The Daily Parker

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Wonderful things!

Today is the 100th anniversary of Howard Carter poking his head into the 3,000-year-old tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamen:

After World War I, Carter began an intensive search for Tutankhamen’s tomb and on November 4, 1922, discovered a step leading to its entrance. Lord Carnarvon rushed to Egypt, and on November 23 they broke through a mud-brick door, revealing the passageway that led to Tutankhamen’s tomb. There was evidence that robbers had entered the structure at some point, and the archaeologists feared they had discovered yet another pillaged tomb. However, on November 26 they broke through another door, and Carter leaned in with a candle to take a look. Behind him, Lord Carnarvon asked, “Can you see anything?” Carter replied, “Yes, wonderful things.”

Thus began a monumental excavation process in which Carter carefully explored the four-room tomb over several years, uncovering an incredible collection of several thousand objects. In addition to numerous pieces of jewelry and gold, there was statuary, furniture, clothes, a chariot, weapons, and numerous other objects that shed a brilliant light on the culture and history of ancient Egypt. The most splendid find was a stone sarcophagus containing three coffins nested within each other. Inside the final coffin, made out of solid gold, was the mummified body of the boy-king Tutankhamen, preserved for 3,200 years. Most of these treasures are now housed in the Cairo Museum.

Skip ahead 50 years or so into my childhood when two brilliant bits of comedy emerged as the King Tut exhibit traveled through the US. The first needs no introduction, but gets one anyway:

The second came from architect and author David Macaulay, who imagined  a future archaeologist finding a late-20th-century American "tomb" in the year CE 4022. If you can find a copy of Motel of the Mysteries, read the Howard Carter story and then Macaulay's take on it. It still cracks me up.

Forty years ago today

...this happened:

I admit, I never heard of "The Play" before this morning, and I'm not even really a football fan. So when this popped up on my history feed, I had to Google it. I'm glad I did; reading a description of this event and seeing the video are two different things (yay Internet!). I laughed so hard I even woke Cassie up.

Go Bears!

Fifteen minutes of voting

Even with Chicago's 1,642 judges on the ballot ("Shall NERDLY McSNOOD be retained as a circuit court judge in Cook County?"), I still got in and out of my polling place in about 15 minutes. It helped that the various bar associations only gave "not recommended" marks to two of them, which still left 1,640 little "yes" ovals to fill in.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world...

Finally, Chicago gets a new brewery taproom on Thursday when Hop Butcher to the World opens in Half Acre's former Lincoln Avenue space, just over 2 km from my house. Cassie and I might find out on Saturday whether they let dogs in, assuming the forecast holds. (And there it is: a post that literally checks all the boxes for Daily Parker categories!)

World Series no-hitter

The Houston Astros won game 4 of the World Series last night with a no-hitter, which hasn't happened since 1956:

Pitching like a Game 1 starter, the young right-hander Cristian Javier put on a clinic on a night Houston was in need of something spectacular, throwing six no-hit innings at Philadelphia and combining with three relievers for the first combined no-hitter in World Series history.

Javier’s outing positioned the Astros for a 5-0, World Series-tying win in a Game 4 classic. Bryan Abreu struck out the side in the seventh inning, Rafael Montero worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Ryan Pressly lifted the Astros into the history books with a hitless ninth inning, delivering the third no-hitter of any type in postseason history and only the second to come in the World Series.

Only Don Larsen of the Yankees has ever thrown a solo no-hitter in the World Series. That was a perfect game in Game 5 in 1956, when catcher Yogi Berra famously leaped into Larsen’s arms to celebrate. On Wednesday, Houston’s catcher, Vázquez, had his choice of pitchers with whom to celebrate.

And yet, the TV audience declined again:

The Philadelphia Phillies’ 7-0 win over Houston in Game 3 of the World Series was seen by 11,162,000 viewers on Fox, down 2.7% from last year’s third game.

Atlanta’s 2-0 victory over the Astros last season was seen by 11,469,000. That game was on a Friday night, while this year’s Game 3 was on a Tuesday.

This year’s audience was up 34% from the 8,339,000 for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 6-2 win over Tampa Bay in 2020, the lowest-rated World Series.

World Series viewership has declined steadily since its peak in the 1970s. But why?

Derek Thompson points to the influence of Sabermetrics ("Moneyball") strategies, which have "led to a series of offensive and defensive adjustments that were, let’s say, catastrophically successful:"

The religion scholar James P. Carse wrote that there are two kinds of games in life: finite and infinite. A finite game is played to win; there are clear victors and losers. An infinite game is played to keep playing; the goal is to maximize winning across all participants. Debate is a finite game. Marriage is an infinite game. The midterm elections are finite games. American democracy is an infinite game. A great deal of unnecessary suffering in the world comes from not knowing the difference. A bad fight can destroy a marriage. A challenged election can destabilize a democracy. In baseball, winning the World Series is a finite game, while growing the popularity of Major League Baseball is an infinite game. What happened, I think, is that baseball’s finite game was solved so completely in such a way that the infinite game was lost.

Cultural Moneyballism, in this light, sacrifices exuberance for the sake of formulaic symmetry. It sacrifices diversity for the sake of familiarity. It solves finite games at the expense of infinite games. Its genius dulls the rough edges of entertainment. I think that’s worth caring about. It is definitely worth asking the question: In a world that will only become more influenced by mathematical intelligence, can we ruin culture through our attempts to perfect it?

Case in point: Don Larsen threw his perfect game all on his own in 1956. Christian Javier had three relievers last night. So is it really the same accomplishment?

Threads to read

Here are some short thoughts that add up to longer thoughts today:

Finally, from 2021, the Calgary Real Estate Board (no kidding) extols the virtues of the conversation pit.

Lunch reading

I'm starting to adapt my habits and patterns to the new place. I haven't figured out where to put everything yet, especially in my kitchen, but I'll live with the first draft for a few weeks before moving things around.

I'm also back at work in my new office loft, which is measurably quieter than the previous location—except when the Metra comes by, but that just takes a couple of seconds.

I actually have the mental space to resume my normal diet of reading. If only I had the time. Nevertheless:

Finally, does anyone want to go to New York with me to see a play about Robert Moses starring Ralph Fiennes? Apparently tickets are only $2,000 a pop...

Not at the End of History quite yet

Stanford University historian Francis Fukuyama outlines why liberal democracies have better governance than dictatorships, and why authoritarianism comes back like an old stray cat ever couple of generations:

Russia and China both have argued that liberal democracy is in long-term decline, and that their brand of muscular authoritarian government is able to act decisively and get things done while their democratic rivals debate, dither, and fail to deliver on their promises. Over the past year, though, it has become evident that there are key weaknesses at the core of these strong states.

The weaknesses are of two sorts. First, the concentration of power in the hands of a single leader at the top all but guarantees low-quality decision making, and over time will produce truly catastrophic consequences. Second, the absence of public discussion and debate in “strong” states, and of any mechanism of accountability, means that the leader’s support is shallow, and can erode at a moment’s notice.

Liberal democracy, precisely because it distributes power and relies on consent of the governed, is in much better shape globally than many people think. Despite recent gains by populist parties in Sweden and Italy, most countries in Europe still enjoy a strong degree of social consensus.

The problem is that many who grow up living in peaceful, prosperous liberal democracies begin to take their form of government for granted. Because they have never experienced an actual tyranny, they imagine that the democratically elected governments under which they live are themselves evil dictatorships conniving to take away their rights, whether that is the European Union or the administration in Washington. But reality has intervened. The Russian invasion of Ukraine constitutes a real dictatorship trying to crush a genuinely free society with rockets and tanks, and may serve to remind the current generation of what is at stake.

Or, as Winston Churchill said 75 years ago,

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

I have faith that democracy will prevail, in my lifetime, against the current crop of authoritarian dickheads. But I also think a generation of Europeans and North Americans won't get there without quite a bit more authoritarian discomfort.

Not the shortest term as Chancellor ever

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng is out on his ass so that PM Liz Truss (who also holds the title First Lord of the Treasury) can put off going to the country for just a little longer:

Jeremy Hunt has been appointed as Liz Truss’s new chancellor, in a stunning reversal of political fortune and a sign that the beleaguered prime minister wants to reach out to other sections of the Conservative party.

Hunt, the former foreign secretary and health secretary, who has twice tried unsuccessfully to become Conservative leader, was named chancellor after Kwasi Kwarteng, in the job for just over five weeks, was sacked by Truss ahead of another U-turn over tax cuts.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats said Truss now needed to stand down. Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, said: “We don’t just need a change in chancellor, we need a change in government.”

Kwarteng now holds the record for the shortest-serving Chancellor ever to survive the office:

Mr Kwarteng, formerly Ms Truss’s close political ally, is carrying the can for the financial and political turmoil unleashed by his mini-budget on September 23rd. His tenure of just 39 days in a job that dates back to the Middle Ages is not the shortest. But it’s not far off....

Mr Kwarteng’s chancellorship is the second shortest of modern times. Only Iain Macleod, who died on his 31st day in office, in 1970, spent less time in 11 Downing Street. Mr Kwarteng’s immediate predecessor, Nadim Zahawi, was chancellor for just 64 days. His tenure, it turns out, was not even the shortest of the year.

Mr Kwarteng’s successor, Jeremy Hunt, is the sixth chancellor in just over three years. Philip Hammond gave way to Sajid Javid when Boris Johnson replaced Theresa May as prime minister in July 2019. Mr Javid fell out with Mr Johnson after less than seven months. Rishi Sunak quit this year to force Mr Johnson from office. Mr Zahawi kept the seat warm while the Tories chose a new leader. And now Ms Truss’s catastrophic start has cost her ally his job. It may yet cost her hers.

The parliamentary system means that the government doesn't have to call an election if they don't want to, though an act passed earlier this year will force Parliament to dissolve five years after its opening. As that won't happen until January 2025, the Conservative Party could continue to drag the country through chaos until just after the end of President Biden's first term. Let's all hope they just get out of the way next spring.

شاش سگ

I learned a new phrase in Farsi today: zag shusheet! It means "dog piss." And I learned it from the man who will clean and repair the two early-20th-century rugs that my mother left me.

I also learned the Farsi for "chewed edge," but I didn't write that one down.

And how much will it cost to restore the two rugs that my darling Cassie has in so many ways defiled? $2,400.

Fortunately the work will take a couple of months (Eli has a backlog), so I've got some time to dock her allowance. And our new house has multiple floors, so I can isolate her from the two rugs whenever I leave the house.

(Note: the rugs in question are legit antique Persians worth restoring. The rug Cassie destroyed last spring was not.)

This punim is the only thing that saved my zag today:

Packing day

As far as I know, I'm moving in 2½ weeks, though the exact timing of both real-estate closings remain unknown. Last time I moved it took me about 38 hours to pack and 15 to unpack. This time I expect it to go faster, in part because I'm not spending as much time going "oh, I love this book!"

I'm taking a quick break and catching up on some reading:

Finally, a new survey says Chicagoans swear a lot less than most Americans, with people from Columbus, Ohio, swearing the most. Fuck that shit.