BALTIMORE — Ben Barlow likens the baseball season to a metronome. It keeps perfect time — tick, tick, tick — and never stops. It’s ever-present and gives you something to plan not just your evenings by, but vacations, celebrations, entire lives.
“It just stays there. No matter whether things are going well or going poorly, the season’s just rolling along,” the 39-year old attorney said.
Barlow’s wife, Monica, worked for the Baltimore Orioles for 14 years, in charge of media and public relations. That meant Barlow spent much of his marriage at the ballpark or on the road with the team, waiting for a game to end or for another start, their daily lives generally at the mercy of the mechanizations of a baseball organization. So when Monica died last year at just 36, he lost his center and his entire universe was thrown off its axis.
He remembers some sympathetic soul telling him in the days after Monica died, “Can you even imagine being at the ballpark on opening day?” As in, Could he even consider exposing himself to all the searing reminders of everything that he’d lost?
Barlow didn’t have to think about the question too long.
“I can’t imagine not being at the ballpark,” he said.
DAQUQ, Iraq — Of the American volunteers who have joined Kurdish Peshmerga forces battling against ISIS in Iraq, Mickey stands out. The blond hair combed back on his head comes to a point on his chin in a goatee, like the kind he might have worn when he was still riding with his motorcycle club in Colorado. Mickey is not his real name but it’s what he’s called by his fellow Americans and their Kurdish comrades. The name tape on his military uniform reads “necromancer.”
“The Peshmerga officer was dying next to me, but there was nowhere to go. He died there. I couldn’t move him because of all the machinegun fire,” Mickey tells me, describing a recent battle against ISIS.
Three weeks ago, 45 kilometers south of Kirkuk, near the city of Daquq, American soldiers were once again locked in deadly combat with Islamic extremists. This time though it was not the U.S. military or private security contractors. These were American volunteers fighting alongside the Peshmerga and wearing Kurdish flags.
AONE, Japan — In the historic wooden schoolhouse here, decked out in the kind of bright artwork done by kids the world over, there are two classrooms, each containing three desks that sit marooned in the middle of a space made for many more. At break time, a boy kicks a soccer ball around the yard by himself.
“It’s a little bit lonely,” said Taiki Kato, 11, who said he was looking forward to going to middle school next year. “It’s a bit bigger, and there might be kids from other elementary schools.”
The middle school has eight students. The elementary school, where Kato started sixth grade this month, has six. And two of them, the only girls, are from the same family.
That meant Yukari Sudo could easily master everyone’s names in her first week as principal of the elementary school in this small village, nestled in mountains 50 miles but a world away from the tightly packed metropolis of Tokyo.
“When I was greeting 900 kids in the morning, I could recognize them, but I might not be able to remember their name,” said Sudo, who recently moved to Aone after being vice principal at a much bigger school.
Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10 — also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions — was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house — the windows and walls — was shaking. She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram.
She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door. “I was so afraid,” she says. “I did not know what to do.” She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic. “I begged and begged, ‘Please don’t shoot my dogs, please don’t shoot my dogs, just don’t shoot my dogs.’ I couldn’t get them to stop barking, and I couldn’t get them outside quick enough. I saw a gun and barking dogs. I was scared and knew this was a bad mix.”
One of Guinness World Records’ more unusual awards was presented at the National Maritime Museum yesterday. After a 100-day trial, the timepiece known as Clock B – which had been sealed in a clear plastic box to prevent tampering – was officially declared, by Guinness, to be the world’s “most accurate mechanical clock with a pendulum swinging in free air”.
It was an intriguing enough award. But what is really astonishing is that the clock was designed more than 250 years ago by a man who was derided at the time for “an incoherence and absurdity that was little short of the symptoms of insanity”, and whose plans for the clock lay ignored for two centuries.
The derision was poured on John Harrison, the British clockmaker whose marine chronometers had revolutionised seafaring in the 18th century (and who was the subject of Longitude by Dava Sobel). His subsequent claim – that he would go on to make a pendulum timepiece that was accurate to within a second over a 100-day period – triggered widespread ridicule. The task was simply impossible, it was declared.
In 1979, almost a year into the papacy of John Paul II, a novel called The Vicar of Christ spent 13 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. The work of a Princeton legal scholar, Walter F. Murphy, it featured an unlikely papal candidate named Declan Walsh—first a war hero, then a United States Supreme Court justice, and then (after an affair and his wife’s untimely death) a monk—who is summoned to the throne of Saint Peter by a deadlocked, desperate conclave.
Once elevated, Walsh takes the name Francesco—that is, Francis—and sets about using the office in extraordinary ways. He launches a global crusade against hunger, staffed by Catholic youth and funded by the sale of Vatican treasures. He intervenes repeatedly in world conflicts, at one point flying into Tel Aviv during an Arab bombing campaign. He lays plans to gradually reverse the Church’s teachings on contraception and clerical celibacy, and banishes conservative cardinals to monastic life when they plot against him. He flirts with the Arian heresy, which doubted Jesus’s full divinity, and he embraces Quaker-style religious pacifism, arguing that just-war theory is out of date in an age of nuclear arms and total war. (This last move eventually gets him assassinated, probably by one of the governments threatened by his quest for peace.)
Millennials are grown up now — and they’re angry. As children, they were told that they could be anything, do anything, and that they were special. As adults, they have formed a unique brand of Identity Politics wherein the groups with which one identifies is paramount. With such a strong narrative that focuses on which group one belongs to, there has been an increasing balkanization of identities. In an attempt to be open-minded toward other groups and to address social justice issues through a lens of intersectionality, clear and distinct lines have been drawn between people. One’s words and actions are inextricable from one’s identities. For example: this is not an article, but an article written by a straight, white, middle-class (etc.) male (and for this reason will be discounted by many on account of how my privilege blinds me — more on this later).
On Sunday, June 25, 1961, ten members of the American Nazi Party arrived at a Nation of Islam rally in Washington, DC. The party’s founder, George Lincoln Rockwell, led them inside the Uline Arena, a quarter-million-square-foot stadium that would later host the Beatles’ first US concert. Ramrod-straight, square-jawed, and with a merciless, piercing gaze, Rockwell looked like a Hollywood villain straight out of central casting. (“How much taller he is than Hitler,” Esquire noted in an otherwise withering essay. “And how much better-looking.”) The Uline had nearly sold out. The Nazis were outnumbered 800 to one.
The fascists hadn’t come to make a bloody last stand. Instead, guards from the Fruit of Islam, the NOI’s paramilitary branch, frisked the men and ushered them to front-row-center seats. Their crisp brownshirt costumes and swastika armbands stood out against the suits and ties surrounding them. Despite the 90-degree heat, Rockwell and his men waited hours for the event’s main attraction. There is no record of anyone cracking a smile at the situation’s absurdity.
Mona Lee Brock went into the office early that morning, as she always did, when she received a panicked phone call. The telephones in the crisis center were lighting up all over the place, as was common. This particular call was from a farmer’s wife. A day prior, the farmer had spoken to Brock and agreed not to hurt himself, but now his wife couldn’t find him. And she was afraid. Brock asked where the farmer kept his .410 shotgun.
It was the height of the ’80s farm crisis, one of the greatest economic turmoils since the Great Depression. Drought and defaulted loans left hundreds of thousands of farmers broke. Many farmers became homeless or worse yet, turned to suicide.
Brock visited their home later that morning. The farmer’s wife stayed inside the house while Brock went to investigate where her husband might be. She found him in the driveway, at the left rear wheel of his truck. He had already shot himself in the head.
“It just leaves you speechless,” Brock says, “You just forget to breathe, you forget to live.”
We’ve been living in a bundled world. ESPN packaged with Nickelodeon, healthcare tied to employers, learning wrapped up in colleges and degree programs. We’ve grown up surrounded by so many bundled products and services that it’s easy to become blind to the flexibility and value presented by unbundling.
Bundling can occur for a couple of reasons. One scenario is when companies try to force consumers to buy something they don’t really want by packaging it with something they do — like albums that only contain one good song. But bundling can make sense when transaction costs for individual products or services (monetary or otherwise) are too high to justify buying those products separately.
As Internet-based technologies reduce transactional inefficiencies, we have new opportunities to abandon unnecessary bundling in favor of choice and flexibility. We’re seeing this disruptive effect everywhere — from entertainment to work to enterprise technology.