Social and financial forces silently war in the American heartland in Colson Whitehead’s novel ’Apex Hides the Hurt’

October 14, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 14, 2017

Like many places, the Midwestern town at the center of Colson Whitehead’s 2006 novel Apex Hides the Hurt is torn by battling crosscurrents. In Winthrop, one especially acute conflict pits a nostalgic longing for the past against an eagerness to embrace change — the kind of conflict, one outsider will discover, that’s hard to settle in a town still rent by deep, unspoken feelings about race, history and money.

The seemingly placid town of Winthrop is ruled by a congenial three-person council that’s normally very good at finding consensus. The group consists of Albie Winthrop, a batty divorce whose forefather manufactured and sold barbed wire to customers far and wide; Regina Goode, a grounded divorcee of decidedly more modest means, but whose roots run at least as deep as Winthrop’s; and Lucky Aberdeen, a wildly successful local software entrepreneur whose vision for the future of the town will bring as much change as that of Albie’s forefather did back in the late 1800s.

The specific issue that summons the New Yorker who is the focus of Whitehead’s novel is nomenclature. Aberdeen wants to change the town’s name to New Prospera. Goode wants to change it back to Freedom, which is what the place was originally called by her ancestors, former slaves fleeing the ashes of the Confederacy. Winthrop, of course, is perfectly content with the name that the town has had ever since it was officially incorporated by an alliance among his and Goode’s progenitors.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 4-2 Stanford

October 13, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 13, 2017

There was no real excitement concerning my game-watching circumstances on Saturday evening. I played some pinball and then walked over to my usual spot, where the “drama” consisted of trying to find the Stanford-Utah football broadcast because it had been shunted from Fox Sports 1 to Fox Business News due to the Kansas State–Texas game running long.

One other “point of interest” — this was the first Pac-12 meeting between the Stanford and Utah football teams that I’d seen on television. (Or indeed, in any live or semi-live form.)

• The Bad 

Last week’s The Bad took Stanford to task for its third-down conversion rates, both on offense and defense. I’m happy to report that the defense — despite playing a rather nerve-wracking bend-and-almost-break style at Utah on Saturday evening — stepped up, allowing the Utes to renew the downs just six times in 14 chances. The offense, alas, was simply woeful, as they refreshed the downs on only four of 13 opportunities.

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Determined Cardinal does just enough to prevail in a 23-20 road win over Utah

October 11, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 11, 2017

All-world runner Bryce Love found just enough space against a smothering Utah defense to secure a key 23-20 road win for the Stanford football team on Saturday evening in Salt Lake City. The Cardinal moved to 4-2 and 3-1 in the Pac-12 while handing Utah (4-1, 1-1) its first loss.

The Cardinal struck first on a seven-play, 71-yard opening possession highlighted by a 54-yard connection from starting quarterback Keller Chryst to sophomore tight end Kaden Smith. When the series stalled at the Utah 4-yard line, Jet Toner came on to make a 21-yard field goal.

After an exchange of punts, the hosts took advantage of great starting field position — the 50-yard line — to mount a five-play drive. Zack Moss (15 carries, 79 yards) scored from the 2-yard line to put the Utes ahead, 7-3.

After a sequence of punts and unsuccessful field goal attempts — Toner from 27 yards out for Stanford, Matt Gay from 50 for Utah — the Cardinal offense began to find a bit of a rhythm.

The Cardinal’s first series of the second period started with Love running twice, first for a gain of two yards and then for a two-yard loss. This was indicative of the challenge Love faced, as the Utes’ frequently stacked the box and swamped Stanford’s stellar junior tailback. But then backup passer K.J. Costello averted a punt by throwing to Trenton Irwin for 25 yards on third and 10.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 3-2 Stanford

October 6, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 6, 2017

Well, I’m still a bit under the weather. One of my fellow Stanford/Durham tweeple was kind enough to host me at his house to watch the Arizona State football team take on the Cardinal this past Saturday, a game that (how strange!) started while the sun was still shining on the East Coast.

• The Bad 

Stanford played well overall in their 34-24 victory over the Sun Devils, but there was certainly room for improvement. In fact, one statistic in particular jumped out for both the Cardinal offense and defense — third-down conversion rates.

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Love wins the day over visiting Arizona State with breathtaking 301-yard performance

October 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 5, 2017

Tailback Bryce Love ran for three touchdowns and an astounding 301 yards and strong safety Justin Reid recorded a pair of interceptions to power Stanford’s football team to a 34-24 home victory over Arizona State on Saturday afternoon.

The game threatened to be a blowout at times, but the home team was never able to push its lead past 17 points thanks to breakdowns on both sides of the ball. Stanford moved to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12, while ASU dropped to 2-3 (1-1).

Love broke Christian McCaffery’s school record of 284 single-game rushing yards, set in November against Cal, and now leads the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with 1,088 rushing yards on 98 carries. (This season’s No. 2 player, Rashaad Penny of San Diego State, has 265 fewer yards on 18 more runs.) Reid, meanwhile, is nicely positioned to challenge Phil Moffatt’s school record of nine interceptions in a single season, set back in 1930.

The victory was K.J. Costello’s first as a starter, which he got in lieu of the injured Keller Chryst and ahead of fifth-year senior Ryan Burns. The sophomore was efficient but not flashy, completing 15 of 24 pass attempts for 173 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

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Third-string quarterback jump-starts Cardinal offense in an unexpected walloping of UCLA

October 2, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.woripress.com
Oct. 2, 2017

Author’s note: This post was delayed because I was significantly slowed down by a cold the previous week. More (and arguably more timely) stuff to come shortly! MEM

The Stanford football team’s first possessions against UCLA on Sept. 23 were hardly promising. On the first drive of the game, quarterback Keller Chryst helped the squad gain 35 yards and score a field goal. But on the offense’s next play from scrimmage, a five-yard bootleg, Chryst sustained a hard hit to the head; the starter left the game and did not return. Fifth-year senior Ryan Burns came in under center, after which Stanford gained 18 yards and punted.

Sophomore K.J. Costello then took over, but his initial drive was a three-and-out. The squad settled for a field goal on the second drive Costello led, even though it had begun at the UCLA 18-yard line after third-year strong safety Justin Reid intercepted Bruins passer Josh Rosen. Costello and Burns then combined on the Cardinal’s next drive, with the team trailing 13-6, but this too was a three-and-out.

Bruins fans, who haven’t seen their football squad beat Stanford since 2008, likely smelled blood in the water at this point. The scent surely intensified when, three plays into the UCLA possession, Rosen threw to Caleb Wilson for 31 yards, setting up goal to go from the Cardinal 10-yard line.

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‘Ingrid Goes West’ takes a critical look at self-reinvention, stalking and social media

September 23, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 23, 2017

Ingrid Thorburn, the main character in the new movie Ingrid Goes West, would really really like to be your friend — if, that is, you’re one of those young women who projects a kind of effortless perfection on social media.

Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza, probably best known from a recurring role on the sitcom Parks and Recreation) can be an excellent friend. She’ll like all your posts on Facebook or Instagram, and she can engage in the kind of amusing digital banter that sometimes makes social networking such an entertaining diversion. She’ll even move halfway across the country, rent a room in your neighborhood, buy the kind of clothing you wear, patronize your favorite restaurant, get her hair styled just like yours and kidnap your dog just so she can insinuate her way into your life.

There’s a catch, of course. (There’s always a catch, isn’t there?) Ingrid would prefer that your friendship be kind of an exclusive thing. While she might be willing to share your affections with a husband, she’s not particularly down to be BFFs with the kind of woman who wastes time or attention on a fiancé or a brother or anyone else who enters your orbit.

On second thought, maybe Ingrid isn’t such a good friend to have. But once you’ve made her acquaintance, you’ll find it’s not that easy to break out of her grasp…

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 1-2 Stanford

September 20, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 20, 2017

With Stanford kicking off at 10:30 Saturday evening against San Diego State, I was flying solo for my football-watching this past weekend. I stopped by a downtown Durham barcade, where I chatted and played pinball with my pal D— and his girlfriend; I also set a high score on Star Trek: The Next Generation (836 million and change, good enough for No. 2 on the machine’s “honor roll”).

Then I walked over to Tobacco Road. At that hour, the joint was much less crowded than it had been the prior week at 8:30 p.m. A bartender recognized me and asked which channel the game I wanted to see was on; I told him and it was put up on a monitor at my end of the bar almost immediately.

• The Bad 

Stanford got off to a slow start offensively, gaining just 15 yards on its first 11 plays from the line of scrimmage. Three explosive Bryce Love runs — touchdowns of 51 and 53 yards and a 47-yard carry in the third quarter — accounted for nearly 60 percent of the Cardinal’s 254 yards of total offense.

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Stanford falls to 1-2 after offense sputters against San Diego State

September 19, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 19, 2017

Author’s note: The day after this post was published, I adjusted some erroneous references to statistics about Stanford’s total offense. The team gained 254 yards, not 238. MEM

A feeble offensive performance doomed the Stanford football team to a 20-17 loss at San Diego State on Saturday evening.

The Cardinal dropped to 1-2 by generating just 254 238 yards of offense, including an abysmal 64 yards passing, and converting only three of 11 third-down tries. Starting quarterback Keller Chryst completed only eight of 19 attempts for 56 yards and coughed up the ball on two interceptions and a fumble. To be fair, his offensive line surrendered four sacks, including a blind-side hit that led to his losing the ball.

Only two offensive players for the Cardinal turned in worthwhile efforts against the Aztecs, who moved to 3-0 after beating Arizona State and Stanford in consecutive weeks. Junior wideout Trenton Irwin had six receptions for 49 yards, including 11- and 17-yard gains. Junior tailback Bryce Love was his usual explosive self, accumulating 184 rushing yards on 13 carries.

Unfortunately, the Cardinal offense was all or nothing. Love accounted for 150 yards and two touchdowns on three of his carries. Aside from that, Chryst and his compatriots generated a paltry 104 88 yards on 39 snaps, an average of less than 2.7 2.3 yards per play. That production wouldn’t suffice against a slate of Mountain West opponents, let alone the run of eight Pac-12 foes and Notre Dame that Stanford will face starting this weekend.

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Cait Murphy’s ‘History of American Sports in 100 Objects’ admirably fulfills its mission

September 14, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 14, 2017

Cait Murphy’s 2016 survey, A History of American Sports in 100 Objects, is a lively tour of — well, of exactly what the title represents.

Murphy begins with a roughly 900-year-old red stone statue standing 9 inches in height, one of the few remaining relics of the Native American sport known as chunkey. The pastime, popular throughout much of North America, was founded in the community of Cahokia, which was once the continent’s largest city north of Mexico. A number of the other objects the author selects are similarly obscure, such as the “lawn bowle” — an oak bowling ball the size of a grapefruit — that once belonged to a 17th-century Puritan resident of Boston, or the riding boots of Tad Lucas, a female rodeo star who earned thousands of dollars during the Great Depression.

But many of the objects Murphy highlights are more familiar, or at least invoke recognizable names. The book’s early pages also include such items as Abraham Lincoln’s handball; one of the dumbbells that pugilist John L. Sullivan used to train before the last bare-knuckles heavyweight title fight, held in rural Richburg, Miss., in July 1889; and James Naismith’s original rules of basketball, written at a YMCA school in Springfield, Mass., and now housed at the University of Kansas, where the inventor of basketball taught physical education and (of course) founded and coached a hoops squad.

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