Thursday, December 31, 2009

America in Decline?

Nonsense, says this article.
The Decade Mix Tape (Reprinted From An Email Exchange)

My criteria - I'm stuck on a desert island and can bring 20 movies from the decade. Not the "best" or even "my favorites." Simply, a mixed tape of films. I also must give a preemptive shout out to the greatest work of the decade - The Wire followed closely by the Sopranos and followed closely thereafter by Deadwood. The history books will talk about the 2000s as the decade TV eclipsed movies as the gold standard for quality drama. But we are talking movies, so here we go-

The Mix Tape

Red Belt. Can a great ending make up for many flaws? I think so.
Enemy at the Gates. An under-the-radar war film. If it's on TV, I can't turn it off.
Michael Clayton. I've watched the movie 8-9 times. It is an above-average drama, the type of mid-budget movies the studios ought to release every year. The dearth of movies like it, is why it makes the list.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. A great epic adventure story, hampered and underrated by a lame title.
In The Mood For Love. Tony Leung should teach a class on how to wear a suit.
The Man Who Wasn't There. Tony Shalhoub steals all his scenes.
The Queen. How Frears got me into in a movie about Queen Elizabeth...I don't know. Find me a move moving moment than when the little girl insists, "The flowers are for you."
Brokeback Mountain. Ennis Del Mar is the most fascinating and painful character put on screen this decade.
Grizzly Man. I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder.
Memento. The most clever storytelling devise employed in our lifetimes.
25th Hour. The first movie to capture the mood of post 9/11 America.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. How did Herzog get that performance out of Cage? He told him, "there is such a thing as the bliss of evil." It sound better out of Herzog's mouth than written down.
Elephant. The best of Van Sant's trio of tragic recreations.
City of God. A movie oozing with life.
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Gimme a strong cup of strong coffee and a seat in a theater and I can think of few ways to better spend 3 hours.
Zodiac. My favorite procedural ever made. Ruffalo is not a movie star, but he is a fine, fine actor.
Collateral. Why not Miami Vice, you ask? Because the way Michael Mann photographs Los Angeles makes me want to live here.
United 93. Some people say they shouldn't have made this movie. My question is: what good are movies if they can't?
No Country For Old Men. No movie this decade made me think more about the big, heavy questions.
Sideways. I can't watch, talk, or think about this movie without warm feelings of joy.
Celebrity Stories Replacing Movies and Novels As Shared Cultural Experiences

Fascinating article.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tiger, The Greek

Catching up on Left, Right, and Center today and the tragic element of the Tiger Woods story. I did not know this element of the story, but apparently, his father's infidelity angered Tiger quite a bit as a little boy. Just to add another wrinkle into the back-story. Tony Blankley shrewdly pointed out - Tiger was known as a disciplined, restrained individual and his behavior was so egregiously undisciplined and unrestrained - the story has all the makings of a Greek Tragedy.
Jesus Christ

CIA KNEW OF UNDIES BOMBER: The CIA was keeping tabs on a man they called "The Nigerian" who was meeting with "terrorist elements" in August, months before his father contacted the U.S. embassy, concerned his son was getting mixed up with Islamic radicals, CBS News reports. "The Nigerian" was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who attempted to blow up Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day, but the connection was not made among U.S. intelligence authorities until Abdulmutallab's post-flight arrest at Detroit's airport. The CIA did not dispute the CBS News report. President Obama criticized on Tuesday the "systemic failure" of the nation's security apparatus.

What are these clowns doing? How does a guy on a terrorist watch list, known by the CIA, able to get on a plane with explosive devises attached to him? I was willing to give passes all around on 9/11 because of the surprise element and just to move on, although in hindsight thought the Bush Administration should have fired a bunch of CIA people. But this? Nearly nine years later, with tons more intelligence gathered, years to adjust and tinker with our security procedures, is totally unacceptable. Why do we have little old ladies and babies taking off their shoes in airport security lines? Why do I get pulled into a random bag search? What is the point of these hideously inefficient and stupidly politically correct security measures? It's like a retarded 11th grader come up with these rules trying to be "fair" to everyone. Fairness has nothing to do with security from Islamic Terrorism. Here's what we do - if you are on a terrorist watch list or a close match to an individual on a terrorist watch list - you are red flagged and double-triple checked through security before getting on an airline.

And also, I really, really hope this terrorist watch list is comprised only of individuals associated with Al Queda and other like minded groups. I sincerely hope there are not former IRA members or Columbian FARC or Quebecois Separatists or Aryan Nation people on this list. These are bad people, no doubt, but this is not a bad people list. It should be a list of people who openly declared war against United States Civilians and who openly state they want to kill us. When little old ladies from Nebraska blow up a plane or an Aryan Nation Leader flies into the World Trade Center or when a Columbian drug dealers start doing suicide bombing missions against the US, then we may need to adjust our procedures. But until then, can we just focus on the actual Islamic Radicals who are at war with us?

Can someone explain to me what is wrong with this? Are we so terrified of racial profiling that we are going to risk getting blown to pieces in the air and enforce all sorts of stupid bureaucratic procedures to give the illusion of safety and then, as Janet Napolitano said, praise our Homeland Security as "working."

There cannot be anything illegal about tracking Islamic Radicals. We are so confused by historical analogies having nothing to do with the current situation. Liberals are instantly fearful of internment camps and all sorts of civil liberties being exploited. Believe me - I am equally if not moreso worried about such things - but this is be akin to worrying about felons gun rights. What sane person would prioritize a known felon's gun rights? What sane person thinks someone on a terrorist watch list is entitled to get onto an airline flight without additional security? And how is this even borderline problematic to anyone but useless bureaucrats who don't have a clue how to do their job and decide to enforce endlessly stupid new procedures (such as not getting up in the last hour of the flight or taking off our shoes) that would not have stopped any terrorist attack in the first place.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How To Interpret the Vikings-Bears Game

There are a couple of ways to interpret the Vikings-Bears game. One, the Bears played incredible and the Vikings had a lackluster first half and weren't able to overcome. Two, Favre knows how to run the Vikings offense and Childress is trying to grind them into the ground. Three, Adrian Peterson's bad hands are becoming a serious problem for the Vikings. Four, something is wrong with the Vikings defense.

Or, there is my interpretation - Favre is rotting this team from the inside-out, like he's done the past 3-4 seasons.

Let me give a little backstory. I never liked Favre initially because his Packers team beat the 49ers when the 49ers were on the decent from our decade and a half of dominance. For the record, Favre never beat a really good 49ers team, only the weaker Steve Young teams when Jerry Rice was over the hill. But those were still strong teams. But this is a dislike born of rivalry. I disliked the Cowboys even more, with Emmit Smith and Troy Aikmen and Michael Irvin. What changed my impression of Favre was several years ago when Michael Strahan was going for the NFL record of sacks in a year. In the final game of the season, the Giants and Packers were playing and Favre let Strahan sack him on purpose, so he got the NFL sack record. At the time, I thought it was a really disgusting thing to do. And if I were Strahan, I'd be offended. Here's why - letting Strahan get that sack was a way for Favre to insert himself into what should of been Strahan's story. Favre said he did it because "he respected the way Strahan played the game." Huh? It wasn't that at all. It was a hugely egotistical move by Favre and it diminished Strahan's accomplishment. Strahan didn't break the sack record because everything thought he was a nice guy and they "respected the way he played the game," and went down on purpose when he came charging in at unimportant times to pad his stats. He got the sack record because he was a ferocious pash rusher and the best at his position that year. It's like letting a retarded kid score a goal in the final game of the season to make him feel good about himself. Guess what? It makes the kid feel worse because he knows he didn't earn it. And guess what? Michael Strahan was not a retarded kid.

Fast forward to 3 years ago. The Packers were on the descent. They were under .500 and missing the playoffs for the past couple of years. Favre was old. He was no threat to anyone anymore. He flirted with retirement. The Packers got a couple of young good receivers - Gregg Jennings and Donald Driver who would have been a good nucleus to build around with Aaron Rodgers. Favre decides not to retire. They had an easy schedule and got some breaks and got into the playoffs with a 13-3 record (or something like that). All the press got excited and many picked the Packers to go to the Superbowl. They played the Giants in the playoffs and Favre was pathetic. He wasn't just bad, he was anemic and looked completely helpless at the end of the game. I realized then and there, Favre was done.

So did he. And he retired. And then he didn't and all this fiasco started. He signed with the Jets, led them to a 6-1 record and then completely collapsed in the 2nd half of the season and missed the playoffs. Then he retired again and came back to the Vikings. And what's happening now. 11-1 and then 0-3. They are going to lose in the first round of the playoffs. Here's why -

Favre is not the key to the Vikings success. The key is to control the ball on the ground with Peterson, let the guy get 25-30 touches on the ball and he WILL make a big play. You have another awesome weapon in Percy Harvin who you try to get 10-15 touches a game on short passes and kick returns. You let the defense rest by controlling the ground game and with possession offense and allow your great pass rush to pressure the other team into turnovers. That is how the Vikings can win.

The problem with the plan - Favre's ego is so wildly out of control, he cannot NOT be THE MAN. He is unable to do what David Robinson did with the Spurs and allow Tim Duncan to be THE MAN and accept a roll player position. Listen to these frigging announcers talk about Favre. You'd think he was the second coming. The man has won one Superbowl. The same number as Trent Dilfer. He is worse than Kurt Warner. He cannot lead a team to victory because he throws costly interceptions. He's done it his entire career. It is why he hardly ever wins at the end of the season. He is the Vikings fourth or fifth best player after Peterson, Harvin, Jarrod Allen, and Pat Williams. I'm not kidding. Those guys are the keys. How do you think it makes them feel when all anyone can talk about with the Vikings is Favre? They know football. They know they're damn good. How does Favre manage to make every game about himself? Why is there drama with Favre and Childress? Childress sees what's happening to his team. The players will not play hard for Favre. They won't play hard for someone who accepts all the glory in victory for himself and will not spread the credit around. It builds resentment in the locker room. It corrodes a team from within. He cares more about his streak of games started and being the hero than this Vikings team. He's come to care more about his own myth than winning.

What happened tonight played perfectly into Favre's hands. Do you think Favre wants to grind to a 14-0 lead on outside runs by Peterson? No way. The guy loves falling behind so he can orchestrate a come-from-behind victory against pass defenses who sit back in prevent defense and he can have all these easy underneath passes. He loves it. It pads his stats and makes it look like he's a hero. Makes him feel young again. the regular time, Favre did throw an interception right into the hands of 35 on the Bears who just dropped it. That was prototypical Favre, right there. And Childress knows it. Childress knows if he lets Favre off the leash, you're getting yourself into a close game shoot out and only a 50/50 chance of winning because Favre will just as likely toss important INTs as he will touchdowns.

With Peterson being the focus of the offense and their goal to get him the ball with holes and space, they will win 75% of their games. With Favre as the key, they win 50%. It's really that simple. The players know it, just like the Jets knew the key to winning for them last year was a solid ball control running game. But Favre doesn't want it. He needs to be the hero and it's killing their team right now. The Bears are terrible and the Vikings were lucky to get to OT. First round exit.

Monday, December 28, 2009

More on Airline Security

Hitchens echoes my thoughts on airline security.

Obviously, someone needs to be fired if this would be suicide bomber was reported to the authorities by his own father.

Does anyone get fired anymore? I think we need to bring that back. Everyone just gets laid off or let go these days because organizations are too chickenshit to fire anyone. And because they're too chickenshit, eventually they fail and need to lay people off. I still don't understand how heads did not roll at the CIA after 9/11 and I'm sure after this Fort Hood and Christmas Bombing attempt, so significant firings are going to occur.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I'm continually unimpressed with airline security. Our two strongest weapons against terrorist attacking planes, as far as I can tell, are the passengers rising up to defend themselves and the terrorists own incompetence. Has there been one single instance when the actual airline security catches a terrorist trying to bring a bomb onto the plane? It seems like we would have heard about such an instance. You may be able to argue the increased security decreases the number of terrorist attempts, but we can't know that for sure.

Over Thanksgiving, airline security found my Swiss Army Knife in my toiletry kit. I forgot it was there in a side pocket. The sad part? They found it on my way home to Los Angeles - meaning it was also there on my way up to San Francisco.

Plus, this guy was in a terrorist database. How hard is it to hire someone to run a database search of the daily passenger list against one big terrorist database and pull all the close matches, do an eyeball check, and just pull those people into a separate security line to do a more extensive search. They do that anyway with random searches - I've been pulled aside before. And why not have someone on staff at the airport who can access the FBI or whoever and cross check whether the passenger meets similar criteria to the name on the terrorist database? If, say, the passenger has a similar/same name and both are Nigerian (via passport) and 23 years old and from the same hometown, I'd say there is a pretty high likelihood a double check is in order.

Would this be costly? It doesn't seem like it. We used to do database searches like this at my old litigation consulting job looking for documents. I'd guess a team of 3 people could do this per airline per day. You'd have to pay them more than the idiots working the xray machine, but I think it'd save a lot of time and money and catch more terrorists.
Hard To Believe

Kindle sold more ebooks than regular books on Christmas.

“Yes, this is obviously the result of everyone who got a Kindle for Christmas (lots of folks) firing it up and ordering a bunch of eBooks on a day in which most physical-book readers weren’t shopping. But it’s still important and impressive.”


Saturday, December 26, 2009


With the 49ers out of the playoff hunt and Tennessee no longer able to make the playoffs after an 0-6 start, what is there left to root for this NFL season?

Brett Favre's Vikings meltdown.

Childress wanted to bench Favre in the 3rd Quarter of the game against Carolina and wussed out when Favre refused to go out of the game. And so it begins, the 3rd December in a row when Favre alienates his team. My fingers are crossed he makes it worse. Much worse. Because this year, he is on a much better team. But what better way to collapse a good team than dual idiocy from the QB and Head Coach. I can't of one.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I Did Not Know This

Sullivan argues Gore would have gone to war in Iraq post 9/11.

This line of argument aligns with Christopher Hitchen's position that a military showdown with Saddam's Iraq was always in our future, whether we wanted it or not. Furthermore, the dissolution of Iraqi civil society post-Saddam was always going to be an issue for us to deal with.

If you take this premise, there are a lot worse outcomes imaginable than the present. Imagine Saddam's regime collapsing from inside, a civil war breaking out, without any US or Western troops in the way. It would be a haven for Al Queda and like minded groups in the heart of the Middle East, with a theocratic Iran financing one side and an autocratic Saudi Arabia funding the other. Throw in the possibility of both sides racing for a bomb and Israel's legitimate fears. Now that would be chaos...
Avatar 3D and Race in The Bodyguard

You know it's Christmas break when you go see Avatar 3D with the family and come home and watch Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard with commercials and all.

First, let me say something about 3D. I don't like it. And it's not really 3D. It gives a SLIGHT illusion of depth. It feels like those diorama's one makes in 3rd grade science class. It does not make the movie experience fell anymore "real." In fact, it makes it more artificial. The glasses are annoying to wear and multiple objects in the foreground and background are confusing to look at. Regular cinema at it's best immerses you the experience - not that you are ACTUALLY there - but that you are witnessing a first hand photographic account of the story in front of you. Obviously, this is a "buy," to begin with, but regular old cinema works. Attempts like 3D and smell-o-vision and other stupid gimmicks miss this point and only serve to distance the audience from the experience, making it more like a cheap amusement park ride than a movie.

3D, I imagine, works for cartoons. That's what this movement is really all about, conditioning the audience for more and more cartoons. There's something sick going on right now in the movie world, the cartoonization of filmmaking. The special effects fanboys from the most talented (Cameron and Lucas) all the way down to the least talented (Bay) line like cartoons because it gives them massive amounts of "control." It allows them to have to deal less and less with real people in real situations. I guess they one day hope the images in their mind can be transported directly to the screen and bore us all to death. The animation studios all love it because they are gobbling up marketshare. The studios - for the moment - love it because they're generally cheaper to make than real movies and they can sell toys. And the audience is going along with it because yes, I'll admit, Pixar has pretty damn good writing these days and the rest of the movies out there are suffering in the writing department. The quicker, mature audience has shifted over to cable TV, leaving the sort of middle-brow audience as the main movie audience today and I'm slightly surprised they are going along with it...but judging by the sold out theater and applause at the end of the movie last night, they seem to be.

3D doesn't work for real actors. Can you imagine Lawrence of Arabia in 3D? Or Pulp Fiction 3D? Badlands in 3D? The whole thing is making me want to barf thinking about it more.

But to the movie...not as good as Cameron's masterpieces - Terminator 1 and 2, and Aliens. It belongs in his second tier, right below Titanic and right above The Abyss. I was entertained, which is more than I can say about Invictus, but not really delighted with very much in the movie. Some of the landscape photography, or drawings, or whatever you want to call it was awesome. The mechanical weaponry, etc, was great as well (although not substantially better or different than Aliens). The Blue People and florescent plants and creatures didn't see believable to me. They fall into the same category of effects as the new Star Wars creatures. I suppose impressive if you think about it, but I don't want to think about it, I want to be absorbed into the world on first viewing and believe in it. The writing was not Cameron's best, the good people were too good, the bad people too bad, the parallels to Native Americans overused and the motivation of the corporation too simplistic. But the end of the day, it is a movie that deserves to be seen in the theater, which is all I really hope for these days.

The Bodyguard is definitely one of my guilty pleasure films. Escape from Alcatraz, Star Wars III, and The Bodyguard were all on TV last night and I watched the Bodyguard all the way through. What that says about me...I don't know. There is damn good writing in that movie. When Tony comes into the kitchen after being ditched by Costner and tries to beat him up. Great scene, no dialog. When Costner tosses up the scarf over the samurai sword. Memorable. And let's not forget the plotting - incorporating both a weirdo stalker and the professional hired killer. Very well done. If you can get past some of Whitney's acting and the clownish white dude stalker, the movie holds up. Costner is good in this movie. I'll admit to being a Costner fan. With Patrick Swayze passing this year, people were having Swayze movie nights. Roadhouse, Red Dawn, and Point Break is a pretty damn fine evening. I suppose if it was co-ed, you could toss in Dirty Dancing in lieu of Roadhouse or Red Dawn - depending on the audience. What would it be with Costner? Bull Durham, The Untouchables, and Field of Dreams? Dances with Wolves? JFK? I would actually propose 4 separate trifeca-Costner evenings. You could go with the epic-cheese Costner - Waterworld, The Postman, and Robin Hood (admit, this would be fun), the sports trio - Bull Durham, Tin Cup, Field of Dreams (again, pretty fun), the paranoid Costner - JFK, No Way Out, The Untouchables (not bad, not bad), the Westerns - Dances with Wolves, Open Range, A Perfect World (again, not bad), or, my personal favorite the unheralded Costner - Swing Vote, 13 Days, The Bodyguard. Fine, perhaps The Bodyguard doesn't fall into unheralded. Maybe Revenge, but I can't remember that movie or if I ever saw it.

Last note on the Bodyguard and race. They handle race deftly in the Bodyguard by not even bringing it up. There isn't one single instance when a joke or comment about race in the entire film and yet here you have the central relationship between a white man and black woman. Spike Lee makes this into Jungle Fever. The Bodyguard doesn't even make a passing reference. The movie, literally, could have been cast the exact opposite, with a black man and a white woman and not a single word of the script would need changing. Can someone do this by the way? Remake the Bodyguard with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lady Gaga? I'd watch that movie. One could read into this several ways. One, celebrity trumps race. Whitney is the boss and has the power in the film and is a celebrity first and black second. Whitney and Eddie Murphy were essentially the first two stars where this became true. And then the OJ trial demonstrated the same thing. Or maybe that was about wealth. I don't know. Or two, we were within inches - in 1992 - of putting the issue of race behind us in an adult, albeit old fashioned way, by ceasing to think of it as a problem and just move on. I suppose Rodney King and OJ revealed either the impossibility of this or reopened racial wounds. I'm not sure. But it seems like even today, some sort of lame joke would be made about the race factor...but not in the Bodyguard.

Monday, December 21, 2009


This is an astonishingly boring film. I find it baffling Clint, Morgan Freeman, and Matt Damon could collaborate on such a dud. Was I supposed to come away thinking Nelsen Mandela was neglectful of his job and overly meddlesome in petty things like national rugby?
Be A Man

The horror stories from ex-NFL players are scary in their frequency.

Be a man! Be tough! "Those last two years in Oakland were very, very difficult times," he says. "I was in pain 24 hours per day, and my employers failed to acknowledge my injury. Sure, I won a Super Bowl ring. But was it worth giving up my health for a piece of jewelry? No way. Those diamonds have lost their luster."

Stock Bubble?

The 2000s were, according to The Wall Street Journal, the worst decade ever for stocks. The 0.5 percent that stocks on the New York Stock Exchange have lost on average per year since 1999 is the most in the nearly 200 years of recorded stock-market history—more even than the 1930s. The 1990s were the best decade ever, with a 17.6 percent average annual gain.

Well, this is a bit discouraging because the 2000s were the decade I started investing in stocks. I suppose the lesson here is that once everyone knows it - ie stocks are the best long term investment - it is no longer true.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The English Language

This topic of women-in-movies has garnered a surprising amount of interest, so I'd like to address one point made by Kat earlier, the idea that white-male-movies are seen as universal whereas white-female-movies or any minority movies are seen as "niche." She believes my position reinforces this stereotype.

Without question and for historical reasons, movies have developed certain codes - 3-Act structure, continuity editing, 90min-2hr length, various genres, etc. Chief - and perhaps most problematic from any sort of question of fairness of these codes - is English as the primary language of cinema. Let's face it, when we're talking big time global influence, movie-stars, and the studio system, the English language is the only language.

Is this fair? No. Of course not. Does it represent the demographics of the world? Of course not. Is the English Language universal? Hardly. If we were just talking numbers, most movies should in Mandarin. My point - and forgive me for reducing to the absurd - is that the very existence of the studio system and movies themselves reinforce certain preexisting stereotypes and privileges and chief among those privileges is English as the primary language. Do I have a problem with this system? Not really. Am I upset the Japanese make great electronics or the Brazilians are awesome at soccer and the French make incredible cheese. Not really, no. In fact, I rather like things the way they are, for the most part. I enjoy the Brazilian soccer players, French cheese, and Japanese electronics, and I assume they rather like our movies.

Now, as for privileged white females clamoring for more representation and power in the movie business, I'll let Steve Buschimi speak for me -

"Do you know what this is? It's the world's smallest violin, playing just for the waitresses."

Privileged white females seeking more power within the movie business is no different from the comic book geeks seeking more power and no different from the "auteur generation" seeking more power or the horror fans more power or the agents seeking more power or the stars seeking more power or the writers seeking more power or any other self-interested group seeking more power.

As for the question of why there aren't more female directors...certainly, there is more room for females in the directing chair and part of the problem probably stems from a lack of female role models and opportunities available. But it is also true that in pure numbers - more men go into the film industry than women. And this isn't unique to the film industry - more men gravitate towards construction and manufacturing and more women gravitate towards healthcare and education. Maybe these numbers will shift around over generations, but even in a pareto optimal situation, certain industries are going to be favored by a certain gender. Thus, the pure-numbers analysis isn't quite telling an accurate story.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Interest Group Politics And Making More Women/Minority Friendly Movies

I fail to see how Manohla/Robyn/Kat's call for more women directors and female-driven pictures is of more substantive value than my call for more Westerns and smarter action movies without CG effects. I suppose we all agree there are too many comic book movies and dumb actions movies and dumb romantic comedies.
How I Know I'm Right

On this back and forth about quality vs. demographics as an approach to movie making. Yesterday, after I wrote the above-linked blog post I walk downstairs to grab lunch and a couple of old ladies are walking nearby and I can overhear their conversation -

"It's like that movie...what was that movie called again..."
"I don't know."
"The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly."
"Oh...I love that movie."
"Yeah, that's a great movie."

These are two old ladies talking. Old freaking ladies. If you had to guess, you'd think they'd want to watch Last Chance Harvey - but no - they're talking Leone. That's how I know I'm right.
Guilt, Shame, Guilt

On reality tv, specifically Jersey Shore:

Don’t get me wrong; it’s great television. But gladiatorial games would be great TV, too.

The Los Angeles Times reported the other day that the reality-show industry is suddenly having a crisis of conscience about its impact on the culture. That’s nice to hear, but it’s not nearly enough.

British historian Arnold Toynbee argued that civilizations thrive when the lower classes aspire to be like the upper classes, and they decay when the upper classes try to be like the lower classes. Looked at through this prism, it’s hard not to see America in a prolonged period of decay.

and this is pretty interesting:

Self-discipline was once a virtue; now self-expression is king.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Facebook Suicide

A writer chronicles her decision to off herself on the popular social networking site.

I hate social networking.

TEDDY SAVED JFK's BRAIN: A shocking treasure trove of Kennedy documents, photos - and even a human brain fragment believed to belong to former president John F. Kennedy - have been found in the attic of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's Hyannis Port home. The stunning discovery came when workers recently cleaned out the historic Cape Cod, Mass, house, which originally belonged to Joe and Rose Kennedy, to begin preparations to convert it to a museum.

It's a very weird thing going over a loved ones things after death. You find all sorts of bizarre things and strangely revealing stuff. This was the jumping off point for ABOUT SCHMIDT, after all. It makes me want to destroy anything compromising. I suppose everyone says that, but no one really know when they're going to go. Or, I suppose, what's compromising.

Instapundit asks:


Maybe the Mormons are onto something.
A Race To The Bottom

Robyn's commentary on the Manohla Dargis prompted me to think through my position a little more -

Manohla and I agree studio decision-making-by-demographic leads to a suboptimal outcome. Manohla and Robyn argue the studios ought to adjust the decision-by-demographic to better reflect the population, ie more movies for women, minorities, etc. They further suggest film directors of minority demographic status will increase the likelihood of good movies for those demographics. I disagree with both of those points. I don't think adjusting the decision-by-demographic will increase the overall quality of the movies, just increase the number of shitty movies made for women, minority, and old people audiences. I believe this approach to movie-making is a recipe for continued disaster and is basically looking through the wrong end of the spyglass.

I advocate putting movie studios back in the hands of movie-people (vs. business-people) and privileging quality over demographics. I'd rather have 20 great movies about dead-white-males than 5-5-5-5 shitty movies fulfilling a perfect racial quota. And likewise, I'm perfectly happy to have Katherine Bigelow, Jane Campion, Nicole Holofcener, and Lynn Ramsey all making a movie a year.

I'd advocate studios attempting to make more "cross-over" hits. There's actually a much better term for it - Good Movies. Audiences want to see GOOD MOVIES. Not black movies or white movies or women movies or guy movies.

If we focus on quality, I think the demographics take care of themselves. If we focus on demographics, it becomes a race to the bottom.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Terrorism As Tactics

This article got me thinking a little bit about the effectiveness of terror attacks. Like Iraq, the escalation of attacks by Taliban against Pashtun civilians in Afghanistan is turning the population against the Taliban.

Fact is, terrorism as a defensive or offensive tactic is fairly limited. Not unlike the Option or the Wildcat in college football, it can throw the other team off for a little bit, but if used exclusively, is not a sustainable recipe for success. Terrorism IS effective when used as a surprise and can get a minority or powerless group immediate attention. It is a good offensive weapon for the weak against the strong, because it inevitably requires greater cost to combat than it takes to execute.

Terrorism - like anything else - works better when backed up with a strong or appealing ideological message. Problem for these Islamic Radicals - long term - is that their message has failed to take hold in every single country they've tried selling it to. And they've been trying for 50 years, long before 9/11. It failed dramatically in Egypt and mildly in Saudi Arabia. It failed in Jordan. The only places it's taken hold and stuck are parts of Lebanon, Iran, some Palestinian territories, and Afghanistan. But in none of those places is it widely popular except in parts of Lebanon and Gaza - very small areas - and most likely only popular as a reaction to various wars against Israel.

We must remember, the best weapon against these nutjobs is themselves. We need to give them enough rope to hang themselves. For them, it's simply a race for the clock. Can they get hold of powerful enough deterrent technology or powerful enough offensive technology to inflict irreparable damage on the West while maintaining a small, but loyal following before they are completely wiped out. That is the question.

This is their only recourse and why it is so important to delay their acquisition of game-changing technology.
It's Complicated

Saw an early screening last night. I enjoyed it. Something is happening to me - I'm becoming a pop-saccharine sap. I'm watching Jersey Shore, following Tiger and his mistresses, and enjoying Nancy Meyers movies. Soon I'll be watching Project Runway and working for ABC.

The Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin triangle works well. She resists the easy out by making Baldwin likable and Streep - as always - is a pleasure to watch. I found the old-people-having-sex nice and refreshing and not disgusting - for whatever that's worth. Although Baldwin did seem to have a spray tan.

The lamest part of the movie are the children, who seems to have little personality of their own and are basically treated like precious props...which is standard for Hollywood, except these are actually grown children as opposed to kids still in the home. I can let this go - it was a free screening.

There was a moment when the movie almost popped into sixth gear (11 on the Spinal Tap meter) when MS and SM get ahold of weed and attend a graduation party. There was a moment where I was like, "Holy shit, they might really have something here..." but alas it never quite takes off. And they could of made a pretty interesting statement about male-female relationships by ending the movie on the bench (not ruining it yet) - but of course - can't resist doing the old hollywood happy note.

U.S. NATIONAL DEBT TOPS DEBT LIMIT: The latest calculation of the National Debt as posted by the Treasury Department has - at least numerically - exceeded the statutory Debt Limit approved by Congress last February as part of the Recovery Act stimulus bill.

The ceiling was set at $12.104 trillion dollars. The latest posting by Treasury shows the National Debt at nearly $12.135 trillion.

One Question for Obama

What is your definition of victory in Afghanistan?

If I could ask him one short question, this would be it.
It Will Not Work

Obama wrote a personal letter to Kim Jong Il asking him to get rid of the nukes.

This sounds like an idea brain stormed in a student council meeting.

Interpretation - Obama is suffering from his own personal charm. Just like hot chicks are often insufferable because everyone treats them like hot chicks, Obama seems to think his personal likability alone can solve intractable problems with psychopathic dictators. Call it the John Hamm-in-30Rock-syndrome.

San Francisco the worst run city in the country.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fun for NBA Fans

A best-of the decade. A fun reminder of some good NBA times. All in all, it was a good NBA decade.
No Me Gusta

Sullivan uses a ghost blogger?

There are a lot of reasons I don't like this. One, it is false advertising. Two, from blogging all these years, I've come around to believing that it is THE ACT of writing that gives value to the words. Rubber stamping something you agree with isn't writing. Having someone write on your behalf, something you'd say, isn't writing. Writing itself forces you to think through what you are saying. The time it takes to punch out letters matters. It matters for rhythm, it matters for thoughts to germinate and to become clear, to marinate. Sometimes I start posts that I never finish because I discover I'm saying nothing or saying something I don't mean to say or saying something I don't believe. But lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this is a huge act of arrogance. When what you're selling is your words, I expect them to be your words. Certain things should not be delegated - friendship (i'm reminded of kramer's intern taking notes at lunch with george and jerry), sex (see extract), traffic school (the online one's test you to make sure you aren't having someone else take it on your behalf), and writing.

I'll still read the blog, but this partially explains why I don't like it as much as I used to. Or maybe I'll slowly fade away as a fan.
More Gush

Defending Obama's Afghanistan policy because he made the policy.

In the film world I see fans often defend films simply because they are made by a filmmaker they adore as opposed to the actual merits of the work. We all do it to a certain degree. I suppose it often has to do with the mood one has going into a film or whatever emotional headstate one is in while watching. I think the same can be said now of policy - basically the author is saying they'd support a policy made by Obama because he seems thoughtful about it vs. the same policy by Bush because he doesn't like his Texas twang.

Just the way of the world.
A Must Read

A serious article on the choices America faces today. He frames the burning issue brilliantly between the inherent "creative destruction" necessary for economic innovation and the need for social cohesion for a stable civil society to raise children and provide for goods and services.

This is the first good article I've read in a long time that synthesizes our recent economic woes and frames the issue in an adult and accurate manner. He calmly lays out the set the choices and the dangers inherent in different paths and most impressively how all of these issues tie together. Particularly startling are his statistics about the American underclass and the sheer chaos that 1/3 of American children are growing up under today. I suppose this is what PRECIOUS is about. But he also warns strongly against falling into a European style Social Democratic model in an attempt to regain "cohesion" and stability in the face of overwhelming international competition. The stats on Europe's decline are frightening and the decline of the West in international power and prestige is not a pretty future if you pay attention at all to world affairs.
I Might Buy Sirius

Howard Stern proposes a Tiger Mistress Beauty Pageant on his show. Hat tip, Phil.
Cock Tease

I knew the 49ers would do something like this - destroy the Cardinals on Monday Night and keep their technical playoff hopes alive. Want proof?

This is like running into an ex girlfriend who cheated on you at a party wearing a push up bra, a nice new haircut, and drunk on vodka tonic...the Niners winning last night is like the moment you walk in and she is all over you like old times. When you're 22 you think - YES - I'm getting action tonight. When you're 32 you know she's going home with the douche bag with frosted tips and you're going to feel worse about yourself than had she not been there in the first place.

That's what you did last night 49ers!
Yes, This Is A Problem

Straight from Instapundit and Kaus.

“Only 33% of *U.S. born* (second-generation) Latino immigrant kids identify themselves first by the term ‘American.’ Most prefer either their country of origin (41%) or the term ‘Latino’ or ‘Hispanic.’

In previous waves of immigration, we got assimilation because teachers, politicians, media, etc. believed in it, and thought America as it was an indisputably good thing, and thus acted accordingly. This time, they feel differently, and act differently, and so we get different results.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Tony Blair

Still stands by the decision to remove Saddam.

For what it's worth, Blair is still the politician I admire most from my lifetime. Maybe it's only because I'm not British and saw him only from afar...but listening to his argue to the House of Commons...the guy is articulate, entertaining, and I trust him. More than I can say of our best and brightest.
Swallow the Spider to Catch the Fly

This is obvious. I wrote about this two weeks ago. We are stuck in Afghanistan for fear of the Pakistani-Indian nuclear conflict that would surely come about if radicals controlled the Pakistani government.

But let's be clear about what we are saying - if we stay in Afghanistan to help "stabilize" the region, this is the choice of an empire. Is that what we want? Is that what we must do?

Liberals would be against this if GW Bush proposed it. That I know.
Manohla Dargis Flips

Her interview berating Hollywood for not giving women more of a chance.

I'd be more apt to agree with her general issues if she didn't make it so gender specific. Yeah, it's a dorky frat boy atmosphere in terms of getting increasingly lame movies made. The lack of woman directing is a symptom of an overall problem, but not THE PROBLEM itself. Women aren't interested in helping other women. And neither are men interested in helping women for the sake of helping women. It just isn't the way things work. All this woman-power stuff in Hollywood is just more interest-group politics. What's the difference between oil men and nuclear power men? Oil men have more money and power and influence. If the shoe was on the other foot, it wouldn't change all that much. Do I prefer more Sex in the City or more Transformers? The answer is neither.
Strange - I Did Not Know This

From Powerline on the "consensus" to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991.

John Kerry, Joe Biden and 43 other Democrats voted to let Saddam Hussein keep Kuwait and expand his control over Middle Eastern oil from there, while continuing to develop nuclear weapons--which, we later learned, he would have had by 1992 or 1993, at the latest.

I think Obama meant "consensus" by the UN and world support. Of course, even that consensus was probably in large part from Saudi bribery. "We'll pay for it and then give you guys cheap oil in the aftermath," was the undercurrent. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Guess I'm Old Fashioned

Because my initial reaction to coed dorm rooms in college is: not a good idea.

I view as a problematic more from a housing perspective - this will surely increase the number of roommates demanding room changes throughout the year. I mean, this is pretty obvious.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Take It Back

Jamie Junger is NOT hot. This is her Today Show interview. Disgusting! She's got crazy-eyes, man. I can't stand looking her. And if you can't look at a woman, probably shouldn't have an affair with her.

That makes it official - all of Tiger's mistresses are gross.

A Simmons reader likens Tiger to Don Draper. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Draper - at least in the 1.5 seasons I watched - bags some pretty hot and pretty cool chicks. Not porn stars and cocktail waitresses and borderline escorts...actually, let me take all of that back...I've got no problem with pornstars and cocktail waitresses and borderline escorts...but the ones he chose were the gross ones from within the group of promiscuous star fuckers. Some of these girls, I'm sure, are pretty cool and down to earth and fun to hang out with and hot-in-a-cool-way. But Tiger picks all the weirdos with bizarro lips and crazy eyes who kinda into weird stuff and who are pornstars you've never even heard of and then you look them up on pornsites and they not only aren't even "affair-worthy" but aren't really even jack-off worthy.
A Herzog Take

From Simmons mailbag -

Q: Amidst all the talk of image consultants and PR rehab for Tiger, haven't we missed the obvious solution: that he should go all the way in the other direction and become a WWE-type heel? Picture it: Tiger dumps Elin and the kids, moves into a penthouse suite at the Wynn or the Palms, grows a short-cropped Hollywood Hogan-style beard, sleeps his way through starlets and party girls and heads back to the Tour in annihilation mode. Women would start showing up at events to boo him, men would (secretly) cheer him, as he leaves nothing but destruction and mayhem in his wake. And if you're Tiger, what sounds more fun -- a decade of apologies, microscopically short leashes, the embarrassment of getting axed by sponsors, and no hope for business time with Elin, or just living the dream?

Question - if the above actually happened and Werner Herzog documented it - would this be the greatest film in the history cinema? Legitimate question.
I'm Not The Only One

Phew. I thought I was going crazy, but Simmons reassures me - this Tiger story is the sports story of the decade.

But the Tiger Zoo nailed every gotta-have-it component for a big-time story with legs. First, it involved one of the most famous living athletes. Second, it started definitively with a specific incident -- and not just any incident, but something that made us say, "Wait, this seems fishy, I wonder what really happened here ..." and quickly became more complex than we imagined. Third, it built steam over the next week, crossed into the mainstream and dominated conversations, e-mails and tweets. Fourth, it transformed our collective perception of a famous person and made us re-evaluate every opinion we had about him. Fifth, it grew so enormous so quickly that everyone with a forum (radio show, column, blog, whatever) felt obligated to come up with an angle on it.


I wish I didn't care. I wish I wasn't gossiping about it like a 10th-grade girl. I wish I could say, "You know what? It's between his wife and him, we need to stay out of it." But there are just too many wrinkles to this baby. The biggest star of this decade ended up in the biggest sports story of the pre-teen double-zero aughts.

Me too.
Jersey Shore

Not only is JS the first reality TV I've watched since the Real World San Francisco, it is the first TV show I watched all the way through with commercials and everything since...I don't even know. Since I moved to Santa Monica at least.

I will miss Jolie. I hope they find a way to bring her back. Three episodes in - my favorite details about all these characters (least favorite is too easy)

Jolie - her self admission that she's a cock blocker, but what I like even better is that every single random girl that shows up in the house, she has no fear in just flat out calling them whores to their faces. I also like her approach to working in the tshirt shop - basically - she doesn't want to do it, so she doesn't.

JWoww - I keep going back between Jwoww and Sammi as the hottest. I think Jwoww actually has a pretty face, but it is worn down already by too much drinking, partying, and eating ham. And her boob job is ridiculous. She's probably the most naturally pretty of the girls, but is on the road to really screwing herself up. My favorite detail of JWoww was how she stole Pauly's tee shirt the second night and told him she'd kill him if he hooked up with another girl, and then immediately afterwards left the club because she decided she didn't want to cheat on her boyfriend and wanted to eat ham and drink water.

Sammi - My favorite detail about Sammy is when she apologizes to Snooki and basically convinces her to stay the first day. It was rather sweet. Sammi probably has the most charisma on the show. How she handles everything with the Situation and Ronnie sucks, however.

Snooki - Oh boy. This girl is a mess. Her best moment is refusing to kiss the guy she brings home because he puked all over the place. Although, judging by the preview, her best moments are in front of her. Jesus.

Pauly - I actually really like Pauly. He somehow manages to be tolerable in the middle of all the chaos. He is fairly even keeled. So I like a lot of the little details about how he behaves. He's excited when JWoww jumps his bones, but when she starts acting all crazy and giving weird signals, he's pretty non-plussed and just finds some new girls to meet on the street. I also like when the Situation tries to blame him for nearly blowing up the gas bbq and he's like "hold up dude, we did that together." Wait a minute...I just remembered something and take it all back...the dude has a cock-ring.

Ronnie - It's a tie between his dance moves and his theory that Vinny gets pink eye from dancing with a fat chick.

The Situation - His cooking ability.

Vinny - Easily when he goes around telling everyone about his pink eye.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tiger's Mistresses

In case it isn't obvious, I've been totally sucked into the Tiger story. This isn't normally my thing, but for some reason this story along with Jersey Shore, is really dragging me into the muck. To add to it, I rented THE PROPOSAL and TWILIGHT last night. Seriously, maybe all this is a cry for help. Maybe, in fact, LA is getting to me. I used to think I could stand up to it. I used to think it was a good test of character. Greater men have been felled by lesser foes. Look no further than Tiger for proof of this.

Okay. Here is a click through picture album of Tiger's Mistresses.

Now, I want to add my own twisted disappointment with Tiger...but first I should point out the other twisted disappointments - the mistress who got mad and jealous only when she learned of other mistresses - black women getting upset he had no black mistresses - his wife trying to murder him with a golf club - Eliot Spitzer's call girl calling out these mistresses for being fame-whores and generally classless - I'm sure there are more related to condom use, rough sex, etc...not fully reported yet.

My twisted disappointed with Tiger is looking through the photos - these girls aren't hot. Only JAMIE JUNGERS is actually "affair-worthy." Honestly. I'm not even famous or rich and I don't think I'd have an affair with any of those chicks, save for possibly Jamei Jungers and even she looks gross in one of the photos. Now, I'm not going to pretend to be some sort of diva here - toss a couple of drinks down my throat and make it easy - yeah, some of these girls could talk me into the sack. Or I could talk myself. Don't get me wrong. But an affair? That would require calling and planning - or at the very least texting and emailing. It would also require people seeing you with them. And I'm not sure I'd be seen with any of these girls. Do any of them have real lips? What's up with their frigging lips? They look like balloon animals. So I guess my twisted disappointment in Tiger is his taste.
Ohhhh Tiger...

I'm sure she would have fallen for you as you...regardless of whether you were the best golfer in the world and a billionaire.

Psyche! (park and rec shout out - "You remembered I use psyche."

Here is Tiger's distressed email -

“I don’t know if this is going to work. I thought I was getting to know you, but it feels like I’m just another person who happens to be famous. Every time I think about it, I get a lump in my throat. … I don’t know what person I was falling for so hard. The one I got to know on the phone, e-mail, text and in person. Or the one who likes famous people. I am so confused, because what my brain is saying and what my heart is saying are two different things. … It guts me to think I’ve fallen for the wrong one.”


Hat tip, Phil.
Facebook News

I guess Facebook has introduced new privacy settings. Here are the drawbacks from a security specialist.

* Your Name, Profile Picture, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List, and Pages are all available to be viewed by EVERYONE on Facebook! You cannot change these settings at all. Note, there is a way to remove your entire Friends List from your profile but it’s all or nothing! Here is a screen shot of this. You have to set it in your profile page using the “edit” button and check the box.These changes are quite disturbing considering that you used to be able to restrict this type of information. I really believe that Facebook has done this on purpose so *more* information is being shared about you while stating “enhanced” more granular privacy settings. If you have been to one of my talks in the past I always mention that social networks need to find ways to make money. The way they make money is off of the information you share! If you don’t get a choice about the basic information anymore…that’s more money in their pocket at the expense of your privacy.

* What about the security ramifications of this? It opens up a whole new world for cyberstalking, predators and other attackers. If you were someone that didn’t feel comfortable sharing this information in the first place, your choice is gone. Sure, you can lock down your profile so no one can search for you but if you do that…why are you on Facebook to begin with? You *have* to let your real friends search for you at some point!

* By default Facebook “suggests” that you set your status updates to “Everyone”. Here is the thing with status updates….Everyone means everyone on the Internet! This is where new technology like Google RTS comes into play. Imagine how easy it will be to find the latest information on “Tiger Woods” or now everything YOU are saying on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Enter in some social engineering and things just got easier for attackers looking to use you or your information (which is easy to figure out now that I can see your friends, and things that interest you via the pages your a fan of).

* Lastly, Facebook removed the ability to prevent Facebook applications your friends installed from pulling your “public” information. That option is now gone and applications that your friends install can now view your “public” info. Remember kids, “public” info is now: Your Name, Profile Picture, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List, and Pages.

Facebook is the worst. It brings out the petty, the useless, the vain, the needy, and the obsessive in all of us. These are not the good human traits.

American fatality rates in Afghanistan: 2001: 12; 2002: 49; 2003: 48; 2004: 52; 2005: 99; 2006: 98; 2007: 117; 2008: 155; so far in 2009: 301.

This ain't Vietnam.
Respect For History?

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about of my least favorite topics because I never learn anything new talking about it. At least he tries to decipher the issue - problem for me is - I'm not really sure there IS an issue.

History is the monster. And there is no escape. You can't talk your way out of it--at every step we're confronted by our own laziness. It warps our stories, reduces beautiful and complicated narratives about race, sports, agency into cartoonish fairy tales. It's sad. I always thought that what we needed in this country wasn't so much cash payments, but some respect for history. Not history as an excuse for hamburgers, hot dogs and chips, but history as a way of understanding who we--despite ourselves-- really are.

And for African-Americans, history really is the balm in Gilead. I think a lot of us can come to some peace, can come to understand that whatever happened to us, there are limits on what anyone can do to make it right, and while those limits have to be pushed, some of this we're going to have to carry ourselves. And then with a even broader sense we can understand that our suffering is not singular, that it isn't the only suffering. And finally--and most important to me--we can understand ourselves as Zora Hurston did, as more then a litany of abuses, as more than a walking protest, as something apart and distinct from what someone else did to us.

Respect for history? I don't understand what that entails. There is nothing more frustrating that the term "respect" these days. Other than the 49ers. I can't stand the cries of the Ayatollah's and Chavez's and Hamas' of the world calling for more "respect." It is purposefully not tangible and fluid in meaning and never to be resolved - just one long ongoing gripe.

Now I don't mean to belittle the issue of race. I just find it boring and irrelevant to my daily life. I'm not really white and not really Asian. I also think that inside I have a little Italian, a little Black, and a little Jewish. Perhaps if there were a surgery to change race, I'd consider it. I'd add a dash of this and a dash of that, maybe toss in a little Native American to help me get into college. If you take the logic of transsexualism - that in gender terms, there can be a difference inside and outside - I don't see how the same thing cannot be said of race.

I may not be racially black or racially Jewish, but can I be said to be a little culturally black and culturally Jewish? My Jersey Shore nickname, after all, is Gblack. Not Gasian. Or Gwhite. My favorite TV shows are SEINFELD and THE WIRE. Does none of this matter?

Historically speaking - am I a victim or a benefactor of the Chinese Exclusion Acts? Am I a victim or benefactor of slavery? Of the holocaust?

The answer is D - None of the Above.
More Tiger

Black women are upset that none of his mistresses are black.

This is becoming the story of the year.
Obama Speech

It was on the radio today. Man, was I bored. What happened? This guy is known for stirring speeches...but for some reason, I'm already tired of his voice. Overexposure? Lack of results? I'm not sure...

...and there's the obvious Orwellian charge of him sending more troops to Afghanistan one week and accepting a Nobel Prize the next. Ironic? Sure. Exactly the type of thing the Left would jump upon if his name was GW Bush.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Buying a House Is Not An Investment

One the better articles against thinking about a house as an investment.

It bears repeating: homes aren’t investments, they’re places to live. If you can buy a nice house for less than you’d otherwise pay in rent, then go ahead and buy — no matter what the market looks like, or where mortgage rates are. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an “investment”, stick to securities. You can sell those much more easily when you need some money, and they won’t drive you into possible bankruptcy and homelessness if they go down rather than up.

This is actually a really smart thought - you cannot easily sell or liquidate your house if you need the cash - as many "homeowners" are learning in this financial crisis. I've stopped thinking about the last 6-7 years in rent as money down the drain (that theoretically could have been equity in a home.) Truthfully, it hasn't been all that much and I have flexibility. Can't put a price on that.
How Not to Manage a Harem

My favorite detail of the Tiger Woods story* is that one of the mistresses only came out after she found out about the existence of other mistresses.

You may wonder how Rachel Uchitel could be angry with Tiger Woods for playing around with other women, especially when her friends say she's savvy enough to be seeing other men herself. People magazine reports that the golf pro's alleged mistress was "none too happy" about other women he may have been seeing. This isn't as daft as it sounds.

The author charges Tiger with carelessness, above all else.

*is it just me, or is this story paying a lot of dividends? It just keeps getting better. I enjoy this story better than watching Tiger golf. More drama.
A Damn Fine Question
The two competing theories in the counter-terrorism world are the "Centrists" and the "Bunch of Guys" theories.

The centrists argue that Al Queda Central, ie Bin Laden and Zawahri are the keystone figures in the Islamic Jihad movement. If they are gone, much of the most hardcore elements will die with them. The "Bunch of Guys," argue that the movement is shaped by ideas, is fractured, and does not depend on AQC at all.

Which is it?
Preferring Bush?

A poll says 44% Americans would rather have Bush in office than Obama. All that tells me is that 44% of Americans don't know the 22nd Amendment about Presidential term limits. The question is nonsense.

The Niners tossed away their season last week by losing to Seattle in a game they should have won by two touchdowns. They literally dropped 3 touchdown passes and the botched trick punt return was the single stupidest play in design and execution and timing all season (although Dre Bly's interception celebration and consequent fumble is a close second). What kind of team loses a must win game to an inferior opponent who has nothing to play for? An annoying, awful, cock-tease of a team, that's who.

The frustration of the Seattle loss is only increased by the reveal that Alex Smith shows signs of life. The guy is playing well. So we have a quarterback. Basically. And we have some talented young wide outs. Vernon Davis COULD BE (but never will) be the best (or at least most dangerous) tight end in the entire league. Our defense is scary good at times, especially with Nate Clements playing. Gore is a top ten or five running back. But the fumble? Oy vey.

The coaching staff has shown some flexibility by adjusting the offense to what we have. But they are also incredible stupid on tactical decision making and cannot find any flow or balance in the play calling. They wanted to "run the football." It didn't work because our offensive line sucks. So now we go to the spread and throw 90% of the time and cannot convert third downs because the defenses know exactly what we're doing. Here's an idea that's worked for the Niners in the past - throw to set up the run. 2nd and 6? Go in the shotgun and run a draw play for Gore. Boom. We get a 3rd and 1, 3rd and 2. Don't got for a long pass over the middle to Davis who'll drop it half the time. Give Gore some space to run and he'll make plays. Our goal - even in the spread - should be to get Gore 20 carries a game. Just don't run smack into the line on 1st down every time. We don't have the line for it.

Part of me is happy for the loss against Seattle because I no longer need to be invested in the long-shot possibility of the playoffs. The Niners revealed the character of this team on Sunday. They are confused and immature and frustrating and full of mixed signals and inconsistencies. And because of all this, they'll probably do something ridiculous like beat Arizona on Monday night just to piss me off.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Gifts and Central Authority

An appropriate article given the gift-giving seasons.

The problem of buying good presents for other people, even people you supposedly know well, illustrates that old familiar Hayekian concept, the knowledge problem. If you can't even give your loved ones the right presents, how likely is it that a central authority could make the right decisions for everyone?

This is similar to my surprise party theory and why it explains Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Try planning a surprise party. Tough. Very tough. Now imagine trying to pull off a conspiracy to kill the President of the United States and then fooling the entire Warren Commission and all of history. Good luck.
Lose 5 or 10 Pounds and We Can Talk/Dude, I Will Cut Your Hair While You Sleep.

Oh boy. What an experience watching the first two episodes of Jersey Shore.

Backstory: Needing some podcasts for my morning commute, I quickly downloaded the latest Bill Simmons and threw on the Ipod. In his most recent podcast he devotes 45 minutes to discussing the first two episodes of Jersey Shore - the new MTV Reality Show about Guido culture in Jersey. He compared the show to an Altman movie. The names of the characters alone made it a must see: The Situation, JWoww, Pinkeye, Snooky, Jolie...

After work, I immediately came home to watch. First off, MTV's online streaming is awful compared to NBC or Hulu. And the show started off pretty lame, basically the format is the Real World with Guido's on the Jersey shore. Listening to Simmons talk about the show, I expected to see some of the nuttiest people on the planet in a culture I totally didn't understand. But honestly, this isn't unlike Hermosa Beach other other buff-guy cultures. So I was surprised how accessible I found the characters.

I got into it, though. This show proves there is something endearing about a character who knows and understand themselves. One of the girls proclaims early on in the show, "If you're not a guido you can get the fuck out of my face."

I haven't watched the Real World in years. I don't remember what the Real World was about. But this show...Jersey about men and women. The themes emerging from the show already will be familiar to those waaaaay outside of the guido culture. There are primal instincts at play and boy, is it just me, or are the guys in this show just being lined up to get their hearts broken? Am I the only one who sees this coming a hundred miles away?

My favorite moments thus far - Snooky bringing home the guy who pukes on the deck and she walks him home, Vinny telling everyone he has pinkeye; Jolie proclaiming tshirt selling is beneath her and longing for her true calling as a bartender.

Can someone at MTV please lock these people into contracts to do a Jersey Shore every seven years and make this a side companion to Michael Apted's UP series?

Me want.
Oy Vey

Former Guantanamo inmate "martyred" in Yemen.

What's a bigger problem - holding terrorists without a civilian trial or letting terrorists go free knowing full well they are going to commit murder against Americans or Infidels around the world?

If one is opposed to holding terrorists indefinitely, it seems reasonable you also answer the question - what ought we to do with them? And bear in mind the above case.
Call Girls Calling Out Tiger Mistresses

Is it just me or is this story getting better by the day?

Last night I heard a "news" promo that up to 10 mistresses are coming out. Ten! Tiger really just went for it, didn't he? There needs to be a club for these athletes with stellar reputations who are secretly carrying around a harem or in the case of Marvin Harrison, a secret mafioso. Tiger is the boss, Marvin Harrison is the consigliere.
Cold As A Mutha F--ker

What is going on in LA right now? It's freaking freezing outside. I hope this bodes well for the ski season.
More Reasons Not To Do Facebook

From the HuffPo. Hat tip, Viner.

Is it just me or is the HuffPo much more tolerable now that Bush is gone?

My favorites are the eating Raw Chicken and Mom's First Attempt.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Can You Do That?

Watching some of the Senate hearings on the Obama Afghanistan plan, one Senator asked, "what happens if in 2011, we and the Afghani's aren't ready to drawn down troops?" The answer, in summation, was "we'll evaluate it then, and adjust the drawn down, if necessary."

Really? Can you really have it both ways? Can you say on the one hand, we are going to be pulling out in 2011 and then on the other say, but not if it doesn't make sense to do it? And if this is the position, what is the point of making the goal to drawn down in 2011.

Actually makes GW Bush's pledge to not put a timetable on Iraq or Afghanistan kinda, sorta, and relatively honest (but not necessarily wise).

Google map of Eater's 38 Best LA Restaurants.

Hitchens really slams Palin.

At least Richard Nixon had the ill fortune to look like what he was: a haunted scoundrel and repressed psychopath. Whereas the usefulness of Sarah Palin to the right-wing party managers is that she combines a certain knowingness with a feigned innocence and a still-palpable blush of sex. But she should take care to read her Alexander Pope: That bloom will soon enough fade, and it will fade really quickly if she uses it to prostitute herself to the Nixonites on one day and then to cock-tease the rabble on the next.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Tick Tock

What is that sound? It is the sound of the Brett Favre meltdown. We are getting a preview tonight of the first round Viking playoff exit. Here is what Brett did in the decisive 3rd quarter against Arizona - 2 interceptions and taking a big sack on 3rd and five.

Can we be honest here for a moment? Why is Favre having a good year? Because the Vikings offense is built around a strong run game and short screen passes to talented runners - Harvin and Peterson. Occasionally they can go downfield because the opponents need to gear up to stop Harvin and Peterson - but not because Favre has any game. If Favre is asked to make any number of big plays, his odds are as low as any NFL quarterback.

If there was a question of who is a better quarterback Warner or Favre, tonight's game pretty much settles the dispute. This almost makes up for the 49er meltdown today.

*side note - earlier this year Rush Limbaugh got grief for saying Donovan McNabb was overrated because everyone wanted to see a black quarterback succeed. If this is true, it is equally true that Brett Favre is overrated because he fits a different stereotype - the gun-slinging Southern QB, a hero for the Nascar-dad.
The Middle Class

Everyone knows the Middle Class is dying in America. The question: is it worth trying to preserve?

Definitions --

The middle class ought to be- a family who owns their own home (one) and can afford to send their kids to college (and graduate school) without excessive debt and without financial aid. Embedded in these two assumptions are that the family also owns a couple of cars, food is not an issue, and healthcare is covered. But given the high cost of education these days, if a family can afford college, it can afford those other things as well. Middle Class isn't just an economic term - it is a state of mind and being, where you are a citizen of the country and don't depend on any type of government assistance to get by either via financial aid or other programs. When you are dependent on government assistance, you are not as free as if you aren't. By taking aid, you are indebted to a certain party or to the government and rely on it for you well being. Obviously, a country with too many people dependent on the government to survive, cannot be considered healthy, like a family with all the grown children living at home.

But with the cost of college and real estate so inflated these days, it is making the middle class non-existent. It pushes people into either lower-middle class or the upper middle class.

Lower middle class is when you work, but depend on government help to you get by either via healthcare, education, rent control, etc. Upper middle class is when you own two or more homes can easily travel outside the country, but to maintain the lifestyle, must work. (vs. rich where you don't really need to work).

Mind you, these are my own definitions based on the way I imagine the idealized 50s-60s post-war boom time for the American Middle Class. I imagine either political party would do quite well trying to enact programs to re-establish an American middle class.

Franklin D. Roosevelt understood what it meant to be a core Democrat and to maintain his party's ranks.

He built winning coalitions around his policies by empowering previously suppressed groups, such as labor unions and urban ethnics. In the process, he created a 40-year dynasty for Democrats.

Today's bunch? Not so much.

The problem for FDR's party is that it hasn't adapted swiftly enough to two realities -- that jobs are the most important issue to the nation, and that the middle class (which Democrats claim to champion) is dissolving under its watch.

I don't know what you call this style of humor, but I like it.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Up In The Air

A movie made for everyone -- a movie every adult will enjoy. In the tradition of Little Miss Sunshine and Forest Gump...some people hate these kind of movies because, sure, you can't go out on any limbs. But I enjoy them. I'm not a radical. I liked Up in the Air. Really superb female characters. And varied. And George Cloony. Is it just me or are the women just killing it these days? I was watching Mad Men Season 2 and that show just seems to have endlessly good female roles. This got me thinking...why does it seem like women are crushing men all around America today? Isn't college these days like 60-40 female-male? I've heard the recession called the man-cession because of the disproportionately high number of men out out of work vs. women since so many of the job losses are in manufacturing and construction and finance. What is going on? Oh wait, I know, technology is making men totally unnecessary.
The Least Worst Option

There seems to be a consensus amongst reasonable people that despite the obvious problems with Obama's Afghanistan plan, it is indeed, as he pointed out, the least worst option.

I don't believe the "status quo" argument has been sufficiently rebuked, but appreciate Obama acknowledging it as an option. He cited the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, ie more lands falling into the hands of the Taliban, as evidence the status quo is failing. An issue not addressed enough is the dividing line between the Taliban and Al Queda. In some respects, who cares if the Taliban take over large swathes of territory so long as Al Queda is not operating there? I would take the situation where the Taliban has the south, but Al Queda isn't set up there vs. the Taliban being driven back into a corner, but Al Queda is operative in that corner. For some reason, the Taliban and Al Queda are being merged into one enemy in this logic - but there should remain a distinction - terrorists and those who harbor them. The Taliban have harbored them in the past, but we've given them the option to give up AQ before and maybe 8 years of battle changes their mind. The continued low-level presence of Nato/US troops and drone strikes, while perhaps not sufficient to crush the Taliban, may be sufficient enough to keep them contained, off balance and unable to let Al Queda operate with impunity.

And as far as the least-worst option goes...the principle is good strategic thinking. As much as anyone, I favor dispassionate reasoning for making choices. In many respects, I supported the Iraq War not because of an overwhelming fervor for sending troops into the Middle East, but as sort of a 60-40 flush/straight/two pair kind of gamble to make a game changing play for the future of the Middle East. My dispassionate reasoning led to the conclusion Iraq was a bet worth making (because the alternatives were so lousy).

Liberals - and Obama among them - argued this was not sufficient reasoning to go to war. War is not a poker game or a bet. It is a response only to be used if necessary. In 2006 they looked like they were right. In 2003/2004 and 2009 they look like they were wrong, and so much so, they are employing the EXACT same logic to a more challenging and less strategically important country.

In any case, despite my own use of the "least worst option" logic, I'm not sure it is the best positioning for the President to take. I get it - this is Obama's style and people like it better than the blustering GW Bush. But certain things are emotional decisions and not purely rational. War is one of them. Imagine a young Barack getting down on his knees with a ring before Michelle and saying, "You know, Michelle, of all the girls I've ever met, you are the least worst option. You never sucked my buddy off and you seem to get along with my mom all right." He may well be right, but it strikes me as the wrong tone. Does Tom Brady in the huddle before the 4th and 2 play say to his guys, "Alright guys, let's do this, it is our least worst option, we can't give the ball back to Manning against our sorry ass defensive backs." Again, not the right tone for the moment. If you're in the foxhole holding down a position while the Taliban are shooting at you and you're gonna die because you're creating a distraction for another battalion to get into a favorable position to win back a hard fought piece of land, will it give you solace to think "this is the least worst option?"

I don't know.

I don't "get" google wave. Instead of an email forward, it is like a blog post that everyone is invited to read. Big deal. Most of what's written on email is intended for one person or only a few specific people. Making it "easier" for more people to view all the information assumes information is meant to be seen. Most information is valuable because of the narrowness of the audience. This strikes me as hype vs. change. I'm getting used to these sorts of "innovations."
Wes Anderson

Watched on the internet last night Charlie Rose's panel on Obama's Afghanistan speech and it rolled right into Wes Anderson. I'm not as big a Wes Anderson fan as I'm supposed to be, nevertheless, he is a filmmaker worth paying attention to. My favorite part of the interview was a bit about Jim Brooks serving as his hollywood rabbi (my words, not his) and how he helped him get Bottle Rocket set up and coached him on how to engage an audience, etc. Charlie asked him something along the lines of getting Bottle Rocket made anyway, that it would have found a different path to existence, etc., and unlike most filmmakers who boast of their own determination and chuzpah and perseverance, Wes was pretty candid and said, "I don't think Bottle Rocket gets made if Jim Brooks doesn't sign on to help us. There was no one was lined up to help us get it made." He went to argue he wouldn't be a director of have a career if Jim Brooks didn't take a leap of faith on him and Owen. He thought something else would have caught his attention and he might work in/around movies, but wouldn't be WES ANDERSON.

I thought this point was surprisingly honest, candid, and wise. All this stuff just hangs by a thread.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Cornell West's new memoir gets slammed.

On love -

“The basic problem with my love relationships with women is that my standards are so high -- and they apply equally to both of us. I seek full-blast mutual intensity, fully fledged mutual acceptance, full-blown mutual flourishing, and fully felt peace and joy with each other. This requires a level of physical attraction, personal adoration, and moral admiration that is hard to find. And it shares a depth of trust and openness for a genuine soul-sharing with a mutual respect for a calling to each other and to others. Does such a woman exist for me? Only God knows and I eagerly await this divine unfolding. Like Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship in Emily Bronte’s remarkable novel Wuthering Heights or Franz Schubert’s tempestuous piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat (D.960) I will not let life or death stand in the way of this sublime and funky love that I crave!”

No doubt this is meant to be inspirational. It is at any rate exemplary. Rendered more or less speechless, I pointed the passage out to my wife.

She looked it over and said, “Any woman who reads this needs to run in the opposite direction when she sees him coming.”

Yikes! That sounds like a terrible internet dating profile (not that I would know).

Just reading this and thinking about Tiger Woods, I think I'm going to patent the "The Tiger Woods Mistake," as the choice by a nerdy guy who somehow makes it big to marry a super hot bitchy chick. It sounds like Cornell West suffers a bit from this syndrome.

Here is my theory - Tiger Woods is a nerd. It is obvious by the way he talks. He has ridden his nerdiness combined with prodigious golf talent to become the most successful athlete ever and best golfer ever and a billionaire. For what should he deserve for the fruits of his spoils? To bang hot chicks, of course. No decent society would deny Tiger deserves to bang hot chicks. If any man does, it is Tiger. And hot woman will swoon over Tiger - he is successful, powerful, confident, and rich - all sexy traits.

But like all men, Tiger is conflicted inside. His true nerdy nature - what makes him who he is - tells him - I ought to get married. I'd like a family and a wife. But he is also vain. He is successful and so he tells himself he ought to get a super hot wife, the type of girl he could never "get" growing up, this is the symbol of his triumph, him acting like the Alpha Gorilla, the competitor in him...

...and so he splits the difference. He decides to marry the super hot bitchy weirdo crazy chick...the type of chick who is crazy enough to only eat seeds and grapes, who works out all the time, is willing to get work done on herself, who has been told she is "hot" by every person she's ever met since she was 10 years old, and who loves celebrity, power, and all the trappings... other words, the type of girl who will go after you with a golf club and take 1/2 bil off you in a divorce.

Here's the thing - if you want to bang all sorts of hot chicks around the globe and be an alpha-DOG you got two good options. 1) Pull the Derek Jeter/George Clooney move and just commit to being a bachelor. You gotta have mad confidence to pull this off, obviously, and assume you can stay at the top of your game, because if you quickly fall off, you won't be able to pull off the lifestyle (see Vince in Entourage two seasons ago). 2) Pull the Tracy Jordan/Allen Iverson move and marry the nice, overweight, high school sweetheart who loves you no matter what and will let you go bonkers crazy with the strippers and pornstars so long as you provide for the family and come home to her at the end of the day.

Those are your good choices. Or you can make the "Tiger Woods Mistake," and marry the crazy hot chick and then try to have it all and bang other crazy hot chicks as well. The problem is, crazy hot chicks are liable to go crazy one day and in the case of Tiger, it seems all at once. You will end up getting chased with golf clubs, leaving rambling, nonsensical and paranoid phone messages, crashing into trees, and dealing other unpleasant situations. If you marry the crazy hot chick, your only decent options are 1) stay loyal and just embrace the craziness and hope the good times outweigh the bad or 2) get a prenup and a divorce and then go bang other crazy hot chicks but don't get married to them.
More on Afghanistan Speech/Plan

The issue of Pakistan vs. India. I noted it during the speech, but one thing that got lost in my initial analysis was the overwhelming pro-Pakistani position outlined by Obama. This is no different than Bush's approach of reassuring Pakistan that we are their ally in the region. Of course, we are not gaining much from this relationship (one thing the last 8 years taught us). We are essentially being blackmailed by Pakistan who takes our money and guns in exchange for the verbal commitment to hunt Al Queda and the occasional military incursion against the Taliban. Fact is, Pakistan enjoys a militant anti-Hindu Taliban in power in Afghanistan to give itself "strategic depth," in their rivalry with India. They like to be able to say, "you better keep us happy otherwise, we'll let our dogs off their leashes." Their small dog is the Taliban supported by Al Queda and their big dog is their nuclear stash.

Bill Clinton is terrified of Pakistan because the military men in Pakistan talk about nuclear war as an actual strategic possibility. Some of their most hawkish generals surmise they can actually win a nuclear fight with India because of their landscape of mountainous regions whereas India's power centers are on plains that offer no protection from a nuclear blast. To merely think in these terms is frightening.

The case-study of Pakistan provides the most obvious argument AGAINST allowing Iran to develop the bomb. With the bomb, Pakistan has the West bent over the bed. They have us terrified of the "worse" possibilities, ie the country falling into radical hands, giving the bomb to radical groups, using it themselves, and then they are able to bleed us in the meantime. Iran would do the same, if not worse, in a more strategically important area of the world.

Which all makes me wonder...why not consider letting our dog in the region off their leash? India. What not pass the buck on the Taliban to the Indians? They would probably do an equally good job as us fighting them. Maybe even better given it's their backyard and presumably they have better intelligence networks.

India is our friend in the region. Not Pakistan.

What is the endgame in all of this? Or the desired end-state? Basically, a de-nuked Pakistan who gives up support for the Taliban and Al Queda. An allience between India-America-Pakistani moderates against the hardliners-Taliban-Al Queda. A democratic Iranian regime with support from Lebanese Shiia and Iraqi Shiia so we have an alliance of Iran-Iraq-Lebanan-Israel-America against Syria-Saudi influence. This is the best-case end goal for the West and the world. It doesn't seem achievable in the current climate (ironically the Iraq piece of the puzzle is the least-worst right now).

Does Obama have a long-term Michael Corleone, keep your friends close but your enemies closer plan? Will the day come when the Barzini-Tatalia (Saudi/Pakistan) alliance goes down?

I suppose only time will tell.