Monday, August 31, 2009

The Lonesome Dove Quartet

Almost midway through the first (and final) book of the Lonesome Dove Quartet, DEAD MAN'S WALK. It is my second favorite book of the series so far, although I really like all the books. Lonesome Dove is still the standout. Here is the breakdown of the series:



Order in which they were written:


Order in which I read them:


Order in which I enjoyed the books:


I suppose it is a bit early to evaluate, but I'm really enjoying DEAD MAN'S WALK right now.
You Say Potato, I Say Potato

Drum talks about the recession doldrums.

There are only a few ways for consumers to spend more money, and none of them are anywhere on the horizon. Wages aren't going up, employment isn't going up, the glory days of credit card debt and home equity loans are over, and no one is drawing down their savings to buy bedroom sets these days. Just the opposite, in fact.

So with consumers actively reducing their consumption in order to pay off debt, what's going to keep this recovery going? A few hundred billion dollars in stimulus money? Not likely. Unfortunately, with no second stimulus likely to get serious consideration, we're stuck in the doldrums until deleveraging has run its course. That's probably going to take another couple of years.

He and the WSJ call this recession doldrums. I say potato. I call this a return to realism and not spending money like a drunken sailor coming into port for the night. But that's just me.
I'm Not Homophobic

But I find homophilia/metrosexual culture boring and I rightfully make fun of it. For this, I get charged with homophobia. It would akin to saying "I don't like rap music," and getting accused of being racist. Luckily, I like some rap music. Like Eminem and Vanilla Ice. Okay, joking. I like Eminem, but not Vanilla Ice. Nevertheless, reading riffs on the dating chaos article and this is not my experience.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve found old-school machismo pathetic and somehow irrelevant to the problem of becoming a man. Without even knowing what or why it was, I was heavily influenced by gay culture, which provided me, and many other straight young men, a wide variety of templates for manhood that are at once unmistakably masculine, playfully ironic, aesthetic, emotionally open, and happily sexual. You can be manly and care about shoes!!! I’ll confess that I used to periodically regret my heterosexuality because there seemed to be greater scope for constructing a distinctive and satisfying male identity within gay culture. I think that’s telling. And the virulent homophobia that remains in most American dude subcultures has cut most young men off from the possibility of modeling their manhood after any of the delightful variety of types available to the homophile.

Cough. Cough. Douche Bag. Cough. Cough.
Facebook Exodus

Users leaving facebook. Hat tip, Andy.

The party peaked and the cool kids are leaving...

...also, I'm curious what happens once everyone finds everyone they ever wanted to keep in touch with...
Dating Chaos

A couple laugh out loud moments in this article.

Now, men and women have probably been a mystery to one another since the time human beings were in trees; one reason people developed so many rules around courtship was that they needed some way to bridge the Great Sexual Divide. By the early twentieth century, things had evolved so that in the United States, at any rate, a man knew the following: he was supposed to call for a date; he was supposed to pick up his date; he was supposed to take his date out, say, to a dance, a movie, or an ice-cream joint; if the date went well, he was supposed to call for another one; and at some point, if the relationship seemed charged enough—or if the woman got pregnant—he was supposed to ask her to marry him. Sure, these rules could end in a midlife crisis and an unhealthy fondness for gin, but their advantage was that anyone with an emotional IQ over 70 could follow them.


But then, when an SYM walks into a bar and sees an attractive woman, it turns out to be nothing like that. The woman may be hoping for a hookup, but she may also be looking for a husband, a co-parent, a sperm donor, a relationship, a threesome, or a temporary place to live. She may want one thing in November and another by Christmas. “I’ve gone through phases in my life where I bounce between serial monogamy, Very Serious Relationships and extremely casual sex,” writes Megan Carpentier on Jezebel, a popular website for young women. “I’ve slept next to guys on the first date, had sex on the first date, allowed no more than a cheek kiss, dispensed with the date-concept altogether after kissing the guy on the way to his car, fucked a couple of close friends and, more rarely, slept with a guy I didn’t care if I ever saw again.” Okay, wonders the ordinary guy with only middling psychic powers, which is it tonight?

The only redeeming thing I can say about Entourage at the moment is the E-Sloane-skinny-alien-looking-chick situation is a very realistic and relateable story-line about the confusion in present day American male-female relationships.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

On Boycotting

Whole Foods and Orson Scott Card

Boycotts fascinate and disturb me though because it seems to me that they’ve taken on a punitive “wrongthink” quality in recent years. It isn’t so much that boycotts are being organized to protest a particular practice or right a particular wrong but that boycotts now seem to be organized to economically destroy someone who thinks the wrong thoughts and anyone who has the temerity to deal with them.

I agree with this. The irony, however, is that "boycotting" is about leverage and not exclusively about principle. If anything, we should boycott Saudi oil so long as they continue to fund radical mosques and other illiberal institutions that give an infrastructure for terrorism. But we can't, because we need it. We don't NEED a specific videogame or Whole Foods, so they are potential targets.
Unconventional Reading Suggestions

Some interesting sounding books.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Did Yale just sell the first amendment?

I know it's tough times, but capitulating to Saudi money so as not to offend strikes me as cowardly, spineless, and greedy.
Reason #2

Why I won't be seeing Inglorious Basterds again this weekend. I'm even bored reading about it now. Yikes!

Couldn't make it through the article.
Making the Recession Better

I've found this to be largely true.
Post-Game Analysis Modern Art

Modern Art is a super complex game. It would be interesting to tape a game and go back and do math calculations backwards to see who made what kind of money where during the game. It is way too complicated to do it by memory. I wonder if the game is decided more by "big scores," or a couple of big sales or by an accumulation of "small scores," ie limiting losses. My suspicion is that there is actually a correlation between "big scores" and "small scores," that in fact, it isn't an either/or situation. That "big scores" are largely unpredictable and tend to occur more often at the same rate a player is able to land a "small score." I'd also be curious to see the ramifications of blunders, ie, can one hugely bad play screw up the entire game for a player? Or can players recover from bad plays. Also, how risk-adverse or risk-taking plays shake out. For instance, in monopoly, generally-speaking, risk-adverse players tend to lose because they do not own enough property. But how do different playing styles effect the Modern Art game. Is there an optimal strategy? Or do you need to constantly react to the psychology of the other players and manipulate the market in that way? In short, does math/value or perception carry greater weight and account for the end result. I'd also be curious to see an individual tally about how each player made their money - through end of round sales or during the game auctions. This would provide an interesting insight, I'd imagine.

I also think the early round auctions play a greater role in the outcome than suspected. Obviously late game plays end up having a huge impact deciding which paintings have value at the end of the round. But early round plays dictate these later auctions. It's an always interesting scenario when three different artists are on the board and whether to introduce a fourth artist, guaranteeing at some point some painting is going to be worthless. These plays shake up the dynamic of a round and end up having huge long term ramifications. Essentially, I think this decided the fourth and final round last night. D was probably in the money lead or at least close to the money lead going into the last round. Her first two purchases in round four were highly popular artists in prior rounds, and if either one finished among the top three, would have been worth considerable money. She paid moderately high prices for their early paintings with this in mind. However, she got stuck in a trap. She basically banked on one of those artists placing early on in the round and the two other players had no interest (and actual incentives in the other direction) to see those artists NOT place. As our turns came up, we introduced other artists into the fray and without enough cards to protect her original investment, D, was stuck watching the other artists accumulate value and her early investments become worthless.

The choice to end a round is obviously a big one as well. Sometimes "cashing out" to protect your investments is wise. But you also sacrifice a potentially lucrative auction. Bearing this in mind, sometimes it may be to a players advantage not to over-invest in a particular artist and to not have a huge stake in the "end-round" strategy. In effect, to position oneself to neither hugely benefit or hugely lose based upon how the round itself ends. This is actually an interesting strategic approach one can take - concentrating instead on small marginal victories and position versus taking down a big score. This way, you don't need to ever end the round and can plan on making large sales towards the end of the round as the other players position for the end game. Alternatively, a player who wants to go for the big score or who is playing from behind and needs to cash in with a big score, might focus on buying lots of a single painting very early on in a round and then try to compound the score by throwing out a double auction at some point. They try to end the round early and minimize the sales other players are able to make and cash in by selling a big collection to the bank.
Political Disaster?

Is the Obama Admin courting political disaster by prosecuting CIA interrogators?

When it comes to political analysis, I’m no Barone or Bowman or Ornstein, but this is not a really tough call. Attempts to put men on trial who obtained information that most Americans will believe (probably rightly) saved the nation from more terrorist attacks will be a political catastrophe, all the more so because I bet that the defendants will come across as straight-arrow good guys (and probably are), while the prosecutors come across as self-righteous wimps (and…). How could the White House not have thought this through?

The CIA need fixing, not a stab in the back.
Must Be A Slow News Week

When Obama riding a bicycle without a helmet is in the LA Times. Nevertheless, it is my favorite news article.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Economic Reasons For Doing What You Love

Good points.

We think you should only do what you love, and pay for it by doing what you are good at.

By sticking to economics, I make time for running. Rather than spend hundreds of dollars worth of time cleaning my house each Sunday, I hire a cleaner who does a better job at a better price. When a friend asks me to help them move, I write them a check to pay professional movers instead. It’s just more efficient. And while it can be hard to forgo extra income for a long run, it is even harder to justify wasting that time on Facebook. And with the time that saves, I’m pulling on my shoes to head out for another run.

And a dig at facebook. Hence - a great blog post.

A critique of cash for clunkers.

Were a lot of "clunkers" that got traded-in actually perfectly good cars? Is it wise to throw away perfectly usable cars?

Fair point.
I'm Not Blogging About Work

I'm blogging about the espresso maker AT work. Today, I tried a shot of espresso (as opposed to my usual cappuccino or latte.) I went balls out and tried the 10 strength Indian bean. I took it down like a man and even commented, "I could have another," because really, a shot of espresso isn't much to drink.

But 45 minutes later, while driving home, my heart started beating like crazy. When I got home, I decided immediately to go running. I hate running. I'm wondering if this how the cocaine craze in the 1970s started - film executives just taking a little snort to get through the day - just a harmless little pick-me-up. Twenty years later half of them are in recovering addicts and burn outs.
Simmons on Soccer Players

Bill Simmons lets loose -

Q: Look I enjoy the soccer commentary and I really want to jump on the bandwagon but I just can't. The reason, every soccer player I've ever met is a total d-bag. How can I like a sport where every person who plays it drinks flavored vodka and attempts to screw every girl who walks by?
-- Ryan, Atlanta

SG: See, I think that's what took me so long to gravitate towards soccer. I haven't been in college since the early-'90s. I haven't been single since the early-'00s. I haven't seen soccer players disgracing themselves socially for such a long time that I now operate under the premise that they're like everyone else. Maybe that should be the new MLS PR strategy: targeting married guys over 35 with a slogan like "Professional Soccer: Because it's been so long that you forgot they were d-bags."

What's wrong with flavored vodka?
The Good War?

DRUP LORD V.P.: Observers have long warned that the Afghan government is corrupt, but the recent election might actually put a drug lord in the vice president's office. Already the current defense minister, President Hamid Karzai's running mate, Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, has long been suspected by U.S. officials of running a heroin-smuggling operation.

Ted Kennedy

A good article on the least glamorous Kennedy brother who ironically, had the greatest direct impact on American law.

On glamor:

In an age of cynicism and full disclosure, political glamour is a rarity--not because politicians lack good looks or wealth or celebrity but because we know too much about them. We too easily see their flaws and imagine even more than the flaws we do see.

Despite what the fashion-magazine cover blurbs suggest, glamour is not a matter of style but of psychology. It is an imaginative exchange, in which an audience projects its longings onto the glamorous object and sees in that person, place or thing the fulfillment of those desires. By binding image and desire, glamour gives us pleasure, even as it heightens our yearning.

That process requires distance and mystery, because glamour is always an illusion. The word originally referred to a literal magic spell making things appear better than they really were. To "glamorize" something means to remove distractions or flaws. Too much information breaks the spell.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Drama Queen

Drama in Viking locker room.

In the words of one NFL source, Favre has "little support" in the locker room as Minnesota prepares for its Monday night preseason game against the Houston Texans.

Farve is a drama queen.
The Fempire

I'm so woefully unhip I didn't read this article until right now. Puke. What a ridiculous puff piece. I'm surprised they didn't have the girls all wear shirts that said: SENIORS.
For the Record

Due to my rule of not blogging about work, I cannot blog about the new espresso maker although I would like to.
Feminists on the Attack

Feminists attacking a friend of the movement for her statement:

One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a "vocation." The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.

I guess I'll never know.
Could Obama Lose Afghanistan?

A stupid way of framing the question...especially considering it isn't just Obama's fight, but all of ours...

Nevertheless, not holding Obama's feet to the fire on this issue is doing him and us a huge disservice. Bush was forced by the media and the democrats to continuously define why we were in Iraq, what our goals were, and how we were to achieve those goals. Obama hasn't been rhetorically tested at all. He argues, basically, that Af-Pak is the center of terror activity and thus we should have tons of troops there trying to win. But win what? At what cost? To what end?

Who are we fighting there - The Taliban or Al Queda? What is our goal? Why was our prior strategy failing? Who cares if the Taliban were taking back territory if Al Queda was being kept in check by our small group of Special Forces? Why go "all-in" on this hand?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Rant AGAINST Facebook Haters

A defense of facebook.

Her beef:

Notice to my friends: I love you all dearly.

But I don't give a hoot that you are "having a busy Monday," your child "took 30 minutes to brush his teeth," your dog "just ate an ant trap" or you want to "save the piglets." And I really, really don't care which Addams Family member you most resemble.

The hater-in-question thinks her friends are boring. See...this isn't the issue I have with facebook. In fact, I rather like getting gossip and other information from other people through their facebook accounts. I don't like what facebook would do to ME. I don't want to be constantly updating information and pictures online about my private life. I don't want my mom reading the same things about me as my friends. I just don't. I need some compartamentalization in my life.** My personal life is not open source software for anyone and everyone to have equal access. Furthermore, I don't want to waste time reading up on all the details of everyone I know. I can imagine it's addictive. It allows you to stalk people you shouldn't be stalking. No, you should not have the power to look up every single cute girl you meet briefly out on adventures in LA and become their facebook friend/stalker. Facebook has the potential to make us all into creeps.

As to the fun and joys of gossip, I realized this weekend I like facebook as a second hand source. I like hearing gossip through a filter. That's what's so fun about gossip anyway. I like hearing people update me about other people. In the same way I don't like reading AP news reports - which are just prepared statements about events. I prefer analysis and coverage. Same with gossip. I like hearing not that so-and-so got married, but the analysis and details - how they met, was it a big or small wedding, are they a good couple, etc. That's the juice. Facebook as a supplement/compliment to gossip is a good tool.

**Facebook defenders will undoubtedly cite privacy settings. I don't need to be a CIA case officer to know you can learn as much by omission as admission and these privacy settings, I'm sure, can be very revealing if anyone with a brain is paying attention.
Good Use

A meth ring is using comic books to launder cash.
Not Good Signs To Me

CNN is reporting good economic news because housing prices and consumer confidence is up. Nevermind these are two elements of the economy that bubbled and got us into the mess in the first place - overinflated house prices and the accompanying excessive confidence felt by consumers who can refinance and get $$$.

I prefer the housing prices to drop, I still think houses are beyond common-sense pricing. I say that as a renter, obviously.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf

One of my favorite fables when I was young...I sometimes wonder if we are a tad guilty of crying wolf with respect to the economic situation.

The good news: the federal deficit for this year will be only $1,600,000,000,000 rather than $1,800,000,000,000. The bad news, which will be released officially Tuesday: the projected federal deficit for the next ten years is projected to increase to $9,000,000,000,000 from $7,000,000,000,000.

It’s far from obvious that our current economic predicament requires an increase in federal indebtedness comparable to that which was necessary to prosecuting World War II.

I'd say so. What I'm concerned about more than the specific numbers and spending is our attitude. It feels as though something somewhere flipped and people care more about spending/consuming (ie the back end benefits of capitalism) versus producing/making products. At one time, people worked hard, created products that people bought in order to get rich and enjoy life. That's how it's supposed to work. Somewhere along the line it seems like people figured out ways to enjoy life - ie spend - without having produced/created the wealth.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Great Book

...will be written about HBO at some point. I just finished the 2nd season of Deadwood and the emotional experience of the finale is so much more intense and heavy than anything I've seen in the theater in a long while. The depth and richness of several of these HBO shows - The Sopranos, The Wire, and Deadwood - are on a completely different planet than the other work out there. How this is possible, I don't know. Sopranos was created by a career TV writer who wasn't particularly well known. The Wire, a lifelong labor of love by a journalist-turned author-turned tv showrunner. Deadwood was created by a giant in the tv landscape, but years after the other two. Hung has the potential to be considered a small side example, along with the best years of Entourage, and Sex in the City. I've never seen an episode of Six Feet Under, but by all accounts, it probably belongs in the first category. These shows are the great American Novel of our generation. These shows are what Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Faulkner were to America in their time.

The work HBO has created in these past 10 years is like a giant roadside bomb to the auteur theory. These works are major collaborations of writers, directors, actors, and obviously something within the HBO apparatus. Such a remarkable string of successful shoes cannot be explained otherwise. Not even to mention the offshoots - Mad Men, Weeds, Dexter, all these shows only exist because of HBO shows. Maybe all of the shows exist only because of the success of the Sopranos. I don't know. But I know it's fodder for a great Michael Lewis style book.
An Interesting Question

Should inmates at Guantanamo have the right to practice "religion?"

Nothing prepared me for the way in which the authorities at the camp have allowed the most extreme religious cultists among the inmates to be the organizers of the prisoners' daily routine. Suppose that you were a secular or unfanatical person caught in the net by mistake; you would still find yourself being compelled to pray five times a day (the guards are not permitted to interrupt), to have a Quran in your cell, and to eat food prepared to halal (or Sharia) standards. I suppose you could ask to abstain, but, in such a case, I wouldn't much fancy your chances. The officers in charge were so pleased by this ability to show off their extreme broad-mindedness in respect of Islam that they looked almost hurt when I asked how they justified the use of taxpayers' money to create an institution dedicated to the fervent practice of the most extreme version of just one religion. To the huge list of reasons to close down Guantanamo, add this: It's a state-sponsored madrasah.

If one's "religion" requires dominating and converting others, you forfeit the right to practice it.

Hitchens on the journalist fiasco.

The two young women were picked up in March and released in August. That means they spent almost half a year in the North Korean prison system. Yet to judge by the photographs of them arriving back on U.S. soil, they were in approximately the same physical condition as they had been when they were first unlawfully apprehended.

Now, I spent less time than that as an honored guest in North Korea and still managed to lose weight during my stay. The shattering statistic that everybody now knows about North Korea is that its citizens are on average 5 to 6 inches shorter than South Koreans. And by that I mean to say "on average"—it seems to be true even of North Korean soldiers. The stunting and shortening of the children of the last famine generation may be still more heartbreaking when we come to measure it. And the fate of those who are in the North Korean gulag can, by this measure, only be imagined. There is a starvation regime within the wider nightmare of the slave system. Yet Ling and Lee had obviously not been maltreated or emaciated in the usual way that even a North Korean civilian, let alone a North Korean prisoner, could expect to be.

The logical corollary of this is obvious. The Kim Jong-il gang was always planning to release them. They were arrested in order to be let go and were maintained in releasable shape until the deal could be done.

They always intended to release the girls, they just needed the proper gushing from someone significant. Clinton was their tool. A pretty, paid-for date to a dance...
Scary Thoughts on Unemployment

Freakonomics addresses how calculating the unemployment rate doesn't take into account duration, an important consideration, especially in terms of getting back to work:

A few weeks of unemployment don’t exhaust savings and don’t lead to great depreciation of skills. A year of unemployment can do both.

Scrolling down the comments - some interesting thoughts on how a lot of folks were thriving in a "service" economy when we were spending a lot of money fueled by consumer debt. Those type of people are unwilling to take lower skill jobs, despite not possessing employable skills.

It looks like Colonel Gaddafi got his black belt. I like the idea of world leaders dressing themselves in various martial arts get ups. That's a world I think I'd enjoy.

Asexuals would like to be destigmatized. So...if you're asexual are your civil rights being violated by a culture that gives additional value to marriage?

Just curious.
Marathon Running

I have zero desire to run a marathon. I'm always surprised and impressed whenever I hear of someone who is training for a marathon or who has run a marathon. But I don't "get" it. I understand if you are a runner and especially someone who just runs marathons. Fine, it's an activity like anything else. They run marathons like I play soccer or basketball. What I don't understand is the desire for non-runners to run marathons. The attitude - I want to do it, so I can say I did it. Or, I want to do it to set a goal and train towards and accomplish. This has zero appeal to me. It seems similar to all the folks who go on Everest expeditions these days. Okay, you're going to climb the highest mountain it the world. I get the desire to reach for high human accomplishment. But the thing about Everest and marathons - TONS of people do these things all the time. Frankly, it isn't much of an accomplishment. If lots of regular, average people are able to accomplish it, is it really much of an achievement?

I suppose I was doing something similar earlier this year with my mile runs. And I didn't enjoy doing them. I'm surmising, however, I'd enjoy training and doing a marathon a whole lot less than doing the mile. In any case, I'll have no regrets on my death bed about not running a marathon. Believe me.

Well, this is a pretty cynical outlook on healthcare.

It's easy to forget that, even if Obama's health care effort is bogging down, the effort itself still serves his presidency as a crucial time-waster, tying up Congress and giving him a reason to postpone (or the public a reason to ignore) those other divisive, presidency-killers. Obama needs some excuse for putting off unpopular Democratic demands; health care's a good one. If he keeps failing to pass health care until spring, that might not be such a bad outcome. In fact, even quick passage was maybe never in his interest. There are things more unpopular than struggling. ...

I guess he's right that if the news went to Afghanistan or immigration, the political costs would be even greater. At least healthcare reform is something Americans actually WANT - although they disagree about the path to reform/change.
Emerging Left/Right Consensus

Listening to a Left, Right, Center podcast this morning. There seems to be an emerging Left/Right consensus that the Afghanistan troop surge is not a good idea and reminiscent of LBJ's 1964 surge into Vietnam (albeit for different reasons). Additionally, there seems to be another consensus that whatever the healtcare bill ends up looking like, it will be a failure. Robert Scheer even suggested waiting for the economy to recover before going after healthcare. This is a pretty obvious indication even the Left understands extending coverage will increase costs. And they also understand WE CAN'T AFFORD IT!

I guess Obama is doing a good job of bringing the country together.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Great Basterds Review

This is the best review I've found so far on the Basterds.

THE GOOD: I'm a Tarantino fan. I couldn't wait to see this film and was pretty much basking in the warm glow of the ten minute opening sequence. Yes it's a venerable tip of the hat to the opening of the The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. And yes it's a terrific scene all on it's own merit. It held the promise of a solid WWII movie to come after its conclusion.

THE BAD: It's a boring movie man. There are little islands of fertile ground on this open plain - but they are very few and so very far between. Tarantino's always been a bit of an attention whore, with Inglorious Basterds he's pretty much openly reminding you that this is a QUENTIN TARANTINO movie every other minute of the film. These are his words. These are his influences. These cool actors are his buddies. This cool music is from his collection. This is the extent of his cinemaphile credentials. To which I say - whatever, it's your movie do what the hell you want in it. But as far as the general audience is concerned we just like a good time. And Inglorious Basterds is nowhere near a good time.

THE UGLY: No, the real "Ugly" part of Inglorious Basterds was how much I was looking forward to this film, (need proof fans? look here) and how much I wanted this to be a return to excellence for a guy that really loves movies and loves making them. I wasn't expecting to hate 90% of the flick. Nor was I expecting this film to be the most overly self-indulgent film project in recent memory. Quentin made this movie for Quentin and Friends of Quentin, the rest of us tragic suckers just put up the cash to fund the project.

The Verdict: Quentin Tarantino went "full retard" on this one. There are flashes of genius and craftsmanship but they are quickly and commandingly snuffed out by a long, hopeless film that wanders in and out of dry conversations and illogical plot devices.

Read the whole thing. The best insight in the article is the saddest fact of all - the movie is pretty boring. Not because of the length, but because of the repetitiveness.

Denby hammers the movie.

The film is skillfully made, but it’s too silly to be enjoyed, even as a joke. Tarantino may think that he is doing Jews a favor by launching this revenge fantasy (in the burning theatre, working-class Jewish boys get to pump Hitler and Göring full of lead), but somehow I doubt that the gesture will be appreciated. Tarantino has become an embarrassment: his virtuosity as a maker of images has been overwhelmed by his inanity as an idiot de la cinémathèque.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Inglorious Basterds

Watching a Tarantino movie is a bit like watching the Phoenix Suns. I root for them, they show flashes of greatness, but about midway you realize they are bound to disappoint.

Without question, Tarantino is a director to be reckoned with. Some of his visuals are spectacular and continue to improve with each film. His work with actors is unparalleled. The man gets incredible performances from mediocre actors. Who else can say that?

As a writer, he is gifted with dialog, despite going back to the same bag of tricks. This is fine, but we cannot say his dialog has improved over time. In fact, it has gotten worse. But that's a bit like saying Clemens lost a little bit on his fastball late in his career. It is true, but still a fastball to be feared.

It is equally clear, Tarantino as a writer is inept at story structure, plotting, and efficiency. Not since his films co-written with Roger Avery, do the stories possess any symmetry. Scene after scene is overly long and tiresome. It is not an exaggeration that towards the end of the second act there were audible snores in the audience at the 10:25am show from which I just returned. It reminded me of the audience member in Deathproof shouting profanities at the screen during the interminable dialog scene between the women in the diner.

Inglorious Basterds has much to enjoy. Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz could both earn Oscars if they gave out two for supporting actors (ps there are no leads in this movie). The opening scene is brilliant and could be a stand alone short film. Maybe it should be. The same cannot be said of Basterds. It is not a stand alone film. It is Kill Bill III. I guess we can call this middle Tarantino. Middle Tarantino are the Kill Bill's, Deathproof, and Inglorious. Early Tarantino are True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction. The more I think about Jackie Brown, it really isn't really a Tarantino film. It is better put with the Elmore Leonard trilogy - Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Jackie Brown. It makes more sense in that context.

Middle Tarantino films are not made for citizens. Who can you recommend these films to? Only movie geeks. Why Tarantino has retreated to the back of the video store whence he came, I do not know.

I thought Basterds might be Red Dawn in Tarantino-land, a bunch of guerilla jews killing nazis in every more elaborate and clever ways. Not at all. It is dialog-driven, sitting at the table, conversation after conservation film with a few moments of grotesque, turn-away gore. The title is misleading. I have every reason to believe Tarantino intended the film to be about the Basterds, but either didn't shoot it or couldn't write it.

And while I can be a fan of overly-ambitious filmmaking, I-can't-believe-he-went-for-that-and-should-be-praised-for-even-trying, like when my friend Brian jumped of 11 stairs on his rollerblades (prior longest jump was 7 or 8), Inglorious is not that movie. The "bold" moments aren't so much bold as just odd. Like why do we have two ECUs in a row for a scoop of cream?

It also suffers from a common mistake in action movies or romantic comedies where there is a simple solution to a stated problem, but the path is not taken. Why? To keep the movie going is the answer. But this is simply bad plotting.

If I'm being too hard on the movie, it is because my expectations were up. I may have come away defending it if it were not for the last line. Who are QT's friends? They must tell him to remove that bit of boorish gloating. I mean who is he kidding?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Good and Bad Through the Lens of Little League

A simple column about America today
Pocket Cinephile

Been introduced to Brower's blog, Pocket Cinephile, an excellent, focused, spare blog about movies.

Check it out.
Oh Boy

Can't explain it...despite the goofy casting...I'm getting pumped for Inglorious. Haven't been this excited for a Tarantino movie since Kill Bill Vol. 1. Sadly, that didn't go too well. Nevertheless.
Noonan on Clarity

Good point.

Every big idea that works is marked by simplicity, by clarity. You can understand it when you hear it, and you can explain it to people. Social Security: Retired workers receive a public pension to help them through old age. Medicare: People over 65 can receive taxpayer-funded health care. Welfare: If you have no money and cannot support yourself, we will help as you get back on your feet.

These things are clear. I understand them. You understand them. The president's health-care plan is not clear, and I mean that not only in the sense of "he hasn't told us his plan." I mean it in terms of the voodoo phrases, this gobbledygook, this secret language of government that no one understands—"single payer," "public option," "insurance marketplace exchange." No one understands what this stuff means, nobody normal.

Just the logline, please.
Didn't They Get the Memo?

Someone resend the memo to Libya that Obama got elected President of the United States. Why are they cheering the return of a mass murder?

DISGUSTING - LOCKERBIE CONVICT RETURNS TO JUBILANT WELCOME: Over ferocious American objections, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie jet bombing, flew home to a jubilant welcome in Libya on Thursday night after the Scottish government ordered his release on compassionate grounds. Mr. Megrahi, 57, a former Libyan intelligence agent, had served 8 years of a 27-year minimum sentence on charges of murdering 270 people in Britains worst terrorist episode. Widely forecast in British news reports over the past week, his release angered many Americans whose relatives died in the bombing, leaving them to confront anew the agony and anguish of loss and to question the notion of justice that allowed a man convicted of murderous acts, which he always denied, to walk free. Compassionate release on the face of it is insane for a convicted mass murderer, said Susan Cohen, of Cape May Court House, N.J., whose 20-year-old daughter, Theodora, died when a bomb smuggled onto Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988. For the families we have this thing that is so horrible to live with anyway, and now we have to live with this.

F--- those assholes. So much for the Muslim world liking us more with George Bush gone. I hope Khaddafy doesn't forget what happened to Saddam.

Was just talking about this last night again. What happened to the anti-war movement? As we are escalating the war in Afghanistan, they suddenly go silent? What a joke.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Against the Virtual Life

Here, here!

Without gainsaying the rich new possibilities that digital technology has made available, Helprin makes the case that this same technology inculcates a frenetic habit of mind, quick on the trigger yet slow to appreciate subtlety and dazzlingly blind to beauty. "The character of the machine is that of speed, power, compression, instantaneousness, immense capacity, indifference, and automaticity," he writes. The other side of this debased coin is that the machine does not understand tradition, appreciate stability, enjoy quality, but instead "[hungers] for denser floods of data" and fosters a mentality in which "images have gradually displaced words."


Helprin's case against the impact of digital technology on modern life has precursors in literary history. I think, for example, of Joseph Wood Krutch's 1929 book The Modern Temper. Krutch argued that because scientific thought had denied human nobility, tragedy had become obsolete. Krutch lamented that the form of tragedy was therefore lost to modern art.

I could read this.

The amazon review:

Helprin realized how drastically different this generation is from those before it. The Creative Commons movement and the copyright abolitionists, like the rest of their generation, were educated with a modern bias toward collaboration, which has led them to denigrate individual efforts and in turn fueled their sense of entitlement to the fruits of other people’s labors. More important, their selfish desire to “stick it” to the greedy corporate interests who control the production and distribution of intellectual property undermines not just the possibility of an independent literary culture but threatens the future of civilization itself.

Sure, but I have no problem with it.

"People see a naked woman and they smile," he said. "They see a penis and they freak out."
12 Annoying Facebookers

The article misses the point. ALL facebookers are annoying. Every single last one of them. I can guarantee any sane person annoys his/herself on facebook.

Yes, I'm a racist. I'm racist against Facebook, Cartoons, and Kobe Bryant. Sue me.

UPDATE: I'm also racist against Brett Farve and Islamic Fundamentalists.

If Farve was a girl-my-buddy-was-courting, this type of behavior would generate the words "dumb bitch" to come out of my mouth. Scratch that, Farve IS a dumb bitch. Period. Exclamation Point.
Not A Bad Idea

Brooklyn Torches
. A few artists in Brooklyn are creating an alternative currency to encourage folks to shop locally.

Mary Jeys, who initiated the effort, says “This medium of exchange has more to do with meeting people and feeling that you’re connected to a community versus a monetary system.”

Obviously I don't think of this as having a real economic impact, but I like the idea of playing around with everyday behavior to spice things up a little bit. It sounds kinda fun. I wouldn't invest in a bank of torches, but I'd buy breakfast and lunch with them. Question - how do you earn torches? What stops the torch-makers from just printing more and more money and lining their own pockets and those of their friends? Wait a second...that sounds familiar.

(In writing this, I expect this experiment, if it caught on, might yield unexpected economic lessons to the participants)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CNN Is Printing Utter Nonsense

On the front page of CNN is an article entitled: Slavery needs more than an apology.


Logic first: There's this quasi-math problem in which things don't add up. Many African-Americans naturally feel as if there is unfinished business from the past, while many European-Americans (and others) don't think they should inherit burdens from a past not of their making. So there's this generational equation to be worked out, and it will take big hearts, eager hearts, to do so.

And then this:

Meanwhile, many African-Americans are upset about the disparate outcomes that persist and want to see everyone step up to address them. There are so many lingering "structural inequalities," as President Obama put it -- ones without clear racist villains but that are embedded, like the fact that schools are funded with property taxes, so poor black neighborhoods, the legacy of earlier eras of discrimination, are not able to fund the quality schools that we say all our children deserve.

From the wealth gap to the health gap to the education gap, let's explore how the dots connect from the past to the present and commit to finding solutions that should be race-neutral at times and at other moments should be race-sensitive.

I have this image of us all coming up shoulder to shoulder on the same team, as fellow citizens. Not facing off against each other but looking the same way, facing the shared challenge: the legacy of this painful history. The past is not of our making, but it has shaped us indelibly, and we have the power to make things right, together, today.

There are high school students who write clearer prose. Is this the future of journalism? I guess we get what we pay for.
That Said, I'll Join the Boycott For Fun

Although I disagree with the boycott of Whole Foods, I will join it, just to be part of it. The absurdity is too tempting.

I've also decided to boycott Mexican weed as well. I do not support drug violence.

Some liberals are threatening a Whole Foods Boycott...not because their prices are overinflated, but instead because the CEO wrote an op-ed in the WSJ about healthcare.

First off, this boycott has nothing to do with Whole Foods practices as a business. They are boycotting because the boss has an opinion differing from theirs. The ridiculousness of such an attitude confounds me. It would be one thing if Whole Foods refused healthcare to their employees or hired sweat shop labor. Al contrere, the issue is that Whole Foods DOES provide a good healthcare service to their employees and the CEO has an opinion about how other Americans might benefit from a similar system (oh yes, it differs from Obama's plan). Furthermore, the man has a right to do and write whatever the f--- he wants. It has nothing to do with his job as CEO or how he runs his business. That's like boycotting In and Out because one of the managers at a store is pro-choice. What does one have to do with the other? I could see protesting In and Out if they were performing abortions in the bathrooms, but if you only bought goods and services from like minded folks - political speaking - well, I'd be hard pressed to find where I could spend money.

Secondly, the original article is amazingly smart and simple and makes a lot of sense to me. It seems to me we ought to be listening to someone who actually runs a large business that offers good health insurance and manages to control costs. In other words, someone who made a sustainable system. As opposed to tossing the job to the Federal Government who we all know is simply going to borrow a bunch of money to pay for health insurance for everyone in a way to buy political support. In other words, make ANOTHER unsustainable system, like Social Security.

The debate is broken. This man steps in to offer his expertise and liberals want to punish him for it. Cannibals.

PS - nevertheless, Al Swearengen would never had made this faux pax. Knowing your customers are ridiculous limousine liberals who pay $8 for organic lemonade, it is very bad business to criticize anything within orbit of El Presidente Obama.
Western Crazy

You should see my Blockbuster Que. The whole thing is Westerns right now. I'm finishing up season 2 of Deadwood. I've got my snow westerns coming next - Ravenous, Track of the Cat, and The Far Country. Then I'll watch Season 3 of Deadwood. Then I have Streets of Laredo the TV mini-series. Then Shane.

By the time I get to Streets of Laredo, I'll have finished the book. Then I'm on to the final piece of the Lonesome Dove series - which is actually the first chronologically - Dead Man's Walk. I don't know what I'll be reading after that. I suppose I might be Westerned out by then, but who knows?
Is Healthcare A Commodity or A Right?

Hot Air on the Dems goal of abolishing private insurance.
Cindy Sheehan Responds

This is rather interesting.

I asked Sheehan about the fact that the press seems to have lost interest in her and her cause. "It's strange to me that you mention it," she said. "I haven't stopped working. I've been protesting every time I can, and it's not covered. But the one time I did get a lot of coverage was when I protested in front of George Bush's house in Dallas in June. I don't know what to make of it. Is the press having a honeymoon with Obama? I know the Left is."

Well, I'm no fan of Cindy Sheehan, but the fact she feels used by the Democrats and the Press...well, should that be a surprise?
Funny S--t

Hat tip, Chuck

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Happened?

Byron York explores the YearlyKos convention and concludes the anti-war movement wasn't really anti-war, but rather anti-Bush.

It is pretty easy to draw this conclusion from the relative silence on the Left regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since Obama took office. Especially because he not only continued the Bush policy in Iraq, but has expanded the theater in Afghanistan.

I'm not trying to be snippy about this issue, believe it or not. I am truly curious. What do all the "anti-war" people actually believe? There are a host of possibilities:

1. Cynical version. Anti-war folks were never really against the WOT in principle, rather, they saw them - especially the Iraq campaign - as a way to gain political power and exploited Bush's inability to articulate the good reasons for going into Iraq and the mishandling of the war from '04-'06 as a way to gain popular political support. I doubt many anti-war folks see themselves this way, however.

2. Given up version. At a certain point, understandably, the anti-war folks realized they lost the debate. They made a furious campaign against the Iraq War, but were unable to stop it. Efforts to undermine and criticize the effort were worthwhile, but after a certain point, they just gave up because "what's done is done," or "it's no use crying over spilt milk." This seems to me, quite an odd conclusion given than in 06 and 07, the anti-war movement reached it's fever pitch and similar logic applied. Further, with Obama in office, it seems as though the anti-war movement would have more support from those in political power and hence would benefit from a more aggressive campaign right now.

3. Changed Their Mind. There were a couple of moments in Iraq when the anti-war movement stopped and had the "holy-shit-was-George-Bush-right?" crisis of conscience. The first was when Uday and Qusay were dead and killed and we defeated the Republican Guard in a month. The second was when Saddam was captured. The third was when Iraqis first voted. The fourth was when Zarqawi was killed. And the last, and most recent, is the combined work of the surge and Sunni Awakening/Sons of Iraq movement gaining traction. Each one of these moments, however, was followed by later events that validated the original anti-war position. Looting. The rise of the insurgency. The kangaroo court that tried and executed Saddam. The near-civil war started after the Al Asqua Mosque was blown up by Zarqawi. And now, the wide-spread bribery that is the reason for the Sunnis no longer taking part in a widespread insurgency. As much as I would like this version to be true, I've yet to hear a single anti-war person actually mouth these words, so I don't think this is a cause of the silence.

4. It's More Complicated Than I Thought. Americans have learned a lot about the Arab Middle East over the past couple years. And they've learned there are no simple answers. Platitudes about Bush Lied, People Died, etc., have borne out much more complicated realities that really have nothing to do with America at all, but more about the internal politics of the Middle East. For instance, the Iraq War clearly emboldened and empowered Iran - but ironically - it emboldened BOTH the hardline theocrats and the more moderate elements of the Persian state. Now, both sides are squaring off and the battle for control of the state has little to do with America at all. This complexity also exists within the American political spectrum by the fact that many liberal democrats supported the initial invasion - Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Tom Friedman, just to name a few - who then turned around on the issue when the war wasn't going so good. The theory here was that even if the war was a good idea, G Bush was such an incompetent executive, we weren't able to "pull it off." Per this logic, the surge wasn't supposed to work, but instead it did - at least marginally and better than the critics expected. Then, Bush signed a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government which set a withdrawal timetable prior to Obama taking essence, pursuing the same type of course Obama would have taken, assuming he didn't want to make a radical statement about the war itself and do a dramatic pull out. And Obama has upheld this policy. In short, no one on either side has proven out to be correct about the details or the timeline. Thus, the anti-war folks (and the pro-war folks) are both a little bit more hesitant about their opinions and are more willing to take a wait-and-see attitude towards both Iraq and Afghanistan. I wish this version were true, but I don't think it is....

5. I Trust Obama But Not Bush. This logic is simple. If Obama does it, chances are it is good. If Bush does it, chances are it is bad. This logic here is so obviously flawed and so obviously stupid no one will admit to it...yet, I suspect this is the most likely actual explanation. People believe all sorts of stupid things and usually go off who they trust. Liberals trust Obama. This is dumb of course. No one should blindly trust politicians. Nevertheless, we treat politics like it was the NFL and it is perceived virtue to stay loyal to our team. I think this attitude is dumb, but it does provide an explanation for the relative silence. And it is because of this logic, I still don't take the anti-war crowd very seriously.
Good For Him

Pelecanos lashes out on Brits watching The Wire with subtitles.

A study suggests only 18% of Americans are being helped by the stimulus.

He then goes on to argue that more Americans are being helped by tax cuts going to their paychecks, but actually don't notice the tax cuts because they are coming in small increments. Huh?

I notice the small increments. But although I got a little stimulus earlier in the year, by adding about $25 to each paycheck, it went away awhile ago. I can't remember if it just went away or I did more withholding. Either way, the amount is nominal and does not effect my spending habits.

Of course it helps me to have more money and less of taken by the government. But I don't see it as helping me in the long run, if that just means borrowing from my future tax payments and paying interest on my own money.

Study: single women are more likely to go after a dude if he's taken.

That ain't right.

UPDATE: A thought - this incentivizes guys to a) lie about being taken in order to gain the attention of single women or b) get into a relationship to increase their stock value. Or, in short, for guys to be assholes. Do ladies have themselves to blame for rewarding this bad behavior?
That's Odd

CONSERVATIVES NOW OUTNUMBER LIBERALS IN ALL 50 STATES, SAYS GALLUP POLL: Self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals in all 50 states of the union, according to the Gallup Poll. At the same time, more Americans nationwide are saying this year that they are conservative than have made that claim in any of the last four years.

Despite this, I'd guess Democrats outnumber Republicans, but still, this isn't exactly a validation of the Obama revolution. In fact, it suggests, that despite Obama's likable personality, his policies are not gaining traction. Even a good salesman has trouble selling an unpopular product.
Farve Is Baaaaaack

Farve signs with the Vikings. The only appropriate response: OMG.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Blame Our Broken Healthcare System

Oh, wait a wasn't around yet, nevermind.

Theory that Mozart died from strep throat complications at 35.

Back in the day, this was considered bad luck. Today, it would be considered criminal negligence and the fault of greedy insurance companies. Well, what your point, Johnson? My point is we're all going to die at some point regardless of our healthcare system. And we better to get used to the idea.
Is Soccer About to Blow Up?

Bill Simmons thinks so.

If you love basketball - real basketball - beautiful basketball - you'll also love soccer. The same pleasures are in both sports - the passing, vision, speed, creativity. They are very similar sports. But basketball is cursed by time-outs, ruining the end of NBA games. In soccer, there is no such problem. The biggest "problem" in soccer is difficulty in scoring and how teams can really collapse and defend if they score an early goal or play for a tie. But then again, there are pleasures in watching teams try to break down this style of play.

If both sports were sex - basketball would be a quickie and soccer tantric. There is something to be said for and against each.
Are Teenagers Ruining Movies?

The Dish talks about the audience ignoring critics and the contrast between box office and critically well received movies.

This is an old debate and can go back to Star Wars, basically, the idea of movies-as-ride vs. movies as movies as a cultural discussion. So whatever, nothing new to be said.

People are discussing The Hurt Locker as an action film. In thinking back on it - I'm not sure I'd describe The Hurt Locker as an action film. It seems more like a drama in hindsight. More United 93 and less Die Hard/Predator/The Matrix. Thoughts?
Many Levels of Depressing

The Bob Dylan story of getting arrested for loitering or whatever in New Jersey this weekend is on many levels depressing. Here's this:

“I find it pretty depressing. There was a time when we condescendingly used the term ‘your papers, please’ to distinguish ourselves from Eastern Block countries and other authoritarian states.

There was also a time when young folks recognized Bob Dylan.
Pretty Amazing

Watched Miracle at Morgan's Creek yesterday. What a delight. Goes to show good writing, good acting, and a two shot can go a long way. Think on this:

Production on these films did not always go smoothly. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek was literally being written by Sturges at night even as the production was being filmed in the daytime, and Sturges the screenwriter was rarely more than 10 pages ahead of the cast and crew. Despite box office success for The Lady Eve and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, conflict with Paramount's studio bosses increased.

One of the great comedies written as it was being filmed. Granted, this was Sturges in his prime, after years of perfecting his craft, but still...the idea of the screenwriter laboring painfully for years over a script should feel a sharp smack in the gut by this revelation.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Let's Hope So

An expert game-theorists predicts Iran will come to the brink, but ultimately not develop a bomb.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Excuses, Excuses

Landon Donovan has swine flu after game with Mexico.
Not An Impossible Thought

I wish someone was taking this a little more seriously right now...I don't know, the media, or Congress, or someone...but seriously, it seems to me we might be in the process of giving away the War on Terror not unlike the way you see teams like the Orlando Magic just give away games in the fourth quarter to the Lakers.

Giving Obama the blank check on this issue because the country was tired of George Bush could prove to be an utterly catastrophic choice. We are pulling back from Iraq - good - but is the pace too fast? We are witnessing an uptick in violence as we leave. Will Obama just write this off as "well, it is all Bush's fault?" Can we let him?

Meanwhile, those troops aren't coming home. They are being sent to the most treacherous country on the planet to fight a war with "no end in sight," with no strategic goal, and where Al Queda no longer operates from.

Personally, by the end of Bush's term, the WOT seemed to be going pretty well, all things considered. Iraq was holding. Al Queda hadn't pulled off an attack in the US since 9/11 and I don't know if they pulled anything since the Madrid bombing. They were reduced to a video-production organization. Afghanistan was unstable, but also not a haven for terrorists. It's not clear to me we weren't winning a war of attrition against these guys. Who said we needed to change?
New Elmore Leonard

A sequel to Out of Sight at least partially set in Los Angeles.

Sounds good. One could have a nice little summer book club just reading LA-crime novels by Denis Johnson, Thomas Pynchon, and Elmore Leonard...I probably would if I wasn't trying to finish the Lonesome Dove Series.
Faking Ratings

More evidence of America-the-pyramid scheme.

Hat tip, Naveen.
Sound Familiar?

GATES: 'A FEW YEARS' OF COMBAT IN AFGHANISTAN: The Pentagon presented a grim portrait of the Afghanistan war Thursday, offering no assurances about how long Americans will be fighting there or how many U.S. combat troops it will take to win. Defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida will take "a few years," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, with success on a larger scale in the desperately poor country a much longer proposition. He acknowledged that the Taliban has a firm hold on parts of the country President Barack Obama has called vital to U.S. security.

This is how Vietnam started.
Gaming Myself

I procrastinate. Not as bad as some, but I do it. So what's the best way for me to get something done? Have something more urgent or more important to do. Because what I'll do is procrastinate the more important/more urgent thing and do the other.

So...say the goal is to write a script or finish some project...what I don't do: carve out time to do it. No, no, no. That would be too logical. The trick is to take on some other responsibility I can shirk. See?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is Dissent Patriotic

Not anymore, apparently.

Do all Americans truly have a yearning to fundamentally “remake” our nation? There must be a subversive minority out there that still believes the United States — even with its imperfections and sporadic recessions — is, in context, still a wildly prosperous and free country worth preserving.

Some of you must still believe that politicians are meant to serve rather than be worshiped. And there must be someone out there who considers partisanship a healthy, organic reflection of our differences rather than something to be surrendered in the name of so- called unity — which is, after all, untenable, subjective and utterly counterproductive.

How about those who praised dissent for the past eight years?

Is there anyone who still believes the Constitution was created to ensure each citizen liberty and the ability to pursue happiness rather than a guarantee of happiness — and a retirement fund, health care, a job, an education, a house … ?

Not bad.
Fake White Supremacist - Facebook

How many stories like this are out there?

Hart admitted creating the fictitious account in November, pretending to be a white supremacist outraged by the election of Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American president, the statement said.

He then transmitted a death threat via Facebook to an African-American student at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, saying he wanted to kill African-Americans because of Obama's election, according to the statement.

This guy went to jail. Whoever made my fake facebook page probably doesn't deserve jail time, although a fine for identity theft and libel may be in order. They can put it directly into a Roth 401k account for me.
The Future of Value Investing

Will it survive after Buffett?

When Buffett lectures on his craft, his precepts often sound less like investing rules than like the distilled essence of bourgeois virtue. Don’t speculate. Don’t risk money you can’t afford to lose. Don’t try to ride market trends. Don’t try to get rich quick. Don’t panic when the price drops. If there are no good buys, don’t buy anything. Above all, ignore what other people are saying. If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?
15% Fucking Percent

I thought this issue was resolved by the beginning of Reservoir Dogs (which by the way, was made 17 years ago!!!!)

Tipping is 15% unless you're feeling nice or they did a good job. Why should it be 20%. If you want to tip 20% or 50% or 100% do whatever the F you want. Why impose this ridiculous rule on others? 15%.
Now I Know How Iraqis Feel

Westwood is a warzone right now:

WESTWOOD -- The Westwood Federal Building is being evacuated after a pursuit suspect led officers on a freeway chase and then sparked a standoff in the building's parking lot.

Officials say the chase began in Westchester shortly before 10 a.m. Initially, there were two suspects inside the vehicle, both of whom were apparently wanted on various warrants.

They're also wanted for questioning as part of a federal inquiry. According to KTLA partner The Los Angeles Times, a law enforcement source says the suspect made an unspecified threat against the White House.

Shortly after the chase began, one of the suspects jumped out of the red Volkswagen Beetle near the intersection of the 405 Freeway and Howard Hughes Parkway.

That suspect was taken into custody.

The second suspect got onto the northbound 405 Freeway and was followed by several units from the Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific Division, as well as two LAPD helicopters.

The driver of the Beetle exited the freeway at Wilshire Blvd. and drove into the parking lot of the Federal Building, located at 11000 Wilshire Blvd. The suspect appeared as though he was going to turn himself in but turned around in the building's parking lot and tried to flee. However, patrol units were able to block him in around 10:22 a.m.

Veteran Avenue has been shut down during the standoff and occupants in two nearby passenger vehicles have been safely removed from the scene. UCLA campus police are also involved in the standoff.

The LAPD bomb squad is using its robot as officers try to coax the suspect out of the vehicle. It's also believed the device is being used to determine who is inside the car.

Police are also evacuating an apartment building aross the street as a precaution.

Okay, just kidding, it really isn't that big of a deal. Just there are helicopters flying overhead.
Bush vs. Cheney

Cheney expresses some disappointment in his former boss.

If Cheney writes a memoir, I'll read it.

Off a link from BLDG Blog, a eulogy for a Paradise Lost, San Francisco. This article makes me deeply sad.

I hesitate to cut and paste, because the whole article is a must read if you care about SF in the least, but:

What gave San Francisco its grandeur, way back when, was the way the natural surroundings -- the hills, the sea, the sky -- defined the skyline. The architects of the day designed buildings meant to blend in and complement the sweeping landscape, not dominate it. San Francisco was a pastel canvas then, with most of the buildings painted in colors that gave the town a Mediterranean quality. ("The most European city in America," it was called.) Even the larger downtown buildings, nearly invisible today unless you happen to be standing directly in front of one, were clad in warm sandstone or red brick or some other aesthetically pleasing façade. They were buildings that said, "People work here," not "Corporations rule from here."

and this:

Our movers and shakers have also suffered from penis envy to match their greed: One politician after another, one businessman after another, has queued up to tell us how important it is to be a "world-class city," a phrase that has haunted San Francisco since then-Mayor Joe Alioto proclaimed that as the cornerstone of his administration.

What Alioto and nearly all of his successors failed to grasp was that San Francisco was a world-class city -- until they screwed it up. On the one hand, the town was very parochial, a family town, a place where people identified themselves by the neighborhood they came from. On the other, it was still a great seaport. The combination invested the place with a mixture of provincialism and cosmopolitanism that was the envy of other American burgs and the delight of travelers who came here from distant shores. A lot of them stayed on, and we were the better for it.

San Franciscans of the 1960s, '70s and '80s, who took fierce pride in their town ("Manhattanization" was a dirty word then), kept the politicians and the "it's all about me" school of architects at bay by passing anti-high-rise ordinances meant to keep San Francisco from turning into what it has now very nearly become: just another noisy, crowded, overbuilt American city, drunk on capitalism, paralyzed by traffic gridlock and increasingly devoid of charm. I can remember voting for at least two of these anti-growth initiatives, both of which passed by a wide margin.

It's strange. I grew up in the 'burbs of SF and spent a lot of time in the city growing up. I lived there for a year and worked there in summers and after college. I always have a fondness for the place. But there is something amiss in SF and I've never been able to put my finger on it. It feels like the best days are in the past and I can't explain why. This article does. I've always been conflicted in this feeling, however, because the place feels so goddamn rich. And rich is good, right? Money is good. It allows people a measure of freedom. It allows a healthy lifestyle. It improves quality of life. But is the money real? Or is it just borrowed dough from speculative real estate prices? Is it from the creation of something useful or just a bubble of debt? I thought it was a trickle down from the dot-com boom. From google and all that. All the employees, all the lawyers, all the accountants, all the vendors, and the restaurants, etc. That's where I thought the money was coming from. But anyway, maybe it isn't about the money. Because money can be made again. But character is harder to retrieve.
Why I Live Here

Damn, I can't help but re-read that essay:

In L.A. you can grow Fabio hair and go to the Arclight and not be embarrassed by yourself. Every mode of living is appropriate for L.A. You can do what you want.
And I don't just mean that Los Angeles is some friendly bastion of cultural diversity and so we should celebrate it on that level and be done with it; I mean that Los Angeles is the confrontation with the void. It is the void. It's the confrontation with astronomy through near-constant sunlight and the inhuman radiative cancers that result. It's the confrontation with geology through plate tectonics and buried oil, methane, gravel, tar, and whatever other weird deposits of unknown ancient remains are sitting around down there in the dry and fractured subsurface. It's a confrontation with the oceanic; with anonymity; with desert time; with endless parking lots.
And it doesn't need humanizing. Who cares if you can't identify with Los Angeles? It doesn't need to be made human. It's better than that.

Take that, New York.

Still the best thing I've read on LA is this BLDGBlog entry. Just a taste:

No matter what you do in L.A., your behavior is appropriate for the city. Los Angeles has no assumed correct mode of use. You can have fake breasts and drive a Ford Mustang – or you can grow a beard, weigh 300 pounds, and read Christian science fiction novels. Either way, you're fine: that's just how it works. You can watch Cops all day or you can be a porn star or you can be a Caltech physicist. You can listen to Carcass – or you can listen to Pat Robertson. Or both.

In concert with this thought - last night I drive down the street to a rec center where I sometimes play basketball. The weather was misty and cool like summertime in the bay area or a John Carpenter movie from the 80s. Our group is a mix a dudes and chicks from film school and some relatives and friends thrown in. Yes, co-ed hoops, and it's a lot of fun. We sometimes play with other groups of dudes who show up to play. I've yet to hear a smirk or dumb comment from any single guy about playing with girls - this includes the guys who play with us or random groups of guys just jumping in the game.

Inside the rec center while we play, a group of hot 20-30s girls are taking bellydancing class. Every now and again it is nice to peer over and see booties and bellies shaking. An average looking girl moves into above-average range when she is bellydancing or playing beach volleyball. That is a scientific fact, the same as how all objects fall to the earth at a rate of 9.8 ft per second.

On the other court, there about 20 hispanic kids, boys/girls age range 6-12 all doing some sort of organized basketball training with a full-on coach. The sidelines are filled with parents, younger siblings, dogs, etc, just watching. I assume this group was there from about 7-9 last night. The kids weren't playing games. They were doing drills. And from what I saw, enjoying it. At some point, they were cheering for one another while doing a shooting drill. After the practice was over, I was sitting out a game and shooting baskets on an empty court. The kids ran over and just started shooting more baskets on my court. They were loving basketball and speaking a mixture of Spanish and English.

In looking at the parents, I couldn't figure out what these folks did for a living. But they gave off a distinctly middle-class vibe. They were certainly not rich - they were using a public court, after all. The parents looked first generation and Spanish was clearly their first language. But they certainly weren't poor, either, as they had grouped together and hired a coach. Further, the familial support network was impressive. It wasn't just one family. It was a community of families all watching and supporting their kids getting trained in basketball - and it was both boys and girls. And while the kids crowded my court and just started shooting around, the thought occurred to me: all of these kids are going to college. Why? Because on a Wednesday night they are out practicing, doing basketball drills with a coach. The families were there, supporting their kids and one another. This was not an underclass engaging in negative behavior. This was a group of families investing in their children. And these kids were bold and disciplined and were having a good time. When they started shooting hoops on my court, my only option was stay out of their way. And I figure that's a metaphor for their future.
Looking Damn Sexy

New LA Times online look.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Depressing article about insurance companies practice of rescission.

Rescission happens when an insurance company cancels a client's policy because they believe the client lied when they applied for the policy -- the client pretended that they were healthier than they really were, the client concealed a serious and expensive illness, or the client simply made a mistake and omitted something about his or her health that the insurance company wanted to know.

The problem, according to the House subcommittee's investigation, is the amount of people who were rescinded who weren't trying to deceive the insurance companies at all. They found that when a client became ill -- especially with an expensive illness -- the insurance companies looked for a way to cancel their policy.

I don't see this as part of the healthcare debate. I see this as a criminal behavior by the individuals and companies. Toss 'em jail.
Never Before

Did I want to know Spanish so bad. Just now, was watching the US-Mexico game down in a lunch spot below my office with a couple of Mexican guys - those who work at the restaurant and the maintenance guy from my building. They were yammering on in Spanish about the teams and game and every now and again I'd pipe in with an English question or comment. I wanted to listen to their expertise and opinion. Mexico - from what I saw - was outplaying the US. Wanted to see these two Mexican forwards play - Dos Santos - and some other new guy. Anyhow, great first 30 minutes of the game.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wikipedia Entry of the Day

Socioemotional Selectivity Theory

States that older adults become more selective about their social networks. Because they place a high value on emotional satisfaction, older adults often spend more time with familiar individuals with whom they have had rewarding relationships[1]. This selective narrowing of social interaction maximizes positive emotional experiences and minimizes emotional risks as individuals become older. According to this theory, older adults systematically hone their social networks so that available social patners satisfy their emotional needs.

Sounds like a good idea. Maybe I'll get a head start and start now.

How this came about - CNN reports happiness comes with age.

At age 87, he's found that as people get older, they tend to "mellow out" when it comes to arguments. Nowadays, devoting time each day to swimming and reading, Rose feels happier than he did in his 40s.

And this:

A Pew Research Center study found that the happiest men are ages 60 to 69, while the least happy are ages 20 to 29.

Fear not, young friends, time is on your side. Just stay alive and happiness will come!
Things We Miss About Baseball

SI has a great idea for an article, but the execution is lacking.

Ones I agree with:

6. Listening to Baseball on the Radio (recently I read that Malcom Gladwell really enjoyed reading about baseball in the boxscores when he grew up in Canada - they didn't have games there and it got me thinking about how much I like to talk shit and write about the evils of Kobe Bryant). This all got me thinking about how reading and listening to baseball actually enhances rather than distracts from the experience and next year, I will probably subscribe to MLB's internet baseball radio.

9. Wimpy Middle Infielders. The article likes wimpy middle infielders because "As youngsters, most of us always knew we’d never be tall enough for the NBA or hulking enough for the NFL. But baseball, there was a sport that regular-sized people could play, and therein lied much of its appeal." And while this ought to apply to me, as a slightly undersized former baseball player, this isn't why I like small middle infielders. I knew even when I was 9 years old I'd never play pro baseball. I did not dream about these kind of things. I liked the fact that teams made CHOICES. They sacrificed hitting for fielding. Now, with a guy like Jeter playing short, they think
they can get everything. I miss a guy like Ozzie Smith who occasionally batted .300 but hit like 5 homers a year, but made just insanely crazy defensive plays out there.

18. The Eephus Pitch.

"Pitcher Orlando Hernandez broke it out once a couple years ago, but when Alex Rodriguez teed off on it, the pitch was a memory again almost before A-Rod’s homer came out of orbit. Before Hernandez, there was a plethora of eephus experimenters, from LaRoche’s La Lob to Bill Lee’s spaceball to Steve Hamilton’s Folly Floater. The origins of the pitch can be traced –- on an arc, of course –- back to Rip Sewell of the Pirates, who floated his way to the 1946 All-Star Game on the strength of his invention. He then surrendered a memorable home run to Ted Williams off an eephus pitch and was never heard from again."

Wow. I didn't know Hernandez tried it on Arod. Good for him. The Eephus reminds me of a kid we used to play against in little league named Ethan. He was the worst starting pitcher in the league and everyone called him Eephus. I miss that a lot.

Screaming and shouting at town hall meeting, ie silencing the voices of others, is not exercising free speech. It is an act designed to silence the speech of others. Is this going on? I'm sure. Any local PTA meeting is the same. This is how people are.

Should we have a vigorous healthcare debate? Of course. Are we? Of course not. This is a replay of the Iraq War debate. The front lines of the debate were lame - focusing on WMDs and what the UN Resolution said or didn't say. In Healtcare, it's the same thing, focusing on buzzwords and dumbed-down versions of the real issues. But in going through this process, it forces smart people on both sides focus on the issue and offer up ideas. Granted, most don't hear this ideas. They prefer not to. But I like it and have learned more about healthcare trying to weed through the noise than I knew previously. I don't have a firm position yet. I'm still thinking.

But what find interesting logic-wise, is Obama is using the same logic the Bush Administration used for Iraq. -

"For all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary is if we do nothing," Obama told a friendly town hall audience.

That was the argument Republicans used for invading Iraq. The scarier prospect was not-invading. So what would I do if I were an ambitious Republican State Senator right now? Oppose whatever healthcare proposal Obama puts through and in the inevitable messiness that results, criticize it on principled grounds and become the face for "hope" and "change." It would help if they are a good talker and President of Harvard Law Review.
Thanks to Rupert

WSJ headline - Taliban Are Winning - turns out not to be entirely accurate.

I don't have a beef with Rupert Murdoch's approach to business - the man is mogul - he makes money and gives people what they want.

I do regret, however, a world without the Wall Street Journal as it once was. I didn't read the Journal, except rarely, but the very existence of a reliable, sensible, high brow, exclusive and expensive newspaper serving the financial community gives me a sense of stability. I like the notion that there are serious people out there who are reading and keeping up to date on the important issues and who don't just go for the headline or the hysteria of the moment. I don't care if it leaned right or leaned left. Just that it was serious and took itself seriously.

I don't mind a world with tabloids. And I don't mind a world with the WSJ. I do mind world where there is only one or the other.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Oh Boy!

James Ellroy's final book in the American Tabloid series.

Sounds awesome. Tabloid is still my favorite crime fiction book (i'm admittedly not an expert in the genre, however) and the Cold Six Thousand is a decent sequel. This one looks to be better than The Cold Six Thousand, and if it's 75% percent the book of American Tabloid, we are all lucky.
What We Can Learn From Porn

No...not sexual positions and pubic grooming...but business wisdom.

"I wish I would have never gotten into it," Stern said of her career in porn. "When you get used to a certain lifestyle, it's really hard to cut back and realize this may not be forever."

Of course, she's only 23, so I suppose she could switch careers.

The article is about free online content cannibalizing the porn industry. Not unlike what it's done to the newspaper industry. Last week, Rupert Murdoch announced he was going to start charging for all Fox websites. Basically, making a "last stand" for finding revenue streams for reporting.

The movie-business seems to be the savviest and smartest of all the industries as it sits back and observes the trends from music-newspapers-porn. Perhaps it is just because the movies have the deepest pockets, I don't know. But one thing is for sure - DVDs are dying - and giving away content online for free is unsustainable.

Is a good source of humor:

Biden Invokes Freedom Of Information Act To Find Out When Woman Gets Off Work

WASHINGTON—Evoking the law that assures citizens access to government records, Vice President Joe Biden made a Freedom of Information Act request Friday, calling for the immediate release of documents disclosing when Jennifer Britmore gets off work. "It is of utmost importance that government maintain openness and transparency so we can better prepare ourselves to be there when Jenny clocks out," Biden's statement read in part. "Moving forward, it will be vital to have access to information regarding her schedule, phone number, and whether or not those legs go up all the way." Biden then contacted his sources in the Labor Department to request Britmore's resumé in order to better determine if she would let the attorney general watch.

From, the Onion.