Goodbye, Dean Smith

Dean Smith, legendary basketball coach of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, passed away last weekend. He was 83.

I’ve been to games at the Dean Dome and have endured countless days of fandom by my sisters who are proud Tar Heel alums. But I never learned much about the man until now. Reading about Dean Smith after his passing opened my eyes to just how legendary he was to the game of basketball and his Carolina family.

Apart from coaching the Tar Heels to 11 Final Fours and 2 championships and amassing 884 wins over his 36 year career, Smith also spurred major evolutions of the game itself, and pioneered strategies that are still seen today. He also ran a widely respected program that graduated over 96% of his players. And even more impactful than that, he was instrumental at de-segregating the sport in the South — offering scholarships to African-Americans and going with black students to restaurants to ensure they were treated fairly.

And he did this all with a humility and sincerity not often seen or rewarded today.

Rest in peace, Dean Smith, and thank you.

New Music: Glass Animals

Check out Glass Animals, a new band out of the UK that released its debut album ZABA last June. I first heard them on a Pandora station seeded with Sylvan Esso, and was immediately drawn to it.

This is night music; enigmatic, with pulsating undercurrents, shifting electronic-fused beats, and tribal rhythms.

Tracks to hear: Flip, Walla Walla, Pools, Hazey, Intruxx.

And listen to this one with headphones on, loud:

The Dominance of ESPN

Fascinating article from The Verge into the media juggernaut that is ESPN — and how it’s making moves to keep pace with the latest technological and social media trends.

A salient point here is that in an era in which the model of traditional television shows are being threatened, ESPN’s strategy of seizing coverage of live sports is proving smarter by the month. The speed of the internet has made the venerable broadcast news shows antiquated, the pundit-driven 24-hour news cycle being chased by the cable news network has turned their product into garbage, DVRs and mobile devices are upending traditional ways of judging success, and new actors like Netflix and Amazon are entering (and now winning) in developing popular TV shows.

But you can’t easily disrupt the live nature of live sports.

The Story of a House

Congrats to Brock for having BOOM California publish his richly textured, detailed exploration into the story of the house and land he owns in Oakland.

In it, Brock finds that the contemporary narrative of the anti-gentrification movement has in fact been an on-going cycle since the first settling of the land by tribes of the Ohlone Indians thousands of years ago. He goes back and researches the various people who laid claim to the land his house sits on, and the story of how his house and neighborhood changed in the past two hundred years.

I found in that history the pattern that I expected. One group pushes out another group, often aided by forces much larger than themselves: a royal army, a Gold Rush, an earthquake, racism, the law, or the gears of capitalism turning. Those gears grind some people to dust. Others manage to harness their power to make fortunes large and small. Whether a person ends up as the machine’s operator or its input is often not determined by anything resembling merit or even by individual decisions, however much we might like to pretend otherwise.

Go read it. (Great historical maps too!)

New Podcast: Invisibilia

Hat tip to Mary for suggesting Invisibilia , a new podcast about the ‘invisible things that influence human behavior’. Their first episode is on fear, and it’s terrific.

The Radiolab inspiration is self evident within a minute, with its inquisitive style and — most notably — its high quality layered sound production.

Definitely give it a listen.

Broods: Evergreen

I previously highlighted a song by New Zealand duo Broods, and only now did I realize that their full length album was release back in October: Evergreen.

Solid effort from a new band, especially with songs like “Mother & Father” and “Sober” beyond their breakout single “Bridges”.

I had to describe the vibe here, it would like Phantogram crossed with The xx.

(also, I didn’t think I’d have two posts with ‘Evergreen’ in the title in a short span)

The launch of Fitz and the Tantrums

Great article at NPR about the little magical breaks the band Fitz and the Tantrums got in their early days which helped propelled them to success.

They did a few shows and ended up performing on NPR member station KCRW’s show Morning Becomes Eclectic. A tattoo artist, visiting from New York, heard them on the radio and bought the EP.

Back in New York, Adam Levine from Maroon 5 came in to see the tattoo artist, who recommended Fitz and the Tantrum’s music. “Adam proceeds to listen, starts tweeting about our music….

A week later, Levine was sitting in the front row at a tiny club show the band was doing. A week after that, the band got an offer to open for Maroon 5 on their big East Coast college tour.

If you haven’t already, check out their album ‘More than Just a Dream’. It’s an awesome, upbeat, indie pop take on Motown soul. And they put on a helluva live show — don’t ever miss them.

Made me think – the challenge of poverty

Hat tip to old Stanford classmate Ricky Yean who shared this Slate article ‘Why Poor People are Poor’.

When you have essentially zero financial cushion, the little annoyances in life can end up having massive, life altering consequences. If your car breaks down and you can’t afford a $300 repair, then you could end up losing your job because you miss too many days of work, or get fired because you are late due to sub-optimal public transit. Salient quote:

Because our lives seem so unstable, poor people are often seen as being basically incompetent at managing their lives. That is, it’s assumed that we’re not unstable because we’re poor, we’re poor because we’re unstable.

This got me thinking…is there any sort of ‘real-time’ intervention model possible to provide an emergency financial cushion for people in need?

a thought, a spark