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Archive for the ‘Self-Improvement’ Category

Brett Newski Playfully Explores Mental Health in Art and Song – Muse by Clio

Posted: July 2, 2021 at 1:55 am

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Below, in a conversation edited for clarity, Newski chats about the project and puts anxiety in perspective:

Brett Newski: I've been schlepping American highways as a full-time touring musician the past nine years. That's how I make a living. We fit into that '90s alternative sound, even though we were just little kids in the '90s when Nirvana and all that was happening. Some of those bands have taken us under their wing and brought us on tour, which really helped get going. Some bands we've played with include the Pixies, Violent Femmes, Manchester Orchestra, New Pornographers, Courtney Barnett and Better than Ezra.

I've had anxiety and depression as long as I can remember. I just never knew what that fuzzy brain haze was until recent years. When I felt down, it was like I would stop seeing in color for a few hours or days on end. It's good to have a definition for anxiety. Even if it's just made-up words by humans. It made me realize those moments of existential dread are only temporary, and most other people experience them, too.

When I was but a wee man, I would draw my own sports trading cards in my parents' basement for hours on end. I would create my own sports leagues and play out simulation games by myself all day. I would literally dunk on myself on a Fisher-Price plastic basketball hoop in my parents' basement.

One afternoon I was trapped in my brain, and I started drawing to make fun of my own "disloyal," anxious brain. My brain was attacking me, and I saw drawing as a way out. I posted a few of them online and the response was really friendly warm. So, I kept making them for three years. Eventually I had over 200 drawings and my editor Anna and I whittled them down to the best 140 for the book.

The idea of the book was to share the tips and hacks that help me get out of my own head. It entails everything from specific stretches to going to the driving range to how to escape social media. It uses ham-fisted humor to boost mental health, even if just a little.

Anxiety is fuel. Anxiety is not all bad. In fact, it's the catalyst for my ability to write. Anxiety is that fight or flight in our DNA. There's examples from history. When certain species don't have a fight or flight, they just get clubbed by a caveman and cooked for dinner. Anxiety keeps me alive. When you're in an anxiety "toilet bowl," it's hard to have the awareness to realize you're just bullying yourself. When the clouds part and you get out of that anxiety spiral, you finally realize how 99 percent of your worries were irrational and silly. I find many of my anxiety spirals to be hilarious in retrospect.

It's medicine. Maybe part of it is self-avoidance, but for the most part it's free therapy. You can vent out a lot of your brain toxins through creation. Even if it's just drawing something on a napkin.

It's OK to be sad. I think Instagram culture pummels you with other people's "greatest hits," which is unrealistic. It creates a flawed barometer for how it actually is to be a person. It is hard to be a person, no matter who you arerich or poor or successful or not, or whatever. The brain is a marvel and a beauty but it's also a complicated apparatus that often doesn't work in our favor. It's OK to down sometimes. It's just part of the cycle.

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Brett Newski Playfully Explores Mental Health in Art and Song - Muse by Clio

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:55 am

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YouTube Millionaires: Jiedels Channel Is A Grab Bag Of Gaming, Sports, Cooking, And ChallengesAnd Viewers Dig The Variety – Tubefilter

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Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each creator has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments here.

This weeks installment of YouTube Millionaires is brought to you by Bright a learning platform focused on real conversations that level up your life.

In the vast crowded wilds of the internet, creators who have built an audience can (understandably!) be nervous about moving away from the kind of content that drew in those viewers. But over the past year, 2HYPEmemberJiedel has proven that not only can he switch content niches and retain his viewershiphe can switch and grow it.

The 25-year-old, Los Angeles-based YouTuber has been making videos since 2014. Healong with his brotherJesser and the rest of sports/gaming collective 2HYPEgot his start as a video game-focused creator whose uploads revolved around gameplay in titles like NBA 2KandMadden. That niche made up the bulk of his channel until 2019, when he got into sneaker customization. And then, in 2020, he shifted again.

Over the past year, Jiedel zeroed in on a combo of culinary and challenge content. Hes tested popularTikTok recipes, tried the best pizza L.A. has to offer, held 2HYPE trivia parties, taken Gordon Ramsays masterclass, bounced his way through a trampoline basketball tournament, and much, much more. He uploads at least once a week, swapping from topic to topic with each video posted.

This subject-switching is exactly the kind of thing creators can be leery ofbut for Jiedel, mixing it up has paid off, pushing his channel up past one million subscribers.

Check out our chat with him below.

Jiedel:With the pandemic keeping us all inside for over a calendar year, not a ton has changed for me personally. But on the channel side of things, Ive definitely focused more on food, cooking, and self-improvement videos through my masterclass series.

Jiedel:It is a very cool feeling and Id like to thank everybody who helped me hit that goal. Having said that, its just a number, and I feel like Im the same guy I was at 900k, 800k, etcetera.

Jiedel:Before YouTube, I was a journalism student at Rutgers University. I was an intern for the NFL the summer before graduation working on their YouTube channels, so becoming a full-time YouTuber was what I was preparing for, in a sense.

Jiedel:When I first started with YouTube, I was doing NBA 2K MyTEAM videos, I took inspiration from my brother Jesser and KSI with their respective series. Even though the videos were love commentaries, I always liked the narrative arcs that would form across episodes.

I knew I wanted to do gaming videos (at first), but didnt always know what to do. I loved doing rebuilds on Madden and NBA 2K, but didnt know people were going to be interested in watching that until years into doing YT. I also want to give a shout-out to Jon Graham, who used to go by Digitalph33r, for being a gigantic inspiration for me wanting to make YouTube videos. His Halo videos are what ultimately made me fall in love with the platform.

Id also note that I change my zone every single year, Ive never consistently done the same thing. In 2017 it was NBA 2K MyTEAM, 2019 NBA rebuilds, 2020 sneaker customizing, 2021 cooking and assorted challenges.

Jiedel:YouTube has been my full-time job since February 2017. We film for 2HYPE on average once a week, and for my personal channel on average two to three times a week. I also film for 100 Thieves from time to time.

I film a lot, but I would say when I was on the come-up and I was younger, I certainly did morein the sense that I now have a great team to help me film and edit that I didnt have before. Ive also gotten older during my five or so years doing this, so other life responsibilities can eat into my time.

Jiedel:Spending time with my brother and the other guys in 2HYPE. Id say the guys are all my best friends and a lot of the content creators I know are some of the nicest and most genuine people Ive ever met.

Jiedel:Kris, Jesse, and I launched TruCreator, a company making sports-like cards of content creators. People have really liked the two products weve put out so far, and we have even bigger things on the horizon for that.

In regards to other platforms, Im happy existing as a YouTuber, and if the other things come, they come.

Jiedel:Im not sure what Im filming tomorrow, let alone 2022 and beyond, so well see.

This weeks installment of YouTube Millionaires is brought to you by Bright a learning platform focused on real conversations that level up your life.

On Bright, participants receive unprecedented access to learn from their favorite creators, icons and experts within an intimate, live video chat setting. More than 1500 talent are on the waitlist to lead Bright Sessions for audiences looking to improve their lives. Fans come face-to-face with their favorite talent, ask questions and are able to make requests from the VIP area while joining talent on the Bright Stage for direct exchanges and personal learning among other Bright interactive features.

For more info and to experience conversations that level up your life, head over to

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YouTube Millionaires: Jiedels Channel Is A Grab Bag Of Gaming, Sports, Cooking, And ChallengesAnd Viewers Dig The Variety - Tubefilter

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:54 am

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Graduating senior excelled academically, athletically and at motherhood – Dallas ISD

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Kaiyah Jones spent her senior year excelling academically, at work, at track and at motherhood.

Despite working past midnight on a regular basis, the recent W.T. White graduate finished her school year with strong grades and as an acclaimed track-star who earned an athletic scholarship.

One of my biggest track accomplishments was running a lap (400 meters) in under a minute, she said. I was able to finish school, work, go to practice early in the mornings, and still make good grades and do everything right. I had a baby last year and still participated in Cross Country, came to practices, went to every meet and graduated.

Jones ran with the team that qualified for regionals in the 4 200 and was part of the Longhorn squad that won District Champions in the 4 400 (two track competitions in which teams of four athletes run a relay race where each runner completes 200 meters or 400 meters, depending on the event). Individually, she placed as a district finalist in the 800 meter-race and is a two-time regional qualifier in the 400-meter dash.

Coach Michael Martin has taught physical education at W.T. White for 17 years and has led the Longhorn Girls Track team for the last 13 years. When he met Jones during her sophomore year, he was amazed by her attitude of relentless self-improvement. He noticed that she had a great work ethic and a natural gift of leadership.

Shes a nice kid. We never gave up on her and she never gave up on us, Martin said. She practices hard and is one of the athletes who gets her teammates to practice. And as a student, she did what she was supposed to do, took charge of a tough situation and did the best she could. Her efforts paid through, because she ended up getting an athletic scholarship.

Jones relentlessly kept her grades up, worked long hours into the night and continued to support her team, even throughout her pregnancy and after giving birth to her daughter Legacy in July 2020.

I was working at a movie theater, and I was always the night person, she said. My shift would start almost immediately after leaving school, and sometimes I wouldnt get out until 2 a.m., depending on when the last movie ended. Id go to practice for Track and Cross Country the next day at 7 a.m., every day, and do it all over again.

Three months into her pregnancy, Jones realized that she wasnt able to run as well she normally could. She had not told anyone at school that she was an expecting mother, and she knew that having a baby meant giving up athletics for a couple of months.

It was really hard to stop running, she said. I loved working out, I loved practicing with my friends and being part of the team, so much. I didnt want to miss out on anything.

She gave up the sport until after Legacy was born. And while she wasnt able to continue breaking her personal records and pushing her endurance in the 400-meter track, her coach found another area where she could continue supporting her team and excelling.

Jones became the team manager, and helped her teammates anywhere she could, from getting water for the runners to helping the freshmen improve their times. After Legacy was born, Jones was back on her feet, with her running shoes on and one goal in mind: graduating and going to college.

When she told us she was pregnant, we embraced it. Her family, her teachers and I did what we had to do to get her through, and she did the same. I told her: Were going to get you through this, but were not going to let you quit, Martin said. There was a lot happening at once, especially for her at 18 years old. There were ups and downs, and a lot of emotions. But we worked it out, and we all agreed to get this young lady to the next level, because she had the talent and she persevered.

Jones wants to become a police officer and is set to start college with a partial athletic scholarship at the University of Southwest in New Mexico in the Fall of 2021. She will major in Criminal Justice and run for the Mustangs women track and field team.

Something that Ive learned at W.T. White and being part of the Longhorns is that giving up is a mental thing, she said. If you give up mentally, then youre going to give up in every other aspect of your life. And the only person who can make you quit mentally is yourself.

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Graduating senior excelled academically, athletically and at motherhood - Dallas ISD

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:54 am

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The WiseGuide App: Gain Confidence, Happiness and Success – Women Love Tech

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Effective Learning Systems, the company that pioneered the practice of Productive Meditation more than 45 years ago, recently announced the launch of their first mobile app, WiseGuide, putting the companys entire library of powerful, time-tested self-improvement techniques at everyones fingertips.

WiseGuide goes beyond the benefits of traditional mindfulness and meditation teachings to deliver a vast library of targeted, impactful programs that can help users achieve specific, life-changing personal and professional goals, including boosting athletic performance, building healthier relationships, cultivating better concentration and managing addictions.

Most people experience positive results immediately and remarkable life-transformation with regular, consistent use, said Effective Learning Systems founder Bob Griswold.

Features of the WiseGuide App include:

Over 120 prescriptive titles that address specific goals, including smoking cessation, weight control, stress management, better sleep and much more

A childrens collection for self-image and self-esteem

Effective studying and test taking for children from grade school through college

Programs to listen to while driving, exercising, working or even sleeping

Works on any iOS or Android mobile device

It is never too late to break bad habits, overcome fears, manage stress or improve virtually any other aspect of life, and its never been easier. The WiseGuide App can help people use the power of their own minds to take control and make lasting improvements. And all they have to do is listen.

The WiseGuide App was developed by Effective Learning Systems, whose founder Bob Griswold has been helping people harness the power of their own minds to make transformative changes for more than 45 years. His unique approach to meditation, guided imagery, positive affirmations, relaxation, self-hypnosis and more make his programs uniquely effective.

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The WiseGuide App: Gain Confidence, Happiness and Success - Women Love Tech

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:54 am

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5 Men Who Were Friendzoned Share What Helped Them Fall Out Of Love & (Finally) Move On –

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Once you start having a crush on someone, there is always a possibility of being friendzoned by that person which, if it happens, hurts more than a breakup, to be honest. You dont only lose a possible romantic relationship but also the friendship youve built with that person.


Moreover, while in a breakup you mostly start keeping your distance, this is not always the case in the friendzone.

You always nurture this hope that maybe one day youll get out of it and thats why you stick around, only to see them going out with other people and hurting yourself more in the process.


Its definitely not an easy task to move on from a relationship that you never had or a girl you love who doesnt reciprocate your feelings, but the sooner you realise that it is important for you to get over her, the better.

Colour Yellow Productions

It has happened to almost everyone and some who managed to fall out of love and move on (not out) from a friendzone situation shared some pearls of wisdom.

Here are some tips on how to get over someone who friendzoned you and move on, for real:


I feel like your priority is to improve your self-esteem and your mental health first before her.

Focus on improving yourself through exercise, videos about self-improvement (how to be caring, more confident, more social, etc.), your clothing style, your looks and more." --Reddit User.

Dharma Productions

Is there a solid friendship there independent of your romantic interest in her? Im in a similar situation myself. Theres a girl I love very much that I could see myself being either friends or in a relationship with. Weve been friends for a while. I told her she should consider dating me. She said no. Were still good friends because theres a solid friendship there and I wasnt just waiting in the wings to try and get in her pants. --Quora User

Dharma Productions

Just disconnect yourself slowly and surely. Get away for a bit. Keep reminding yourself you're just friends with her. If you could set her up with someone you know so you can turn on that she's a girl with a boyfriend mode unless that hurts too bad. Then go with disconnect. --Reddit User.


Distract yourself with video games with online friends (my preferred method lol) You don't necessarily have to reach out every time to help her. Just let her know that you're there and available to listen. --Reddit User.


If you are getting dates or hanging out with other friends, the friend who friendzoned you becomes second priority. The point is to not let a friendzone keep you from enjoying your life and dating and possibly starting a life with someone else. --Quora User.

5 Men Who Were Friendzoned Share What Helped Them Fall Out Of Love & (Finally) Move On -

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:54 am

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‘The Tomorrow War’ Is A Big, Dumb, Beautiful Blockbuster – UPROXX

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The Tomorrow War, opening on Amazon Prime this week, is a big, dumb, beautiful blockbuster starring Chris Pratt as a time-traveling ex-soldier science teacher battling aliens who look like giant killer lice. I appreciate a film that takes big swings, and The Tomorrow War is the Babe Ruth of narrative conceits.

Pratt plays Dan Forester, an Iraq War veteran and current high school science teacher who learns, during a Bane-style interruption of a climactic moment of the soccer World Cup, that scientist/soldiers from 30 years into the future are locked in a losing battle with a species of pestilential, man-eating aliens known as white spikes (I prefer their older stuff).

In 2051, humanity is down to its last 500,000 people, but theyve figured out how to open a rudimentary wormhole into the relatively recent past. Theyre using this bridge, like two rafts on a running river (because time only moves in one direction) to draft the manpower future humanity needs to fight off the aliens from the most abundant source of it: the pre-alien invasion past. In other words, the future folk need present people to fight The Tomorrow War. Get it? You get it.

One day, while trying to convince a classroom full of defeatist high school kids that science is the key to their future (theyre rightly a little lukewarm on the idea of dutiful self-improvement knowing theyre all probably just going to get eaten by aliens in 30 years) Forester gets an amber alert on his phone demanding that he report to the draft board. A group of fresh-faced, curiously attractive doctors and soldiers from the future order Chris Pratt to take off his shirt for unclear reasons and affix him with a metal wrist cuff that will both facilitate his time jump and alert the authorities if he tries to desert.

So it is Forester is forced to leave behind his modest life and adorable family (which includes precocious daughter and beautiful wife played by a mostly-wasted-on-this-minor-role Betty Gilpin) to join a rag-tag crew of regular Joes about to be sacrificed to the future bugs. This crew includes characters played by Sam Richardson (Veep, Detroiters) and Mary Lynn Rajskub (Its Always Sunny, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) part of a larger, weirdly-effective Tomorrow War strategy of casting comedic actors in not overtly-comedic roles.

Presumably, these are just actors director Chris McKay knows from his past comedic work, directing The Lego Batman Movie, Robot Chicken, and working in the animation department under Lord and Miller. While there isnt anything overtly parodic about The Tomorrow War, which is mostly a straightforwardly earnest alien drama, you can tell McKay is having a blast making it, which helps make a lot of the silliness work. McKay and screenwriter Zach Dean are constantly finding the distinction between corny dialogue that makes you groan and corny dialogue thats so perfectly on-the-nose that its kind of brilliant. Im just trying to save my daughter, Forester explains to a fellow grunt, And if I have to save the entire world to do it, so be it.

Thats a corny line that couldve been the tagline to dozens of movies, from most of the Seagal/Neeson/Willis ouvre to Ben Stillers Scorcher franchise from Tropic Thunder. Yet the Russian nesting doll of spoiler-y plot conceits that The Tomorrow War constructs to justify it are almost avant-garde. The Tomorrow War manages to combine the best bits of Edge Of Tomorrow, Arrival, Armageddon, Alien, Independence Day, and God knows what else in the kind of movie that Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich wouldve directed in their primes if theyd had more talent.

People whove speculated about Chris Pratts transformation from chubby comedy guy to ripped action hero, and his apparent religious awakening along with it (Pratt is or was a member of Hillsong, the same celebrity megachurch that baptized Justin Bieber) will find endless fodder in The Tomorrow War. Pratt plays a scientist-soldier-teacher who is essentially defined by his faith in a brighter future and his willingness to stick his neck out for others. Hes also a crack shot with a submachine gun, a supportive father, and an expert troop motivator. Did I mention the strong jaw and washboard abs? Image conscious Will Smith was known to only play heroes for a big chunk of his career, but Pratts babyface act in The Tomorrow War is so relentlessly ingratiating that it puts Will Smith to shame. His character is so thoroughly heroic that there are times when The Tomorrow War feels like a pro-Chris Pratt propaganda film produced by the Church of Scientology.

Clocking in at 140 minutes, a less-bold version of The Tomorrow War would feel overlong or padded, but The Tomorrow War doesnt, partly owing to at least three distinct phases. Theres Forester the reluctant soldier, Forester the single-minded scientist, and Forester the unlikely leader of a band of Arctic explorers, which includes his estranged, doomsday prepping, Vietnam veteran father, played by JK Simmons (who Im not sure is even old enough to be a Vietnam veteran?). Each phase individually wouldve had enough content to fill the entirety of lesser movie. But every time it seems to paint itself into a narrative corner, The Tomorrow World blows through a wall with high explosives or invents a just-plausible-enough interdimensional portal.

Most of the movie is so ridiculous that you figure no finale could possibly do it justice. Yet even after time travel, alien invasion, biological weaponry, and an arctic expedition, The Tomorrow Wars finale manages to be plausibly grand, even compared to what came before it. Never before has a streaming release so capably evoked Summer blockbuster.

The Tomorrow War is streaming on Amazon Prime July 2nd. Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.

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'The Tomorrow War' Is A Big, Dumb, Beautiful Blockbuster - UPROXX

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:54 am

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Nation – Daily Herald

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House to probe Capitol riot, over GOP opposition

WASHINGTON (AP) Sharply split along party lines, the House launched a new investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection on Wednesday, approving a special committee to probe the violent attack as police officers who were injured fighting Donald Trumps supporters watched from the gallery above.

The vote to form the panel was 222-190, with all but two Republicans objecting that majority Democrats would be in charge. The action came after Senate Republicans blocked creation of an independent commission that would have been evenly split between the two parties.

Ahead of the vote, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers in the chamber: We will be judged by future generations as to how we value our democracy. She said she preferred that an independent panel lead the inquiry but Congress could wait no longer to begin a deeper look at the insurrection that was the worst attack on the Capitol in more than 200 years.

As the vote was called, Pelosi stood in the House gallery with several police officers who fought the rioters and with the family of an officer who died, hugging several of them. One of the officers, Michael Fanone of Washingtons Metropolitan Police, said he was angry at Republicans for voting against an investigation after he almost lost his life to protect them.

I try not to take these things personally, but its very personal for me, Fanone said.

PHARR, Texas (AP) Republican lawmakers traveled to Texas to cheer former President Donald Trump as he paid a visit to the southern border Wednesday and hammered the Biden administration for its immigration policies amid a decades-high spike in border crossings.

Trump, who was joined by more than two dozen House members, also continued to spread lies about the 2020 election as he participated in a border briefing and visited the wall he championed in a trip that was strikingly similar to the many hed taken here while president.

Biden is destroying our country. And it all started with a fake election, Trump railed as he stood at the border, an American flag hoisted by a crane waving above him. Trump has persisted in falsely claiming he won in November, even though state and federal election officials, his own attorney general and numerous judges have said there is no evidence of the mass voter fraud he alleges.

Coming fresh off his first rally since leaving the White House, the visit underscored the extent to which Republicans, both nationally and in the states, continue to embrace Trump as the leader of their party. And it demonstrated anew how much the GOP has taken up Trumps signature issue of immigration as the party looks to recapture control of Congress in next years midterm elections.

Trump was invited to South Texas by the states governor, Greg Abbott, who is up for reelection next year and is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate. After facing criticism for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Abbott has taken up Trumps immigration mantle, vowing to continue building the southern border wall that the Biden administration has suspended.

SURFSIDE, Florida (AP) Crews searching for survivors in the ruins of a collapsed Florida condo tower have built a ramp that should allow the use of heavier equipment, potentially accelerating the removal of concrete that could lead to incredibly good news events, the state fire marshal said Wednesday.

Since the sudden collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South last week in Surfside, rescuers have been working to peel back layers of concrete on the pancaked building without disturbing the unstable pile of debris.

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told family members of those missing Wednesday that a ramp built onto the pile overnight allowed rescuers to use a crane on sections that were not previously accessible. He said that improves the chances of finding new pockets of space in the urgent search for survivors.

We hope to start seeing some significant improvement in regards to the possibility of (finding) any voids that we cannot see, Jadallah said.

In an interview with Miami television station WSVN, State Fire Marshal Jimmy Petronis described the ramp as a Herculean effort that would allow crews to leverage massive equipment to remove mass pieces of concrete, which could lead to good results.

NEW YORK (AP) TV actor Allison Mack, who played a key role in the scandal-ridden, cult-like group NXIVM, was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday on charges she manipulated women into becoming sex slaves for the groups spiritual leader.

Mack best known for her role as a young Supermans close friend on the series Smallville had previously pleaded guilty to the charges and began cooperating against NXIVM leader Keith Raniere. Prosecutors credited her with helping them mount evidence showing how Raniere created a secret society of brainwashed women who were branded with his initials.

At her sentencing in Brooklyn federal court, Mack renounced the self-improvement guru.

I made choices I will forever regret, she said, also telling the judge she was filled with remorse and guilt.

I am sorry to those of you that I brought into NXIVM, she wrote in a letter filed with the court last week. I am sorry I ever exposed you to the nefarious and emotionally abusive schemes of a twisted man.

NEW YORK (AP) Revised vote counts in New York Citys Democratic mayoral primary show Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams maintaining a thin lead, a day after a first attempt to report results went disastrously wrong.

The mayors race, the first city election to use ranked choice voting, was thrown into disarray Tuesday after the citys Board of Elections posted incorrect preliminary vote counts and then withdrew them hours later.

Corrected numbers released Wednesday showed Adams, a former police captain and state senator, leading former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia by 14,755 votes. Civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley was practically tied with Garcia, falling just 347 votes behind in the ranked choice analysis.

The corrected results still dont paint a complete picture of the race. Nearly 125,000 absentee ballots have yet to be counted.

Adams thin lead means it is possible for Garcia or Wiley to catch up when absentee ballots are added to the mix starting on July 6.

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Nation - Daily Herald

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:54 am

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Shohei Ohtani is ‘in his own world’ … which appears to be somewhere beyond baseball’s outer limits – The Athletic

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Ah! Summer grasses! All that remains Of the warriors dreams Matsuo Bash

In the summer of 1889, Japanese poet Masaoka Shiki brought baseball to his hometown. He started with a ball, a bat and a few friends. It had been 17 years since the American professor Horace Wilson began teaching the sport to students in Tokyo. Shiki was a college student, a member of the first generation of Japanese ballplayers. He soon became famous for something else: reviving the old poetry tradition of haiku.

In simple terms, Shiki was an iconoclast, a critic, an ambitious writer who pulled from Western influences, challenged convention, pushed limits and reinvented haiku in the process. He was also a baseball player, one who loved to pitch and play catcher, who became so obsessed with the sport that he began to write poetry about it. Today he is considered one of Japans four great haiku masters. Hes also in the Japanese baseball hall of fame. He elevated two art forms by thrusting them forward.

Before Shiki died at age 34, he devoted much of his energy into examining the first haiku master, Matsuo Bash, a 17th-century poet recognized as Japans greatest. Like many Japanese writers, Shiki read Bashs masterpiece, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a travelogue of his journey into the remote wilderness of northeast Japan in the late 1600s. Its a legendary piece of Japanese literature, a work that later inspired the Beat Generation. Bash traveled on foot. The trip took five months. Along the way, he ventured to the town of Hiraizumi, in what is now Iwate Prefecture, still a rural area in the north.

If you travel to Iwate today, you will find statues of Bash, tributes to his journey and inscriptions of his haikus. But if you stay a while, you will also find baseball.

Its where Shohei Ohtani grew up.

On April 26, Shohei Ohtani did something that no one had done in a century: He stepped on a pitchers mound and started a game for the Angels while leading the American League in homers. Ohtani was the first to accomplish this since Babe Ruth, who pulled it off for the last time on June 13, 1921, but as always with Ohtani, the fine print was more fascinating than the headline. The day before, on April 25, he put a baseball into orbit in Houston, launching a 440-foot homer at Minute Maid Park. The day before that,he homered while making his first cameo in left field. And the dayafterhis start, he was back in the lineup at designated hitter.

But on the day he started? That was light work. He collected two hits, drove in two runs, scored three times, lasted five innings on the mound, struck out out nine and earned the win, which made him the first pitcher in either league to have two hits, three runs and nine strikeouts since Luis Tiant in 1967. A pretty complete game of baseball, Angels manager Joe Maddon said, a statement which was both technically correct and underscored the difficulty of capturing the Ohtani experience with words.

One hundred and forty years after Horace Wilson brought baseball to Japan, 131 years after Masaoka Shiki crafted his first poetic tribute, and a hundred years (give or take) after Ruth cemented the game as Americas pastime, Ohtani, a 26-year-old from Iwate Prefecture, is threatening to break the sport, to push the limits of what was thought possible, to redefine our conception of a baseball star. This is at once obvious to the baseball layman and also hard to fully grip. Ohtani is 6 feet 4, and he looks as if his bodily proportions were designed for blueprints in a baseball laboratory. His frame could fit in a Terminator movie. He throws 101 mph and he hits 470-foot homers, sometimes on the same night. And after three seasons in America, after Tommy John surgery and a pandemic slowed his ascent, he is finally showing the skill set that made him the most tantalizing baseball prospect on earth.

If he is not the most valuable player in the sport, he is no doubt the most gifted. If he were just a hitter or just a pitcher, he would still be an All-Star candidate and a hero in his home country. But he is both, a composite sketch of the sports great players, a borrower of styles, a surrealists idea of a baseball player, a starting pitcher with a 2.58 ERA in 11 starts and a designated hitter with 28 homers and an OPS+ north of 170. He is a cartoon character out of Japanese anime. He is the big kid from Little League. He is ruthlessly efficient with his body, at once mechanically sound and graceful, wielding a bat as if Bryce Harper grew up worshiping the elegance of Ichiro Suzuki.

Justin Upton, a teammate on the Angels who has spent five seasons playing with Mike Trout, has deemed Ohtani the most talented player Ive ever seen. Mets starter Marcus Stroman called him a mythical legend in human form, while Kevin Durant stopped a torrid NBA playoff run to weigh in. Different breed, he tweeted. Leury Garca, a White Sox utility player who watched Ohtani terrorize his club in April, offered more subtle praise: Oh, he nasty.

Rick Ankiel, one of the few men in recorded history who has made the major leagues as a pitcher and a hitter (though, notably, not at the same time) describes Ohtani as being in his own world, as far as ability. Joe Maddon, his manager, notes day after day: Nobody has ever done this before.

Ohtani is the type of player who strains the imagination and inspires wonder among his fellow players. He also raises philosophical questions about the future of his sport: Is he the first of a new and rare superstar archetype (once in a generation, perhaps?)? Or, is he a unicorn? Is he the latest master in a proud Japanese baseball tradition based on endless training and self-sacrifice? Or, is he reinventing the form? And, finally, there is a question for us, the audience:

Is it possible to properly appreciate something weve never seen before?

Before Shohei Ohtani came along, the last Japanese professional player to be an All-Star as a pitcher and hitter was Junzo Sekine. He was a wisp of a human, 5 feet 7 and 130 pounds, an avatar for many Japanese players of his day. In the spring of 1966, he traveled to the United States and spent a month with the Yankees at spring training. He wanted to learn a new culture.

Sekine had started his career as a pitcher for the Kintetsu Pearls (later the Buffaloes) in 1950. He spent seven seasons on the mound, transitioned to first base, and became something like the Rick Ankiel of 1950s Japan. He was solid at both roles, fundamentally sound and productive, but it was his versatility that impressed. When his career ended, he dreamed of managing, so he sought knowledge from the best baseball franchise in the world, the club that had produced Babe Ruth, the original two-way standard.

When compared to its American counterpart, Japanese baseball remains a culture unto itself, a thriving system with its own history, traditions and beauty, a sport that did not change the locals so much as bent to their will. When the game first arrived in the late 1800s, the Japanese had no concept of recreational leisure sports. They didnt even have words to describe them. Every thing was a martial art, says Robert Whiting, a Tokyo-based author who has chronicled Japanese baseball for decades.

Japanese baseball, then, came to be influenced bybushid, the moral code of honor developed by the samurai warrior class. As it spread, the sport grew as a tool for education. It was regimented and militaristic, a game that taught lessons in suffering and sacrifice, a reflection of the society it had charmed. A century later, as Ohtani came of age in Iwate, the old influences remained softened, of course, by modern advances and progressive attitudes but still vital to the endeavor.

Sekine had grown up in that culture in the 1930s and 40s, immersed in the philosophy of unending practice daily training, thousands of swings, hundreds of pitches during one bullpen session. Still, there was one thing in common with the major leagues: nobody dared to pitch andhit at the same time.

This was mostly because of the hellish demands on pitchers. In the 1950s and 60s, Japanese hurlers undertook extraordinary workloads, even by the standards of the day. Hiroshi Gondo, a pitcher for Chunichi, threw a record 429 innings in 1961, inspiring the Japanese version of Spahn and Sain and pray for rain. (It included more rain and more Gondo.) As Whiting says, The pitchers threw so much that it was unrealistic to expect them to do anything else.

The Japanese adored Babe Ruth. He had visited the country during a goodwill tour in 1934. The locals packed stadiums and shouted Banzai Babe Ruth! But they did not have an analog for him; there were no two-way legends who transcended the sport. Of course, if the Japanese would have studied Ruths career, they would have noted that even the Babe found playing both ways to be a hindrance. Ruth managed to log double duty for parts of only two seasons with the Red Sox, in 1918 and 1919 (with some later mound cameos for the Yankees). Waite Hoyt, a teammate in Boston and New York, would call Ruths 1919 season the year of the Great Experiment. Newspapers debated his role. The year before, Ruth had expressed doubts that anyone could do both.

I dont think a man can pitch in his regular turn, and play every other game at some other position, and keep that pace year after year, Ruth told the writer F.C. Lane of Baseball Magazine in late 1918. I can do it this season all right, and not feel it, for I am young and strong and dont mind the work. But I wouldnt guarantee to do it for many seasons.

Ruth was sold to the Yankees before the 1920 season and became a full-time slugger. And for the next hundred years, his prophecy largely proved true. (There were a collection of two-way stars in the Negro Leagues, including Charles Wilber Bullet Rogan and Ted Double Duty Radcliffe.)

Baseball evolved. Specialization reigned. The game grew on both sides of the Pacific. Hideo Nomo arrived stateside. The Japanese pipeline opened. Ichiro Suzuki started a revolution. The best kids in Japan came of age thinking about the major leagues. Then one day in the early 2010s, an executive from an American League team traveled to watch a high school star named Shohei Ohtani compete in Koshien, the countrys legendary national high school baseball tournament. Koshien is March Madness plus Friday Night Lights times 10. Ohtani was tall and lean and he threw 99 mph. He told reporters that he wanted to bypass the Japanese professional league Nippon Professional Baseball and head to America.

In the mind of the scout, Ohtani was one of the best Japanese pitching prospects in years. Like most high school stars, he was also a position player with intriguing bat speed and power. But the scout believed his future was on the mound.

I didnt think of him doing both, he says.

Then again, why would he? Nobody had tried in a century. Was it even possible? At least one person believed it was: Ohtani.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then the genuine fear of losing a homegrown prodigy to the United States helped birth Ohtani as a two-way player. The Nippon-Ham Fighters, one of the savviest organizations in Japanese baseball, had a plan. First, they would show Ohtani an unvarnished look at life as a minor leaguer. Then, they would convince him that he could do both. He didnt need to choose. Ohtani imagined a career without limits, his potential dictated only by his level of devotion and work. Soon, the scout returned to Japan for another trip and watched Ohtani take batting practice. He came away with one thought:

This guy is a f hitter.

On April 4, the fourth day of the 2021 baseball season, Shohei Ohtani was a hitter. He was also a pitcher. In the top of the first, he faced the Chicago White Sox and hurled a fastball 101 mph. In the bottom half, he stepped to the plate, loaded his hands, uncoiled his hips and unleashed his barrel on a belt-high fastball. The crack sounded like a bomb, as if someone had taken a sledgehammer to a tone block or tossed a rocking chair off a roof. (If you watch the replay once, theres a 100 percent chance you will watch it again.) The baseball soared 451 feet into the night sky. Ohtani, the first pitcher to bat second in the lineup since 1903, looked almost princely as he circled the bases.

Lefty Gomez once described Ruths homers as homing pigeons. The famous Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh produced a beautiful crack withhandmadetamo-wood bats. And the legendary scout Buck ONeil once said that only Ruth, Josh Gibson and Bo Jackson could generate a sound likethat.But there remains something different about the sound that emanates from Ohtanis bat. For one, it is loud. It is also perfectly toned, the crack of the kind of textured percussion that usually demands headphones. And on the night of April 4, it was so loud that some viewers assumed it must have been enhanced by ESPNs Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.

Phil Orlins, ESPNs lead producer for its MLB coverage, assures that it was not. The sound was natural. As Ohtani swung at a high fastball from the White Soxs Dylan Cease, the high-speed collision of ball and bat was picked up by four wireless mics buried in front of home plate at Angel Stadium. It was then transmitted to a production truck, added to the broadcasts sound mix, and sent out to viewers across the country. Exactly the way it sounds if youre standing by the batting cage during BP, Orlins says.

Ohtani, of course, tends toward the maximal. When Brad Ausmus managed the Angels during the 2019 season, hed tell people to arrive early to watch Ohtani hit batting practice. It wasnt just the sound, and it wasnt just the distance, though Ohtani often put balls into the far reaches of Angel Stadium. It was the height. His power seems to have tremendous upward trajectory, almost like Darryl Strawberry, Ausmus says. He hits the ball 200 feet straight up in the air, and it goes 450 feet out.

Ohtani showed glimpses of this power as a rookie in 2018, hitting 22 homers while making 82 starts at DH, and again in 2019, as he recovered from Tommy John surgery and was limited to hitting. But after struggling in the shortened 2020 season (Ohtani called his own play pathetic), he is becoming the hitter that Ausmus saw, a technical marvel of leverage and energy transfer.

To watch Ohtani swing a bat is to see a hitter who has mastered the two most important elements of the craft: technical expertise and creative genius the science and the art. Ohtani has what master swordsmen call edge alignment, the ability to guide his weapon to the baseball at the ideal angle to maximize power and distance. He also has the ability to improvise.

Ausmus began his career playing with Tony Gwynn in San Diego and finished it playing alongside Manny Ramirez with the Dodgers. Gwynn was a modern-day Ted Williams, a man who understood the mechanics of the swing better than anyone of his generation. Ramirez was a physical virtuoso; hitting was his craft. Ohtani, Ausmus says, is somehow both at once.

When Ohtani was a rookie, Albert Pujols would watch his young teammate smash balls over the center-field batters eye, then pass along bullish scouting reports to Ankiel, his former teammate with the Cardinals. (Is it real? Ankiel remembers asking. Its everything and more, Pujols said.) Four years later, Ohtani is on pace to hit 57 homers after smashing three more in two days at Yankee Stadium. His latest power binge included a 117.2-mph blast on Monday the hardest homer of his career and 20 of his 28 homers have been struck with an exit velocity of more than 105 mph and a launch angle above 20 degrees. He leads the majors in that category, meaning nobody combines distance and height quite like Ohtani.

Its majestic, Ausmus says.

Its Ruthian.

When Ohtani was a boy in Iwate, he idolized Ichiro Suzuki and attempted to emulate him. When he joined the Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2013, he studied video of Bryce Harper, which indirectly meant he was studying the swing of Ruth, who had borrowed from Shoeless Joe Jackson and spurred the original launch-angle revolution. The connection between Ruth and Harper was drawn in 2013, when, according to the Washington Post, then-Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu studied footage of both players side by side. Identical, he told the newspaper.

To watch Ohtani is to see the same foundation the stiff front leg, the hands loading and the hips unwinding, the back foot lifting off the ground. He is not a perfect copy of Harper; duringspring training in 2018, Ohtani visited Ichiro, who suggested he lose the big leg kick he developed in Japan. He replaced it with a simple toe tap.

Ohtani has always been a blender of styles. When he was a teenage rookie with the Fighters, he peppered veteran pitcher Bobby Keppel with questions about the United States, culling information about major-league competition and the craft of pitching. When former Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida arrived in 2015, Ohtani quizzed him about the culture of the big leagues, the stadiums, the logistics, the lifestyle. You could tell in his mind, he had a goal, Keppel says.

The Fighters employed an interpreter and liaison for its American players. Ippei Mizuhara had grown up in Southern California and spent his childhood near Angel Stadium. For Ohtani, he offered a window to American baseball, a go-between who translated conversations with the former major leaguers on the roster. (When Ohtani chose the Angels, Mizuhara came with him.) Keppel remembered Ohtani as very polite and reserved. He was a teenager who took the time to learn Spanish phrases to connect with the Cuban players on the Fighters roster. Michael Crotta, another former major-league pitcher, likened his young teammate to Paul Bunyan. Hermida would watch bullpen sessions and batting practice and sum up the experience like this: The most natural juice Ive ever seen.

It was easy to see where Ohtani was headed. In 2016, his fourth season with the Fighters, he hit .322 with 22 homers in 382 plate appearances while posting a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings. It was more impressive to see the path he took. He was a machine, Crotta says. Before the game, he would throw a 100-pitch bullpen and jump right into a grueling, eight-minute batting practice. (In Japan, BP is timed, not based on swings.) In pregame pitchers meetings, Ohtani would sit with Crotta and Luis Mendoza, another former big leaguer, and offer the notes hed taken on each opposing hitter.

He was not afraid to speak about what he was doing or how he found success or where he struggled, Crotta says. At 18, I dont know if I would have had the stones to stand up in front of a bunch of guys and tell them how I felt about stuff.

Ohtanis studiousness his habit of taking notes and writing things down had been honed in high school, when he starred at Hanamaki Higashi High School in Iwate. Hanamaki Higashi is not a natural hotbed for baseball superstars. By Japanese standards, its considered somewhat rural, located 300 miles north of Tokyo and away from the countrys biggest population centers. The winters are harsh. When Ohtani was at the school, the baseball program led by coach Hiroshi Sasaki reflected the discipline and ideals of the old ways. Players lived in dorms and were assigned a list of chores. Training was intense.

Sasaki, however, also focused on individual growth and progressive training tools. One example: The pitchers used a swimming program to build strength and flexibility. Another: Sasaki adopted the Harada Method, a self-improvement technique, asking his players to write down their goals and list strategies to achieve them, to envision next week, next month, and where they wanted to be at age 25 or 30.

He just has a philosophy of how to coach and how to teach young boys about life, says Ema Ryan Yamazaki, a filmmaker who followed the Hanamaki Higashi program for one season in 2018 for a documentary about Koshien.

As a sophomore in high school, Ohtani set a goal to throw 99 mph (160 kilometers per hour) and sketched out a road map to get there. (According to a copy of Ohtanis high school goals obtained by the Wall Street Journal, Ohtani wrote of having a cool head and hot passion. One strategy was more straightforward: Read books.) He brought his inquisitiveness to professional baseball, where he focused on self improvement, day by day, and crafted another plan to better himself. He was a pitcher and a hitter, and he would do both until he couldnt anymore. He did everything he could to make that plan come true, Crotta says.

By 2015, Ohtani was the Fighters best starter and a part-time position player whose talent was apparent. He was also just 20, which meant he still dressed in the secondary locker room, a small nook adjacent to the weight room, where the youngest players were stuck until they gained more experience.

He just never complained, Hermida says. Never nothing. He couldnt have been more humble, more nice, smile on his face every day.

Baseball was his life, and he ate, slept, breathed baseball. Everything about it was training. How can I get better? How can I do better?

Its possible that no player in baseball was more prepared for a quarantine. When Ohtani was with the Fighters, he lived in a spartan dormitory in Hokkaido. After joining the Angels, he moved into an apartment complex across the parking lot from the stadium. There are many ways to analyze Ohtanis insistence on efficiency and convenience, but one thing is clear: The man does not require much space. Former Angels general manager Billy Eppler once compared a younger Ohtani to Ivan Drago, the shredded Russian villain from Rocky IV, which seemed less about his physical prowess and more about his single-minded focus toward training. If Ohtani has built a brand around his talent and in Japan, its an astonishingly large brand it is one built on a simple tenet: A wholesome commitment to baseball with all his being.

He wants to be the greatest baseball player ever, Ausmus said. So he does everything he can to try and achieve that goal.

Ohtanis stoicism extends to his movement patterns or lack thereof. There is no shortage of social avenues in nearby Los Angeles. He waited until 2020 to get his drivers license. His temperament also colors his interviews. On June 8, Ohtani hit his 17th homer, a 470-foot moonshot against the Royals in Anaheim. His response to the Japanese press corps: Im glad I was able to start things on a good note with a home run.

When Ohtani debuted in 2018, reporters mined for illustrative anecdotes. They have mostly come up empty. The list of revelations includes this: Ohtani turned to video games as a way to bond with teammates. He sang a passable version of Despacito on the team bus. He took to cooking, setting a routine that was as exciting as his regimented training: One omelet, every morning. (As Ohtani told the Kyodo News in 2018, he also found virtue in solitude. You can eat quickly when you eat alone, he said.)

Whiting, whose seminal book, You Gotta Have Wa, explores the relationship between baseball and Japanese society, has described Ohtani as a baseballing monk, a happy warrior who smiles while being checked for sticky stuff. In this way, he is something close to the ideal Japanese player, a purist whose adherence to tradition causes you to see the sport in an entirely different fashion. He represents everything thats good about the Japanese approach to baseball, Whiting says.

Ohtani is so famous in Japan that earlier this season the Royals (and a few other teams) sold in-stadium signage to Nishikawa Co., a bedding company that is touting its 455th (!) anniversary. To explain his presence in Japanese culture, Yamazaki reaches into another phenomenon, the world of Japanese comics, otherwise known as manga. Hes one of those people that could be out of those stories, she says.

Yamazaki is currently filming a project in a Tokyo elementary school, where Ohtani Angels T-shirts are the unofficial school uniform. But to understand the love affair, you have to understand what Ohtani is not. He is not Ichiro, an outfielder with a dancers build, who conjured a style out of speed, contact and otherworldly coordination. He is not solely a dominant pitcher in the mold of Nomo, Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish. He is everything, all at once, a physical marvel and a thinking man, a supreme talent and a grunt worker, a pitcher and a hitter, and it is no small thing that he is often one of the biggest players on the field.

I think thats a huge source of pride for Japanese people as well, she says. Hes kind of like an American version of a Japanese player.

The young grass kids get together To hit a ball

Masaoka Shiki

On June 16, in the hours after Ohtani homered for a second straight night in Oakland, Angels manager Joe Maddon found his star on the flight home. Ohtani was set to pitch against the Tigers the next night. Maddon wanted to make sure he felt good enough to hit.

Ohtani said yes. His legs felt good. The next day, he allowed one run in six innings while drawing two walks himself. He then returned to the lineup the next day and hit two more homers, which started another Ohtani Stretch, a sequence of baseball that, in any other era in the last 100 years, would have sounded made up. Ohtani homered again in the final two games of the four-game series against the Tigers, which gave him six homers in a six-game stretch, the only non-homer game coming as he lowered his ERA to 2.70. (In a previous Ohtani Stretch, earlier in June, he became the first player in the modern era to strike out 10 batters and the next day hit a homer in the first inning.) Every day, Ohtani does something that feels like it might break the coding system at Baseball-Reference. Every day, Maddon is having conversations that no American League manager has had in 100 years. This is a unique athlete, and none of us have been there before, Maddon says.

When Ohtani was a rookie, the Angels outlined a schedule that roughly approximated his workload in Japan, where he threw once a week and often took days off before and after his starting pitching assignments. Now those rules are gone. Ohtani is playing nearly every day and letting his body dictate the rest. Maddon has no preconceived notions on what is too much or too little Its observational and conversational, he says and there are no metrics or numbers to use as guideposts. I dont really think theres a math equation thats going to tell us when its the right time to use him, Maddon added.

Still, Maddon has exercised caution at times, because Ohtani is doing something thats never been done, and there is no roadmap or script to follow. When the Angels have played in National League parks, Ohtani has sat, because thats what a designated hitter would do. When Ohtani exited after six innings and 78 pitches against the Tigers on June 16, Maddon put the decision in a grander context.

Its still June, he said, and I want this guy to have one of the greatest seasons ever.

If you combined his contributions on both sides of the ball and his underrated speed Ohtani leads all major leaguers with 5.7 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference. He is slugging nearly .700 while opposing hitters slug just .314 against him. Absent Mike Trout, who remains out with a calf strain, he has kept his team on the far fringes of wild-card contention though Angels fans know better than anyone the limits of one brilliant superstar across 162 games.

When the Angels played in Kansas City in April, Royals catcher Salvador Prez teased Trout about his long reign as the best player in the world, which suddenly seemed in peril. Now its maybe 50-50, Perez said. Because now youve got Ohtani. The debates about the MVP award or Ohtanis value as a two-way player tend to miss an important point. Ohtani is not just measuring himself against Trout or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Jacob deGrom or anyone else with a valid case as the best player in baseball. Hes battling 100 years of baseball dogma. When Rick Ankiel was a young pitcher, before he flamed out and revived his career as a slugging outfielder, he once asked Cardinals manager Tony La Russa if he could get some playing time in the field. Were still trying to win, La Russa said. You know that, right?

Of course, there have always been players like Ankiel, pitchers who could hit, or hitters with great arms, players like John Olerud and Dave Winfield and Ken Brett and all the way back to Stan Musial, who signed his first professional contract as a pitcher, to Junzo Sekine, who willed himself to be a solid hitter when he could no longer pitch. There will be more, too, and it seems possible that Ohtani has changed the game, that teams will be more open to accommodating phenoms, that the demands on pitchers are less, that we will see more two-way players in the not-so-distant future. Shohei has opened the doors to do both, Ausmus says. But youre going to have look 10 years down the road.

Or maybe longer.

Once in 50 years, another general manager said.

To do what Ohtani is doing requires something more than sheer athletic talent. It requires more than an arm that can throw 100 mph and a swing that can launch baseballs 450 feet. It requires a player who will embrace the struggle, who craves the suffering that accompanies the work, who enjoys the solitude of a night alone, who keeps binders full of notes and asks questions and commits himself to baseball with all his being, who in the words of former Angels GM Billy Eppler has one thing on his mind.

He wants mastery, he once said, and hes going to stop at nothing.

In the end, in this moment and the next, there is only one Shohei Ohtani.

The Athletics Fabian Ardaya and Andy McCullough contributed to this report.

(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic / Getty Images)

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Shohei Ohtani is 'in his own world' ... which appears to be somewhere beyond baseball's outer limits - The Athletic

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:54 am

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Business resorts to same old productivity bulldust – Sydney Morning Herald

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GDP per persons average annual growth is projected to fall only from 1.6 per cent over the past 40 years to 1.5 per cent over the coming 40.


Its here, however, that business and its media cheer squad have read the fine print and are deeply sceptical: that projection of GDP growth per person rests heavily on the mere assumption that the productivity of labour (output of goods and services per hour worked) will improve at the same average annual rate in the coming 40 years as it did over the past 30 years.

And theyre right. Of all the many assumptions on which the reports mechanical projections depend, this assumption is far the most critical. As Frydenberg rightly says, improving productivity is what explains almost all the improvement in our standard of living over the decades.

And the sceptics are right to doubt that productivity will improve over the next 40 years at anything like the rate of 1.5 per cent a year. For a start, that 30-year average includes the 1990s, a decade when productivity improved at a rate far higher than experienced before or since.

For another thing, productivity improvement in recent years has been much weaker than usual.

So, purely by omission, the latest intergenerational report reminds us of the second biggest threat to our living standards: a continuing slump in productivity. (The biggest threat is the worlds inadequate response to climate change another thing the report omits to take into account.)

Whats discouraging, however, is the way the business lobby groups have used this inadvertent reminder to bang the same old self-serving drum. The productivity slump has been caused by this government and its predecessors failure to continue the economic reform program begun by Hawke, Keating and Howard, were assured.

And what reforms do they have in mind? A cut in the rate of company tax for big business and changes in the wage-fixing rules to make the labour market more flexible for employers.

This lobbying is objectionable on three grounds. First, it implies that productivity improvement depends on an unending stream of changes in government policies, which is absurd. The day reform stops, productivity stops.

Second, it shifts the blame for weak productivity improvement from the actions of the private sector in whose farms, mines, factories, offices and shops productivity either gets better or worse to the politicians in Canberra.


Third, it seeks to disguise blatant rent-seeking as economic reform. Productivity would improve if business owners and high income-earners paid less tax, leaving the punters to pay more, and if the balance of bargaining power between bosses and workers shifted further in favour of bosses.

What this self-serving bulldust ignores is that productivity improvement has slumped in all the rich countries, not just in Australia because our pollies are so defective.

Michael Brennan, chair of the Productivity Commission, says the worlds economists are still debating the causes of the productivity slowdown. Theyve pointed to mismeasurement issues, a shift towards lower productivity industries, population ageing, a slowdown in the pace of technological discovery, a slowdown in the pace of technological diffusion, a plateauing of improvements in human capital, reduced rates of firm entry and exit, increased concentration and market power, lower capital investment, a shift to intangible capital and the slowing growth in global trade.

As Melinda Cilento of CEDA, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, has noted, research by federal Treasury . . . showed leading Australian firms were not keeping up with leading global firms on productivity.

Treasury would be much better employed continuing to research the causes of our productivity slump than doing literally unbelievable projections of whats unlikely to happen over the next 40 years.

Ross Gittins is the economics editor.

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Guide to the Perfect Otaku Girlfriend: Roomies and Romance Volume 1 – Anime News Network

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Like an otaku making snap judgements about a gyaru girl, it can be easy to go into Guide to the Perfect Otaku Girlfriend: Roomies and Romance Volume thinking you know what to expect. These fixer-upper fantasies about a cute girl coming into your life to help teach you how to pick up girls have been increasing in frequency for the fanboy set, letting authors play with meta-humor and genre awareness as a self-involved selling point. The book even opens with a bit dedicated to that, starting with a scene of wifely otaku wish-fulfillment that quickly derails into an amusing detailing of how annoyingly stressful it would actually be to have too many of those taped-together tropes all at once. It sets the book up to depict something of a balancing act: Recognizing the real-world expectations one should have in trying to date someone with your own interests while also still providing enough fantasy fanservice to function as an otaku-targeted work of fiction. The result mostly works out okay, and even entertains with a couple of surprising angles, but it also takes a while to get there.

The most immediately odd factor about Perfect Otaku Girlfriend was the relationship between its two primary characters. I hesitate to refer to what Kagetora and Kokoro have at this point as chemistry; instead, the writing really does a strong job of depicting the annoyance that can follow in trying to get on with someone you share interests with but otherwise have absolutely nothing else in common. Basically, you know how in romantic comedies the lead couple-to-be will often verbally spar with each other but still come across like they have a rapport to the point that you still want to see them get together? Kagetora and Kokoro's constant arguing, undermining, and negging of each other left me absolutely not wanting to see them coupled. And to the story's credit, by the end of this first volume, author Rin Murakami really hasn't gestured too hard in that direction as the pair's ultimate destination. Instead, the arc between the two really feels more like one of growing mutual respect and understanding in spite of their constant barbs and bickering, arriving at the idea of being comrades in their ongoing efforts to help each other find dates.

There's still some push and pull regarding the question of attraction, mostly on account of Kagetora being our point-of-view character and him fighting with his inner monologue throughout the volume over how actually attracted to Kokoro he is at any given moment. These kinds of segments mostly seem to exist to illustrate the gap in taste preference between the typical male otaku of Kagetora (and thus, I suspect, the author) versus the actual style and personality Kokoro tends to put on, breaking the illusions of the various cosplay fantasy scenes she otherwise indulges in. Some of Kagetora's outspoken reactions to these scene breaks can come off abrasive, especially if you're not sympathetic to the fanboy mindset he's embodying with them, but our main character at least never comes off as terribly toxic as some of the other leads seen in similar works. He is, at worst, just something of a cringey otaku guy who does find himself more willing to learn as the story goes on, punctuated well by him regularly having to admit whenever Kokoro's right in one of her judgements or self-improvement suggestions for him, regardless of the sharp-tongued way in which she delivers it.

The characters' arcs as they work towards successfully seeking out their theoretical ideal otaku dates represent the main story Perfect Otaku Girlfriend is relating, so a lot of the mechanical plot details worked through as we get there can feel purely incidental. The largest swath of the beginning of this first volume is focused on getting to the main plot contrivance: Kagetora and Kokoro living under one roof with no parental supervision, rolling via a procession of sudden family relocations and fake-dating plots. After that, the story starts filling time with an oddly aggressive quantity of scenes of Kokoro cosplaying, or pointedly ill-fated tangential dating schemes, like Kagetora and Kokoro's pursuit of potential partners through an MMO that ends on a limp, expected punchline. Other aspects introduced are one-offs that feel equally like threads to be picked up in later volumes, or pure fanservice fantasy for the Kagetoras reading along at home, such as discovering that one of your school-mates is not only the most popular new V-tuber, but also a huge otaku just like you! That's part and parcel to the kind of genre and story this book exists in service of, but just going off this first volume, it feels like a lot of fluff and dead ends that detracts from the more compelling components of the contrasting otaku tastes of the leads and how their connection lets them communicate advice to one another.

As the actual finding dates plot picks up more in the second half of the book, Perfect Otaku Girlfriend's strengths come through better in its energy. Barbed as their dialogue may be, there is a sense that Kagetora and Kokoro genuinely have their comrade's best interests in mind in the tastes they instruct each other to cater to. And for a series like this, it's nice to see some genuine advice provided to an audience-cipher like Kagetora on the simple ways one can take care of themself in terms of making yourself more appealing and presentable than you might give yourself credit for. The idea that the pair aren't terribly compatible as potential date-partners at this point interestingly makes their efforts at assisting each other more believable and compelling. And seeing the growth of that mutual respect over the course of them helping each other, to the point that Kagetora is able to do the right thing and prematurely end his own date with what seems to be his dream girl because he knows Kokoro needs his help, is a heartening hurdle for the pair to make it over by the end. As with most good dating advice self-help stories, showing characters' growth as people is the main key to communicate for them, apart from simply becoming more appealing as a potential partner.

Rin Murakami's writing of all of this is pretty effectively communicative, not being as focused on trying to be purely dialogue-driven or overtly comic-like as other light novels I've read. The prose is descriptive without getting too bogged down in detailing a lot of the otaku-appeal touches throughout, though there are plenty of direct and obscured references to well-known franchises, as well as something of an over-reliance on the same snippets of current subculture slang (get ready to read the phrase Virgin-Killer dozens of times in a row). It all mostly works out fine, presented by an English translation that lends the right amount of flavor, especially in the distinctive dialogue between characters. It's supplemented by a few page illustrations by Mako Tatekawa which look nice enough, but seem less about providing visuals for key moments in the story, and more about just showing us what each character introduced looks like.

Guide to the Perfect Otaku Girlfriend is an indulgent book that knows the main niche it's trying to appeal to, but is inoffensive in its execution thereof that regular readers can have a fair bit of fun with it if they let themselves. It does take a bit to get going, and there are times when the ways the leads butt heads can come off as too abrasive, but in some ways, that feels like the storytelling learning and growing along with its characters. There's enough development and hooks in this volume to leave me interested in where the story would go in the future. I'd count that as a success, especially after I spent so much time at the beginning wondering when the book was going to chill out on the cosplaying and video games and actually get on with it.

Read more:
Guide to the Perfect Otaku Girlfriend: Roomies and Romance Volume 1 - Anime News Network

Written by admin

July 2nd, 2021 at 1:54 am

Posted in Self-Improvement

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