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Saturday, April 28, 2012

A far more telling story about Tiger

When I first heard that Tiger had a string of mistresses, my initial reaction was, ho-hum, at least half the men presented with those same opportunities would do the same.

When I read about the extent of his sexual activity, and how he would often squeeze two or three girlfriends per day, I thought, well, those are the steroids talking. But then I thought, a lot of other top athletes juice as well. (The evidence presented by our eyes is always more compelling than the denials issued by the athletes.)

While neither the steroids nor the mistresses make Tiger a candidate for sainthood, neither necessarily showed behavior that far from the norm, either.

Then I read a few excerpts from the recent book on Tiger by his former coach, Hank Haney. Much of what Haney described was just regular hijinks, what most would place in the category of relatively harmless practical jokes.

But the one thing that really stood out was when Haney said that when Tiger was having dinner at a restaurant, as soon as he was finished eating, he would get up and leave, expecting everyone see to get up and follow, whether or not they were finished with their own food: "When he was done -- and he habitually ate fast -- you were done."

That I was thrown by. Just getting up and in the middle of a meal and expecting everyone else to follow? Even among some of the extreme narcissists I've been acquainted with, I've never known -- or even heard of -- anyone else who does that.

That, more than any of his other transgressions, indicates a personality far from the norm.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Nice guys, average guys, and sociopaths (XV)

SITUATION: A guy has been lying to his roommates about the rent for their apartment, telling them that it was higher than it was, and has been pocketing the difference. He has just been caught; his roommates are outraged. How does he react?

Nice guy: Wouldn’t do this in the first place.

Average guy: Probably wouldn’t do this in the first place, but if he did, and were caught, would feel shame and embarrassment. Might try to half-heartedly justify it on the basis of it being his lease.

Sociopath: Would be completely unembarrassed, and would shrug it off by saying, as if his roommates are crazy for getting angry in the first place, “Hey man, it’s a dog eat dog world out there. You don’t expect me not to try to make a little profit, do you?”

SITUATION: Two buddies stumble across $4000 in cash in a brown paper bag on a park bench. What do they do?

Nice guy: Wants to find the rightful owner and return the money.

Average guy: Suggests splitting the money evenly, and swears his buddy to secrecy.

Sociopath: He counts the money himself, tells his buddy it totals $3000, then suggests he should keep $2000 to his buddy's $1000 because he's the one who suggested going to the park in the first place. He threatens to kill his buddy if he ever blabs about their find.

SITUATION: Two cops bust a major drug dealer, find $200,000 on a table in his house.

Nice guy: Wants to turn the money in as evidence.

Average guy: Although inclined to be honest, is sorely tempted. Potentially swayed either way by his partner.

Sociopath: Tells his partner, "Hey, that money is ours. Far as I'm concerned, we earned it. We're the ones who busted this scumbag. Hey, you put your life on the line for sixty grand a year so you can watch some stockbroker drive around in his seventy grand BMW? Fuck that. Hey, do it for your kids. Don't tell me they don't deserve better."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Olympic swimmers better-looking than movie stars

Now that Olympic Trials season is almost over, I'm struck once again by how remarkably good-looking so many of the top male swimmers are, especially compared to recent movie stars. But don't take my word; look at the pictures and make up your own mind:

Michael Klim set world records in both the 100 meter butterfly and freestyle. He made a recent comeback, failed to make the Australian team a month ago, and retired again.

I've always thought Tom Cruise looks exactly like what he is rumored to be:

If the 6' 5" Klim and the 5' 7" Cruise were standing side by side in bathing suits near a pool, and no one knew who they were, exactly zero people would gaze at Cruise.

Expect to hear the name Ryan Lochte a lot this summer. He was an individual world champion in four events last year, beating Michael Phelps in two of them.

Here's Leonardo Dicaprio:

Assuming neither was famous, which one do you think would have been more popular with girls in high school?

Pawel Korzeniowski is a former world champ in the 200 meter butterfly, and was the silver medalist to Phelps as recently as 2009:

Adam Sandler perennially places among the top grossing Hollywood stars:

Maybe it's unfair to choose Sandler, who got his start as a comedian rather than a heartthrob, but he has starred in several romantic comedies. Korzeniowski, on the other hand, has the kind of looks which Hollywood prefers to cast in villainous roles these days. But which man would you rather look like?

Here's Matt Targett, on the left, celebrating Australia's 400 free relay victory last summer:

This is how he looks when his face isn't contorted:

Strong, arched eyebrows like Targett's can make one look rakish, intrepid, and devilish at the same time. I have no idea what Targett is actually like, but he certainly looks more the way I'd have pictured Robin Hood than Kevin Costner did:

I could have made this post five times as long, with every contrast equally stark, and all the movie stars looking like slightly subhuman wimps by comparison

Most of these swimmers probably couldn't act. But half of today's movie stars can't, either.

In the old days, Johnny Weissmuller became Tarzan and Buster Crabbe became Flash Gordon. That doesn't happen anymore. 

Something's been lost.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Given how the media went all-Trayvon-all-the-time for a couple weeks recently, it's surprisingly how little publicity the Tulsa killings have gotten.

There were a lot of histrionics about how Trayvon was hunted down and shot simply because he was a young black man -- which appears untrue. There is evidently a witness who confirms that Trayvon attacked Zimmerman, as well as a police report saying that Zimmerman had injuries consistent with that story.

Meanwhile, in Tulsa, three men were hunted down and killed simply because they were black.

So why hasn't this case generated more outrage? Some would say it's because the two killers were apprehended and bail was set at nine million dollars apiece, so justice was done. Still, given the media's penchant for over-reporting white-on-black violence and under-reporting the reverse, you'd think this case would have gotten more air time.

The first explanation may be that one of the two killers behind the murders, Jake England, above left, is about as white as George Zimmerman: he is evidently part-Cherokee. (The other man, Alvin Watts, is more conventionally white.) The other reason may be that England's hatred of blacks stems from his father having been shot and killed by a black man. (This certainly doesn't excuse England's crime, but does make it more comprehensible.)

Both of these facts would muddy the narrative favored by the media, which is that evil whites simply like to gun down innocent blacks for no reason other than garden variety racism.

Still, regardless of England's skin tone and motivation, he is actually guilty of what Zimmerman has been accused of. So the silence surrounding this case is fairly deafening.

Who knows, maybe the media had just yelled themselves hoarse about Zimmerman.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Daniel Craig calls James Bond's Heineken deal 'unfortunate'"

This article appeared in today's NY Post:

Evidently the producers of the latest Bond film, Skyfall, due in theaters this November, have entered into an agreement with Heineken USA to have Bond reaching for a Heineken rather than his customary martini.

Heineken USA will pay $45 million for this promotion, and Daniel Craig will appear in a commercial for them as well.

Craig termed the deal an unfortunate fact of life, necessitated by the high cost of making blockbuster movies.

There will be other changes in the latest film as well.

Some of the dialogue will have to be altered. Bond will no longer be asking for his usual martini, shaken not stirred, but will instead say, "Gimme some brewskis man, I feel like getting shit-faced."

The producers also felt that Bond's signature tuxedo would not mesh well with his new image as a beer drinker. So he will now be wearing baggy sweat clothes and a Cleveland Indians baseball cap perched sideways on his head.

Because Omega watches don't really go with sweat clothes, Bond will now sport a Swatch.

Also gone is the Aston Martin DB4. In its place will be an old pickup.

The romantic interest in Skyfall will reportedly be played by Rosie O'Donnell.

Cheapest way to travel

I had to pay for two round trip airfares between New York and Los Angeles this week. A quick look on Expedia showed that the cheapest fares were roughly $650. I was dismayed that the cost had gone up so much, given that just four years ago a round trip ticket could be had for as little as $340.

What's surprising, though, is not how expensive a ticket is now, but rather how cheap they were a few years back.

At the same time I could get a round trip airfare for $340, a one way ticket on Amtrak from Stamford to Boston was $119. Compare those values. For the $340 airfare, you were getting roughly 6000 miles in a vehicle traveling at roughly 550 miles an hour. For $119, you were getting roughly 200 miles at 60 miles per hour.

Amtrak's prices haven't gone up in the past four years, but airfares are still relatively inexpensive. Even at $650, you're paying only 11 cents per mile, compared to roughly 60 cents on Amtrak.

Or look at it this way. If you drove across the country and back in a car which got 30 mpg, and paid four dollars a gallon, the trip would cost you over $800 (highways are not as direct as air routes). That's ignoring the wear and tear on your car -- and assuming you slept in it the entire way.

Air travel is not the bargain it used to be, but it's still a bargain.

(This post was designed to make you a little nostalgic for rock bottom airfares, and maybe just a little less so for the SATs.)

The real Teflon President

First we had the Afghan kill squads, then the burning of the Korans, then the soldier who went berserk and killed 16 Afghanis.

Now we have the Secret Service partying with prostitutes in Cartagena and GSA employees vacationing at the taxpayers'  expense. This morning there was news of another scandal involving troops who posed grinning with dead Afghan suicide bombers and their body parts.

Yet none of these scandals have redounded to President Obama.

Don't get me wrong: I do not hold him personally responsible for any of these things. It would be ridiculous to hold a President personally responsible for the behavior of millions of federal employees.

And it would be more surprising to find out that the high testosterone guys who work for the Secret Service never use prostitutes when abroad. Or that folks who work for the GSA don't party on the taxpayers' dime. Or that soldiers who've seen their squadmates blown up by Afghan IED's would not want to desecrate the corpses of the bombmakers.

Or that any of these things haven't been going on for a long time.

Yet I can't help but believe that if it had been Bush who'd been in charge while these were uncovered, the media would have found a way to tar him with them, much as they did with Abu Ghraib. They would be saying that the low moral values of his administration set the tone for this misbehavior by his subordinates, or some such nonsense.

The media used to refer to Ronald Reagan as "The Teflon President," because none of the scandals surrounding his administration seemed to stick to him. Compared to Obama, he was the Velcro President.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What's left unsaid

I recently saw a girl wearing a t-shirt that said "Stop violence against women" on one breast, with the same message in Spanish on the other.

It's always interesting how t-shirts position their messages to draw the eye. (It reminds me a little of that t-shirt from 30 years back with a picture of a radio with two dials, with the message, "Don't touch the knobs!")

It was certainly a courageous stance to take: this girl was against violence against women -- as opposed to all the others who are for it.

The other thing that struck me about the message was its narrowness of focus. Why not be against all violence? While men commit the vast majority of violent crimes, they are also the victims of over half of them. Yet the t-shirt this girl wore almost seemed to imply that it's okay to ignore violence against men -- the majority of violence.

I have a similar reaction when I see people holding placards saying, "Stop black on black violence." What about black on white violence?

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has that thought.

Sugar Ray

Found myself on watching the video of the 1981 Sugar Ray Leonard - Tommy Hearns fight on Youtube yesterday evening:

The Leonard-Hearns fight had been keenly anticipated for a long time. Going into this fight, Hearns, who grew upon the streets of Detroit, was regarded as far more formidable, since he had knocked out almost all of his opponents in the first few rounds.

I've seen ballet, modern dance, and jazz dancing, and none of them ever really grabbed me. It's impressive to see a great dancer move. But most dancing strikes me as fey, not necessarily all that demanding from an athletic standpoint, and somehow pointless.

There is a similar grace in boxing, yet it is far more compelling. A great boxer can have all of the willowy lightness and rhythm and control of a great dancer, yet to be successful he must combine it with lethal power and speed.

Of all the boxers I've ever seen, Sugar Ray Leonard embodied all those attributes the most completely. He also showed a preternatural calm, in what has to be one of the most nerve-wracking situations you could possibly find yourself: in a ring with another man who wants to knock your head off, with big money at stake, and millions watching.

The fight linked above was a dramatic bout, with the bull and matador switching roles halfway through.

Of course, all fights are inherently more dramatic than any dance, given the downside of a poor performance in each.

(Here's a higher quality video, though it's only the first of six parts:)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Wrong turn grants glimpse behind N. Korean curtain"

The following AP article appeared on Yahoo News today:

The first four paragraphs:

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — The press bus took a wrong turn Thursday. And suddenly, everything changed in the official showcase of North Korean achievement.

A cloud of brown dust swirled down deeply potholed streets, past concrete apartment buildings crumbling at the edges. Old people trudged along the sidewalk, some with handmade backpacks crafted from canvas bags. Two men in wheelchairs waited at a bus stop. There were stores with no lights, and side roads so battered they were more dirt than pavement.

"Perhaps this is an incorrect road?" mumbled one of the North Korean minders, well-dressed government officials who restrict reporters to meticulously staged presentations that inevitably center on praise for the three generations of Kim family who have ruled this country since 1948.

So as cameras madly clicked, the drivers of the three buses quickly backed up in the narrow streets and headed back toward the intended destination: a spotlessly clean, brightly-lit, extensively marbled and nearly empty building that preserves digital music recordings and makes DVDs.

My first thought, of course, was how gratifying it is always to see a Potemkin village exposed for what it is. 

My second thought was how typical this is of the false facades that communist dictatorships have erected in the past century. 

But my third thought was, really, how different is this than going on a first date? Haven't we all been on first dates where we try to make a (somewhat falsely) positive impression, hide our weaknesses, and so on?

I guess that's the thing about communism: at first it sounds like something you might consider getting into bed with, but once you get to really know it, once you find out how much you've been lied to, you end up hating it.

Nice guys, average guys, and sociopaths XIV

SITUATION: Warren Buffett gives a speech to a group of business school students.

Nice guy: Listens to the speech attentively and marvels at Buffett’s wit as well as his skill in accumulating so much wealth.

Average guy: Asks a question during the Q&A session, marvels at the sight of fifty billion on the hoof, and thinks, if only he would give me one thousandth of what he has.

Sociopath: After the speech is over, bulls his way to the front of the crowd, clasps Buffett’s hand and pumps it vigorously, holding on several seconds too long. Tells Buffett what a devoted follower he is, and asks if he can interview him for the college magazine (which in fact he doesn’t write for), hoping to wangle a job.

SITUATION: You are a Wall Street bond salesman. Your firm has some unwanted bonds they need to unload. Triple commissions are promised to the salesman who can sell them.

Nice guy: Ignores the edict, and doesn’t show the bonds to his customers.

Average guy: Quietly tells his customers not to buy the bonds. Lets his customers know he is foregoing triple commission by telling them this, and uses this to enhance his leverage and credibility with his customers.

Sociopath: Phones his customers and tells them he has a great deal for them, but they have to act quickly if they want to get the bonds; emphasizes that they know him well enough by now to trust him on this one.

SITUATION: A middle manager at a corporation is presented with a time-wasting, impossible assignment from upper management. How does he react?

Nice guy: Protests to upper management, and tries to convince them that this is not a reasonable, productive task; sticks up for his troops.

Average guy: Argues weakly with upper management that the assignment is not warranted, then argues management's viewpoint with his troops.

Sociopath: Accepts the order enthusiastically, saying it's an excellent idea. When the assignment turns out poorly, blames his troops, fires a couple of scapegoats, then manfully accepts the blame in such a way as to make clear it was really not his fault.

Monday, April 9, 2012

"Identification, please"

I can't imagine showing up at the voting station this fall, getting in line, then, when it's my turn to get checked in, saying, "Hey, it's me, just take my word for it."

Maybe I'll try it, just to see what happens.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Aspergerian thinking

Look up "liberal arts" at and they give this definition:

"The academic course of instruction at a college intended to provide general knowledge and comprising the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, as opposed to professional or technical subjects."

I was talking to an Aspie the other day who insisted that a college education was meant to make students more liberal, and that "that's why they call it a liberal arts education." He explained this to me in a tone of voice which implied that I was a moron for not realizing this. 

I then challenged this Aspie, who is rigidly leftist, to name one position on which he took the conservative side. He answered, "I want to conserve the environment. See? I'm more conservative than you on that issue." 

Sadly, in neither case was he joking. 

This is how an autistic's brain works: they are just incredibly, pathetically literal. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Confessions of a beta male XVI: public speaking

Public speaking has long been ranked number one among the common fears. But it tends to bedevil betas more. There's just something about the sound of one's own voice being only noise in room, and having all those eyes focused on you, that's nerve-wracking.

An alpha's biggest fear is that he will sound unprepared. (Of course, if he doesn't, it won't bother him all that much.) My biggest fear is that my voice will crack, which of course makes that outcome more likely. Unfortunately, fear does feed upon itself.

An alpha just gets up and speaks as if chatting with his grandmother. I always feel as if I'm facing a parole board.

An alpha can get up in front of an audience and actually smile. I can feel my face start to tighten up; any attempted smile would come out as a frozen grimace.

An alpha's voice as relaxed and expressive as he wants it to be. I feel this weird need to keep my voice strong and deep. Which in turn makes me sound too breathy, which makes me sound as if I'm about to cry -- always a high point for a would be tough guy like me.

I have to make a concerted effort to take a deep breath and speak from my stomach, but keep my voice casual. This would never occur to an alpha.

An alpha can be extemporaneous. I have to be completely prepared beforehand, because thinking on my feet while on stage is out of the question.

An alpha's secret to public speaking is just to be himself. My secret is two of those little mini bar-sized bottles of vodka beforehand.

It would never even occur to an alpha to have a drink beforehand to calm his nerves. It would never occur to me not to.

I tried a stand up routine about eight years ago at an open mike night at a comedy club. The only drink available was this rotgut wine which would have made rubbing alcohol mixed with cat urine taste good by comparison. I still forced three glasses down before getting up on stage. (I also had to walk outside for forty-five minutes to sober up enough to drive home.)

I will admit, with some drink inside me, after the first five minutes I actually enjoy being up on stage. I'm like a kid again -- I actually enjoy being the center of attention.

Alphas, of course, are that way even without the alcohol.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


People who aren't numerate tend to have opinions, particularly political opinions, which are often off-kilter.

You'd think that politics would have little to do with addition and subtraction and ratios and percentages. But people who have spent time marveling at numerical relationships and interesting statistics tend to have much better senses of proportion, correlation, and causality. 

It tends to be the innumerate types who cry foul whenever someone points out an inconvenient statistic or skewed distribution. It's innumerate types who are blind to patterns. 

The problem is, people who major in political science and journalism tend to be the types who did better on their verbal than on their math SATs. Their specialties are justification and obfuscation and labeling those who would draw conclusions from numbers as evil. 

People who are comfortable with numbers, who actually enjoy delving into statistics, have a much more realistic sense of things. They know which examples are typical, and which are exceptions. They know what to expect, and what not to expect.

They understand odds, and probabilities, and have a better sense of where spending money works and where it doesn't. And they place smarter bets as a result. (It's called common sense.) 

They understand what bell curves represent, and how overwhelming some behavioral correlations are. They have a better sense of how people differ. 

They have a much better sense of cause and effect, and are less susceptible to the kind of brainwashing which demands you ignore hard numbers. Their opinions are grounded in hard reality, not ideology.

More importantly, they can pick out the relevant statistics, and know when they are being manipulated by misleading handpicked statistics. 

Numerate people simply have their feet planted much more firmly on the ground. Innumerate people, less so. 

This is a correlation you'll see time and again -- if you're comfortable with numbers. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A little selective editing

By now you've probably heard of NBC's editing of George Zimmerman's 911 call. In case you haven't, the call actually went like this:

"Zimmerman: This guy looks like he's up to no good. Or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about.

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy - is he black, white or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black."

NBC spliced the tape to make it sound as if Zimmerman had said: "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black." 

That's pretty much all you need to know about NBC. And you can be sure that the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, ABC, and CNN will give this egregious editing story minimal air time. Which is all you need to know about them. 

Imagine what would have happened Barack Obama's 2008 speech about race had been edited in a similar manner. 

One paragraph of that speech was, "Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans."

What if, say, Fox News had spliced it down to, "Throughout the first year of this campaign...we saw how hungry the American people were for...the Confederate Flag...and white Americans" and then played it that way over the air as an example of Obama's divisiveness?

Would the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, ABC, and CNN have let that editing story die? Ever?

Al and Keith

There's something incredibly gratifying about seeing the Al Gore-Keith Olbermann breakup over at Current TV.

Given Obermann's history, the bulk of the blame has to lie with him. He was evidently very much himself at Current, demanding vacation time in the middle of important elections and complaining bitterly about the quality of his car service, especially when the drivers had the nerve to talk to him. He would also carp on the air about the poor quality of his graphics, and sometimes didn't bother to show up for work.

But both Olbermann and Gore have made the list of famous people who have Aspergers Syndrome.

It certainly doesn't seem entirely coincidental that both men have Aspergers, and are also so rigidly liberal. (Limousine liberalism of the type demonstrated by these two also seems to reflect a full blown narcissism -- how else could anyone be so hypocritical?)

People with any degree of autism, even Aspergers, have a hard time getting along with others. It takes a patient, understanding, and flexible person to abide the rigidity of someone with Aspergers. People who have Aspergers themselves rarely exhibit that kind of patience or flexibility. So when two Aspies meet, it tends to be more of a collision than a collegial meeting of like-minded people. Thus Al Gore and Keith Olbermann.

It's a little like when two sociopaths meet. Sociopaths generally prefer to surround themselves with innocent, trusting, loyal, honest, compliant types who will let them have their way and who do not see through them. Thus, when two sociopaths meet, you usually get fireworks.

One has to wonder where Olbermann will go next. After his long trail of broken relationships, he has to be radioactive.