Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Few Thoughts

Blogging will be light until January 5th or so. Internet access is variable at my parents house and part of the whole "winter break" means time away from the blog as well.

On Favre...notice how the media won't talk about how he helped blow the Jets season. Six weeks ago, the Jets were going to the Superbowl. Now they won't even make the playoffs and in a game where they controlled their own destiny, he tossed three INTs. It doesn't come as a surprise to me - Favre is the most overrated player in football. But I suspect the sports media - who are in love with the guy - will bury the story.

On stupid are these guys? They start lobbing missiles into Israel that don't kill anyone or set the stage for any type of military strategy. Israel says "stop lobbing missiles at us or we're going to attack you and kick your ass." Egypt says "stop lobbing missiles into Israel, what's the point?" Hamas keeps lobbing missiles. Then Israel attacks today and kills 250+ people and the UN condemns both Israel and Hamas. Palestinians try to flee into Egypt and Egyptian border guards shoot at them. Hamas says "All right, the gloves are off, we're going to unleash suicide bombers again." Greeeaaat.

On the Lakers beating the Celtics on surprised me...Gasol stepped up. Do the NBA teams realize the Lakers are worse when Kobe "goes off?" It causes all the other guys to stop playing hard. Why doesn't a team try the inverse of the we-won't let-Stephon Curry-beat-us tactic and say we're-going-to-let-Kobe-go-off and get the four other guys to sit on their asses, get lazy, get cold, and endure Kobe making fun of them during time outs and then in crunch time shut Kobe down? Just a thought.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kindle Review

As requested by Naveen, a short report on the Kindle. I like it. I enjoy reading books on it. I haven't used it for newspapers and magazines yet. In contrast to stubby paperbacks and heavy hardbacks, it is easy to read while drinking coffee or eating because you do not need to hold pages back. It is great for manuscripts, many of which aren't worth the paper they are printed on. With the Kindle you read part of the manuscript and if it's no good, you didn't need to waste ink and paper and lug the pages around. I like how new books are affordable and usually cost $10 as opposed to $26 if they are only in hardback. I also like how classic books are available for super cheap $1-3. I like how you can "carry" multiple books or manuscripts or papers around on the Kindle without weighing down a bag. I like how conceivably, you can take the Kindle to Sunday brunch and download a newspaper, although I haven't done this yet. Getting the books on the Kindle is incredibly easy - you simply fire off an email and wallah - they show up. I am quite sure owning the Kindle will either allow or cause me read more.

What I don't like: the Kindle feels a bit fragile. I like how newspapers and cheap paperbacks can be tossed around, stuffed in a pocket, and thrown aside and still retain their core function. The Kindle is delicate. It feels easily breakable. The page turn function is a tad annoying. It is very easy to turn a page on mistake and therefore you are constantly turning back a page. When reading, I miss the weight of a book. I Kindled Twilight, figuring it was going to be a quick book I could read in a night or two. It took me a week. Later, I saw the book at the store - it was quite a bit larger than I thought - 500+ pages - and I was like - no wonder it took me so long to read. You don't realize how physical presence of a book impacts the way you experience reading it. The Kindle has a little dot bar at the bottom which tracks how far into a book you are. But the dot bar is a ratio and doesn't really give you a sense (at least initially) how long or short the book is. Also, books are easy to share, but Kindle books only live on your Kindle.

What I didn't expect: The Kindle is more mechanical than electronic. It feels more like a machine than a computer. The only computer function, really, is getting the material via "whispernet" - basically a wireless email service. The rest of the functioning feels rather's hard to explain.

Overall, the Kindle was a perfect gift. It is useful and fun and a cool grown up toy to own, but if mine broke or I didn't have one, I would never purchase it for myself. One, it is rather expensive - $350, I think, and don't think it'll "save" you money because you'll Kindle books instead of buying hardcovers. If you read that much, bless you, and you wouldn't waste time on my blog. I'm pretty sure Kindle owners end up spending more money on books, etc, in the same way Itunes doesn't save anyone money on music. Note: Buying more books does not necessarily equate to reading more.

In the end, the Kindle isn't replacing books. It compliments them. For any good book - or any book worth owning - buying a Kindle version and a hardcover version is well worth the cost. And the Kindle will allow for more casual, easy, throw away, reading, which isn't a bad thing I should think.
I Never Knew This Story

In 1992, Bill Clinton allowed an execution of a mentally handicapped man in Arkansas during the New Hampshire primary as a political calculation to appear tough on crime and "not pull a Dukakis."

I never knew this story and hearing it now makes me ill.

I never heard this argument before, but it's quite elegant. Hitchens points out there are four conditions under which a country loses their sovereignty.

1. Repeated aggression against other states.
2. Violation of non-proliferation treaties.
3. Harboring of gangsters or terrorists wanted by other states.
4. Committed acts of genocide.

Iraq, prior to the 2003 invasion was in violation of all four conditions. Iran, in contrast, can only be said to be in violation of #2 and #3 (and vaguely in violation of #1). North Korea can be said to be in violation of #2.

On British defeats in Iraq. In this day and age, we have no interest in a weaker Great Britain.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Book

Since I got my Kindle, buying real books makes less sense. But yesterday, in a used bookstore, I found a book worth buying: The Dangerous Book for Boys. It's a fun book to flip through. If I had my own coffee table, it would be on it. Opening quote:

"Don't worry about genius and don't worry about not being clever. Trust rather to work hard, perseverance, and determination. The best motto for a long march is "Don't grumble. Plug on."

You hold your future in your own hands. Never waver in this belief. Don't swagger. The boy who swaggers - like the man who swaggers - has little else that he can do. He is a cheap-Jack crying his own paltry wares. It is the empty tin that rattles most. Be honest. Be loyal. Be kind. Remember that the hardest thing to acquire is the faculty of being unselfish. As a quality it is one of the finest attributes of manliness."

There is a section on poems every boy should know. If by Kipling was one...which prompted me to buy Kim (which incidentally, is also my wikipedia entry of the day.)

One nice thing about the Kindle: classics for super cheap. Conrad's The Secret Agent is next - cost $2.50. Kim cost $1.60. Huck Finn is $1.29.
Note to the Ladies

I don't like it when girls who are most likely younger than me - generally working as waitresses or hostesses or coffee baristas - call me sweetie or honey. We're not in the deep South and I'm not 12.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Rise of the East

I watched part of the last two Lakers game where they lost close games to Miami and Orlando. Orlando looked good. Howard had an off night, Kobe had his best game of the year, and Orlando still won. With the Cavs playing incredible, Boston the best team in the league, and Orlando, the East is rising. In the West, the Lakers are soft, San Antonio is old, Phoenix is old, Dallas is old, New Orleans is underperforming, Houston is injury prone, and Portland is both young and injury prone.

On the postgame, Magic and Worthy both said the Lakers looked soft and no one comes to play except Kobe and Fisher, sometimes. Why won't anyone say the truth - the Laker's don't have a leader. Kobe is a great player and horrible leader, but what's worse - he won't allow someone else to be the leader of the team. That's why the Lakers can only get softies (Lamar and Gasol) or too-nice guys (Fisher and Walton) or young guys (Bynum and Farmer) or foreigners (those weirdo Eastern European dudes).
"Trusting" Obama

Andrew Sullivan responds to why Obama packing his cabinet with conservative, establishment choices is different from when Clinton did the same thing. Because he trusts him.

One of my favorite lesser known Tarantino lines comes from Jackie Brown:

"Do you trust Beaumont?"
"I trust Beaumont to be Beaumont. You know what I'm saying?"

Or something along those's been over five years since I saw the film. But yeah, I trust Obama to be a politician and make compromises. The Warren pick was all over the news and I heard about it before I even knew what it was about - Obama picks some anti-gay dude - but then I learned it was just the guy who swears him in. Uhhhh, who cares? Mel Gibson and Jenna Jamison could swear Obama in, it wouldn't matter to me. Warren has no impact on policy or anything that matters.

My only question about Obama is whether he's a leader or a celebrity and being President and history will test it - because there will come a moment when the doing the right thing and doing the popular thing will be different. Will he disappoint the jawing masses? I certainly hope so.
Plans Ruined

At a routine oil change yesterday, I found out my head gasket was leaking and needs replacement. 3-4 days. Damn. Was headed home for the holidays, possibly skiing Monday. Now I'm stuck in LA without a car. Not a good start.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Don't Care If He Backpedals

Libertarian conservatives rant about Obama's backpedaling on his troop withdrawal promise. I just hope he gets the withdrawal right, I don't care how long it takes and especially hope it's not done in a way to merely spite the Bush administration.
Greg's First Riddle

What gets better with owned by both rich and poor...young and old...and can be both cheap and really expensive?
I'm A Huge Fan

Issac Bruce wins the Eshmont Award - for inspirational and courageous play.

Bruce is 36 and still has bounce in his step. Hope he's back next year.

How "minimum payments" psychologically encourage credit card holders to pay less of their balance.

I never carry cc debt - it's basically the worst debt you can possibly carry - so it doesn't affect me, but credit card companies are basically loan sharks without the threat of violence.
What I've Been Eating and a New Series

I tried a ham and muenster with the works Bay Cities sandwich today. Pretty good. Next time, I'm going to try without the works...which may be the future of my Bay Cities relationship. Ate oatmeal for breakfast and delicious homemade toffee for lunch-dessert. The other day, I got treated to a Houston's french dip. DELICIOUS! In between...I can't remember everything I ate...I think some leftover grocery store pick ups, pre-made salads I got on sale and veggies.

My what-I've-been-eating postings are getting rather repetitive, so I'm going to start linking to Interesting Wikipedia Page of the Day. Today, we begin with Opium Wars.
I'm Open

I'm open to an honest investigation of torture in the Bush Administration so long as it doesn't become a political witch hunt exercised by the losers of the Iraq War debate.

Obama should tread lightly. Maybe McCain should head it.
Negative vs. Positive Liberty

When Obama mentioned a "right" to healthcare in one of his speeches, it worried me. A good article about positive vs. negative liberty and the difference between pre-existing natural rights vs. entitlements.

The right to work, for example, is fundamentally different from the right (entitlement) to a job; the right to marry does not entitle me to a spouse; the right to free speech does not entitle me to an audience.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bail Out the Writers

Ha. Of course.

I find the piece a lot more depressing than funny. Especially this part:

"Overcapacity has been something generally acknowledged across the writing industry for at least 10 years. In a 2002 essay in The New York Times, the onetime best-selling novelist and story writer Ann Beattie mourned the situation of the modern writer, living in a world where people are more interested in “being a writer” than in writing itself. “There are too many of us, and M.F.A. programs graduate more every year, causing publishers to suffer snow-blindness, which has resulted in everyone getting lost,” she lamented. That Ann Beattie must now compete on Amazon with a self-published author named Ann Rothrock Beattie is proof of how enormous the blizzard has become."

Anyhow, call me weird, but I find the most brutal part the most heartening:

"The other day, as I looked down on the field of cubicles from the “resting area” on the balcony, I felt an urge to read aloud from a Graham Greene story I had disregarded in my 20s: “Are you prepared for the years of effort, ‘the long defeat of doing nothing well’? As the years pass writing will not become any easier, the daily effort will grow harder to endure, those ‘powers of observation’ will become enfeebled; you will be judged, when you reach your 40s, by performance and not by promise.”"
The Wrestler

Bill Simmons writes about The Wrestler.

I need a few more viewings before I can rank it on my all-time sports-movie list. Will it suck me in at 3 a.m. after I've just watched it three weeks before? Will I stick around for an extra 20 minutes just to catch an ending I've already enjoyed and digested 30 times? That's when you know.

I doubt I'll watch The Wrestler again. I forgot - because Aronofsky is such a talented guy - that his movies make me wince. They insist upon finding a moment (or more) of such brutality and human suffering, it makes me feel ill. Call me a prude or unsophisticated, but it isn't exactly why I watch movies...not that there is a single reasons I watch movies...but generally, it isn't about turning away from the screen, covering my eyes, or subjugating myself to endure inhuman suffering. The Wrestler has several of these moments. Requiem for a Dream has several. Pi has one.

I'm also not a fan of wrestling. I liked Hulk Hogan and Randy the Macho Man, the WWF when I was really young, but I lost interest after that. Although I liked watching the Rock get interviewed - "Know your role, Jabroni!"

So, with this in mind, The Wrestler succeeds at what it sets out to do - tell a painful story about a washed up semi-celebrity. Rourke is incredible - I thought his faced was mashed from make-up, but Simmons seems to think he did it to himself boxing. Marisa Tomei is awesome - she's doing incredible work post-40 acting work. The big blotch on the movie is the Evan Rachel Wood storyline which is pretty lazily written and acted. Could they afford only 1 or 2 days to shoot with her?
Hope vs. Fear

I hope this is untrue, but fear it is.

UPDATE: The original article is well worth reading.

The departure of George Bush will change the mood music in America's relations with the world, but--here's the heartbreaker for our romantics--it won't change how most people see America. Because, for "anti" masses, it's not really about us; it's about them.


What's puzzling is that we care this much what these people think. Like a teenage girl at a new school, Americans desperately want to be liked. Last year, on the eve of the 3/11 train attacks anniversary, former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar told me that power makes America, the Rome of our times, a target of so much criticism. His message: It comes with the territory; get over it. The other day in London, the historian Andrew Roberts remarked, "We didn't give a toss what anyone thought when we ran the world."

Fair points both, I think. Yet America is different from those past empires, and I find our thin skin winning--to a point. The place attracts the hatred of assorted masses from London fine-dining table to the caves around Tora Bora because it is attractive at so many levels and isn't self-consciously a global Empire (which enrages some people even more). Our iPods, Harvards and Stanfords, Tiger Woodses and Michael Phelpses, Beyoncés and Philip Roths all constitute American power along with the dollar and the military.

Well, one thing is for sure: Obama will test this theory and test it well. One of the reasons I supported his candidacy, actually. I am confused and puzzled about America's role in the world and what remains in store for the future. I HIGHLY suspect the above article is mostly right - that there exists a tremendous amount of resentment and irrational hatred of America - not for the things we do, but for who/what we are and represent to "this huge and diverse church that groups together the wacky nationalists from Turkey, China and Russia, Western Europe's racist xenophobes and neo-Marxists, the Islamists and other crazies, various stripes of Latin Americans, and everyone in between, America is a useful enemy to nurture. There's never been any good will there. Hence no one should hold their breaths for any forthcoming." And we will see how the world reacts because we aren't going to get a more friendly, internationalist, easy-to-like President. If they hate us despite our best efforts to be liked - then at least we'll know it is about them and not us - and be able to proceed accordingly.
A Serious Question

Why are there no Dunkin Donuts on the West Coast?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Good Liberal, Good Point

Kevin Drum makes a great suggestion in the wake of tough economic times: we need a stronger and wealthier middle class.

The rich can't be the only ones to spend.
Fair Point

Paraphrase: Easy money got us into this mess, will easier money get us out of it?

I somehow doubt it.

I understand the idea behind pumping money into the economy to stimulate spending. But if people and companies are in a lot of debt - won't giving out money simply spur people into simply paying off their debt? Notice - this won't cause the economic "velocity" a stimulus is supposed to provide.

A couple things worry me. One, taxpayers end up bailing out people and companies who were spending irresponsibly. This is unfair in and of itself, but worse, it'll allow bad wood to fester and encourage future irresponsible spending and business practices. For instance, does anyone actually think giving money to the automakers will yield long term returns? And if so, let them put up their own cash - not mine. This money is just going to be poured into dumb deals and retirement packages made years ago. In ten more years, they'll be back with their hat in hand asking for more dough. It's not all that different from real estate speculators - folks buying property and homes they couldn't afford. Politicians call them homeowners, but putting zero down doesn't make you a homeowner. You were speculating that the property you were borrowing would go up in value. When it doesn't - and actually crashes - why should the taxpayer again bail this class of speculators out? And why should it bail out the banks who put up the money to bad borrowers? How do you prevent it from happening in the future? Regulation? Gimme a break. Idiots will figure out a new way to speculate and try to get rich quick.

Lastly, are major portions of our economy one big ponzi scheme? Is the financial system just a big hoax - everything leveraged against itself? Is a great part of consumer spending merely debt spending - encouraged by the govt to create economic growth? Are these flat screen tv's and Blue Ray players worth the cost of savings and economic security?

I don't know the answers to these questions.

Again - who is to blame for the subprime mess?

I suppose there is enough blame to go all around - but Democratic law makers bearing the least brunt at the moment.
Ponzi Scheme

With this Madoff business all over the news, we are reminded what a Ponzi scheme is:

The regulators believe that Mr Madoff did not make any investments on his clients' behalf but took cash from new customers to pay the 12 per cent returns he had promised existing clients. Such a scheme is only sustainable so long as there are sufficent new clients entering the scheme. It is believed that Mr Madoff's sons approached regulators before their father had time to change his mind.

Doesn't that describe Social Security?

Interest rates could drop to 0. So if this doesn't work will the Fed pay people to take out loans?

I can't explain why - but for some reason, this little article gives me hope.

Title: Mekong a 'treasure trove' of 1,000 newly discovered species

Line: "A scientist visiting an outdoor restaurant was startled to see a Laotian rock rat among the nearby wildlife. The hairy, nocturnal, thick-tailed rat, which resembles a squirrel, had been thought for centuries to be extinct."
She Should of Bought Jeans Instead

The manager of El Coyote donated $100 to pro-Prop 8 (she is a Morman) and is met with a furious reaction - both social and economic. Excerpt:

Well, Christoffersen was a manager at El Coyote, the Beverly Boulevard landmark restaurant that's always had throngs of customers waiting to get inside. Many of them were gay, and Christoffersen, a devout Mormon, donated $100 in support of Proposition 8, the successful November ballot initiative that banned gay marriage.

She never advertised her politics or religion in the restaurant, but last month her donation showed up on lists of "for" and "against" donors. And El Coyote became a target.

A boycott was organized on the Internet, with activists trashing El Coyote on restaurant review sites. Then came throngs of protesters, some of them shouting "shame on you" at customers. The police arrived in riot gear one night to quell the angry mob.

The mob left, but so did the customers.

Sections of the restaurant have been closed, a manager told me Friday during a very quiet lunch hour. Some of the 89 employees, many of them gay, have had their hours cut, and layoffs are looming. And Christoffersen, who has taken a voluntary leave of absence, is wondering whether she'll ever again be able to work at the restaurant, which opened in 1931 (at 1st and La Brea) and is owned by her 92-year-old mother.

"It's been so hard," she said, breaking down again.

A lot of customers saw Christoffersen as the face of the restaurant. She was the hostess who roamed from table to table with a pitcher of water, refilling glasses and schmoozing with friends.

Christoffersen, raised Mormon by her late father, told me she has no problem with gay people.

"I love them like everybody else."

But she supports her church's position that marriage is between a man and a woman.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Hail, Pomona, Hail

I just got an email from the President of my college. Apparently, our college Alma Mater or "song" was suspended last year because "our Alma Mater, Hail, Pomona, Hail, might have been written for a blackface minstrel show." Someone did the research and came up with no conclusive evidence...and a committee recommended the song be replaced. Yes, that's right, replace the song because of the mere possibility it was written for something we now deem offensive.

In response, the Pomona President wrote:

My decision to confirm the status of Hail, Pomona, Hail as our Alma Mater, rather than replacing it, is based upon a conviction that traditions—like people—should be judged on their merits, not on the basis of historical associations unconnected to their actual character. All are agreed that there is no harmful meaning in either the words or the music of Hail, Pomona, Hail. The question is whether the context of its possible first performance should be determinative.

Three things concern me here. First, there is the inconclusive nature of the evidence. While research conducted by two students and an alumna taught us much about the minstrel show that took place here in 1909–10, it also revealed that the evidence for a connection between that event and Hail, Pomona, Hail is contradictory and open to interpretation. Second, there is the troubling idea that all things associated with an imperfect past should be considered tainted even if there is nothing inherently objectionable about them. And finally, there is the false sense of closure provided by getting rid of something so that we no longer need to talk about the issue that it calls to mind. The Alma Mater still has things to teach us, and the people who cherish it should not be constrained in any way from honoring it.

I applaud the President's decision and moreso, his logic. Two years ago, the whole spectacle would have angered me another piece of this inconstant PC movement. But I can't sit here and pretend to care much about the Pomona song. I didn't know the lyrics then and don't know the lyrics now. I can't remember singing the song. The one thing I remember about the song was when a family friend learned I was attending Pomona he said to me: they have a quite beautiful Alma Mater...Hail, Pomona, Hail. And he even sang a few verses.

In that spirit, I'd like to make a point - If I can fully admit to not much caring or knowing about my college song - can the people who took offense to it's origins also admit to not much caring about whether it was conceived as part of a minstrel show. I mean, seriously folks, who born in the past 50 years has been hurt or offended by a minstrel show? Who would honestly know what a minstrel show was - except for the fact it's used as evidence of racism or anti-PCism? Why is this such an "offensive" thing to effete liberal culture? Aren't holocaust movies almost by definition more offensive? I mean, Hollywood movies are telling visual stories for profit and using one of the grossest episodes in human history ad nauseum for this purpose seems to me, much more offensive - and widespread. Doesn't mean I don't watch Holocaust movies. I do. Anyhow, point made.
Me Gusta Bijou Philips

On LA vs. NY:

I drive this big truck around L.A. So my life's, like, pretty odd compared to most people. Very rural. I live in the Los Feliz area so I drive through Griffith Park to the other side -- you can ride all through Griffith Park, you have 55 miles of trails. It's horse paradise where I live! That's why L.A. is so great! I get to New York in the winter and you can't do anything. It's fine if you don't mind sitting in your apartment doing nothing and you don't mind having dinner and seeing a movie -- it's so boring! There's no activities. In L.A., in an hour you can be in Big Bear skiing. In 45 minutes you can be on the beach in a wetsuit. See? It's better here. You can go on a hike all year round! It smells like sage and magical plants and pepper trees!

Oh, man.

The worst part about New York is you have to live in a little box. In L.A., you can look at a tree and maybe some grass. Maybe you live at the bottom of Runyon and you can leave your place and go for a walk and you can have a dog. And if you already have a dog, it'll be happier! It's just overall better.

I guess!

And you still have all the arts! All the stuff that's in New York is in L.A. All the same bands play. All the art exhibits come. So you can't say, "Oh, it's because of the arts." If you want to go to the theater? There's only so many plays, and they're all on for years, so you can go to New York for a couple weeks. So there's no reason to be in New York. Unless it's friends. And they don't want to be there either. So you can get all your friends to move to L.A. Probably 90% of all your good friends have already moved to L.A. Who would want to come back to a dark box on a loud busy street with construction and debris? Your apartment is so small and filled with coats and jackets and gloves and scarves -- and accessories are cluttering everything and it's miserable. And even if you go out, it's small! Even the massage parlors are small! Everything is small!

Tina Fey just got some competition for my heart.
The Shoe Heard Round the World

I saw footage of the shoe throw. Bush was surprisingly nimble.

Obviously, this was a classless act. There isn't much to say about the individual. He's a weirdo, a nut, whatever. What disheartens me is that our news sources report the Arab would is incredibly proud of this shoe thrower, yet another sign (as if we needed another) how uncivilized the Arab world is. Do these people have any self respect for themselves? Throwing a shoe is something to be proud of?

I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise and I prefer tossing shoes to hand grenades and suicide vests and I hate to disparage an entire people, but regardless of how nice and capable and friendly and awesome individuals Arabs are - as a culture - the Arab culture - is frustrated, hateful, spiteful, and weak. And it sucks.

Baby steps, I suppose.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Interesting Dilemma

Surrogacy vs. Abortion. Is there a limit to what women ought to be able to do with their womb? Rent it, for instance...
Sex and Awesomeness

"I hide behind sex and awesomeness, Lemon hides behind her insults."

Quote of the day. From Jack Donaghy aka Larry Braverman.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gotta Give the Movie Business SOME Credit

In the midst of economic catastrophe, perhaps those of us in the movie business can shed some light on the psychological state of a nation insecure in its economic prospects. While many in the country are worried about losing their jobs or lost their jobs and possess little hope for finding a new one, those of in movie business think "so what's new?"

In Hollywood, the threat of job loss is a permanent state of mind. Money can dry up real day, you've got $4 million and you're off to shoot a feature, the next day, it's gone and the producer you're working with has left the business. Insecurity is the norm and guess what? You get used to it.

Or at least you're prepared for it. I think most people in Hollywood half expect they're about to be fired, their deal won't be renewed, their show will be dumped, their budget will disappear, or their company will dry up. It's just the way things are. And guess what - people get by. Or they leave the business.

On the bright side, the wackiness of the Hollywood business model seems to make a whole lot more sense today, especially in comparison to the car industry, the financial services industry, or even the publishing industry. Hollywood isn't asking for a bailout. Can you picture that happening?

What does America make better than the rest of the world? Movies for sure. What else? Computers and software. Not cars, hardly any manufacturing. We have much better institutions of learning. But there isn't much. And as shitty as Hollywood movies are this year - and they are shitty - we're doing a whole lot better than most industries out there.
I Didn't Notice

Apparently, yesterday was a day without a gay.
Auto Bail Out

A nice, succinct case for not bailing out the auto industry.
Problems All Around

What are we supposed to fear - running out of oil or it getting too cheap?
What Does This Mean?

Consumer debt
falls for the first time in American history?

Does that basically mean credit card balances?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Matt Miller from Left, Right, and Center's favorite Economist. Not optimistic.

We are in the middle of a very severe recession that's going to continue through all of 2009 - the worst U.S. recession in the past 50 years. It's the bursting of a huge leveraged-up credit bubble. There's no going back, and there is no bottom to it. It was excessive in everything from subprime to prime, from credit cards to student loans, from corporate bonds to muni bonds. You name it. And it's all reversing right now in a very, very massive way. At this point it's not just a U.S. recession. All of the advanced economies are at the beginning of a hard landing. And emerging markets, beginning with China, are in a severe slowdown. So we're having a global recession and it's becoming worse.

Things are going to be awful for everyday people. U.S. GDP growth is going to be negative through the end of 2009. And the recovery in 2010 and 2011, if there is one, is going to be so weak - with a growth rate of 1% to 1.5% - that it's going to feel like a recession. I see the unemployment rate peaking at around 9% by 2010. The value of homes has already fallen 25%. In my view, home prices are going to fall by another 15% before bottoming out in 2010.

For the next 12 months I would stay away from risky assets. I would stay away from the stock market. I would stay away from commodities. I would stay away from credit, both high-yield and high-grade. I would stay in cash or cashlike instruments such as short-term or longer-term government bonds. It's better to stay in things with low returns rather than to lose 50% of your wealth. You should preserve capital. It'll be hard and challenging enough. I wish I could be more cheerful, but I was right a year ago, and I think I'll be right this year too.
Not Everyone Is Saying Buy

Everything - homes, stocks, etc - could keep going down.
The Wire Characters - What They Want and Their Code

Avon Barksdale's principal concern is manhood - his conception on manhood and the preservation of it. In a way, Avon is a throwback - conservative even - about a man's role on the street. A man sticks by his family, his name, his property, and his friends. There are a few moments in the show when Avon says so explicitly - the first in season 1 on the basketball court when he pleads with the ref who cowers in fear, "Come on - you're the ref, man. Be a man." Later, when Cutty quits the game, Slim Charles says, "He was a man in his time," to which Avon quickly retorts, "He still a man. He a man today." While Stringer and Prop Joe are concerned with the business during the Marlo-Barksdale war, Avon literally can't hear them...he's only concerned with taking back what's his - his corners - from Marlo. Marlo has stepped up to question Avon's manhood - in Avon's eyes - and Avon will never, ever back down from it. Prop Joe says as much, "You ever known Avon to back down from anything?"

Stringer is concerned with business. Making money. Mastering the game and using his head. When he's reached the top of the drug game, his attention goes elsewhere to maximizing the profit in the drug trade and to getting into real estate, copy shops, and other legitimate businesses. When Avon questions Stringer's manhood, he doesn't flinch...he even mocks Avon, "because I use my head rather than going shooting up corners." No, what stings Stringer the most is when he gets outsmarted, when Clay Davis cons him and when Avon calls him out "Maybe you not hard enough for this game and not smart enough for theirs."

McNulty, like Stringer, is a man of the mind. But unlike Stringer, his passion is for outsmarting everyone - not just crooks, but his bosses, other police, women, everyone. McNulty's insatiable appetite is for proving himself the smartest in the room - and he'll ultimately alienate everyone in the process. His comeuppance is with Teri D'Agostino who "looks right through me, like I'm playing a game with penny ante stakes."

In contrast, there is Chris Partlow, Marlo's lead muscle. His concern is proficiency in his craft - killing folks. His greatest pleasure is teaching young Michael in season 4 how to shoot for below the vest and in the head, and when he discovers Avon waiting for Marlo in his pussy trap plan, and drives by blasting the shotgun. The man is motivated by his own precision.

Similarly motivated is Detective Lester Freeman. Spending his downtime creating miniature furniture, Lester too is motivated by his craft - police work. When he is hamstrung by the bosses, as he has been most of his career, he turns to other crafts to occupy his time.

To be continued.

I forgot to post this the other day...but I caught some of MNF this week and Carolina looked like a team on a freaking mission from hell. Tampa Bay - one of the toughest defenses in the league - got literally run over by Carolina in the 2nd half. Who are those running backs? On back to back plays, they each flattened Ronde Barber. Freaking embarrassing.

Plus, they've got Steve Smith, one of the best receivers in the league and an outstanding defense. This team looks like it has all the tools except a QB, but there are a bunch of years when teams like that can win super bowls so long as the QB is one of those "game managers" who doesn't make mistakes - Jim McMahon, Trent Dilfer, etc.. Delhomme looks like one of those. I mean for crissake, Rex Grossman took the Bears to the Super Bowl a couple years ago.

If I were a betting man, I'd make an irrational bet and pick Carolina to win the Super Bowl. The Giants look flummoxed and the Titans, I think are wound too tight like the Pats last year, and don't have the offense to come from behind. I don't see anyone else - maybe Pittsburgh - but I don't know - I never think very highly of them. NFC East has fallen apart. Those teams suck.
Would You Do This?

Give back $100,000 you found at a store.

My question: how is that much cash not shady? Drugs, etc? See my previous post.
I Love The Wire

I can't stop watching Season 3. It's incredible. Barksdale's obsession with getting Marlo. Bell wanting out. Hamsterdam. Jesus, what a great show.

One of the most underexplored familial relationships in film/tv is brother-sister. You Can Count on Me is pretty exceptional for simply doing a good job of centerpiecing the relationship. If I were writing a critical studies paper on brother-sister relationships, I would use Avon and Brianna in the Wire as an example of how power dynamics work within families - how shame and underlying morality play a larger role in brother-sister dynamics than straight self-interest or mutual interest in friendships, absolute loyalty or betrayal in the brother-brother/sister-sister relationships, or unresolved issues of power, love, and mimicry which arise in parent-sibling relationships.
Charlie Wilson's War

It's been on HBO lately and I keep catching bits. Pretty good movie. While I'm watching I can't help but think - maybe we backed the wrong side. In any case, in terms of getting in bed with the wrong people, Joe the Plumber talks shit about McCain.

Recalling a conversation he had with McCain about the $700 billion financial industry bailout in September, Wurzelbacher said: “When I was on the bus with him, I asked him a lot of questions about the bailout because most Americans did not want that to happen.”

“I asked him some pretty direct questions,” he continued. “Some of the answers you guys are gonna receive — they appalled me, absolutely. I was angry. In fact, I wanted to get off the bus after I talked to him.”

Asked why he didn’t leave McCain’s campaign if he was “appalled” by the candidate, Wurzelbacher said, “honestly, because the thought of Barack Obama as president scares me even more.”

While Wurzelbacher was critical of McCain during the interview, he had nothing but praise for his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. “Sarah Palin is absolutely the real deal,” he said.

Republicans are in bed with the wrong people. Let me be clear: Joe the Plumber is a mental midget. Why should I care who he votes for? If I had a broken toilet, I'd call Joe. If I want political insight, I'll read blogs. Heh.
So He Didn't Direct Iron Man?

Jon Faverau apparently is Obama's wunderkid speechwriter and he got caught on photo grabbing HC breasts.

Where's the outrage?

Come on, folks, can't you tell the guy is drunk and this is more of an issue of digital cameras being EVERYWHERE than horrible, denigrating sexism. This is the time when we can show our mellowness, rather than freaking out like the Muslim groups that flipped over the cartoons.
A Reminder

About actually making films.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Capital Gains Tax?

If you pay taxes for Capital Gains do you get to write off Capital Losses? If the guv'ment did this, would there be any tax revenue this year?
I'm Worried About the Future of Movies

A cartoon and a comic book are the "best" movies this year
. Doesn't bode well for adults who like movies.

I'm a curmudgeon.
Betting on the Box Office

Why don't they call futures trading gambling? Isn't that what it is? it handicapping or hedging or whatever. A new idea for hedging movie box office.

I wrote up this idea in a critical studies class as a game idea - then the game was made - and now money's being throw into the game.

I'm not strongly against this idea, in fact, I think it sounds rather interesting. They should also consider a market for DVD and Itunes profits to try and cultivate "cult" hits or movies that are able to find second and third lives. Also - it can help discover fake hits - movies with inflated first weekends which fall off drastically when people realize what a piece of shit movie it is.
Very Funny, Very Sad, Very True

In the New Yorker:

On Saturday, a California woman whose autobiographical novel was rejected by sixteen publishers hosted a funeral for her dream of a writing career, at which “attendees viewed the failed manuscript, rejection letters, refinance papers, useless MFA in creative writing, and the author’s much watched DVD copy of ‘The Secret.’”

I love the progression.
It's About F------ Time

A bigshot Iranian cleric is claiming the Koran might be written by Muhammed and not God himself.

Islam needs a reformation or at least a culture of asking questions.
Iraq Article

Totten in Iraq

In conclusion:

Iraq is still a mess, even so. Iraq is dysfunctional. Iraq is corrupt. Iraq is riven by racial and sectarian hatreds between Arabs and Kurds and between Sunnis and Shias. Each race and sect are further divided against each other by tribe. Revolutionary Iranians still muck around with Iraq's internal politics, and many Iraqis will continue to let them. Religious fundamentalists coexist precariously with Iraqi secularists and women who resent having to wear the hijab over their hair so they won't be targeted by the radicals. Even some Christian women in Baghdad feel compelled to wear the hijab. The only people in the country who seem interested in cleaning up the garbage still clogging the streets are Americans, and they're on their way out. Iraq will always be Iraq, whether a terrorist regime takes over or not. It will be a while before it's a place you will want to visit.

At this point, though, it's unlikely that the United States will fight another war in Iraq. Michael Yon is almost certainly right about that. A large number of Iraqis want American troops to leave, but most of them are not our enemies. Very few shoot at American troops anymore. Even fewer have any interest in attacking Americans in the United States. Roadside bombs are rare enough now that I no longer worry about them when riding in Humvees with American soldiers. The Iraqi Army and Iraq Police conduct joint operations and patrols with Americans. If Iraq were an enemy state, or if the various insurgent and terrorist groups were still widely supported by Iraqi civilians, the steep decline in violence over the past two years would never have happened.

Whatever happens next is up to Iraqis. It may or may not be pretty, but the days when Iraq is a lethal threat to anyone outside its borders most likely are over.
Oh Jesus, What A Load of Crap

Common thinks Obama is going to change hip-hop and make it more positive and socially conscious.

Show me a "socially conscious" artist and I'll show you a bad artist.

Of course, there is no definition of socially conscious because it doesn't mean anything other than: good, liberal, stuff.

My advise to Common - just make good beats and stop trying to be a movie star - follow Dr. Dre not Mos Def.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I Could Be Regressing

But this kinda looks awesome to me.
What I'm Eating

Had an In and Out last night - made me feel sick. In and Out and Chipotle are being severely cut from my diet. I haven't been to Chipotle in a long while and don't see going back anytime soon. For lunch ate pad thai from Bangkok West - decent white people thai food with an ungenerous proportion. For dinner I found a real deal at Albertsons. They make up a bunch of fried chicken and I always see it at the deli counter and never try it. Tonight I was slim on cash and noticed the deal: $4.50 for fried chicken and two sides. Worth a shot, no? They give me a breast and two wings and I got the best looking potato salad and some broccoli salad which was basically broccoli mixed with a little cole slaw. Walking home I was thinking - this dinner could be a real bust - you never know with fried chicken or side salads from crappy grocery stores. But Albertsons is a bit of an enigma. Sometimes it's crappy, other times, serviceable. It's actually rather confusing, if you ask me. I swore it off after I got a bad orange once, but then again the Sopressata is excellent. I'm not kidding - the Albertsons on Lincoln - crappy ass Albertsons on Lincoln - has damn good Sopressata. No one would guess it...

Anyhow, I get home and try the chicken. Not bad. Not bad at all. Not healthy -it's fried chicken for crissake - but come on, this is America. A man should eat fried chicken once in awhile. The salads were pretty good too. The only way to screw up broccoli is to add some disgusting mayonnaise-based dressing. They resisted, either out of taste or laziness. The potato salad was surprisingly flavorful - a little mustard or something in the mix. I ate the whole thing. If you want a good sized meal balanced meal for under $5, I don't think you'll find anything better than the fried chicken deal at the Albertsons deli counter. Bear in mind, I would never count on this option because on any given day, I think the fried chicken could be crappy or the salad selections have to check out the selection to make sure it looks good...but I'll say this: the same sized meal down the street at Whole Foods is definitely costing over $10 and possibly up to $15 (the deli guys fill up the box generously) and in a blind taste test, I wouldn't bet against Albertson's. Swear to God - those salad bars at Whole Foods are not high quality.
Would The Internet Have Stopped Hitler?

A pretty interesting thought. The power of ridicule...

How come the internet has helped Islamic Fundamentalism, rather than reduced it to ridicule? I suppose the comparison isn't apt because Hitler ran one of the most industrialized countries on the planet and the Islamic Fundamentalists run a few caves in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On the Comeback

Walmart is going to sell the iPhone for $100.

Freakonomics wonders what this will do to the iPhone's "high end" reputation.

I don't think Apple cares. All the money is in the "comeback," ie the fees paid by subscribers for the iPhone services.

Finally got to the movies this weekend after a long stretch. I heard Milk was supposed to be awesome. It's not. Good acting, pretty awesome cross cutting between real and archive footage - maybe the best I've ever seen (did 24hr Party People cut back and forth?) - but lackluster writing and story telling.

The biopic is the lowest movie genre. An argument can be made for torture porn, although I consider that a subgenre of horror, which is also low genre, but not as low as the biopic. Biopics are almost never pleasurable. Citizen Kane's bloated reputation holds up this genre - whose stories inevitably crack at the seems in the 3rd act. Good biopics are the exception and I suspect these movies are made because filmmakers/audiences hold their subjects in such high regard, they think their reputations deserve the glorification a movie can provide.

Milk doesn't make it until the 3rd act. It's a bore from the get-go salvaged only by good scene work and watching a football game when the outcome is no longer in question, and the only pleasure can be derived from good individual plays.

And now onto what all my readers were waiting for: my latent homophobia. Okay, so Milk has a bunch of gay kissing and some sex. I find this aesthetically unpleasing to watch. Does this make me a homophobe? Maybe. But what am I supposed to do? Pretend I enjoy it? Not talk about? In my defense, and to prove I'm only half a homophobe, I have no similar problem with watching two ladies kiss/make out and have sex. To paraphrase Elaine from Seinfeld "The male body is ugly and utilitarian, the female body is work of art." I think she is right.

But the aesthetic question of ugly old men making out with each other is not what makes Milk not worth the $11.50 admission. After all, Brokeback Mountain had much more explicit gay sex and it was the best film of 2007. Milk's story is scattered and lacking drive and tension. It felt like watching an essay on the man and his impact on the gay rights movement - of which I'm not the biggest fan - with their aggressive, no-holds barred attitude, and overall contempt for any suggestion of a more moderate and less in-your-face approach.
Recession vs. Depression

Per Freakonomics, it's tough getting a teaching/research job in academia these days. Good Reagan quote:

Ronald Reagan famously described the distinction between a recession and a depression as follows: “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours.”

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Good Day for SF in LA

First, the SF Saloon is my new spot to watch all 49er games. Good food, good environment. 49er Fans. Awesome. Second, the Niners look great today. Other than 5 fumbles (only 1 lost) and the int, they dominated the Jets - a team playing for the playoffs - and the Niners, playing for nothing but pride handled their shit. Singletary is the man. Shaun Hill looks like an NFL QB. Issac Bruce still has juice (the best 49er offseason pick up in years). Hill looks like a future NFL wideout and Gore, despite missing most of the 2nd half, is top 5 running back in the league. And defense looks solid. Beating Farve feels great.
It's Not Me

Alyssa Milano gets a restraining order against a Northern California stalker.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Simmons At It Again

Many priceless bits in this article. Money calls:

1. Well, the fifth season of "Entourage" wasn't implausible at all: I can totally see Vince's losing his career after one bad movie (so what if Colin Farrell has made 15 stinkers and keeps getting jobs?), becoming Hollywood poison, getting a job only because his agent passed up a $10-million-a-year studio head position to stay with him -- you know, because agents have such great character -- submarining an elaborate $120 million action movie that somehow came together in about 2.23 seconds because the director hated him (in the irony of ironies, because he didn't think Vince, a guy played by Adrian Grenier, could act), hitting rock bottom and moving back to Queens, then climactically rebounding with the lead in Martin Scorsese's new movie without ever auditioning for it, and while all of this was happening Jamie-Lynn Sigler fell in love with a jobless Turtle, and Johnny Drama starred on an NBC drama that normally would tape for 17 hours a day, unless your show stars Johnny Drama, in which case you tape once a month for a couple of minutes. Awesome. I'd ask for that 390 minutes of my life back, but it's my own fault for watching. I blame myself.

2. No classic game has taken a bigger historical fall for reasons that had nothing to do with the game itself than the 2006 Rose Bowl following the pro careers (so far) of Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. It's like if "The Godfather" won five Oscars in 1972, and within three years, Pacino was the fourth lead on "Sanford and Son," Brando was the sergeant on "The Streets of San Francisco," and Jimmy Caan was doing soft-core porn.

3. Note to every lousy cornerback: If your guy has four steps on you for a sure TD, only the QB underthrows him to the degree that the guy has to put on the brakes, stop and jump for the ball, giving you time to reach him and deflect the pass ... this doesn't mean you're allowed to dance around afterward while waving the "incomplete" signal with your arms, or as I like to call it, "The Deltha O'Neal Shuffle." Just put your head down and run back to the huddle in shame. OK? OK.
401k vs. Pensions

Pensions aren't looking so bad right now - particularly because by definition they provide insurance against the uncertainty of how long you'll live and are not ruined by volatility of the market. Although, as you near retirement, you're supposed to transfer assets to safer investments.

Doesn't really affect me - I work in an industry that never had pensions. My insurance - sadly - is picking a field I "enjoy" so I won't be counting my pennies and days until retirement. If all goes well, I'll never fully "retire," unless I can no longer physically do the work.

I mean, who wouldn't want to get drinks with assistants in their 70s! Awesome!
That's Right

Don't get bitter, make your case.

Time to Get Rich

Is Buffet crazy? Now is the time to buy...

Good quote:

And if, like me, you think oil and gas prices could pop in a big way in the not-so-distant future, you could conservatively play the space with ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) and its fortress-like balance sheet and 2% yield. Sure, Greenpeace may not send you a Christmas card, but your grandkids will thank you.
Who Woulda Thought?

Despite a tearful plea for leniency from O.J. Simpson, a Las Vegas judge today sentenced him to 16 years in prison for the kidnapping and robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers.

I guess murdering your wife and her boyfriend doesn't help you get leniency in the eyes of the law.
Book Biz Crashing

People getting fired left and right from Viacom and Universal. Book business is crashing.

Not good.

All this talk of saving the homeowner has got me thinking: what is a homeowner? If you owe more in mortgage than your home is worth, how can you rightfully say you own the home. The home owns you. You're its indentured servant.

When we talk about saving the homeowners - who are we even talking about?
Bush: a Closeted Liberal

How else can you explain his Presidency? He's advocating a bailout of the Big 3. He's advocated bailouts for every industry that comes to Washington hat in hand. He "liberates" two countries from fascist regimes (one could argue one or both of the wars were foolish - but they very much seem like liberal internationalist projects to me). And on what substantive conservative issue has he made progress on throughout a two term presidency? Fine...he appointed a few conservatives to the Supreme Court. Big deal. Roberts was a heavyweight everyone was behind and Alito was a true conservative choice. The man is a closet liberal. A foolish one.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I Missed This

A good article about attending football games. Feels sort of like a metaphor for America.

On the new Pats stadium:

The chasm between the "haves" and the "have-nots" was jarring. I've attended three Pats games in the Gillette Mausoleum and always felt like I had been transported into a David Lynch movie in which everything looked slightly the same, only it isn't even remotely the same. Throw in the dirty secret that it isn't really fun to attend an NFL game in the 21st century -- the routine of "kickoff, TV timeout, three plays, punt, TV timeout, five plays, field goal, TV timeout, kickoff, TV timeout, someone gets hurt on first down, prolonged TV timeout, three more plays, touchdown, extra point, TV timeout, kickoff, TV timeout" gets old after about 25 minutes -- and by 2006 Bug's friends were making pro-and-con lists for keeping their tickets.

So, why haven't they given them up yet?

"The tailgates," Bug says grimly. "If we could take the tailgate and replicate the camaraderie in our backyard, we'd do it."

Yikes. Even those tailgates became less enjoyable when the Patriots opened Patriot Place this season, a super-mall/mega-complex that bumped fans out of the main parking lot unless they paid an extortion fe— er, a premium fee. Team Buggy now tailgates on the other side of Route 1 for $50, crammed between a zillion other cars in a miasma of charcoal fumes. It takes them 35-40 minutes to walk from this space and find their seats inside. It takes them another 90 minutes to get home because common fans can't use the special access road for high rollers. Suddenly, it's an 11-hour commitment -- and a relatively expensive one -- to hang out and support their favorite team in an increasingly somber stadium.

Movies feel the same way. Expensive reserved seats. Long advertisements before the movie. $5 popcorn. But it's not just movies and feels like everything is like this - expensive, exclusive, and inconvenient. I can't quite explain it. Maybe it was always this way, but I somehow suspect it wasn't. I can't figure how how to blame Bush for it, either.
NFL Crime Spree

I knew they were up to something:

NFL Goes On Nationwide Crime Spree As Plaxico Burress Creates Diversion
Auto Bailout

Now they're asking for $34 bil. It all feels like play money. Who honestly thinks a bailout is going to work for the auto industry? What evidence is there to support that a bailout will help in the long term? Sure, with 34 bil you can stay afloat a little longer, but aren't we just prolonging the inevitable? At least the argument with the bank bailout was that it was a temporary stop required before a possible collapse of the entire damn.

Apparently, the publishing industry is going down in flames right now as well. Is the government going to step in there?

Frankly, I don't see evidence of the bank bailout working right now, it seems like industry after industry is tumbling.
Respectable Position

From an Andrew Sullivan reader.

The fighting in Iraq was not between Sunnis and Shiites per se, as much as between parties that sought a confessional war (al Qaeda, the Iranian special groups, elements of Moqtada al Sadr's Jaish e Mahdi) and those parties that sought to prevent one (the Iraqi government, the US Marines, the Anbar Awakening). The anti-competitive-genocide alliance won. The forces that sought civil war are either destroyed (al Qaeda) or reconciled to the new order of things (most of JAM).

A good way to frame the second stage of the Iraq war.

Obviously, the Iraq War has been a much bigger mess than anyone who supported it anticipated. But one thing I think we say about Iraq - we're standing on the right side.
Are the Niners Wasting Gore?

Well, certainly. He's one of the best backs in the league - I'd take Adrian Peterson over him - but not too many others. But the fact is RB are cheap commodities in the NFL and a good o-line is much more valuable than a single good back.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

This is the right tone - Prop 8 advocates - learn or thing or two from Hollywood.
Did Starbucks Help Indy Coffee Houses?

Not all of business is a zero sum game.
Triple Feature Time

I'm feeling the need to catch up on movies - Slumdog, Milk, and Twilight. The theme: semi-gay.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Abortion and Torture

Well, I'm not convinced all living people have dignity in the eyes of God for several reasons I don't care to go into on this here blog. Doesn't mean I think they ought to be tortured, though, either. And am not interested in applying it towards abortion, which is another issue altogether.
The Watchmen

Pretty interesting read from a narrative standpoint. Question that drives the narrative - is someone knocking off Super heroes or is it just a series of coincidences gives the story a cool philosophical conundrum. Love the Rorschach character. Inserts aren't very interesting, disrupt the narrative, and were burdensome. Ensemble vs. protagonist works okay. Ending sucks. Cross cutting/non-linearity felt like post modern hipster crap young literature profs would get excited about in the early 1990s.

If this is the best GN have got - well, I can see why the audience is fairly small.
Charlie Brown

Inspired by the prescience of Charlie Brown's depiction of hipster dancing, I watched the Xmas special last night on Youtube. Things I liked: Finding the one real tree. The incessant "don't screw it up, Charlie Brown!" and his little sister saying "I just want what's coming to me." What I didn't get: Charlie Brown really isn't inept, yet everyone seems to think he is. And also - why is Charlie Brown concerned with the commercialization of Christmas?
On Uber Pretentious Lookout Combined with What I've Been Eating

1. At Sundance: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Director and Screenwriter: John Krasinski)--When her boyfriend leaves with little explanation, a doctoral candidate in anthropology tries to remedy her heartache by interviewing men about their behavior. Cast: Julianne Nicholson, John Krasinski, Timothy Hutton, Dominic Cooper, Christopher Meloni, Rashida Jones. World Premiere

Sign on theater should read: for douche bags only.

2. Blog on Games. An excerpt on Candyland. Hat tip, Robyn. An excerpt:

But to think of Candy Land in terms of its dialectical role in acculturating American children to consumerism, or indeed to think of it in mathematical terms, is to consider its external indicia, rather that its pure characteristics as a game qua game. Let us return, therefore, to its formal game nature.

And then there's this:

That message is, of course: CONSUME. Consume candy. Consume everything. But for children, candy above all; the natural childish instinct to like what in more mature mouths is repulsively lachrymose is the key, the first way in for inculcation of the consumer instinct. Candy good. Consume candy. Whine at your parent until she, or as it may be, he, buys you the packet of Lifesavers. St. Francis Xavier, founder of the Jesuits, said "Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man," meaning, of course, that if you brainwash small children with any idiot set of beliefs (like, say, the virgin birth, divinity of Christ, necessity for ritual cannibalism, and triune nature of the Godhead), you'll have them by the frontal lobes of the brain for the rest of their lives. They will never escape it. Thus, while Abbot no doubt had no such intention for her game, Candy Land also serves as an important element in the indoctrination of American youth in the cult of excessive consumption and extravagant and unnecessary use of resources, the fundament of our society and economic growth since the end of the Second World War.

As if American kids post WW2 are the only ones to like candy. Jeez. Get a life...

Now onto what I've been eating - Andes Mints. Good ole fashioned chocolate mints. Small sized. Very nice. Salad bar at Whole Foods. Semi-healthy small lunch for a day when I tried the new breakfast burrito at Whole Foods. New burrito to froo-froo for me - fake chorizo with real potatoes and some peppers, etc, that were the predominant flavor. Ate one of those S---- tangerines with some sort of Japanese name in the stores. They are this seasons Tangelo's if you ask me. What else? Had a Godmother yesterday and they made it wet with a stingy amount of meat. Had Wildflower Pizza's spaghetti and salad meal last night. It's okay. The Meatball dish is better and they use too much pasta sauce.

Over thanksgiving. Oh man, the usual. Ate at a Singaporian (sp?) restaurant in SF. Too spicy and overflavored for me. Sort of a mix of Thai, Indian, and Cambodian food. Make jook - Chinese rice porridge with Turkey carcass - one of my specialties. It's fantastic.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A New Liberal Order

I make fun of liberals a lot on this blog, but that's just because I like them. Or so says my 3rd grade teacher. But in seriousness, here is a good article (another Sher hat tip) on how economic instability has led towards a renewed interest in government intervention in the market.

The disorder that panics Americans now is not cultural but economic. If liberalism collapsed in the 1960s because its bid for cultural freedom became associated with cultural disorder, conservatism has collapsed today because its bid for economic freedom has become associated with economic disorder.

Surest way to lose votes is to see people lose the money they saved in their 401ks.
When Hipsters Dance

Do you recognize this scene:

The dance floor at a hipster party looks like it should be surrounded by quotation marks. While punk, disco and hip hop all had immersive, intimate and energetic dance styles that liberated the dancer from his/her mental states – be it the head-spinning b-boy or violent thrashings of a live punk show – the hipster has more of a joke dance. A faux shrug shuffle that mocks the very idea of dancing or, at its best, illustrates a non-committal fear of expression typified in a weird twitch/ironic twist. The dancers are too self-aware to let themselves feel any form of liberation; they shuffle along, shrugging themselves into oblivion.

A hipster party caught on video:

Hat tip, Sher.
A Reason for Melancholia

Prediction: terrorists will use a bio weapon by 2013.

Any half smart terrorist can figure out what we're expecting and do something different. The problem is the ideology and financial support.

Add this to the probable SAG strike and we're in real trouble.
The Real Reason I Left Silver Lake

An article about hipsters and how they possess a suicidal impulse are the death of Western Civilization.

Lovers of apathy and irony, hipsters are connected through a global network of blogs and shops that push forth a global vision of fashion-informed aesthetics. Loosely associated with some form of creative output, they attend art parties, take lo-fi pictures with analog cameras, ride their bikes to night clubs and sweat it up at nouveau disco-coke parties. The hipster tends to religiously blog about their daily exploits, usually while leafing through generation-defining magazines like Vice, Another Magazine and Wallpaper. This cursory and stylized lifestyle has made the hipster almost universally loathed.


Let me say this - I possess some hipster habits - the blog and the fix gear. I must come clean in the interest of full disclosure. In my defense, I don't consider this a blog of my exploits mostly because I don't have many exploits. I consider it more in the vein of punditry as unqualified as I am in that field. It may be more accurate to call me a poseur than a hipster. Regarding the fixed gear....I got a cheap bike to commute to work and one I wouldn't mind getting stolen or broken. I use it. The hills aren't bad around here and I use it to get around. Anyhow, I also drink cheap PBR, but that's because I'm cheap, not because I'm a hipster. Of course, no hipster admits to being a hipster. Oh man.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Attacks in India and Ideology

Thoughts from Mark Steryn.

This isn’t law enforcement but an ideological assault — and we’re fighting the symptoms not the cause. Islamic imperialists want an Islamic society, not just in Palestine and Kashmir but in the Netherlands and Britain, too. Their chances of getting it will be determined by the ideology’s advance among the general Muslim population, and the general Muslim population’s demographic advance among everybody else.

So Bush is history, and we have a new president who promises to heal the planet, and yet the jihadists don’t seem to have got the Obama message that there are no enemies, just friends we haven’t yet held talks without preconditions with. This isn’t about repudiating the Bush years, or withdrawing from Iraq, or even liquidating Israel. It’s bigger than that. And if you don’t have a strategy for beating back the ideology, you’ll lose.

The debate is still out over whether the issue of Islamic Terrorism is a war or a criminal matter.

By now all sports fans have heard of Plaxico shooting himself in the leg at a night club in New York. Prior to this incident, Tom Coughlin somehow managed to isolate Plaxico as the idiotic, show boat receiver he is and gotten the Giants to play together as a team for the past season and a half. Plaxico sometimes threw tantrums, sometimes didn't show up, and once in awhile was big play threat he is capable of being.

In any case, I heard some sports radio talk show folks mention the bigger issues at play - race, class, etc. Really? Are those bigger issues in play or did a dumbass shoot himself in the leg?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

A pretty apt sentiment on terror from Andrew Sullivan.

The emotional impact affects far more than the actual targets of the attacks. What I've learned these past few years - and it has been a difficult lesson for me - is that the legitimate rage at these barbarians must not cloud our judgment in figuring out how best to defeat them.

Indeed. The elephant in the room, of course, are WMDs. If these groups get their hands on one - particular a nuke - oh boy, it really is not going to be pretty.
On Politics at Work

I rather like this quote in a new George Will article.

In 1892, a Massachusetts court ruled that a policeman's speech rights had not been violated by a law forbidding certain political activities by officers. State Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: "The petitioner may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman."

The rest is about academics and proselytizing lefty values.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Al Queda released a video recently without mention of the Mumbai attacks, suggesting they had no foreknowledge of the plot. And they misspelled Lion in their translation. QC baby QC.

But in seriousness, these attacks should make clear we will be fighting Islamic radicalism for a long time to come regardless of what happens to Al Queda. Hopefully, the international community will continue to work together and collectively improve our intelligence capabilities against these assholes.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bush Underrated

I think this passage captures it.

Second, we will come, through the Obama prism, to see that Bush's sins were largely the absence of rhetorical skills, unfortunate shoot 'em braggadocio in 2003-4, the federal response to Katrina, and a certain administration haughtiness about the problems in Iraq between 2002-6, but not most of his policies that included prescription drugs, No Child Left Behind, AIDs relief in Africa, the removal of two odious regimes, and consensual governments in their places, a framework at home to stop 9/11-type terrorism, and good working partnerships with key allies abroad such as Britain, Germany, France, Italy, India, et al, and a pragmatism in handling rivals like Russia and China.
Real Consequences

Head of LA Film Festival quits over support of Prop 8.

Raddon's support for Proposition 8 has sparked debate within the gay community and Hollywood, as many publicly worry about punishing people for free speech, even speech they deemed hateful, and his departure already has provoked ambivalence.

"I'm personally saddened by the outcome," said Film Independent board member Bill Condon, the writer-director of "Dreamgirls." "Someone has lost his job and possibly his livelihood because of privately held religious beliefs. I think the organization was ready to tough this out, but Rich ultimately decided it wasn't worth the cost. I'm not sure he was right."

Am I wrong to say the message from "liberal" Hollywood is clear: we don't tolerate Mormans. Is anyone else worried about this?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Old Switcheroo

Obama decides to keep the Bush tax cuts while Bush is pleased with the Status of Forces Agreement - which is a timetable for US Troop Withdrawal.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Because I Like Picking on Hardcore Prop 8 Supporters

Although I don't know this person or if any of it's true...that's the reality of the internet age....the interview with the African American Lesbian activist regarding her interaction with Prop 8 supporters:

They wanted to use the word marriage, and you suggested marriage wasn’t a word to use with the African-American community?

Correct. For me, personally, for ULOAH, I wanted us to showcase who was funding Prop 8, and really focus on that because we know how the black community responds to marriage. If we knew the Mormon Church was one of the top supporters of Prop 8 possibly (the African-American community) would have backed off, we would have said, “hmm, let’s here a little but more about this Prop 8 and who is actually behind the scenes.”

That was our strategy, was just to give light to who was in full support of Prop 8, who was funding it. And that approach, it didn’t phase them, it was like, “No, that’s not a direction we want to go in. We want to talk about marriage equal for all, we want to talk about civil rights, we want to we want to talk about what Blacks have gone through in the 50’s and 60’s and equate that to the experience we are currently in right now,” and that is not the route we wanted to take. So I would say there may have been some issues with the approach and the agenda…and we perhaps couldn’t come to a meeting of the minds on that.

It's not that the Prop 8 opponents were wrong, they were just stupid...or rather, ran a stupid campaign.
Add It To The List

Suggested reading about America and our defense budget. Wasn't the whole point of spending during the Cold War to save money once it was over? So why are we spending more on a huge conventional army? And why would we prepare for a war against China or Russia who ought to be our strongest future allies against the 4th generation warfare of failed states.

For a sample of something you might not expect, the following, from probably the most right-wing of all the authors in the book -- a man whose cubicle wall, in the Senate office building where he worked, was adorned with a poster of Mussolini when I met him in the early 1980s. He is discussing the overall balance between the US Navy and the Russian and Chinese fleets -- especially the looming Chinese "menace" that drives the need for new US ships:

Overwhelming any comparison of fleets is the fact that war with either Russia or China would represent a catastrophic failure of American strategy. Such wars would be disastrous for all parties, regardless of their outcomes. In a world where the most important strategic reality is a non-Marxist "withering away of the state," the United States needs both Russia and China to be strong, successful states. They need the United States to be the same. Defeat of any of the three global powers by another would likely yield a new, vast, stateless region, which is to say a great victory for the forces of the Fourth Generation. No American armed service should be designed for wars our most vital interest dictates we not fight.
Prop 8

Did it lose because they ran a dumb, contemptuous campaign?

Did anyone come and say, “Hey, we need to do outreach in the African-American community together?”

Absolutely not, in fact the message I got from a key person in the No on 8 campaign was that the black vote was really going to be insignificant.

Treat people as insignificant then get mad when they don't vote with you. Hmmm. Not the way to win an election, I'm guessing.
That's A Lot of Guns

America has A LOT of guns. 89 per 100 people. Way tops in the world.

It's just part of our culture, like hamburgers, apple pie, and cars.
Good Tips

My favorite new show is The Life and Times of Tim. A New Yorker article about the creator. Some good writing advice:

But mostly, Mr. Dildarian said, he enjoys putting Tim in impossible, unsolvable situations because he finds such scenes so easy to write. “It’s partly because I’m lazy, and partly because the work comes out better,” he said. “If anything’s hard to write, I don’t write it.”

For some reason, no one seems to like the show.

So far, several critics haven’t agreed: reviewing “Tim” in The Los Angeles Times, Robert Lloyd wrote, “I didn’t find much of it funny, but on a kind of purely analytical level I can see how the jokes are supposed to work.” And on Slate, Troy Patterson said “Tim” was not so much animated as “complacently sketched in a stab at slacker minimalism.”

The only other unabashed fan apparently is one of the 14 year old kids of one of our clients. Hmmm. Maybe that should tell me something.
Bailout Bubble

With all these bailouts and the rise in gas prices earlier this year, I was really worried about inflation...mostly because inflation would hurt me personally. Inflation obviously hurts everyone, but it particularly hurts those with fairly low fixed or salary style income. In my job, I can't get more hours and earn more money.

However, rather than inflation, we're seeing deflation right now. Explained here:

One thing to keep in mind about all of those dollars being created out of thin air by the Fed: This volume of this new “money” pales in comparison to the amount of wealth that has been destroyed over the past year, particularly since this past summer. There are fewer dollars chasing after goods, hence we are seeing deflation. Housing, energy, commodities… it’s all declining as wealth is evaporating. Things that don’t decline in price, like health care and education are heavily supported/subsidized/controlled by various governments. But these too will eventually be hit by deflation.

So I suppose, I should be cheerful about deflation, especially if I was previously worried about inflation. And sure, I like paying less for gas and if I hadn't gone to grad school, maybe I'd be able to think about buying a house right now.
A Win For the Good Guys

Canada's Orwellian Human Rights Commission is getting a beat down.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Kevin Drum posts about how everyone is stupid!

As regular readers know, one of my pet peeves is the endless number of tests given to high school students and then trumpeted as evidence that kids today are abysmally ignorant. The standard headline is something like "80% of high school seniors can't find France on a map," but what I always wonder is: how many adults can find France on a map? Unfortunately, they never tell us that.

But ISI does. And the results are pretty simple: everyone is stupid. ISI themselves spin this as "Baby Boomers Do Best," but speaking ex cathedra for my generation, I really don't think that 52% vs. 47% (an average difference of less than two correct answers) says much about the awesomeness of boomer cultural literacy. Basically, the kids didn't do very well on ISI's test, but neither did the adults or the seniors, even though their average educational level is higher. This may be only a single fairly dubious data point, but it's still worth keeping in mind the next time you see one of those "Kids Are Stupid" headlines.

I'll be taking the test now and publishing the results if they make me look good.

UPDATE: Okay, so that test was a lot easier than I expected and I still got only 88% right. Some of the questions were worded pretty poorly, if you ask me, and others required either knowing precise history or came down to a 50/50 guess. Plus, I always make a careless mistake or two, which explains my long history of being an A- student.

My biggest bone is question #33:

33) If taxes equal government spending, then:

A. government debt is zero
B. printing money no longer causes inflation
C. government is not helping anybody
D. tax per person equals government spending per person
E. tax loopholes and special-interest spending are absent

None of these answers is correct, if you ask me. The test says D) is right, but D could be read as meaning - if Person A is taxed $1000, Person A receives $1000 of government spending...which is clearly wrong. They mean: Tax per person (total) = Spending per person (total), but I read it and don't think I'm totally wrong in doing so as Tax per person A = Govt spending per person A, which again, would make it wrong. I guessed A) was right because I thought the test was stupid and didn't know the difference between debt and deficit.

Precise history question -

8) In 1935 and 1936 the Supreme Court declared that important parts of the New Deal were unconstitutional. President Roosevelt responded by threatening to:
A. impeach several Supreme Court justices
B. eliminate the Supreme Court
C. appoint additional Supreme Court justices who shared his views
D. override the Supreme Court’s decisions by gaining three-quarter majorities in both houses of Congress

I knew it was C or D because those are the only Constitutionally possibilities. I know the Supreme Court expanded at some point and I know you amend the Constitution with some type of super majority of congress and I think state support...I'm vague on what's required (Gay Marriage opponents have talked about this). In hindsight, obviously I should have guessed C, but while taking the test it was a 50/50 toss up for me because I didn't have specific memory of FDR's New Deal mangereering.

My sloppy mistake was mixing up the Declaration of Independence and Constitution wording. What can I say, I haven't read either since high school. Call me an idiot.
Cool Comics Cruising

Looks pretty cool.
Plus, He's Doing A Good Job

Sullivan thinks keeping Gates is good political cover. Well, maybe...but it's only good political cover since he's actually doing a good job. The guy inherited a potentially huge foreign policy disaster - Iraq descending into Civil War and our army reaching it's break point and turned this thing around.
If So, I Long For 1960 Also

I'm just going to copy and paste.

You know what I miss? I miss 1960. Not the part about my face turning overnight into the world’s most productive zit farm. What I miss is the way the grown-ups acted about the Kennedy-Nixon race. Like the McCain-Obama race, that was a big historic deal that aroused strong feelings in the voters. This included my parents and their friends, who were fairly evenly divided, and very passionate. They’d have these major honking arguments at their cocktail parties. But unlike today, when people wear out their upper lips sneering at those who disagree with them, the 1960s grown-ups of my memory, whoever they voted for, continued to respect each other and remain good friends.

What was their secret? Gin. On any given Saturday night they consumed enough martinis to fuel an assault helicopter. But also they were capable of understanding a concept that we seem to have lost, which is that people who disagree with you politically are not necessarily evil or stupid. My parents and their friends took it for granted that most people were fundamentally decent and wanted the best for the country. So they argued by sincerely (if loudly) trying to persuade each other. They did not argue by calling each other names, which is pointless and childish, and which constitutes I would estimate 97 percent of what passes for political debate today.

The great thing is: we can actually do something about you know, having opinions based upon knowledge (vs. feelings) and you know, treating those with differing political opinions with respect rather than contempt. Doesn't seem like such a tall order.