The battle between humans and computers at the heart of "Moneyball"

As a sports fan, I’m always glad for movies and books that relate the intricacies of professional sports.  My interest began in the 1970s with Jim Bouton’s inside-the-locker-room classic, Ball Four

I was also excited to read Michael Lewis’ Moneyball when it came out, given that it profiled a pioneer in using computer analysis to determine future player performance, Oakland As General Manager, Billy Beane.  The book was terrific, though I thought it shortchanged the art of player assessment in favor of statistics.

Beane showed how much a team could be improved by incorporating additional sophisticated measurements into the mix.  However, in my opinion, a General Manager ignores the subjective judgments of scouts at his own peril.

What’s so wonderful about baseball is its mix of art and science.  The artistry may be squishy to measure, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant to success.  You can’t simply reduce player assessment down to numbers, particularly when players are young and largely unformed.

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"The Help" as movie and real life

The new movie The Help is based on a popular novel highlighting relationships between African-American domestics, their families, and their employers in the Jim Crow south.  It’s a great topic for dramatic treatment, but also a nice prompter for people to share their own childhood stories about both sides of the household employee/employer relationship.

Friday morning on AirTalk, we’ll open the phones to talk about those memories, as well as current household employee experiences.  I’m looking forward to hearing listeners talk about both positive and negative aspects to these working and, often, personal relationships.  Though a tiny percentage of Americans have live-in housekeepers and cooks these days, there are many more live-in nannies who are invaluable parts of the families they serve.

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Discovering Southland history through silent movies

Friday morning on Film Week on AirTalk, I’ll be talking with movie historian John Bengston about his three-book series on silent film locations.  The large-format books are terrific compilations of movie stills, maps, and current photos of locations used in films by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.  The Lloyd book is just out.  It’s titled, Silent Visions:  Discovering Early Hollywood and New York through the Films of Harold Lloyd.

One of the pleasures of the book is how thoroughly it describes the techniques Lloyd used for his height-defying stunts in Safety Last.  Bengston lays out the camera angles and shows the structures Lloyd used to create the illusions at the center of the classic film.  As you watch Safety Last, you can’t help but marvel at Lloyd’s stunts.  As you read Bengston’s book, you’ll marvel at the comedic actor’s inventiveness.

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