Firings watch.

January 9th, 2017

Ray Horton out as defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, who have replaced him with the man known to TMQ as “the tastefully named Gregg Williams”.

You may remember Gregg Williams as the former defensive coordinator for the LA Rams, who started looking for a new job after Jeff Fisher got fired. Or you may remember him before that as a defensive assistant for the Tennessee Titans. Or you may remember him before that as “the guy who got indefinitely suspended by the NFL as part of Bountygate”.

The Redskins fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry, plus a couple of staff members and their strength coach.

And the University of California at Berkeley fired head football coach Sonny Dykes. I think I speak for many people when I say, “UC-Berkeley has a football team? Isn’t that just an expression of toxic masculinity?”

Dykes was 19-30 over four seasons.

Not sure I agree 100% with your police work there, Lou.

January 9th, 2017

One thing the Citizen’s Police Academy “suggests” is that you should reserve judgement on incidents involving the police – if not until all the facts are in, at least until we’re past the initial reports stage.

With that said, this doesn’t look good.

Yesterday, the APD arrested a man at one of our local malls. He was charged with shoplifting, but APD couldn’t determine his identity and suspected he had open felony warrants. So they loaded him into the back of a squad car and headed downtown for fingerprints.

On the way, the handcuffed gentleman told the officer he was feeling suicidal. The officer asked him if he had the means to kill himself…

…whereupon the gentleman in question pulled a gun out of his waistband and, after a brief standoff, shot himself in the head.

The obvious question is: how did police not find the gun?

An Austin police officer did not conduct a thorough pat-down of a man who shot himself Sunday in the back of a police car because the man already had been handcuffed by mall security, a preliminary investigation of the incident has found.

Other than the obvious lesson about assumptions getting you killed, I’m also wondering: how big was the gun? If it was a full-sized 1911, that’s one thing: Ray Charles probably wouldn’t have missed that. Then again, if it was a full-size 1911, the guy would probably be dead, instead of critical. If it was something like a NAA .22, or possibly even a Ruger LCP, missing it is a little more understandable to me.

Obit watch: January 9, 2017.

January 9th, 2017

Nat Hentoff has passed away at the age of 91. NYT. Reason. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. I can’t link to them directly, but Popehat has been retweeting a lot of very good tributes to Mr. Hentoff.

hentoff

Mr. Hentoff was a personal hero of mine (who I never met). Stipulated: he was a liberal, and we probably would have disagreed on many of the social issues of the day. But there was one thing we agreed on: freedom of speech. Mr. Hentoff was an absolutist. He didn’t care if you were left, right, a student, or even a Nazi. If someone was trying to stop you from speaking, he was against it. He wrote eloquently and well for many years for the Village Voice in opposition to censors and censorship. He didn’t just limit himself to government action, though there was plenty of fertile ground there. He also spoke out against private censors. I particularly remember his condemnations of CBS for suspending Andy Rooney

(I don’t know how long he’d been ill, but I wonder what, if anything, he would have said about Milo Yiannopoulos and Simon & Schuster.)

One of the things I respected about him was his intellectual consistency. That didn’t just apply to freedom of speech. He was opposed to the death penalty. But he was also opposed to abortion (he was the only anti-abortion voice in the Voice, and he wasn’t shy about expressing his views) and euthanasia. I like the way Wikipedia summarizes his view:

Hentoff argued that a consistent life ethic should be the viewpoint of a genuine civil libertarian, arguing that all human rights are at risk when the rights of any one group of people are diminished, that human rights are interconnected, and people deny others’ human rights at their own peril.

When I was a young lad in middle school and high school, Hentoff’s books on free speech were in the school library, and my high school had a subscription to the Voice. Nat Hentoff shaped my views on freedom of speech, and inspired me (in my own small way) to be a first amendment advocate and activist.

I’m reminded of that quote from Melville Davisson Post that I often use: “He stood up as though he stood alone, with no glance about him to see what other men would do…No one of them believed in what the other taught; but they all believed in justice, and when the line was drawn, there was but one side for them all.” That was Nat Hentoff.

(He also was a pretty prominent writer on jazz, though I was born without the jazz appreciation gene and am not as well read in his jazz writings.)

91 is a good run, but the world is still a lesser place today.

I heartily endorse this event or product. (#14 in a series)

January 7th, 2017

EZ Frame Fixer
2308 E. Cesar Chavez #A
Austin, TX 78702
512-391-9900

For various and uninteresting reasons, I needed to do something about my prescription glasses. And I wanted to do something relatively cheap that didn’t involve new lenses, since I plan to go see my eye doctor in the near future and will probably wind up with a new prescription.

Lenscrafters doesn’t make the frame I need any longer, couldn’t repair the existing frame, and told me they couldn’t move the lenses to another frame since they were sized specifically for that frame. (I would have figured that frame sizes are pretty standard, but..)

They gave me EZ Frame Fixer’s number and suggested I give them a shot.

Thing #1: When I called and asked if they were open today, the guy who answered the phone said, “I can be.” It appears their “official” hours are Monday-Friday 10 AM to 5:30 PM, but the guy (“Christino”, I think, according to their business card) basically told me, “I live eight blocks away. Come on down, call me when you get there, and I’ll come over and open up.”

Thing #2: So I got down there, and he was already at the shop. Went in, laid the glasses on the counter, showed him what was wrong (the arm on one side had come detached from the hinge)…

Me: “The guys at Lenscrafters said you might be able to solder this, but the hinge may not fold any more. I’m okay with that…”

Him: “No, when I do a job, I do it right. (Emphasis added- DB) It’ll work.”

And it does. He fixed the glasses for me while I waited, charged only $30, and they work perfectly. You can’t even tell they’ve been repaired.

I suspect most people just throw away their broken frames. Why bother getting anything repaired any more, when you can just get cheap crap online and throw it away? But it is nice to find somebody who can do this kind of work if you need it, who will go out of the way to help you on the weekend, and has that old world sense of craftsmanship.

I don’t know what your other choices in Austin for eyeglass repair are, but if you need frames repaired, give EZ Frame Fixer a call.

Retail is heck.

January 6th, 2017

Two stories related to the declining fortunes of the retail industry that I thought were worth noting:

1. Sears is selling off the Craftsman tool brand. My dad did all of his own auto and home maintenance, and he swore by his Craftsman tools. And why not: they had a lifetime warranty, no questions asked. (I remember going with him to a Sears at one point to exchange a socket wrench: he was trying to get a rusted bolt on a truck bumper unstuck, as I recall, and was using a length of pipe to get additional leverage. The wrench snapped in half before the bolt gave. And Sears didn’t even ask any questions. They just gave him a replacement socket wrench.)

But I haven’t been in a Sears store for years, and I’m not even sure that they still have the lifetime warranty on Craftsman tools. I’m not sure what my dad would be doing now: perhaps purchasing Snap-On instead, as I think they’ve become a little more available now. (You kind of had to know people in the 70s and early 80s, or work professionally as a mechanic, to get Snap-On tools.) This looks like a quick attempt at a cash infusion to prop up a dying company.

2) Macy’s is laying off 10,000 people. And they’re closing three stores in Houston, including the one at Greenspoint Mall.

When I was a teenager, I spent a fair amount of time at Greenspoint Mall, and I (well, my family and I) shopped at the Foley’s.

Note I said “the Foley’s”. Not “the Macy’s”. Foley’s was a beloved regional brand that Macy’s bought and which they have proceeded to run into the ground.

Granted, it is hard to do retail these days, and it is hard to run a mall. Especially Greenspoint, which has changed considerably since my teenage years. (I have heard that it is now commonly nicknamed “Gunspoint Mall”.) As Mike the Musicologist, who is also familiar with the area, said when I informed him, “… seeing what’s become of Greenspoint and West Oaks, the better question is ‘What took you so long?'”

Maybe sometime real soon now, they can use what’s left of Greenspoint to film the big chase scene in that all-female remake of “The Blues Brothers”. I remember there being lots of space in that mall.

Firings watch.

January 3rd, 2017

Chan Gailey was not fired as offensive coordinator of the New York Jets.

He retired. And this seems like a legit retirement: His Channess is 65, and supposedly told the team of his plans at the start of this past season.

However, the Jets did fire five assistant coaches.

Tracy Claeys out as head coach of the University of Minnesota. This is interesting: the team was 9-4 this season, he was 11-8 overall, and won both of the bowl games his team played in during his tenure.

So why fire him? It looks like this is more fallout from the sexual assault issue, which you may remember from mid-December. If you don’t remember it, briefly: ten players were suspended from the team for an alleged sexual assault. The other members of the team sided with the suspended players, “boycotted all team activities for two days”, and threatened not to participate in the Holiday Bowl. Claeys publically supported the players and their actions:

Claeys tweeted: “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!”

He later sort of walked back that cat and promised he’d give $50,000 “to help support victims of sexual assault”. But it still left him kind of crosswise with the administration, and I guess they decided that this was something up with which they would not put.

Leadership Secrets of Non-Fictional Characters (part 13 in a series)

January 2nd, 2017

I don’t want this to dissolve into “All Mattis, All The Time”.

But this story made me choke up almost as much as the Christmas story did.

…General Mattis was just doing what he saw as his job: taking care of those who had served him and their country so bravely, and not once looking for recognition.

I also like this because it calls back to two recurring “Leadership Secrets” tropes:

Obit watch: January 2, 2017.

January 2nd, 2017

William Christopher, most famous as Father Mulcahy on “M*A*S*H” and “AfterMASH”.

(My mother observed that she saw him recently on a “Murder She Wrote” rerun, in which he was the bad guy. It looks like he knocked around a bit before “MASH”:

He appeared on a number of popular shows, including “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Patty Duke Show,” “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” “Hogan’s Heroes” and “The Love Boat.”

)

(And I was reading up a little on “AFterMASH” over the weekend. Yes, it was probably a bad idea in retrospect: even the executive producer thinks so, though I disagree with his assertion that it featured “the three weakest characters”: I don’t think he gives Harry Morgan enough credit.

But the thing that surprises me (I never watched an episode) is that it was actually a top 10 show in the first season. The thing that killed it wasn’t quality, or the lack thereof: it was that CBS, in their infinite wisdom, decided “AfterMASH” could go head-to-head against “The A-Team” for the second season. That…didn’t quite work.)

Blood in the streets!

January 2nd, 2017

This used to be the “Bloody Monday” thread, where I covered all the firings after the last day of the NFL regular season. But we’ve reached the point now where teams aren’t waiting for Monday to start firing people.

For example, general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly are both out in San Francisco. The official announcement came after the game, but there was widespread “speculation” that they were both out: Baalke actually appeared on San Francisco radio before the games and confirmed his firing.

This is the second consecutive season the 49ers have fired their coach after just one year, having fired Jim Tomsula after the 2015 campaign. It’s the second time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that a team has replaced back-to-back coaches after only one full season each, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, with San Francisco also having done so in 1976 and ’77.

San Francisco was 2-14 this year.

(On a side note, is it just me, or are San Francisco’s newspapers mostly really bad? On a second side note, Gregg Easterbrook would be totally insufferable, if he’d been writing TMQ this year.)

Speaking of bad teams, San Diego fired head coach Mike McCoy, which is a good start. Now if they’d just fire the entire rest of the team.

McCoy was 28-38 in four years with the team, and 5-11 this year. You may recall that San Diego gave hapless the Cleveland Browns their only win this season.

This is not a firing, but worth noting: Gary Kubiak is out as head coach in Denver. This seems to be tied to his personal health issues, which I’m really not comfortable discussing or speculating on. I hope he comes back at some point.

There’s speculation that Sean Payton may be moving to the Rams, which should be interesting. Do the Saints want to keep him? If so, why? It seems to me that since their one Super Bowl win, the Saints have been a giant ball of disappointment: almost as if the football gods were out to get them for Bountygate. Is Payton a good coach? Can he do something with the Rams? Or did he just get lucky once?

I’ll try to post updates here if anybody else gets axed today.

Edited to add: more from the “not quite a firing, but” department: Lane Kiffin will be leaving Alabama before the national championship game. It’s not quite a firing because he’d already signed on as head coach of Florida Atlantic, but the general expectation seemed to be that he’d at least hang around for the title game. However, there were complaints about the Lanester showing up late for events: it kind of sounds like Bama got tired of his (stuff) and suggested he leave now.

There are rumors that Jim Irsay may clean house in Indianapolis, but nothing definite yet. Chuck Pagano just held a press conference and said he hadn’t talked to Irsay, and that he expected to be back; I’m sure Irsay is filled with joy at hearing this.

Obit watch: December 30, 2016.

December 30th, 2016

George S. Irving has died. He was 94.

Mr. Irving was a Tony award winner (for a revival of “Irene” in which he acted opposite Debbie Reynolds):

Mr. Irving was a regular on Broadway, in the musicals “Can-Can,” “Bells Are Ringing” and “Irma La Douce,” among others, and in plays like Gore Vidal’s political satire “An Evening With Richard Nixon and…,” in which he played the title role.

He was also a television spokesman for White Owl cigars, and narrated episodes of “Underdog”.

But he was perhaps best known as the voice of Heat Miser in “The Year Without a Santa Claus”. He was also in “A Miser Brothers’ Christmas” (which I’d never even heard of, but I was apparently in my 40s when that premiered).

Quick random notes.

December 29th, 2016

Well, found my 2017 calendar. (Okay, it is a little expensive, and I already have a Gunsite 2017 calendar that I picked up in Tulsa. But I’m taking a flyer on the CIA one because the thumbnails of the art look incredible: I’m seeing this described as more of an art book that you hang on the wall. I’ll do a follow-up once I get it.)

(By way of.)

I’ve never liked the Philadelphia Eagles, but this story makes me feel a bit better about them: Quarterback Carson Wentz bought his offensive line a present.

Each of them is getting a personalized Beretta shotgun.

“I like to go clay shooting and stuff,” added Brandon Brooks. “All I’ve got is a home defense tactical shotgun, short-barrel, so I was looking for one of these.”

The great thing about this? Not only is a cool present, but it should make all the right people’s heads explode.

Obit watch: December 29, 2016.

December 29th, 2016

The Grim Reaper finally caught up with Vesna Vulovic (or Vesna Vulović). She was 66 years old, and had managed to outrun him for nearly 45 of those years.

If that sounds callous, well, Ms. Vulovic had an amazing story. You might even remember it if you were an obsessive reader of the Guinness Book of World Records when you were young.

Ms. Vulovic was a flight attendant on JAT Flight 367 between Stockholm and Belgrade on January 26, 1972. She had actually swapped places with another girl and wasn’t originally scheduled to work this flight. As we see so often in movies and television, this never ends well…

An hour into the flight, the plane, a DC-9, blew up over the Czech village of Srbska Kamenice. As others were believed to have been sucked out of the jet into subfreezing temperatures, Ms. Vulovic remained inside part of the shattered fuselage, wedged in by a food cart, as it plunged.
Trees broke the fall of the fuselage section and snow on the hill cushioned its landing.

Ms. Vulovic is believed to have fallen 33,000 feet, which (according to Guinness, at least) is the longest documented fall survived without a parachute. She was badly injured, but Ms. Vulovic was the only survivor of Flight 367. It is generally believed that the plane was blown up by a terrorist bomb in the forward cargo hold.

But an investigation by two reporters in Prague in 2009 challenged that account. They concluded that the DC-9 was mistakenly shot down by the Czechoslovak Air Force at an altitude of only 800 meters, or about 2,625 feet.

I think the Wikipedia page (I know, I know) on Flight 367 has a fairly good explanation of why this theory is bolshie bushwa. Here’s a hint: the black boxes…

…which provided the exact data about the time, speed, direction, acceleration and altitude of the plane at the moment of the explosion. Both black boxes were opened and analysed by the service companies in Amsterdam in the presence of experts from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the Dutch Aviation Office (Raad voor de Luchtvaart).

I could buy a couple of Communist countries being in on the conspiracy. But the Dutch?

Sometimes there’s just nothing you can say. Debbie Reynolds: NYT. LAT. A/V Club.