Saturday, May 31, 2008


I'm reminded of an annoying component of recent political discourse as I listen to left, right, and center. Bob Sheerer continually accuses members of the Bush administration of being criminals. This is part of a larger trend by both sides - differences in policy are not simply differences anymore - they are criminal. How can we expect to engage in any meaningful discussion of policies when disagreements are misconstrued as criminal? And is political opposition truly supposed to face the threat of jail, etc, the moment one of us lose power? That seems to me rather unAmerican.

The band.

Friday, May 30, 2008

War on Terror Status

All over the news are interviews and articles about various Al Queda defeats - losing ideological support from former adversaries, losing the fight in Iraq (against Sunni, Iraqi govt, and US forces), Zawahiri getting hammered on jihadi websites, and the failure of AQ to launch a successful attack against the US since 9/11. The consensus of terrorism experts - liberal on conservative - is AQ is on the ropes.

And yet, the consensus on the radio at least seems to be the WOT "success" is despite the Bush Administration's various blunders across the board - as opposed to giving credit where credit *may* be due.

Here is a bad NY Post article making the right overall point.

"Title: W vs. Terror: Something's Working"

And isn't that right? It's like watching a sports team and criticizing how bad they are or look and yet they keep winning games.

Here is the diagnosis:

IT'S an article of faith on the left that the Bush administration has done nothing that has enhanced our security - rather, its alleged blunders have only contributed to the number of jihadists who want to attack us.

Empirically, however, something clearly has made us safer since 2001. Successful attacks on the United States and its interests overseas have not increased, as had been widely predicted, but instead dwindled to virtually nothing.

I agree with some of this point. It is an article of faith (as opposed to an article of reason) on the left that Bush can and will do nothing good in the WOT (or on any front). I wouldn't agree that attacks against the US have dwindled to nothing...they have transitioned from surprise attacks against civilian targets to guerrilla style attacks against our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have lost a good number of soldiers and many have been maimed by roadside bombs, etc. We've paid a cost. But this was the choice we made after 9/11 - to use our troops to protect our civilians. It's what a decent society does, after all, and the question we should ask ourselves and history will answer - is it worth it?

Others are making the point that jihadists are sowing the seeds of their own destruction - they are beating themselves and we've got nothing to do with it. In fact, I heard someone on the radio say we defeated AQ in October-November 2001 and ever since then, with the Iraq invasion, we helped prop up the jihadists for longer than they ever would have lasted.

One word: ridiculous. Totally ridiculous. The logic that jihadists were ultimately self-defeating has been around for as long as jihadists have been around. That WAS US policy towards jihad up until 9/11. These guys aren't popular with other Muslims, they don't pose a real threat to us, they will ultimately wither and die of their own accord. But facts demonstrate the error of this thinking. First, we assumed the Muslim world, both the street and the jihadists would see things the way we saw them. It turns out: they don't. They saw jihadists acting bold around the world and got either enamored or scared of them. Progressives and minorities moved away from the Mid East to Europe and the US. Anti-US sentiment rose and attacks against the US rose in both number and popularity until 9/11 hit. Finally we decided to hit back and hit back massively...but we did it smart and not indiscriminately.

Point number 2 - If you read the article on Dr. Fadl, one of the major reasons he's turned against Zawahiri (in addition to all the personal fissures) is the US reaction post-9/11. He once warned the US would strike back and destroy AQ and lead to senseless number of jihadi deaths if it were provoked too much. Zawahiri and Bin Laden thought it would provoke a massive US retaliation, thus mobilizing the Muslim world into jihad, OR cause the US to scale back it's presence in the Middle East (side note: this is the conventional wisdom anyway - I actually think it has more to do with emotional expression than rational political action...not unlike the motivation for trying to make a film or something of that nature - an expression of dissatisfaction.)

Either way, the results pre and post Iraq have been a public relations disaster for Al Queda, whose mask has been removed in the Muslim world as a violent, nihilistic opposed to the heroic, tough-guy, stand up the the US and thuggist dictators of the Middle East image they were cultivating. I suppose, like anything else, it's tough to find good personal.

Bush-haters will never give him any credit, and ask the rest of us to engage in candid criticism of the policies - which we do. They should be equally willing to engage in discussion about how his policies may have positive (as well as negative) blowback.

A suspect, a victim, bystanders.
Something Amiss

You know something is amiss when the CEO of Exxon-Mobil seems like a good guy and the CEO of ThinkFilm seems like a bad guy.
McCain - Badass Dialog

If I'm writing a screenplay and wanting to come up with good dialog - who do I choose: the McCain character or the Obama character?

Here's one vote for McCain (w/ a few gblack edits):

JG: What do you think motivates Iran?

JM: I don’t try to divine people’s motives. I look at their actions and what they say. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the state of their emotions. I do know what their nation’s stated purpose is, I do know they continue in the development of nuclear weapons, and I know that they continue to support terrorists who are bent on the destruction of the state of Israel. You’ll have to ask someone who engages in this psycho stuff to talk about their emotions.

Cheers erupt from my section of the audience.

A clue.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bring Back Short Round!

NOTE: I would warn that I am ruining the movie by reading further...but I couldn't possibly ruin this movie, it's so incredibly bad.

George Lucas is movie-poison. When the guy touches a project these days, it turns to terminal cancer and makes hundreds of millions of dollars. Too bad money can't buy a soul.

Seriously, though. The guy has lost his mind. The opening shot of Indiana Jones reveals all: an ILM generated groundhog pops out of a hole in the ground. Hunh? What the f--- was that?

Other low points:

-Indy surviving a nuclear bomb test by jumping in a fridge
-The "tell me it's a rope scene." Wouldn't survive a 532 intro directing class
-Character reactions after toppling over maybe the biggest waterfall in South America. They get out of the water like they just got off a water slide at Raging Waters. I laughed out loud at the absurdity.
-The double and triple crosses are as complicated as a character saying "I'm double crossing you!" and then later saying "I'm triple crossing you."

High points:

-Karen Allen has one nice smile.
-One good dialog exchange when Karen Allen and Indy see each other again for the first time:

"Well, my life has been really awesome!"
"My life has been incredible also!"

Was it worth the price of admission? And consider that I used a free Grove pass...NO.

***Totally weird side note: Indiana Jones part 4 is the biggest problem with America. The anti-American folks around the world should be writing about Indy 4 instead of Iraq and McDonalds...because what Indy 4 does is takes a nice successful franchise and exploits it to make shitpiles of money, which just cheapens everything. Modern America, for her wonderful attributes, does have a tendency to sell it's soul to the masses clamoring for products and crap to fill up empty time. And this is something we should be embarassed about.

The inspectors.

Another huge New Republic article on fissures in the jihadist world - major critiques of Bin Laden and Al Queda by premier jihadi thinkers. On a grassroots level, this is really good news, the idea that within a radical mosque you have debates going on about the legitimacy of Al Queda's jihad and young, potential terrorists are having to listen to alternative viewpoints. This is where the WOT will be won.

Note: violent tactics by AQ post 9/11 in Iraq, London, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are driving this turnaround. As much as the Iraq insurgency is blowback from the US invasion - so is this positive development. This will make the histories of this period even more complicated...

The murder.

A couple years ago these guys were big players in the festival/documentary, socially-do-good world of movie making. I guess the social do-gooding didn't involve paying their bills.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Rebellion Within

A massive article on the internal fissures within Al Queda's "intellectual" movement.

I put it in quotes because AQ is long discredited as any type of serious intellectual movement - even amongst Islamicist critics. But to have the authors of the texts they use to justify jihad come out and condemn the leadership, criticize them personally, and basically call out a public "bullshit," can't help but harm the movement.

Imagine Thomas Jefferson or James Madison criticizing the policies of the government and how that might take a bit of wind out your sails...

Plus, some really personal disses on Ayman Zawahiri:

"In 1977, Zawahiri asked Imam to join his group, presenting himself as a mere delegate of the organization. Imam told Al Hayat that his agreement was conditional upon meeting the Islamic scholars who Zawahiri insisted were in the group; clerical authority was essential to validate the drastic deeds these men were contemplating. The meeting never happened. “Ayman was a charlatan who used secrecy as a pretext,” Imam said. “I discovered that Ayman himself was the emir of this group, and that it didn’t have any sheikhs.”"

"Zawahiri, who had given up the names of other Al Jihad members as well, was humiliated by this betrayal." (essentially - Z was a rat)

"Their relationship had turned edgy and competitive, and, besides, Fadl held a low opinion of Zawahiri’s abilities as a surgeon. “He asked me to stand with him and teach him how to perform operations,” Fadl told Al Hayat. “I taught him until he could perform them on his own. Were it not for that, he would have been exposed, as he had contracted for a job for which he was unqualified.”" (Z was a bad doctor)

And some other thoughts that seem right:

“People hate America, and the Islamist movements feel their hatred and their impotence. Ramming America has become the shortest road to fame and leadership among the Arabs and Muslims. But what good is it if you destroy one of your enemy’s buildings, and he destroys one of your countries? What good is it if you kill one of his people, and he kills a thousand of yours? . . . That, in short, is my evaluation of 9/11.”

That's a lesson I'd hope more jihadis would learn.

As I IMd w/ Alice this morning...

I'm 30 today. But I still feel 29 and a half.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In Theory

A weird article about all the things that would happen if gas went up to $10 a gallon (not all of them bad).

But then the article pulls the rug from under itself and essentially says, "this is really unlikely to happen." Sort of like ending a movie with "it was all a dream."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Starving Artists

Freakonomics-style quandary : are artists poor because they are pursuing their craft or do they pursue their craft because they are poor?

Personal forms of art, such as writing, painting, drawing, etc, are a relatively cheap way to "keep busy" or entertain oneself. If a potential artist were rich, wouldn't their be more incentive to do fun leisure activities than pursue the rigorous and often difficult challenge of making art?

If you're poor and can't afford a fancy steak and nice wine on a hot date Friday night, it becomes increasingly more likely you'll spend time at home penning or drawing.

*note this idea came to me while reading John Fante's "Ask the Dust," where he discusses such things at length.
Things We Lost in the Fire

Granted, I haven't finished watching the movie yet, but it's awful. I read this script at an internship and really liked it. Alan Loeb was the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood for a little while because of it. But casting Halle Barry made no sense whatsoever. And then the movie is structured completely different than the script in an attempt to confuse the audience and rid the film of any meaningful tension. There are still good parts between Benicio and David D, but they spoil the 1st act by revealing the death before we even meet the character. God, what stupid choices by the filmmaker. I think the director's cut must have been super bad and some dumbass studio executive decided to take over and try to spice it up and made it even worse. Nothing is tackier than senseless non-linearity.
The Best Things In Life Are Free

Evidence: the dark red chunky salsa and chips from Baja Fresh. Delicious. My favorite salsa in world, at the moment.
The News

I clicked on CNN to see what's going on in the world and my eye scans to what is probably the most important news question of the day: Why Did Harrison Ford Wax His Chest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Piracy as a precedent for the legal definition of terrorism.

This may be the smartest critique of how the Bush Administration and the rest of the world handles terrorism...we've tried two methods, both with severe practical problems. The first was treating terrorism as a criminal act - it is how we handled the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City Bombing, and subsequent Al Queda attacks against the US. This method clearly failed. It failed practically, as incidents and support of terrorism rose during this period and it failed conceptually because criminal pursuit is designed to punish after the act - a certain low level of crime is socially preferable to the draconian measures required to enforce some sort of pre-crime system. Punishing the 9/11 hijackers after the act clearly misses the point.

Post-9/11, we've been treating terrorism as an act of war against non-state actors. We have run into problems with this policy as well, holding prisoners in Guantanamo for indefinite periods and bumping up against pressure from states on how we conduct wars of preemption. We've failed to persuade the rest of the world to embark on this "War on Terror," with the same determination, using the same methods, and consistency. This has hampered our effectiveness and not necessarily been economically and militarily efficient.

The above article adopts a new approach, rooted in an old approach, by classifying terrorists the same way pirate's used to be classified, as enemies of all of mankind, and all states. Per the article, the only way pirate's were successfully stopped were when the European states collectively decided to put a stop to it. Well worth the read.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Best Magazine

For me, no magazine is close...the Atlantic consistently delivers fascinating articles. Part of my love for it undoubtedly stems from the contrarian, left of center ethos of the editors. Be that as it may, "In the Basement of the Ivory Tower," is a great look at America through the lens of lower tier colleges.

Getting straight to the point - from the POV of an adjunct professor - some just aren't ready and never will be ready for college:

For I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.

I am the man who has to lower the hammer.

We may look mild-mannered, we adjunct instructors, but we are academic button men. I roam the halls of academe like a modern Coriolanus bearing sword and grade book, “a thing of blood, whose every motion / Was timed with dying cries.”

I knew that Ms. L.’s paper would fail. I knew it that first night in the library. But I couldn’t tell her that she wasn’t ready for an introductory English class. I wouldn’t be saving her from the humiliation of defeat by a class she simply couldn’t handle. I’d be a sexist, ageist, intellectual snob.

In her own mind, Ms. L. had triumphed over adversity. In her own mind, she was a feel-good segment on Oprah. Everyone wants to triumph. But not everyone can—in fact, most can’t. If they could, it wouldn’t be any kind of a triumph at all. Never would I want to cheapen the accomplishments of those who really have conquered college, who were able to get past their deficits and earn a diploma, maybe even climbing onto the college honor roll. That is truly something.
How To Deal With Radicals

On the Fora Tv program I referenced yesterday, the speaker argued that you cannot "dialog" with a radical. You can give a radical everything they ask for and they will continue to be radical. Worse, if you do give them want they ask for, they tend to become emboldened and ask for more without making any concessions.

The mistake the United States made in trying to broker a peace between Yasir Arafat's PA and Israel was misunderstanding Arafat. At one time, we believed he was practical and convinced the Israeli's to "give peace a chance," at Oslo. We gave him public recognition - the Nobel Peace Prize - and offered him 90% of what the Palestinian people claimed to "want." The only thing they left out was a bit of land and the "right of return," or in essence, the demographic dissolution of the Jewish state. But Arafat - because he was always a radical - could not accept these terms. Some argue if he accepted, he was worried about being assassinated by Palestinians, which may have been true. His own poisonous environment coming back to bite him in the ass.

The radical, he argues, only understands confrontation and threat. You must confront and cannot appease a radical. Here is example: a FARC commander is surrendering and recommending the same for her comrades.

For those who wonder when/how the WOT will end: this is it - in their complete surrender. Not because WE want war, on the contrary, because we want a lasting peace. Islamic Terrorists are radicals and thusly, no lasting peace can be breached with them.
A Reshuffling

Very good variety article on the status of the movie business and why there is a big talent-agent shuffle right now.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fora TV

This website has an endless supply of great recorded programs discussing foreign policy from many of top thinkers in the world. It's the equivalent of the Treatment and DVD extras for filmmakers, except for foreign policy and world affairs.

I just listened to a long program with the Israeli architect of plan to unilaterally withdrawal from Gaza. The most interesting part of the program was his analysis of Palestinian society and about dealing with radical leaders. He argues, persuasively, that Palestinian civil society is essentially non-existent. It is broken, tribalized, and unable to function like a healthy society. The problem is not the election of Hamas - the problem is that Palestinian society will not "go along" with any actions of a responsible government. There is no Palestinian leadership who is able to negotiate with Israel because none of the Palestinian militias will go along with any decision made. Inter-fighting between Palestinian factions causes more Palestinian deaths than Israeli-Palestinian violence.

A couple of interesting facts: per capita, the Palestinians received 6 times the amount of money as Europeans did during the Marshall plan. Europe was devastated after WWII and has re-built an entire continent since that time. In Gaza, during celebrations, guns are routinely fired into the air. The cost of one bullet in Gaza is the same as a crate of tomatoes. He says look - these people shoot guns into the air for any type of celebration and then beg Europe for money because they can't eat.

It's like dealing with a drug addict. Impossible.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama - McCain

The best part of a potential McCain-Obama race is the potential for good, honest debate about American foreign policy that won't get bogged down in stupidity.
Burma Intervention

I'm open to listening to arguments in favor of humiliating a despotic regime. But gimme a break...there's no way to sell this to the American public and certainly no political will for America to spearhead this campaign. It's almost absurd to even talk about it...even though it probably would be the "right" thing to do.
Angelia Jolie on Why We Should Stay In Iraq

Well, this is rather interesting.

And surprisingly well written. I wonder if she wrote it herself.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Said This Yesterday

The Washington Post is catching up to me.
Wanna Be Happier?

Find God and Milton Freidman.

Freaknomics four part series examining happiness. It turns out the follow are true:

1. Conservatives are more happy than Liberals
2. Religious people are more happy than non-religious people
3. Rich people are happier than poor people.
4. Extremists are more happy than moderates.

So...being a rich, right wing religious extremist is probably your best bet for achieving happiness and well being. I imagine this doesn't hold up, however, should you choose to blow up the nearest Federal Building and go to jail.

I haven't checked, but I wonder what the odds on Utah winning the Laker series is right now. The Lakers looked vulnerable last night. And this is indisputable:

When the Jazz got close to the basket, there was more contact than in a rush-hour crowd shoving into the subway, but rarely a blown whistle. Meanwhile, at the other end, Lamar Odom breezed past Carlos Boozer for a layup and got a gift and-one. And Utah players and coaches are still wondering how Mehmet Okur could wind up sprawling toward the baseline, leaving Pau Gasol alone under the basket for an easy offensive rebound and dunk to put the Lakers ahead by five points with 20.5 seconds remaining.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ohhh...The Onion

Headline says it all: Nation's Slicked-Back-Hair Men Rally Against Negative Hollywood Portrayal
Why Do Congressmen Do This?

Arlen Spector is threatening Judiciary hearings for the NFL's weak response to spygate and the Patriots.

Does he realize how stupid this makes him look? Uhhhh...there's a war, a recession, a housing crisis, an election, a falling dollar, increasing oil short, a lot is going on, and Spector is yapping on about the NFL? What a tool.

Which, by the way, brings up another question: What does it mean to be a conservative anymore? I've long argued the Iraq war is the liberal internationalist war and harshly critiqued liberals (on this blog) for their mealy-mouthed and frankly - wussy - reaction to both Islamic Extremism and Saddam's uniquely retarded version of fascism. Also, I've critiqued their blanket anti-Bush sentiment as being a lazy excuse for discourse.

But now it's the conservative's turn. What do conservatives do upon getting control of the White House and Congress? Get involved with costly and difficult foreign adventures, plunge us into recession and try to spend our way out of it, increase the deficit and decrease taxes - basically, the exact opposite of fiscal responsibility. In general, they act in the exact way they (rightly) critique liberals of acting - spending emotionally and impulsively, not showing any restraint with their power, and just in general, acting like blowhards and douche bags by getting involved with baseball and the nfl scandals. Dudes...stand back...don't put your nose in everyone's beezuss and act, well, conservative.
Bad Laws With Good Outcomes

An interesting look on liquor rules in Philly restaurants due to dumb liquor board laws.
Movie Club

Silent movie theater starts it up.

Hat tip, Viner.

I saw 1 and 3/4 movies the other night...Steve Mcqueen singing in "Baby, The Rain Must Fall" and "Mo." Words will not explain.
Too Bad

One of, if not my favorite, tennis players - man or woman - abruptly retired today.

Hats off to Henin.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

529 College Saving Plans

Although I don't have children (or a wife. or a girlfriend for that matter.) I am still posting a decent link on college saving myths.

These are basically Roth 401k's for kid's college instead of retirement.

A study shows how one walks affects their attractiveness.

Color me a bit skeptical on that one...then again, didn't CCR say the same in Susie Q:

"I like the way she talks, I like the way she walks...Susie Q..."
Thoughts on the NBA Playoffs

Awhile back I ruminated about the NBA revival. In particular, a series of strong teams in the West, coupled with an East with the best player in the league - LaBron, the best team in the league - the Celtics, and an old, but still tough, Pistons team. After watching the Celtics and Lakers the past week, and the fairly weak exits by the Suns and the Mavs, I'm beginning to rethink my assessment.

Also, listening to Barkley and Magic on TNT last night completely tearing Boston a new asshole, it made me realize the NBA has good parity right now, but no super strong teams.

Let me break down my impressions of teams/players.

LaBron - the dude can't shoot. Much is made of this dunk (which I sort of think Garnett should of gone up and molested, but easier said...) Can't teams just follow the Boston model? Play 5 men defense on the guy and don't let him get to the basket, force him to shoot jump shots and work hard...that shot is fairly ugly...he'll hit between 20-40 percent. Big deal! As a side note, LaBron telling his mom to sit down was a totally awesome moment last night. You forget the guy is 23 years old sometimes...and also...did a guy of his size come out of a woman that size? Doesn't make genetic sense to me.

Boston - Barkley nailed it...they don't get easy baskets. They play ugly. Garnett can't score in the clutch. This team has real trouble winning close games. If they get by Cleveland - which they will - Detroit has a serious chance to beat them.

Detroit is such a weird, cocky team. They act like they're too good to be playing with the teams they're playing against and then lose. I've been on teams like's awful. You hate to root for them. The thing is - they're also the most talented team in the East when Billups is playing well. They are also old, and we saw that in the Philly series...a young, run and gun, team could really give them trouble. New Orleans?

Kobe and the Lakers - If LaBron can't shoot, Kobe can't pass. LaBron's most impressive play to me last night was his drive and no-look dish to teammate for a lay up in the closing minutes. The prior night, Kobe is hurting and what does he do in the final minutes of the Utah game? Try to drive and shoot or toss up "hero" shots and miss...while you have a 7 foot offensive machine named Gasol who doesn't get a shot in the entire overtime. A great player has got to know his limitations and Kobe, to me, will never be great unless he learns to make his teammates better. Jordan forced his teammates to higher level out of fear of his wrath. Do you remember how good Scottie Pippin was back in the day? Then he goes to Portland and didn't have the same fire. Magic made everyone on his team better. So did Bird. So does Chris Paul. So does Tim Duncan. Kobe doesn't, and despite being the most talented player in the game, he somehow always seems to alienate his teammates and never trust them. It's why I can't bring myself to root for the guy.

Utah - How can you win a series when you're the lower seed and you can't win on the road? That being said, this Utah team has grown on me and I like their mix of guys. I can't see how they win a championship, however, without a great player when the league has so many great players out there.

New Orleans - My favorite team to watch. Chris Paul is unbelievable.

San Antonio - They are a really, really hard team to beat. But I don't like watching them, even though Parker and Ginobli should by all things considered, be players I like. I think my problem is with Duncan. He's a great player, but his style is slow and methodical and is a reflection of how San Antonio plays. They play like the German's play soccer, overwhelming size, strength, discipline. They don't make mistakes, don't take big risks, and allow other teams to in a way, beat themselves. In short, they are the perfect "bad guy."

Series I'd like to see:



Monday, May 12, 2008

Who Gives A Shit?

Muslims might be angry at Obama for converting from Muslim->Christian when they find out. For those who get upset at such things, I'd like to give a big fat-ass middle finger. This isn't about being sensitive to other cultures and religions and ways of's about freedom of religion. And if a man/woman can't choose his or her own religion - or we're not willing to stand up for that right - well then, what the hell do we stand for?

If Saudi Arabia or any of the other Muslim nations have a problem with it, we should tell them to shove their oil up their ass and we'll bike and drive corn cars until they internally collapse. Let them try to figure out desalination and oil refinement on their own and see how efficient and productive they are.
Don't Want to Say This Out Loud

...especially around women over 40...but Sex and the City The Movie: Aren't the women just a little too old now? I mean who wants to watch these ladies romping around dating. Go home and bug your kids to do homework. Seriously.

In the words of Chris Rock, "40 year old titty is your man's titty. 20 year titty - community titty."
Israel and Survival

I owe the Atlantic $15 and so they didn't send me the latest issue about Israel. I was skipping all the other Israel turning 60 stuff to read the Atlantic's usually awesome coverage. But I've been slow and lame. So I read this Hitchens article instead.

Quite good.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Invade Iran!

I think we should invade Iran...with Barbie Dolls.
Do You Even Bother To Compost Your Own Feces?

My vote for the best line of the year in 30 Rock.
That's A Fine Question

How can you ask others to reduce their carbon footprint when you don't do it yourself?

Friday, May 09, 2008

More on Fixed-Gear Culture

An cool NY Times article on Fixed Gear bike culture.

In this past week of riding, I figured out why bike messengers use fix speeds: at stoplights (which are the least pleasant element of riding in an urban environment), it is easy to balance and stay "on" the bike. Nothing sucks more than needing to take your feet off the pedal as you're waiting for the light. It is much more preferable to be able to balance and start riding from a standstill...which I imagine is easier on a fixed gear.

With my bike, I'm stuck sometimes trying to circle around and lean on posts, etc, trying to stay "on" the bike. A fixie would be easier to maneuver in small spaces.

I never would've come across this info if it weren't for how much I was enjoying my new bike. Frankly, I don't care for these attempts to define "movements" and the weird, sub-culture and fetishization of the fixed gear bike, exemplified here:

Mr. Coast, who works surrounded by Bridgeport lathes, jigs and blueprints, is a believer in fixies as a metaphorical extension of a squatters’ lifestyle that connotes, as he puts it, “living a certain way, subsisting on recycling, not wasting, finding liberation, freedom as a revolutionary act, like in a Hakim Bey sense, primitivist, spiritualist anarchism.”

I am more attracted to the following appeal:

Track bikes are not made for street,” he conceded, “and sometimes I need a hope and a prayer to stop short.” But he rhapsodized about their charms. “It’s like playing chess,” he said. “You think out your moves from a block away.”

When I ride to work, I think about my route. Without gears, you can't take a steep hill. Any hill is a challenge and you need to build up speed to make it ridable. Now, when I ride around the streets, I'm aware of terrain, space, incline, stop and go, traffic. I also see more of the land and the people and the houses in my neighborhood.

I don't think I'm hardcore enough to get a true "fixie" but I'm incredibly happy with the simplicity, weight, and the mental and physical exercise in this new bike.
The Green Issue

I agree with about 75% of the sentiment of this article, which is about how specialization in modern society contributes to global warming - how we as citizens see ourselves as separated from our consumption and actions.

My favorite bits:

I don’t know about you, but for me the most upsetting moment in “An Inconvenient Truth” came long after Al Gore scared the hell out of me, constructing an utterly convincing case that the very survival of life on earth as we know it is threatened by climate change. No, the really dark moment came during the closing credits, when we are asked to . . . change our light bulbs. That’s when it got really depressing. The immense disproportion between the magnitude of the problem Gore had described and the puniness of what he was asking us to do about it was enough to sink your heart.

I didn't watch "An Inconvenient Truth." But this reaction sums up a lot about how I feel about the "environmental movement" today. So much is invested in trying to scare the living shit out of me, or to chastise others for doing nothing, but there is very little suggestion-wise for practically lowering one's own carbon footprint.

That being said, the past 6 months, I've been steadily improving my carbon footprint. This is not because of a newfound concern with the environment, but because of a few practical decision and lucky circumstances.

The most impressive was moving from Silverlake to Santa Monica to stop an unbearable commute. The cost to me: I don't like my apartment as much. The benefit: saving an hour each way, saving all that gas money (which also helps the environment), also a lot less wear on the car, and lower rent (although again, this was a side concern which was by luck and not design). But the environment is happier because it reduced my overall footprint by a ton...I'm not sure my footprint's been this low since Middle School when I could walk down the street to school each day.

Secondly, I got a bike and rode to work every day this week. I love it! It's fun, probably a bit more dangerous - I almost hit a lady walking two days ago and there are a lot of cars around, but whatever, it's totally fun. Again - footprint lower.

So I'm happy to lessoning my own footprint, but haven't made major overall changes to my lifestyle. If anything, it mostly was a financial and practical decision to move, and the environment is a side concern.

With respect to eating meat and growing my own veggies...not gonna happen. I love meat and will continue to eat it. Sorry, environment.

I must try this Taco place sometime soon.

The Taco is a great invention. Simple, cheap, delicious...

I like a variety of different Taco styles. Cheesy-American style tacos made with ground beef are fantastic. As are the hardcore Mexican style tacos right out of the truck with just meat and cilantro and sometimes lime juice. Chipotle tacos, taco bell tacos, big tacos, small tacos. I like them all! Tacos, rejoice! Let's hear it for the Taco!
Too Bad

US Military reports AQ leader in Iraq definitely NOT captured

Strikes me the criticism that the West doesn't understand Iraq is true...but is it also strikes me as true that the Iraqi's don't really understand Iraq, either.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Al Queda in Iraq Leader Captured

I hope this is true.

If so, AQ seems to be reeling in Iraq way more than in Pakistan/Afghanistan. Should we be talking about pulling out of Central Asia?
Really Dumb Paragraph In An Otherwise Good Article

The closing bit on an article about Chris Paul:

A lot has been made of his fearlessness, rightfully so. And a lot has been made of his poise under pressure, rightfully so. But the defining feature of Chris Paul right now is something even more elemental and impressive and captivating than those things. Chris Paul is being Chris Paul. Young, fast, creative, tough, eager and gifted. He's being Chris Paul completely. Without reservation. Tirelessly. Without complication.

I'd have trouble looking at myself in the mirror if I wrote something as vacuous as that. Do people mistake writing like this for profundity?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Perks of Recession?

Baseball ticket sales are up because of recession woes. Why? Cost of time is cheaper when you're unemployed.

Is the related true for movies? It certainly should be - with more free time and less disposable income - movie-going should be an attractive alternative to expensive dinners, vacations, and other leisure activities.

RELATED THOUGHT: I've gotten quite a bit of shit for not completing a short film project I shot in San Francisco the summer before I graduated from film school. I am reminded of it this week as my friend, who acted in the project, is visiting. One of the principal reasons for not yet completing this film is related to opportunity cost. When I returned from the shoot, my employment opportunities increased incredibly. First, I was "promoted" in my SPO position to lead SA which meant more work, I got a side job on a game project, and really started to buckle down on writing my thesis script. Because there was no deadline or financial incentive to finish the SF project, it got put to the side.

The let up did not stop after graduation (although I thought it would). I knew I needed some income to pay rent, so I started a job with Netflix and decided to use my free time to write, thinking the writing, moreso than the short would be the smarter move towards procuring more work. Needless to say, a similar pattern has ensued. Post film school my TIME because more valuable and the project had less RELATIVE value than say a class project which had sunk tuition costs and other benefits - ie grades, etc. that my independent project did not.

ANOTHER RELATED THOUGHT: Hire an editor, you say. Well, actually, Chuck did a first cut of the film. The problem with asking for any more of Chuck's time (or anyone else for that matter) was that it would require money. And despite the opportunity cost of my time increasing, it didn't increase to the point where actually hiring an editor was sensible. But more importantly, I still needed time to give the cut direction - an editor alone could not finish the project. And I wasn't willing to spend that time - yet. Maybe this summer, although it's not as if my time is getting cheaper - on the contrary - it's getting more expensive.
I Don't Get It

With Rich Harden coming back the A's - get this - have too much starting pitching. They are stuck with 6 decent starters, which is why they have the 3rd best record in the American league, despite a no-name clubhouse. How do they manage to develop young pitchers like this? How do they get a Cy Young for Barry Zito and with the Giant's he's gonna lose 20 games this year? Can someone explain this?

Gut feeling: she is pondering dropping out.
I'm Michael Bluth

Who rode his bike to work along the beach? That's right, suckas!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

CIA Book

On the Psychology of Intelligence posted online.

Could this be a dummy book to throw off rival intelligence services?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Recession Worries?

Is there reason to be worried? Article outlines the indicators to watch.
In Contrast

Iron Man was fine - silly fun on a Sunday evening. The bar on super hero movies, for me, is now the Incredibles, where it explores a larger theme within the super-hero setting. Most super-hero movies these days are more or less character explorations within an action movie. The Incredibles was an exploration of mediocrity and how it stifles greatness.

Looks like we'll be seeing a lot more of this Super Hero crap.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Red Belt

I keep thinking about this film. I saw it Friday evening and liked it more than my companion. His biggest critiques were the lack of cinematic artistry (ie more like a play and lots of close-ups...a generally plain camera style) and some clumsy scene work. I think he is correct in his criticism, the scene which really jumps starts the movie is a bit awkward and the camera work is simple.

But the movie is damn good. And in thinking about it more, I realize I am forgiving towards movies which deal with male characters drawn into crisis when their moral code is threatened. In Red Belt, the central character is a Jijitsu trainer, well regarded in his community, opposed to tournament fighting, who gets drawn into the competitive world of UFC-style fighting when mounting debts and outside pressures draw him in. It become a story about a spiritual crisis, where a man tries to live by his own code while the world around him forces him to compromise that code.

With respect to the filmmaking, I appreciate thrifty films with solid performances and good writing. What it may lack in cinematic artistry is made up for by a timely look at a sport on the edge of hitting the mainstream, stylish dialog, and overall great casting populating the film. It felt like a project with a lot of passion around it.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Well, not exactly. I just bought a single speed bike for commuting to work (not a fixie which is a one speed for super skilled riders and won't move with pedaling forward and sometimes doesn't even have brakes). I'm incredibly excited. This morning I already did several errands around SM driving around on the bike. So awesome. Quicker than walking, not having to deal with a car. Amazing. I got a simple commuting-style single speed bike which I guess are quite popular in SM and around the beach because of the flat terrain. They are much lighter and faster and more efficient than a beach cruiser, and without the complexity, expense, and weight of a nice road bike or mountain bike. My biggest concerns with getting a bike were getting it stolen, but they way this bike is designed, without quick releases, it seems less likely to get stolen. Plus, it looks cool.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Smart Guy

Robert Reich talks about labor and economics at Freakonomics. My favorite bits:

Q: Overwork was one of the central themes of your 2001 book, The Future of Success. I wonder if you could comment on the extent to which economists have contributed to overwork by misinformed policy prescriptions?

A: Economists tend to believe that economic efficiency and economic growth are the two most important values. Therefore, any policies that reduce the incentive to work hard are suspect. (Economists worry, for example, that a higher Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers may discourage them from working harder, since wage increases would lead to correspondingly larger declines in the E.I.T.C. wage subsidy.)

This strikes me as wrong-headed. The economy exists to make our lives better; we do not exist to make the economy better.


Q: As an educator, what skills/courses do you recommend to your students to ensure their job security? What if you’re too old to be an auto mechanic, but loathe the thought of getting an M.B.A.?

A: I tell my students there’s no job security in the economy they’re entering, but if they want employability security — a good chance of maintaining a fairly good paycheck — they need to master a domain of knowledge during their undergraduate years adequately enough to enable them to continue to learn on and off the job from then onward. The old domain will become obsolete, but their learning skills won’t.

Auto mechanics, for example, can become automotive technicians who install, fix, and upgrade all the electronics that now comprise a significant part of the modern automobile.

But don’t get an M.B.A.! We have too many M.B.A.’s as it is, and they’re killing the economy!
Awesome Blog


Recently, I sometimes find myself washed over with an overwhelming sense of boredom. Like I don't want to read, write, work, or really do much of anything...I'm restless. I get annoyed because I feel like a bratty kid as opposed to the mature, thoughtful, easy going adult it says I am on my internet dating profile.