Friday, May 29, 2009

Live and Learn

There will be a spike in violence when the US leaves Iraq. This should NOT be the reason to stay.

We've done what we could in Iraq. We should try to drawn down as peacefully as possible. We can't stay forever. In the immortal words of Ivan Drago: "If he dies, he dies."
More Nerds?

Obama thinks we need more nerds.

Our political system (and, heck, our overall culture) rewards those who divide up pies far more lavishly than those who bake them. This is probably not sustainable over the long term.

Still, I'd prefer to bake.
Newt Is Both Right and Wrong

Calling Sotomayor racist...

Her statement isn't racist. It's stupid and wrong, but not racist. Racist is such a loaded word and in my circles it can't really be used without a touch of irony. I mean, as long as we're going this route, I can't say in my personal experience I've really encountered or had much interaction with a died-in-the-wool racist. I've heard stupid slips and mean jokes and all that sort of stuff, but never anyone who actually came out and said - "oh yeah, of course this so-and-so group is an inferior breed of people and aren't deserving of rights, etc." To be honest, the closest out-and-out racism I've witnessed are attitudes towards Arabs expressed by hardcore Israeli sympathizers who have literally argued Arabs are inferior for x,y,and z reason. Of course, this is not an excuse, but it is pretty obvious a lot of Arabs feel the same way about Israelis. I suppose I met this Russian girl in college who though Asiatic people were not to be trusted...but I'm veering off course here. These are impotent people I'm talking about.

Newt is trying to play the reverse-race game and excite the Republican base, who I could care less about. The point, however, is this:

What Sotomayor's speech reveals is that she believes (as many people on both sides of the ideological spectrum do) that issues in this country concerning ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation etc. cannot be appreciated or understood by people who do not identify with the group in question.

This dangerous and very prevalent mode of thinking means that any judge who does not have a background in one of these areas is less capable of making judgements concerning a civil liberties case than someone who can identify with the affected group. It automatically calls into question the decision making process of any judge by suggesting that their ability to make correct decisions is not based on an objective analysis of the law but on past personal experiences.
A Call For Republicans to Play Grown Up

By Peggy Noonan on the Sotomayor confirmation hearings.

The odd thing Republican elected officials forget is that they often have the better argument. So used are they to the defensive crouch that they find it difficult to stand tall, expand, tell, hear. They should have more faith in the philosophical assumptions of their party, which so often reflect the wisdom of experience, of tradition, of Founders more brilliant than we.

If only it were about the arguments...sigh.

On the other hand, Sullivan's temp argues it is - and should - be about race:

Yes, of course, ethnicity in politics is different from ethnic job quotas, and a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court is a special kind of job. Nowhere is a bit of diversity more obviously desirable. Nowhere is the case stronger for taking race, ethnicity and gender into account. And conservatives apparently agree. If only they could bring themselves to say so.

And, "GOP strategists openly warning: Support the Latina or die." Because they want to pick up the Latino vote.

Last month I went to the festival of books and one author talked about doing his research for a biography. He compiled notebooks filled to the brim with notes about his subject, which happened to be Walt Whitman and his family. At a certain point, he had so many notes, he started to take notes on his notes. He decided to stop because he realized:

"Therein lay the path to madness."

And he started writing the biography the next day.

Identity politics and privileging "diversity" is taking notes on your notes. What the hell is diversity? Is it something that can be measured? Defined? Is it the color of your skin? What if you are mixed? The mathematical variations and permutations are endless and ultimately, meaningless. They are a distraction and an overcompensation. It is an argument to divide people into predetermined groups. It is for the simple and stupid. Anyone with a whiff of complexity in their soul should reject it out of hand.

It is the path to madness.
This Should Be Obvious By Now

Debunking the "mother of all myths" aka the "the idea that if only the Palestinian conflict were solved, all other Middle East conflicts would melt away."

Lots of good stuff in point they discuss is the Middle East has nine conflict clusters -

“these many conflicts are symptoms of the same malaise: the absence of a Middle Eastern order, to replace the old Islamic and European empires. But they are independent symptoms; one conflict does not cause another, and its ‘resolution’ cannot resolve another.”

If Obama thinks solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (which won't happen, by the way) will stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, or think it has anything to do with Iraq, or the spread of radical Islam, or corruption in governments around the region, or the misogyny, he is incredibly naive.
Why LaBron and Not Kobe?

Last night LaBron carried the Cavs in the fourth quarter to victory. The Cavs offense basically became Labron vs. Orlando and dish to open shooters and pray they make shots. No movement, no teamwork, no beauty.

Why do I criticize this style of play with the Lakers/Kobe and the not the Cavs/LaBron?

First - LaBron plays this style better than Kobe. He makes smarter decisions, getting to the rim and dishing whereas Kobe tends to huck up weird shots and make some of them.

Second - LaBron seems to do this when his team needs it. Kobe does this when he wants to be the hero.

Third - Kobe is a rapist. LaBron is a nice guy.

Still, I do not like this kind of basketball. That Cleveland has resorted to it in order to win is not a good sign for them.

PS - When did Turkoglu become this good? The man can get a shot whenever he wants and can hit from everywhere. He isn't that fast, but uses his size and body really well, sort of a poor man's Carmelo/Nowitzki hybrid.
But Did His Balls Shrink?

Too much ado about steriods?

“We don’t stop people from eating lemon meringue pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Norman Fost, a University of Wisconsin bioethicist, told them. “People everywhere take enormous risks way greater than even the hyped-up risks of steroids.”


Leave identity politics at home.

And so identity politics can be misinformed as well as patronizing. This particular narrative turns the female nominee into everyone's little girl. And its treating of high achievement in only some groups with awe is offensive. Let's examine Sotomayor's record with a straight gaze, and leave identity politics at home. Won't happen, but let's try.

Can I get a woop woop!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sick, Sad, or Irrelevent

I wonder what percentage of people looking back on their lives say what Elizabeth Edwards did:

"I would have married someone else."
Extreme Eating

Last night I ate at The Bazaar, a restaurant at the SLS Hotel. How can I explain this place? If you were to take the movement for sustainable living - eating healthy and local, driving a Prius, living within in a budget and generally approaching the world with modesty and humbleness - and wanted to stick your thumb up the movement's ass through the vehicle of a restaurant: The Bazaar is what you would get. If a midwestern tourist wanted to see the hedonistic, unsubtle, in your face, side of Los Angeles and be a pig for an evening in order to feel weird and sick and violated the next day - and it had to be a restaurant in a hotel -I'd recommend the Bazaar. Here's why:

At the bar, all the drinks cost $16 except for beer. If you want liquor, you can buy a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black for $330. I order a mojito. It takes the bartender 6-7 minutes to prepare the drink from scratch. It's got the freshest ingredients. She tastes it before serving. It's damn good.

We get seated and order the chef's menu where they select the food dishes to serve you. The style is Tapas - but it's like extreme Tapas - they want you to really feel the flavor and be shocked by every dish. We start off with a caviar wrapped is a crisp with some creamy cheese like substance. Very good. Very soft. Next are sweet potato fries with a yogurt dip that was light and fluffy like meringue. Later dishes included various olive-concoctions to cleanse the palette, cured prosciutto from some rare pig that eats acorns, a tomato bread spread, a salty ceviche wrap, a couple heavy lamb and beef tasters, a cotton-candy foie joke, a goose liver wrapped with a little cotton candy, grilled onions with passion fruit, raspberries with king crab, a lobster piece accompanied by lobster juice heated up and served like a shot of espresso, and I know I'm forgetting some others.

To drink we got the white sangria, a forest of fruits in a jar with some clear liquid (was this vodka?). They bring out a nice bottle of sparkling wine and poured it into the jar. It was good.

I remember thinking we must be nearing the end of the meal and they brought out six more dishes. After my second trip to the bathroom I bump into the waitress and she says - only one more dish before desert! Oh, and desert is three different dishes - a chocolate cake on a crispy shell and now, I'm forgetting the others (we consumed a lot of food and alcohol).

Without a doubt, this was one of the more insane meals of my life. And I've eaten raw shellfish with soju with South Korean fisherman and bull testicles with cowboys. There was something about the artwork of monkey's dressed as pre-WW1 German army officers and the cases of crystal and the old movies playing on screens underneath the bar tables that made this place feel like halfway between a David Lynch movie and a happy hour at an upscale Spanish Tapas restaurant.

Memorable to say the least.
Higher Ed Bubble

Is the cost of college the next bubble? I just hope it crashes sooner rather than later, ie when I have kids going.
Sometimes I Feel Like A Fluffer

As in, I'm just fluffing Bill Simmons. But this article today about NBA rules and officiating is incredible. Gamers should read this to learn how simple rule changes can lead to enormous differences. And also, how retardedness ruins everything.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sex and Awesomeness

A Salon review on the Most Interesting Man in the World. Hat tip, Robyn.

If you ask me, the world can always use more awesomeness.

Coates makes my argument a lot better than I did.

Her statement: I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Note - this is the argument Robyn pretty much offers in her comment.


I think we can immediately dispense with the crazies who think this statement should disqualify Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. It's worth noting that William Rehnquist once endorsed segregation, and yet rose to be Chief Justice of the court.

That said, I think Sotomayor's statement is quite wrong. I understand the basis of it, laid out pretty well by Kerry Howley over at Hit & Run. The idea is that Latinos have a dual experience that whites don't have and that, all things being equal, they'll be able to pull from that experience and see things that whites don't. The problem with this reasoning is it implicitly accepts the logic (made for years by white racists) that there is something essential and unifying running through all white people, everywhere. But White--as we know it--is a word so big that, as a descriptor of experience, it almost doesn't exist.

It's worth reading his entire post. My criticism is initially more with Obama's self stated criteria that he was looking for a minority to fill the open seat. His logic is similar to what Sotomayor outlines above. But again, this doesn't disqualify her as a candidate, it just makes the process lame, the same way the NBA would be lame if they used racial quotas to fill the teams.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gasol (and everyone) Knows

Gasol wants the ball more. If the Lakers are to beat the Nuggets, the only way is to get the gd ball to Gasol. He has to be "the man." I doubt Kobe will let this happen.

But let's face facts: Kobe cannot win when he is "the man." He isn't good enough. Sure, he can seize control of the Olympic team and defeat crappy Euro/South American teams. He can win when he's got Shaq at his most dominant and he's the support. But he cannot win without someone else being the protagonist. He might be the best player, but he isn't a leader and he does not generate offense for his teammates. On the best Lakers teams, Kareem was the best player, but Magic was "the man." Does that make sense? Magic ran the team. Jordan was both the best player and "the man." Bird was the best player and "the man." On Denver, Chauncey is "the man," and Carmelo is the best player. This may change over time. Carmelo might become "the man," but I doubt it. This is a similar problem Tracy McGrady always faced. He is a great player, but doesn't generate offense for his team, only himself. Same for Kobe.

Kobe without Gasol or Shaq is one small notch above Tracy McGrady.
A Shame

Sonia Sotomayor might be a perfectly good candidate for the Supreme Court. I find Obama's system for choosing a tad unfortunate. He basically asked for a list of the best minority candidates and chose the one he thought best. Or maybe he got a big list of all good candidates and put little stars by the minorities. Either way, clearly it was a factor, as he acknowledges.

Simply put, I don't think race should be a factor. I know I am in the minority. I also know using race as a plus factor applies equally to Dems and Republicans (Clarence Thomas). We could go round and round on this issue. The way I can accept using race as a factor is a pragmatic one - that's the way the world is. Race is used as a factor for colleges and job hires all over the country. But this logic is flawed. Because it could lead to the exact opposite conclusion as well. "That's just the way things are" simply justifies any status quo assumption.

No, the issue for me is a sense of legitimacy. If the NBA suddenly decided to adopt affirmative action and make a quota for good Asian-American basketball players at the expense of better African American basketball players, I'd stop watching. Maybe it would be good for the NBA - maybe more Asian Americans would watch. Maybe it would be good for race relations. It would certainly make the NBA more diverse. But it would be totally lame if you ask me. And I'd stop watching.

With Obama's rush to inject money into the system, long term, I'm worried about inflation. Inflation is when the cost of goods go up and purchasing power is less. The effects are broad and it leads to a lower standard of living. We forget about inflation because in my lifetime it hasn't been a problem. But like anything, it'll rear it's ugly head once we forget about it. We aren't thinking about it at the moment because the focus is to stop the economic bleeding. And that argument might be the right one. But long term, the only way an individual can protect themselves against inflation is getting into the stock market, whose rising prices will reflect the bump of increased costs of goods.
Pick of the Week

Linda Rondstadt's Simple Dreams. You know I'm closing in on middle age when I listen to this album late last night with a glass of red wine after a nice BBQ and completely love it. I paid 92 cents for this record because of the album cover and at that cost, you really can't go wrong. Worth every penny.
Welcome Back

After a memorial day weekend break from blogging, I return to you with the above.

Friday, May 22, 2009

75 Movies Every Man Should See

Esquire's list. I'm ashamed of myself. I've only seen 60 out of 75. Guess what someone is doing over memorial day. Catching up.

Adam Kimmel presents: Claremont HD from adam kimmel on Vimeo.

Forward to 2:30 and just watch the dudes skateboarding. Insanity.
California Call Out

Jake called me out on the lack of California initiative coverage on Public Musings. He is right. The problem - I just don't know much about California State Politics, Budget, and Initiatives. This is weird, right, because I'm a born and raised Californian. I couldn't even bring myself to leave the state for college. I love this damn place. I think it's the greatest in the world. And I don't know shit about how it runs. I know considerably more about national politics and foreign policy and the NBA. Why? I don't know.

My general thought on initiatives and propositions - they are bad policy tools and should always be voted down, unless, they are totally awesome ideas. So, I'm glad all the initiatives bombed and Californians rejected whatever type of new taxes they were trying to push down our throats.

But I also know this - California is bankrupt. We were hit particularly hard by the housing mess and subsequent stock market crash because the majority of our tax revenues come from the top 1% of property taxes and capital gains taxes. When everyone is losing money hand over fist, there ain't no rich folks to tax anymore.

I also know this - California is blessed with more natural resources than nearly anywhere in the world. We have ports, agriculture, oil, industries - Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Aerospace (to just mention a few), top universities, beautiful real estate, mountains, rivers, deserts. We should be the richest place in the world. And maybe we are. But our state government doesn't work well. We're taxing business to death and losing it to other states (film production is a good example), our real estate is bloated and middle class folks can't afford housing. Our public schools are among the lowest in the nation, even though they used to be near the top.

I don't know if things were always this way or not. It seems like ever Governor in Sacramento gets hosed and becomes impotent because the system is stale-mated. I hear tangentially about these various governing blocks and special interests in the state with strangeholds over any reform.

I suppose I should pay more attention because this is the stuff that actually matters to me day to day and will affect my life. Whether Mullah Omar controls some piece of farmland in Afghanistan or a piece of shit farmland plus some piece of shit mountains in Pakistan really does not, nor ever will, affect my day to day life. But whether I can work in Production one day in California or whether 75% of those jobs end up in Santa Fe or Vancouver or whether I can afford a house. Well, that matters.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"The Best Closer in Basketball"

If I hear this stupid term again I'm gonna puke. First of all, since when is there such a thing as a "closer" in basketball? What the hell does it even mean? It just started this year and the media repeats it ad nauseum until now, it's considered conventional wisdom that Kobe is the best closer in basketball. A year ago, the concept of a "closer" didn't exist. Basketball is a TEAM sport. No individual can "close" games. "Closing" games requires playing smart, tough, team defense, and making clutch shots and free throws. I don't understand how you can say one player is a great "closer" in basketball. The term used to be "clutch shooter," even though statistical analysis has proven the concept is more perception than fact.

It is not entirely different than the media reporting ad nauseum that Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq. Bush didn't lie. Our intelligence sucked. And the intelligence analysis proved to be wrong. But no sane person can realistically think Bush knew there were no WMDs and then told his lower downs to make some shit up so he could sell the war to the people. But you just repeat the same line over and over in public and the people start to believe it or at least repeat it. It's completely annoying.

A closer in basketball. WTF? It doesn't exist.
Greg's Pick Of The Week

My wikipedia entry of the day never really caught on, although I'll do one quickly now for old times sake: the biblical story of Samson.

But onto new blogentrytypes - Greg's pick of the week. This week it is food: Sak's Teriyaki in Westwood. I've never been to Japan, but eating at Sak's feels like I'm eating at a high end street vendor in a hip Tokyo neighborhood circa 1979. Basically, the whole menu are grilled skewers of Teriyaki items - shrimp, beef, chicken, veggies. You can get various combos with rice and salad or bowls with meat on rice or side orders of just sticks. All are good. All are reasonably priced. The seating is pretty awesome. You can sit outside in a few separate patio places, or inside a little cafeteria style dining room. I think you can even sneak upstairs and eat in a little quiet room. The kitchen is the size of a taco truck. The order window - one person at a time.

It's on Glendon right next door to my office, which makes it extra special.
Could Women Prevented the Financial Crisis?

The argument:

She points to evidence that men are less risk-averse in financial decision-making, more overconfident, and perhaps susceptible to testosterone-fueled feedback loops in asset bubbles.

Anyone who plays poker knows this to be true - men are complete overconfident idiots when it comes to financial decision making or overplaying middle pairs. Of course, I've seen women folds the nuts, so we probably need a balance...
Writing Sucks!

Ha! A funny post by John August:

Here’s the thing: writing sucks. It’s difficult on a good day, and intolerable on most others. That’s why I’ll gladly answer your question rather than spend these 20 minutes of staring at the scene I ought to be writing.

First drafts are hard, but at least they’re exciting and new. Second drafts have the advantage of problem-solving, and feel like forward progress. Every draft after that is a slog. And I mean slog in the most onomatopoetic sense: boots sinking in mud to your ankles, a thick slurp with each exhausting footstep. Sure, you want the draft to be good, but you mostly just want it to be done.

Running sucks, eating healthy sucks, going to work sucks, driving sucks...but that's life...not for the timid.
Ain't Worth It, Part 2

Bloggers be careful of getting sued.

What a lovely world we live in.

But honestly, I can see both sides to this. Online information can be defamatory and wrongfully attack people's reputation, etc. There needs to be some type of protection against libel, slander, etc.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If I were an NBA player - an NBA Franchise player - like Dirk Nowitzki - I would date a cuter chick than this.

Terminator gets ripped a new asshole by SFGate.

Oh well. I guess I'll just have to see it myself.
Very Smart

Not an argument for settling (when it comes to love, jobs, etc), but rather a hard nosed look at the cost of continued searching:

when the gains from additional searches begin to fall short of the cost of spending the time and money searching

Who Wants to Go?

Where are the smart girls are.
30 Rock Awards

After a little bit of a lull early this season, 30 Rock finished off strong and if you ask me, is back to it's badass self. With that in mind, a few 30 Rock awards for the end of season 3:

Most underrated character: Cerie. Liz's hot assistant isn't given a lot to do, but she always delivers. She is never off. And underneath her flighty, vapid immaturity is a sweet self awareness. My favorite line is from the David Schwimmer Greenzo episode, "Did he just talk to me like I'm ugly?"

Funniest side character: Dr. Spaceman (Spu-CHE-men). This guy makes me laugh out loud every time he's in the show. He's got like a 90% laughing efficiency quotient.

Most overused joke: Various forms of Kenneth being a hick.

Most overused joke that is still funny: Jenna's insistence on singing at any opportunity.

Best Griz or Dot Com Line: "I guess that's why I'm still single."

Best Cameo: Paul Reubens as the final heir to the Hapsburg Empire (although the musical collective at the end of this season was pretty awesome)

Worst Cameo: Tie - Jerry Seinfeld, because he should be better or Al Gore, who turns out to be a really bad actor.

Best Element of the Show Rarely Given Notice: The music. 30 Rock's original score is incredible and the songs incorporated into the show excellent.

Best Jack/Liz Moment: I still harbor a soft spot for earlier in the series where there were questionable moments of Liz and Jack getting together and Jack's admonishing Lemon, "I date models and actresses..." and line "If you were any other women in the world, I'd be attracted to you right now."

Best New Term Added to the Lexicon: Fruit Blind

Best Foil: Will Arnet's gay executive rival to Jack

Best Tracy Jordan Moment: Hmmmm. Still thinking. Tracy is like Ben Wallace of the show. At first you think he sucks, then you think he's amazing, and then you realize he isn't that good, but you don't want to get rid of him.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Not Worth It

Well, jeez. I broke one of my cardinal rules today and blogged about work. I felt a little weird "should I do this" when I hit post and then rationalized, " one will ever see it." Wrong. So wrong. Every time I've ever blogged about something and thought "No one will see it," the exact people I'm worried about seeing it, see it. Exactly two hours after blogging about a book, a series of comments show up in my box:

that's not what they advocate. If you're in such a hurry to put words in their mouths, then why don't you put down the book right now, make up your book review (remember, like in Elementary School), and go have a nice long drink and think about how insightful and awesome you are.
# posted by Blogger Celeste : 7:07 PM

Somebody hired you?

No wonder the economy is falling apart.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 7:09 PM

You're a douchebag. Are you just feeling bad that you can't man up and bring in the dough even though ALL the decks are stacked in your favor?

Like I said: Douchebag.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 7:10 PM


Douche. Bag.

Nuff said, Douchebag.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 8:41 PM

As much as I would like to engage these pleasant ladies in a dialog, it's not worth it. I took down the original post because this kind of bullshit isn't worth sweating over. These disgusting cows terrorizing my comments section have more time and energy than me and will eventually defeat me. How do I know this? Because this is what I know about them:

A) They google themselves or somehow peruse the internet randomly searching for commentary on things that offend them. This is, if you ask me, is a sign of craziness.
B) They forward to their equally insane friends to repeat the ad hominem attacks on some random blogger (me).
C) They are both repetitive and make no sense. How did I both ruin the economy and at not know how to man-up and bring home the bacon? Why should I write a book report and then get a drink? And just so I'm clear - you all agree I'm a douchebag or only the last two, but the last two really, really think I'm a douchebag? **On this issue, I bear a little bit of responsibility because I was a huge advocate of bringing back douche bag into the lexicon. ***That's right suckas, I just took credit for bringing back douchebag. Whose gonna challenge me?

I realize getting into this is like playing basketball with a retarded person. I know. It's sick. You got to ignore crazy people like this, just let them stew in their petty, small worlds and avoid them. This whole internet thing is a real mixed blessing.
Now, That Is Funny

RNC Chairman Michael Steele gives a rousing speech:

"Those of you who live outside of Washington know what I'm talking about. Those of you who actually attend Lincoln Day dinners and county party events, those of you who toil in the vineyards, spending time in communities, in diners, in barber shops and in coffee shops where real, everyday people can be found. You know it is real. You can see it and feel it. This change comes in a tea bag."

Insert sweaty balls on the bridge of his nose. Now, please Rachel Maddow, do not try to piggyback on the joke. It's not as funny. Just leave it be. Just play the clip and give a straight-Jim Halpern face.
Irrational Kobe Hatred

My irrational Kobe hatred leads to the following prediction: Nuggets in 6. Jake has already manipulated me into betting my rent on the Lakers not winning the NBA championship. A Lakers championship would go against my every instinct about how the way things are supposed to be. It will lead me into a dark place and make me question all of my life choices. It would give all the glib, idiotic Kobe-philes ammunition for the next 25 years. It would be akin to Al Queda developing a biological weapon and creating a safe haven along the Mexican border. All that stands in front of Western Civilizations vast demise into hedonism, solipsism, narcicission, and idol worship is the calm leadership of Chauncey Billups, the undertested offensive prowess of Carmelo Anthony, and the fierce energy of Nene/Martin/Birdman trifeca. As our last/final line of defense we have LeBron, waiting in the wings, like our vast nuclear arsenal. Let's pray we don't need it.
75,000 on Preorder

The Prius is popular. I see more and more every day. Of course, I live in Santa Monica, ground zero of Prius-topia.
The Fate of Insurgencies

In the past year, two long term insurgencies were defeated, the Tamil Tigers and FARC.

This your fate, AQ.
SLR Camera's To Make Movies

Very clever and exciting way to shoot a cheap, indy film.

Hat tip, Naveen.
You Protest Too Much


I am sure that Mr. Daschle gets around Washington more expeditiously to help others through the use of limos. Mr. Geithner is working hard to finance the government, and understandably forgot we must pay Social Security taxes. Mr. Holder can explore legitimate questions about the pros and cons of waterboarding in 2002. The Democratic Senators may now be making legitimate requests about such activity. Mr. Sullivan may rightly raise points about the illegality of these cases of torture. Al Gore may do some good in warning about climate change. And Barney Frank now may be right to suggest renting is preferable to buying for many. Perhaps Barack Obama believes that tribunals and rendition are as necessary now as he once thought them proof of Bush’s sinister nature.

But the problem is not that we all can change our minds as events change, or that acts sometimes are at odds with words. Rather the rub is the vehemence in which views are expressed-and for some, the propensity to slur and slander others, and the readiness even to call for criminal penalties. Once that extremism, fueled by self-righteousness, begins, we rightly suspect the virulence comes not just from the issue in question, but rather from some deep psychological desire for penance, to expiate one’s own past sins by finding their new counterparts in others.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The tracks are re-paved. And so it begins, again. A good run and a good time. I actually went overboard on my first lap this time, running it in 1:08. Too fast. In lap two I felt my upper body and extremities going numb. Odd. I finished lap three at 4:00 and thought I had a good shot at beating 5:30. But not today. I figure, a new pair of shoes, running on a non-recovery day (I played soccer yesterday), a little warmer weather, or running not right after work, and I can easily push this to 5:25. If I can keep up the hard runs, I might even get to 5:15 this summer. That would be something.

What sickens me is the thought that there are real runners, not even world class guys, but just D1 dudes out there running easily in low 4 minutes. 4 freaking minutes. That is just plain sick.
New Terminator

A pretty damn good review in Variety.

Darker, grimmer and more stylistically single-minded than its two relatively giddy predecessors, "Terminator Salvation" boasts the kind of singular vision that distinguished the James Cameron original...

Damn. I'll believe it when I see it. Which will probably be midnight on Thursday.
Oh Gawd

Maybe the two most depressing articles I've read in a long time.

The long one is an incredibly detailed account about how a NY Times Economics reporter got into massive personal debt. The first link is Megan McCardle talking about debt and a writer's life.

Hmmm. Is law school still accepting applications?
Winningest Sports Towns

To be a real list, though, you can't count hockey.
I Can't Believe...

...I'm going to quote a commercial, but

"There is a time for pick up lines. And the time is never."
I Certainly Hope So

U.S. HAS PLAN TO SECURE PAKISTAN NUKES IF COUNTRY FALLS TO TALIBAN: The United States has a detailed plan for infiltrating Pakistan and securing its mobile arsenal of nuclear warheads if it appears the country is about to fall under the control of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or other Islamic extremists. American intelligence sources say the operation would be conducted by Joint Special Operations Command, the super-secret commando unit headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C.

I don't see why they need to tell the press, though.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bad and Good

It is easy to forget 350 Special Forces and CIA officers combined with 15,000 Northern Alliance troops re-took Afghanistan in 2001 from 50,000 Taliban soldiers.

That is a remarkable military achievement. It of course, led to the undermanned Iraq mission and the Taliban have re-grouped in Afghanistan. But nonetheless, a pretty crazy story.
A New Take

On the economic crisis. He argues we are in a depression:

A typical recession is a market correction, usually of inflation or other economic imbalances; a depression is a market failure.


Were a lot of people reckless and stupid? Of course! But that cannot explain why the whole system crashed, since a lot of people are always reckless and stupid. The problem, fundamentally, is that markets cannot, and rationally should not, anticipate their own collapse. “A depression is too remote an event to influence business behavior.” Any single business can rationally guard against its own bankruptcy, but not the simultaneous bankruptcy of everybody else. “The ­profit-maximizing businessman rationally ignores small probabilities that his conduct in conjunction with that of his competitors may bring down the entire economy.”

During the housing bubble, for example, sitting out the mortgage boom meant forgoing large profits. “Even if you know you’re riding a bubble and are scared to be doing so,” Posner writes, “it is difficult to climb off without paying a big price.” So people made decisions that were individually rational but collectively irrational. To see the crisis through populist spectacles, as President Obama does when he attributes it to “irresponsibility,” is to misunderstand the whole problem by blaming capitalists for a failure of capitalism.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stepping Back

Reading the Woodward book "The War Within" about the internal workings of the Bush Administration in 2006 when they realized the Iraq war was failing. At the time Condoleezza argued for "stepping back" from Iraq and rethinking the project in a global context. In short, not to take Iraq so seriously. She thought the narrow focus on Iraq, Iraq, Iraq was pigeon-holing the administration into an unachievable success metric. Basically, allowing "success or failure" in Iraq to define the administration and America's power and influence abroad. They were viewing everything through a single lens - and the lens was Iraq. She thought, by stepping back, and not allowing Iraq to be the definitive issue, it would give the administration leverage, and allow multiple ways for the administration to achieve their overall policy goals.

Why do I think this is interesting? Well, because I think it pertains to writing. I think I write my worst stuff when I'm super focused on it being "successful" or saleable or being that spec-that'll-start-my-career. In short, when I take one thing too seriously, I don't think it works. I'm pretending to control something I don't. I write my best stuff when I'm loose and dispassionate. Because I'm harder on that stuff. I'm immediately dismissive of the junk. If I'm infatuated with a script, I can't see the shit that the reader knows is shit, and it obvious to the entire world is shit, because I'm too focused. It's like when Kevin Garnett early in his career got so wound up, he couldn't hit a shot at the end of the game. He was simply too intense. He cared too much.

There is another interesting part in the book about General Pace and Casey, the two early military bosses of the Iraq war. They were both workaholics, keeping 24/7 schedules, running around to meetings and briefings, always working. During a review of them, a retired general from the Defense Policy Board thought they were looking at their jobs all wrong - they felt like they needed to be killing themselves and working their asses off to demonstrate to the troops they were working as hard or harder than them. It was an act of solidarity and manhood. But this retired General thought they were crazy. He cited Marshall and MacArthur - Marshall rode horses every afternoon. MacArthur watched a movie every night. They were making decisions that shaped the world and affected the lives of millions. Pace and Casey were working too hard and being too intense, he thought, to make good decisions.

The connectivity of the modern world allows us to work 24/7. In prior generations, things simply took longer to get back and forth, and there was a lot more downtime, a lot more time to think about things. Spielberg talks about this with respect to film editing. With computers, you can cut faster, but the old flat beds allowed editors to think about cuts while they made them. Let their minds ponder. He thought this mattered. Of course, the Amish use the same logic in how they adopt technology. The think about how it will affect their lifestyle and labor. And they don't blindly embrace technology simply because it makes things temporarily "easier."

The irony of writing this on a blog is duly noted.

Korean BBQ on wheels around LA.
On Torture

One of the smartest quotes on the subject.

"Some people on the right have faulted me because in that column that you cite I conceded that waterboarding is torture. Actually, I personally don’t think it is cause it’s an absurdity to have to say the United States of America has tortured over 10,000 of its own soldiers because it's, you know, it’s had them waterboarded as a part of their training. That’s an absurd sentence. So, I personally don’t think it is but I was willing to concede it in the column without argument exactly as you say to get away from the semantic argument, which is a waste of time and to simply say call it whatever you want. We know what it is. We know what actually happened. Should it have been done and did it work? Those are the only important questions,"

Labeling waterboarding "torture" eliminates the possibility of discussion. To most, torture is completely unacceptable under any circumstances - and they are correct. The question is not - should we torture? The question is - should we waterboard terrorist suspects in order to get information? I think the real answer is "it depends." But I think the answer, in terms of American policy should be no.
Are Cars Cheaper Than Public Transport?

Interesting post. Money point:

Until someone can demonstrate a place where it’s reasonable to be carless and it doesn’t cost a fortune to live there, one has to assume that such places are inherently economically inefficient.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Post Grad

Doesn't look as good as Adventureland, but it is clearly a trend these days, movies set right after college graduation (we rep a book right now, same deal). Is this a new subgenre? A middterm replacement for the teen movies of the 80s - the new angst ridden time of extended American youth?
I Don't Get It

How does Terminator Salvation look so ridiculously good? It can't possibly be awesome. PG-13...McG...come on, now.
Tyson Doc

He might be the most terrifying man on the planet. Send that man in his prime to Peshawar Province and we'd have Al Queda routed in no time.

Just rewatching his old fight footage - incredible. The best part of the film. They did something with the editing and sound - I was having physical reactions to his punches landing - and I watched some of those fights on tv live.

Tyson, as a human being, is a deranged lunatic and is an excellent case-study example of what it means to be a societal menace. That he happens to be the last great heavyweight boxer is a side issue - this man is not part of civilized society. But on a final note, I've seen old footage of Ali and Frazier and many of the boxing greats. Tyson in his prime vs. any of those dudes. Are you betting against Tyson? Not me.
Somebody's Been Watching The Wire

WHITE HOUSE CZAR CALLS FOR END TO 'WAR ON DRUGS': The Obama administration's new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting "a war on drugs," a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation's drug issues.

If you need confirmation - rewatch Season 3. Both Bunny Colven and Slim Charles have speeches about "war." Bunny says, "You start calling something a war and everyone thinks they're a soldier. But soldiering and policing ain't the same thing." And for Slim Charles, "Once you're in it, you're in it and you have to fight."

Mark Steryn is always worth a read.

Money bits:

Indolence, as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a republic. When I ran into trouble with the so-called "human rights" commissions up in Canada, it seemed bizarre to find the progressive left making common cause with radical Islam. One half of the alliance profess to be pro-gay, pro-feminist secularists; the other half are homophobic, misogynist theocrats. Even as the cheap bus 'n' truck road-tour version of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, it made no sense. But in fact what they have in common overrides their superficially more obvious incompatibilities: Both the secular Big Government progressives and political Islam recoil from the concept of the citizen, of the free individual entrusted to operate within his own societal space, assume his responsibilities, and exploit his potential.

and this:

But forget the money, the deficit, the debt, the big numbers with the 12 zeroes on the end of them. So-called fiscal conservatives often miss the point. The problem isn't the cost. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them each month. They're wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That's the stage where Europe is.
Oh Boy!

Universal is so happy with Depp in Public Enemies, they want him in Sinatra.

It's been a very good year...(for movies)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dammit, I'm Losing It

I can't stop reading Simmons and Gladwell. Reading these bastards is like watching a Malick movie. So frustrating they can be so good.


Gladwell -

This is actually a question I'm obsessed with: Why don't people work hard when it's in their best interest to do so? Why does Eddy Curry come to camp every year overweight?

The (short) answer is that it's really risky to work hard, because then if you fail you can no longer say that you failed because you didn't work hard. It's a form of self-protection. I swear that's why Mickelson has that almost absurdly calm demeanor. If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year I will and I'll win then. When Tiger loses, what does he tell himself? He worked as hard as he possibly could. He prepared like no one else in the game and he still lost. That has to be devastating, and dealing with that kind of conclusion takes a very special and rare kind of resilience

Simmons reply/callback later:

As for your Curry/Mickelson point about athletes failing to motivate themselves out of fear more than weakness, I would argue that Eddy Curry comes to camp overweight because he can't stop eating. But I agreed with everything else.

I just laughed out loud.

I should be making this movie.

UPDATE: Despite being serious about making this movie...Soderburgh has serious confidence right now...prediction: it is going to be a great movie. Damn. It's going to be a cross between Bull Durham and United 93. He's citing Reds. Hmmm. Dammit. Just thinking about how you make this movie has my head spinning. This is the magic I'm talking about.
Hack or Genius?

A line of dialog from an incoming script submission:

"All I want is be successful artist and earn a decent living as an artist selling meaningful paintings, and all I get is rejection and failure."

The typo is in the script.
Bitter Right Wing Radio

Salon worries about right wing radio encouraging violence against the Obama administration. I fell like I've heard this before...oh yeah, it was the right wingers complaining about Ice T and other rappers encouraging violence against cops.

This type of shit isn't new - and not limited to the right - after all, someone made a movie fantasizing about Bush being assassinated.

It's all rather distasteful.
Bill Simmons and Gladwell

I've said it before and now I hear others saying it - there is a real renaissance of socio-entertainment writing going on right now. Gladwell, Michael Lewis, Freakonomics, and Simmons all work in this space. Part journalism, part free flowing associations, this type of writing is sure fun to read. Anyhoo - Gladwell and Simmons via email exchange.

On the need for a rival:


Nick Faldo. Think about it. He wins six majors. He's the dominant golfer of the late 1980s and early 1990s. But we don't mention him in the same breath as, say, Arnold Palmer, even though Palmer only won one more major than Faldo. And why? Because Palmer had Nicklaus and Faldo had, well, Scott Hoch, Mark McNulty and John Cook. Now imagine he comes along in the late '90s and goes toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods from the beginning. All of a sudden Faldo gets immeasurably magnified by the comparison. I'm not saying he'd beat Tiger. (Are you kidding?) But he's the perfect foil. I got a tape recently of the 1996 Masters, when Greg Norman had his epic collapse on the back nine. That tournament is always explained in terms of how Norman choked, as if there were something inside him that inevitably caused him to surrender a six-stroke lead. Nonsense. Surely the key to that whole collapse is that he's paired with Faldo, and Faldo in his prime was terrifying. He was surly and tough and charismatic and emotionally and psychologically bulletproof, and I feel like he'd do a better job of getting under Tiger's skin than anyone out there right now. What's the defining fact about Faldo? His ex-girlfriend once destroyed his Porsche with a 9-iron. The corresponding fact for Woods is that his favorite band is Hootie and the Blowfish. Hootie and the Blowfish? What's Faldo's favorite band? Joy Division? Or some kind of obscure Welsh thrash band too hard core for American radio?


Despite his six major wins, Nick Faldo doesn't go down with golf's all-time greats.
We disagree on Woods. He has worthy rivals but he has destroyed them faster than Michael Corleone wiped out Don Barzini, Philip Tattaglia and Moe Greene. Your case for Faldo holds more water, but here's the difference between golf and any other sport: Ultimately, you're competing against yourself.
White House Poetry Jam

Good God, the white house has turned into sophomore year in college, where folks bob their heads to incomprehensible, self righteous slam poetry.

When did hip-hop become so boring?
Gays in the Military

According to the onion, Obama is reevaluating the policy.

Good. Because in the words of Chris Rock, "I ain't fightin'"
The Top Brass

It sounds like we got an A-list team running these wars now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Parks and Rec

I'm watching the show. My favorite aspect is the little details of local government. Plot-wise, it makes no sense why Rashida Jones is hanging with Amy Proeler...however...Rashida's hotness is a major reason I watch the show.

I enjoy the hardass libertarian boss. "Bacon wrapped shrimp - which combines my number one food wrapped around my number three food in the world."
History of Reno

A city worth knowing.

Because Nevada's economy was tied to the mining industry and its inevitable ups and downs, the state had to find other means of economic support during the down times. Reno earned the title "Sin City" because it hosted several legal brothels, was the scene of illegal underground gambling, and offered quick and easy divorces.
Is No One Worried

The argument is the Obama administration inherited huge deficits and huge problems. Okay, true. But to put into perspective, Bush spent 1.8 tril in debt over 7 years. Obama will spend that amount this year.

I know everyone is gleeful our new president can speak well and is young and cool and most people like him, etc. But is no one worried about spending ourselves into the crapper - to the point where our cost to borrow increases dramatically?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chauncey Billups

Really interesting ESPN profile on Billups.

On the difference between Iverson and Billups:

Iverson has been popular but counterproductive in Denver. Key members of the organization say that Iverson has partied some nights until 3 in the morning, and that Denver's two most crucial players -- Anthony and J.R. Smith -- have tried to keep up with him. They say Anthony and Smith look at Iverson with reverence, the same way Chauncey's generation looked at Michael Jordan. So when A.I. says, "Let's go out,'" they go out. When A.I. wears a sleeve on his arm, they wear a sleeve. Especially the impressionable Smith, who has never met a shot he didn't like.


Smith, in particular, tells people no one has ever influenced him more than Chauncey. On the court, Chauncey wants him talking on defense, and off the court, Chauncey wants him out of clubs. And Smith is all ears. After a game one night, Smith asks Chauncey why he only shot six times, and Chauncey tells him, "I read the game. I don't play for stats. I don't play for none of that no more. I play for the win." Smith's reaction: "Damn. Makes sense."

Anthony's basketball IQ is up, too. His only major negative incident comes March 1 in Indiana, when he refuses to come out of a game. That night, Anthony had been struggling with his shot, and when he finally hit a couple in a row, he didn't want to sit. The front office suspends him one game, but in his first game back he sprints off the floor whenever Karl takes him out. Apparently, Chauncey's idea.

"This season, my stress level has gone so far down," Anthony says. "It's gone from an eight to a zero. That load's been taken off my shoulders. It's what I've been looking for. You don't have to go out there and try to do it yourself."

I like both Iverson and Billups.
Prediction: Phil Jackson Quits

I don't think Jackson comes back next year. The guy looks miserable. Can you blame him? Playing with this clown of a team. Even winning can't be fun.

And call me crazy, but are the Rockets controlling the tenor of this series? Even in the game 3 loss, it seemed to me the Rockets offense imploded rather than the Lakers taking control. The Lakers are reactive.
Good For the Pope

The Pope walks out on a blowhard Islamic Preacher denouncing Israel at a religious summit.
Facebook Fakery

And I quote, "A disturbing account by impersonation-victim Matthew Herper of"

The original article.

F--- Facebook and the identity thieves who impersonate others on it.

UPDATE: Look, the first natural reaction reasonable people have to facebook identity theft is to laugh. Ha. Ha. And then to write it off as no big deal. But it is a big deal. As Brother Mouzone explains to DeAngelo Barksdale in Season 3 - and I am paraphrasing - money will not settle the debt - what is at stake is your word and your reputation. What a fake facebook profile attacks is an individuals word and reputation...the most important and underlying element of the self. And these digital tools that make such a thing possible are dangerous and unsettling.

UPDATE 2: Some humor to relieve my anger.
Alan Moore

He is a practicing magician.

And a fine paragraph on the Watchman:

Snyder’s Watchmen labors a little under the burden of its fidelity to the original. The dialogue, some of it imported verbatim, tends to lie flat on top of the action as if penciled there. And the narrative switchbacks, matching those in the comic, are headspinning; as the credits roll, a sense of nonplussment disperses itself through the theater like an odor, a feeling of “What the *#%$ was that?” But this may also be the film’s triumph—its successful retention of the psyops flavor of Moore’s work, the dim sense that we are being addressed, strategically, at a level somewhere below the threshold of reason. In the movie’s compacted temporal layers, and in the lodestone strangeness of Dr. Manhattan (who for weeks loomed off billboards across America), Moore’s magic seems to be doing its thing. It’s art, after all.

In film training, there is a lot of discussion of craft, and very little of magic. Maybe what is needed in these things are a little more magic and a little less craft. What is magic, you say? Of course, you are already asking the wrong question...but I will try to explain. In high school it was for a little while fashionable to call a beautiful soccer play (or player) "magic." What did this mean? It meant doing something or trying something dribble through three men, to make a bicycle kick mid-field, to nutmeg the best defender, or to tackle ferociously the toughest player on the other team...but the idea is to go for the unexpected - it probably won't work, but if it does, it is, well, magic.

One of the experts on the Great Depression compares our current economic woes with the big one.

You Blockhead!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Good Question

Why can't we concentrate?
Lakers - Rockets First Half Game 4

Is there a team more dislikeable than the Lakers? They come out and play like they don't care in a game when they could really put away the Rockets. I don't care if they're good or not, this team sucks.

I'm not convinced Battier's "hand right up in the face" defense is effective. I think trying to block the ball forces the player to adjust his shot more - if you're right there - the player sometimes has to arc the ball more and hence gets out of rhythm. The announcers are overrating the effectiveness of the hand in the face defense, the player knows where he is on the court and knows how to take the shot from muscle memory, not the vision. Plus, your vision will only be partially and momentarily obscured. Just watching Bryant shoot on Battier and I think he'd be better served getting the hand up near the ball.

PS - Yao played game 3 with a broken foot? Are you kidding me? I really like this Rockets team and am becoming a huge Yao Ming fan. Next year, if they can figure out how to give McGrady a more limited role, run the offense through Yao, this is going to be a seriously tough team to beat. McGrady, Yao, Artest, Brooks, Scola. That'll be the best starting five in basketball.

PPS - Kobe is saving his energy. This is smart. He is a smart player. Zidane did the same later in his career. A lot of talented older players do. Last year, he didn't need to save his energy. His legs are going.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Good Line

"Do you want to dance, Dwight?"

"Normally, I'd say no, but you need to move to keep lactic acid up and plus, this is an incredible song."

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Bill Simmons on cheating in baseball:

"You don't understand what it was like to follow baseball before you were born. There was a strike in 1994, and the World Series was canceled. Everyone hated baseball. Then Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa started hitting homers, and the balls started flying out of the park, and it was so much fun that everyone looked the other way. We didn't care that these guys were practically busting out of their skin or growing second foreheads. We really didn't. All the cheating made baseball more fun to watch. We were in denial. It was weird.

"Then, Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in a season, and that was like the turning point. We realized that things had gone too far. We blamed him for cheating and looked the other way with dozens of other guys who might have been doing the same thing. Brady Anderson hit 50 homers in 1996; we didn't care. Bret Boone had 141 RBIs in a season; we didn't care. Big Papi went from 10 homers to 41 in four seasons; we didn't care. Roger Clemens was washed up, but suddenly he could throw 98 miles per hour and win Cy Youngs again; we didn't care. Eric Gagne saved 84 straight games and threw 120 miles an hour; we didn't care. Good players started blowing out tendons nobody had ever heard of; we didn't care. Pitchers blew out elbow tendons and shoulder ligaments routinely; we didn't care. This was the deal. They cheated; we pretended they didn't. It's really hard to explain unless you were there."

What's frightening is the pervasiveness doesn't stop at we know everyone was pulling shady crap in the financial world - not to mention the political world. I work in Hollywood, a place full of crooks. It makes you wonder: Is everyone in America a cheater? Was it always this way?
I Miss Bay Cities

It's funny how a small change in location affects my eating. Bay Cities was my staple lunch. I'd eat there between 1-3 times a week. I never brought my lunch to work. Never.

Now, near my parking lot, is Trader Joe's. I go nearly every Monday and buy some stuff - including lunch meats, etc, and make sandwiches. In the past two weeks, I've brought 4-6 sandwiches for lunch. I save a little money by doing this and eat a little healthier.

Whether I'll keep this up - who knows? But I know it makes a lot of sense for me to stop at Trader Joe's on Monday evening since it's right there and the sandwich competition is not Bay Cities.
The Lakers

My favorite team in the NBA is whoever plays the Lakers. Right now, Artest and Yao are my favorite players.

Unfortunately, I missed the action packed 2nd half of the game yesterday. But I saw the replays. Kobe elbowed Artest in the neck and should get automatically suspended for a game. Fisher - without a doubt - made a hideous play on Scola and should get suspended at least a game if not more. These were both dirty plays - not hard plays. In contrast, Rondo's foul on Miller was hard - but not dirty. The Lakers - as to be expected - overcompensate for their (perceived or actual) lack-of-toughness by playing dirty.

I mean - come on - an elbow into someone's neck. That's dirty. And Artest gets kicked out. What a joke.

Pakistan rejects truce with Taliban.

If they can do it, so can we. And by we, I mean the civilized governments of the world.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wait A Second...

Ron Artest just made a really impressive play. The Rockets are down three, coming back from being 14 down at the end of the first quarter. He gets the ball kicked out to him for a spot up 3. What does he do? Head fake, drives the lane, and tries to dish off for an easy lay up.


Most players at this moment would say "they felt it," and would launch the 3 and try to tie the game and get a close up shot as they ran back down the floor (see Kobe on the last shot of the first quarter).

But Artest made the smarter play at a moment when one would least expect an NBA player to make a smart play. Now...his pass got knocked away...barely. It was a nice play and the Rockets ended up scoring on the possession.

Profile/Obiturary: Sam Cohn

Sounds like an interesting person. He called our office once.

Some highlights:

Cohn was not in the biz for the fame or fortune: he considered himself a facilitator of the arts rather than an agent salesman. He loved to discuss art with his clients, spending hours hashing out parts and dissecting scripts, while the phone messages from crazed colleagues out in Los Angeles piled higher and higher on his desk. Sue Mengers once described him as an “agent auteur,” only half jokingly. Not many agents could claim they saw a client's film 24 times, but that's what Sam did for Robert Altman or Bob Fosse. “He would basically become a collaborative partner to these artists, and fight the studios when they said they wanted change,” notes Marty Bauer, the UTA co-founder who was Cohn's Business Affairs attorney in the old days. “That’s why he flirted many times with being a producer. He wanted to be involved creatively. But Sam always knew that all these clients, who were his close friends, might not be there for him as a producer.”


But Cohn’s eccentricities and attitudes became a serious internal problem. The agent made no secret of his contempt for Hollywood and its business and rarely flew out to the West Coast. “I wouldn’t want to live in L.A. any more than I would want to live in Los Alamos,” Cohn quipped. When forced to travel to L.A., he would routinely spend as little time as possible: take the 4 PM flight from Kennedy and arrive at 10 PM, then catch the plane out the following afternoon. Infamous for his paper eating, he once couldn’t get out of the LAX baggage area because he had eaten his claim check on the walk down from the plane. Once he arrived at the ICM headquarters, Cohn spent the majority of the day fuming about colleagues who acted more like "parking lot attendants to the stars” than agents, or the lavishly decorated offices which rated a “Hmmm, pretty tacky” response from him.


Another problem was that Cohn, a lawyer himself, refused to work with the rising tide of entertainment attorneys, cutting them out of the dealmaking process whenever he could, and gathering a great store of personal enmity not only for himself but for ICM. Cohn in particular butted heads repeatedly with Barry Hirsch. The running feud became so bad that. at one point, Hirsch, Cohn and various lieutenants finally met to broker a peace conference, which was ended before it even began when Cohn imperiously informed Hirsch that “deals are the province of the agent and not of the lawyer.”

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'
Invisible Chaos Everywhere

An enormous swarm of bees formed a cloud outside our office this early afternoon. After buzzing around for 20 minutes, they disappeared. Or did they? I found them congregated in a nearby tree - thousands of bees - all around a hive or creating a hive. People are walking right under the tree as we speak. An awkward bump into this tree and chaos would descend upon the victim.
Westwood vs. Santa Monica

Recently our office moved from Westwood to Santa Monica. One thing I noticed about walking around Westwood vs. Santa Monica - a lot more African American folks. Santa Monica is a pretty white bread place with a spattering of Asians, Hispanic, Persians, and a very few Black folks. In Westwood, there are almost equal parts White, Asian, and Black, and then a few Hispanics. This is just in my casual observations of walking on the streets, getting lunch, dropping off mail, and getting print jobs.
The Human Mind

On NPR this morning a border guard was being interviewed and he reported a peculiar behavior exhibited by people coming to the United States from Mexico. Many of them were wearing surgical masks to prevent swine flu, but the minute they entered the states, took them off.

As if a virus knows borders.

Tell me that doesn't say something odd about how humans perceive spaces.
Very Interesting

Four different roots of American Liberty and how we see them in debate today-

It's not hard to pick up echoes of these different "freedom ways" in today's debates. Probably each of us finds some one of the four more attractive than the others. Very approximately speaking, modern liberalism descends from the first and third of Fischer's styles, modern conservatism from the second and fourth.

My ancestors are number 3:

• The Quakers from the English North Midlands who settled the Delaware valley looked to reciprocal liberty. This embraced all of humanity. Its central idea was freedom of the individual conscience. William Penn: "Conscience is God's throne in man, and the power of it his prerogative."

Which might explain my liberalism.
College Essays

The WSJ asks some top college Presidents write admission essays.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Lakers - Rockets Series

My prediction: whoever wins game 2 will win the series. The Lakers cannot shoot worse as a team than they did last night. They make a couple of those open threes and that game is a toss up. Lakers can play pick and roll Odom and Gasol and the Rockets will not be able to stop it. Will Kobe allow this? Will Odom be up for this task for 4 games?

On the other hand, Fisher cannot guard Brooks and Kobe will not dominate this series because Battier and Artest make him work hard for his points. Plus, Kobe is scared to shoot over Yao when he gets in the lane.

Yao will get tired in games or in the series. He might also get in foul trouble. This spells trouble for the Rockets on both ends of the floor. At the same time, we might see the emergence of a new superstar - a ginormous center who can play both ends of the floor - shoot - clog the middle - and who will be taking clutch shots down the stretch. I can't think of the last big man that a team used as their "closer." Hakeem?

But the Lakers are both a team of headcases and a headcase of a team. That is to say, collectively, they are dysfunctional. Artest may be a headcase, but the Rockets as a team, are not. Somehow it works. Same with old Rasheed and the Pistons a couple years ago. In fact, the old school, Bad Boys Pistons were full of headcases, but as a team were not. In contrast, the Lakers are just weak willed. You saw it in the finals last year and in the Utah series in different ways. Collapsing against a tougher, but arguably less talented Celtics team and then allowing a much less talented team to come back from huge deficits in the first round. A headcase team falls down 2-0 against a pretty tough Rockets team and I think they lose the series.

Individually - Odom is a headcase. He only plays when he wants to play. Vujicic is a war criminal and probably murdered his neighbors during the Bosnian conflict as a young lad. Fisher is not a headcase, but is too old to guard the fast point guards in the league. And Kobe. Someone told me today Kobe is not a narcissist, he is actually a Solipsist - "a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own odifications and that the self is the only existent thing." Basically, as far as Kobe is concerned, he is one big brain in a vat and the rest of the world merely neurological stimuli (as opposed to something that exists). I think this explains him and his attempt to destroy Yao's knee in the 4th quarter and when he tackled Battier after he stole the ball (which reminded me of a middle school play).

UPDATE: Dirk is a big man closer for Dallas. Just thought of that watching Den-Dallas.
Comic Books - Goats

A very funny comic strip being printed as a book.
Enormous Failure

Evidence of a potentially enormous intelligence/national security failure in the months after 9/11.

Not long after 9/11, one senior Taliban official told me Osama bin Laden was a pain in the backside. Hard to control, intent on doing his own thing. The only reason they didn't turn him over was out of fearsome ethnic tribal loyalty known as Pashtunwali. Bin Laden and Mullah Omar are at opposite ends of the ultra-conservative corner of Islam they occupy. Not natural bedfellows.

If this is truly the case, we really ought to been persuasive enough to get the Taliban to turn him over. But I doubt our intel knew this and our state department was too red with anger over 9/11 and wanted to show our muscle. Imagine the number of lives and treasure saved if we convince the Taliban to turn over OBL? All it would of taken - a little bit of intel plus a good negotiating team. I know this is Monday morning QBing, but...
Guess That's What An Ass-Kicking Will Do

Hamas shifts their policy towards Israel. Gently.

Monday, May 04, 2009

First Half Thoughts - Lakers/Rockets

Lakers will make more shots in the second half. Kobe seems to have trouble and be worried about shooting over Yao when he gets in the lane. The Kobe foul on Battier would have been a technical if Ron Artest made the same foul. Sasha Vujacic is an Eastern European war criminal. There is no doubt in my mind he is guilty of some atrocity in the Balkans. Yao gets tired and this causes the Rockets a lot of problems. They have to play different when he is not in. When he plays, they need to run the inside/outside game through him. It works. When he isn't in, Artest takes goofy shots and they relay on Aaron Brooks to penetrate and shoot or dish. This does not sound like the options of a team who can knock off the Western Conference favorites.

My initial impression - the Lakers will win the series because of their depth. The only way the Rockets can win is if they steal 1 and/or 2 at Staples and can keep Yao out of foul trouble and not too tired (clearly he starts to lag) and/or Artest can get in Kobe's head. Artest is one seriously weird dude.
Ugh, Yeah...

Freakonomics criticizes a Facebook group for proposing to eliminate student loan debt as a policy proposal because it is self serving and regressive.

But what he fails to mention is that all stimulus and bailouts are by definition "self serving" (to those being stimulated on the one hand, and to the greater self interest on the other) and unless they are designed to help the least well off, also potentially regressive.

The question is whether they could stimulate the economy - and could eliminating student loan debt achieve that?
Hip Hop Video

Newest Al Queda video has hip hop vibe.

I remember reading John Walker Lindh went through a serious gangster rap phase before he became a hardcore Muslim.

What is the deal?

A patch that senses calorie burning and intake.
Run on Ammo

Gun owners are stockpiling ammunition.

I hope they don't know something I don't.
On A Hitchens Kick

Another great, but older Hitchens article
on ceding the Swat Valley to the Taliban.

Fareed Zakaria makes the perfectly good observation in his Newsweek essay that no Afghans have been found among the transnational terrorist groups that apparently most concern us. (He's righter than he knows: It's more likely now that a wanted would-be hijacker would be a British citizen than an Afghan one.) However, this can easily decay into being a distinction without a difference. What the Afghan fundamentalists did do when they were in power was offer their country as a safe haven to al-Qaida and give it a hinterland that included the ability to issue passports, make use of an airport, and so forth. Comparable facilities will now become available, much nearer to the center of things, in a formerly civilized province of our ally Pakistan. This is incredible.

There is another symbiosis between state failure of that kind and the spread of deadly violence. A state or region taken over by jihadists will not last long before declining into extreme poverty and backwardness and savagery. There are no exceptions to this rule. We do not need to demonstrate again what happens to countries where vicious fantasists try to govern illiterates with the help of only one book. And who will be blamed for the failure? There will not, let me assure you, be a self-criticism session mounted by the responsible mullahs. Instead, all ills will be blamed on the Crusader-Zionist conspiracy, and young men with deficiency diseases and learning disabilities will be taught how to export their frustrations to happier lands. Thus does the failed state become the rogue state. This is why we have a duty of solidarity with all the secular forces, women's groups, and other constituencies who don't want this to happen to their societies or to ours.

By all means, let field commanders make tactical agreements with discrepant groups, play them off against one another, employ the methods of divide and rule, and pit the bad against the worst. C'est la guerre. But under no circumstances should a monopoly of violence be ceded to totalitarian or theocratic forces. For this and for other reasons, we shall long have cause to regret the shameful decision to deliver the good people of the Swat Valley bound and gagged into the hands of the Taliban, and—worst of all—without even a struggle.
Ruthless Yet Humane

A good Hitchens article on how the British would interrogate Nazi spies.

As Col. Stephens wrote, following the words quoted above about how "violence is taboo" and that it "lowers the standard of information":

There is no room for a percentage assessment of reliability. If information is correct, it is accepted and recorded; if it is doubtful, it should be rejected in toto.

In other words, it is precisely because the situation was so urgent, so desperate, and so grave that no amateurish or stupid methods could be permitted to taint the source. Col. Stephens, who was entirely devoted to breaking his prisoners and destroying the Nazis, eventually persuaded many important detainees to work for him...

The underlying issue with all this torture business is the United States incompetence when it comes to matters of intelligence. We suck at it. For the amount of resources we devote to intelligence, our intelligence services are at best, 2nd rate. This much is clear. It is a cultural issue. Americans are good at some things - hard work - self reliance - delivering pizza - making movies - amongst others. But Americans are also bad at some things - high culture - soccer - making small affordable automobiles - and gather intelligence on our enemies.

We tortured these people because we were desperate and stupid and stupid desperate people do stupid desperate things. I don't know the fix, but it is not the moral grandstanding on the left nor the creepy secretive faux-expertise of the Cheney right. It is about admitting our intelligence problems and figuring out a way to systematically improve it.

An article about a code sculpture even the CIA can't crack.

I find the mystery and dedication of the code-breakers inspiring. I do not know why.
A Bad Idea

Farve thinking of coming out of retirement.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Dragging Out Garnett

Will Boston drag out Garnett for game 7. Small chance, but just more added drama...

A lot of people are talking about how this series will physically and emotionally drain the winner and the next round will be difficult. I actually think the opposite. I would not want to play either one of these battle-hardened teams after this series. Do you know what kind of mental training and toughness these guys are getting right now. Why do you think the Celtics mutilated the Lakers last year? Because they were tested to the limit by the Hawks and the Cavs. The Lakers had an easy road to the finals and weren't hardened.

Playing the winner of this series would be like fighting the Soviet Army after WW2. Yeah, they took a beating at the hands of the Germans, but the dudes that were left were the toughest of the tough and possess a confidence only begotten at the hands grueling victory.
A Work of Art

I think I said it before, but if I haven't, Ray Allen's jumpshot is a work of art.
Sitcoms and Learning

I checked out Parks and Recreation this week. It was pretty good. My favorite element is the setting of the show and getting little details about how local government works. Or, I should say, imagined to work.

On a similar note, Freakonomics discusses the microeconomic issues in the latest Office episode.

How I understood the problem in the episode: The Michael Scott Paper Company was not paying a "variable cost," because they were doing all the deliveries themselves - and they were all salaried employees. However, if their volume went up, they would no longer be able to do all the deliveries and would need to hire a delivery guy. But at the low prices they were charging, the cost of the delivery guy exceeded the profit they were making on the paper. Hence, they were going broke.

What doesn't make sense about this scenario: they couldn't have been making money PRIOR to their volume going up. Or, at the very least, they were paying themselves at less the rate of an average delivery person...which is to say, not very much.

I copped this from Salon. I didn't know Miss California looked like a space alien. Check those frigging teeth, man! Nor did I know Perez Hilton is auditioning for the gay Riddler in the next Batman movie.

Oh, controversy.
Herzog Interview

Here is the Gawker interview with Herzog.

Speaking of which, the original film's director, Abel Ferrara, has vowed to fight this project, and —

Wonderful, yes! Let him fight! He thinks I'm doing a remake.

Have you talked to him?

No. I have no idea who Abel Ferrara is. But let him fight the windmills, like Don Quixote.

Have you heard his comments at all? He says he hopes "these people die in Hell."

That's beautiful!

Do you relate to that passion?

No, because it's like theater thunder. It's like being backstage in the 19th century, with the machines that make thunder. It has nothing do with with his film. But let him rave and rant; it's good music in the background.

You did a remake before with Nosferatu, but —

It was not so much a remake as an homage to Murnau. But I don't feel like doing an homage to Abel Ferrara because I don't know what he did — I've never seen a film by him. I have no idea who he is. Is he Italian? Is he French? Who is he?

Oh, come on.

Maybe I could invite him to act in a movie! Except I don't know what he looks like.

What a beautiful asshole.
Swine, I Mean A/H1N1 Flu

I guess we can no longer call it swine flu. It is unfair to the pigs.

Too bad for Egpyt, who already slaughtered all the pigs in their country. Apparently, Israel never called it swine flu (Kosher logic) and instead referred to it as Mexican Flu. Just glad they didn't adapt Egypt's eradication policy!

A/H1N1 just doesn't roll off the tounge like swine, tho.

PS - I swear the fear of swine flu was significantly raised by the name alone.
Who Is Abel Ferrara?

Herzog voted one of TIME's most influential people.

Herzog says his fiction films are documentaries and his documentaries are fiction.

Gotta love the guy.
Good Title

When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win: Reflections About Looking In the Mirror.

I'm 30.