Monday, April 18, 2011

the seance

Last night at midnight a seance was held to communicate with Mr Oxtrot. Through the seance I learned the following:

1) Oxtrot appreciates the comment received recently from an anonymous source, speaking ill of Oxtrot's legacy. Oxtrot understands that some people, mainly those who are naive and believe the world is a glorious and beautiful self-contained bubble of awesomeness, are going to be disturbed by the various things he wrote. He understands further that when such others encounter his work, they are more inclined to blame him, rather than themselves and their own complicity in the sad state of domestic and world affairs. In essence, Oxtrot said, these complainers are pissed off that Oxtrot has reminded them of something they'd rather not consider. Namely, that the world is not a glorious and beautiful self-contained bubble of awesomeness, but instead is a totally fucked-up place, mainly because of naive and deluded humans who wish the bubble of awesomeness were the case. Oxtrot's summary remark was, "Hey anonymous, guess what: there is no Tooth Fairy, no Easter Bunny, no Santa Claus."

2) Oxtrot wanted to remind his 4 or 5 readers that despite some occasional glaring flawsFN, Jim Kunstler has a solid view on American society's energy use, urban planning, and hopes for dealing with the decline of the petroleum era. Oxtrot suggested this interview as a revisiting of Kunstler's various wise observations on what ails American society, energy-wise and social-planning-wise, right now.

3) Oxtrot wanted me to tell Jim H: No, it wasn't drugs and alcohol. It was, as McMurtry sang, just life.


...more later, probably.

--Karl

________________________

FN - Such glaring blind spots include apologetic love for Israel and the Democratic Party.FNFN

___________

FNFN - Yes, Oxtrot told me to use that footnote above.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

le croix

Here's another fragment from Mr Oxtrot.  This was held as a "draft" and from the read of it, appears to be unfinished content-wise.

Which suggests a necessary observation about Mr Oxtrot's writing style:  he did everything in one take.  He didn't compose a draft, ponder it, revise it, ponder it more, revise it more, then post it.  He wrote as soon as the notion hit him, wrote it as it hit him, and published it as soon as he wanted to -- meaning that he hadn't always explored the full ramifications of an idea or argument, but instead simply wanted to document what he thought or felt or both, at the time he was moved to hit the keys.

Oxtrot's oscillation between impatience and nearly-glacial patience was a source of frustration for many who knew him in work settings or anyplace else his analytic skills were in use cooperatively with others.  His family members have told me that they were surprised he could be as patient as the Gautama on some things, and on other things looked like a mass of coiled energy, vibrating with anticipation.  They attributed the latter situations to the few areas of Oxtrot's life where he found real enjoyment, usually meaning they were the few places where he felt as if others actually were of the same species as he.  One of Oxtrot's commonest complaints to his family was "I feel like I'm from another planet when I engage with most people, I don't recognize their motives, their interests, their actions.  I may as well be from some other solar system for all the humanity-membership I feel."

Anyway, back to the fragmented essay:  it appears to be a narrative regarding his collegiate lacrosse playing.

--Karl

*****************************************

A couple posts back the comment thread talked about risk in athletic or other settings, which made me think more about my own athletic abilities, where the strengths are, where the weaknesses are.

I've been athletic my whole life and always have had more daredevil in me than almost everyone I met or did athletic stuff with.  I've enjoyed moving fast in all athletic or quasi- (i.e. driving a car) settings that involve movement.  These are genetic gifts from my parents, these things.  They are like the color of my eyes, the color of my hair, and my body's peculiar articular joint weaknesses and vulnerabilities.FN  I don't take personal pride in having them -- it's more just a fact of what and who I am.

When you're an athletic kid and young man, playing sports and competing in athletic endeavors, and you're an introspective and critically-minded person, you will observe the differences in people's athleticism.  Team sports work best when there's a coach who can do the analysis of individual skills and abilities, and match those things to the sport's team positions.  In a club sport without a coach, like my college's lacrosse team, the players have to manage those things among themselves.  Sometimes people's desire to play a given position is based more on what's associated with that position --how it works within the game, or how it looks to outside observers-- and less on their awareness of their particular skills.

We had a couple guys who were fit and could run all day but they weren't the best stick-handlers.  They'd miss passes or drop the ball even while standing and cradling, if they sensed pressure from an opposing player.  What do you do with people like that, in a game that requires keeping possession of the ball and moving it downfield toward a goal?  You don't want to lose the advantage their fitness provides -- they can keep up in defense and be an asset that way; you can avoid throwing them the ball offensively and let them be space-makers with their movement... making space for the ones who will move the ball downfield.

The midfield position requires a lot of stamina.  Ball possession changes fairly often in lacrosse; it doesn't proceed in linear fashion like football (ahem, American style).  It's more like soccer (American style, again), hockey or basketball.

The midfielder is the manager of possession-change, basically.  Or a slave to it, if he's an inexperienced or perceptively slow player.

Midfielders have to be adept at defense and offense and optimally they're solid at both tasks.  But realistically, unless your team is made up of people who have been playing lacrosse for many years, you're going to find most midfielders are much better at the defensive end of things than the offensive end.  Defense is a more intuitive role for most athletic people who grew up in America playing the big American games.  Offense is much more tool-use-intensive, much more dependent on the player's tool-using abilities, hand-eye coordination, body awareness (that thing phys geeks call proprioception), and most new players don't pick up the offensive end as quickly as they do the defensive end.

In this offensive role the midfielder has to be able to do these things:

* scoop ground balls effectively (aggressively and assertively) -- controlling ball possession almost always means winning the game; it's more common for the team who wins ground balls to end up winning the game

* run to an open space where he can dump a pass to someone who will move the ball upfield... this requires not just open-field running skills (seeing spaces to run toward/through) but also the ability to dodge a defending player... there are several classic dodge moves taught in most formal lacrosse team settings, and then players usually tweak the classic moves to suit their own abilities/preferences, but the classic ones remain the basic types: bull dodge (running past/through a defenseman), roll dodge (coming to and rolling around a defenseman), face dodge (using your stick to feign a pass or move toward the right, while staying left (or vice-versa)), and split dodge (the opposite of the face dodge)... players who show a genuine facility for dodging usually are moved into the attack spot and told to spend time working on shooting skills

* be able to run the ball upfield himself

* cradle the ball effectively, so that defenders will not easily dislodge the ball and force a ground ball, which is an opportunity to change possession

* pass the ball effectively, which is more than just being able to throw to someone in a game of catch; it's dynamic and dependent on the setting; sometimes the person you're throwing to catches better on one side than the other and you have to account for that; sometimes he is being covered on his strong side and that complicates the matter; sometimes you're being covered on your strong side and you have to pass with your off side... can you do that while being guarded?  while being not just guarded, but hassled by a defenseman?  maybe you're gonna have to run for a bit, find an open space, settle down, slow down the offensive pace

* receive/catch a pass effectively

* use the spaces in the moving game -- know how to find spaces, know how to see spaces, know how to create spaces by the way you move in the mix

* shoot on goal

For new players it's common to have serious deficiencies in the offensive skills because they require a lot of stick practice.  Our college's gymnasium wall was a great place to throw the ball and get a wall return.  You could practice pass and catch, as well as ground balls.  You could drag a goal in front and practice your shooting and not have to fetch missed shots... or at least not have to run too far to fetch them.

Some of the new players would work on stick skills, and some would not.  Of the ones who did not, sadly there wasn't a Jim Brown among them.  The common profile for a new player in my freshman class:  could catch and throw fairly well on the dominant side, usually right handed; had average speed/quickness; had good defensive skills and quickly picked up using the stick as a tool for defending; had pretty good field sense.  Obviously missing was anyone who could shoot very well (shooting takes lots of practice, even for natural stick-handlers), anyone with good face-off skill, and anyone who was generally aggressive on ground balls.

So that's where I aimed:  face-offs, shooting, ground ball scoops and setups, and being able to pass & catch from either side.  Meanwhile the more experienced players on our team --about 1/3 the team-- divided us new players for positions, and luckily we had some good, wise players doing this.  They parceled out the talent pretty evenly, making for a really balanced team.  The informal leader or semi-coach was TVH, a guy from Baltimore who played attack.

My friend JK had grown up in Long Island but didn't play lacrosse on his HS team.  He knew how to throw and catch and shoot from playing with friends, and he knew how the game worked.  He had a wicked whip shot.  TVH picked JK for the opposite wing attackman.

Our center attackman was TR, a guy who was employed by the city, probably in his early 30s, who had played attack for his college team.  He was about 5'6" and ran like an antelope, he used to dart around confusing defensemen tasked with covering him.  He had an incredible snap shot, where he'd get a fast stringer pass from JK or TVH on a wing, and basically semi-catch the ball and quickly redirect it.  It was a really effective shot and we got a lot of goals from TR that way.

TVH had set up a really effective attack.  JK turned out to be a natural lacrosse player, he was super-tall and skinny, and one of his moves when a defenseman would harrass him was to hold his arm way up into the air, cradling the ball way up high... the defenseman would take the bait and move as if trying to dislodge the ball from that higher position, and JK would move past him for a shot or a quick pass to TR.  JK could spot scoring opportunities like a seasoned player, and sometimes, when things were flowing for TVH, JK and TR we'd absolutely stomp an opponent.  Our 2d year playing together (my sophomore year) we won our league and had a few huge blowouts, one against Carnegie-Mellon and one against St Vincent's.  The StV game was 23-2.  The CMU game was 17-1, if I remember right.  Most of this was due to the attack working like a machine.



_______________________

FN - One of my orthopods seen for injuries in the early 2000s said, "you have unusually sloppy joints, I'm surprised you haven't injured them more than you have."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

recent forensic investigation

More treasures unearthed from the random notes and files compiled by Mr Oxtrot.

--Karl

_________________________________

This is the way, by The Chills... which leads to:  depersonalization... which leads to: Crack the Sky, Hold On/Surf City

The Killing Moon, by Echo & the Bunnymen... which leads to:  The Bunny Man... which leads to: Donnie Darko

On Any Sunday... which leads to:  Joe Kid on a Stingray... which leads to: North Shore Extreme... which leads to: Earthed

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Q&A with CFO, Part 6

As part of my continuing Executor's efforts to provide unfinished and unpublished works by Mr Oxtrot, I am posting this, which was recently discovered.

--Karl
____________________________________


Q: Charles, in our last session you said you didn't respect anyone who wasn't athletic.
A: Right.

Q: But you also suggested maybe that was a caricature.
A: Right.

Q: To what extent was it a caricature?
A: You've been reading my posts for a while now, Interrogator.  To what extent do you think it was a caricature?

Q: Maybe you were talking about action versus inaction?
A: Maybe I was.  What do you think?

Q: You have said you are a tool-using person, that you enjoy using tools and refining the movements involved in their use.
A: Something like that, yes.

Q: So would you agree there are other kinds of movement patterns one can economize, and perhaps even find some kind of personal fulfillment in using and refining those patterns?
A: Probably.  It depends on the movement pattern.

Q: What do you mean?
A: I'm not sure it's a good thing for someone to refine the movements involved in killing animals or humans.

Q: Are you talking about hunters and fishermen?
A: Hunters of humans, fishers of men.

Q: Which means?
A: War.  Manipulation of human existential thought/experience.

Q: Example?
A: Israel.

Q: Other example?
A: United States of America.

Q: Other example?
A: I'm gonna point you toward William Blum here.  Go here and scroll down to the list of Chapters and read the ones he's provided for free, each is hyperlinked.  Client governments manipulated by American Gepetto.

Q: What's your point?
A: I am not inclined to respect those people for being good at treating other humans disrespectfully, dismissively, oppressively, with lethal force... for starters.  No matter how much time they invested in refining their Machiavellian talents.  Have you ever read The 48 Laws of Power, Interrogator?

Q: No, why?
A: After reading that book I was able to detach sufficiently from my own moral and ethical horrors at watching Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Libby, Wolfowitz unfurl their PeeNac manifesto, and realize what master manipulators of power they were.  They convinced huge swaths of America that they were "incompetent" at governing, while showing the greatest competence of all, achieving ultimate power, and manipulating it for exclusively personal gains -- some of which involved the pleasure felt by knowing they were killing humans who stood in the way of their plans and goals.  And like I said, they convinced a lot of people that it was due to "incompetence."  Fucking hilarious.

Q: In a very dark way, if hilarious at all.
A: Fuckin' A right it's dark.  It's a fucking black hole of morality running the show in America.  Short term private gains are running the show.  Perish the thought of negative ramifications, this is the Gaping Maw of the Apocalypse we're facing, and we're all in on this last jackpot!

Q: Let's get back to that thing about athletes, tool use, movements.
A: Yeah.  I respect anyone who takes anything -- an idea, a chunk of rock, a mathematical problem, an engineering problem, the use of a TIG welding torch... as examples -- and works to refine that thing, whatever's being worked on.  And on the flip side, I don't respect people who just want to throw on the costume of someone who does that refining/creative act, and gain some sort of social credibility because of outward signals.  It's more about the process, and not really about how it looks to the observer.

Q: What do you mean?
A: Do you know the Talking Heads song Seen and Not Seen?  If not, hit the link and listen to it.  Then tell me if you ever in your life engaged in the practice of guessing what someone does based on how they appear to you?  What they do for a living, what they do for fun?  What kind of car they'd drive?  What kind of house they'd live in, what part of town, what kind of "development" or "community"?

Q: Okay...
A: When I was a kid I would have various sports heroes and I would try to guess at their personalities, mostly whether they were the kinds of people who would teach a kid like me a new skill or two if they ever met me, but also what else in their lives might have contributed to their greatness as athletes.

Q: Why did you wonder about those things?
A: Because from a very young age I wanted to be a great athlete in some sport, though I found it hard to choose one and stick with it.  Eventually I planned to play as many as possible to figure out which ones were my favorite and my most natural.  It's probably the only childhood goal I ever had, this aim to be a great athlete in at least one sport.  I never had any goals about careers, jobs, family, kids.  If you'd asked me under sodium pentothal at age 12 what I wanted, I would have said: "to be a great athlete in at least 3 sports."  And ideally, as a really young athlete of say 7 or 8, I imagined I was going to be great at every single sport.  Every one.  After all, the basic 3 of my childhood - football, baseball and soccer - came easily to me.  But eventually I played basketball and learned I was below-average at something.  The same thing happened in tennis.

Q: So a lot of things came easily to you as a kid.
A: Yeah.  At the time I was discovering this, it was incredible.  The crazy school I attended K-6 had some interesting P.E. activities and they also had a summer camp that I attended for 3 summers, and we did some activities I didn't have otherwise in my life: archery, BB gun target shooting, a game called "speedball", and trampoline.  I discovered I was good at all those things.  The K-6 school was small and private, and the class was probably 70% the same kids from K all the way through 6.  We all got to know each other pretty well.  Back then my classmates expressed admiration for my natural abilities in sports, and contrasted me to the girl who was considered our "smartest" classmate, who was pretty haughty about her grades and her natural intellectual gifts.

Q: You didn't talk about your abilities?
A: No.  I just wanted to use them.  I didn't care much for talking about anything.  It always seemed that what I was interested in was different from what others were interested in.  I never wanted to argue about whether Brooks Robinson was the best 3d baseman ever for the Orioles, for the American League, for all of Baseball.  To me he was, and it got me nowhere to argue whether someone else might be at his level.  So when playing sports I just wanted to play.  I didn't want to be Team Captain, I didn't need to be the Star Player.  I just wanted some part of the main part of the play.  For example in football little league, I played several offensive positions -- quarterback, running back, receiver.  We didn't really throw that much so receiver got boring to me and I asked to move to running back.  I was okay at QB but I'm really more interested in doing my job and doing it well.  I don't need to be the field general.  I stopped playing football at age 12 and didn't play again until college flag football intramurals where I played receiver and inside linebacker.

Q: What about other sports?
A: In soccer I played wing, striker/forward, and sweeper.  I preferred wing and sweeper.  I'd rather provide a good assist than get lots of goals, but I enjoyed making goals too.  I never liked heading much though, probably because it reminded me of concussions.  In lacrosse I played defense and midfield with a few occasions at attack.  I preferred midfield.

Q: Why do you think basketball was a bad sport for you?
A: I couldn't be bothered to practice dribbling.  I had average shooting skills and could dribble and pass okay as long as I was able to do everything right-handed.  I played little league basketball for several years in elementary school, tried out for my 7th grade jr high team and got cut, deservedly so.  Played in county recreational basketball in high school, mostly as a social thing, I was definitely not focusing on basketball by the time I was in HS.  It was obvious my skills weren't there, and I wasn't willing to develop them.  I also spent no time understanding the game.  I just liked to play, didn't care about setting up plays, etc.  I was a low-level pine-riding piker at best.

Q: How about motocross?
A: That's a good one.  I started riding at age 12 in Houston TX.  My apartment complex had several other kids my age with small (70-100 cc) dirt bikes and eventually we started riding together.  I found other kids at my jr high to ride with also.  Some of them raced motocross and tried to get me to race, but ixnay on the acingray said the Parental Authority.  I enjoyed riding moto, and apparently I was pretty good at it.  Not surprising: it involved two wheels, dirt, an engine, tool-use, skills refinement.

Oxtrot's requiem

In rummaging through Mr Oxtrot's notes, I found a reference to a James McMurtry song, with a scribbled margin note: this is about me!

I couldn't find an .mp3 of the song by McMurtry, but I did find a cover of it here.

--Karl
_______________________________________

Where's Johnny, by James McMurtry

Young Johnny, he really had a way
He did his homework on the school bus
And he always got an A
And the girls liked Johnny
More than anyone 'cept maybe Elton John
Later on in high school
He couldn't keep his red suspenders on

(chorus)
Oh where's Johnny has he gone away
Oh where's Johnny will he be back someday

He had a room full of trophies
From the track meets and the tennis games he'd win
He was a full-blown whiz kid
Bound to be a Renaissance man
Then he went on off to college
Got his head stuck in a different state of mind
When they asked him was it alcohol?
He told them it was nothing of the kind
Just life just life, mom

(chorus)

But Johnny's alright he just turned out his lights
They'd have paid it no mind had he not been so bright
He opened up his eyes and he snapped out of the groove
He saw both sides of everything and found he could not
move

Johnny moved home
Now he reads a lot of poetry and plays
He'll sit out in the backyard
And not say a word to anyone for days
And his folks gave up
They no longer even bother getting through
He's thirty-odd years old
They must have figured there's just so much you can do

His mother keeps his pictures
In the scrapbook in the drawer with her pearls
She polishes the trophies
That he won back when they thought he'd save the world
Back when the girls liked Johnny
More than anyone 'cept maybe Elton John
She wonders where's her little boy
With the braces and the red suspenders gone
Just life

________________________________

Note the 2d:

In the next page of notes, Oxtrot said there were more parallels to his life found in Suttree.

--Karl

Friday, April 1, 2011

moving sale: all items reduced up to 75% off yesterday's price

New home of Oxtrot Industries, LLC

misery

How many of the most miserable cities here are ones which experienced faddish, "I'm hip now" growth during the past 20 years?

Phoenix AZ - brilliant fucking strategy, like Las Vegas heat/sun/skincancer wise, without the absurd mob money to keep it liquid, encourage people and businesses to move there, only to discover the overhead of constant 72deg F destroys everyone's piggybank.

Portland OR - let's call ourselves the new hipster city, promote our "indie" culture, encourage lots of people to move here to gain hipness-by-affiliation-with-Portland, and then... have no jobs for them, no affordable housing because there's no jobs, and therefore... lots of unhappy hipsters riding fixies with rusty chains.

Demver CO - never mind that everyone else just like you (asphalt born-and-bred, with fantasy images of being able to "rough it" outside the concrete, treeless, mountain-free landscape) has the idea of "moving to the country" or "moving to the mountains" while keeping a bit of that city influence... never mind that Denver is in the Front Range, which was hyped radically by skiers and mountain bikers in the 1985-2000 timeframe as "the place to be" if you were at all serious about skiing or mountain biking but lived in one of America's dingy cities.

Oxtrot predicts that by 2021, Missoula MT and Boulder CO will be on the list.

...let your pants hang low...