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Archive for January, 2013

Love really has nothing to do with wisdom or experience or logic.
 

—  Bruno Lessing
 

I never could explain why I love anybody, or anything.
 

—  Walt Whitman
 

But love is such a mystery,
    I cannot find it out:
For when I think I’m best resolv’d,
    I then am in most doubt.
 

—  Sir John Suckling
from the poem: “Song

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Yesterday I suffered another bad bout with my kidney stones.  I took advantage of the time off to finish the book: “American Shaolin“, by Matthew Polly (2007©).  This is a story about a young man who drops out of college to travel to the middle of China to spend two years learning about Kung-Fu.  Because he has been raised as a “nerdy” romantic from the mid-west (Kansas), it’s not good enough to just study Kung-Fu in America, he has to go all the way to the Shaolin temple.
 

The book is more about coming of age and Chinese culture than it is about martial arts.  Kung-Fu is really just the vehicle to carry us through the author’s voyage / passage into adulthood.  The story is a very fast read even though it’s over 350 pages.  Basically, I read it in one full day and one half day.
 

As per usual, I came upon the motivation to read this book quite by serendipity.  I found the book at Half-Price Books for $2 a couple of months ago, so I picked it up thinking I’ll add it to my martial arts library and maybe get around to reading it eventually.   Well, it turns out one of the blogs I follow has an interview with the author discussing learning – basically, the rule of 10,000.  Since I knew I had the book on my shelf, I thought this is the universe’s way of telling me to read it.  So, “eventually” came sooner than I expected.
 

If you are at all interested in Chinese culture, you should read this book.  It is a gold mine – a treasure trove.  For example, the Chinese begin bargaining with a cigarette.  It is usually offered by the seller and depending on how quickly you take it (if at all) and how you take it (with humility) and what type you ask for (American – expensive; Chinese – cheaper), you set the tone for the entire negotiation.  This is the kind of real world experience you can only get by spending a fair amount of time living with and reflecting on a particular culture.
 

There is not much in the book about fighting or Kung-Fu, but that’s okay.  Many times the best books about a culture have nothing to do with the vehicle for examining the culture and everything to do with the view as you travel.  In other words, it is the Chinese people who make this a entertaining and fascinating book.  Not the martial art.  Highly recommended!!
 

Oh, incidentally, the “rule of 10,000” is that you must practice something 10,000 times before you can become proficient at it.  From there, you can begin to achieve mastery.
 
 

 

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We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.
 

—  Johan Wolfgang Goethe
 

[I prefer to think we are shaped by who we love and who loves us in turn.  —  KMAB]
 

 

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Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.
 

—  Dr. Samuel Johnson
 

 

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As love increases, prudence diminishes.
 

—  Francois de La Rochefoucauld

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Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it.  There are no longer problems of the spirit.  There is only the question: When will I be blown up?  Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.
 

He must learn them again.  He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.  Until he does so, he labors under a curse.  He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion.  His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars.  He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
 

—  William Faulkner’s Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1949
 

[For the full speech, you can go to my Poems page or click here.  —  KMAB]
 

 

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For the last two years, about this time, I make my Super Bowl predictions.  I try to pick the winner, predict the score and explain why.  So far, I’m zero(0) for two(2) on my picks.  However, I’m not so easily deterred that I won’t try again.
 

Now, in the interest of full disclosure I will have to admit that I am a lifetime San Francisco Forty Niners fan.  This means my “normal” sense of objective reasoning will have to be set aside for this posting.
 

I believe the 49ers will easily win the Super Bowl to the tune of something like 34 to 13.  That’s correct!  We will score four touchdowns and two field goals and they will score one touchdown and two field goals.
 

The 49ers met the Baltimore Ravens last season on Thanksgiving night and they defeated us 16 to 6.  They scored one touchdown and three field goals to our (only) two field goals.  The difference in the game was nine(9!) sacks of our quarterback (Alex Smith).  This was very much a defensive battle and Ray Lewis, the Ravens middle linebacker did not play due to injury.  This year, neither team has as good a defense as they had last year.  I personally think the age (and related slowness) of the Ravens linebackers will prove to be their downfall.  The Ravens other great linebacker (Suggs) has been slowed by injury this year and is not his pass rushing best any more.  Not to take too much credit from the Ravens that night, the fact is the game was played on a short week (for both teams) but we had to spend a day travelling to Baltimore.  I honestly feel it they had had to come to us OR if the game was on a normal Sunday, we would have prevailed.
 

On the other side, our new quarterback (Kaepernick) is much more athletic than our quarterback from last year (Smith).  Kaepernick is also a much better deep thrower than Smith.  I believe Kaepernick will open with runs to draw the Raven linebackers close, then throw to Vernon Davis (our tight end) in mid-range, and then go over the top (and center) to Randy Moss.  With the Ravens thinking center and deep, Kaepernick will switch to shorter routes (in and outside) to Michael Crabtree.  With the Ravens dropping back to protect the pass, the 49ers will interweave the ground pounding of Frank Gore.
 

The Ravens offense is a mirror of the 49ers, but not as good.  Flacco is a good deep thrower, but we have a better pass rush than they’ve seen in a while.  Pitta is a large target as a tight end, but he is not as fast as V. Davis and our linebackers are better pass defenders than the Raven’s are.  Reed is their best pass defender, but he has lost a step.
 

So, this will be a VERY physical game, but the 49ers should win handily…
 

Book Review:
About a month ago, I picked up: “The Genius” by David Harris (2008©).  The sub-title is: “How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty“. 
 

To be honest, I was expecting another “puff-piece” about how great and good Bill Walsh was.  (Walsh passed away 30 July 2007.)  The reality is (was) that he was not a particularly nice man – even if he was a great head coach.  Walsh is made to seem almost bi-polar and manically depressive in this book.  I don’t question this impression.  I just wonder that twenty years after the fact, so much of this is “new” to me.  I bought this book expecting to “re-live” some of the good-old days.  The book is a very fast read (which I didn’t expect) and was perfect to squeeze in in-between our winning the NFC Conference Championship and going on to the Super Bowl.
 

If you are looking for a book to advise you how to build a winning football (or sports) program, this one won’t be of much use.  If you’re looking for an in-depth explanation of the “West Coast Offense”, sorry, still no joy here.  If you’re looking for how to evaluate college players for drafting to create a winning team, nope.  How to create a game plan or manage an actual game, nope and nope again.
 

So why is this book “good”?  (I highly recommend it!)
 

Because it reminds of what must be sacrificed in order to reach the top (of any profession) and stay there.  It is a cautionary tale of an intelligent, forward looking and forward thinking man who could not separate sports losses from personal failures and suffered terribly / emotionally for it.
 

Although I enjoyed every Walsh (49er) victory, I also found his personnel actions disloyal and sometimes despicable.  This was true “back in the day” (when they were happening) and more so as I read this book.  That’s not to say Walsh wasn’t doing these things for the good of the team.  It’s just I found them morally objectionable.
 

It seems, for the last chapters, that Walsh, after his own retirement, made a concerted effort to try to befriend the players he treated so badly during their careers.  I’m happy he was able to convince them there was nothing personal in his intent while he was coaching.  It is stated that many former players came to have great affection for him, even a sense of love.  I think this a “common” response among people who feel someone tried to get the very best out of them – even more than the person themself felt they had to offer.
 

It’s a shame that a “truer” genius could not have found a way to be both a great coach and a better person at the same time.
 

In conclusion – Go Niners!!  Beat the Ravens!!

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