EVIDENCE THAT YELLING AT REFEREES WORKS. This article on the fivethirtyeight website by Noah Davis and Michael Lopez describes a study which shows that “a sideline bias in the NFL is real, and it’s spectacular.”

A “natural experiment” results from the fact that each football team sets up on one side of the field, across from each other. A count of calls made (penalties assessed) by referees shows that: “refs make more defensive pass interference calls on the offensive team’s sideline but more offensive holding calls on the defensive team’s sideline. What’s more, these differences aren’t uniform across the field — the effect only shows up on plays run, roughly, between the 32-yard lines, the same space where coaches and players are allowed to stand during play.”

The theory is that the players and coaches on the sideline near the referee who makes the call will influence the referee.

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WHY THE PARTHENON HAS LASTED FOR CENTURIES. The Parthenon in Rome has already lasted 1800 years. It is made of concrete, but Tim Harford offers an additional explanation for why it has survived when so many Roman buildings have not. Bricks can be reused in other buildings, and they were so reused in Rome. Concrete can’t be reused. It can only be reduced to rubble

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IN PRAISE OF CONCRETE. This article by Tim Harford on the BBC website is entitled: “The Hidden Strengths of Unloved Concrete” (link via Marginal Revolution). It is part of a BBC series “50 Things That Made the Modern Economy”. Harford pays tribute to the importance of concrete in the modern world: “the world consumes absolutely vast quantities of concrete: five tonnes, per person, per year.”

Unlike wood, concrete is recognized as durable. Harford says: “In a million years, when our steel has rusted and our wood has rotted, concrete will remain…..well-made concrete is waterproof, storm proof, fireproof, strong and cheap.”

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CHICAGO IS GETTING A WOODEN SKYSCRAPER. I have posted a number of times about the concrete buildings of the 1960’s and the 1970’s, and I posted here about choices between wood and concrete. Here is an article about an announcement of plans to build a timber skyscraper 80 stories high in Chicago.

The first reaction is surprise. Wood has not been used in skyscrapers, presumably because building them with wood would present risks that concrete and steel do not present. I mentioned the announcement to Annalisa, and she asked whether they have forgotten the Chicago fire. The response in the article is that there have been many improvements in the treatment of construction lumber since then, so that “today’s mass-produced lumber maintains its structural integrity as well, and sometimes better, than other building materials during a fire.”

The main advantages of wood are lower cost and much lower emissions of carbon dioxide, and they are apparently big enough advantages to overcome perceived risks. Other wooden towers are being planned—an 18 story wooden tower in Vancouver and a 21 story wooden tower in Amsterdam.

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“THE TROPE OF THE FALLEN LEAVES”. Spiegelman traces the thought in Pound’s poem back to Homer. In the Iliad, a warrior says: “The lives of men are like the generations of leaves; one comes, another dies.”

Spiegelman says that the same image is used by Virgil in the Aeneid, by Dante in the Inferno, and by Milton in Paradise Lost and that Virgil, Dante and Milton “place their men and their metaphorical leaves, in an underworld”.

Spiegelman closes his essay by observing that Pound’s poem takes place underground in the Metro.

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EZRA POUND’S SEMI-COLON. Let me return from Paris crime to Pound’s poem set in a Paris Metro station.

(In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.)

Willard Spiegelman points out that we expect a colon rather than a semi-colon after the word “crowd”. The poem has no verbs and therefore no independent clauses so the semi-colon is not separating and uniting two clauses. But, Spiegelman says, Pound’s semi-colon separates and unites the pairings of the two phrases. “Line 1 shows us people, almost ghostly, and Line 2 what they resemble, petals.”

I have posted on semi-colons before. In this post, I reported on a conversation in which—in response to an attack by Kurt Vonnegut on the semi-colon (“Do not use semi-colons”)— Mary Jane, Annalisa and I agreed that we liked semi-colons. I said that I liked a semi-colon worked into a sentence with balanced clauses, much like an Alexander Pope couplet. Annalisa said that she had heard of a comparison of the clauses joined by a semi-colon as being like a married couple: “We are different, but forever linked.” All of which applies to Pound’s semi-colon.

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KIM KARDASHIAN—“THE AMERICAN WOMAN”. Maureen Callahan’s story reveals the fact—surprising to an American—that Kim Kardashian is not that well known in France. When the Paris Police Chief was informed of the Kardashian robbery, neither he nor his Number 2 knew who she was. They had to look her up on Google. Callahan quotes the Police Chief: “She has a lot of likes on Facebook!

The French media refer to Kim Kardashian as “the American woman”.

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“THE GRANDDAD GANGSTERS”. This article in the New York Post by Maureen Callahan is a followup to the arrests that were made in the Kim Kardashian theft. (I posted on the arrests here.) The article says that “To the European press, they are ‘The Pappy Gangsters’ or ‘The Granddad Gangsters.’” The press is taken with their colorful pasts. One character is known as “The Eel” for his ability to escape and another is known as “Blue Eyes”. “Nez Rapé,” or “Broken Nose,” is known for dressing up as a police officer and, along with several accomplices, pulling over drivers of luxury cars and robbing them of their jewelry at gunpoint.

The Kardashian burglary was reportedly meant to be the crew’s last big operation before retirement.

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POUND’S ACCOUNT OF HOW 30 LINES WERE REDUCED TO TWO (OR 3). Mary Jane and I were each surprised to find out from Spiegelman that Pound had started his poem with 30 lines and then cut it severely. I found Pound’s account of how this happened here.

Pound explains that the poem came from a moment when he had intense feelings about beautiful faces he had seen: “Three years ago in Paris I got out of a ‘metro’ train at La Concorde, and saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what this had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy, or as lovely as that sudden emotion.”

Pound thought that the appropriate way to capture the particualar emotion would be through color—through painting. In the event, Pound said, “I wrote a thirty-line poem, and destroyed it because it was what we call work ‘of second intensity.’ Six months later I made a poem half that length; a year later I made the following hokku-like sentence: —

“The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals, on a wet, black bough.”

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“IN A STATION OF THE METRO”. Willlard Spiegelman had a fine analysis in the Wall Street Journal (January 6) of Ezra Pound’s masterpiece “In a Station of the Metro”. I showed it to Mary Jane because the poem is a favorite of hers, and she liked Spiegelman’s essay also.

Here is the poem:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Spiegelman notes that the poem began as a 30 line poem and wound up as three (Spiegelman says that the title should be considered to be the first line, suggesting “a loose version of a Japanese haiku (with 6-8-6 words per line, in place of the classic 5-7-5 syllables)”

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