Archive for October, 2015

The persistence of memory: A tribute to two obsolete sports radio jingles

October 31, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 31, 2015

As I demonstrated in my previous posts, about the New York television and radio landscape of years past, I remember plenty of things that are no longer. (Perhaps this is something fundamental about human existence: We remember things that are no longer and dream about things that never have been.)

All of which is to set up two very short anecdotes about radio jingles and the weird persistence of memory.

As most Americans know, the New York Mets are playing in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, with the latter squad leading two games to one in the best-of-seven competition. The Mets, who last appeared in the Series in 2000 (a loss to the Yankees, for whom I traditionally root), have not won a Major League Baseball championship since their previous Series appearance, in 1986.

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The persistence of memory: New York radio and New York sportscasting

October 28, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 28, 2015

Earlier today, I wrote about the greater New York City metropolitan-area television scene of my youth, which was dominated by New York City. Radio, as I mentioned, was much the same.

I don’t know the channels of various television stations in North Carolina because I have essentially never had a working television in my house during the nearly dozen years that I’ve lived in the state.

I have, however, had a working radio in my home and my car for all of that time, and I’m somewhat familiar with the radio scene down there. I definitely know the frequencies of my favorite Old North State stations, beginning with WUNC North Carolina Public Radio, which is located at 91.5 FM on the radio dial. (Dial — do radios even have those any more?)

But this post isn’t about that. It’s about the New York radio scene.

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The persistence of memory: New York television circa 1980

October 28, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 28, 2015

The other day, I was at a restaurant in North Carolina and I asked for the channel to be switched to one of the major broadcast networks — ABC, Fox, something like that.

When the bartender asked me what channel that was, I grimaced. Then I awkwardly explained that, although I’ve lived in North Carolina for nearly a dozen years, I’ve never really had a working television in any of my homes during that time, so I hadn’t the foggiest idea what the channel number was.

I grew up outside of New York City, in an area where the broadcast media was dominated by New York TV and radio. This was true, to a lesser extent, for daily newspapers — The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal and their trashier tabloid competitors, the New York Daily News and the New York Post, were sold alongside the local paper in pharmacies and grocery stores and everywhere else I can remember papers being sold.

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Stanford sleds past Washington Huskies with uncharacteristically modest 31-14 victory

October 27, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 27, 2015

After a team has scored 40 or more points in four consecutive games and run for at least 312 yards in three straight games, it’s easy to look at Stanford’s 17-point victory last Saturday night and dismiss it as mundane.

Yes, the Cardinal came out on top, but the 31-14 win over the Washington Huskies, and the Cardinal’s 188 rushing yards, seemed just sort of…ho-hum. Quarterback Kevin Hogan had a fine outing, with 290 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but his completion rate — 70.8 percent on 17 of 24 throws — seemed, well, ordinary compared to his performance against Arizona on Oct. 3 (17-19 for 89.47 percent).

The offense converted 6 of 14 third-down tries, which was nice, but hardly as stellar as the 8 of 12 conversions the team managed on the road against USC. On the opposite side of the coin, the Cardinal defense only let the Huskies convert 4 of 11 third-down tries — nice, but not quite as good as the 4-13 suffocation that the unit imposed on Central Florida back in September.

Really, there were only a handful of aspects of the game that surpassed the quotidian. One of those was time of possession, in which Stanford amassed an astonishing total: 40 minutes and 5 seconds, slightly more than twice the duration that the Huskies had the ball (19 minutes, 55 seconds).

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What the likely official (non)response to Carolina Rising’s dubious activity says about accountability in politics

October 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 22, 2015

I wanted to revisit Robert Maguire’s investigation into Carolina Rising, which I mentioned earlier today in Recent Readings. The group is ostensibly a 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofit, but Maguire, writing for the Center for Responsive Politics, raises questions about whether it engaged in illegal campaign activity. Most of the organization’s $4.8 million was spent on advertisements in support of Thom Tillis, then the speaker of the state House of Representatives and now North Carolina’s junior U.S. senator.

Carolina Rising was founded by Dallas Woodhouse, a former head of the state chapter of the Koch brothers–funded Americans for Prosperity who was recently chosen to head the North Carolina Republican Party. (Woodhouse’s twin brother, Brad, is a prominent liberal; last year, their mom called C-SPAN during a segment featuring both siblings to say that she hoped they’d be able to abstain from political bickering over Christmas.)

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Recent Readings for Oct. 22, 2015

October 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 22, 2015

Being a fool for love turned this woman into a criminal. Brendan Koerner has a harrowing profile of Audrey Elrod, a Southern divorcée whose desire for affection helped her fall prey to an online racket run by Nigerian con artists. Unfortunately, while Elrod’s case may be unusual in the degree to which she fell prey to romantic delusions, it is by no means unique:

[T]he romance-scam industry is flourishing as people become more accustomed to finding soul mates online. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, American victims of online romance scams lost more than $87 million in 2014, compared with just $50 million in 2011. In the UK, a 2012 study by researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Westminster estimated that 230,000 Britons had already been duped by Internet swindlers whose promises of love inevitably segue into demands for cash.

Koerner concludes his article on an absolutely heartbreaking note.

• More information doesn’t always lead to better choices. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan summarizes the findings of a new psychological study published by Nature: Climate Change which indicates that learning that natural disasters have struck a particular community “increased participants’ appetite for risk,” in the study’s words. As Campbell-Dollagahn writes,

Plenty of people have expressed consternation about why the last few years’ widely-publicized fires, floods, hurricanes, and other weather events haven’t scared more people. But it seems that … the horror of the first-person accounts, photo essays, and other reporting about these disasters have an unexpected effect: They subtly reinforce the idea that “most of the time,” we’re safe.

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Will daily fantasy sports become the type of sports gambling that sports leagues, the government and the public can learn to love?

October 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 21, 2015

Earlier today, I wrote about the obstacles that daily fantasy sports websites such as FanDuel and DraftKings have run into recently. Now I want to consider what might happen going forward.

I agree with Barry Petchesky’s conjecture that short-term greed could lead to a crackdown on daily fantasy sports. As he wrote earlier this month:

Daily fantasy, for all its flaws, could [have been] the wedge that facilitates real gambling with good laws.

That seems unthinkable now, though, because that would require running a long game, and there’s too much money in play here for anyone to think long-term. The daily fantasy bubble feels like nothing so much as your bog-standard VC scam. The companies’ valuations have been pumped up to irrational levels from a rush of outside capital—each is valued at more than a billion dollars, according to the latest rounds of fundraising—and some people are going to become very, very wealthy when they cash out. (DraftKings cofounder and CEO Jason Robins argued strongly yesterday that the industry should not be regulated.) The growth is unsustainable, and whether the bubble pops from a federal probe or death-by-a-thousand-legislations or a loss in public confidence caused by reports like this week’s, that won’t trouble the people who got out in time.

I’m not quite as sanguine as Petchesky that legalizing and heavily regulating all sports betting is a wise idea. One of the reasons why it’s illegal to pace wagers on the outcomes of sporting events in many places is that heavy betting gives people incentive to try to influence outcomes by unsavory means.

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Daily fantasy sports websites face an uphill battle when it comes to winning over regulators and consistently making money

October 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 21, 2015

FanDuel and DraftKings are the two most popular daily fantasy sports websites; they’re also the sponsors of an immense, seemingly inescapable advertising blitz that has been inundated consumers of American media ever since the late summer. (CNN Money reported that the two companies spent more money on TV ads than the entire beer industry over the four-week period that began on Aug. 14.)

But these businesses have been going through a rocky patch ever since revelations surfaced that their workers have access to vital aggregate data about player patterns and were allowed to participate in competitions on rival sites — although not their employers’. Both companies recently changed their policies and have now banned employees from entering contests on any daily fantasy sports websites, albeit reluctantly. As The New York Times reported in September:

[A] DraftKings founder, Paul Liberman, said barring employees from playing could make it difficult to retain talent.

“We have some people who make significantly more money off of our competitors’ sites than they do working for DraftKings,” he said.

Surely it’s coincidence that DraftKings workers who might have access to privileged insider information about betting patterns on DraftKings were able to win millions of dollars on FanDuel… or maybe it isn’t?

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Two stories about two family dogs: A blog post featuring two amusing verbal exchanges

October 18, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 18, 2015

I recently had an impromptu visit with my Parental Unit, over the course of which I was told a pair of stories about the family dogs.

I know two dogs that I would call family dogs. (In a few weeks, I’ll get to meet a third such dog, who joined my sibling’s family this year.) The first of these canines was Sunshine, a sweet mutt with a lovely brindle coat whom my Parental Unit adopted as a young pup.

Sunshine the family dog, Aug. 9, 2009.

Sunshine the family dog rests near the foot of her human parent in a home office on Aug. 9, 2009.

Sunshine used to be a tiny creature; she was also a timid thing, at least during her puppyhood. She would frequently crawl beneath the couch in my parent’s family room and hang out.

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No upset Bruin: Stanford dismantles UCLA, 56-35, on national television

October 17, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 17, 2015

“I want to just run a big picture of Christian McCaffrey instead of a recap tomorrow,” Do-Hyoung Park, a Stanford student and sportswriter, tweeted late in the third quarter of the Cardinal football team’s 56-20 demolition of the visiting UCLA Bruins.

And why not? The super sophomore was only his regular extraordinary self during Thursday night’s game, which was broadcast to a national audience by ESPN. His 25 rushes went for a school-record 243 yards, easily cruising past the mark of 223 yards that Toby Gerhart set on 38 carries against Oregon in 2009. McCaffrey also tied a school record with four touchdowns, which had been done eight times previously in Stanford history. (The feat has now been accomplished on five occasions since Jim Harbaugh became Stanford’s head coach in 2007.)

McCaffrey’s 96-yard kickoff return set up the first of Kevin Hogan’s three touchdown passes, giving the Cardinal an early 14-3 lead on the Bruins. Add in a four-yard catch and a second kickoff return, this one for 26 yards, and all this spectacular athlete did was run up 369 all-purpose yards, the highest single-game total by any college player so far this year. His per-game average of 253 all-phases yards surpasses that of the runner-up, San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, by 19 yards.

Incidentally, McCaffrey has now rushed for at least 100 yards in the past four games. Not so incidentally, the Cardinal has rushed for 300 or more yards in the past four games and scored at least 40 points during each of those outings.

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On tax expenditures: Some additional details and a renewed caveat

October 16, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 16, 2015

Author’s note: Things have been a bit disjointed this week — apologies for my erratic posting! MEM

I wanted to follow up on last week’s post about tax deductions with some additional information on the subject.

What is a tax deduction? Actually, the correct term for the concept I discussed in the previous post is tax expenditure, which can take multiple forms. Expenditures encompass deductions, exclusions, and tax credits, which can be either refundable or non-refundable. The Tax Policy Center, a group created by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, has more information in this 2009 briefing.

The Government Accountability Office lists six different types of tax expenditures: exclusions, exemptions, deductions, credits, preferential tax rates and deferrals. (See figure 4 at the bottom of this page.)

• How much do tax expenditures cost the government on an annual basis? The numbers vary from year to year, but in 2014, all tax expenditures cost the U.S. government an estimated $1.4 trillion, according to a 2014 post from the Bipartisan Policy Center which drew on congressional sources.

• How does that compare with other major items in the federal budget? In 2014, according to the Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s $1.4 trillion in tax expenditures was about the same as the overall amount of federal discretionary spending. Mandatory spending is significantly larger than either category — more than $2 trillion in 2014 — and has been for the past quarter-century. (See figure 2 on the previously cited G.A.O. page.)

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Saturday morning: Some anecdotes

October 11, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 11, 2015

Early on Saturday morning, around 1:45, I was finishing up a blog post and was playing a game on my favorite Internet Scrabble app when I heard a series of short, staccato sounds: pop pop pop pop pop pop pop.

I frowned to myself. Were those fireworks? It seemed unlikely; the sounds had been too uniform, too regularly spaced. So, I asked myself, should I call the police?

I sighed and continued my game. Then I reached for my phone, except it wasn’t there — it was charging in the bedroom. I set my computer aside for a moment, grabbed the handset, sat back down with my laptop and scrolled through my contacts. I dialed the Durham police department and pressed 1 to connect to the non-emergency dispatcher. I gave my address and explained why I’d called. The operator asked where the noises had seemed to come from; I mumbled that they might have originated on Guess Road somewhere north-northwest of my location.

She asked what kind of gun I’d heard; I told her I had no idea. She asked if I’d seen or heard anything else; I hadn’t, and I told her so. When she asked if I wanted to speak with a police office, I said that I did only if one wanted to speak with me. The operator instructed me not to leave my house or put myself in danger; she also told me to call back if I heard anything further.

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Tax deductions and magical thinking: When smart policy makes for unpopular politics

October 10, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 10, 2015

Republican tax plans all seem to have something in common — something besides lowering the top individual and corporate income-tax rates, that is. See if you can spot it.

Real estate mogul and reality TV host Donald Trump’s tax plan aims to lower taxes and to simplify the tax code. Trump’s proposal claims that its “tax cuts are fully paid for by:”

1. Reducing or eliminating most deductions and loopholes available to the very rich.…

3. Reducing or eliminating corporate loopholes that cater to special interests, as well as deductions made unnecessary or redundant by the new lower tax rate on corporations and business income…

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s tax proposal would:

• Simplify the tax code for all Americans to lessen the power of the IRS and increase both prosperity and fairness.

• Reduce loopholes and special tax provisions created by lobbyists that invariably benefit those at the top.

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Cardinal flirts with perfection in 55-17 stomping of Arizona

October 8, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 8, 2015

In recapping Stanford’s 42-24 road win over Oregon State, I wrote that I thought the Cardinal offense “has yet to play at peak efficiency. If and when that time comes, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is — they’d better watch out.”

The University of Arizona football squad came to town on Saturday night, and they got steamrolled. The Cardinal scored 13 points in the first quarter, 14 points in the second quarter and 21 points (!!!) in the third quarter en route to a 55-17 walloping of the Wildcats.

This was the first time that the team had scored 40 or more points in three consecutive games since quarterback Andrew Luck and head coach Jim Harbaugh were helming the squad that went on to win the Orange Bowl. With 325 yards vs. the Beavers and 314 yards against the Wildcats, the Cardinal has recorded 300 or more rushing yards in consecutive games for the first time since 1981.

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Considering why the original ‘Star Wars’ was such a hit and why the animated ‘Lord of the Rings’ was not

October 7, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 7, 2015

As I wrote earlier today:

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a fantasy-adventure trilogy first printed in 1954–55, was a seminal publication. Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, an animated feature based on Tolkien’s work that was released in 1978, is an obscurity.

By contrast, I saw the original Star Wars during an extended first run in 1977, and I immediately fell in love with the movie: I instantly wanted to buy all of the Kenner toys based on George Lucas’s movie. For years, I bought and devoutly studied novelizations of the original trilogy of movies as well as original Star Wars novels. (In the latter category, Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and Brian Daley’s trilogy of Han Solo adventures held prized places on my bookshelf and in my heart.)

So why did I cotton to Star Wars so thoroughly while The Lord of the Rings left me cold? Part of it was the quality of Bakshi’s movie — as discussed earlier, I generally found it to be adequate, whereas I thought Star Wars was out-and-out thrilling. But there are also major differences between the narratives woven by Tolkien and Lucas, and I wanted to explore those.

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Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was an interesting but muddled creation

October 7, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 7, 2015

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a fantasy-adventure trilogy first printed in 1954–55, was a seminal publication. Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, an animated feature based on Tolkien’s work that was released in 1978, is an obscurity.

There was probably a time when Bakshi’s movie was prized by a certain subculture. When it came out, the fantasy-adventure genre was only beginning to emerge from fringe culture. The fantasy-adventure role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons — which owes a great debt to Lord of the Rings, like countless other fantasy books, movies and games — had been released in 1974. By the time of the Bakshi animation’s release, D&D had sold out multiple printings and inspired both a burgeoning line of supplementary products as well as a brand-new magazine. (The Dragon switched from bimonthly to monthly publication in April 1978.)

I have extremely vague memories of having seen Bakshi’s movie in a theater when I was (very!) young. But aside from a nightmarish sequence or two involving the hideous Nazgûl, the movie didn’t make much of an impression. The narrative was too convoluted, the plot too sprawling; there were too many things that went over my head.

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Stanford runs over the Beavers in Corvallis

October 3, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 3, 2015

Oregon State is one of the bottom dwellers in the Pac-12 conference. And yet, Stanford’s 42-24 thrashing of the Beavers in Corvallis was a powerful statement.

That’s because the Cardinal offense announced that its power-rushing game is back in full effect after the team ran for 325 yards and four touchdowns. That’s tied for the 10th-most Stanford rushing yards ever, with four of the top performances (446 vs. Washington, 2011; 344 vs. Washington State, 2008; 325 yards at USC, 2009; and the OSU game) having come since former head coach Jim Harbaugh arrived on the Farm in 2007.

What’s more, the prolific production against OSU came on a night when Stanford starting quarterback Kevin Hogan’s status was questionable. Hogan ended up playing the entire game but his mobility appeared to be limited thanks to an ankle that was twisted during the USC game; Hogan only carried the ball one time against the Beavers, for 2 yards.

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2015: A tooth odyssey

October 2, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwritemart.wordpress.com
Oct. 2, 2015

My long dental odyssey may finally be drawing to a close.

Right after I had my root canal in early September, I scheduled a follow-up appointment with the endodontist. From what I can remember, I was told that the doctor would check on the tooth that had been rooted to make sure there were no signs of infection; if that was the case, I’d be sent back to my dentist for the (long-delayed) installation of my permanent crown.

What I hadn’t realized was that I would have to get doped up again for this rendezvous with the endodontist. Just as before the procedure at the beginning of the month, I’d need to take anxiolytics two hours before the appointment and over-the-counter painkillers one hour ahead of it; I’d also need someone to drive me to and from the appointment.

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