Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Palin w/ Couric

I caught a brief interview w/ Palin on CBS news this early evening. She didn't do bad. The one answer I couldn't tolerate was a non-answer when Couric asked her what newspapers/magazines she read. She said "all of them." Couric almost laughed and was like, "no, which newspapers/magazines specifically do you read." Palin said, "you know, people think Alaska is like some foreign country, but we're really just a microcosm of America." I was like, no Palin, she just asked you what newspapers you read. I suspect she may not. A tad scary.

Then she talked about how she thought science - not creationism - should be taught in schools and how she believed in a culture of life, but obviously wasn't interested in locking anyone up for having an abortion. On all the rest of it, I thought she handled herself quite well.

I doubt there will be a better magazine cover this year.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Iran and Nukes

According to Robert Baer, Bush already vetoed Israel's desire to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.

I suppose he doesn't get any credit for that from the left...who insist Bush wants an excuse to bomb Iran. Nevertheless, I suspect Baer is right: a deal can be cut. We're clearly already working with the Iranians to stem the violence in Iraq. Long ago, I proposed a grand bargain with the state.

Clearly, the Iranians have a good deal of leverage right now. If they are at all pragmatic, they must recognize this and be willing to negotiate. Or maybe they think by getting nukes at the moment, they'll have more long term leverage. They look at Iraq and see a weak rival. They look at oil revenues and see riches and future riches and they see the possibility of having a nuke and being a world power.

But they also must look at two long term issues: the sustainability of oil revenue and their more liberal younger generation. Islamic rule is not popular with the younger generation of Iranians and unlike Iraq, where Saddam ran the place like a demented prison, Iran's demographic future has promise. There are clearly at least some liberal and less hardline voices in within Iran. So the long term game may favor us - as new technologies arise, our dependence on oil should drop and hurt the Iranian economy. And in 20 years, a new generation of Iranians will be coming to power, presumably more liberal than the current generation. In Iran, unlike in Iraq, time may be on our side.

And a country vying to become a world power has something to lose - so our strategy becomes military containment, protecting our ally (Israel), sewing seeds of liberalism among the young, and waiting it out.

Well...at least it's an idea.

The more I read about her foreign policy knowledge, the more it worries me. If it's possible I know more about Foreign Policy than Sarah Palin, then rest assured, she isn't qualified to be VP.

She may be a great mom, a good person, and a charismatic young politician. And I highly doubt she is evil or anti-feminist or any other of the other ridiculous charges I've heard leveled against her. But right now, I'm deeply suspicious about her competence. I mean, I wouldn't hire a talented first time director to make the next Batman movie. It just doesn't make any sense.

I guess we'll see a glimpse on Thursday night.
Grades and Success

A post that starts out asking whether good grades lead to success and then devolves into a much more interesting subject - trying to define success.
Tom Perrotta vs. John Hughes

On why he doesn't like The Breakfast Club.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sullivan is Such An Obama Shill

I find it annoying. Sullivan is a great writer and incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the world. But he isn't objective. He gets all wrapped up and gung ho about one side or the other. When I first started reading him - it was the anti-war left who received most of his contempt. Then it switched to Bush when the war went sour. And then it turned into Obama gushing.

The problem is - he espouses doubt as a critical principal - his doubt about human nature and the ability to change the world is what grounds him as a conservative. It also drives his religious beliefs and is why he supports Obama - because he thinks Obama better reflects doubt and nuance than the certainty of the Bush administration and now, his perception of McCain.

What I find annoying: he espouses doubt, but doesn't apply it to any of his own positions. He passionately takes up causes and goes berserk over them, constantly criticizing those who disagree for their lack of doubt, and yet, expresses none of his own. He was flat-out wrong about the surge and to take his own position, wrong about the initial invasion. And he wasn't just subtly wrong - he was hugely, passionately wrong. Read his old columns about supporting the Iraq invasion, full of moral righteousness about removing Saddam, the evil dictator with WMDs and deriding the anti-war left for their inability to see evil when confronted with it. And then the turn around and tossing all of his anger towards the Bush administration for screwing the pooch and then railing against the surge as a continuation of a failed strategy. Yet it was precisely the opposite, a change in strategy that has salvaged either the war itself, or at the very least, saving the Iraq project from a total disaster. Either way, Sullivan was wrong.

I'll give him credit to copping to it later - he recognizes Gates and Patraeus's contributions to turning things around and if you agree with his anti-war positions - coming around to that as well after supporting the initial invasion. But one would think he might want to temper his ranting and raving and righteousness after being self-admittedly wrong so many times before about especially big issues to him.

In any case, this rant of my own came about from a small detail. He mentions in his Obama gush-fest McCain's inability to look at Obama throughout the debate and even afterwards as they shake hands. He interprets this as insecurity. Uh no. This is contempt. Or maybe something a bit more mild. McCain truly doesn't feel Obama belongs on the same stage as him. He thinks he's better than Obama. He may be right or may be wrong. But it isn't rooted in insecurity at all. It is rooted in a deep sense of "I'm better than him and can't believe no one else sees it but me." Again, McCain may be wrong, but it is arrogance which makes him feel this way, not insecurity. (Please no one try to make the bs psychoanalytical connection between the two). Look - the way McCain sees it - he served his country and performed his duty with honor. He fought for this country and lived in a Hanoi pit of hell for five years to save his honor. At a similar age, Obama spent time community organizing - a fru-fru profession trying to save the world with no obvious success in doing so and attending law school and working for a few years at a law firm. McCain was getting his teeth bashed in. Then, McCain comes home and works as Maverick Senator for 25 years, reaching across the aisle to try and govern and make this country a better place, learning first hand detail about our nations wars and foreign policy, the nature of different countries and their governments, trying to fix corruption in Washington and doing campaign finance reform. He fought with Democrats, he fought with Republicans, and made close friends with people on both sides. He earned everyone's respect by being himself and building relationships and governing well. Meanwhile, Obama, who is undoubtedly a bright young man, hits upon a wave of cultural popularity - he is a cultural phenomenon. Which is why McCain compared him to Britney Spears...three years ago no one knew who this guy was. But suddenly, he's got Che Guevera like buttons and shirts. Again, I don't this this tells the whole story, but I think it at least explains McCain's contempt for not Obama - the person, but Obama-the phenomenon. All McCain has done is live his life as an exceptional person, whereas Obama hit the jackpot and has become a figurehead of a cultural moment.

This is why McCain can't look at the guy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate Thoughts

Okay...I watched it with a group of people and could only pay attention to about 50% of it. My initial impression was that McCain did a letter better than Obama. Part of that has to do with my expectations - I associate Obama with being a great speaker, cogent, articulate, etc. Whereas, I see McCain as clutsy and stumbling with words. I was struck, a bit, about how McCain seemed to have quite exhaustive knowledge on foreign issues and it made Obama look a little bit like a guy whose merely read a lot of books.

I think McCain did a good job about discussing the issue he is passionate about - national security - and how defeat can be catastrophic to the spirit of an army. His linking of a working strategy in Iraq to a proposed new strategy in Afghanistan made sense to me.

I don't understand why Obama didn't hit a little bit harder on the issue of resources, which is particular resonant right now with the Wall Street crisis and how Iraq - whether it was a wise strategic move or not - is ultimately also an issue of resources. Why didn't he try to pin McCain on the issue of how much is it going to cost and try to frame Iraq as not the only issue that faces America today. I also don't like how he keeps going back to opposing the war in the first place. Everyone knows that already. It's like if McCain kept bringing up he was tortured by the Vietcong. Alright buddy, we know the story. Don't need to hammer it home.

Fact remains, I don't think debates swing campaigns. I like them as information and entertainment. I much prefer them to stump speeches. I like when they go at each other a bit more. Maybe I'll need to rewatch this at some point, but I doubt it.

Also of note, McCain clearly has contempt for Obama. He didn't even look at him throughout the debate. He just thinks he's facing some cocky rookie.

On a total side note, on my way home I was listening to the radio commentary and spacing out a bit...worked a long hard day and had a few drinks. I'm waiting at a stop light and hear a faint honk behind me. I realize I'm at a right turn and can go on read. No big deal, right? So I go. Then by the next light a big Dodge pick up truck with tinted windows comes in and cuts me off right in front of the red light - really purposeless. I laugh and shrug - it's one of those - all right, buddy, that was a totally pointless driving maneuver. I'm too tired to give a shit. I'm driving a long Lincoln and the Dodge is in front of me, so I decide to come around and see what this douche bag looks like. As I pull up a big fatass hand sticks out the middle finger to me. Que me? I think. So I keep going and we pull up next to each other at the next stop light. He's yelling and I can't hear, so I roll down the window,

"Did I do something to you dude?"
"Fucking turn right on red you asshole!"
"That's what you're mad about - me not turning right on red?"
"Fuck you, I'm in a hurry, I'll pull over right now and kick your ass."
"You're mad over not turning right on a red?"
"You don't turn right because of the fucking cops?! Fuck you, man, I'm in a hurry." (there was a cop there - but I wasn't even thinking about it)
"You're crazy, dude. Totally crazy." I'm laughing at this point. The guy had those really fat arms - not exactly causing me to physically worry.
"Fuck you asshole. I'll kick your ass. Don't fucking laugh at me."
"Is something wrong with you, man?"
"Fuck you!"

There's nothing else to be said, so I shake my head and roll up the window. And then he rolls up his window because I think he began to realize his own colossal stupidity. I didn't feel like it was worth pointing out his illogic - he was angry over the 3 seconds I wasted him by not turning right, but wanted to pull over and fight on the side of Lincoln, which would have taken 5-10 minutes at least. I mean - where do you find these people? Do they train retards somewhere and give them big pick up trucks and let them cruise Lincoln street for a couple hours on a Friday evening before taking them back to the retard asylum. What type of role could this douche-bag play in society?

Anyhow, he sped away at the light really fast because he obviously had to be somewhere important. This is the second time I've seen road rage in LA. One time in traffic on Sunset some guy got out of his car and came up to me - I can't even remember what had happened. Maybe I cut him off. He was literally out of the car and wanted to fight. I think I was like, "Sorry dude, my bad." And he was yelling and freaking out and going crazy, and was like "What do you want me to do, what's done is done?"

To engage some loony on the road over something tiny and ridiculous seems to me a huge waste of time and potentially dangerous. If someone is nutty enough to freak over a right turn on red, there is seriously something wrong with their brain. I mean, I'm all in favor of right turns on reds. If someone forgets - give 'em toot, by all means. If you're really mad, a contemptible look. That I could tolerate. But the finger? And the offer to fight? Come on now...
Suggestion for Landlords

Don't get drunk in the middle of the day and come over and bug the tenants when they are trying to finish up work so they can get to drinking and watching debates. It's just irritating. When you want to be drinking, and working hard so you can be entitled to drink, it's irritating to see others drunk and uncomfortable when making sexual jokes. BTW - old people - be put on notice - sex jokes by you guys are just weird and creepy.
Barber Shop Wisdom

Chris Rock is funny. Now, that was a waste of words.

KING: You must be ... proud that at this stage in our history a black man is running for president on a major ticket.

ROCK: Um, you know what? I'm proud Barack Obama's running for president. You know? If it was Flavor Flav, would I be proud? No. I don't support Barack Obama because he's black.

I look forward to a day when a black man and a white man can be on stage together talking - just like regular guys - when the white man doesn't have to play the doofus. Is that too much to ask?
Bailout vs. Insurance

What the House Republicans want instead of the Paulson bailout.

Interesting to me on two levels: the political gamesmanship and the different bailout theories.

"I'm single, celibate, and sexy."

Me too, buddy.
Come On, Now...

Someone better give Public Musings some props here. I broke the Rosh Hashanah story before both Defamer and now, Nikki Finke.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm Not Going to Panic, But...

If you just go to CNN right now and read between the headlines:

1. Our troops are shooting at troops with a nuclear bomb.

2. Our financial system is in shambles, so much so, we have a bunch of government clowns debating over the bailout proposal. In my limited life experience, decisions crunched out like this in times of crisis are generally not good.

Recession Reading

How to benefit from recession? Can one live both cheaper and better? Example: read a library book instead of going out and boozing. Healthier, better for the soul, and cheaper. Anyhow, a book with more tips. A blog post about the book.
Clinton Shilling For McCain

In case it isn't obvious - Bill Clinton wants McCain to win so he can be back in the White House as first man in 2012.
On the Bailout

Howard Rodman of the USC Screenwriting Department and now Huffington Post contributor breaks down the bailout. I love how conservative liberals suddenly become when it comes to government intervention and how liberal-minded conservatives become when it comes to needing help.
Reprinting an Email

I don't normally do this, but the email is too funny, for those of us who live in assistant-land:

Hey Ryan-

I’m sorry, b/c I’m covering for Lindsey’s usual asst., could you tell me, who’s Rosh Hashanah and why would he/she affect Kristi’s meeting with KN and MC?

Thanks! I really appreciate it!


UPDATE: Now it's on Defamer.
Impulse Decision

McCain makes impulse decisions when they aren't necessary. His decision to suspend his campaign and probably miss the debate doesn't make sense. Yesterday I suggest he was wussing out. I don't really think it's the case. I think he simply has a tendency to "go with his gut," and is too old and stubborn to change. When his gut is wrong, he looks silly and either backtracks or just keeps going. Sometimes, this kind of decision-making is best. In sports, for instance. Taking the extra base in baseball. Taking it right at the defender in soccer. In war, I assume, it is equally smart - the keep the enemy off balance.

But in terms of governing and creating policy, I don't see how gut-level decision making is the smart way to go. Certain activities and decisions should be the result of deliberate thought - writing a novel, getting married, buying a home. Impulse may play a part in these things - a moment of inspiration, love at first sight, or that first - blink - moment you see a house and know you want to move in. But you temper those moments with thought and deliberation. Anyhow - McCain's done it twice now on major public decisions - the Palin pick and the suspension of his campaign. I suspect he got it right (for him) on Palin and wrong (for him) on suspending the campaign. .500 is a good batting average, but pretty shitty when it comes to public policy.
Soccer Player Murdered

His ex-girlfriend hired thugs to do it.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008


A piece on McCain from the Atlantic (which is like the HBO of magazines, if you ask me).

As opposed to Andrew Sullivan's hyperbole, this piece gives a good sense of how McCain's mind works and what issues (war) he is passionate about and why. The parts on honor are the most interesting to me.
Wussing Out

Is McCain wussing out of the debate?

As big as the financial crisis is, there are a lot of lawmakers and committees which are handling it. With respect to the Presidential debate, this is the leader of the free world for the next four years and the debates, I think, are really important - not so much to change voters minds (debates rarely have much of an impact) - but for the country to come together and meet the candidates (by contrast as opposed to stump speeches and ads) to get a sense of how each will govern.
More Entourage

Vince signed by Ari in real life.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who Serves In the Military?

Not the poor, it turns out.

I have one friend in the Marines and he said the same thing from his experience...it was a myth that poor people with no options are the only one's serving in the military.

This myth is perpetrated by the Vietnam generation for whom it was somewhat true - since there was a draft and many elites used college and the ability to move to Canada, etc, to avoid a super unpopular war.

Since that time, the US military has dropped the draft and has fewer number of troops (technology!). The fact is: many poor, disadvantaged people are simply unqualified for military service. Would you want the people working at McDonalds drive-through handling an M-16? No thanks! Anyhow, the study - or at least the conclusions are probably worth reading, if you talk or think about this stuff.

I don't know what the polls are - and I don't care. I'll put my money where my mouth is. Big money. $5. I'll bet anyone $5 that Obama wins the election and gets 55% of the popular vote. Which is a blowout.

Let's go all you melancholy democrats with your pessimism. Bring it on!

PS - this offer is good until the debates are over.
Competing with the Angels

A good article on Billy Beane's frustrations competing with the Angels - who've become basically the best organization in baseball.

In Hollywood, is Republican the new gay?

Monday, September 22, 2008


It is commonly said these days Entourage has jumped the shark. I myself stopped watching the show after the final seasons of the Sopranos. At the time it felt like following up a beautiful steak dinner with cotton candy - the two just didn't mix. So I stopped watching and heard second hand about how bad the show became. So perhaps from a combination of low expectations and an interesting twist the show has take in the past two episodes - I must cop to it: I'm back into the show.

And it's not for the reasons I used to be into the show. It used to be a male fantasy. These young guys with the world at their fingertips, fallen ass backwards into success in a fantasy play world where everything seemed to work out just right. The calm headed and reasonable Eric tempering the naive, childlike kindness of Vince, both of them teamed up against their antagonist: agent-shark with a heart of (Ari) gold. Throw in the comic relief of Johnny Drama and an incredible cadre of bit parts and cameo appearances and the show was like eating candy. It tasted good because for 1/2 hour you got to live in this world with Vince and crew. It helped that the guys were relateable and sweet - not all that different from you and me. But also like candy, it made you feel a bit down or unhealthy afterward.

But these past two episodes captured something about Los Angeles it never dared venture before: desperation. Vince, once the epitome of dreamy, undeserved success, has suddenly found himself wanting and he doesn't like it one bit. In a few simple plot choices - one bad movie, an indifferent town with the hint of newer and hotter actors to replace him, and financial problems, suddenly Vince is thrust into a dark space - a space many people inhabit day to day - but unlike regular citizens, Vince's dark times are public - he sold he opportunity to deal with darkness privately. And you see, in the clucking lips of the goth 16 year old, Vince's possible future. It isn't pretty.

So what can happen? The sharks, like Ari, survive and the good guys, like Vince, are eaten and tossed out, broke, used, and desperate. Is this where the show is headed? From a popcorn fantasy about life in Hollywood to a bleak meditation on the ugly side of the industry? Is it possible that one of the most shallow, fun, superficial shows on television could dare of all things...to become meaningful?
Sick of Blogging

After dropping the blogging habit while I was out of town, I've had trouble getting back into it. I'm sick of reading blogs and as one can tell, sick of writing them. The last post I wrote took me a long time and I couldn't even finish my thought. It may be slower until it gets quicker again.

There are several reasons, I suppose: I don't know much or have much to say about the financial meltdown, not too many exciting movies out there, being tired of all the back and forth hating in the election, and frankly, just exhausted talking about Iraq the WOT, etc. That subject, which was one of the principal reasons I started blogging in the first place, is essentially no longer worth talking about. The split of pro-war/anti-war with respect to Iraq has not calmed or been reconciled whatsoever. The two sides can only talk past each other to this day...the anti-war refusing to believe anything other than Iraq-as-catastrophic-failure narrative and unable to discuss any form of progress whatsoever and will, I suspect, never, ever accept any positive news whatsoever from the state. The anti-war side will forever find a way to compare Iraq to imaginary alternatives and Western first world standards and never concede the benefits of project - should there be any. Likewise, the pro-war side will continue to try and justify the invasion, slipping back and forth between reasons, forever citing the most recent decent news as hope. It will forever be hope, hope, hope, like the gambler who keeps doubling down with the theory that at least one of these times he must win.

You can't argue with a gambler who's dead set on winning one of these hands after having lost so many before...and you can't argue someone who's written something off from the beginning and needs failure to justify their apparent wisdom (which, incidentally, is very easy to find when it comes to states and people).

So indeed, what is the point of any further discussion on the issue? Particularly when the discussion inevitably ends up coming back around to the beginning and who was right and who was wrong to start with...

Also...my two favorite blogs, Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan are boring me. Instapundit used to be a calm voice of reason and has since become somewhat of a Republican shill. Andrew Sullivan, always a tad hyper, seems to have lost any sense of reason and makes outrageous passionate claims almost each and every day. It's like listening someone yelling at the top of their voice at all times and frankly, it's just become tiresome.

Quote: "It's very important for people to realize that the McCain-Palin ticket is explicitly running on war against Iran. If McCain-Palin is elected, there will be war. If Obama-Biden is elected, there is a tiny chance there won't be."

You see. Jesus.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Going Out on a Weird Limb Here

First off, it was refreshing as all hell the other night to grab my car from my parking lot, shift into third gear, Quantic on KCRW, and with the window down let the cool Santa Monica night air flow into my face. In short - it felt nice to be back.

Everyone is getting on George Bush's case. It seems a fait accompli that can Barak Obama prove McCain votes with Bush and Palin is Bush in drag, that he will automatically win the election. Why?

I would like to defend Bush - for the sake of being contrary...

Per this Wall Street Journal article, we were months - perhaps even weeks - from a defeat in Iraq. By defeat, I mean, removing our troops and allowing a free for all battle between Iranian proxies, Al Queda, and former Baathists for control of the state - or at least partial control of certain regions in 2006. Many close to Bush, republicans, democrats, Obama, Hillary, Biden, the Iraq Study Group, and the Joint Chiefs were calling for this policy change. Instead, Bush reached out to Petraeus and per the article, retired General Keane to ask for a different approach. What resulted was the surge - a combination of strategic and tactical shifts in American military strategy toward the insurgency. What's resulted is a battlefield defeat to Al Queda and a major draw down of violence. Basically, if Bush took the popular mandate of the moment, we would of lost this war. As is, we've salvaged something - an Iraq with a central government with some positive hope for the future.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Like, But Don't Love, New York

I saw a comedy show last night - unfortunately, not this comedy show - but a comedy show nonetheless. It was fun.

My general impression of New York - never having been a resident - is that the entire city is trying to get you to part with your money. In the 1980s you feared being mugged for it. Today, the muggers are much more clever and try to give you stuff for your money. $100 theater tickets, cover charges for comedy shows, subway fare, movies, museums, food....

I'm not a fool. I know things cost money. But lemme ask ya this - why on earth would a sane person pay oogles of money to live in the tiny-ass apartments in Manhattan? I swear Punjabi immigrants would come from the Mumbai slums and their first reaction would be "this is rather small."

The culture you say? The "street" culture. Lemme tell you what the "street culture" is. It's a lot of people walking around fast and shitty hot dogs and roasted nuts. It's crowding into a subway and transfering. It's crossing the street whenever you get a shot.

I don't "get" how this place sustains itself. Oh, I understand how the rich can play here. I get the Wall Street hustlers and their inside schemes to grift money off large financial instutions, in cahoots and competition with the other grifters, enriching themselves and affording a lifestyle not available to anyone but the .1% of them. But what about all the rest of the people of New York? Are they blowing inherentences? Working three jobs?

I see how 20-somethings get by. They live in small places in Manhattan. They live in Brooklyn. They make a premium salary. But how does it sustain itself when you have a family and need some space? Need to pay for school? I guess you save on car insurance.

I know this sounds like a critique or I'm not having a good time. Quite the opposite. I love the uniqueness of this place. You feel a sense of camraderie here. Like a big diverse frat house with lots of hot girls. The diversity is pretty incredible. But who gives a shit about diversity if you poop right next to your bed?

A dirty secret about New York - the food is no match for California. And when I say California - I mean LA and San Francisco. Sure - the top end, luxury dining is great (I wouldn't know this trip). Of course. It goes without saying. But what's the point of comparing the top end luxury dining? Every substantial city from Paris to London to Toyko to Los Angeles has top end luxury dining. Shit - Las Vegas has top end luxury dining. What matters is the affordable, available food a regular person could eat on a day-to-day...actually strike all that...what matter is what I eat while I'm here. The bagels are better. But not that much better and I eat a bagel about once a week tops. The pizza is good - I went to some special pizza place in Brooklyn. Yes - it's good and available all the time. But I don't wont for lack of Pizza in LA. The Chinese food I ate was pretty good - but certainly no better than what one can get in San Fran.

*Note I don't talk about Monteray Park because it's way too far away from me and I hardly consider it LA.

But go into any good grocery store in California - I'm not even talking Whole Foods - just a Vons or a decent Albertsons and you're getting a better selection of cheese and fruit and meat than you're getting at New York stores at a cheaper price.

I don't need to mention Mexican food, which I wouldn't even touch here. The sandwiches on the east coast are mentally challenged compared to the west coast. Hogie rolls. Really? Put a hogie roll against a sourdough roll in the ring together and it's like the Tyson-Spinks fight. Over in 30 seconds.

I could go on - but I've asked my California peeps - and they know. They secretly agree. It's not because we're better. It's because we have advantages - space, proximity to where the food is grown (California). Time - we have time. We don't eat those prepared little food packets all around the city. No one has any time in New York.

This is a great city. Clearly one of the greatest in the world. But I don't think it's livable. Not for me - not for someone who likes to drive a car and who can pay $550 in rent and walk to the beach. And shouldn't that count for something? Isn't livabililty and sustainability the central purpose our cities? Shouldn't that trump culture and diversity. How much of New York is just living off grift? Off over speculated mortages and insider trading schemes. When all that dough trickles down - is that what funds the high real estate and the thousands of top end restaurants and the ridiculously priced fashion? And the plays and the "culture..."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Out of Town Blogging
I'm in the middle of a vacation, which accounts for the slow/no pace of posts. Traveling does wonders for the mind and I've had tons of blog post ideas I was unable to put down because no access to a computer or blackberry and just the sheer pace of traveling/wedding/catching up with old friends doesn't leave much time to blog.

That said, I'll try to give a little round up. First, I didn't get a chance to respond to Jake or Sher's comments on various election posts, which I generally try to do. But I think I can respond to both at the same time because they each deal with the magnification of what I call "non-issues" in the campaign. The first is the rumor of Palin's book banning and the second is Obama's "sexist" remark. Both of these occurances strike me as tiny banalities of a campaign and the work of governing which are brought up and blown out of proportion to make the candidate look foolish or weak or bad in some way. And even if both or one or the other were deliberate and/or true - I just don't care that much. So Obama slips up and he's is subconciously sexist. Big deal. So what if Palin fantasizes about banning books? I fantasize about beating people up. What's the big deal? No one is perfect.

On an unrelated note, I had a thought about the logic of screenwriting and why I do it, despite the long shot odds of success. Mamet talks about in his book about writing screenplays is like playing the lottery - you have basically an equal chance of winning by finding a lottery ticket on the ground than actually playing the lottery to win. He's being hyperbolic, I think, and a poker metaphor is more accurate. It's like desparately staying in a poker hand for a straight or flush draw even though I've got a 10-15% chance of winning the hand. A smart player says - yes, fine, you've got a chance, but it's so small, it's not worth sticking it out. But there are situations where the pot-odds favor sticking in the hand. If you can win 20x the bet amount and you have only 10% odds of winning, despite your low odds, the payoff is so high, it's worth the risk. I think my approach to screenwriting mimics this poker situation. I know rationally, I probably won't make it. But I think I do have at least some chance of selling scripts and getting writing jobs and the potential payoff is so high, at least for now, it's still worth pursuing. These odds change the more successful I am at anything else or if I get married or have a family, where leisure time is more valuable.

On another unrelated note, I finally picked up Mike Davis' CITY OF QUARTZ, a book I've been recommended many times by smart people. It's a sociology book about LA. Awesome, right? Wrong. I started reading this book and actually had a physical reaction to it. It made me sick. He's a Marxist and so he can't help describe anything outside the context of labor and capital and everything fits into this superstructure of institutions and so forth. The sentences themselves gave me a headache and made me sick. I'd reprint an awful sentence, but I can't bring myself to pick up the book and read anything from it.

On a somewhat related note, David Foster Wallace killed himself last night. Why? Completely awful.

Off to see a movie after a hectic weekend of wedding stuff. Lots of fun, though.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bambi Vs. Godzilla

David Mamet wrote this meandering book about his thoughts on the "nature, practice, and purpose" of the film industry in 2007. I found it highly readable and recommend to any thoughtful entertainment person out there.

Taken alone, many of the passages are discouraging and reflect a forlorn outlook on the way things are here in Hollywood.

But in the end, many of his points on bad screenwriting, the nature of development, practice of acting are solid and well worth the time. He loves movies and thinks they are made by writers and crew - and less by stars, showy directors, and certainly not suits in boardrooms.
End Game Phase

According to Gates, we're entering a new phase in Iraq.

"I believe we have now entered that end game and our decisions today and in the months ahead will be critical for regional stability and our international security interests for years to come," he said.

Let's get it right this time.
Dirty Pool

"It's like putting Lipstick on pig."

Read the actual quote and you know exactly what Obama meant. Further, this is a known colloquialism - a good one, actually. And the Republican's are making a big deal out of it claiming misogyny. Come on McCain - stand your old ass up and tell these retards to shut their traps. Come on Palin - prove this is beneath you.

This is annoying on several levels:

1. It's not what he said.
2. If it were true - who gives a shit? This politically correct nonsense is killing the spirit of this country.

What's worse - the blogosphere - which took off because people were tired of this kind of crap and wanted real time common sense discussion to prevail, is sucked in. Instapundit spends most of him time critiquing this kind of politically correct nonsense and yet, over 50% of his readers think it was a deliberately sexist comment. Get some new readers, Glenn, your's have gone to the moonbat right.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Blog Competition

Sher has started a blog.

This is going to cause trouble in the workplace.
Ouch, David Mamet

To all film school grads:

"And as for the graduate school, so for the undergraduate and the various limitless seminars in filmmaking dotting our coasts and increasingly making inroads upon the hinterland.

They may be a rest stop for the insufficiently aggressive (those folks will find their rest expanded into a lifetime career), they may be a film club for those who cannot take their entertainment straight, they may be a boot camp for those desirous of becoming efficient at submission, or they may be a pen to hold and fleece the children of the privileged. But I think perhaps they have little to do with the actual making of movies."

Thanks, Mamet.

Yeah! I posted a question about the movie business on the Freakonomics Q&A and it was picked as one the interviewee answered. Unfortunately, I don't think he answered my question well. If it were live, I'd have a follow up.

Anyhow, a prize to anyone who can guess which question was mine.
Book Banning Rumors

Here is the original article from 1996 about the details of what now is the Sarah Palin book banning rumor.

As far as I can tell, the article details an incredibly boring procedural issue. Palin apparently asked a rhetorical question to her staff about how they would react to a request by her to ban certain books.

Smart liberals are aghast at the conservative rumors that Obama is a Muslim, so why do they perpetrate ridiculous rumors about Palin?
Another House Bunny Fan

Diablo Cody on the pleasures of House Bunny.
Holy Shit!

McCain Vows To Replace Secret Service With His Own Bare Fists
Scathing Take on Hollywood

Andrew Breitbart on an underground conservative movement in Hollywood.

Here's the thing: I think he's right about lack of intellectual rigor on the left and the end result is boring dinner parties. But I hardly think the answer is an underground conservative movement with a bunch of wannabe Hollywood people. There's no reason the left can't stand up to itself when it's being stupid. Insofar as his mission is promote decency and rigor, I'll give the guy kudos.

Is it just me or did the Flex totally steal the Cooper design. Can you do that?


Lawsuit being filed against Disturbia for copyright infringement of Rear Window.

Somehow I haven't seen either movie, but this could be an interesting precedent.

By the way...has anyone seen the new Ford Flex? How is that not a copyright infringement of the Mini Cooper design?
Building a Cult and Getting Cocky

Instapundit warns Republicans not to build a cult around Palin the way Dems did with Obama.

I agree. Also think Dems should stick to criticizing her positions and not go for the ad hominem - she's crazy! I don't like her! Style of attack. Those work while preaching to the choir, but not to the undecided.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Whole Foods Changing Things

The neighborhood isn't the same. Whole Foods on Lincoln is enormous. It is packed. It has wine tastings, at least 6 different types of salad bars - desserts, indian food, japanese food, salads, hot foods. You name it. I could eat there every night.

There is seating - it reminds me of a nicer version of a college cafeteria. Lots of young people (and hot chicks) roaming around looking for dinner. A real scene.

I must be dumb because I don't find Gizelle all that hot. She has a man-face and is one of those women who at 20 look 30. Why is she widely considered one of hottest women in the world is beyond me.
America In Decline?

Not yet
. At least according to a Nobel Prize winning economist.

New Yorker profiles Alec Baldwin. I love the guy.
Not A Good Sign

Has the stock market become one big pyramid scheme?

Cuban's musings on the market sound familiar to a movie-business person like myself. Value is all about buzz and being able to leverage that buzz into purchase price.

Anyone who goes to the Lankmark Pico theater knows Cuban is a cynic. Charging $12 a tix for a 4pm show of Bottle Shock? Gimme a break.
Published vs. Manuscript

I read many manuscripts for work. It is much less fun than reading a real book. Never before this job did I realize how much the actual publishing process adds to the reading experience. A bound book with nice paper, font, and spacing adds a tremendous amount of ease and pleasure to the read. Flipping through loose manuscript pages is no fun and makes a book less enjoyable.
David Simon

An article in the UK Guardian by David Simon about Baltimore and The Wire.

Friday, September 05, 2008

More Free Advise

Obama should lambast the Republicans and "war supporters" on cost. Americans - even the dumbest of the voters - understand math. How can Republicans possibly sit up there talking about cutting taxes and saving people money and at the same time boast about the surge.

All Obama needs to do is say - the amount of additional money we've spent on Iraq is 2 trillion dollars (or whatever). If you divide it by our population, it means each individual has been on the hook for roughly $7,000.

And then Obama can talk about how he's going to get Iraq to pay back some of the debt and how we're going to cut back these long term costs.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Obama can be hurt hard on the surge.

If I were Obama, I would retire the anti-war sloganeering. It got him through the primary - made him feel authentic, etc, to the anti-war base. But he's a politician and it's time to throw the anti-war crap under the bus and focus on the future. He need to explain how he is the best person to capitalize on the relative calm in Iraq and how he's the best to manage the post-war draw down.

He might even be wise to back-handed compliment McCain and talk about how McCain is a warrior and a hero - and the among the bravest we have...but now is not the time to elect a fighter and a brawler. Now is the time to heel our alliances and repair Iraq. We celebrate the achievements of our troops - deposing a fascist dictator, and for the first time in 50 years standing on the right side of liberty in the Arab middle east. But he needs to argue the days of big, public, war-fighting are over...what we now need is finesse...because the final battle against Al Queda isn't going to be a Dday like battle, it's going to be a quiet whimper when a world of allies works together and through a combination of police tactics backed with military firepower manages a final push one by one up the Al Queda ladder in order to crush their personal and infrastructure. Maybe there was a time to go at it alone - we will let history decide - but now is the time to work with allies to clean up the current mess.
Thoughts on McCain's Speech

Wow. McCain is not a good speaker. He's clutzy, speaks in simpleton terms, and barely talked any specifics. On delivery, I'd give him a C. His positions - which, granted, I needed to fill in holes - weren't bad per se. I suppose the one I find silly is his nod to the right to life, but what do you expect from a Republican?

It seemed an odd choice to me the amount he focused on cutting taxes and economic factors vs. the war and Islamic terrorism. It would seem to me his strong suit to talk about how to end Iraq and beat Al Queda.

But - his personal story about being a cocky young pilot and falling in love with his country during captivity was the most emotional moments of any of the political speeches. Simply put, McCain's been through some shit - real shit - and came out of it. One might call that integrity, one might call it courage. Whatever you want to say, the dude has character.

That said, it isn't clear to me he'll be a better President than Obama. And that's something to remember, as big a deal as Palin is now, these races don't ever come down to the VP - people will vote for McCain or Obama - because they know that's what matters.

So I thought the Palin video I posted below was quite well done on the cheap and on short notice.

If you're a card-carrying liberal, take notice of the comments to the video, and get back to me whether you think the right has the monopoly on racism and sexism these days. What happened to the Left? It's become a bastion of hateful ignorance, once the province only of the far right. It's enough to make any sane person question their political allegiance.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

This is well written.
Running Away From Bush

Just listened to Palin's speech and part of Rudy G...I don't recall hearing a single reference to GW Bush. They are running fast and hard away from him. And if anyone in their party can legitimately run away from Bush - it's McCain - he famously dislikes him.
Sorry, But I Agree With Her On That One Point

Palin takes a dig at Obama -

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

No offense to the community organizers out there - but I've heard of this as a friend from college did it for awhile and the whole thing sounded, I don't know, suspicious.... The whole idea of "Helping people help themselves." I try to wrap my head around it and what struck me as difficult is the inability to quantify or define what is trying to be achieved.

It all just sounds vague.

But hey, that's just me...
Keep Losing

Hamas is having some PR problems as a newer generation of Palestinians aren't into the religious message - and point to Hamas' continual failures.

At what point to we start funding these guys to undermine their elders?
Entertainment Frustrations

The young writers, directors, actors, etc, I know are generally frustrated because of their inability to get paid commensurate with their work. Very few - if any - are greedy. Most simply want an opportunity to work hard at their craft, be compensated, and to "cut their teeth" on professional projects. Instead, most people in this boat have some type of day job to pay the bills and work on the off hours on various projects hoping one of them will be a professional springboard. Some have made professional inroads and are doing well, yet there is a lingering anxiety about what the future will hold.

On the other hand, the young executives, agents, etc, the business people find another set of frustrations. They are constantly frustrated by the lack of talent out there - the inability to discover or find people with the skill sets necessary to deliver a good (and hence salable) product. If you are young, it does you little good to focus on already established talent - they generally have their relationships in place and for lack of a better term are out of their league. But when perusing the film festivals and screenplay contests and spec scripts sent by agents, they rarely find anything good, much less something that speaks to them.

It is a curious situation - are the young business people missing the ability to spot talent? Is the young talent naive about their abilities? Does this just sort itself out as the less talented give up or find something else to do? And those who can figure out a way to stick it out and survive someday get their break or find their match?
7pm Tonight

Sarah Palin will be speaking at the convention. Should be interesting...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Very Odd, But I'd Go

A terrorism museum.

A great New Yorker article on the general and his approach to things.

One of the more interesting elements is how he was among a small group of officers studying Counter-Insurgency strategies while most of Pentagon and Military were devising and implementing the Powell Doctrine.

Man - this election is entertaining.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Little Clarity

A more detailed explanation of Palin's "creationist" beliefs.

So it seems her position is not to teach creationism side by side with science in schools. Rather, she made an off the cuff remark about not stifling the debate if it comes up in discussion. I think this is a fair point - if indeed that was her point - and I agree discussion and free debate shouldn't be disallowed, even if there is religious and non-scientific discussion.

Some of the most informative and memorable classroom discussions from grade school and high school came out of taboo subject matter. Once in 7th grade, a kid was outraged at the teacher talking about the Japanese Internment in derisive terms. He was upset because a lot of his family had fought in WWII and her knew the horror stories about how American soldiers were treated in Japan and thought the teaching of WWII - by focusing on the injustice of the Japanese internment - was completely unfair. And he had a point - there was no discussion of Japanese atrocities committed during WWII in the class. And there aree plenty to discuss. Why in 7th grade are we taught about the Japanese Internment and the Holocaust and not about the Bataan Death March and the Rape of Nanking? This is a legitimate point.

Second interesting conversation was about God. Basically, a literature class in high school got hijacked one day into a discussion about whether God existed. It was one of the most energetic discussions I remember during high school. It had nothing to do with our books, the subject, and probably wasn't properly respecting the boundaries between church and state. But if you're on the ground and remember what it was like in public high school - the fear that teachers are able to mind control the students into believing a particular religious belief - let me just remind you - 75% of the students don't listen to the teacher, regardless of what she is talking about, and many of them oppose what he/she says for the simple reason he/she is saying it. To encourage a debate like this should it come up, isn't the worst of all things. Maybe attacking her as a creationist isn't really accurate.
Who I Am To Judge Hicks?

Palin's 17-year old daughter is pregnant. Seriously?

Okay, look, I'm not one to judge...teenage pregnancy obviously happens to a lot of people. But come on - and here is my inner elitism coming out - we're talking about a candidate for VP, not this weeks Jerry Springer.
Conservative Internationalism

An article describing the historical roots of a foreign policy school of thought not previously recognized.

A bit different than the realist vs. liberal internationalist school, conservative internationalism explains better certain behaviors by Reagan, Jefferson, and Harry Truman and also sheds a lot of light on how American, thus far, has dealt with the terrorism problem.

It also helps me to understand why liberal internationalists don't see eye-eye on the Iraq war.