Monday, December 31, 2007

The Kite Runner

If all I knew about Afghani people came from watching the Kite Runner, I might think they don't know how to make a joke. Does anyone in Central Asia have a sense of irony or wit? Why does Hollywood feel the need to depict foreigners with such solemn seriousness? Either you are a good, decent foreigner, who humbly goes about his/her business or you are an ass raping pedophile who stones people to death and joins the Taliban. These are the options. The movie is not worth the price of admission, the only question is whether this movie it was worth the time. Don't think so.

Marc Forester has no game. How could he cast that guy in the lead? My ass could act better than him.
Guess I Have to Read It

George Will writes about Shelby Steele's new book on Obama.

Steele has brilliantly dissected the intellectual perversities that present blacks as dependent victims, reduced to trading on their moral blackmail of whites who are eager to be blackmailed in exchange for absolution. But Steele radically misreads Obama, missing his emancipation from those perversities. Obama seems to understand America's race fatigue, the unbearable boredom occasioned by today's stale politics generally, and especially by the perfunctory theatrics of race.

That term: unbearable boredom...I'm going to have to use it someday.

From Amazon's description of the book.

Says Steele, Americans are constrained by a racial correctness so totalitarian that we are afraid even to privately ask ourselves what we think about racial matters. Like Obama, most of us find it easier to program ourselves for correctness rather than risk knowing and expressing what we truly feel. Obama emerges as a kind of Everyman in whom we can see our own struggle to accept and honor what we honestly feel about race.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Google and How All This Shit Works

I'm at home in the Bay Area. A couple of hours ago I checked movie times via Google (who's movie time function I really like). I type in a movie and it pops up all the nearest movie theater locations.

I just hopped back on the computer to double check the time and my email. I checked email first and then back to Google movie times. Except this time it popped up Santa Monica movie times.

So...why did Google do this? Not because of my IP address, which is in Tiburon, but because it knew something about my Gmail home base - Santa Monica. How did it know this? I don't know. But it certainly wasn't random.
Play Caller

They Forty Niners need to bring in a play caller next year because Nolan sucks. Either a new coach or an offensive coordinator with tons of leeway.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Walmart Jacking Target

By stealing it's xmas sales.
Student Loans

Obama says he won't run again in 8 years and he just finished paying off his student loans and is starting to save for his kids education.

That's interesting. I suppose that's an endorsement for student loans in a way, that a certain amount of debt can't stop someone from going full boar towards his career goals. At the same time, he seems a bit old and successful to still be dealing with student loan debt.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Does This Count?

Austin Bay predicted yesterday that in the next 6 months extremists would attempt a Tet Offensive aimed at US public opinion. He was talking about Iraq, but today Benazir Butto was killed.

What will the effect be in Pakistan? Always the question...

Worst case scenario: Musharef is discovered to have known or been behind it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


The Holiday's have been great thus far. The only depressing thing is watching The Wire, which I will be fully caught up with by January 6th. (side note: I will be drinking whiskey - Jamison - during all Wire episodes this coming year).

What I find depressing about the Wire is two things: 1) Every episode I watch is one less new episode I get to see and 2) I can't ever imagine working on a show or movie this good.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

An interesting example of a well written script and good story not very well directed. Some of the sequences are incredibly well written - textbook almost. The second and third sequences, when Charlie first goes to Pakistan and when he gets together with Gust are excellent.

The primarily drawback to the film, which I could have predicted, is Tom Hanks miscasting himself as Charlie Wilson. I say miscasting himself because he bought the rights to the book and produced the film, bringing in Mike Nichols to direct.

This drawback is the result of a flawed POV, whether it be Hanks or Nichols, about violence. PSH is the only one who gets it. This movie should have been about killing. Everytime some said "killing Russians," I could tell this was some actor delivering a line. Wrong. The characters in this story should have been gleeful in their efforts to kill Russians. As it was, they were moral about it, and maybe even felt hesitant about admitting that was what they were doing. Again, this interpretation was off. Killing Russians is why the characters in the movie wake up in the morning, it is what drives them to work hard and take elaborate and unnecessary steps. They don't care about the mooj or the moral aspect of it. It was all about killing and finding weaponry that would do the job best.

Nicols treated the Gust character as a counterbalance to Charlie and combined, the two made up the morality of the film. I think this was wrong. Charlie was the id of the film, interested in fun and games, and Gust is the subconscious, the dark longing to do bad to our enemies by any means possible.

Friday, December 21, 2007

On Celebrity Hook Ups

Bill Simmons, smart:

Here's my theory, which we could call the Affleck/J-Lo Corollary: When people become famous, we think of them only as celebrities and forget they were once normal -- people like you and me -- who became normal people who were also suddenly famous. Now, fame eventually changes just about everyone, but a small part of every celebrity will always be in perpetual disbelief that they're famous and their life worked out the way they wanted it to work out. It's that small "part" that draws celebrities like Ben Affleck and J-Lo to each other. So when they started hooking up, Affleck was thinking, "Oh my God, I can't believe I'm sleeping with J-Lo!" and J-Lo was thinking, "Oh my God, I can't believe I'm sleeping with Ben Affleck!"

This is why celebrities constantly fall for one another, because they're always in disbelief they scored the other celeb. Once they become accustomed to their fame, they grow out of this little phase. But Romo became famous only 13 months ago -- it's still a whirlwind for him, and he's probably still the same guy he was when he was backing up Drew Bledsoe and making peanuts, so right now he's thinking to himself, "Omigod, I can't believe I'm dating Jessica Simpson!" and calling his buddies from college and telling them about her breasts. Meanwhile, she's thinking, "Oh my God, the quarterback of the Cowboys likes me!" and relishing the chance to get shown on TV during games. For now, they're perfect for each other. And they will definitely break up.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

True to Form

When I worked at Netflix, the business model was essentially to wait Blockbuster out. Despite Blockbuster offering a better deal - same monthly rate plus the trade in option at the store - Netflix knew Blockbuster had to be operating at a huge loss. Blockbuster was trying to gobble up market share in an attempt to put Netflix out of business.

Well, Netflix has been holding out and it looks like they were right. Blockbuster just raised my monthly rate from 17.99 to 19.99. After the Holidays, I'm going to jump ship because Blockbuster is a weasel of a company that would charge late fees to their own family.

Meanwhile, Netflix is experiencing another difficulty: the increase in postage the US post office plans to charge for the red envelopes that don't work in their auto sort machines.

Freelance vs. Salary (Entertainment)

In the past year I've worked both freelance and for salary. In doing so, there are some hidden costs and benefits to each when starting out. Things to consider:

1. If you freelance legit, you pay a higher tax rate. As a salary employee, your employer pays some social security tax for you. As a freelance, you are supposed to contribute to social security at a higher rate. Additionally, you do not get any money withheld as a freelance, meaning you need to come out of pocket at tax time, which is always more difficult...even though from an economic standpoint, it is beneficial to have the money in pocket.

2. Vacation and Holiday. You don't think about it when you're salary, but paid vacation is sweet. Especially in the entertainment industry which is linked up closely with the school year and movie release schedule - there ends up being a lot more "vacation" than a typical job. Working freelance, vacation and holiday time is costly because if you're gone, you're not working.

3. Medical Insurance. I started paying for this out of pocket after grad school. I am young, healthy, and didn't get super expensive insurance and it was still $175 a month. No matter what way you cut it, benefits cost a lot.

4. Screw ups. This may sound a bit irresponsible, but it nevertheless remains true. If you make a mistake as a freelance and end up wasting a lot time, it can be your responsibility to fix it without any additional compensation. As a salary employee, you make a mistake, you're still going to be paid to fix that mistake. Depending on where you are in your career, this matters. If you are first starting out, the likelihood of making mistakes is high and should be factored in. As you are more established, this type of thing isn't really a factor.

5. Overtime. A lot of salaried people don't get overtime in entertainment. But if you work at an entertainment company owned by a mega-corporation, chance are, they pay it. Overtime in the entertainment industry is sketchy because technically it's a lot of hours - even though work and socializing overlap. Enormous corporations are risk-adverse and pay out overtime. If you are lucky and can get a job with steady overtime that time and a half adds up a lot.

6. When things slow down and the world forgets about you. And this does happen... If you're salary, no big deal, you still get paid. Your boss is out of town. Good, you have a more relaxing week. When you're freelance, this is tough because it means you have to get out there and hustle some more for work.

7. Getting Paid. Freelance can be a bitch to get paid. It can come late when you need it and even not at all if someone is sketchy. Without leverage, there isn't much you can do.

Salary clearly has a lot more benefits than freelance...almost anyone would agree. But the reason people do freelance are twofold: the work and flexibility. Typically, freelance work is going to require a higher skill level and you're going to be doing more interesting work - perhaps work you can use for a reel or as a sample to get other work. And also, the flexibility - you don't need to work. As a salary employee, the one major requirement is showing up. It's really the only thing you can do to get fired if you're a halfway decent employee - not show up.
Wanna Look Older?

For much of life I've wanted to look older, although I'm not really concerned about it anymore.

Advise I'd give my younger self: become President.

These guys all look like they age double while Pres.

Schilling slams Clemens. "Curt Schilling called on Roger Clemens to give up the four Cy Young Awards he's won since 1997 if he can't clear his name from allegations that he used steroids to prolong and enhance his career."

Don't hold back.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Also Good

American drivers cutting back from driving at $3 per gallon.

"Gasoline is one of those items that some economists consider "inelastic," that is, people will buy it no matter what the cost. But the recent drop in demand puts that into question, and suggest people will cut out unnecessary trips if they are too expensive."

My own experience with gas consumption coincides with the overall drop in consumption. I am not making much money as an assistant in Hollywood. In October-November I was looking into moving closer to my work and calculating my monthly expenses. I was spending $50 per week on gas commuting at the prices in LA. (Note: The commute was also killing my side activities - writing, exercising, and socializing).

I figured by moving close or super close to work, I'd save at least $100 and maybe up to $150 a month in gas expenses. I factored this into my moving costs and calculated it was smarter to move sooner, rather than later, since the commute was unsustainable for reasons above and beyond mere gas costs. The gas costs, however, provided a monetary incentive to speed up my apartment search.

Up until this year, I never considered the cost of gas. That began in high school when I had a credit card bill that went straight to my parents for gas. This continued in college. In fact, I didn't even pay for gas until I started working in San Francisco, by which time I was making enough money and living at home that my gas costs were nominal. Not to mention the fact that I drove a Honda Accord, a very gas efficient vehicle.

This habit carried over, for good or bad, throughout grad school. I was now paying for my own gas when I was going to grad school or a very limited budget. But I justified any and all of these expenses as a necessarily evil inherent while attending school. In short, it was just part of the cost of business and there was nothing to be done about it.

Only after grad school and working at a relatively low paying job did I start to examine expenses much more carefully because I wanted to get in the black, so to speak, where I was making more money that spending. To a non-entertainment person, the fact this is even an issue will strike them as odd, but it is fairly common practice when getting started in a highly competitive and artistic field.

In doing this, I looked at ways to cut money and by moving to Santa Monica and saving on commuting expenses was one significant way to lop a chuck of money off the top. Not to mention the gain in "side-work" time, crucial to my advancement in this industry.

Now, my gas expenses are super low. I just checked and from 11/20-12/19 I spent $44 on gas. I reviewed 9/21-10/21 and the total was $155. Fairly substantial difference.

Perhaps there were enough people like me around the periphery, like myself, who happened upon a tipping point moment where my gas expenses were going up, I was aware of those expenses, and happened to be in a position to do something about it and by the increased prices had a marginal additional reason to act.

Economics, baby!

CNN is reporting a bill designed to force automakers to make more fuel efficient cars. Don't see how this can be construed as bad. I imagine the costs will be passed on to customers, but hey, if that's the price of decreasing oil demand, so be it.

Bill Clinton calls Obama callow. Jeez.

I like this reporter's writing. It has some bite.
Simmons Going All Michael Lewis On Us

I wrote it in my google reads commentary...but there's a new style of writing out there, the Michael Lewis, Freakonomics, Malcolm Gladwell, AND, I'll include Bill Simmons with those guys.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Theory on Internet Social Networking

Those of you who know me privately are well aware of my beef with internet social networking. I spend a lot of time talking about NOT participating in Facebook, My Space, Friendster, and the array of internet dating sites. In fact, if Social Networking were a girl, one might think I had a crush on her, what with the amount I talk about her behind her back.

But you would be wrong. I think of Social Networking as a pyramid scheme. The sites are doomed to fail because ultimately they will only help members stay in touch with people they do not want to stay in touch with. After which, people will leave the network, rendering it useless.

I started a more expansive post, but got into it way too much. Sort of like I started writing a short film and busted out a 30 page outline for a feature. I'll try to simplify it.

The more satisfied you are with your social network, the less likely you are to take steps to improve it. Thus, you may start using internet sites and see a mild improvement by reconnecting with old friends or finding new hot dates. You may even transition the most successful of the re/new connects into email correspondence, getting coffee, or playing Guitar Hero, all desirable goals with greater intrinsic value than checking out Facebook.

Basically, your good social re/new connects move beyond Facebook and what remains are the bad social reconnects and internet dating failures.

Thusly, the only way to improve the Social Networking pastures is to rope in new people to join the network and plow through those social interactions, with less time, presuming some of your prior social networking attempts were successful.

And so the cycle will go, all the successful Social Networking leaves, while all the bad Social Networking stays. Eventually the balance tips for an individual and they bail. Hence the short shelf life of Friendster and MySpace. It's just one big pyramid scheme.
Now That's A Claim To Fame

Unfortunately, Pam Anderson has filed for divorce after only two months with her new husband, Rick Salomon, who "is best known for making a sex videotape with Paris Hilton, his girlfriend at the time..."

Relationships are tough these days.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fun Game

Having trouble figuring out who to vote for? A game to help you.

Reports on racism towards Obama.

My suspicion is that if Obama is the candidate, he's gonna win over a lot people and race, his name, accusations of being Muslim, are going to be small and on the periphery. In short, I don't think it'll be a factor.

I think I differ from most people from the blue state/lefty areas who think this will be a major detriment to Obama getting support in red state areas. I'm curious. I think America is post-race. But I could be wrong.
Amazon Kindle

As usual, Virginia Postrel has an interesting post on the Amazon Kindle and the future for books.

I like this Jonathan Frazen quote:

"Am I fetishizing ink and paper? Sure, and I'm fetishizing truth and integrity too."

This seems to be another, albeit bigger, version of the film-HD argument. Although with HD and Film, one can see how HD will eventually make film obsolete...I don't see the same thing happening to he book because of the physical nature of the object. A book is durable and easily swapped and has this physical presence in a room, something the Amazon Kindle doesn't.

I like the idea of the Kindle as a complement to books, not a replacement.

On a side note...I think the bigger victim is the newspaper, which is already suffering from online reading. I like the physical nature of the paper, but the content has become such crap, that I moved online because there is so much better material. I could see papers themselves becoming even less popular as the Kindle and other devises become widespread.

The book as a physical object

All the best players of our era used steriods. Or so it seems.

It makes it all feel cheap.
The Clinton's

I haven't been following the presidential horse race all that much, but when pressed to think about it, my overriding opinion on Clinton right now: boredom. I'm freaking bored to death by the Clinton's.

Deep down, it's always felt like they needed the attention of the country more than the country needs them. They're good politicians, smart, successful, even admirable people. But they're also not the only people in the land who have these traits. The way they conduct themselves, they make it seem like we need them. We don't. They need us.
Talk About A Supervillain

Hillary sounds like the wicked witch of the west. Is this her Howard Dean scream moment?

Hap Tip: Sullivan.

Vodka Fan Nearly Kills Self By Glugging 2L Rather Than Surrender It At Airport.
Cartoon Character

I still have a bit of trouble taking these Al Queda guys seriously, even though I know we have to. I mean Zawahiri looks, acts, and talks like a criminal in a shitty movie. We should send Chuck Norris after him.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Africa Turnaround?

And it didn't even require invading. Who'd a thought?

Will start negotiating in the new year. It looks like an end-game strategy here is the DGA making a deal and writers deal being based of the DGA deal.
Color Me Skeptical

Pomona "eliminates" loans. I don't understand this. Loans exist to fill a gap between what students can afford and what school costs. Isn't it up to parents/students to take out loans? So how can a school eliminate loans?

What they are doing is giving more aid to qualified families. They are doing so because the cost of tuition has risen rapidly in the past couple of years. Not be totally cynical, but here's what's happened:

-Raise tuition
-Give more grant money to qualified families (as opposed to forcing them to take more loans)
Bowling Scores

Game 1 - 101
Game 2 - 165
Game 3 - 142
Game 4 - 175
Game 5 - 181

Doing this by memory, so I think it's correct. 181 and 175 are my all time high scores.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I pretty much agree with this entire article.

"We may agree with Ron Paul that our interventionist policy in the Middle East has led to unintended negative consequences, including even 9/11, but this admission offers us absolutely no insight into what unintended consequences his preferred policy of non-intervention would have exposed us to. It is simply a myth to believe that only interventionism yields unintended consequence, since doing nothing at all may produce the same unexpected results. If American foreign policy had followed a course of strict non-interventionism, the world would certainly be different from what it is today; but there is no obvious reason to think that it would have been better."
Question: Does This Make You Like Him More or Less

Bush talks about past problems with whisky.
Sex Offenders

I'm telling you, our society is too crazy scared and hateful of sex offenders.

A case of a man murdering a guy he found on a sex offender database. I can just gauge society's reaction - secretly thinking to ourselves: good.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

First God, Now the CIA

What won't Hitchens go after?

"Its criminality and arrogance could perhaps have been partially excused if it had ever got anything right, but, from predicting the indefinite survival of the Soviet Union to denying that Saddam Hussein was going to invade Kuwait, our spymasters have a Clouseau-like record, one that they have earned yet again with their exculpation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was after the grotesque estimate of continued Soviet health and prosperity that the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the CIA should be abolished. It is high time for his proposal to be revived. The system is worse than useless—it's a positive menace. We need to shut the whole thing down and start again."
Funniest Line At Lunch

At lunch today, sitting next to kids of my bosses. Great kids, aged 10 and 8. I am curious about how kids perceive adults and so I asked them if they knew the age difference between our intern (18) and my co-assistant (27). I asked them who they thought was older.

They looked at the two and said confidently, "They are the same age."

I laughed. Then they were curious. "Who is older?"

I said, "(insert co-assistant name) is nine years older than (insert intern name)."

"Oh really? So she could be his mom!"

How Is Today Tuesday?

It feels like Friday.
The Strike

LA Times has an interesting article about the long term consequences and hardball negotiations of the strike.
SF Critics

Honor Jesse James. Interesting because it's largely been neglected. The movie made 3.8 mil domestic. Yipes.
Rough Sentence

Vick got a rough sentence, because he told agents he personally hanged dogs.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Slight Change of Body Style

After years of sticking with 2002 body-style, Subaru has a new one for the WRX. It looks badass.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Having Something to Say

There's a famous Fitzgerald quote about writing...something along the lines: "You don't write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say."

The Wire - Season 2 is thematically about the end of the American working class. The tragic lead is Frank Sobotka, a Union treasurer who gets mixed up with importing illegal goods to grease enough hands to get a canal built, hence bring more ships and more work for the longshoremen he represents. Towards the end of the season, he laments that America has become a nation that doesn't build anything, we are all middle men - we take out of the pocket of one and put in the pocket of another.

Prop Joe puts it more succinctly - all business is buy for 1 and sell for 2.

I think about this sometimes. I waver. I am suspicious of the protectionist idea of preserving American work and American jobs. Sometimes I think these folks are stuck in the past. Victims of nostalgia who are getting the shit end of the stick in a competitive global economy.

But goddamn if the Wire doesn't make a case for it. Because what are men like Sobotka, who has trouble communicating this thoughts and is prone to banging on a desk and punching a fence when frustrated, to do?

Politically speaking, I don't identify with the folks who do the Wire...old school Union Democrats, basically. I'm a college boy from the coast. But who gives a shit? They are sad and angry and like Fitzgerald says, have something to say. And with this game, that's the trump card.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Cell Phone

We're behind Nigera in terms of technology. Hmmm.

I can't figure out how I feel about cell phones. I use it all the time. It's convenient. It's even hard to picture how things worked prior to it. But I know two things - my social life is not demonstrably better of because of it and I pay more money for telecommunications since it's advent. Which makes me not like the development.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I've Been Saying This For Years

NFL teams ought to go for it on fourth down more often.
My Fingers Are Crossed

Speculation that the A's will sign Barry Bonds.

What a perfect signing. All his legal troubles will make him cheaper. The A's are a great fit because they always have good chemistry that won't screw with Bonds. The A's players will simply be happy to play a season with the greatest player of their generation. He is still a fearsome hitter.

I pledge to buy MLB radio broadcasts so I can listen to the A's should Bonds sign...
Facebook Ripped

It's been a bad week.

“As more users flock to it, the chances that the person who precipitates your exodus will find you increases. Once that happens, poof, away you go — and Facebook joins SixDegrees, Friendster and their pals on the scrapheap of net.history.”
Have a Free Hour?

Scroll around through Time's Top 100 TV Shows of all time. Some interesting sounding stuff.
Call Me A War Criminal

I'm reading a WWII book right now and just reminded me about why the Geneva Convention was signed: as a way to protect soldiers from torture and other terrible treatment by captors. It was not a humanitarian document, but had that effect. It was a contract. You treat ours okay and we'll treat yours okay. It was a simple deal.

Today, it is assumed the Geneva Convention applies irrespective of the situation and specifically comes up with respect to terrorists who not only haven't signed the Geneva Convention, but don't abide by the terms of the deal.

This isn't an argument for torture, but how in any way can one side of a contract be expected to honor it when the other side doesn't agree to it.

It's like a writer demanding he get paid for a script that he refuses to write. Does that make any sense?

UPDATE: Or, is the Geneva Convention more appropriately regarded as a self-restraint document...essentially an internal memorandum which identifies what we as a nation deem to be a moral and just way of behaving in times of war.

And a great opening scene of a movie.
Hollywood Implosion

Yesterday I started theorizing about a Hollywood implosion that comes about from a variety of interrelated factors. My theory was the writers strike lasts longer than anyone expects, reality tv shows gain even more popularity, and a webisode as strong as Curb Your Enthusiasm or Always Sunny in Philadelphia starts to steam via Apple or Google or some other computer-based company. Ad dollars hit a tipping point and flow to the internet and combined with the rise of cable channels, Network TV is suddenly in a huge lurch. This puts a lot of LA people out of work, people who can retire, retire. Talent moves to other jobs and Hollywood abruptly shirks, simply because the money fades away.

I didn't even factor China or piracy into the equation. Countries like China who are able to throw around economic weight by not releasing Hollywood movies (hurting overseas box office) and by tacitly allow piracy can do a lot to cripple Hollywood, should they have reason to do angry about Taiwan, want to promote their own domestic film industry, or sense weakness in Hollywood's hand. I mean, is this coincidentally happening at the same time as the writers strike?

Economics, technology, piracy, human personalities, all these factors - which sometimes line up in Hollywood's favor - are lining up against Hollywood at the moment.
Panera Problems?

Something is amiss at the Panera across the street where I go to get bagels. Yesterday, the line was out the door because they only had one person working the register. In hindsight, I can't believe I stayed. Today, I went and they were out of bagels. Out of bagels? At 9:30am in the morning. WTF? How is that possible at a bagel shop?
More Blockbuster Complaints

For some reason, Blockbuster Online forces me to rent an entire season of The Wire. I've seen the first three or four episodes of season 3 and want to exclude getting those disks. But whoever designed the system is so incredibly dumb, I guess they can't fathom wanting to divide your rental into one disk at a time.

I hate Blockbuster. Yet I have it.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Last Time I Bought Gas

Was November 20th. Granted, it's a bit of a cheat because of the Thanksgiving Holiday and being out of town, but isn't that kinda of a cool fact. 16 days thus far. I think I can make it through the weekend possibly as well. If I could make it to the 12th, that would be 22 days on one tank of gas. Not bad. We'll see. That's my goal.

And I haven't even been purposefully driving less, it's just the benefits of the Monica.
Why Does Your Hand Hurt Today, Greg?

Because I bowled 7 games last night. Boo ya.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I Now Hate The Environment

Over the past three months one of my biggest work nightmares has been dealing with Santa Monica recycling. It began with a simple thought, not terribly environmentally conscious, just a thing of habit having grown up in California: we ought to recycle our paper.

I call Santa Monica to get a recycling bin in our alley. Sure, they say. We provide recycling bins, since we are, after all, Santa Monica.

In a couple of days, a big blue recycling bin shows up outside. Good! I dump our paper into it.

The next day I go out to throw more paper away and the big blue bin is completely full. Jesus, I thought. A lot of people want to recycle. Guess I'll have to wait until they pick it up.

A week goes by. Recycling piles up. No one empties the bin. I decide to call Santa Monica the city. Uh...can someone pick up the recycling? Sure, they say, it probably just got forgotten because it's a new bin.

Another week goes by. People dump food in the recycle bin. I call Santa Monica back. They say they'll rush someone over to pick it up.

Meanwhile, we're moving offices, so we have tons of recycling. No picks up the recycling. I have the intern call. Again, they will rush. And again they do not pick up.

Finally, I call and ask for a supervisor. Surprise! He's not around and I leave a message. He calls back Friday evening and says there's been a mistake, we have a residential recycling bin and not a business bin. He will have the bin picked up and replaced with a big, huge business bin.

Good, I think. A big bin would solve all the problems.

Next day, the little bin is gone and replaced with...a big, garbage bin.

I give up. What more can I do other than drive all the paper to some recycling place myself? So fuck the environment.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Grandma's Boy

Did Judd Apatow direct a movie under a pseudonym for practice?

I don't see how anyone could watch this movie and not think so.
Maybe Not What I Need

Online Settlers. Kinda cool idea and I'll probably try it, but I think the main appeal of board games is physically playing with one another.

Then again, this probably encourages practice and people will get better. See online poker.
Fearing WWIII

Slate ponders it.

I was never in favor of the BSC because I liked all the stupid debating about the best college football team. I like the chaos of it all, it added to the entertainment. BCS advocates were, in my opinion, overly obsessed with naming a single team the college football champion. Sort of reminded me of the kids in school who just wanted to know the correct answer to homework without a care for how to figure it out.

This year, I am vindicated because the BCS is total chaos. It will not provide a a consensus national champion because there is no consensus about who should be playing the championship game. They thought a mathematical system would be unbiased, but this season so many teams have lost games, any number of teams could arguably be playing the game.

Now the same type of person who argued for BCS years ago now argues for a college football playoff system.

With many of these teams already playing 12-13 games a season, if they added any sort of meaningful playoff, we're talking minimum 2, if not 3 extra games. Is this right? Should some college football teams be playing 16 games a season?

Think it through folks...

Also, is it just me, or shouldn't Hawaii be in the national championship game? How can a team that was preseason ranked 23 and didn't lose a game all season can passed over for a team with 2 losses? Wasn't this the exact situation the BCS was designed to ameliorate?

The argument against Hawaii is that they don't play in a tough conference...well, okay, so then shouldn't they get a chance to prove themselves against a top-tier team? Remember Boise State? Isn't that the game college football fans deserve?

Saturday, December 01, 2007


It sure was an entertaining game the other night. The wide receiver, Jennings, on the Packers is a star. It reminded me of the first time I saw Isaac Bruce play against the 49ers and realized Jerry Rice was over the hill. Jennings is the real deal.

But almost more interestingly is the background battle between the NFL and Time Warner over how the game can be seen.

This it, a preview of the the NFL playoffs, but also the battle between content providers and content distributors. It's the core issue of the writer's strike, it's affected music already, it's hitting sports, tv, movies, nearly all forms of entertainment.

Austin Bay sees it all converging on the computer.
Topics on 30 Rock

In this week's episode alone the following topics were brought up:

1. Age and dating
2. Race
3. Iraq War
4. Gayness

This is a sitcom for chrissake and they're taking on a series of hot button issues that are generally very hard to talk about. Shows what you can do when you have great characters.
More Gushing

30 Rock - another unbelievable episode. 1st half and the idea of it was better than the 2nd half execution...but 3 great plot lines and 1 okay plot lines is an improvement. A lot of the old shows had 1 or 2 good plot lines and great moments.

Opening bit - check Baldwin's delivery. Awesome. Also, they've used this little musical riff in some of this season's episodes which has the perfect tone for the show. I know it comes in during this episode when Judah F is wearing the tight tank top.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


As long as I'm hyping up Obama, here is a liberal slam of Bill and hence, Hillary.


"Every sentient being knew that the October 2002 vote was a vote for war. And on that critical battle – the only one that ever really mattered – both Clintons lined up with Longshanks."

This is true. And so did I.

The thing is...even though I know it's stylish to critique the neoconservatives, were they really wrong? I'm actually quite serious about this. I know American aggressiveness is ugly. I know it makes us less popular in the world. I know utilizing the military the way we did in Iraq is a turn-off. I see how it makes us look like a country with ambitions for power and empire and basically hubristic assholes. Believe it or not, I understand all that...and yet...look at the world today. Look at North and South Korea. There is a single historical difference between the two countries. In one, our military intervened to support a weak central government from being overrun by a retarded military dictatorship. Granted, North Korea still poses a threat to the world...and maybe our military being on the border has exacerbated it (although let's be honest here - it's just a kooky dude in power over there)...but South Korea is one of the most developed and exciting countries in Asia. I've been there. It's fucking awesome. And I'm sorry if it hurts everyone's feelings to say that the reason it's awesome is because the US military provided a bulwark against Communism way back in the 1950s, even though in hindsight maybe containment and our fears about a world Communist takeover were exaggerated.

Japan? Germany (east vs. west)? Come on folks, can we be honest here. The US military provided stability in specific countries post WW2 and those countries developed into world economic powerhouses. I understand Iraq was/is different. I get it. I know they didn't start a war with us. I know all the arguments against invasion. I understand the critique of the Bush Administration's handling of the war. I know many of our best and brightest minds think Iraq is the single worst US Foreign Policy move in our history (although for the best and brightest, I doubt they are that saavy about US history...Mexican American War, Spanish American War, WW1. Come on, when you think about it Iraq is hardly the first dumb war.)

Point being...we've learned from Iraq and will continue to learn. If we stick around and help usher in relative stability there in 25 years will Iraq look like South Korea? I sure as hell hope so. And frankly, I don't see why it is totally out of the question. Could it descend into hell on earth? Sure. But then, pray tell, what was it before the US invasion?

But one thing is for sure, the US won't be getting involved in another Iraq. It's been too hard and too divisive and we're over it. It just isn't worth it. And maybe our disinterest in foreign lands will help give rise to the next threat to democracy (who woulda thunk Islamic Fundamentalism would be more than a shit stain on our trousers in the 1960s-1970s?) but we'll just play catch up...again...and figure out our role in things.

I'm drunk.

This guy is good and if I were a betting man, would wager on him as the next President.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Westside Intelligence Report

One of the cool things about moving is finding all the new local spots. I've made a few thus far...

1. Furaibo - Excellent. Phil calls it Japanese Tapas. It's basically a mix of Japanese and Korean bites. Sapporo is $10.50 for a big pitcher and you can order snacks, beer, and sake. Not too expensive. Fun atmosphere because you are seated close to lots of other people. The type of place you end up chatting with the folks around and getting more drunk than expected. We went on a Thurs nite at 9:30 and had to wait for a table.

2. Rae's Diner - also excellent. Cheap, greasy, diner off Pico. One of those old timey Americana style places where they probably film a lot of commercials. The good was good, tho, and I should I find myself awake in the early AM with time to kill or nursing a hangover, it's the first place I'll drop by.

3. Omelet Parlour - On Main St. Nice interior and looks like it would be great, but I don't know if it's because I don't like omelette's or the way they tend to get made in restaurants, but I found the food pretty mediocre, especially for how overpriced it is. One of the neat things is that the omelette's are half price between 6am and 7am, but I don't see how I'll ever be able to take advantage unless I've been up all night. The coffee, however, was unbelievably good.

4. [Place Where I Watched Monday Night Football Last Night] - Sucked my ass. There was a dart league that showed up and played darts while a bunch of other sausages watched Monday Night Football. There was a happy hour with half off appetizers and beers, and the bill for two was only $30 for 4 beers, 2 apps, and a burger. Not bad, now that I think about it. But the food was gross, will make you fat, and there was exactly one female in the bar the entire night and she was married and in the dart league, if that gives you any sense of what we're talking about.

5. Renee's - I work there. I practically live there. I like the ambiance. The lunch menu is better than the dinner menu. Regular price, the drinks are a total rip. $14 + tip for a Budweiser and Nob Creek. Not like the old broadway bar $5 deal for a shot of whisky and beer, eh? Waitresses are consistently cute although I don't ever make progress with them. Decent place all around.

5. Bay Cities Deli - best place on earth.

6. Wild Oats Grocery Store - weird place. I got a lot to buy supplies for our office and it's so close, I end up getting lunch there a lot. And breakfast. They have great blueberry muffins. The deli is okay. Overpriced and not very good and bad service. The meatball hoagie is not bad. The soup menu is okay. Once they had a green vegetable soup that was awesome. The rest of the time, split pea is okay, chicken noodle is too spicy, the red vegetable soup is gross. The best item is the LaBrea sourdough bread crunchy toast things which I love for their subtle Parmesan flavoring.

7. Panera - Fairly priced and all around decent. Bad coffee, but I never get it because we made coffee in the office that tastes better. Secret: Sparklett's water and Peet's Grounds. Good combo. Panera has a good deal on the everything bagel with cream cheese and tomato - only costs $2.50 and is a good breakfast. They have these new egg souffle things that are good, but a bit overpriced. Chocolate croissants and the rest of the pastries are fine, average overall.

To Be Continued.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bad Day To Miss

Well, I missed what was probably the Forty Niners best offensive game of the season and missed the mighty New England almost get beat by the Eagles. That game appears to be like the end of the second round of Rocky IV when Rocky clocks Drago and the announcer goes beserk, "He's hit! The Russian is hit!"
Men And Work

It used to be, before women entered all arenas of the workplace, that any man who could hold a conversation could get a middle class job at a corporation and hold onto it for life. He didn't have to work too hard, excel at his job, or do much other than what was asked of him - sell wigits, process orders, whatever. He could get away with chatting up sports, just be one of the guys, go home, raise his family and that was that.

Back then, over qualified women were teachers and nurses and secretaries.

Now those average performing men can't get work because they are booted out of their jobs by more high performing women. Is this good? Sure. It proffers all the benefits of capitalism and competition - women who excel can move ahead. Corporations are better off because they have better, higher performing workers. The glass ceiling for women are for the most part removed. Competent women snag jobs from less competent people - men and other women.

So all these great jobs women are holding aren't created out of the ether. They are all jobs once held by men - arguably men of less competence. What happened to all these guys? I suspect they are middle class men, who raise families and help out around the house. I suspect they are probably all around decent fellows whose wives bring home the bacon. They retire early or get pushed out for younger folks who work better with computers.

Smart women, who once would become great public school teachers or nurses, now work it whatever they choose. I suspect this is a large reason why both the healthcare and education sectors of our economy are suffering to this day. Because historically, both sectors were benefiting from having a cheap supply of overqualified labor - women.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Wire

This show is so good I can't believe it exists. I'm barely awake at work today because I couldn't stop watching episodes last night. They accomplish what any sane person in the industry would say can't be achieved on television. It is smart, humanizing, enormous and small at the same time. Joyous and sans flash. Wikipedia entry on it is really good and long.


Simon has stated that he originally set out to create a police drama loosely based on the experiences of his writing partner and former homicide detective, Ed Burns. Burns, when working on protracted investigations of violent drug dealers using surveillance technology, had often faced frustration with the bureaucracy of the police department, which Simon equated with his own ordeals as a police reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Writing against the background of current events, including institutionalized corporate crime at Enron and institutional dysfunction in the Catholic Church, the show became "more of a treatise about institutions and individuals than a straight cop show."

I'm only in season 1, but I can't stop thinking about it. The scope of what HBO is doing with it's shows goes way beyond what can be accomplished in Cinema. I'm not the first to say it, but they are writing 19th century novels...

UPDATE: And then there's the New Yorker article on the show. I haven't read yet, but I just printed it for the plane ride.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Stats on Terrorism

Interesting little article on terrorism.

Even though the conclusion seems to be: we worry too much about terrorism, I still hate those bastards.
Hollywood Blacklist

A writer-producer is brought up in front of a WGA Disciplinary Committee to prove he wasn't working. What a goofy world we inhabit...

a) Imagine going to a disciplinary committee to prove you were in fact, not doing your job.

"I have proof here sir - on my computer server - that I spent the hours 10am-noon perusing the internet and writing personal emails and not, as you claim, re-writing the dialog as I was being paid to do."

b) In Hollywood, it is a social faux pas to rat on writer's participating in Communist activities...a worldwide movement who can claim more deaths to it's credit than the Nazis (when you combine Stalin's purges, Mao's Cultural Revolution, and Cambodia's Killing Fields) and yet one SHOULD rat on writer's who write during a strike designed to bump up residual payments. Hmmmmm.

c) And I basically agree with it.
Add It To The List

I've decided today that at some point in my life I'd like to come up with a game show idea.

My Current List:

1. Write a great action spy movie
2. Open a deli
3. Invent a board game
4. Invent a game show idea

Before adding too many more, I should probably start checking them off.
No Country

Been talking a lot about this movie lately and will likely re-watch it in the theater. Bill Simmons backs me up about being confused by the ending.

Bears (+5.5) over SEAHAWKS
I know, I know ... Rex on the road. But if this Seattle team has proven anything over the past few years of the Holmgren Era, it's this: Just when you think you can count on them to cover a game, they'll shoot 200 mph of air into your head like Anton Chigurh in "No Country for Old Men." And you won't see it coming, either. All of the sudden, there's just a hole in your head.

(By the way, if somebody has a good explanation for the last 25 minutes of that movie, I'd love to hear it. Everyone at my theater applauded when it was over, like something special had just happened. Meanwhile, I was sitting there going, "Wait, it's over? What the hell just happened?" Without spoiling it, from the moment we see a hotel pool for the first time, the wheels come off so fast that it's like Norv Turner took over for the Coen Brothers. So frustrating. If you see one movie this year, go see "Michael Clayton," George Clooney's movie about a second-year NFL receiver who kills more than 200,000 fantasy teams. Just kidding. It's fantastic.)

I don't agree with extremity of the Norv Tuner bit. I think they were going for something, but I think it got mixed up philosophically...stated here.

A bullshit, kiss ass review of Lumet and The Devil Knows You're Dead.

Let me say this: Lumet has some great movies - Network and Q & A. Some very good movies - Dog Day, Serpico, 12 Angry Men. He's a famous movie director, wrote a book, is old and still working. But it wouldn't surprise me if DKYD is the worst movie I see this year. It felt 6 hrs long. Interminable is what I said when I walked out the theater.

Let me say this about Lumet and forgive me for being harsh and maybe wrong. But I suspect, by looking at his body of work, the man is all technique and no soul. There is a place for it, when he has great source material, ie Network. But you also risk TDKYD.

Ps- Marisa Tomei is still ridiculously hot. How can Lumet believe she would be married to Philip Hoffman in this movie? Come on.
Strike Rumors

Buzz on the street is back channels are talking again. Now the street prediction is it'll be resolved by Christmas.

Cooler heads are prevailing. I think everyone on both sides thought about it and realized how big the ramifications of a long term strike would be and thought to themselves: this is not good. Really not good.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Your Inner European is Russian!

Mysterious and exotic.
You've got a great balance of danger and allure.
Are the Studios Committing Suicide?

Assume the writer's strike lasts for way longer than anyone wants - say 6 months. Is that enough time for crafty producers with access to money to start making material exclusive for the internet? Will audiences start to watch new material on the internet as a primarily source vs. a promotion? Will cell phone downloads become of sufficient quality that audiences will start paying to watch stuff on download?

From the creative standpoint, it's going to be the same story. Good ideas, well executed will be watched. The creative process will change very little, I imagine. It'll still be about story, performance, set pieces, humor, etc, etc.

What if the studios miss out on this game? What if different media companies get smarter, figure out a profit model, and woo the talent and creatives away from the studios. What do the studios offer to creatives? A system to monetize their talent through relationships with advertisers, theater chains, and dvd rentals/sales. It is a fairly good system.

But what happens when someone else offers a competing business model for creatives? What if it works better and makes more money? The studios are left with a library of old material, which is incredibly valuable, but what about the new material?

This is how the studios could be punished. The writer's are already being punished by losing wages and the consequent uncertainty afterwards...will they get hired again? Will the gains (if there are any) on residuals outweigh the lost wages?

Strikes very rarely benefit either side - they are a lose-lose proposal. This is coming from my dad who is a labor lawyer and represents unions and has seen strikes before. Couple that with the uncertainty of the internet impact on the movie and tv business and none of this bodes well...for anyone...except the competition.

Interesting takes...Bonds was used. The minute he starts to suck is when the steroid probe gets serious.

The lesson for kids: while you're on top you can get away with anything, but when you come down there's a comeuppance.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This Just Proves It

Like most blacks, I believe my economic prospects will be worse than my parents and that individual failings contribute more to lack of economic progress than racial prejudice.

I just wish I started lower on the economic ladder - then I'd have more opportunity to exceed parental expectations.
Solidarity With Strikers

Assistants and gays
can strike with the writers!
Bring Me the Head of Osama Bin Laden

A theory on what's going on in Pakistan.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But as I said before, we've finally got some momentum on this WOT and it's time to take advantage. If Musharraf can strike a death blow (Seinfeld movie reference) to AQ, give the man a medal!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This Is What the World's Come To

Today at lunch, a retarded guy made fun of me.

At Wild Oats, a mentally handicapped guy works as a bagger. I brought up my lunch selection, a piece of pizza, pasta salad, and an apple. He gazed at the pizza and shouted, "What kind of pizza did you get?"

"Mushroom and goat cheese."

He looked at me like I was retarded and rolled his eyes.

"Goat cheese?" (this is where he was making fun of me)

"You don't like it?"

"I like pepperoni and regular cheese." (him thinking: you retard)

"I like pepperoni too." (me: defensive)

"But goat cheese..."

"Have you ever tried it?"

"I like regular cheese."

"Well there's regular cheese on a goat cheese pizza too."


"Have you tried goat cheese." (me: going on the attack)


"You should, it's good."

Him = skeptical.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is It Time To Grow Up?

Wow. Just getting into Andrew Sullivan's cover story in the Atlantic this week about "Why Obama Matters."

The entire article is about getting past the Baby Boomer generation's cold civil war between those who served and those who didn't in Vietnam. Our internal politics, he argues, have been hamstrung by this issue since the 1960s culture wars and reignited when the Baby Boomers came to power in the Bill Clinton era. Our entire political culture - to this day - is shaped by it. And the Hilary Clinton-Rudy Guiliani race anticipated by big media will be the latest manifestation of it.

Obama, he argues, offers a truce.

I'm only halfway through, but it offers something more to my generation: A wake up call to adulthood. I commented on this blog awhile back about seeing Obama on Jon Stewart and thinking, "Gee, he looks and walks like my friend," as opposed to seeing Hilary or Rudy or GW or Al Gore who feel like my parents. Obama is my generation even if technically, he's on the very end of the Boomer generation.

One of these days, it will be time to pass the torch from the Boomer's to their children. The question is: when? Should Obama somehow surge it would be an indication this transition is coming sooner rather than later. Are we ready?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Harris Savides

Who the fuck is this guy? I've been obsessed with his work since I saw American Gangster two weeks ago. The guy shot Zodiac, the best HD work to date, and also shot Gus Van Sant's 16mm triology - Gerry, Elephant, and Last Days. (can you say long take?) He also shot Birth, a film I've yet to see, but by all word of mouth accounts is a brilliant exercise in cinematography. It's as if, out of nowhere, a force has emerged. This guy is like the Robert Towne of cinematography and perhaps if I were now in my formative stages of watching films I might want to become a DP.

He uses tone masterfully. They should have a collection of his work.

All one can do with people like this is bow politely and hope they continue to work.
Writer's Strike

Let me start by saying "I Support the Writers." I say this because one day I hope to be a member of the WGA and because in my humble opinion, the writer's are the most under-appreciated element of the film business. By no means am I the only one to hold this fact, you hear it down here in LA almost every day...everyone seems to fundamentally side with the writer's except for the fat cat studio executives (and all the resentful TV crews who are out of work).

But fundamentally, this is an emotional and self-serving position (like most positions).

The question could be better framed: is the writer's strike wise? What do the writer's stand to gain vs. what do they stand to lose?

This is where the disconnect comes in. The writer's are seeking a "step-deal" as far as I can understand, a deal whereby they get a piece of the big internet action if it ever happens. Michael Eisner is saying - fine, go strike Apple Ipod downloads, don't strike against us. We're not making any dough. And for the moment, I think he's right. But the writer's are wagging their fingers and saying, don't try to pull that shit with us - that's what you did last time and we ended up getting screwed on DVD residuals.

So this is a revenge fuck. Okay. Let's just call it what it the question is: is it smart?

I don't know. But I'm surprised to see how much solidarity is being expressed at the moment. I think the studios know the solidarity will fade (it always does) and the less certain and unstable the writer's get the more pressure from within the guild will rise to resolve the thing. The studios should just do nothing to aggravate the writer's and eventually they'll crack.

I apologize in advance...but I'm going to talk about Iraq. I do this because I find it fascinating what people opt to support vs. not support. Obama and many liberals (and most of Hollywood) talks about not supporting the Iraq war because it's a dumb war. But explain to me how the Iraq war is any dumber a proposition than the writer's strike?

I can see the goal in Iraq - create a model of democratic stability in the Middle East, ensure Saddam had no WMDs, teach the world "don't fuck with us" or we'll fuck your shit up. Those are the lessons. In order. Granted, they didn't work all that smoothly and as a consequence many folks jumped ship and started calling it a dumb war, a war of thievery or vanity, or foolishness.

Now why do these things not apply to the writer's strike? Isn't it a vain, greedy, stupid maneuver by the writer's to go after money that doesn't yet exist? Isn't the idea behind it right, but the timing and execution questionable?

And despite private reservations I'm sure many writer's hold about the strike, they are sticking with it because it matters in the long run and they're on the right side of history. I agree with them. But how come people don't have the same attitude towards Iraq? Similar principles apply. Maybe Iraq wasn't the best timing or perfectly executed, but what makes one jump to the other side and not support the project in entirety, in essence, breaking the picket line and not supporting your country.

Am I crazy?
Exact Same Experience

The exact same thing happened to me when I signed up for LinkedIn.

I got freaked out. I think it must take my gmail contacts and do some cross reference. But I got high school people with whom I don't have much contact. Very odd.
Toilet Seat Up or Down?

A game theory analysis.
Funding Our Own Destruction

Why is this not an issue in the Presidential election? It is patently obvious we need to wean ourselves off foreign oil. We don't need to do it all at once, but we need to move in that direction, together.

"In short, we are delivering a $700 billion (at least, as prices are still rising) to the following nations: Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela. The implications are profound, and an orchestrated response by us is years away."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

TV on Your Computer

My new apartment has faster internet than my old apartment. I can watch 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights on the computer and blow them up to full screen and as far as I can tell, it's basically TV quality. I watched both before going to bed last night.

The remaining problem is the advertisement (not plural) in between the acts. It shrinks the screen and I needed to get up each time and refresh the larger/full screen option. Also, the screen saver goes on, which I suppose I could turn off, but whatever.

All we need is a remote. And boom, it's all combined.
Is It Crazy to Get Excited?

Maliki calls section violence over.
New Great Era?

Are we experiencing the beginning of a new great era of American movies? Just this fall, we're looking at the Assassination of Jesse James (which I haven't seen yet, but hear is amazing), Into the Wild, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, American Gangster, Darjeeling Limited...

...combined, this is a pretty fine list of films to be discussing. Maybe there isn't a stand out movie like a Chinatown, Godfather 1 or 2, Network, Badlands, Jaws, McCabe, Taxi Driver, or Star Wars...but great movies, I think, come out of a community attitude towards movies where filmmakers are encouraged and feel competition with one another to top in artistic quality (not just box office) and studios/executives provide the right kind of environment for these kind of movies to be made.

Economic uncertainty contributed to the 70s era of American filmmaking. Maybe this writer's strike and issues related to new media can spawn an interesting period of filmmaking.
Lack of Trust, Lack of Understanding

It's pretty obvious. No one wants to watch a dumb action movie about America doing ill in the world. And that's how these movies are being marketed - but not on purpose.

The attempt to market Lions for Lambs, The Kingdom, and Rendition is to pose them as smart, world weary, action films that "show both sides," and how America has gone to extraordinary and troublesome measures to ensure our own safety and economic prosperity. They strive to show the underlying hypocrisy of our values vs. our actions. It views America as a capitalistic monolith out of anyone's control. Or at least that's my impression.

Why does no one want to watch these movies? Because at their core is lazy thinking. It's freshman in college, I've just read one book on the Middle East and realized - gee god, we had something to do the the mooj and the shah and the Saudi Royals. All of this chaos might be our own fault, which is crystallized perfectly by the Iraq war.

I am the intended demographic and I don't even want to see the movies. I will because I'm a student of movies and want to see my future competition and the writer of two of the movies is a friend of a friend. But as a lover of action movies and foreign policy enthusiast, I can't get excited about these things. I already got past freshman year in college and don't see these movies as smart. I see them as naive and cheap and lazy. And I don't think they'll be fun, shoot 'em action movies that I love like Die Hard and Predator.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

When Film Touches Philosophy

I was fortunate to catch a preview screening of No Country For Old Men last night. Film school teaches you to talk about film from a technical, craftmenship standpoint. One learns how to talk about performance, film stock, lighting, visual design, camera use, scene, character, structure and so forth...

...but some films are able to achieve a different level of relevance which renders the technical elements moot. Or at least pushes them into the background and makes them seem trite (I feel like there is a better word I should use).

No Country is one of those films. It is a movie which puts men into a philosophical position/question. What do you do when you're outmatched by malevolent/nihilistic forces? How does one react? How would men in prior times reacted? Is there something new and worse today? Something worse? What is the point of struggling against forces so powerful, evil, and inevitable? What is a man to do?

The movie is about powerful forces the characters don't understand. A cowboy comes across a drug deal gone wrong and finds 2 million dollars. He steals the money which unleashes a hunt for him. Both sides come after him with incredible resources which he alternatively runs away from and fights using his wits and skills. Also on the trail, sort of, is a sheriff who is always one step behind and quite clearly does not want to deal with the malevolence. He is outmatched. The bad guys have more resources, more weapons, better training, and more will.

I didn't like the end. I didn't like the philosophy. The movie posed great philosophical/ethical/moral questions and provided no answers. I will read the book.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Getting Ugly

More great strike coverage at Deadline Hollywood Daily. Not looking good at all.

A question for me: What happens if my job is gone? No one is hiring right now...
On Iraq

Andrew Sullivan has been blogging about mistakingly supporting the Iraq war and his request for forgiveness.

How do I feel on this matter, since I too, supported the war. Well, let's see...had I known the outcome/results, the "where-we-are-now" - yes, I probably would not have supported the war...for one simple reason: it's been too hard. Too hard because Iraqi society chose to make it too hard, because Bush/Cheney did a poor political job of managing the war, because half of America and most of the world never wanted to see the war succeed in the first place, because it cost too damn much, and because it's just been a colossel pain in the ass. If I knew what I knew now, I probably would have argued that it would be the right/moral thing to do, but in a complex and uncertain world simply not worth the cost/risk in money and human life.

Of course, this is a little bit like saying - had I known google would be worth 600 a share right now, shit yeah, I would've bought it at 200 three years ago. In short, it's a totally bullshit statement.

What matters is that I did support the war. And I still support many of the choices made by the army and our politicians. I do not support Congress pulling funding and I don't support the President calling it a lost cause and bringing all the troops home. What good does it do to go back and self flagellate about making mistakes? Sure, I look back at a lot of things I did during my life and, I shouldn't have done that. But what does it prove?

I don't support torture and am embarassed by the Abu Gharib scandel. But I don't constantly write about it, nor do I feel a particular glee in saying..."see the US is just as bad as everyone else." We should punish the people involved. We shouldn't torture. And I am open to listening to a debate about what constitutes torture vs. coersive interrogation, but frankly am not going to be too passionate about it because I simply don't know all that much.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Could Get Used to This

Moving into a new apartment with roommates requires adapting to their previous policies. One of the policies is a house cleaner coming every 2 weeks. I've never had a house cleaner. Thinking back, my parents had a house cleaner come once in awhile, but she didn't clean my room. That, I was forced to do myself. In hindsight it seems rather odd and frankly, hypocritical.

I've never quite earned enough money whereby I could honestly say to myself - my time is more valuable than whatever you pay a house cleaner.

But coming home this evening to a made bed and vacuumed rug. Well, I could get get used to it is all I'm saying.
Tactics in Iraq

An analysis of British vs. American tactics...but more importantly, the ability to adjust those tactics.

"But crucially, many of the American shortcomings were "software defects" — deficiencies in doctrine, lack of relevant experience, a lack of institutional memory in "colonial police" type operations — which the hard experience of several combat tours eventually fixed. Once the "software" had been fixed, the expensive kinetic warfare systems were already there to back it up. The old Americans strengths of firepower, logistics, technology and money — once allied to an effective political campaign — suddenly became astonishingly effective. On the other hand the British weaknesses where much harder and more expensive to remedy. When the JAM and other Shi’ite militias responded to British political initiatives with sheer violence and mayhem, the British, lacking the means to protect their Iraqi partners, found their strategy collapsing about their ears. Their interpreters were driven into hiding; the inadequately protected pro-British leaders were liquidated or tortured and British operation was too small to recruit forces from outside the power of militia intimidation. Finally the British troops themselves were confined to an ever-shrinking perimeter, reduced to relying on desperate measures to eke out a last-minute victory."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Strike Blogging

Nikki Finke has great strike coverage on her blog. I wish I was in NY striking

If you scoll down on the pictures, you'll see why.
Something Larger Going On?

I've been following the writers strike. Everyone is predicting a long one. If it doesn't get resolved quickly - and it shows no signs of it - the TV season will be completely cancelled. After that, there are even fewer incentives to get the thing resolved.

But beyond those little details, something larger and more pervasive seems to be happening...and I'm such a newcomer to this, I'm just barely beginning to understand it. Hollywood used to run like a company town. Everyone knew each other through a network and to get anywhere, you had to know people who knew people and so forth. In the past, strikes pitted producers against writers and although these two were at odds over who would get paid what, the two sides were of the same Hollywood ilk...they all were movie people who wanted to make movies and loved making movies and were just coming at it from different angles.

But something larger seems to be at stake today. It is a combination of the historical and the new. Historically, it is the same Hollywood story of the writers getting the financial shaft...the latest incarnation was a horrible deal they negotiated over DVD revenues. It is occuring at a time when multinational corporations have completely taken over the movie business and they operate like a tiny, vanity element of a huge company. What is a studio mogul today? They are a hot shot VP of a giant corporation. That's it. They answer to someone above them who answers to someone above him who answers to a board who answers to the share holders. And then there's the internet and what happened to the music industry. I'm not an expert, but my understanding is people stopped buying CDs and got free music and itunes instead. Labels lost TONS of money and I'm sure had to massively scale back and restructure. What happens when the same thing happens to Hollywood? When customers can watch a new, HD quality movie on a home projector for $1, what happens to movie theaters? What happens to development companies? What happens to marketers? What happens to writers/actors/directors/producers? Who gets paid what? How will deals be structured? How will movies get made?

We live in interesting times.
1.8 Miles

There are issues with my new apartment. The showerhead is rather low (did midgets live here before me?). My window faces other apartments, so with lights on at night, people will see me walking around nude. I don't have a parking spot, but spots on the street are plentiful, the carpet needs cleaning...

However, my drive to work took five minutes. My odometer read 40.0 miles when I started and 41.8 miles when I got to work.

'Nuff said.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

American Gangster

A fine movie. The best lighting and costumes I've seen in a studio film since...since I can remember. Seriously. Tremendous lighting. Incredible opening scene. Solid performances, writing, directing, all around...just a well crafted movie. Not as epic as Scarface...didn't get a performance like Pacino possessed by a demon. But what can you say - you go out to make a great movie and sometimes magic happens. Nothing magic here, just fine, professional work.

And to be fair, there wasn't a montage set to cheesy 80s pop with Denzel leading a parade of actors. I dare anyone to watch that midpoint moment in Scarface today and not laugh. If there were cinema cops, they would confiscate all copies of that movie and remove the scene.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

USC Faculty Retreat Memo

The process of moving forces you to confront all the garbage you've collected. I came across one interesting memo that SPO put together a couple years ago about filmmaking at USC. I actually thought it was quite smart and from what I hear, some of the items were recently implemented.

To: Film Production Faculty

From: Student Production Office

We were asked by (name:deleted) to compile a memo outlining, from the student perspective, problems with the Cinema School and potential solutions.


Mentorships develop over time through classes and SAships at the Cinema School. There is not, however, a formal mentorship program with individualized attention paid to a students career plan both during and after USC. We believe students would benefit from having faculty mentors that last throughout their tenure at USC.

Jobs are the most worrisome aspect of a film education. The Career seminar hosted by the Dean’s office and Student Industry Relations was a big step in the right direction for relieving anxieties and providing guidance about finding work outside of school. Our understanding is that the scope of the Student Industry Relations office is primarily geared towards career opportunities after school. At SPO we are often sent job opportunities for smaller projects for students still in school. Currently, our only resources are job binders and the posting boards. We think students would benefit from an online job and internship posting board with live job leads. We could limit access to such a website by making it open to those who’ve logged into the CNTV Community Website.

Additionally, we feel students would benefit from more accessible resume help and finding jobs. As it is, we make appointments with Student Industry Relations and it takes awhile to get an appointment. More dedicated staff or trained student workers would be useful to students.

With the abundance of film festivals and other new options for getting short movies seen and networking with other young filmmakers, many students feel at a loss. A more active and open door availability and guidance would again, be useful for students.


DVD burning capabilities. The cost for burning DVDs at Zemeckis is excessive and cumbersome because students pay for labor they could do themselves. Our post facilities should have a few dedicated DVD burning machines hooked up to the network. Students are required to make numerous reels, from scholarship applications to 546 applications to getting copies to actors. With the affordability of such technology, the school should certainly have such capability both in Zemeckis Post and Lucas Post.

Finding on-Campus Locations. (name: deleted) has expressed concern with the willingness of on-campus locations to allow students to shoot. Students have trouble finding locations around campus because many locations have been “burned” by former students. We do not have a proposed solution to this problem other than promoting a culture of thanking and double-checking with locations to ensure the shoots did no damage. We believe in general, that future students should not be punished for the poor etiquette a single student or group of students. As it stands now, students who do damage to locations are not held to proper account. The cost is borne by future students who are not allowed to access to those “burned” locations.

Perceived Bureaucratic hurdles to getting films made. We recognize the reasons for getting permits (which is always cumbersome with Film LA), getting insurance certificates, student certifications, greenlight meetings, safety meetings, studio teacher confirmations, and so forth. Viewed collectively, however, the processes and varying time frames (4-7 days for insurance, 48 hours for permits, scheduling meetings, etc) makes the filmmaking process very slow and cumbersome. Combined with tight deadlines, elements get overlooked, both creative and practical. Ironically, we can often trace rule violations back to issues of timing, related to the cumbersome process of trying to follow ALL the rules.

Accuracy on Rights and Permissions. In film festivals and other short film venues we see films that are constantly “breaking” USC rules with respect to getting music rights in perpetuity and getting permissions to display products. There is leeway on using real world products in films, as are there limited festival rights available for music. Are the strict USC polices of benefit? As students, we would like to have clear, logical rules that are consistent with the rest of the industry, so we are not put at a competitive disadvantage.

Internet Distribution. We recognize the uncertainty for all parties regarding distributing short films over the internet. It is clear, however, that the internet has become very useful for short filmmakers to get their work noticed. It is also clear, that distribution via the internet is happening and happening fast. We don’t know the solution, but ultimately as a community, we should look toward the internet distribution as an opportunity, not as a danger or a burden.

Access to Equipment. Currently, access to equipment is based upon production numbers and production numbers are class specific. There are numerous reasons for students legitimately needing access to equipment and facilities, i.e. a production number, when their class production numbers no longer apply. Instances of such would be cutting reels, renting classrooms, shooting on campus, shooting pick ups for video projects, getting student discounts from vendors (we are still students), and so forth. As long as work is for educational purposes, students should always have access to student privileges. A possible solution is to make production numbers available to student specific, as opposed to class specific.


Communication. Students receive information for a wide variety of events, jobs, and classes at the last minute. We suggest making a master calendar for the entire cinema school, one that is easily accessible online and in public, on which all deadlines and events are be posted. Such a calendar should be easy to post on, at it will only be useful if the faculty, Production Offices, SAs, and various other groups put information on it.

Film Production Costs. Tuition is expensive, but the additional costs of producing films that fall upon students are often enormous and untenable. Excessive debt restricts choices after film school. There is an attitude of “go big or go home” that permeates many thesis productions, the results of which are questionable. We are unsure how to solve this problem collectively, but we believe some of these costs bleed into the next issue: Safety.

Safety. As a result of excessive cost, safety is one of the first elements to be neglected. Additionally, there are safety concerns with the number of hours students work, putting themselves in danger both on set and while driving from sleep deprivation – again, an issue related to cost (it is generally cheaper to get things done in a single day).

We believe this is the root of many safety issues are twofold: a “kicking ass” cultural attitude that emphasizes working excessive hours because it demonstrates commitment to a career in filmmaking and it cheapens the cost of productions that operate on limited funds.

Adding to these cultural elements are practical realities that serve as multipliers to safety concerns. From day one, there is a cultural disconnect between class expectations, physical production expectations, and industry expectations. For example, on the first 507 project, students are expected to make an in-camera movie on the first weekend. It is impossible for students to learn all the physical production rules, much less go through the processes of permitting, renting props, finding actors, or getting studio teachers, yet they go about conceiving of projects with these built in production hurdles and come into SPO, disappointed to hear all the steps they need to take.

Students are also inundated with information during the safety meeting of rule after rule related to larger productions, most of which are irrelevant to the 507 assignments. Add this to the filmmaking “rules” that are taught in early 507 classes, crossing the line, continuity, etc., one cannot expect the students to “follow” all the rules. Guess which ones get neglected?

The result is a system in which students start off from the very beginning making choices about which rules to follow and which to break. This attitude permeates through later productions when following safety precaution become much more important, on 546 and even 508.

We believe the root of the safety concerns result from three interrelated cultural and practical realities of making films at USC. The excessive and unaffordable costs of some film productions, a pervasive “kicking ass” attitude stressing that working excessive hours demonstrates a commitment to filmmaking (when in fact, such attitude is used practically as free labor), and lastly a system of rules too complex to easily follow, leading to students selecting certain rules to follow at their own discretion.

How to resolve each any every one of these problems is not clear. We were asked to compile a list of student concerns, some of which we found have easy practical solutions, while others we recognize, do not.

Friday, November 02, 2007

30 Rock Rules and I'm Willing to Wait Out Tina Fey's Marriage Before Tying the Knot Myself

30 Rock wasn't on last night. But that doesn't mean I can't watch last week's episode again on! The genius of last week wasn't in the Baldwin bit with Tracy - although it was a TV acting tour de force. The genius lies in the Liz Lemon-Carrie Fisher main storyline.

Lemon: I got into this business to change people's minds.

Baldwin: No, you got into this business because you're funny and weird and socially retarded and because it pays a lot money.

Point, Baldwin.

UPDATE: How does Baldwin get his voice to sound like that? Seriously, listening to his scenes when you're blogging and the show is playing in the's awesome. I'm such a fan boy.
Seinfeld Rips Larry King

This is a bit odd to watch as Larry King talks to Seinfeld about Bee Movie. In reference to Seinfeld, Larry says:

"You decided to quit. They didn't cancel you?"

Check Seinfeld's reaction.

"You aren't aware of this?"

And then Seinfeld goes off...kinda loses it a little bit. He actually says, "Do you know who I am?" It's hard to like someone who says things like that. But Seinfeld is like, "75 million people watched the final episode."

Finally, he lightens up a little bit and jokes, "can we get a resume for me up here?"

All in all a very odd exchange.

If someone had asked 6-8 months ago what my ideal first job out of film school would be...I would've said staff writer on TV, hired to do a re-write on a script, or some type of writer's assistant position for tv or a feature writer. Had that magically worked out, I'd probably be out of a job come Monday.