Passing thoughts about the dying dailies

So it took me about five minutes and change to read the Sunday Durham Herald-Sun. That wasn’t surprising. But it’s a marvel that, amid all the carnage, the wasting away, the self-amputations, some things remain the same. The “funnies,” for example: The Family Circus is still in syndication, as are Hi and Lois, Beetle Bailey, and more. But the Herald-Sun recently dropped Doonesbury, and it seems like hardly anyone noticed. They also dropped the execrable Mallard Fillmore.

I’m not sure if this was designed to be a zero-sum change, something to appease both liberals and conservatives, or what. Doonesbury was, of course, the best comic strip in the paper, but I’m not sure Mallard Fillmore was the worst. In fact, I only read two strips. Guess which two?

The other thing I notice has not changed in 40 years is the presence of the Sunday Parade magazine. I used to read the thing when I was a kid. Even then I knew it was garbage, but I read the “Walter Scott’s Personality Parade” on the inside cover, and the “Ask Marilyn” column. Ah, the “Ask Marilyn” column, featuring answers from Marilyn vos Savant, who supposedly has an IQ of 230.

(True story from my adolescence: My friend Jimmy and I were discussing Marilyn vos Savant’s IQ. I said something like, “How can it be that high? It can’t go over 200, can it?” And Jimmy said, “What do you think happens when you hit 200? You explode?”)

(Today, Wikipedia says that vos Savant’s IQ is a matter of some controversy. And it offers some support to my notion that an IQ shouldn’t exceed 200!)

The amazing thing is that not only is Parade continuing to be published, but the same crappy features are in it, along with the same ads for commemorative coins and products for old people.

To be sure, today’s Parade is but a shadow of its once-mighty existence. It’s a smaller tabloid now, and it has 24 pages. “Walter Scott’s Personality Parade” and “Ask Marilyn” are still there, although poor Ms. vos Savant, who is now in her 70s, is reduced to one question and about 200 words.

Who publishes this thing? Is it profitable? Why is it still a staple of non-major Sunday dailies? And who reads it? (A clue could be on this cover here: A teaser for a vapid feature with a photo of … Sonny & Cher.)

Barcelona and the future of soccer

Really fascinating piece by Simon Kuper in the Financial Times. So many tidbits. Here’s one I was gratified to read:

[Barcelona coach Valverde says,] “This is a continuous sport in which the coach has barely any influence. […] Football belongs to the players. For 45 minutes at a time, non-stop, the player takes his own decisions. I have to say that the great players analyse the game better than I do.”

One more:

The first statistics that became widely available, from the 1990s, were the easiest ones to measure: number of passes, tackles, shots etc. These “event data” — measures of what a player does on the ball — are still often shown on TV. However, the average player has the ball for only about two minutes a game. The main question of football may be how he positions himself in the other 88 minutes. Is he controlling crucial spaces and creating space for teammates?


Once again, the link is here. allows free reading if you give your email.

File under “the road not taken”

Good piece by Charles Duhigg, although it’s a different plane of experience to be one of the “also-rans” of your Harvard School of Business class and settle for a Pulitzer-winning career at The New York Times.

But even among my more sanguine classmates, there was a lingering sense of professional disappointment. They talked about missed promotions, disaffected children and billable hours in divorce court. They complained about jobs that were unfulfilling, tedious or just plain bad. One classmate described having to invest $5 million a day — which didn’t sound terrible, until he explained that if he put only $4 million to work on Monday, he had to scramble to place $6 million on Tuesday, and his co-workers were constantly undermining one another in search of the next promotion. It was insanely stressful work, done among people he didn’t particularly like. He earned about $1.2 million a year and hated going to the office.