Cold Water Craziness

I follow the Western Washington Open Water Swimmers on FaceBook. Check out their page sometime. Some subset of them swim at Alki Beach in West Seattle every day of the year. Some without wetsuits.

Hardcore doesn’t do it justice. They are out of the minds, but I greatly admire their tight- knit, inclusive, joyous community. They have a very good time freezing their asses off together. Over and over.

A few weeks ago I felt distressed when my YMCA pool, due to a partially broken furnace, was 76 degrees for a week. My excuse is I lack the necessary body fat, but cowardice is prolly the heart of the matter.

And check out this supe-cool pictorial of even heartier open water swimmers in Scotland.* Their exuberance is incredibly infectious.

*It may take awhile for the 59 pics to load.

 

A Friendship You’ve Had That Would Surprise

Last week’s Demo debate ended with this set up and question from Anderson Cooper:

“Last week, Ellen DeGeneres was criticized after she and former president George W. Bush were seen laughing together at a football game. Ellen defended their friendship, saying, ‘We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay.’ So in that spirit, we’d like you to tell us about a friendship that you’ve had that would surprise us and what impact it’s had on you and your beliefs.”

I thought it was great, in part because no one could’ve prepared for it. Poor Julián Castro for having to bat lead off. He kept swinging wildly, and missing badly, seemingly thinking, “If I just keep talking, maybe I’ll eventually utter something coherent.” But it wasn’t to be, he couldn’t come up with a single name.

Andrew Wang talked about a trucker he spent a few hours with as a part of a recent political event. Not someone he’d ever talked to before or is likely to ever talk to again, thus failing to earn even partial credit.

Amazing, not one true friend markedly different than them.

Buttigieg ran circles around those two and most of the others. He noted that the people he’d learned the most from were friends he’d made in the military:

“People who were radically different from me—different generation, different race, different politics—and we learned to trust each other with our lives.”

Then Buttigieg pivoted and called for national service, a worthwhile proposal deserving of discussion. One argument in support of it? The probability that future candidates’ answers to a “surprising friend” like question will be far more compelling.

 

Don’t Box People In

My advice to myself after reading this short article, “Emotional Michael Jordan unveils first of two medical clinics in Charlotte”.

One day in the spring of 1984, MJ walked into UCLA’s Wooden Center where a scrawny senior history major, who would one day become a famous blogger, was on fire. After helping my team hold court again, I stopped to watch MJ run with an assortment of professional and UCLA varsity ballers. In town to accept the John Wooden Award, he was on another level, even compared to me.

Like any basketball fan I suspect, I always admired his talent, the ease in which he moved, got open, shot, defended. Simultaneously, I was always dismayed by his refusal to use his platform and incredible wealth to benefit others. Did he have his social conscious surgically removed I wondered?

I shoulda been more patient. I apologize MJ for not giving you the benefit of the doubt that someday you’d most definitely give back in the most meaningful of ways. Good on you.

 

Passion Till The Very End

The word of the day, harangue, a lengthy and aggressive speech. One could add “see Bernie Sanders”. I’m not a fan of Bernie’s oratorical style, but I’m in total awe of his passion especially given the fact that he’s 78 years old.

By 78, a lot of men are dead, hell, Bernie peered over the abyss last week. Elderly men and women in their eighth, ninth, tenth decades often struggle with more than just declining health. There’s the huge psychological challenge of having a purpose to continue living. Something beyond watching television and marking time.

That’s not a problem for Bernie, nor was it for Harold Bloom who died earlier this week. The New York Times described Bloom as the “most notorious literary critic in America” explaining:

“Chiefly he argued for the literary superiority of the Western giants like Shakespeare, Chaucer and Kafka — all of them white and male, his own critics pointed out — over writers favored by what he called “the School of Resentment,” by which he meant multiculturalists, feminists, Marxists, neoconservatives and others whom he saw as betraying literature’s essential purpose.”

I find his unabiding passion even more fascinating than his contrarian intellect for which he’s best known.

Dig this:

“Professor Bloom called himself ‘a monster’ of reading; he said he could read, and absorb, a 400-page book in an hour. His friend Richard Bernstein, a professor of philosophy at the New School, told a reporter that watching Professor Bloom read was ‘scary.’

Armed with a photographic memory, Professor Bloom could recite acres of poetry by heart — by his account, the whole of Shakespeare, Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost,’ all of William Blake, the Hebraic Bible and Edmund Spenser’s monumental ‘The Fairie Queen.'”

In junior high school I memorized some bible verses in Confirmation classes, I just can’t remember which ones.

The Times adds:

“. . . his output was vast: more than 40 books of his own authorship and hundreds of volumes he edited. And he remained prolific to the end, publishing two books in 2017, two in 2018 and two this year: ‘Macbeth: A Dagger of the Mind’ and ‘Possessed by Memory: The Inward Light of Criticism.’ His final book is to be released on an unspecified date by Yale University Press, his wife said.”

Further evidence of his all consuming passion, he taught his last class at Yale last Thursday.*

I texted an academic friend who followed Bloom’s work this humorous excerpt from the Times. Years ago Bloom predicted:

“’What are now called ‘Departments of English’ will be renamed departments of ‘Cultural Studies, where Batman comics, Mormon theme parks, television, movies and rock will replace Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth and Wallace Stevens.”

“He nailed that!” my friend texted back.

May you live long, similarly passionate lives.

*Bloom looks really spent in the 2011 picture. For shit’s sake, can we please revisit mandatory retirement provisions? How about you have to hang em’ up at 88 years young?

 

 

 

 

Kenyan Marathon Mastery

• I’m disappointed I didn’t get the call to help pace Kipchoge in Austria Friday. I could easily maintain 13.1 miles per hour. . . on a mountain bike.

• I’ve always said I’ll never see a sub 2 hour marathon. Now I have to acknowledge I may. Among other miscalculations, I didn’t account for the technological improvement in shoes.

• Kipchoge is a high character guy who may be on nothing more than oatmeal, his pre-race breakfast. On the other hand, Kosgei’s drastic improvement, coupled with the litany of suspended female Kenyan long distances runners, makes me highly suspicious of her performance in Chicago Sunday.  Lots of people assumed Radcliffe, the previous world record holder, was running dirty too.

• Many East African runners grow up poor with limited education making them vulnerable to exploitation by family, friends, national coaches, and managers. The sad underreported story of East African running success is one of sudden unimaginable wealth being squandered in short order. For the sake of his family, I hope Kipchoge can break the cycle of successful Kenyan marathoners mismanaging their money.

Quotes of the Week

Steve Kerr on being singled out by the President of the (dis)United States:

“I realize the horse was out of the barn a long time on this. But for me personally, this was my experience with, wow, has the office sunken low. My hope is that we can find a mature unifier from either party to sit in that chair and try to restore some dignity to the Oval Office again, and I think it will happen.”

Randi Mayem Singer on Twitter where she has changed her name to Randi Great and Unmatched Wisdom Singer:

“BREAKING: The president is refusing to be impeached on grounds that if he were impeached, then he would be impeached.”

Ruth Whippman in a New York Times essay, “Enough Leaning In. Let’s Tell Men to Lean Out.”

“So perhaps instead of nagging women to scramble to meet the male standard, we should instead be training men and boys to aspire to women’s cultural norms, and selling those norms to men as both default and desirable. To be more deferential. To reflect and listen and apologize where an apology is due (and if unsure, to err on the side of a superfluous sorry than an absent one). To aim for modesty and humility and cooperation rather than blowhard arrogance.”

The backlash in the comments from Whippman’s male readers speaks volumes about the validity and importance of her insight.