IS BRETT FAVRE AN ANOMALY?
Brett Favre became a grandfather last week, and all indications are that he would become the first ever grandfather to play in the NFL if he comes back for the 2010 season. Granting that the league has a 90-year history and certainly lacks records for many of the players from the olden days, how unlikely is it that an NFL roster should include a grandfather?
The average length of an NFL career is about 3.5 seasons. Even if you make some conservative allowances, that means the average player is done by age 28. Only 49 players have ever played to age 40; there are seven out of 1,696 available roster spots in the league. Favre is older than 0.295% of the other players from 2009 NFL rosters -- he's an exceptionally old NFL player!
On the other hand, people become grandparents at age 47, on average. So 40 is young, but not that young -- a quickie check with GSS data suggests that it's about one standard deviation from the mean. Presumably there's less variance in NFL player age than grandparent age, which makes him that much more of an outlier comparatively.
If I'm thinking this through right, and my assumptions are close to correct, that means about 16% of grandparents became grandparents at 40 or younger. Moreover, about 22% of American adults are grandparents, meaning about 3.5% of American adults 40 or younger are grandparents. By these calculations, you might be saying, the NFL should have 60 grandfathers! But, that's only the case if we assume age is normally distributed among NFL players, which it of course is not -- it's quite skewed toward the young end, which is much less likely to contain grandfathers. When the average NFL player's career ends he's still almost three standard deviations away from the mean age of grandparenthood. By the time you optimize that 3.5% at age 40, there are only seven players left to look at. So, on average, we'd expect that about a quarter of one player in this group (or zero players, rounded) would be grandfathers. It's a pretty low number. On the other hand, it's high enough that you might expect there to have been another NFL grandfather in the relatively recent past. That there wasn't suggests the work of some additional variables -- income is certainly one on which NFL players differ from the general population significantly.
SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, BROUGHT TO YOU BY CISCO.
New site design still in progress, but I wanted to get this down before I forgot about it.
Cisco is running a lot of ads during the NCAA basketball tournament, so I've seen the one with Ellen Page visiting her old doctor probably a dozen times in the last week and a half. Something finally occurred to me about it -- it's the best ad narrative ever for socialized medicine.
Now, obviously it's just as much a fictional narrative as that you'll find in any other product ad. But it's worth thinking about that narrative. Ellen Page, newly minted movie star, returns to her small hometown in Nova Scotia, Canada. For some reason, she decides to pay a social call to her doctor while she's there, suggesting that Canada's socialized medical system has allowed her to receive service from a doctor she knows and trusts. But the doctor's not there, he's in Denmark, but still seeing patients using Cisco's cutting-edge medical teleconferencing device. That's right, socialized medicine has so crippled Canada's economy that small-town doctors are able to use what must be a ridiculously expensive piece of equipment to treat patients while in another continent. The poor Canadians are so wiped out, in fact, that another ad shows that their schools are also able to make this kind of massive financial outlay (to communicate with Chinese students who go to school in the middle of the night, apparently).
Cisco has broken with the US Chamber of Commerce over its position on climate change, and I wonder if this is a sly signal that not quite on the corporate line over health care, either; I doubt it. Nevertheless, it's nice to know that American audiences are being hit with this subtle reminder of the Canadian health system's awesomeness on such a regular basis.
MUSIC IN 2009: TOP 15 ALBUMS.
The Thermals / Now We Can See (Kill Rock Stars)
Superdrag / Industry Giants (Superdrag Sound Laboratories)
Kid, You'll Move Mountains / Loomings (self-released)
The Prodigy / Invaders Must Die (Cooking Vinyl)
Office / Mecca (self-released)
Death Cab For Cutie / The Open Door EP (Atlantic)
Fastball / Little White Lies (Megaforce)
The Bird and the Bee / Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future (Blue Note)
311 / Uplifter (Volcano)
Passion Pit / Manners (Frenchkiss)
Karmella's Game / You'll Be Sorry (Insubordination)
White Rabbits / It's Frightening (TBD)
Pearl Jam / Backspacer (Monkeywrench)
Jail / There's No Sky (Oh My My) (Decorated)
Anya Marina / Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II (Chop Shop)
I was at a conference in Milwaukee and someone asked me if I was still blogging. To my semi-astonishment, I realized that I had three distinct blogs that were all sitting idle. The other two at least have a distinct purpose that I could jumpstart if I had a notion; this one, with no more podcast, is for what, free-form pontificating?
Yes! Plenty of research has shown the high levels of expressive motivation held by bloggers, and I am no exception. So here's what's been on my mind: When did we all start to shit our pants over safety so much?
My perception of this history of this phenomenon is truncated by the fact that I'm only 30, but my sense is that for centuries, probably up until the post-WWII era, death was understood to be a part of life. You tried to avoid it, obviously, but illness and famine and industrial accidents happened. Infant mortality was high. Wars were fought sword-to-sword, and they were fought relatively often. You did what you could.
Over the last half-century, things have changed dramatically. Medical technology has evolved as quickly as any other sector, and more quickly than most. Dangerous workplaces have implemented safety provisions (as the behest of government regulation, for the most part) and become less dangerous. We don't go to war like we used to -- wars are primarily rationalized as defensive, fought with fewer troops and with fewer direct confrontations. We've got way more food than we need (and by "we," I mean the west). And yet, just in my lifetime, we have become a society in which children are supervised and thoroughly padded throughout the vast majority of their leisure time, and in which no one bats an eye when the president says his job is to "provide security for the American people" (it's actually to preserve and defend the Constitution -- says so right in the oath!).
You might think I have some theory I'm leading towards, and I do. We've reached a point where we are much closer to functional immortality than we've ever been before. Obviously we're not there yet -- people are still dying in massive numbers, after all -- but the number of problems we can't fix or easily avoid is much, much smaller than it ever was. This is the uncanny valley of mortality. As we get closer and closer to solving the problem of death, we completely lose our minds about it, giving over huge amounts of power to those how suggest they can get us to the promised land. Now, I don't know if this is true, of course, but I'm fairly confident that the manic fear of death is on an upward trajectory within American society. I'm hopeful that the General Social Survey has some helpful data on this and will be taking a look into it.
NO!: BLACK FRANCIS (#506, JUL 11 2009).
It's sort of fitting that this podcast should end with Frank Black playing an early Pixies song, since seeing the Pixies in late 2004 was what prompted me to get a small digital camera I could take into shows. This show provided as much excitement as that Pixies show, surprisingly, with so many songs I really wanted to hear ("Cactus" and "Bullet" were the highlights).
Now I'm on sort of a permanent holiday. I hope to get back to something like this in the near future, but it'll be more irregular and a bit thicker. I'm thinking about getting into the show-booking business, and it might be tied to that. We'll see. Until then, it's been fun.
As of yesterday, we've left Madison and now live in Carbondale, IL. I updated my Where I've Lived on Facebook and everything, which makes it really official. I'm starting on the faculty at Southern Illinois University in a couple weeks and I think we're going to find it much harder to go to shows down here, so things with the blog and the podcast will probably be changing quite a bit. With any luck I'll be able to coax my friends from Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago down here to play once in a while, but that's just a possibility at this point. I have one more podcast episode to post, and we'll be posting updates somewhere about the work we do on the house we bought. Keep your eyes pealed for what's next.
NO!: BLACK FRANCIS (#505, JUL 11 2009).
It was an odd coincidence that our last two High Noon shows were of the intimate, semi-acoustic variety. Opening for Frank Black was Mark Waldoch of Milwaukee's Celebrated Working Man, kind of the mirror-image of Jon Auer. While playing he was supremely confident and poised, but between songs he seemed a little overwhelmed by opening for a legend and playing to a legend's crowd. He actually complimented the audience for their kindness and the weird thing was he was right -- it was the nicest High Noon crowd I've ever seen.
But then I got to thinking, I've never heard of this supposed Milwaukee-based Celebrated Working Man, and I've never seen this guy before. He's kind of a big guy and his material is not terribly different from Frank Black's recent work. What if Mark Waldoch doesn't exist, but is a persona Frank takes on -- a wig, some make-up, an outfit just the negative of what he wears for his set -- and identifies as from a band in a nearby city? It would be like the time U2 opened for themselves way back when. Maybe Frank's next album would be called The Celebrated Working Man and include the songs he played as Waldoch, etc.
Well, I just imagined it. Waldoch was in the audience during Frank's set, while Frank was clearly onstage. But still, I think this is something to think about for his next tour.
NO!: BLACK FRANCIS (#504, JUL 11 2009).
I never would've guessed this show would be such a blast, especially considering how little I know of Frank Black's solo material (and yet, he'll always be Frank Black to me for some reason). Opening his bottle of wine and launching the show with this medley got the crowd going quick, and was a surprising burst of energy from the nearly empty stage.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#503, JUL 10 2009).
One nice thing about Hold Steady is that they frequently pull out deep cuts from their first two albums, which were a little under the radar. Last time we saw them I recorded "Modesto Is Not That Sweet," an Australian bonus track from their first record; this time the highlight was probably this rollicking meditation on age from Separation Sunday, which they followed immediately with "Multitude of Casualties" and later with "How a Resurrection Really Feels." The showcase of older songs was certainly appreciated by the sell-out crowd, many of whom were probably also at last year's sold-out Stay Positive tour stop.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#502, JUL 10 2009).
If I'd ever gotten around to writing up my top albums of 2008, the Hold Steady's Stay Positive would've been their second-straight #1. Though not as instantly enthralling and masterwork-level as their previous effort, it was a hugely engaging, progressive step for the band and a victory lap of sorts after the success of Boys and Girls in America. The opener, "Constructive Summer," is the most viscerally inspiring song I've heard in years, while the title track is the band's salute to its scene and its fans, and the positive rage that fuels them both. Elsewhere they add some new flourishes to their sound, particularly on "Navy Sheets."
This song is very much in the classic Hold Steady mold, launching with competing guitar and piano lines and giving Craig Finn's poetry some room to stretch; "If I cross myself when I cum/would you maybe receive me?" is one of those lines that implicates love, lust, religion and insecurity the way few other songwriters ever have. I was particularly excited to catch it live because it's one of the songs from Stay Positive that I didn't react strongly to at first, but that's grown on me a lot since the record came out and we saw them last.
Aaron S. Veenstra: Academic
Cherche la Fave...
Emily Kircher Recycling Artist