whichever advanced degree program credentialed Mr. Harbach, because it was rambling, repeatative, and not very well written. But presumably the fact that it served as high-value link-bait for the Slate audience (upper-middle-class meritocrats with a bias for faith-based bipartisanship?) indicates something about the current Coventional Education Wisdom, which is why I keep coming back to Harbach’s casual announcement of certain key numbers…

MFA programs themselves are so lax and laissez-faire as to have a shockingly small impact on students’ work—especially shocking if you’re the student and paying $80,000 for the privilege. Staffed by writer-professors preoccupied with their own work or their failure to produce any; freed from pedagogical urgency by the tenuousness of the link between fiction writing and employment; and populated by ever younger, often immediately postcollegiate students, MFA programs today serve less as hotbeds of fierce stylistic inculcation, or finishing schools for almost-ready writers (in the way of, say, Iowa in the ’70s), and more as an ingenious partial solution to an eminent American problem: how to extend our already protracted adolescence past 22 and toward 30, in order to cope with an oversupplied labor market…
There were 79 degree-granting programs in creative writing in 1975; today, there are 854! This explosion has created a huge source of financial support for working writers, not just in the form of lecture fees, adjunctships, and temporary appointments—though these abound—but honest-to-goodness jobs: decently paid, relatively secure compared to other industries, and often even tenured. It would be fascinating to know the numbers—what percentage of the total income of American fiction writers comes from the university, and what percentage from publishing contracts—but it’s safe to say that the university now rivals, if it hasn’t surpassed, New York as the economic center of the literary fiction world. This situation—of two complementary economic systems of roughly matched strength—is a new one for American fiction. As the mass readership of literary fiction has peaked and subsided, and the march of technology sends the New York publishing world into spasms of perpetual anxiety, if not its much-advertised death throes, the MFA program has picked up the financial slack and then some, offering steady payment to more fiction writers than, perhaps, have ever been paid before.

I suppose it makes James Frey’s scam a little more explicable, but still. Whatever you think about the war of market-based versus degree-certified fictioneers (which is, of course, just a new subset of the ‘genre hacks vs. lit’ry aesthetes’ that’s been going on since at least Dickens, if not Jane Austen), the raw data raises a whole rat’s nest of questions…
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Open Thread- WoW Talk That Will Confuse Many of You

Just got done transferring my mage to join the Daily Kos players. Should be fun.

Now if we could get TNC over there…

Jack D. Ripper Would Have Seen This Coming


Interpol has issued an international warrant at the request of a Swedish court for the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in connection with alleged sex crimes.

The Stockholm Criminal Court last week issued an international arrest warrant for Assange on probable cause, saying he is suspected of rape, sexual molestation and illegal use of force. Sweden asked Interpol to post a “Red Notice” after a judge approved a motion to bring him into custody.

You know what? Maybe he is a pervert and a rapist. But you don’t exactly have to be Alex Jones or Paul Watson or drinking grain and rain water to think this is a little sketchy. Especially the way it just sort of appeared after the military document dump, and now after the latest dump, the arrest warrant is issued. It is just getting too convenient (Ritter) that every time someone throws a fly in the ointment, this kind of thing happens. Maybe there is something in the personality type and it is all just a big coincidence. Or maybe not.

The Return Of Not Cynical Enough

For my tastes, Tbogg doesn’t quite get across here what it feels like to be a liberal Democrat in the age of Obama. This version hits a bit closer to the mark.

“Hey, John. I noticed that you got a new lawnmower but you didn’t toss the old one. I could use it if it’s just taking up space in your garage. If you want I can pay something for it.”

“I don’t really want to sell it, Barack, but I might let it go for $50 if you give me some money to think about it. Say, five bucks.”

“Sure! Here’s eight. Can I give you fifty bucks now?”

“Mmmm, no. I might sell it for eighty, but you have to give me another eight first.”

“Okay! How about now?”


“Maybe we got off on the wrong foot. Here’s ten bucks.”

“Hmm. No.”


“Hey! Smith! You see this guy threaten me? Get off my lawn, you sumbitch! I’m getting my gun.”