Buying Into the Hype of Episode 7

by Chris Burfield in

I have been trying to resist the hype machine gearing up for Star Wars Episode 7 but I'm giving in. They released a behind the scenes footage reel at San Diego Comic Con last week and now my expectations are going up. I have been resisting because episodes 1-3 which came out when I was in high school and college were such huge disappointments. 

3 reasons why I am getting excited because of what I saw in the clip:

Practical effects! - Of course there will be CGI but anything that can be done using practical effects and real sets is being used instead of everything being green screen.

People Care - You can tell everyone involved truly cares about Star Wars and the fans, this may be a mix of marketing and truth but I don't care.

Fidelity - there appears to be fidelity to the story which came before it with the inclusion of Han, Luke, and Leia.

Get excited!

Also, Seth Godin has some excellent words about the marketing strategy of the clip.

Jon Oliver on Stadiums

by Chris Burfield in

It does my heart good to see Jon Oliver take on the public financing of stadiums. I wrote several papers in grad school about the economics of stadiums and whether or not they generate the benefits the boosters claim they do. The evidence is pretty overwhelming against the boosters yet we keep giving billionaires millions so they can build lavish stadiums.

Please enjoy the clip from last night's "Last Week Tonight", hilarious as always.

New Music: June 2015

by Chris Burfield in

You can definitely tell it is summer by the way the songs being released have become more upbeat. At least most of them anyway. The mix below is truly that, crossing all genres. Enjoy!

1.) Coming Home by Leon Bridges on Coming Home

Leon Bridges first popped up on my radar back in February when singles from this album started dropping. I was immediately captured by his old school sound. Only 26, he sounds like soul singer from the 50's and 60's. And this track is one of the best on the album. I look forward to where he is going to go from here.

2.) Your Loves Whore by Wolf Alice on My Love Is Cool

Another artist which popped up on my February list, their full album finally dropped in June. I had a hard time picking just one song from it. This one earns by the killer intro, it starts off with an interesting drum beat but then builds by layering in guitars and bass and then finally vocals. In a normal month this would have been the top song.

3.) Dreams by Beck, a single released in June

Sad Beck has been pushed to the background, happy Beck is back! This is the perfect summer jam.

4.) Defector by Muse on Drones

I'm not familiar with Muse's overall catalogue but in this album they seem to be channeling Queen and especially on this track. It also balances out the song from this album which made my March list, that one was bleak while this one offers a ray of hope that we can opt out of the system.

5.) Summertime by The Mowgli's, a single released in June

The Mowgli's are no strangers to my lists and this one earns its spot by being a good summer jam, as the title implies.

6.) Fire Under My Feet by Leona Lewis, a single released in June

I'm generally not a fan of the diva genre of pop but this one earns a pass by being just catchy enough with a beat that has me moving my head.

7.) Hunger by Of Monsters And Men on Beneath The Skin

I've been a big fan of this group since their first album catapulted them to fame. The sound on this album is an evolution adding a little electric instrumentation while subtracting some folk. It is not as sharp a transition as Mumford is trying to pull off but it is noticeable.

8.) Golden Parachutes by Desaparecidos on Payola

This group made my list last month with a single from this album. I had a hard time picking a song from the album but this one earned its spot from the sheer in your face rock sound. A little social commentary about executives with golden parachutes doesn't hurt either.

9.) Come And Get It by John Newman, a single released in June

It is official, funk and soul inspired music is the new "it" genre of music right now. Folk had its time in the sun and now funk. I'm not tired of it yet.

10.) 4 U with Love by Giorgio Moroder on Deja vu

If you had asked me who Moroder was a couple years ago I would have given you a blank stare. Then he made a guest appearance on the latest Daft Punk album a few years ago. He apparently helped found disco and electronic music and he is still out there creating new stuff. Enjoy this purely electronic dance track.

11.) Flame by Sundara Karma, a single released in June

I had never heard of these guys before hearing this track. The sound just captured my ear.

12.) Fatal Flaw by Titus Andronicus, a single released in June

The name of this band is somewhat familiar to me but I don't think I could name another song by them. Either way this track is just good summertime rock and roll.

13.) Into the Sun by Bassnectar on Into the Sun

Another electronic track for you. Starts off slow but then gets going.

14.) Your Love is Enough by Jon Foreman, a single released in June

The lead singer of Switchfoot occasionally does some solo work which is more introspective and acoustic. I was tempted to make this the last track but felt like the lyrics of the next track worked better as the final. This song serves as a good reminder that God's grace and love are enough.

15.) Till Forever by Joy Williams on VENUS

I find this to be the perfect closing track. You can tell Williams is working through some deep thoughts and emotions on this album and it is all the better for it.

Small Talk

by Chris Burfield in

I don't know about you but I cannot stand "small talk". And the author of the article from Vox I'm sharing below agrees. Let's talk about something important, politics, religion, anything but the weather or hearing vague answers to questions such as "How are you doing?". The author spends the most time reviewing the research, sociology and otherwise, into small talk. Take that or leave it, what I most liked is his description of what it is like to go through small talk.

From the End (link to full):

When I meet someone, I'm trying to a) maintain eye contact, which feels like holding an exposed wire with low-level current running through it, and b) think of things to say that convey the correct social signals, even though I'm not certain what the correct social signals are, while c) ensuring that none of the things I say bring up any emotionally fraught or controversial topics, even though those are the topics I care most about, and d) concealing the fact that the inside of my head is a haze of white noise and I desperately want to escape the interaction. It's like patting your head while rubbing your belly ... while tap dancing and reciting the alphabet backward.

Those of you who do it fluidly, without even thinking about it, should pause for a moment of gratitude. It is an important skill, one that many people lack and are never taught. And if you ever meet me out on the street, just go ahead and ask me about politics or religion or the meaning of life — anything but sports or the weather. We'll get along famously.

Taking Vacations Correlated With Higher Pay

by Chris Burfield in

If I were a more unscrupulous blogger the title of this post would say: "Taking Vacations Leads to Higher Pay". Good thing I'm not :-)

I was pointed to the below Harvard Business Review article by Donald Miller over at the Storyline Blog. It points to new research which shows taking your vacation time is correlated with a higher likelihood of receiving a raise. Causation is not proven so a hard-hearted manager can still find an out but interesting nonetheless.

From the Middle:

According to Project: Time Off, people who take all of their vacation time have a 6.5% higher chance of getting a promotion or a raise than people who leave 11 or more days of paid time off on the table. That percentage may sound small (and it is a correlation versus a causation), but it is the polar opposite of the idea that staying at work might mean getting ahead. It simply doesn’t.

Read the whole thing here.

Good Legal Analysis of Obergefell v Hodges

by Chris Burfield in

I have been searching for a good, in plain english, analysis of the legal arguments contained in the opinions and I think I finally found a couple worth sharing. 

There is a good, concise, plain english explanation of the case and the opinions over at SCOTUSblog by Amy Howe. They have been my source for hearing as soon as possible the results of the recent cases. 

If you are looking for a more in depth analysis then feel free to check out Burt Likko at Ordinary Times. I will warn you though, the post is 7,200 words with lots of quotations from the opinions. He has lots of stern words for Chief Justice Roberts, accusing him of being uncharacteristically Scalia like in his opinion. 

If you are more interested in the future implications of the case, and not in the "Oh My God Here Comes Polygamy!" sense then feel free to check out Kenji Yoshino over at Slate. He makes the observation that due to Kennedy's majority opinion equality and liberty are linked for future jurisprudence. The implications for future favorable decisions regarding constitutional rights to health care and education are now marginally better as a result.

Submitting to the Evil of the Designated Hitter

by Chris Burfield in

I am not a fan of the designated hitter rule. I know all the arguments by heart, trust me, I just can't get past the artificial nature of it. In the end though, we will all have to come to terms with it because it is not likely to go away. In fact, it will likely become accepted in my beloved National League before too long.

Over at Ordinary Times Richard Herschberger has been running a series on the history of baseball. He posted the article below a couple weeks ago but I still think it is worth sharing. It aims to explain, from an analytical and economic perspective, why the DH came about and why it is hear to stay. In one word, specialization.

From the middle (link to full):

What we have here is increasing hyper-specialization. It is not a law of nature. It is a decision. On the youth level, pitchers often are their teams’ best hitters, relying on natural athleticism. As they advance, training gets more serious and more specialized. In the most extreme version, the pitcher gets no batting training at all. Presumably the reason for this is that every minute spent training to hit is a minute not spent training to pitch, and is regarded as time wasted. The poster child for such specialization is none other than Babe Ruth. He was a very good pitcher, and had the stuff to be a great one. But early in his career he abandoned the mound and specialized in batting. It was understood that he had to choose one or the other. (This also, incidentally, serves as the response to anyone who claims that Barry Bonds was the greater player. Don’t waste your time talking about steroids. Ask about his ERA.)

Read the whole thing.