April 17, 2021 / by 

 

Just Another Manic Sunday Conference Championship In Pandemic

The time is here. First game of the day, Bucs at Packers, starts in less than an hour. Never pick against the Pack at home, but the Bucs and Brady may give them a game on the Tundra. I have no clue how it plays out, and make no pick. Yes, it is probably cowardly of me.

The second game is Bills at Chefs. On paper, this is an easy pick. Games are not played on paper though. on the field, there is no way to sell the Bills short as to having cause to be here. They are great, and a great story. I, again, will coward out and have no clue how it unfolds.

Two great matchups and four great, and admirable, teams. That is how it should be. Games on!

Mondays may be manic, but the Bangles knew/wished Sundays were too. There is goodness that there is no Trump dick wagging on social media to interrupt this day. Let’s have some fun, and rock the day.


Larry King Is Dead, Long Live The King

Probably the world knows by now that broadcasting legend Larry King has died at 87. He was not necessarily a journalist, per se, even if news was often broken on his show. He was a massive media presence, and a good one. Unlike so many others, he did not get in the way of his guests and interviewees letting themselves be themselves, for better or worse.

CNN is doing some larger biography, and it is worth watching for a little bit. But King brought together Rabin, Hussein and Arafat on a TV show. You don’t see that every day. Then there was all the OJ Simpson charges and trial coverage. There are a lot of people still in the public view today that came out of that. Some rightfully, some not as much so.

As a parting thought, some love for Ted Turner. He took King off of late night talk radio, that I sometimes listened to on a timed clock radio while falling asleep, before his CNN TV gig, to grow the fledgling CNN. Ted Turner innovated so much it is almost silly. Elon Musk will never, even in his dreams, accomplish as much as the great Ted Turner.

Do you have any memories?


NFL Divisional Playoffs In Pandemic Trash Talk

Greetings to all fans, whether you are scoring at home, or alone in isolation. It is pretty remarkable that the NFL has made it this far without blowing up from Covid. Yet here they are down to four games this weekend, and most of the teams are pretty healthy and ready to go. So, let’s get to it.

First up is the Rams at Packers. The Rams allowed the fewest points in the league this year. The Packers scored the most. No signs of snow by reports, but it will be around 32º with light to moderate wind. The Packers know how to play on the famously frozen tundra, but their record of never, or at least rarely, losing at Lambeau in the playoffs does not have the lock it once had. They can be had at home. The Rams were pretty high on young John Wolford at QB, but he is out for today and Jarred Goff is back in the saddle, bum thumb and all, and Blake Bortles will back him up. The Pack defense is certainly not on the level of the Rams, but they are solid. If Rodgers is Rodgers, the Pack should win, but this is probably a lot closer than folks would expect.

Second game up for Saturday is Ravens at Bills. This may well turn out to be the best game of the weekend. Both teams have young QB’s that can run in addition to throwing, and given the weather in Buffalo, that will likely be necessary. When it comes to passing though, the edge would seem to go to Buffalo with Josh Allen and Stephon Diggs, the best receiver in the NFL this year. Curiously, Baltimore has made running back Marl Ingraham a healthy scratch. That is weird as this is exactly the kind of game Ingraham is made for. It is close, but a majority of the experts, both on local sports talk radio, and on TV, seem to favor the Ravens to win this. So do the odds makers. I’m not so sure, and will very tentatively take the Bills in a close game.

Early game Sunday is Browns at Chiefs. The Brownies are a great story this year and are playing with some swagger. They are not the Browns of the last 25 years. The Chef’s defense is not nearly as good as Cleveland’s. On the other hand, KC has the once in a generation wizardry of Patrick Mahomes, a dual headed monster at RB with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. And, of course huge weapons in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. They will, however, be without Sammy Watkins to take attention away from Hill. This could go any number of ways, but I am not going to bet against Mahomes and Andy Reid. Nope, no can do.

The coda on the weekend’s games is the battle of the Geezer QBs. The B boys, Brady and Brees. You know who they are by now. They have never met in the playoffs. During the regular season, the Saints owned the Bucs. In fairness, Tampa Bay finally gelled down the end stretch of the regular season and is playing much better now, and has also integrated Antonio Brown into their gam much better. With Chris Godwin and Mike Evans (both a tad nicked up, but ready to play), that is one hell of a set of receivers. Oh, and there is that Gronk guy healthy and ready to rumble at TE. Saints have the outstanding Alvin Kamara at RB, and Bucs have Fournette and Ronald Jones. By a slim margin, most of the experts, including Vegas, favor the Saints. They are at home, but without the usual crowd advantage that would portend. I have no idea how it will go, so will simply call it a tossup.

Music today by the incomparable Thin Lizzy. Man, I miss those boys. But rock and roll and tilt a cold one.


Advancing Our Country Forward, A Security Perspective

TOPSHOT – Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they try to storm the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

[Hi, bmaz here, I am posting this from our beloved Roving Reporter Rosalind. She knows a bit about highly charged security issues, give it a read please.]

I spent my 20s and 30s working in large-scale concert production working for rock promoter Bill Graham Presents, dealing with crowds from 20,000 to 60,000 people packed into one defined area. In preparation for each show production staff would go through a procedure called “advancing the show”. As most tours were routed east to west, our production manager would call the band’s production manager after the tour had been underway and go through the production rider – the contract detailing the staging requirements – to confirm details and cover any surprises that had cropped up. Added equipment that made the truck pack go slower triggering overtime, feuding band members who needed their dressing rooms separated, a health issue requiring a local doctor to be on call backstage.

The most critical staff member for advancing the show was our Head of Security. She would call her counterpart at a venue where the band had already played to get their after-show report. At the end of each show the Security Head writes up the report detailing any arrests, what charges, how drunk, how many security staff were assigned, what time alcohol sales were cut off, what time the gates opened, what procedures were used to screen the crowd, notes on anything that should be done differently the next time. Each show required a different security set-up, based on the audience profile.

As most acts toured every summer, a level of institutional knowledge built up about what to expect but you never took anything for granted. When you have 20,000 people in the audience and 200 security staff keeping watch, the art of crowd psychology becomes critical to ensuring a safe event. Add in gravity, with the audience angled up, if anything triggered an unexpected mass movement down there would be no way of stopping it.

To keep things in control, you start at the gates, doing a thorough search to catch contraband items, especially anything that can be used as a weapon. Alcohol sales are monitored and cut off early if people are over-indulging. You start the show on time, end it on time. Security watches the crowd, not the show, ready to step in quickly should anything pop up. The key is to catch a situation before it has a chance to spread. At the end of a show the audience may see those in front suddenly move into the aisles and head down to the stage to dance and sing and exult in their proximity to their idols. While this may look like a moment of spontaneity, 95% of the time this is a pre-planned maneuver called “releasing the aisles”. It is done in coordination with band security, allowing the audience a release while keeping everyone safe. The other 5% of the time is when a performer, often an overnight sensation who has never before played to a huge venue, gazes up at her 20,000 adoring fans and invites them to “come on down!!” (looking at you, Madonna). Security has to spring into emergency action to keep the audience within their sections and prevent an out of control stampede.

Watching the horror unfold on January 6th in Washington, D.C. at our People’s House has prompted my memories of how to conduct proper security, and how not to. As soon as I saw the barricade set-up I got a pit in my stomach, correctly predicting someone would get crushed and suffocated or trampled to death. I immediately flashed back to my worst concert experience from a crowd safety standpoint: a Neil Young & Pearl Jam show at The Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington State.

The show was put on by a different promoter, and my friend and I were there to see the show and hang with our friends on the band production staff. When it was close to showtime we made our way to the area in front of the stage and looked at each other in alarm. Before us was a standing room area, then a steep cliff, then a large section of bleacher seats perched at the top overlooking. The lower standing room area was bisected by temporary fencing to carve out a VIP section at the very front. The people behind were literally forced to look through a fucking fence to see the stage. You now have a pissed off section of audience wanting to be up there in first class and not stuck back here in steerage. Worse, the temporary fencing was poorly installed and in one look we knew it would never hold. A man on the other side of the fence agreed, and we watched as he walked along the perimeter, methodically punching it every few feet, the security guard oblivious. It was obvious he was testing for the weakest link, and the moment the show started he would make his move. Meanwhile way up top a man began to climb down the cliff face, holding onto bits of shrubbery, until gravity took hold and he plummeted down landing at the back of steerage. The crowd roared. Another man immediately stepped up to take the plunge.

My friend and I ran backstage and explained the situation to our band production buds, begging them to get the promoter to take down the temporary fencing, but for whatever reasons they did not share our concern. We went back out front and watched and waited. The moment the band hit the stage the recon guy threw his full body weight into the fence, toppling it over onto people on the other side, trapping them underneath where they got trampled as people poured through the hole. At the same time body after body came plunging down the cliff, landing in a heap. My friend and I pushed to the front of the stage, waving our arms wildly, screaming at the band, trying to get their attention, the crew’s attention. Finally they stopped the show and tried to calm the crowd while personnel went to the aid of the people crushed under the fence. Injured people carried out, remaining fence taken down, steerage merged in with first class, the show restarted.

That the promoter made it out of that show with only broken bones and no deaths is nothing short of a miracle. In the aftermath, the Gorge was completely re-done, the cliff dug out to turn it into a more conventional amphitheatre configuration. I hear it’s beautiful. I haven’t been back.

As the country grapples with the ongoing repercussions of the Trump insurrectionists, the pressure for a knee jerk reaction to the security failure is gonna be huge. To encase the Capitol in a barricade bubble with armed security on every corner. This will be a tragic mistake. There will be much more to come out in the weeks ahead to fill in the who, what and why. But what’s already known shows that the Trumpists have been “testing the fences” for months and years now, zeroing in on the weak links in full view. Preparing for the start of show, and the moment their Glorious Leader invites them all to storm the stage.

We do not need a massive increase in the number of police personnel. We do need a massive increase in thinking outside the conventional box. To be pro-active, and stop trouble in its tracks before it can spread. Unfortunately, tragically, almost all levers of power in our Country have worked together to soften and excuse the growing crisis of Americans taking up arms to promote their white supremacist beliefs and QAnon conspiracies, standing by as the groups target our fellow citizens for violence. That any politician or law enforcement official can profess shock at the Capitol Siege is to confess their sin of complicity before the world. They watched the toxic clouds erupt all across our nation, streaming towards D.C., but told themselves soothing fairytales to sleep at night. They’ve now awoken to our collective nightmare where democracy destroying extremists are embedded at every level of our society, from law enforcement to the top tiers of government. And we will be forced to work furiously to counteract this poison for years to come.

Back at Bill Graham Presents, we did not prepare security plans for a particular concert based on the color of the audience’s skin, or their political beliefs, or social standing. We based it on verifiable facts, a proven track record and shared information to keep our decisions rooted in current events. There are hundreds of trained concert security personnel sitting at home, waiting for the touring industry to re-start. I say we bring a brigade of these folk to D.C. to consult with Congress and the District of Columbia leadership on ways to re-think crowd control and security. To make them better understand the intricacies of crowd psychology and mob psychology. To illustrate how the current protest preparations are flipped, with the “audience” that has a proven track record of being peaceful is deemed violent and gassed & smashed before they’ve made it through the front gate, while the “audience” storming State Capitols is given a light pat down and friendly smile.

The first area I’d welcome rock’n’roll security is on either side of the new metal detector inside Congress. I guarantee you not one single shitheel Republican will be able to arrogantly push their way past or sneak a loaded gun into the Chamber. Our crew don’t let any unauthorized motherfuckers backstage.


NFL Playoff Football Is Back, And We’re Gonna Get In Trouble Trash Talk

It has been a hell of a fun first few months week of 2021. So, with no further adieu, lets get to the ball. A nearly unprecedented SIX games in one weekend (there was that one weird strike season, which doesn’t really count). And, there really are no bad matchups on tap. Away we go!

First up is Indiana at Buffalo. The Colts seem a better team than their 11-5 record, and Phil Rivers can still chuck the ball. They have weapons on both offense and defense. But, dang, the Bills have looked like a serious Super Bowl contender all year. And, while Rodgers may be the MVP of the league, to my eye, Josh Allen was pretty close. The Bills are at home for a rabid and great fan base that has been dying for this since the mid-90’s. And the Wagon Circlers have weapons too, including Stephon Diggs, arguably the leagues best receiver this year, a fair, if not great, running game and a very good defense. Expect the Colts to be good, but the Bills to win. And that would be a very good thing for the City of Buffalo and their long suffering excellent fans.

Second up for Saturday is LA Rams at Seattle Squawks. This is a harder call. Rams first string QB Jared Goff is “questionable”, but expected to play (but for how long with a recently broken thumb on his throwing hand?). Jamal Adams, the Seahawks safety that is one of the best is in the same boat. It is not the same without the 12th Man fans in Seattle, but, despite a rough patch, the Squawks seem to be gelling. And then there is those Russell Wilson and DJ Metcalfe dudes. They are pretty good. Seattle wins.

The Saturday Night Game is Tampa at the Washington Football Team. WFT is on the clear rise under Riverboat Ron Rivera, they are better than you think, and on both sides of the ball. Young Chase Young and the superb DC D-Line are going to try to spook and hurry the old man Brady. The rest of the WFT defense is really good as well. But this is the first time Brady has been defended this way, and Tampa has a very talented defense as well. All pro receiver Mike Evans is nicked up, but will play, as will Ronald Jones. WFT is nicked up, but the most relevant one is QB Alex Smith. His entrance turned their moribund season around after Dwayne Haskins. If Smith can play, and play well, this could be an upset. Not gonna bet that, but that may be the X factor. Still will take the old man and the Bucs.

Okay, and here we go with the Sunday games.

First up Sunday is Baltimore at Tennessee. I have no real idea what to make of this one. Tennessee is good, and made it to the AFC finals last year. They have Derrick Henry, and that is one powerful weapon. But the Ravens have been rushing the heck out of the ball over the last five games. Sure, there is Lamar Jackson, but it is more than that. By a tiny margin, think the Ravens are better on D, but only a tiny amount. Am still inclined to go with the Titans at home.

Second comes Bears at Saints. This, on paper, is the least interesting game of the weekend. It is probably Drew Brees’ last year. The Aints are at home in the Dome. Nawlins will, apparently have both Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara on the field. Sorry, not sure how the Bears and Trubisky have a real shot here.

Lastly, Brownies at Steelers. For a short period, it really looked like Pittsburgh was in the doldrums and Cleveland would do the unthinkable and take the division championship. But the Steelers righted the ship and won out over Cleveland for the title. Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield (watch out for Mayfield on play action, he is really good) are maturing and growing quite nicely. And the Cleveland defense is pretty good. But this is still the Stillers, and the Browns will be without head coach and chief play caller Kevin Stefanski because of Covid. That seems rough. Have to take Big Ben and Pittsburgh at home, but this could be a great game.

A lot of people are saying they want a revolution. John, Paul, George and Ring have one for you. Rock it up.


Merry Christmas!

Happy holidays to one and all. However you celebrate the season, all the best from your friends and family here at Emptywheel. With all that has transpired in 2020, we are a little out of kilter. The long time friends here probably noticed that there was no yearly Christmas Eve memorial for our late and dear friend Mary, and all the others that have graced these pages but are now fond memories.

There was just too much this year to cover. And, personally, one of my oldest and dearest friends passed earlier this year, cancer no Covid, and her birthday would have been yesterday. It was hard to focus on much. But everyone here has suffered loss and tragedy, so cheers to all.

What are you eating? What are you drinking? Heck, what are you doing? It is such a weird year and time. By this time next year, I guarantee the more normal Emptywheel holiday festivities will be back and better than ever.

For this year though, from all of us, to all of you, thank you for being here. Thank you for contributing. Thank you for caring and thinking. It is a wonderful community, and that is because of each and every one of you.

No spiffy music video today, instead a little holiday joy in an awesome rescue of a deer in distress. Seemed appropriate. Cheers!


Trash Talk Is Back, And It Is Max!

Calling the current GOP “fuckers” is one of the most true and innocuous things I have ever seen or heard. They are among the, if not the, most destructive humans currently on the face of the earth. Take Mitch McConnell. Please. If these fuckers are not fuckers, then who would real fuckers ever aspire to be?

So, what is up?

Apparently 737 Max aircraft are back up, and it may be being hidden from you. Or may not. But this is indeed something to keep your eye on as it was the explicit suggestion of the hollow branding man in chief, Trump:

“Even President Trump has weighed in on the MAX name: “If I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name,” he Tweeted in April.”

Don’t know about you, but I will not be boarding one of those planes.

Okay. Enough. There are real games out there. Not just the ones in Washington. I’d say and Washington, as in Seattle, but Boeing moved to the home of Rahm, Chicago.

Clemson has demonstrated clearly what fakers Notre Dame have been all along. Too bad they can’t do that for Ohio State too. Coastal Carolina deserves to be in the final four far more than either the Domers or the Buckeyes. It is almost comical how hard the NCAA tries to always put posers in their finals instead of the best teams. Nebraska barely held on to beat….Rutgers. Texas A&M beat the Vols, but pretty shocked that Oklahoma edged out Brock Purdy and Iowa State (both with Phoenix area QBs that will play on Sundays soon enough).

Josh Allen is, as we speak, and his Bills crushing the Broncos. Can Carolina take it to 12 and the Pack in Lambeau? Not going to take that proposition. Pats at Fins will be really interesting. So far, it looks like Flores is building right and Tua is real. But Bill Bel will game for this, and I’ll bet on that. Might have taken the WFT at home over the Squawks, but for Alex Smith being out again. The big game is really the Chefs at the Saints. Drew Brees will be back, but Nawlins is not the same without the raucous crowd. Mahomes is too much.

Let it rock. Don’t laugh at the music, she can really sing. Even Dolly thinks so.


He Slipped The Surly Bonds Of Earth: RIP Chuck Yeager

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds –
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
“Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God.”

That is from the poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. It was written in 1941, but it surely envisioned the later life and exploits of Chuck Yeager. Later that year, in December, Magee, a pilot in the RCAF, and his Spitfire collided with another plane over England. Magee, only 19 years old, crashed to his death. He could not have known the reach of his poem over all the years, nor how it might describe another pilot, Chuck Yeager. But it did.

Yesterday, Chuck Yeager passed away at the age of 97. He was a true American hero in every sense. The first human to break the speed of sound. Arguably the finest test pilot in history.

From the early Washington Post obituary:

He first stepped into a cockpit during World War II after joining the Army Air Forces directly out of high school. By the end of the war, he was a fighter ace credited with shooting down at least 12 German planes, including five in one day. Making the military his career, he emerged in the late 1940s as one of the newly created Air Force’s most revered test pilots.
….
He later trained men who would go on to join NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. Throughout his life, he broke numerous speed and altitude records, including becoming the first person to travel 21/2 times the speed of sound.
….
His greatest breakthrough occurred on Oct. 14, 1947, when a B-29 aircraft released then-Capt. Yeager and his squat, orange Bell X-1 experimental craft at nearly 20,000 feet over California’s Mojave Desert. The Bell X-1 was propelled by a four-chamber rocket engine and a volatile mix of ethyl alcohol, water and liquid oxygen, and Gen. Yeager named it “Glamorous Glennis” after his first wife. Gen. Yeager, traveling at nearly 700 mph, broke the sound barrier.
….
Not that Gen. Yeager’s career lacked its frightening moments. While he was able to pull out of at least one situation in 1953, when his plane spun out of control for 50,000 feet, he wasn’t so lucky in 1963 when, after reaching near space, he ejected from an NF-104 and suffered burns that required several surgeries.

After the last incident in that WaPo quote, Yeager got back in and kept flying. Because that is who and what he was.

Go read the entire WaPo obituary, it is, and this is an understatement, the stuff of legend. Yeager was also the glue that held together the famed book “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe. Forget the movie, read the book. I cannot find my copy right now, but the stories in it are wonderful, and the best ones were arguably about Yeager, who trained the early astronauts but never became one. He did not want to be a proverbial monkey in a cage, so he kept on as a test pilot and fighter pilot.

As Wolfe would paint in his book:

“He was going faster than any man in history, and it was almost silent up here, since he had exhausted his rocket fuel, and he was so high in such a vast space that there was no sensation of motion. He was master of the sky.”

and

“The most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff: Chuck Yeager.”

Yes. Quite a man.


Thanksgiving Day Cheer

Okay, the football gods did not smile on fans today. Texans at Lions and Washington Football Team at Cowboys is about the worst schedule the NFL could put up. There was a Steelers and Ravens game for the night slot that would have been interesting, but, alas, it was rescheduled to Sunday because of the Coronavirus. Blecch.

But, hey, there is a lot else to be thankful for. Especially here, thanks to all of you. And so we are thankful for all of you!

Also food. Mrs. bmaz is cooking up some great grub, and I know there is some awesome looking stuffing, some turkey (not the turducken I requested, but it will be fine). That, and that some part of it involves some of my personal stash of bacon from Zingermans (thanks Marcy!), is about all I really know. There is Blueberry Crumb Pie from the Rock Springs Cafe (as good of pies as you will ever taste), and vanilla bean ice cream. Some nice red wine, and that will do it.

What are you folks eating and thinking about? Have at it! Music today is the classic Wasted Words by the Allmans. Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving folks. May you have a joyous one, and stay safe.


A Woman. Of Color. From California. Is the Vice-President Elect

Really, that is all I have to say.

It is simply glorious.

Copyright © 2021 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/author/bmaz/page/2/