Friday, October 30, 2009

Just Give Her A Pair...

Lady arrested for offering sex on craigslist for Phillies World Series Tix.

She might have dropped double entendres in her Craigslist ad but never explicitly offered sex, her lawyer William J. Brennan said.

The 43-year-old University of Pennsylvania graduate student wanted to take her husband to a game between her beloved Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees. The self-described "buxom blonde" said she was simply trying to score tickets online, as she had in the past.


I wonder what she is studying.
Damn

Peggy Noonan asks whether Americans are losing heart. She's onto something.

I talked with an executive this week with what we still call "the insurance companies" and will no doubt soon be calling Big Insura. (Take it away, Democratic National Committee.) He was thoughtful, reflective about the big picture. He talked about all the new proposed regulations on the industry. Rep. Barney Frank had just said on some cable show that the Democrats of the White House and Congress "are trying on every front to increase the role of government in the regulatory area." The executive said of Washington: "They don't understand that people can just stop, get out. I have friends and colleagues who've said to me 'I'm done.' " He spoke of his own increasing tax burden and said, "They don't understand that if they start to tax me so that I'm paying 60%, 55%, I'll stop."

He felt government doesn't understand that business in America is run by people, by human beings. Mr. Frank must believe America is populated by high-achieving robots who will obey whatever command he and his friends issue. But of course they're human, and they can become disheartened. They can pack it in, go elsewhere, quit what used to be called the rat race and might as well be called that again since the government seems to think they're all rats. (That would be you, Chamber of Commerce.)


and this

We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists—they're unimaginative. They don't have faith, they've just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened. They don't even notice.


Ouch.
A Big Movie

Watched Amadeus in the theater last night. First time I'd seen the film all the way through. An interesting film...because on the one hand, it's a great movie - really strong point of view, excellent craft, well told story, innovative editing (loved, loved, loved the SMASH cuts across time from testing a note or two and blam into the performance)...but on the other hand, I know it my gut I didn't love the movie. It some respects, it felt dated. There was a weird aspect to some of the writing where obvious exposition was repeated to audience once we already understood the situation. There were several, but the most memorable is when we're introduced to Mozart prancing around and playing with his lady friend and Salieri is spying on the situation. We all know this is Mozart. And if it weren't, why is Salieri spying on him? Who does Salieri think this is? Just some baffoon? But only at the end of the scene when Mozart realizes his music is being played, does Salieri realize this is Mozart. On a technical level, this writing is serviceable, although a tad repetitive. I felt like saying..."I get it, already." And this moment wasn't a big deal, but a preview of more moments to come throughout the movie when I'm feeling like "I get it, let's go..." It's not a slim movie, either, watching it after a long day's work is no easy task. A re-cut could take a look at the theatrical cut of Miami Vice and how Micheal Mann introduces us to characters we already know - Crockett and Tubbs - that's a modern character introduction. "F--- you--smart ass audience- we know you know who we are and this is what you caught us doing right now. Boom. Middle of the operation stalking a pimp."

But the other issue is a larger one - the point of view towards artist or genius. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an excellent article on different types of artists - the prodigy vs. the late bloomer. The examples he used were Mozart and Manet. Amadeus celebrates a tired overused trope - the artist/genius-as-prodigy, born with innate talent far far superior to those mediocre poseurs like Salieri. Maybe Amadeus originated this trope, but it feels like a vestige of the 70s - a post-watergate/vietnam distrust of authority and celebration of the lone artist who struggles against an unfair, conspiratorial world against him. In hindsight, this notion feels rather convenient for the great filmmakers of the 70s (many of whom, like Milos Forman were directly imported from the european new wave movements or the americans who were heavily influenced by them). Isn't it easier to say they were broken by the system or by jealous rivals conspiring against them than to acknowledge running out of artistic steam? Does anyone actually believe Coppola, Lucas, and company had more in them after the 70s? Their knees went. We'd love to see great movies from these guys. But did anyone see Tetro? I feel like more people read my blog.

Nevertheless, this is the best movie I've seen in the theater in awhile. Compared to The Informant or Where the Wild Things Are, the level of quality isn't comparable.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thank You, The Onion

U.S. Continues Quagmire-Building Effort In Afghanistan


We've spent a lot of time and money fostering the turmoil and despair necessary to make this a sustaining quagmire, and we're not going to stop now," President Barack Obama said in a national address Monday night. "It won't be easy, but with enough tactical errors on the ground, shortsighted political strategies, and continued ignorance of our vast cultural differences, we could have a horrific, full-fledged quagmire by 2012."


Let's hope.
I'll Read It

A new biography on Agassi.
Quick Thoughts On Issues Of The Day

Healthcare - Not convinced we're in a crisis. The costs are rising too fast, but largely due to better drugs and technology available. I'd guess life expectancy and general health is much better today than 25 years ago. Why? A lot of factors - general preventative knowledge, better drugs, better procedures. Guess what? The drugs and procedures innovations cost money. Don't trust the idea that government can step in and make the system more efficient. If this were the case, they'd fix medicare and make it so good and efficient, others would want to opt in. If there were a simple fix, I'd bet on Walmart figuring it out long before Obama. Also think there is an entitlement issue going on - we invent expensive/awesome procedures and everyone expects they'll be able to afford. They won't. It's as if the term "I can't afford it," is no longer in the American lexicon. Well...it's something we REALLY need to bring back. (okay that wasn't so quick)

Afghanistan - Don't see why the only two options are going "all in" or "pulling out." What's wrong with keeping the Taliban and AQ off balance with a light footprint? It seems to be working so far as AQ hasn't attacked us or been able to regroup since 9/11. Don't think we can nation build over there.

Bank Bail Out - It was blackmail, pure and simple. They said, "you have to bail us out, or else, the world economy crashes." It's like a James Bond criminal came up with it. Bullshit. You can't respond to blackmail. We ought to have let them fail. This is easy for me to say - a single dude without much in the way of assets or anything. If I had a family and secure job and a mortgage and the whole nine, maybe I'd feel different. But I don't. They ripped us off and will do it again.

Foreclosures - Let 'em happen and let 'em happen now. The govt is propping up real estate prices. We ought to let them drop so the market can feel functional. Right now, everyone is just standing by, waiting for the next shoe to drop. This is the reckoning and it's going to be painful for a lot of people who overpaid. Tough shit. The solution is not kicking the can down the road for other people to continue overpaying. Plus, I want prices low so I can get in and get a deal. Do I want to kick people out of their homes? Not really. But what's so wrong with renting? I do it. Why is this a narrative about becoming homeless? You aren't homeless if you sell the house you overpaid for. You simply rent or buy a cheaper house.

Yanks-Phillies - I don't care who wins.

Alex Smith as the Niners QB - Like the ceiling. Timing is right. Shaun Hill is better suited as a trustworthy back up than an actual playoff quarterback. And yes, the niners should be going for the playoffs.

TV vs. Movies - I am more into tv right now - because of the price point/value/convenience issue. Just finished Deadwood. It's the rambunctious younger brother to the Wire and the Sopranos. Not quite as good, but in the same category. Watching Parks, the Office, 30 Rock, Bored to Death, Curb, and sports. What's the last movie I liked? I can't remember off the top of my head.

Swine Flu - A little bit worse than the regular flu. Not the end of the world.

Obama vs. Fox News - Petty. Very petty. Not Presidential. Raises the profile of Fox. Glad the other networks stood up for Fox when White House tried to ban from press conference. Shows that news folks still got some salt left.

The Economy - Does not look good. Fundamental problems not resolved. Will only get through it by keeping heads down and working hard. Good numbers are an illusion, a result of government stimulus and cost cutting by companies. Job rate is lower than reported due to furloughs and discouraged workers. Real Estate still inflated. We're collectively in waaaay too much debt.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guns, Guns, Guns

This story makes me want to buy a gun
.

Am I crazy or does it seem like this type of thing only happens to people who actually carry guns? No one I know carries a gun and no one I know has been held up at knife point at a video store. Is this just luck? Or location?
Co-Ed Sports

Obama only golfs with men.

There was a time when I had a small amount of contempt for co-ed sports because...well, come on.

I played in co-ed indoor soccer leagues and the level of play was atrocious and teams were whiny, soft, and didn't know the rules of soccer. It wasn't just the presence of girls, it was the guys who played with girls. Co-ed was like playing girls high school soccer - the type of game that is played as a social activity, where the girls don't pass to girls they don't like, they complain about hard (but fair) play, and don't mind being cheap and finicky. Players pout when things don't go their way and the whole thing is frankly, lame.

So yes, I am contemptuous of this Girl-Power-I'm-Gonna-Prove-I'm-Equal-but-not-actually-behave-equal attitude. And sadly, a lot of co-ed sporting is exactly this.

But not all girls play sports this way. And I've always known it, but let the majority and my experience dictate my attitude. There are girls who like to play with the boys and can hang with the boys. We had a girl on our men's league soccer team who laid out dudes on opposing teams. We play bball with girls every week who hang with the guys. I play tennis and golf with girls - friends and family - all the time.

It doesn't change the fact that most girls aren't good at sports and don't play the games right, which could explain why Obama plays golf with only men.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here We Go...

Alex Smith named the staring QB.

The guy is still only 25 years old. He looked damn good last week and completely unprepared to lead the Niners on that final drive. Per the article, he worked with Crabtree the past two weeks to bring him up to speed.

The Smith/Crabtree/Morgan/Davis throwing offense has potential. Playoff potential. I don't know if I can say the same of Shaun Hill, much as I like the guy.
What's A Subaru?

Bored to Death is a confounding show. It hits upon a George Constanza premise...when George pitches "the show about nothing" to NBC, the executive says, "Why would anyone watch it?"

George responds, "Because it's on TV."

I watch Bored to Death because it is on. I get home Sunday night and like to watch a few shows. It is a habit. It started with The Sopranos, then Entourage, then The Wire, Generation Kill, Hung, and now Bored to Death and Curb. Bored to Death is both annoying and watchable. I can't explain why I watch the show. It feels rather inane, the entire premise and the show really isn't very funny or crazy. In fact, my average weekend is probably a bit more interesting than Jason Schwartzman's in the show. And that isn't saying too much. I like the side characters - Zack whatever his name and Ted Danson. But basically, I watch it because it's on and is short. The quirky, hipster element of the show should annoy me, but it doesn't turn me off enough to stop watching. Yet.

And Curb last night. Huh? It was one of the weirdest episodes ever. But funny. Jerry is good in the show. "White gloves, white gloves. I'm white gloves." Very funny. The flashback to the 60s and blood splattering everyone and ending the episode with grabbing onto the flab. Jesus. What a wacky episode. But a great lesson in humor with the short shirt. Re-doing a simple, small joke over and over can yield increasingly funny returns. By the end of the episode, the girl wearing the short shirt was making me laugh harder and harder even thought it was the exact same joke over and over.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How The Digital Revolution Ruins the Social Fabric of Society

The vast majority of people do not respond to Evites. Every evite I visit, more than 1/2 and usually upwards of 2/3 do not bother to respond. Every week, I play basketball with a group of people and the organizer never knows how many people are going to show up because no one responds. Also every week, I play soccer and the team captain needs to send email reminders to rsvp, followed by phone calls, text messages, and other ways to chase people down just to figure out if we have enough people to play on Sunday.

Email response time is uncertain and erratic. Often, people respond right away. Sometimes it takes days. It's not quite as rude to not return emails as not return phone calls...but it is still clearly rude. Granted, a lot of email communication is inane and superfluous. I stopped gmail chatting because it was such a waste of time and a distraction when bored friends would send messages:

Wurd up?
hi!
poke

Particularly if I was...you know...working. It's rude to them because they're like, jesus, man, just respond it takes two seconds and you have no idea what's going on at the other end. Is the person super busy? Are they twittling their thumbs and acting cool? Is an intern sitting at their computer pretending to be them?

Anyhow, back to my point. Email is so goddamn easy. Evites are so easy. And perhaps it is exactly because they are so easy, people don't feel compelled to respond. Or they don't know their response and then later forget. Or are just lazy and stupid and inconsiderate.

But how does this effect the social fabric of society?

Most of what holds society together is not government or police or laws or NGOs, or community organizing or Senate committees. It is the small things - families, friends, work places, teams, schools, etc. People gather and peaceably interact with each other because of common habits of politeness, decency, shared interests, and so forth. We do this in all sorts of local institutions - restaurants, movie theaters, parties, sports leagues, book clubs, happy hours, lunches, christmas parties, etc.

These small things are under assault by the digital revolution and the fickleness of communication in the digital age. The organizer of my local soccer team does a great deal of work - they register and communicate with the league, they wash jersey's every week, they send out emails to remind of game times and keep track of whether enough players will show up, they collect money to cover costs. What do the players contribute? They don't respond to emails until the last minute, don't pay league dues until midway through the season, don't show up to games because they're hungover, or decide to watch NFL Sunday Night Football instead of showing up to the game.

This drives the organizers crazy. And sometimes the organizers are out of town or too busy and they need to recruit someone to step in their shoes. Part of me feels responsible to help out, the other part of me is sane. I never agree to help. Why should I? Do I want to spend part of my week chasing down people to respond to emails? No thanks.

I'm one of those borderline host/organizer people. I do it more than the average, but not much more. I used to organize basketball in the past. I used to have a lot of parties from college until I hit 29 or so.

But nowadays, I barely bother. I like to host and think it's a real skill to bring together the right group of people on a team or a party. It's also key to pick the right kind of food and drinks and music to make a party fun. Nothing disgusts me more than tossing out trader joes hummus and boxed wine and cheap drinks with crappy mixers at a party. I hate those kind of parties. And this isn't being snooty and about spending more money, like I need Ketel or microbrews or food from Dan Tana. I just like to know a little care went in. Serve all PBR and hot dogs for all I care. But at least put out sauerkraut and chopped onions and mustard. You know? Get some details right. Make a choice - get cheap vodka - but good bloody mary mix and limes and make bloody mary's the only drink of choice. Or make only stirred margaritas.

But I won't throw a party today unless I feel compelled to. I'm not spending money, going through effort to make food, pick the right drinks, craft a good guest list only to get 1/2 (if I'm lucky) of the people to just respond Y/N/M. Fuck that shit.

Maybe a couple years ago, I would organize a softball team, but I won't do it now. No way am I chasing around people trying to get them to join, covering the league costs hoping to get paid back, and then sending out emails every week no one responds to.

I'm glad there are still some good people out there who do these things. And I try my best to be responsive and return emails and respond to invites. These inventions, in theory, should make this type of thing easier. But I'm a borderline/on-the-margin participater in these type of projects and frankly, too tired to do it. I imagine there are a lot of others out there in the same position and society is much worse off because of it.

**Side note - Facebook plays a role here. Are people more and more organizing parties, social events, etc on facebook? I wouldn't know. Is the lack of email response due to a competition on facebook? I doubt it. In fact, facebook might be making parties/sports teams/etc less "necessary." Since everyone feels constantly connected to everyone else via facebook, why would one even need to socialize or join a team or go to party to catch up? This of course, is the end of society as we know it, so I hope we're not headed there.
Funny Ass Shit

Sex acts men don't actually enjoy.

The lede:

Men look at sex the way dogs look at bacon: The object is to get as much as possible in any form or by any means before our inevitable deaths.

Some of the more inventive people in our society have come up with a variety of sex acts intended to improve the pleasure of sex. But messing around with sex is like trying to improve the taste of bacon; you can try, but, ultimately, bacon is just good. Some sex simply sounds much better on paper than it turns out to be, often leaving guys wishing they’d just gone with some basic intercourse instead.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Irony

On Ayn Rands influence.

Ayn Rand was the greatest popularizer of libertarian ideas of the last 100 years. Many more people have read Rand’s books than have read all the works of Friedman, Hayek, Mises, Nozick, and all the other modern libertarian thinkers combined...

...Being remembered primarily as a great popularizer would have angered Rand. As Burns’ biography makes clear, Rand saw herself as a pathbreaking original thinker who had discovered important philosophical and political truths that had previous been ignored or at least underemphasized. Rand believed that her theory of Objectivism was the only possible moral grounding for a free society.


Ahhh...the great divide between what you set out to accomplish and what you do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And Also Why The Fall of the Berlin Wall Ruined the Olympics

Bill Simmons and Isiah lament the competitiveness of 80s basketball.

After settling on an uneasy truce about his job performance, we started remembering those unforgettable Celtics-Pistons clashes from the eighties: how their mutual hatred was palpable, how that competitiveness has slowly eroded from the league because of rule changes, money, AAU camps and everything else. Today's rivals hug each other after games and pull the "I love you, boy!" routine. They act like former summer camp chums who became successful CEOs, then ran into each other at Nobu for the first time in years. Great to see you! I'll talk to you soon -- let's have lunch! When Isiah's Pistons played Bird's Celtics, the words "great to see you" were not on the agenda. They wanted to destroy each other. They did. There was an edge to those battles that the current ones don't have. I missed that edge and so did Isiah. We both felt passionate about it, passionate enough that -- gasp -- we were legitimately enjoying the conversation.


I guess they forgot about Isiah and Magic having gay sex on the court...I mean making out...I mean kissing before a playoff game.

But seriously, the issue of competitiveness and hatred as valuable in a sporting context is true. I can't even watch the Olympics without 300 lb East German swimmers with whiskers. Damn I miss those days.
A Rather Lovely Piece

Yes, I used the world lovely.

Sullivan can write at times...this one is about America...through the eyes of an Englishman.

The English, lulled by their marination in American pop culture from infancy, and beguiled by the same language, can live out their days in this country never actually noting that it is an alien land - stranger than you might have ever imagined, crueler than you realized, but somehow also more inspiring than you ever thought possible. This is the America I am trying to make my home, after 25 years. It is not the America of Pat Buchanan's or John Derbyshire's fantasies.
US to Support Anti-Blasphemy Law

Yikes. I guess we decided to toss freedom of speech under the bus in trying to win favor with the Arab Street.

God forbid we should live in world where non-PC speech or unpopular attitudes toward religion should be allowed.

Hope and change.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hmmmmm

Does this mean the Iraq War is over?

"There are obviously enormous opportunities for our countries to do business together," Obama said. "I just want to congratulate Prime Minister Maliki on what I'm confident will be a successful conference, and to re-emphasize my administration's full support for all the steps that can be taken so that Iraq can not only be a secure place and a democratic country, but also a place where people can do business, people can find work, families can make a living, and children are well-educated."


Sounds like a better future than the one Saddam had in mind.
Longing for Racism

There is undoubtedly a sick longing for racism within liberal circles these days.

Rush Limbaugh is an interesting case in point. Like many Americans who spend hours in their cars, I have heard Limbaugh a great deal – and I often disagree with him because he is more ideologically conservative than I am. But not once have I heard him make a statement that was racist. Not even close. But that doesn’t stop Keith Olbermann (and many others) from putting words in Limbaugh’s mouth he increasingly seems never to have uttered. Indeed, they did not have verifiable evidence in the first place that Rush had said such a thing. They simply “wished” it were so.

The root of this “wish” for people like Al Sharpton – who has a “business interest” in the preservation of racism or, more exactly, the preservation of the illusion of racism – is obvious. The root is less clear for others and may be a kind of personal rage. But whatever the case, these false accusations of racism, while often undertaken under the mantle of “liberalism,” are not liberal at all. They are reactionary – reactionary just in the sense it is traditionally defined: “Reactionary (also reactionist) refers to any political or social movement or ideology that seeks a return to a previous state (the status quo ante).”
Good Idea

FORMER TX GOV: DITCH THE DEATH PENALTY: On Sunday, former Texas Governor Mark Whiteonce a strong supporter of the death penalty said he thought the state should reconsider capital punishment because the risk of executing an innocent is too great. There is a very strong case to be made for a review of our death penalty statutes and even look at the possibility of having life without parole so we dont look up one day and determine that we as the State of Texas have executed someone who is in fact innocent, said White, who governed as a Democrat from 1983 to 1987. Whites remarks came as Texas Governor Rick Perry finds himself under fire for executing Cameron T. Willingham in 2004, even after an arson expert who testified in Willinghams case concluded after the conviction that his evidence was seriously flawed.
It Ain't Fair

Savers hit by the Wall Street bailout.

Here's the deal. The government is spending trillions to keep interest rates down in order to support the economy and prop up housing prices, and those low rates have inflicted collateral damage on savers' incomes.

"It's a direct wealth transfer from savers and retirees to overly indebted borrowers," says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com.


Ouch.

I suppose there is a still a difference - those with savings can sleep at night whereas those begging the government are slaves to the handout. But still, it doesn't seem fair.
Good

I guess I'm not a civil libertarian because I'm happy Egypt's top Islamic School banned the veil.

He banned it classrooms and dorms...obviously the reach of the ban cannot extend beyond the school.

I hate the veil. The similarity it bears to Ku Klux Klan uniforms is not a coincidence. It is a sign of repression and hate.

That said, I don't suppose you can ban it completely. But to the extent certain private places discourage it, ban it, or limit it (you can't wear a KKK uniform to work), I'm all in favor.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Echo

An echo of my movie rant, but more about pop culture.

Interesting approach to combat it:

Lately more than ever I try to obey the speed limit, overpay my taxes, pay more estimates and withholding than I need, pay all the property taxes at once, pick up trash I see on the sidewalk, try to be overly polite to strangers in line, always stop on the freeway when I see an elderly person or single woman with a flat, leave 20% tips, let cars cut me off in the parking lot (not in my youth, not for a second), and patronize as many of Selma’s small businesses as I can (from the hardware store to insurance to cars). I don’t necessarily do that out of any sense of personal ethics, but rather because in these increasingly crass and lawless times, we all have to try something, even symbolically, to restore some common thread to the frayed veneer of American civilization, to balance the rips from a Letterman attack on Palin’s 14-year-old daughter or a Serena Williams’s threat to a line judge, or the President’s communication director’s praise of Mao, civilization’s most lethal mass murderer, or all of what I described above.
Going...Going...Gone

The movie business is dying. No one wants to say it, but everyone here knows it or at least suspects it. We're going the way of the music business and newspaper business. We may be able to hold on a bit longer, but the writing is on the wall.

Why?

Because we're making shitty movies and charging too much. No one will admit it because those in power are no longer movie people. They are lawyers and corporate yes-men and accountants and marketing folks. They pull up pie charts and graphs pointing out statistics that say the price point is right and GI Joe makes money and Adventureland and Jesse James do not. "But they are wrong...somehow...they are wrong," to quote Jose Yero.

Two years ago, Michael Clayton was nominated for an Oscar. It is a good film, but not a great film. Michael Clayton should be an AVERAGE hollywood movie. Instead, it was one of the best of the year. That is a testament to the exceedingly low quality of movies today.

Every time a movie like Transformers or GI Joe comes out, the movie business loses audience members. They justify the loss because loser fan boys go to the films multiple times. But what they don't realize, is that they're losing audience members FOR GOOD. Adults don't just not see Transformers, they get out of the habit of going to the movies.

The movie business is like the drug dealing business. We make money off the habit. Off word of mouth - like junkies whispering to each other "Michael Mann's got the good sheeeet."

Just listen to people. Ask any adult - why don't you go to the movies? They will say "nothing interests me," or "it costs too much," or "I don't have time" or all three. It's not that they don't like movies - they love movies. Everyone loves movies except for weirdos. But they don't go because we don't give them a reason to go.

"If you build it, they will come." Great movies build goodwill. Bad movies shatter it. The box office numbers don't capture this. I spend the same amount of money seeing Jesse James as I do seeing The Informant. But after watching Jesse James, I got out and re-watch Chopper and rent 15 Westerns and watch Deadwood and Fight Club. After the Informant, I get depressed and blog about it and don't go to any movies for a month. The Box Office numbers don't capture this data. To the numbers, the experience is equal. To the movie business, one is death and the other is life.

How Do I Know I Am Right? Cable TV. Supposedly no one watched THE WIRE or DEADWOOD per the standards of normal TV. Yet, HBO is flush. I bet HBO is the strongest financially that it's ever been, despite these "bombs." How do I know? Because other cable channels are copying them. Showtime, FX, USA, are all striving to make high quality original programming. And succeeding where the rest of the market is failing. Why did I just watch the entire three season of Deadwood - spending about $40 in rental fees? Because I'm dying to watch some good shit. Cause I'm a goddamn drama-addict. And because it's fucking awesome.

Every week, the box office boasts and articles talk about the biggest box office in history and all this nonsense. If that's the case, why are companies cutting back and making fewer and fewer movies? Why do they spend $10 a person for marketing to get folks to spend $15 in the theater?

The news business is dying because the coverage went to shit and opened the door to bloggers. People got out of the habit of paying for newspapers and watching the news. And it spiraled from there. I can get better information for free than by paying for it. The coverage needs to be so good, educated people are compelled to read it. Same thing for movies. They need to be so damn good, people HAVE to watch. The way I feel going to the movies now is that some marketing douche-bag tricked me into going. That's how I feel afterward. A marketing douche-bag or a bought critic or a cynical filmmaker.

That people don't even talk about the quality of movies is what concerns me. Michael Clayton is not as good as an average WIRE episode. It's like GM trying to get people to "buy American." Make better fucking cars and people will buy them, you fat retards.

Make better movies, people will go. Problem is, no one knows how to do it anymore. And yes, this means we will die.
Freakonomics

Already the Freakonomics guys are getting attacked by the media for proposing a global warming solution that does not involve elaborate expensive proposals to counteract the polar bears drowning.

On the upside, this is going to help them sell more books.
30 Rock

It was a disappointing weekend for visual storytelling. First, Wild Things sucked. Second, got caught up on the 30 Rock season opener. Not only was it bad...it was "holy shit, this show just jumped the shark - landry/tara murdered the guy outside the bar and covered it up bad." I won't give up on 30 Rock because Tina Fey is the love of my female tv character life and I am Alec Baldwin. But, two more episodes on this level and see ya later alligator.
Is Pete Carroll Chuckling? And Other Football Thoughts

After watching Mark Sanchez toss five interceptions yesterday and leading his team to defeat against the hapless Bills? When I say lead to defeat - I mean - if other than for Sanchez, the Jets actually win this game. They ran for 300 plus yards for crissake and the defense only allowed 13 points in regular time despite 6 turnovers. Sanchez is the cause of 2 Jets defeats this season. Will Rex Ryan bench him soon?

Watching Florida-Arkansas game...the refs totally bailed out Florida on a weak penalty in the last drive. Did they get a call from the NCAA asking them to preserve the Alabama showdown "at all costs?"

I'll suck it up a little bit and acknowledge Farve is playing better than I expected. He's only tossed two interceptions in six games, unlike his career average of throwing two per game (okay, I just made that up, but it wouldn't surprise me). I guess it helps having the best running back in the history of football (okay, I just embellished a little bit there as well). Like a greek myth, however, all this Farve hype will lead to his inevitable downfall. He's collapsing in the playoffs against an inferior team. It is already written.

The Ravens are a tough 3-3 team.
Where the Wild Things Are

A real boring movie. I was looking at my watch and found myself thinking about how good the cinematography looked. How did he shoot night time?

The movie had the feel of a marketing guru behind it. I can just see some of the early emails, "Where the Wild Things Are - a brand name + Spike Jonze + cool indy music + Dave Eggers = good trailer and big bucks. Done and Done."

And that's exactly what the movie is. Hipster nonsense.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Welfare Reform

I'm a fan of welfare reform. It is one of the best things Clinton did while in office. What's sickening, however, is that today, the largest recipients of welfare are the richest of the rich.

An article about how the Yankees fleeced the taxpayers for their new stadium and stand to benefit from all the higher ticket prices, concessions, etc. The taxpayers pay for half the new stadium and the Yankees get to keep the profit.

Not to mention Goldman and Lehman and AIG getting bailed out by the taxpayers. What a joke. Any small company in America gets overleveraged and takes too many risks in the way these guys did it and they go bankrupt. But because they're big and connected, they're able to buy protection.

We should of let them fail out of principle and decency. Going through bankruptcy isn't the end of the world - PG&E did it and came out strong. The airlines have done it multiple times. Families do it and survive.

I don't get it and don't know whether to believe these people who say we saved the world economy from falling into the tank.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why We Shouldn't Throw Neoconservatism Into The Dustbin

Oh boy. Here we go. I got a rant. I'm stretching right now....stretching. Okay...I'm ready:

Today CNN and NPR is reporting the boy-stuck-in-a-homemade-balloon story yesterday may be a hoax. It turns out, the family was on on the reality tv show Wife Swap and posted 55 plus youtube videos and probably coached their six year to stay up in the attic.

Earlier this week, the army charged a man with an obscure charge of "stolen valor," for impersonating a wounded veteran...telling everyone he had a metal plate in his head.

Ralph Lauren is getting shit for photoshopping a model.

Barack Obama won a nobel peace prize for being Barack Obama.

And to top it all off, last year, someone started a fake facebook page of me.

What the f--- is going on?

Something is out of whack. At one time, it seemed like there was a clear line between the real and the phony. Of things with meaning vs. meaningless things. That line is slowly being erased. Erased everywhere.... In politics, the best element of the teaparty protests capture this point. The teaparty people are saying, effectively, "what a second, what are we doing? Where is all the money coming from and why are we bailing out failing companies (GM), why are we bailing out this huge banks (Lehman/Goldman), what are we 'stimulating' with all this spending, how can we possibly afford to massively restructure our healthcare system?" Nevermind the existing problems - ie, we don't have enough money to pay for social security or medicare, we are spending gobs on money on two wars of choice without clear goals.

It is also the best critique of "Barack Obama." I use the quotes because I'm not talking about the man, but the idea of the man. The man who was supposed to be post-racial and usher in a new era of can't-we-all-get-alongism. There were hints of problems early on - the essentially phoniness of "community organizing," the hollow sloganeering of "hope and change," and the silencing of anyone who dared suggest he might not be qualified to be President (by implicating racist undertones to suggest such a point). But only with the Nobel Peace Prize did we reach, in Tony Blankley's words "the theater of the absurd." See the issue isn't Obama, the man, the President, at all. The issue is the world has become so undone and out of whack that we ascribe meaning to the meaningless. To suppose the empty is full. To mistake the real for the fake.

We can't tell the difference anymore and no one seems to want to measure.

We learned what we already knew this past year - the last 15 years of baseball were one giant cheat-fest. Everyone cheated. Everyone. It wasn't just a few people. It was everyone and everyone knew about it and the only one who finally came forward was one of the original cheaters and outcasts, Jose Canseco.

We learned the incredible growth of economy in the past 10 years was largely predicated on a pyramid scheme of inflated real estate prices. People borrowed money on their phony house value and spend it on consumer goods we didn't need.

We spend our time on myspace and facebook and these ridiculous social networking sites looking at people who either a) we don't know or b) decided to not maintain the relationship with. We fool ourselves into calling these computer pages created by people our "Friends." Does that word have no meaning? How can you possibly use the word "Friend" to describe a computer page that someone updates with text and pictures? The whole thing is a sick, perverse waste of time. It is tool for stalking ex girlfriends and everyone seems to think it's this harmless, good-natured tool to keep in touch with people. It's like the whole world has become Timothy Treadwell who befriends Grizzly Bears in the Alaskan wilderness as if there were some cuddly cartoon spokesman.

Last week, I watched THE INFORMANT, the new Soderburgh movie about a compulsive liar. His lies are so elaborate and circular, the movie becomes near unwatchable exercise in inanity. As an audience member I was a victim of his lies. He stole time and resources from all those around him concocting make-believe schemes and phony stories. Watching the movie, this fuck face managed to steal 2 hours of my time and $12. He stole Soderburgh's year of making a totally pointless movie. The pain of the experience still irks me. There is no humor and nothing to be learned from watching this film. I felt somewhere in between like a dog chasing my own tail and Malcom McDowell in a Clockwork Orange being tied down with my eyes held open watching this disaster of a person somehow made into a movie.

The Neoconservatives have a point. Their point is that Western Civilization has a nihilistic impulse and that we are destined to fall into a morass of moral relativism and post modernism where nothing has any value, unless we invade Iraq. Okay, that last part isn't exactly part of the doctrine - but there is an emphasis on finding narratives that will inspire people and give their lives meaning. Early neoconservatives favored hearty American Western TV shows and movies which portrayed heroic frontiersmen and women braving the elements to extend civilization across the land. And that isn't much different from the Iraq narrative of expanding civilization around the globe to freedom loving people who are oppressed by an evil dictator. The communists and leftists will critique this as an imperial power grab that pays little attention to the cultural specifics of the middle east, etc, and is all about money and turning everyone into a white person, etc. The Neoconservatives argue - so what? It's better than wasting our lives away on Facebook and following made up stories of children on balloons and watching Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency and reruns of My Name is Earl. At least we frigging tried to make the world a better place, imperfect as it is. At least we did something other than watch our 401k numbers go up and up and buy the lastest Ipod touch.

Andrew Sullivan the other day finally made a point I've argued for years now - the Iraq War was not a conservative war - it was a liberal war. His reader calls it revolutionary -

The invasion of Iraq was a profoundly anti-conservative project, since the purpose of the invasion -- aside from disarming Iraq from weapons it did not have -- was a revolutionary project meant to rebuild a nation from scratch. At the time, supporters of the effort pointed to the examples of Germany and Japan after World War Two, ignoring the fact that both nations had evolved into fairly cohesive and democratic market economies well before we showed up. Over time it has been shown that the neoconservative perspective -- which is really a revolutionary perspective -- has failed.


What's the alternative? More boy-in-balloon stories, more undeserved Nobel Prizes, more steroids, fake house prices, followed by another reactionary project like Iraq.
A Bad Sign When...

A year later, the Secretary of State is criticizing the past administration's policy. Uhhh...what's the point?

CLINTON CRITICIZES BUSH HANDLING OF AFGHAN CONFLICT: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that President Bush's administration was "unrealistic" in its dealings with the war in Afghanistan. Clinton told CNN the Bush administration was unrealistic both in terms of the number of U.S. soldiers it committed to the conflict and in its relationship with certain Afghan political leaders.The war was "under resourced" since its start in 2001, she said, and she indicated the Bush administration's attention was improperly shifted to Iraq.


Now that I think about it, LBJ didn't handle Vietnam so well. Oh wait, is that not news?

The bigger issue is Clinton being in power while the these policies on Afghanistan were put in place. She was a high profile Senator, for crissake. She had the power of the purse. She had the power to introduce legislation. She had the power to go to the press and vocally criticize the President. But she did none of this. She voted for the Iraq War initially whether out of principle or political expedience. She opposed the surge whether out of principle or political expedience. By her very own standards, she would probably now consider both of those votes wrong - if not foolish.

So the question is - why doesn't she go back and criticize herself?
Weather

Jeez, what weird weather this week. Last night - trying to sleep - I was both hot and cold. WTF? Humidity plus cool temperature plus being near the beach. Totally confusing.
Knowing Your Limitations

Great real-world example - Mike Nolan. On the 49ers, he was head coach and general manager. (I hate it when people try to do too many jobs, like Ricky Gervais writing, producing, starring, and directing his latest projects). That was the stipulation he required to become our head coach. 5 straight losing seasons and he was replaced by Mike Singletary. I hated Nolan. I hated his play calls, his irritating suits, and his knack for getting players to play hard, but on edge and nervous. He ruined Alex Smith. Ruined him. He sucks ass in my book.

Except he got picked up on the cheap by Denver. A coach fired midseason, he was willing to take any job he could get, I guess. They got him to be defensive coordinator in Denver and he's got those guys playing their asses off into the biggest surprise in the NFL. He's a great success, in the words of Borat.

It reminds me of the Gervais from the British office....

A good reminder about knowing your limitations. I'm making that the theme of my 30s. (ps the theme of my 20s was - be bold and I predict the theme of my 40s will be make money).
The Problem With Deadwood

The show is so good, I'm tempted to start talking like the characters. Every other word is cocksucker, c--t, or n-----. Al Swearengen had an incredible line last night, "I don't have the patience to listen to loopy c---s who don't recognize when their lot's improved."

UPDATE: I just realized if you don't watch the show, this comes off as offensive and misogynistic. Because you get blinded by the language. But if you watch the show, it is actually a really sweet moment, as it reveals how Al has let someone he really cared about go.
Student Loans

Yesterday I heard on the radio the student loan rate was somewhere between 6-8%. That seems incredibly high, especially because mortgage rates are in the 5-6% range.

I remember towards the end of the film school the student loan rate was 2.75% and everyone was saying "lock in the rate," since it was super good. Why it is so high now? Aren't interest rates low in an attempt o get liquidity into the market right now? Yet, student loan rates are high. Doesn't quite make sense to me...but I suppose if the Federal Government is starving for cash, they'll go after the students.

In any case, 6-8% is hardly a deal. If you're paying a variable rate and have any cash, I'd pay off the loan. If someone offered me a deal and said your 401k could grow 6-8% a year and you could just lock that rate in...I'd take it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Against Deli Slicers?

One more example of how the steady march of technology can dampen our lives.

Maybe record players are just the tip of the iceberg.
Or Did the Taliban Just Re-group?

Conservative argument for pulling out of Afghanistan.

Then, in 2005, the United States and NATO began to systematically extend their military presence across Afghanistan. The goals were to defeat the tiny insurgency that did exist at the time, eradicate poppy crops and encourage local support for the central government. Western forces were deployed in all major regions, including the Pashtun areas in the south and east, and today have ballooned to more than 100,000 troops.

As Western occupation grew, the use of the two most worrisome forms of terrorism in Afghanistan — suicide attacks and homemade bombs — escalated in parallel. There were no recorded suicide attacks in Afghanistan before 2001. According to data I have collected, in the immediate aftermath of America’s conquest, the nation experienced only a small number: none in 2002, two in 2003, five in 2004 and nine in 2005.


This is one theory. But sans wiping out the Taliban, isn't it reasonable to expect they'd regroup? I don't know.
Social Networking Snobbery

Why did Harvey Weinstein's "Facebook/Myspace for Millionaires" fail?

Well, I can only speak for myself here, but if I were a millionaire (and especially if I were the type of millionaire who only hung out with other millionaires), the last thing I'd be doing with my free time is playing around on a social networking site. I can think of 150 things I'd do before. Here are 13 right off the top of my head -

1. Take Boxing Lessons
2. Learn a Foreign Language
3. Get season tix to the Oakland A's and go to every game
4. Read all the great works of American Literature
5. Go to the World Cup 2010 in South Africa
6. Watch all those HBO mini-series - House of Saddam, John Adams, etc.
7. Go to more plays
8. Go to more concerts
9. Eat at really great restaurants all around LA
10. Buy a ski cabin in Mammoth and go for every other weekend during ski season
11. Make a small independent movie
12. Have more dinner parties
13. Develop my wine and cheese palette

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hate

Good Andrew Sullivan article appropriate titled "What's So Bad About Hate."

It's a long article, but I'm convinced. The whole notion of a hate-crime makes little sense.

The supporters of laws against hate crimes argue that such crimes should be disproportionately punished because they victimize more than the victim. Such crimes, these advocates argue, spread fear, hatred and panic among whole populations, and therefore merit more concern. But, of course, all crimes victimize more than the victim, and spread alarm in the society at large.


I'm on the record as saying if there is ever a country called Gregistan, there would be extra punishment for that's-just-so-fucked-up crimes, like cannibalism via a Craigslist ad or torturing/incest/rapist someone in a dungeon for years and other freaky-weird shit that just messes with everyone's mind. That's a campaign promise, folks. But just because a murderer is motivated by racism as opposed to being a psycho - those differences don't matter so much to me. They're a murderer, lock 'em up.

Good breakdowns on various forms of "hate," and how the term is rather vague and meaningless. (note - I think this may be a useful tool for thinking about character motivations in fiction)

Most hate is more common and more complicated, with as many varieties as there are varieties of love. Just as there is possessive love and needy love; family love and friendship; romantic love and unrequited love; passion and respect, affection and obsession, so hatred has its shadings. There is hate that fears, and hate that merely feels contempt; there is hate that expresses power, and hate that comes from powerlessness; there is revenge, and there is hate that comes from envy. There is hate that was love, and hate that is a curious expression of love. There is hate of the other, and hate of something that reminds us too much of ourselves. There is the oppressor's hate, and the victim's hate. There is hate that burns slowly, and hate that fades. And there is hate that explodes, and hate that never catches fire.

and this

In her book "The Anatomy of Prejudices," the psychotherapist Elisabeth Young-Bruehl proposes a typology of three distinct kinds of hate: obsessive, hysterical and narcissistic. It's not an exhaustive analysis, but it's a beginning in any serious attempt to understand hate rather than merely declaring war on it. The obsessives, for Young-Bruehl, are those, like the Nazis or Hutus, who fantasize a threat from a minority, and obsessively try to rid themselves of it. For them, the very existence of the hated group is threatening. They often describe their loathing in almost physical terms: they experience what Patrick Buchanan, in reference to homosexuals, once described as a "visceral recoil" from the objects of their detestation. They often describe those they hate as diseased or sick, in need of a cure. Or they talk of "cleansing" them, as the Hutus talked of the Tutsis, or call them "cockroaches," as Yitzhak Shamir called the Palestinians. If you read material from the Family Research Council, it is clear that the group regards homosexuals as similar contaminants. A recent posting on its Web site about syphilis among gay men was headlined, "Unclean."

Hysterical haters have a more complicated relationship with the objects of their aversion. In Young-Bruehl's words, hysterical prejudice is a prejudice that "a person uses unconsciously to appoint a group to act out in the world forbidden sexual and sexually aggressive desires that the person has repressed." Certain kinds of racists fit this pattern. White loathing of blacks is, for some people, at least partly about sexual and physical envy. A certain kind of white racist sees in black America all those impulses he wishes most to express himself but cannot. He idealizes in "blackness" a sexual freedom, a physical power, a Dionysian release that he detests but also longs for. His fantasy may not have any basis in reality, but it is powerful nonetheless. It is a form of love-hate, and it is impossible to understand the nuances of racism in, say, the American South, or in British Imperial India, without it.

Unlike the obsessives, the hysterical haters do not want to eradicate the objects of their loathing; rather they want to keep them in some kind of permanent and safe subjugation in order to indulge the attraction of their repulsion. A recent study, for example, found that the men most likely to be opposed to equal rights for homosexuals were those most likely to be aroused by homoerotic imagery. This makes little rational sense, but it has a certain psychological plausibility. If homosexuals were granted equality, then the hysterical gay-hater might panic that his repressed passions would run out of control, overwhelming him and the world he inhabits.

A narcissistic hate, according to Young-Bruehl's definition, is sexism. In its most common form, it is rooted in many men's inability even to imagine what it is to be a woman, a failing rarely challenged by men's control of our most powerful public social institutions. Women are not so much hated by most men as simply ignored in nonsexual contexts, or never conceived of as true equals. The implicit condescension is mixed, in many cases, with repressed and sublimated erotic desire. So the unawareness of women is sometimes commingled with a deep longing or contempt for them.
Deadwood Season 3

Just started in. Man - what an awesome show. How they never sorted out the business end and didn't finish the show is a tragedy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Comforting. Very Comforting

Two European nuclear scientists arrested as Al Queda operatives.

Sigh.
Ouch

More on health insurance reform.

PWC is stating the issue politely, to say the least. What is meant by a "weak mandate" is that, in the current version of the Baucus bill, there is no requirement to buy health insurance at all until after 2013, and by 2017 the penalty for failing to buy health insurance still amounts to only about 15% of the cost of the insurance. Now, think about it: if you know that you don't have to buy health insurance when you are young and healthy, but if you should get sick, or just get older, you can apply for health insurance at any time and it will be illegal for the insurance company to turn you down, what would you do? Obviously, you would defer buying insurance unless and until you get sick. This means that the pool of those who are insured will be lower quality, and the cost therefore higher for everyone who buys insurance. It is as though you could wait until you die, and then your heirs can buy life insurance on you.

This isn't reform, it is stupidity.

It actually would be very easy to make health insurance cheaper. All we have to do is allow insurance companies to compete nationally instead of state-by-state and eliminate all mandates that limit consumer choice. It has been estimated that these simple reforms--which are not part of any of the Democrats' "reform" bills, for obvious reasons--would reduce health care costs by one-quarter to one-third. Instead of such common-sense reforms, the Dems are proposing Rube Goldberg measures that will make health care more expensive. Instead of eliminating mandates, their measures, including the Baucus bill, increase them--in effect making cheaper health insurance illegal.

Once more: this isn't reform, it is stupidity.


Wowza.
Scary

A student suspended from school and being banished to reform school for 45 days for bringing his cub scout fork/spoon/knife to eat his lunch.

Our country is cannibalizing itself. We can't seem to find the right balance. We accede too much control to central authority in this case - by not forcing teachers and administrators to make common-sense judgment. But in other cases, such as the torture by our troops at Abu Ghraib, we make these lax rules almost purposely designed to allow odious behavior. We similarly miss the point on how to deal with Wall Street, executive pay, and bailouts. The two sides are both ridiculously stupid, the right saying "they should get paid whatever the market bears," and the left saying, "we should cap executive pay because the income distribution between employees and ceos is too great."

Both are inherently stupid points because they don't reflect anything about the actual process of paying executives. No one should object to someone getting paid a lot of money if they earn it. The problem with the Wall Street executive pay system, as far as I can tell, is these guys got paid enormous sums of money for crashing the system. I suspect a lot of folks pay was based on short-term returns and they were gambling with other people's (ie stock owner) money. If they short term gambles paid off, they got paid big bucks. If they didn't, the stock prices slumped or other divisions profits covered their asses. In the worst cases, they bankrupted their own companies or the tax payers bailed them out. These guys didn't have their own skin in the game. If they did - no way they are making these risky plays. No way they bet their own money on lending to subprime borrowers. No way we end up with ARM's that will set off another round of foreclosures.

The problem isn't we're paying CEOs too much. The problem is the CEOs aren't earning their pay. Set up a system where you gamble big, you stand to lose big and you lose big first. They won't gamble anymore. Set up a system where you gamble big and someone else pays the bill, they'll gamble big.

And this whole healthcare thing is maddening. Everyone is culpable - the doctors, the drug companies, the insurance companies, the patients. Everyone. You could make a David Simon series out of it. Are we really ready to bankrupt this country tossing money into a pit on a moral crusade to give everyone healthcare? What a friggin mess this is...
Innovation?

Was there something innovative about the Dolphins offense last night? It sure looked it to me. I only watched the 2nd half, but boy, that was one of the most exciting 4th quarters of football I've watched in a long time. Miami's offense had the Jets, who heretofore had a great defense, back on their heels and totally confused. Miami was running Wildcat with different QB/running back combos and then a regular offense from play to play. They were running on 3rd and 5 effectively. The Jets couldn't stop them.

Today, the typically blustering Rex Ryan calls these plays gimmicky and blames his defense for not being able to stop them. Fair enough, maybe these are simply old formations being reappropriated in a new age. And I know Miami has been using Wildcat for the past two years now. But this was the first time I saw it employed so effectively. Here is a 1-3 team taking it to a 3-1 team. And I thought the Jets defense was their strong suit.

Or maybe it was more simple than the Wildcat. Miami's offensive line seemed to be pushing the Jets a yard or two down the field every play. Dominating line play = victory. I thought the domination, however, was the result of the Jets being on their heels and confused about the direction of the play. That is a structural, coaching choice and an interesting antidote to the complex defensive schemes now used in the NFL.

I don't know if this is an aberration or the beginning of a new style of offense, in the same way Walsh introduced the West Coast offense in the 1980s. The cover-2 Tampa Ba defense in some respects was the counter to the West Coast offense. Could the Wildcat/West Coast offense be the counter to the cover two?

*note- actually the Jets play the old style 46 Buddy Ryan defense which was designed to stop the run. No one uses the 46 anymore because of the introduction of the West Coast offense, except the Jets.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Healthcare

On the radio this morning a program interviewed doctors about rising patient awareness of health issues. In the past ten years or so, drug commercials informing patients/customers directly on new drugs + the internet + encouragement of individuals to take a bigger role in the own health welfare has yielded more knowledgeable patients.

But there is a flip side to it - patients often insist on treatments viewed as unnecessary by their doctor. (Larry insisting on getting a bandage on his burn last night in Curb Your Enthusiasm comes to mind). In fact, the doctors argued that 20% of procedures and cost are associated with unnecessary treatment. Now...it must be understood, these aren't totally frivolous treatments, but sort of 95/5 type of questions, where a reasonable doctor would say - look, you don't really need this back surgery and there's no guarantee it will help. But patients insist or will leave and go to a doctor who will do it. So there become all sorts of perverse incentives for doctors to do treatments that are probably wasteful.

I'm glad we're having this healthcare debate, but the more I read about it, there are just no good options.
Dangerous Precedent

A movement to block Rush Limbaugh's potential purchase of the St. Louis Rams.

Is this an attempt at thought-policing?

Sure, Limbaugh is provocative and loud. But so what? Who wants to live in America where you silence guys like him. Not me.

This is the second time this year, I've been shocked by the bold economic attempts to thought-police private political opinions. First was the Whole Foods President who wrote an op-ed about healthcare and as a result his stores were boycotted. Second is a movement to not allow Limbaugh to make an offer on an NFL team. What's up with this? Is Limbaugh worse than Michael Vick? Surely not. Yet, Vick is allowed a second chance.
Niner Meltdown

The Dre Bly play was one of the most ridiculous plays I've seen in an NFL game. They guy starts showboating on the opponents 25 yard line and gets tackled and fumbles the ball. Had he run for a TD, the score is 35-17. Had Nedney made the FG on the first drive of the 2nd half, we're at 35-20 and maybe make the thing a ballgame. Instead, it's 38-10 and turns into a blow out.

Sfgate criticizes Singletary. Actually, quite a good, constructive article.
Phillip Baker Hall

Watching Curb last night, I realized Phillip Baker Hall is the perfect Larry David foil. He is lightning quick, full of common-sense, pragmatic, unneurotic. In many respects, he is the Larry David antidote. The would-be cure to Larry's social problems. Even moreso than last night, his Bookman character from early Seinfeld might - in the long run - prove the most prescient. Perhaps he was the early warning signal, the first respondent on the scene, the first to call out Larry, to warn of his inevitable decent into nihilism by not taking the book returning seriously. Is this possible?

On class day prior to my college graduation, one professor, nominated by the students, would speak to the entire class. It happened to be one of my thesis advisers with whom I wrote my "Seinfeld" thesis about politics and irony. He argued, in contra to the Alanis Morissette lyric, take me to the shallow water, before I get too deep...than in fact, the great challenge to our generation was the exact opposite - that what we ought to fear, rather, is becoming too shallow.

That advice always stuck with me and the egoist in me always thought it was somewhat directed towards me personally because of the content of my thesis.

And this is precisely the role Phillips Baker Hall assumes in the Larry David world. And our instinct - at first - is to laugh at the Bookman character for taking things too seriously. But maybe, Bookman was right and to take the little things seriously is to take life seriously. Maybe he is giving us wisdom and we ignore it, like stupid immature children.
Style and Art

Can style be misleading?

Clement Greenberg said it: "There are, of course, more important things than art: life itself, what actually happens to you....Art solves nothing, either for the artist himself or for those who receive his art." Perhaps the world would be a better place if more judges wrote well--but somehow I doubt it.


David Thomson has written about filmmakers who use style to mask lame content.

Food for thought.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Even The HuffPo...

Is weirded out by Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

There is some sad metaphor in here about the state of the world today where accomplishment matters less than "hope" or "potential" or being a symbol of so-and-so or worse, by just being the opposite-of-George-Bush in a very George Costanza-esqu way. I mean, is that really it? Looking at the three past American winners - Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and Barak Obama - the message is clear - we like America that is the exact opposite of Bush.

Is the rest of the world so pathetic that it can only self-identify by being in opposition to a particular American politician?

I would say they've answered the question themselves.
Will The Whole World Hate Favre By The End of the Season?

From Simmons mailbag today.

Q: I would like to make a formal apology to all of America. As a Packer fan, I had never experienced the sad fortune of listening to commentators gush over Brett Favre from the other side. To any fans of any team that ever played Brett when he was a Packer, I'm sorry. I never realized the severity of this slobbering.
--DJ, Madison, Wis.

SG: Thank you. I proactively avoided the slobbering by muting the game and putting on music.

I know Bill Simmons just turned 40, but watch what he does right here. Watch his calm in the living room as he looks for his iPod, finds it, hooks it up, turns it on, steps over his son's little fire truck and hits the MUTE button on his TV all in one swoop. What a great, great play by Bill Simmons! It's a big game and he LIVES for these moments, fellas.



Once he lets down the Viking fans, it is a legitimate question.
Friends in Hollywood

Interesting piece.

I really like one of the comments:

An observation of cultural difference between the left coast and the rest: Back East you're treated like a stranger until you're accepted and then you're in for the whole ride. Out West you're welcomed in on first breath but you will never be fully accepted no matter how long they may know you.

Not so sure it's true, but I can understand how East Coasters never quite feel at home on the West Coast. The attitude out here is hard to define - particularly in Los Angeles. It isn't that no one truly cares about you - it's that no one really cares about anyone. That may sound bleak, but I mean it in the best possible way. The BLDGBlog article says it best.

In Los Angeles you can be standing next to another human being but you may as well be standing next to a geological formation. Whatever that thing is, it doesn't care about you. And you don't care about it. Get over it. You're alone in the world. Do something interesting.
Choosing Decline

There is a legitimate debate to be had about a willful decline of American power.

But I also think we ought to be clear about it...

But the liberal internationalism of today is different. It is not center-left, but left-liberal. And the new left-liberal internationalism goes far beyond its earlier Clintonian incarnation in its distrust of and distaste for American dominance. For what might be called the New Liberalism, the renunciation of power is rooted not in the fear that we are essentially good but subject to the corruptions of power--the old Clintonian view--but rooted in the conviction that America is so intrinsically flawed, so inherently and congenitally sinful that it cannot be trusted with, and does not merit, the possession of overarching world power.

For the New Liberalism, it is not just that power corrupts. It is that America itself is corrupt--in the sense of being deeply flawed, and with the history to prove it. An imperfect union, the theme of Obama's famous Philadelphia race speech, has been carried to and amplified in his every major foreign-policy address, particularly those delivered on foreign soil. (Not surprisingly, since it earns greater applause over there.)


I'm not sure I'm ready to swallow this pill. I don't trust the world or the UN or international institutions - their record is a whole lot worse than ours. But then again, I'm sick of taking a beating from the rest of the world, paying to be the world policeman, paying to develop new health technologies only to be copied and used elsewhere, the same for movies and software, and just generally allowing much of the world to piggyback our stability in commerce and money, etc.
Amen

On restructuring executive pay.

The recent proposal by the Fed to regulate bankers’ compensation practices is understandable given the events of the past two years, but setting caps on salaries and bonuses misses the fundamental problem of compensation on Wall Street. Despite the public resentment surrounding finance-industry payouts, the fact is that no one objects to paying for performance. We just want to make sure we’re not getting fleeced or paying for pure dumb luck, and this is where the problem lies.


Right. What occurred on Wall St seemed more like this:

Far too often, sophisticated risk/reward computations have been used to justify enormous payouts to those who happened to be in charge when good outcomes occurred, only to leave shareholders holding the bag when the bad outcomes came along — a case of “Heads I win, tails you lose”.


Ummmhmmmm.
Huh?

Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

For what, exactly?

What's next, an Oscar? An Emmy?

Jeez.
Is The Movie Business Dying?

Miramax is down to 20 people and will probably close altogether next year.

At one time, Miramax employed 500 people. It was Miramax that was largely responsible for the 1990s indy boom that got me and my generation passionate about film.

The era has long been over, but this is the punctuation on the point.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Politicized Intelligence

Did the NIE purposefully keep the Bush Administration in the dark on the second Iranian nuclear site?

Slightly worrisome.
Just Because You're Paranoid

Doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you.

There is a steady drumbeat of rumors about the weakening US dollar and secret meeting between Gulf Arabs, Chinese officials, Russians, and the French about delinking oil trading from the dollar.

The effect - higher interest rates for American banks. The trickle down - less credit for everything (houses, credit cards, student loans). It means, EVERYTHING will be more expensive for Americans.

There is a huge undercurrent around the world of anger and dissatisfaction with America. I'm not sure entirely why. Part is envy. Part is the natural comeuppance for a super power. Part is American arrogance and hubris. Part is a power grab.

Al Queda and the terrorist angle is the tip of the spear. There are many business folks in shady regions of the world licking their chops when American finances are in tatters. They want more power and less constraint and they fold their arms and smile slightly when they see our troops bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan or the Dow Jones tanking.

And these folks know much of the world are sheep and when the momentum sways, lots will follow. Good times are not ahead.
Good - Let's Take Advantage

Pakistan and the US are getting on the same page. Or rather, they are finally getting the picture.
The Classics

VDH on Obama and hubris and nemesis.

I feel like I need to take a class in the Classics and Shakespeare.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Slow Blogging

Blogging output is way down of recent and I'm not sure why. Partially, work has picked up and I have less time. But I think one of the main reasons is a lack of interesting things to blog about.

The world is looking pretty gloomy these days and I don't see any relief on the horizon. I never expected Obama to be a savior and do believe his election was driven in large part because people felt he would be. The honeymoon is over.
Oh Boy

Niners sign Crabtree.

Let's hope he's as good as advertised.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Letterman

Letterman apologizes.

I'm a little confused by this whole apology angle on the story...an unmarried man had sex with co-workers. So what? Who would you have Letterman sleep with? Sluts from a bar?

I understand he had a "long-term girlfriend," but come on...you're dating a mega-celebrity and you ain't married. Isn't that code for - I'm banging other chicks.

Am I missing something here?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Born to Run

Running barefoot.
Will it catch on? I doubt it. But I wouldn't exactly want to own a running shoe store.
Do You Understand The Meaning of the Word "Foreboding"

...as in badness is happening right now?

I'd put it up there with the best movie trailer moments never making it into a movie...

But seriously, the economic situation is still bad, despite stock gains. The reason profits went up (and hence stock prices) is because companies cut overhead. (yes, anyone in the stock market made money - or should I say, regained - off people losing their jobs). We're awash in consumer debt and aren't growing. The govt is sending mix signals - no one knows the effects of the stimulus - the one "successful" program - cash for clunkers is a laughing stock amongst economists because it simply pushed a bunch of car sales up a couple months and cost the taxpayers $$$; the banks have no money, it is unclear the effect of healthcare legislation on small companies, and the housing market is barely holding itself together.

I'm not buying stock. But I'm not selling either. Although, if I were smart, I would.
Paradox of Female Happiness

Be careful what you wish for.

In short, she argues, despite women exceeding all over the place - in the workplace and in education, their rate of happiness has dipped. Why?

She doesn't offer an explanation and I won't either. I don't presume to know anything about women. But I do know this - no one, no where is entitled to happiness. You can only find it yourself and I have a sneaking suspicion it isn't in the board room or behind a desk.
Crabtree

Reopening talks with 49ers. I guess he sees a 3-1 team with a good chance of winning the division and is thinking he might benefit from playing this season after all. Fact is, the Niners could use him. Their offense is one of the worst in the league. We have no running game (minus two big runs by Gore against Seattle) and no long ball threat (until Josh Morgan learns how to catch). Hill is able to execute a planned play, but does not look for alternative options and is an uncreative quarterback. Our only two bright spots on offense is our general lack of turnovers (mostly due to our conservatism) and Vernon Davis as a tight end. It'd be nice to have Crabtree. He'd improve our down-the-field threat.
Bonnie and Clyde

A retired movie reviewer dissects Bonnie and Clyde. The title says it all: B&C Died for Nihilism.

By far the movie’s gravest insult to posterity, however, is its treatment of the Texas Ranger captain, Frank Hamer, who may (or may not) have been instrumental in bringing them down. As seen in the movie, Hamer (played by Denver Pyle in an uncharacteristically dour performance) is a kind of harsh Puritan ideologue, so righteous that when Bonnie (whom Dunaway has made us love) flirtatiously poses for a funny snapshot with him, he spits savagely in her face. He considers her so morally tainted that he is sickened by her. Then later, like a serpent in a garden, he coos and caresses the blind Blanche (Estelle Parsons in a great, Oscar-winning performance), gulling her into giving up a vital clue that leads to his ambush murder by Thompson submachine gun.

...

That movie, however, certainly could not have been made in 1967 and it certainly can’t be made in 2009: Hamer is too straight, too commanding, too uncompromising for such a treatment. The irony is that Hamer is forgotten while Clyde and Bonnie live on. Hamer stood for something: the idea of right and the guts to make it stick. Clyde and Bonnie stood for nothing, except perhaps infantile nihilism, unformed, incoherent, vicious. If they were ambushed without warning, it’s because each had weapons at hand, and so they wouldn’t widow and orphan other police families. If they were shot to pieces, it’s because the old-time law enforcement guys knew you shot them, and then you shot them some more.

Hamer stands for your grandfather’s authority, annoyance at fools, and the willingness to kill in the belief that he was saving the weak by eliminating their predator. He was a righteous killer, a dinosaur whose time has passed. He’s what Barack Obama swears he’ll change about America.


Ouch. Now that's a bitch slap.
Wobbly

The discussions on Afghanistan are not exactly comforting.

The Democrats and their cheerleaders in the punditocracy used to scream for President George W. Bush to listen to his generals. Then Bush got better generals, listened to them, and avoided defeat in Iraq. Obama, it seems, is bent on ignoring his generals. If he takes the advice of Joe Biden instead of those expert on counterinsurgency (and with a track record of getting war strategy right), the results may be disastrous not only on the battlefield but also in the court of public opinion.


I suspect Obama's natural grace and popularity in some respect is not helping him perform as a President. Too many people give him a "pass" and the media criticizes him with kid gloves. Not unlike a fighter who fights a series of patsies to get a good record, Obama wasn't appropriately tested before becoming President.

My biggest gripe/concern is this community organizing bs that people bought into. Are you effing kidding me? Is this a real job? We got a community organizer as a the commander in chief of a deeply complex war and frankly, I'm a tad nervous. But yeah, I voted for the guy, so I got only myself to blame.
Nikki Finke Bitch Slaps The New Yorker

Ouch.

Does anyone actually read the New Yorker? I don't really know anyone. In California, it's basically a coffee table decoration to impress people from the East Coast.

UPDATE: If you want the good, high end journalism, you stick to the WSJ, the Economist, and the Atlantic. In theory, I suppose the New Yorker serves the arts....

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Yikes

Unemployment numbers are up. And they are especially high if you count discouraged workers, early retirees, or some fraction of people who are working cut-back hours. Scary.

There are signs the economy is recovering as the stock market is picking up. Also, I notice on my job boards an increased amount of activity - again a good sign. However, a lot of folks are still talking about a W shaped recession and speculate we could fall off once again, especially with the APR's on housing coming up and the unimpressive results from the stimulus so far.

I've also noticed price cuts on food. I wonder what that's about. Are gas prices dropping or are grocery stores seeing less business? It wouldn't surprise me as a lot of people buy too much food and let it go bad. It is an easy way to save money - being more economical with food.
A Famous Apache Named Gomez

In two of the most recent Western books I've read or am reading - Dead Man's Walk and now Blood Meridian there is reference to an Apache fighter named Gomez. Is this coincidence or based on a historical figure, I wonder...

Friday, October 02, 2009

No Olympics in Chicago

Even after a plea by Obama.

I don't think it makes the US look weak, but it does appear (after all the media coverage) to be a waste of time...especially considering other pressing matters.
Ouch

Cash for clunkers aftermath. Car sales plummet.

I made an awful, uninformed call on initially supporting this idea. What a complete joke.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Resisting Relativism

Most of my contemporaries will argue taste is subjective. If often comes us in the context of movies - being in LA. They argue, art is in the eye of the beholder, everything is relative, you say tomato, I say tomato, I like Sound of Music and you like Commando, and can't we all just get along?

Well, no.

Art is not relative. It is not a question of popularity or the whims of the public or subject to the vicissitudes of time and chance. It has value outside of those temporary realities - value outside the current trends in art criticism or the assigned market value. It has value is in relation to the truth and to what degree it captures it.

Herein lies the issue - the question of truth. Does Truth exist?

It must.

Because consider the opposite. If there is no Truth what is the basis on which we can assign meaning to art? On what do we base morality? How can we say anything is right or wrong? Good or bad? When we say so-so has good taste or bad taste - that must mean precisely what is stated - good or bad. The phrase is not - so-and-so's taste is "different from the generally accepted amongst the cultural elite." Wrong. It is either good or bad. We must mean what we say.

And because art can be equal (who is to say what is "better" a Monet or a Manet) it does not follow that all art is relative. That all truth is relative.

This is the great question of our time. Our generation was raised on post-modern bullshit. We are taught from early on to consider the other side, how they must view things...and this is wise. But it is not as if pre-modern man did not understand this as well. The Iliad celebrates Hecktor, after all. Lincoln very well understood the position of the Southern Man and nevertheless sent hundreds of thousands of men to die to save the union/end slavery.

We cannot allow our fear of cultural/actual imperialism and the knowledge that we will get wiser as a species over time to discredit the notion of Truth. Because some things are relative, does not make all things relative. Because we change our mind and learn and grow, does not make all things relative.

Truth gets pooh-poohed because so much evil has been done in it's name. Religion all across time has perpetrated absolutely atrocious acts in the name of it. But it would be a gigantic mistake to think it doesn't exist because of these errors. In fact, it is precisely these errors which suggest it must exist. That 2+2 does not equal 5.

Concede this point, relativists, because you will not like the consequences of not.
Let's Make A Deal

Any Brett Farve fans out there? If you still think Farve is a good quarterback, it would be tough to bet against the Vikings winning the NFC. They have the best player in football - Peterson, one of the top pass rushers - Allen, a likely Rookie of the Year - Harvin, the best run defense in the league - Williams Wall, and a HallofFame/perhaps Greatest QB ever - Farve.

I'll take any bets about the Vikings collapse. From ESPN.com:

Honestly, the biggest obstacle the Vikings face is Favre’s stamina. He’s already taken a number of brutal hits as he approaches his 40th birthday and semi-joked that he was ready to collapse Sunday during his postgame news conference.


Yes, I watched the game and it wouldn't have surprised me if Farve collapsed. He took some hits.
Listen to Gates

He was the one who turned the Iraq ship around. Not to mention that he handled the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This is the guy we should listen to on Afghanistan.