I recently saw the work of Nam June Paik, currently being exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (MoMA.)
If you are unfamiliar with him, Paik has been called the “father of video art.” He was born in 1932 in what is now South Korea, lived in Japan, Germany, and the United States. He died in 2006. I have only read about Paik in the magazines but never really experienced his work in person — a shame, considering how much of his work is at the core of modern visual and interactive post-Internet life.
Take, for instance, his 1968 creation, The Electric Chair. The art piece comprises a CCTV camera pointing down at a chair with a television under the transparent seat. The TV displays the live video feed from the camera. Paik was pointing to a future where video would become a deeply enmeshed part of our lives in creating this work. Looking around, whether it is TikTok, Snap, or Zoom, the Electric Chair is all around us.
The Chair is just one of the many pieces of work he created that pushed his core belief in an electronic superhighway. He translated that idea into an art installation “constructed of 336 televisions, 50 DVD players, 3,750 feet of cable, and 575 feet of multicolored neon tubing.” Sadly, this piece of art isn’t available for us to see here in San Francisco. For me, the standouts were The TV Cello and The TV Garden (which, according to MoMA, depicts “a futuristic landscape where technology would become an integral part of the natural world.”); However, my favorite is “Zen For Film.”
In “Zen for Film,” a blank 16mm film leader runs through a projector. He made sure the new blank film accumulated dust and scratches. He said, “When too perfect, Lieber Gott böse,” which translates to, “When too perfect, dear God angry.” Paik wanted the viewer to become part of the art and create an individual interpretation.
The imperfection, starkness, and room for imagination (and participation) of the viewer are how I like to think of my work, so I am hardly surprised that I spent excessive time with this installation. I created a self-portrait as a remix of Paik’s original. (See above.)
When walking out of the museum, I couldn’t help but think about the role artists, writers, and science fiction have played help shape technology and its future. The confluence of art and engineering has been part of technology’s evolution. This wild artistic imagination is the necessary spark to be hopeful about technology and its impact. Instead, one finds a narrative of despair and dystopia. I recently read an article that noted five books with technology (and big tech platforms) as villains. What we need is Paik’s of today to imagine a more exciting tomorrow.
July 28, 2021. San Francisco.
Handwriting reinforces the visual and aural lessons. The advantage has nothing to do with penmanship—it’s that the simple act of writing by hand provides a perceptual-motor experience that unifies what is being learned about the letters (their shapes, their sounds, and their motor plans), which in turn creates richer knowledge and fuller, true learning, the team says.
I have always taken notes and handwritten first drafts of articles on paper. That has allowed me to learn, recall and imagine better. I couldn’t recommend writing more highly. I worry that we aren’t teaching kids how to handwrite, and instead, we are pushing them to the keyboards and touchscreens.
What the heck is The Hundred?
Should IPL be worried? It is all cricket to me. 😉
With the New York Yankees being a $210 million disappointment this summer, I have shifted my gaze to that other ball-and-stick game: cricket.
I have been watching The Hundred, a new tournament created to push the newest format of cricket invented by the English Cricket Board (ECB.) Most of my readers are American, so they honestly don’t give a damn about cricket. But take it from celebrated English novelist John Fowles:
Baseball and cricket are beautiful and highly stylized medieval war substitutes, chess made flesh, a mixture of proud chivalry and base — in both senses — greed.
Like baseball, cricket is a game that confounds. It is in parts exciting, frustrating, and inexplicable. Even those who play the game will have a tough time conveying its ins-and-outs to the uninitiated. So, I am not even going to try — but if you do want to learn about cricket, Vox made a great little explainer. You can watch that and be satisfied (Though I assure you, by the end, you will be as glassy-eyed as a young’un after a night out at a Las Vegas nightclub.)
From this point on, I would appreciate it if you could just humor me and pretend that you know the game. I’ll adjust some of my language to make it easier to follow. For example, “pitcher” instead of “bowler.” But of course, there remains the issue of which game it is that you are pretending to know., Up until recently, cricket has primarily been played in three formats:
Test Cricket: The traditional form of the game, it takes place — more often than not — over five days. Teams play with a red leather ball while wearing the whites. Watching this format is akin to listening to classical music.
One Day International (ODI) Cricket: This version has been around since the early 1970s, when it emerged as the byproduct of an Australian TV magnate’s naked ambition. As the name suggests, these games take place over a single day. Many of them are played as day/night games under floodlights. This format is akin to alt-rock.
T20 Cricket: The youngest form of the game, this format involves 120 pitches per side and is usually over in 4 hours. Think of T20 as rap/hip-hop.
As I wrote in a previous piece, T20 cricket is a game that combines the intensity of a basketball game, the nuance of baseball, the art of cricket, and the spectacle of American football. This is a game Americans can love. That is why guys like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella are investing in Major League Cricket. And it is a game whose heart is in India.
T20 cricket may have been “invented” in England, but in 2008, India won the World Cup of Cricket (I know, it is almost as ludicrous as the World Series of Baseball). The win made the game a huge hit in India and opened up the large Indian market to this type of fast-paced game. The country’s large cricket-loving population has allowed the sport to become a major powerhouse: a large audience means big television money, which leads to a very rich league made up of teams that attract the biggest and the best players from around the world. This league is called the Indian Premier League.
From next to nothing in 2007, the IPL is now valued at over $7 billion. Its value is only going up as the television viewership increases. The money from the IPL has made Indian Cricket a big power broker in the world of cricket, and it has helped to unearth talent from across the country.
The English and the Australians who have historically dominated the game both on the field and in the corridors of cricket power find themselves on the back foot. They see them becoming dependent on the largesse of the Indian cricket lords. Games involving India usually come with large audiences and thus big television rights deals.
Australian domestic sports market is big enough for cricket to make money. In 2011, they created their T20 league — the Big Bash League — which is the number two league and is growing both in revenues and audience. The English have their own league, The Vitality Blast, which started a while ago but has found itself trailing behind the other two tournaments.
The English Cricket Board, despite their early start in T20, has not been able to cash in on the T20 boom. So, it has created a new narrative: the T20 game is too slow. Four hours is just too long. They also want to introduce the game to newer audiences, and boost interest among new demographics. So it has come up with a new faster, shorter format of the game called: The Hundred.
As the name suggests, The Hundred is a game of two sides (typically, city-based teams with ridiculous names and outfits) where each side gets just 100 pitches. To continue the music comparison, think of this as some new dance craze on TikTok. Naturally, there are numerous new rules to basically get the game finished in three hours. (Here is a very good article that explains the difference between T20 and The Hundred.) The Hundred is now available for viewing on paid television and free-to-air television in the UK. You can watch 34 games on Sky Sports’ YouTube channel. And if that is not enough, a lot of technology is being used in the new tournament. For instance, Sky’s mobile apps use motion capture technology to create highly accurate avatars of cricket players involved in the games.
Just like they were up in arms about the T20, the English media is up in arms about the new tournament. Of course, this is to be expected of the English media: they love to hate on anything new, any change, and any innovation to the tradition or traditional power structures. The Guardian, which is being open-minded to the extent that it can, put it best in its preview of the tournament: “This has drawn comparisons with New Coke, the cautionary tale from 1985 about rebranding a well-loved product in pursuit of new customers.”
As I have written in the past, the sport has to evolve with the society at large. Our idea of time, especially leisure time, and how we spend it is in constant flux as we become untethered from an analog clock and love the rhythms of the network.
There is a reason why Americans find themselves plugged into the NBA and not baseball. American society is more accurately reflected in basketball than in either baseball or football. Cricket, too, has to evolve. Whether it is T20 or The Hundred, cricket needs a format that makes it relevant to a generation that has more demands on its time than ever before.
“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
— Steve Jobs, via Triumph of the Nerds
After a week of watching The Hundred, I found myself liking it more than I expected. It is an excellent made-for-television spectacle, though I found very little time in the games for “commercials” that would eventually bring in the big bucks. But that is beyond my pay grade. I am, after all, merely an amateur fan living in America. Still, I found it to be a great novelty act with some very good ideas. On television, even with the faux excitement and bonhomie of the commentators, the game feels fast-paced. A simple change of focus of the game from runs per over to runs versus balls makes the game seem more exciting. A constantly changing on-screen win-predictor adds more urgency to the game. The video game-like graphics make the actual cricket feel more, well, like a video game. And that’s the point: building a game for a new generation of viewers and cricket fans.
I might get some stick for it, but The Hundred makes T20 (and even the IPL) look a bit dowdy. A week in, despite the silly names and teams that are marginal at best, I know, I will be keeping an eye on The Hundred in 2022 at the very least. That might be music to the English cricket administrators’ ears, but it should worry the likes of those running professional T20 leagues.
If I was running a T20 league — specifically, the IPL — I would take note and almost instantly make some changes to improve on my core offering. It would be keeping in character. Indian cricket administrators aren’t really innovators — at best they can be described as fast followers. Remember, the English came up with the idea of T20. A rebel Indian Cricket League decided to commercialize T20 for the Indian market. Only when the experiments started to work, the official IPL was born. In other words, copying good ideas is part of the Indian cricket administration modus operandi, so why not take a “cue” from The Hundred.
CAN SOMEONE WARM UP THE XEROX MACHINE?
The graphics are a no-brainer. It won’t cost any real money, and most importantly, it allows more revenue opportunities.
The Hundred has a single 2.5-minute strategic timeout. Copy that. The T20 has two strategic timeouts. Why? They do nothing but to basically break the rhythm and excitement of the game. We don’t need more than one.
The Hundred forces new hitters to face the pitchers even if the batsman crosses over to the other end when being caught out (I recognize that I may be losing some of you here). It is a smart idea that balances the odds between pitching and hitting sides. IPL, go ahead and steal this idea.
And here is another no-brainer: The Hundred has a shot-clock. If you miss the cutoff time, you are penalized by being forced to bring an additional player closer to the pitch. This is smart, and T20 should enforce this rule.
A Hundred game is supposed to last 2.5 hours — 150 minutes in total. The IPL should go to a 3.5-hour limit — a total of 210 minutes. I would love to see a hard 105-minutes per side limit in the IPL T20 games. That should make the game pulsating and, thus, obviate the need for a new format and the 100-ball tourney.
Apart from the above-mentioned changes, I see no need to tinker with the IPL version of the T20 game. The older cricket rules make perfect sense and maintain continuity with the past.
The best part of The Hundred has been the women’s games. I have loved them more than the men’s games because they are more closely matched and have genuine joy. I watched the US women’s soccer team win, and it inspired a nation of girls to become soccer players. The Hundred will have that kind of an impact, just as the Women’s Big Bash League has had in Australia.
It is a damn shame that IPL is twiddling its thumbs over the women’s version of the tournament. We have so many great stars waiting to find their deserved place in the pantheon of cricket. An Indian hitter — Jemimah Rodrigues is the highest scorer in the tournament thus far, including the men. Can we get on with it?
How IPL can dominate (even more)
The Hundred format (if not the tournament itself) has some potential, and this should present a clear and present danger for the IPL. They need to ensure that the money gusher keeps flowing. They need to nip this threat in the bud. IPL organizers at present should be thinking about how to make it the “only relevant” tournament in the world. In case it wasn’t already clear: I have a handful of suggestions.
Start by adding four new teams, raising the total to 12 teams. (IPL is expanding to ten teams in 2021.) Then increase the window for the tournament to four months. Make sure games are four hours and include multiple doubleheaders.
IPL should use the increased television rights revenues to allow teams to sign their players on permanent contracts, much like NBA or MLB teams sign their free-agents and draft picks. If you are an Australian player, you can play for Australia or in your domestic tournament or domestic T20 leagues. But since you are under contract, you don’t play in other T20 or The Hundred. The additional money (and security) should give the player enough time to recover, and also not increase the risk of injury for the sake of additional payouts. This would elevate the IPL into even greater must-see TV status.
Additionally, the IPL should try and make it mandatory for every one of its teams to draft a player from lesser cricket nations, like Ireland, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe, or Hong Kong. I mean, look at what T20 has done for Afghanistan. Why not help other countries? Every kid who dribbles wants to be in the NBA, no matter what language they speak. Why not IPL?
In exchange for these tweaks, the International Cricket Council (ICC), the official body running the world of cricket gets a percentage of the TV rights that can be used to keep the purest form of the game — test cricket — alive in countries where it is getting difficult for the game to continue. Alternatively, the ICC could work on a streaming platform that can sell access to cricket games globally for games outside the domestic viewing area — much like how MLB does. Two million people paying somewhere close to $100 a year should be a good additional revenue base for the ICC.
The only way to save that long-form cricket is to make some important edits to the global game. It is time to kill the one-day format. It is no longer relevant in the world we live in. As I’ve previously written, in the post-Internet society, time and attention are all fractionalized. We live in a world of 60-second TikToks.
Most people are going to hate my suggestions — after all, the BCCI has too much influence, and it is a bully. Damn, they are so bad that even Netflix did an episode on the whole thing. Nevertheless, the fact remains that, whether people like it or not, the traditional structure of cricket has started to crumble. That’s the reality.
A cricket podcast jokingly coined the phrase “the start of the Asian century” after an Indian B-side beat Australia at home. It isn’t a joke. Neither is The Hundred. And if you can get over the fact that it’s not exactly the same game your grandfather may have watched, it has some ideas worth copying.
Published on July 25, 2021. San Francisco.
While my week has been noticeably quiet here on my internet homestead, it has been quite the opposite for me out in the real world.
I had to go to the dental surgeon to remove a couple of wisdom teeth that had become nuisances and were putting the entire neighborhood in distress. I recognize that it was a pretty minor procedure, but like any reasonable adult, I am scared shitless of visiting the dentist. I was in a state of panic for two days leading up to the event, unable to sleep and overcome with anxiety.
On the day of the procedure, it all turned out to be relatively fast and straightforward — thanks in large part to the surgeon, who kept talking to me about photography and his love of Lindorf technical cameras. Of course, now he is a Canon man. (I wonder why the world still insists that dentists prefer Leica.) He gets full marks for keeping my focus on everything but the surgery as he extracted those getting the troublemakers out.
I was back home in just two hours, but that was followed by two days of pain. I used the prescription pills twice, but given their content (Hint: rhymes with “foxy”), I decided to switch to plain vanilla Tylenol. Between the headaches and the jaw aches, not to mention being restricted to eating only soft food, it hasn’t been fun. But I am feeling better today. Almost normal. I am even looking forward to eating a proper lunch. As I eat, I will likely mull over the question that’s been needling me: does wisdom go when the wisdom teeth do? (Let me know what you think, and the funniest answer will get tweeted on my Twitter.)
One — and maybe the only — positive side effect of the surgery was that it gave me a lot of forced downtime to do a bunch of reading. I was able to get through both my Safari Reading List and my Pocket Reading Lists. I also got a chance to enjoy a handful of movies and some cricket. Given the mediocrity of the New York Yankees, cricket is proving to be a much-needed salve for my bruised baseball fandom. Due to injuries throughout the league, even my fantasy baseball teams are proving to be disappointments.
I wanted to share some gems I found on the Internet this week while laid out in bed, struggling to will away my aches and pains. These are some perfect time wasters:
Does your facemask come with a HEPA air-purifier, microphone, and a pair of headphones? If not, you should consider this.
Here is a great and simple way to introduce soundproofing to your offices and apartments. Leave it to the Swedish to use a common-sense approach to screwing around.
July 21: A team at Duke University implanted a new-generation artificial heart in a man, the first such procedure in North America. It is an implantable prosthetic that includes biological valves derived from bovine tissue & operates on an external power supply. https://buff.ly/36Rk6FK
July 20: I wonder if Freud secretly haunts the corridors of Apple’s offices: space autocorrects to SPAC.
July 19: We live in a world where you have to (proverbially) scream to get attention & credit for your efforts. It is important to own your narrative.
Jul 24, 2021, San Francisco
It was an unusual week. Unusual in part because of how normal it felt, like the days before the pandemic. And yet, by the time the weekend rolled around, it was clearly anything but ordinary.
My schedule was packed to an extent it hasn’t been in quite a while. I had a couple of board meetings (still completely on Zoom). I did quite a few everyday pre-pandemic things, like getting a haircut and a straight razor shave. I even visited my local tailor, because I lost enough weight in the pandemic to get my pants taken in. I have had enough of living in easy pants at home. I want to wear grown-up trousers, proper leather shoes, and shirts with collars.
I popped over to have lunch with Brad Stone of Bloomberg Businessweek and talk about his book, Amazon Unbound. I am halfway through the book, and I find it much more interesting than his previous effort, The Everything Store. I am finding it more revealing and informative, mostly because I lived (and covered) the world of Amazon in the early phase of the company’s history. As a civilian, I find the new book to be chock-a-block with new details, stories, and insights about a man who has surpassed success. I am sure I will eventually write a full review.
We talked about billionaires in planes — sorry, in rockets — and how many people from far-off places recently pinged me about the “space economy” and space stocks. Nothing like hype from the king of hype to get the normals betting their dollars on rockets — which, by the way, come down as fast as they go up. We will be talking about Bezos in a couple of days when his rocket takes to the skies.
Speaking of books, it took me less than two days to finish The Ugly Truth, Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang. I will be posting my review shortly (though, now that I’ve alluded to two upcoming reviews, I should admit that I am not very good with the book review format). Generally speaking, at this point, I am getting a little tired of technology books. They all seem to stick to variations on the same theme: tech is evil. I happen to disagree with this premise, but perhaps it is what sells. On Twitter, Eric Newcomer highlighted his ever-growing list of forthcoming books, and they all seem to be grasping at opportunities to spotlight the bad apples. I mean, do we really need a book about WeWork?
Next on my reading list for this summer will be a real work of fiction: The Vanishing Point by Elizabeth Brundage. This should provide a good break from the heavy diet of technology-centric nonfiction books.
As I sit here in my apartment on a relatively warm Sunday, I wonder if this past week will come to feel like the beginning of my return to normalcy or — more likely, I fear — an oddly pleasant blip. Despite leaving my apartment multiple times, I feel the anxiety triggered by thoughts of yet another wave of the deadly virus. Local governments in parts of California (including San Francisco) sent out health advisories. The virus is starting to infect even those who are already vaccinated, an unwelcome development.
A handful of friends and acquaintances have recently been infected by the new Delta variant. It is not as commonplace in my closest circles — most of us are still wearing masks and avoiding indoor gatherings. Nevertheless, the uneasiness still lingers. And if you believe the experts, there isn’t going to be a clear, easy end to this pandemic. It really is a permademic!