Thursday, April 29, 2010

I've Made A Huge Mistake

Ditching 500,000 job to teach lit

Is Dustin Hoffman in Star Wars?

Had a strange moment at lunchtime today. Was at Whole Foods salad bar getting lunch and a college-aged girl is standing next to me and glances over and asks "Can I ask you a question?"

"Where do we pay for this?"

I paused for a moment. Was she serious? What person on the planet doesn't know you grab all the food and pay by weight at the check out counter? I tell her, kindly.

I walk to the check out counter. Was I just getting hit on by a college girl? Was this the Seinfeld "I'll bet you a dinner Dustin Hoffman was in Star Wars" dating-loophole moment?


Denigrating the tea party movement as a reaction to capitalism. I would say, "yeah."

Let's face it - brute - unbridled - zero-sum capitalism is impossible to live under. People need salaries and some type of security to be able to raise children and families. But sure, the brutal market forces are necessary for growth, etc. This tension is the crux of the economic functioning of modern society. And the current imbalance of this tension is why this tea party movement resonates - because people feel like they don't have the tools, ie security, to raise families and give them a decent chance to prosper. And worse, they feel as though elites are gaming the system to their own benefit and detriment of the middle class.

Are they wrong?
ACL Surgery

Next week, I'll be having ACL Surgery. A real bummer. But I'm trying to put as a good a spin on it as possible. At least one mystery is solved - how it happened. It was puzzling me the last couple weeks how on a routine soccer play, I managed to completely tear my ACL after no prior injuries and without hearing a drastic "pop!" Well, it turns out I mostly likely partially tore it while skiing a week a before and then fully tore it by playing soccer the following week. The rate of my athletic play this year was extraordinarily high. I went on two ski trips, was playing soccer twice a week, and throwing in basketball and long bike rides whenever possible. The ACL tear was undoubtedly the result of pushing my nearly 32 year old body a little too much.

So now. What to do? 6 months of no major athletic activity and a lot of physical therapy. My life is going to become much more simple. It has to. Because running around won't be possible. I may end up joining a gym only because I'll need to do additional rehab on my own hours. I have a long standing moratorium on gyms because I hate going to them and they make me think of the montage in Rocky IV where Rocky trains in the wilderness and Drago trains in the fancy Soviet Gyms. That's how I think of gyms - the place where Ivan Drago trains. Maybe I'll find one with a pool, so I can swim. Even though I don't like swimming. I figure on having lots of free time to watch movies/tv and read. Which may be nice. I'm thinking of revisiting some old shows - possibly 6 Feet Under and Cheers. Any other suggestions? I'll probably dig into a big novel. Maybe something Russian, even. Or maybe Ken Follett.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I may just vote for Mickey Kaus for this one line.

It's a stark illustration of the inequities of capitalism that organized labor can only afford to buy one political party, but Wall Street can buy both of them. ...

Treme and How To Fix California

The most moving moments of Treme thus far are the small ones - when individual characters decide "I'm staying, and I'm fixing this." I'm thinking of when Lester Freeman tosses out garbage from the bar he commandeers, when Joanie Stubbs pulls a desert out of her purse, or when the skinny pretty black lady defends staying in her bar as her dentist husband tries to get her to move to Baton Rouge. There is something in this - something foreign - I think you may call it fortitude. It doesn't seem common these days - particularly in California. The much more tempting reaction is to quit. To give up. Treme is going for a theme of rebuilding. It makes sense post- The Wire. The Wire is essay on American decay. Treme is the proposal for fixing it. Baltimore became a symbol of American neglect, a second tier city dying day by day - partially because of the drugs, partially by neglect of the middle class, neglect of the schools, etc. Treme is something else altogether.

It makes me think of California - the only place I know as home. The greatest place in the world, if you ask me. I remember applying to East Coast schools when in college and once the applications were off knew in my heart I wouldn't go. I couldn't imagine leaving this place. And California is broken. Not hurricane Katrina broken, but utterly bankrupt and completely ungovernable. This VDH article offers proposals to fix it.

After all, in no particular order, we would have to close the borders; adopt English immersion in our schools; give up on the salad bowl and return to the melting pot; assimilate, intermarry, and integrate legal immigrants; curb entitlements and use the money to fix infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports, trains, etc.; build 4-5 new damns to store water in wet years; update the canal system; return to old policies barring public employee unions; redo pension contracts; cut about 50,000 from the public employee roles; lower income taxes from 10% to 5% to attract businesses back; cut sales taxes to 7%; curb regulations to allow firms to stay; override court orders now curbing cost-saving options in our prisons by systematic legislation; start creating material wealth from our forests; tap more oil, timber, natural gas, and minerals that we have in abundance; deliver water to the farmland we have; build 3-4 nuclear power plants on the coast; adopt a traditional curriculum in our schools; insist on merit pay for teachers; abolish tenure; encourage not oppose more charter schools, vouchers, and home schooling; give tax breaks to private trade and business schools; reinstitute admission requirements and selectivity at the state university system; take unregistered cars off the road; make UC professors teach a class or two more each year; abolish all racial quotas and preferences in reality rather than in name; build a new all weather east-west state freeway over the Sierra; and on and on.

I don't know about all of these things, but they would be a start. I have tremendous contempt for a country like Saudi Arabia - a place blessed with an abundant natural resource - the national equivalent of hitting the lottery and instead of investing in the citizens and building a great, modern country, they pilfering the money away on a stupid oligarchy. California isn't quite the same, but we too, have won the lottery. Blessed with more natural resources and beauty than one could possibly expect, and yet, somehow just through sheer bad management and dumb ideology have put ourselves into a position where we're broke and don't have the ability to fix it. It makes no sense. It's like watching a talented athlete piss away his career.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stone and Parker

Under threat from Islamic Extremists.

What a bunch of assholes. They should set a trap for these kooks and catch them.
Groups of Men and Groups of Women

And getting separate checks.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lakers In Trouble

I can't see the Lakers getting to the Finals this year. Every team they face in the West is going to be improved from last year. Dallas has this guy Barrea who adds a dynamic to their team I don't remember them having. The Spurs have a healthy Ginobili and this George Hill - who looks to be a baller. The Nuggets added a few guys on their deep bench, but the main thing will be a healthy Carmelo for the series. The Jazz are MUCH deeper than last year and their second team will destroy the Lakers second team. Plus, I can't see the Lakers beating the Jazz at home. And then there's Portland and Phoenix. Either will give the Lakers trouble, Phoenix because of their chemistry and the Nash factor and Portland because, well, Portland always gives the Lakers trouble. But without Roy, I can't see Portland beating anyone really and I don't see Phoenix having the horses to beat the Lakers, sort of like Oklahoma City.

But even Oklahoma City looks poised to give the Lakers a run for their money, but I can't see them winning the series with all the height they give up to the Lakers down low. Neverless, they may provide the chink the in armor needed to expose the Lakers and ruin their confidence. The Lakers are old. Their size is their great advantage, but I don't think it can carry them. Especially because last year was a bit of a delusion as their last two conference playoff teams suffered injuries to their best players - Carmelo and Yao. The most impressive series for the Lakers last year was the Magic.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We're Gonna Run The Football

I guess Singletary means what he says. The Niners just drafted two behemoth offensive linemen. Combined, they weigh 650+ pounds. Gore must be licking his chops. Damn. This could be a good season.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On Risk Taking


Risk has taken a beating recently, thanks to the financial crisis. Risk is supposed to be about choice and consequence. You take a chance and you win or you lose. But then banks and insurance companies found ways to pervert this. They devised ever more esoteric ways to pass risk on to others, so there was, in fact, no risk to them at all. In this distortion, insurance techniques, created to limit risk, exposed millions to it. The laws of probability, originally devised to solve a moral dilemma—how to equitably distribute winnings in a game of chance—wound up inequitably distributing losses to people who didn't even know they were at the table. The architects of these gambles left their jobs with enormous bonuses, and companies that helped cripple the financial system were repaid by the government bailout. They took a chance, and lost—but they still won.

Well, That Explains...

...why some people look like cats.

Would have been nice if Oklahoma City made one of those three point tries at the end of the game against the Lakers last night. Boy, they are a fun team, Oklahoma City. I will enjoy this NBA playoffs. I can't explain the sheer amount of pleasure I receive from rooting against the Lakers. It's very strange.
How Did We Survive?

Before Facebook?
More Unproductive Financial Crap

You would think after being exposed for the ridiculous financial gaming that drove the world economy into the tank, Wall Street wouldn't be so eager to set up more speculative futures trading nonsense. But you would be wrong. They are setting up a futures trading on movie box office.

Ridiculous. Anyone with half a brain can figure out how this will work. Players with inside information will hedge their bets against stupid small investors who like betting on movies. It is more unproductive, waste-of-time-and-waste-of-money shenanigans that Americans for some reason believe can lead to financial success. Whatever happened to making something?

Friday, April 16, 2010

New Form Of Journalism

I've noticed an influx of profiles on writers in today's magazines and blogs. I guess there's only so much to write about, but profiles on Jonathan Gold and Nikki Finke, well, seem a bit odd. This one takes it to a new level - writing on the writing about Tina Fey.

The chattering classes can chatter and the feminists could suck the fun out of a Chuck E. Cheese.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Explanation of the the Financial Crisis

I'm retying this in whole because I can't find it online and it is the best explanation of the financial crisis I've yet to read. By Jon Carrol -

"Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit. She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting customers loans).

Word gets around about Heidi's 'drink now, pay later' marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit. By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages.

Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively. A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders transform these customer bonds into DRINKBONDS, BOOZEBONDS, and WHOAREYOUAGAINBONDS. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets. Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as AAA secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics. The bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi. Heidi then demands payment from her patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics, they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations, she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and the eleven employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBONDS, BOOZEBONDS, and WHOAREYOUAGAIN BONDS drop in price by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community. The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the various bond securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds. Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multibillion-dollar no-strings-attached cash infusion from their cronies in government. The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers who have never been in Heidi's bar."


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Good, But Strange, Double Feature

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and We Own the Night. There is no thematic tie or design to this double feature. I watched Rom and Michele because I'm using a similar plot conceit in a new script and wanted to be educated on the movie. I found nothing to steal. This movie is very, very strange. Enjoyable, but totally weird. A 10 minute random dream sequence in the middle of the movie? Mira Sorvino's voice? Was she joking? Is her voice really that deep? Just the overall slow paced absurdity of this film was surprising to me. It had the overall messy feel and goofy humor of 30 Rock without the wicked pace or political elements.

We Own The Night. No one I know talks about James Gray as a filmmaker, which is strange, because the guy seems to be making pretty interesting melodramatic movies. We Own the Night is a fine film. I can tell because when something big happened, I didn't want the movie to be over. A 3rd sequence plot element came as a complete surprise/shock to me - didn't see it coming at all - and it's rare when that happens in a film. And it works. I will watch his other movies. Some excellent lighting and shots in this movie as well.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Great Alex Smith Question

Rumors abound the Niners are considering picking a QB with the 13th pick in the NFL draft. Hmmmm.

If the Niners were thinking about a QB, why didn't they go for McNabb? Weak NFL West with the Niners defense and Gore and Crabtree coming along. McNabb would get them in the playoffs for sure, barring injuries. The defense is young and good. The question mark is Gore's longevity. He's gotten injured the last couple of years and has lots of wear and tear on him.

But going with another unknown - a Jimmy Clauson type pick? Seems not to make much sense. Without a good QB coach or system, we're destined to not develop a great quarterback unless a Peyton Manning or John Elway drops from the sky. Not happening. Not in this draft.

I say stick with Smith, although it goes against all my objective thoughts on the matter. If a guy doesn't step up and find it within himself to be "the man" when the opportunity is presented, generally, it ain't ever going to happen. Smith has had multiple opportunities and never really quite shown the spark. Initially, I thought he got a bad rap with Nolan and then last year really stepped up for like 1/2 games at a time. He never really delivered. But the way I see it, maybe we just need to give the guy a total reset and think of last year like he was a rookie. When viewed through that perspective, we give it a go this year and then decide whether he's meant to be a back up or a real quarterback. This is the best opportunity Alex Smith is going to get. A weak division, a strong running back, and a good defense, in a passing league. If he can't succeed in this situation, he isn't going to succeed.

I'm not confident.
What Makes A Bad Filmmaker?

I'll still see DATE NIGHT, but by all reports, the movie stinks. How can a rom-com starring Tina Fey and Steve Carrel at the top of their game with supporting roles for Mark Ruffalo, Kristin Wiig, and Marky Mark stink?

Ask Shawn Levy.
Jersey Shore Spin Offs

A Russian, Persian, and Asian version of Jersey Shore are all in the works. All sound good to me
Funny Website

My very worst date

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Cowards Way

A new site offers "candid" advice from co-workers and employees about performance - all anonymously, so no one can seek out retribution.

Why anyone ever listens to "anonymous" information is beyond me. I can understand in espionage circles or in journalism where sources need protection because of security issues...but other than those rare cases, "anonymous" information is useless information. It the voice of the cowardly and the petty. It if it not important enough to speak up and be told - face to face - mano to mano - it can be said to not be important at all.

To think this type of information is useful is to read the comment sections on blogs and mistake it for meaning. This new media world is a descent into pettiness. I don't approve.

Finally watched Clockers last night for the first time. Was the opening title sequence inspired by Law and Order or the other way around? Or were both from another source altogether? A good movie - a spiritual ancestor to THE WIRE. But strange at the same time. Strikingly inelegant filmmaking. And this was his 6th film? It got me trying to remember the filmmaking in Malcolm X and Mo Better Blues. And I almost can't, since I saw them so long ago. You expect a sloppiness in a Do The Right Thing or She's Gotta Have It. But by this time in his career? Strange. Nevertheless, quite an interesting film. Felt very time specific and certainly doesn't hold up or quite feel relevant today. Not all movies are timeless. Some can be appreciated for the specificity. This is one of them.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Empowering Iran

Article on why the Iraq war was stupid and reactionary and empowered Iran.

Did I miss something here? In 2003, our primary concern was Al Queda, the Taliban, and other Sunni (read Saudi) affiliated terrorist groups and WMDs. Iran was on our shitlist, but also happened to be the enemies of these Sunni groups. So explain to me why such a recalibration of Middle East power, into the hands of a fragile Shiite regime was such a bad thing...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

No Game Whatsoever

I've never considered myself someone with any "game" whatsoever. Yet after watching one episode of Millionaire Matchmaker, I got a sudden boost of confidence. Those dudes were freaking losers and it was painful to watch. The girls weren't even cool, but they made the guys seem like complete tools. The girls are golddiggers by definition and most of them couldn't bring themselves to dig these guys.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Quote from a book within a book

Damn good:

Talent must be a fanatical mistress. She's beautiful; when you're with her, people watch you, they notice. But she bangs on your door ad odd hours, and she disappears for long stretches, and she has no patience for the rest of your existence: your wife, your children, your friends. She is the most thrilling evening of your week, but some day she will leave you for good. One night, after she's been gone for years, you will see her on the arm of a younger man, and she will pretend not to recognize you.

I recommend CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff.