Thursday, December 3, 2015

hot hand



------------------------- [excerpt from an article in The New Yorker, written by David Remnick, November 9, 2015] --------------------

Dylan's most intense period of wild inspiration and creativity ran from the beginning of 1965 to the summer of 1966.

For decades, there's been a running academic debate about the question of "the hot hand" -- the notion, in basketball, say, that a player has a statistically better chance of scoring from downtown if he's been shooting that night with unusual accuracy. 

Put it this way:  Stephen Curry, the point guard genius for the Golden State Warriors, who normally hits forty-four per cent of his threes, will raise his odds to fifty per cent or better if he's already on a tear.  He's got a "hot hand." 

If you watch enough N.B.A. ball, it appears to happen all the time.  But does it?  Thirty years ago, Thomas Gilovich, Amos Tversky, and Robert Vallone seemed to squelch the hot-hand theory with a stats-laden paper

[gilovich tversky vallone basketball]

in the journal Cognitive Psychology, but, just last year, along came Joshua Miller and Adam Sanjurjo, marshaling no less evidence,

[Joshua miller, adam sanjurjo, science conf]

to insist that an "atypical clustering of successes" in three-point shooting was not a "widespread cognitive illusion" at all, but rather that it "occurs regularly."

Steph Curry fans, who have been loyal witnesses to his improbable streaks from beyond the arc, surely agree with Professors Miller and Sanjurjo.  But let's assume that the debate, in basketball or at the blackjack table, remains open. 

What's clear is that when it comes to the life of the imagination, the hot hand is a matter of historical fact

Novelists, composers, painters, and poets are apt to experience stretches of intense creativity that might derive from any number of factors -- surrounding historical events, artistic rivalries, or, most mysteriously, inspiration -- but the streak is undeniably there.

James Shapiro, a Shakespeare scholar at Columbia University, has written studies of two distinct periods in his subject's life -- one called "1599," when Shakespeare wrote "Henry V," "Julius Caesar," "As You Like It," and "Hamlet"; and a remarkable new volume, "The Year of Lear,"

...centering on 1606, a moment of religious fracture, horrific plague, and the political wake of the Gunpowder Plot, and the year in which Shakespeare wrote not only "Lear" but "Macbeth" and "Antony and Cleopatra." 

Shapiro's research shows that the political and social reasons for Shakespeare's bursts of creativity were as essential to his art as was the community and structure of his life at the Globe. 

It's the less concrete factors, the inner reasons -- what's called genius -- that led to conspiracy theories and multiple-author hypotheses.  Who could imagine that an artist could have a hot hand so frequently?

But such golden periods, which usually take place just once, if at all, in the life of an artist, are undeniable. 

Take popular music. 

From 1965 to 1969, the Beatles, after a long apprenticeship in Germany and England and a series of records that leaned heavily on Chuck Berry and Little Richard, peeled off a string of albums that changed everything

in popular music.  From 1972 to 1976, Stevie Wonder, leaving his career as "Little Stevie" in the past, produced the albums that remain the center of his joyful achievement:

"Music of My Mind," "Talking Book," "Innervisions," "Fulfillingness' First Finale," and "Songs in the Key of Life."

For Dylan,

the greatest and most abundant songwriter who has ever lived, the most intense period of wild inspiration and creativity ran from the beginning of 1965 to the summer of 1966.  ------------------ [end today's excerpt from article]


{The New Yorker.  Bob Dylan And The "Hot Hand."  By David Remnick.  November 9, 2015}


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