Monday, February 14th, 2022


For Those About to Guac

The greatest post season in NFL history culminated with a close and pretty good game won by the Rams over the Bengals, with a whole lot of help from Cooper Kupp, the game MVP, who showed you why he also should have been the league MVP. He's been doing this to every team, including mine, all year. OK, enough about the game...

One of Jay-Z's most famous lines is I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man. And the nostalgia-heavy and undeniably awesome halftime show featured an all star cast of rap legends, many of whom have become wildly successful beyond the stage. Dr. Dre, who in recent years has become more well known for his sale of Beats to Apple, proved he still has a pretty decent side-gig as a rapper and producer. (Ironically, playing in the NFL dramatically increases the odds that you forgot about Dre.) The performance was one of the best halftime shows ever, although I could have done without 50 Cent re-enacting his In Da Club video by hanging upside down while singing. With 50 in his mid-40s, that kind of head bloating is a good way to end up In Da ER. Here's the whole show and some details you might have missed.

The commercials were heavy on Crypto and Hard Seltzer in what looked like the battle of the bubbles. Props to Larry David's commercial for some crypto thing, Arnold as Zeus, GreenLight, and keeping up with the Joneses and Jonases. And we finally know what happened at the end of The Sopranos. The parents were killed, leaving the kids to achieve their destiny as liberal environmentalists! This year's ads were notable for the number of them that featured products you can't really buy. By the time the Mexican avocado growers commercial appeared, the U.S. had suspended all imports of Mexican avocados 'until further notice' after a U.S. plant safety inspector in Mexico received a threatening message. Like your addiction to cocaine and meth, your addiction to guacamole and avocado toast is causing problems in Mexico. In the past decade, American consumption of avocados has doubled. Vox: America's insatiable appetite for guacamole is threatening Mexican forests. Here's more from AP: "Regular citizens have taken the fight against illegal logging into their own hands in the pine-covered mountains of western Mexico, where loggers clear entire hillsides for avocado plantations that drain local water supplies and draw drug cartels hungry for extortion money." (Just a thought: you may want to consider switching to salsa.) At least you can still get your hands on some avocados. The same is not true for many of the cars that were promoted.

+ Meanwhile, the product served up by one set of advertisers is now more accessible than ever. Until quite recently, the NFL and other pro sports leagues were adamantly anti-gambling. They changed their mind and decided to take a piece of the action, and that has changed the landscape of sports betting which is going through the roof. Related problems like gambling addiction and kids getting hooked will follow the same growth trajectory. You can bet on it. NYT: The N.F.L.'s About-Face on Sports Gambling.

+ Van Jefferson helps Los Angeles Rams to Super Bowl LVI title, then celebrates birth of son with wife at hospital.

+ And Rams' fans celebrated the Super Bowl win in classic LA fashion: with traffic.


Vlad Men

"All told, the extraordinary series of disclosures — unfolding almost as quickly as information is collected and assessed — has amounted to one of the most aggressive releases of intelligence by the United States since the Cuban missile crisis." U.S. Battles Putin by Disclosing His Next Possible Moves. The Russian troop build-up continues. Here's the latest.

+ Anne Applebaum, as usual, gives a great reminder of who we're dealing with. Why the West's Diplomacy With Russia Keeps Failing. "Tragically, the Western leaders and diplomats who are right now trying to stave off a Russian invasion of Ukraine still think they live in a world where rules matter, where diplomatic protocol is useful, where polite speech is valued. All of them think that when they go to Russia, they are talking to people whose minds can be changed by argument or debate. They think the Russian elite cares about things like its 'reputation.' It does not." (I think the media makes many of the same mistakes in its coverage of Putin.)

+ And the mistake America knows all too well: Doing energy deals with the devil. How Russia hooked Europe on its oil and gas – and overcame US efforts to prevent energy dependence on Moscow.


Venti, Vidi, Vici

"A big reason baristas were standing outside on that frigid Buffalo morning was because a year earlier, Brisack, fresh off a Rhodes Scholarship, had walked into the Elmwood Starbucks and applied for a job. For the next eight months, she learned to froth lattes and blend Frappuccinos. She rose before sunrise to help open her store and picked up shifts at other Buffalo Starbucks where she met other baristas who told her about their lives, frustrations and concerns with the company. And she waited." WaPo (Gift Article): A Rhodes Scholar barista and the fight to unionize Starbucks.


Hits From the 80s

"What happened in 1980 that led to the transformation of trucking from a regulated industry with a willing workforce to a deregulated, dysfunctional mess whose workers bail after a year or less on the job? In the largest sense, the story of the progression from the 1935 act to the 1980 act is a story of the decentering of workers from liberalism's concerns." People can debate about the political forces that are driving the Ottawa convoy. But it's impossible to discount the fact that the trucker protest in Canada and the trucker shortage in the U.S. are both connected by the same undercurrent that connects nearly every major rift. The widening economic divide. Harold Meyerson: Why Trucking Can't Deliver the Goods.


Extra, Extra

House of Cardio "It doesn't matter if you are young or old, it doesn't matter if you smoked, or you didn't ... The risk was there." Heart-disease risk soars after COVID — even with a mild case. (Not the heart I wanted to share on Valentine's Day...)

+ Iced Over: Kamila Valieva will be allowed to compete at Beijing after the doping scandal, but any medal ceremony that involves her will be delayed. Meanwhile, Sha'Carri Richardson is like, wait, wtf? Plus, a happy story from the Olympics. You might remember that Brittany Bowe gave up her spot so her teammate Erin Jackson could compete in the Olympics (they both ended up getting to go). Well, Jackson just became the first Black woman to win speedskating gold.

+ Streams Crossed: Animal House, Stripes, Meatballs, Ghostbusters, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Old School, Private Parts. Ivan Reitman, one of the kings of movie comedy, dies at 75.

+ It's a Dry Heat: "The last comparable – though not as severe – multi-decade megadrought occurred in the 1500s, when the West was still largely inhabited by American Indian tribes." Study finds Western megadrought is the worst in 1,200 years.


Bottom of the News

"On a picturesque autumn evening in early November, the sunset belied a briskness to the Denver breeze. But inside a nondescript brick building downtown, anticipation was heating up the air. A group of 25 people sat in a circle on the floor, each with a ramen spoon full of a brownish paste. Among them was Rabbi Ben Gorelick, a fast-talking 42-year-old with a multi-colored mohawk." Mushroom rabbi grows ceremonial psilocybin for Denver congregation. That's what I call a Talmud-enhancer.

+ "Using AI image processing software, Hidreley Diao creates photorealistic portraits of familiar cartoon characters." Pretty cool.