Thursday, December 30, 2010


What is the difference between Jonathan Franzen and Noah Baumbach? The question is relevant to the long readers of Public Musings who know my long standing one-sided feud with Baumbach. Here we have a novel that superficially explores the exact themes Baumbach explores in his films: the overriding anxiety and cruelness of self hating privileged coastal liberals who are mostly white and usually some Jew. Why is it that Baumbach sucks and Franzen just wrote the best book I've read in a long time. What makes it different?

Maybe it is just depth, I don't know. It is as if Baumbach explores only the external, ie petty and cruel and self-hating behavior, whereas Franzen connects it internally to psychology and competitiveness and family and political leanings and history. Maybe it is the privilege of the novelist to go inside and the disability of the filmmaker to be suck outside. Could it be that simple? Or is it something else? Is Franzen a greater explorer of the human experience, understanding and making connections between family and "freedom" and behavior and goodness, whereas Baumbach is only a superficial chronicler of tastes and behavior of a particularly odious set of privileged self-hating liberal arts graduates?

Franzen digs in. He goes damn deep and finds ugliness and some very difficult truths. I hesitate to say I love his new book, although I picked it up Christmas morning and finished it's nearly 600 pages in 4 days. I bought and paid for the book happily. I would recommend it to all my reading friends. I would say it is better than any movie I've seen this year. And yet there is something missing. Call me old fashioned and silly, but if I'm on a desert island and I have to choose from the best McMurtry or Steinbeck or James Jones vs. Franzen, I think I'm going to pick the former. Cause I'm still a sap and believe in human greatness. I don't think we'll all just these weak, petty, and ultimately small people. Sure, my life experience is much closer to the characters in a Franzen book than those in a McMurtry book or a Steinbeck book, but I still want to believe in human greatness and heroism and stupid old aspirational myths. The other road leads to a self-loathing beyond imagination. A wholly weak and unredemptive end. A cultural and economic suicide. It is right there in Walter's discussion of overpopulation. His admiration for the Chinese old-child rule. His insistence that human beings and our imprint is going to ruin the planet and other species. That this is the ultimate issue to Franzen and Walter. Franzen, I think, has the balls to admit he isn't being satirical here. He means it. Or at least his character does and I know it isn't the same. Because, yes, I'm talking about Franzen the work since I know nothing of Franzen the person.

That's enough for now. The book is great. Sophisticated and admirable in the drawing of connections between past and family and behavior and choices and trying to provide a little guide of the core question of the novel: how does one live? I don't suppose a novel can aspire to much more these days.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ben Hecht

Robert Ebert attributes some fine quotes to the great man:

Charmaine (Lucy Punch), who is an "actress" and reminds me of Ben Hecht’s definition of actress: "any woman under 30 who is not actively employed in a brothel, with many exceptions." (His definition of actor: "a waiter.")
Thank You

Finally, the 49ers are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and I will no longer be subject to the torture of watching their games.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fascinating Issue

Over Thanksgiving I noticed an extra sales tax at San Francisco restaurants. I asked my friends, "What's that about?" They rolled their eyes, "Newsom added a tax so all restaurants pay for their workers health insurance. Here is a link to an article from the San Francisco magazine titled: Is San Francisco Killing Its Restaurants?

But stories like these haven’t been heard so often these last couple of years. Opening a restaurant in San Francisco is becoming prohibitively expensive, and it’s tougher than ever for untested talent to strike out on its own. Even well-established chefs are beginning to question their future here. A widening rift between city hall and the local restaurant community has pitted two of San Francisco’s most cherished institutions—its culinary soul and its social conscience—against each other, and more and more restaurateurs are feeling like they’re losing the battle.

Watch this issue if you care about progressivism at all. Herein lies the fundamental progressive irony. In order to provide for all, you end up punishing the most productive. You end up cannibalizing your greatest strengths as a community. And this is not theoretical. Read the article. Each restaurant listed are gems of the San Francisco restaurant scene. The owners of Delfina take in $200,000 per year. After paying for the new healthcare law, they take home $100,000. What is that incentivizing? Do you think it makes them want to work more? Be more productive?

I'm going to call out progressives here. Most progressives are progressive in theory only. Most people in favor of universal healthcare are not at the same time willing to pay for it for others. Most progressive ideology, when you boil it down to business, amounts to: compelling others to pay for it. They naturally target the rich - and by rich - they often mean people who make high incomes. Versus, people with wealth. This is total side issue - but why not tax wealth vs. income anyway? Why do progressives not argue for this? I'm not a progressive, so I understand why I don't support it. But I wonder why no one talks about this...

...separate note, a true progressive ought to practice what they preach. And by that I mean, pay for other people's healthcare themselves. See how it feels. See how difficult it is. Try it. Start a small business and hire people and pay for all their healthcare and retirement, etc. See how much it costs. See how you balance it with the incoming money. And if you are somehow savvy enough to survive in this brutal world, treat all your employees humanely, and turn a profit. And when you do all this - and you retain your progressive ideals and it mirrors your own business practices - then you earn the right to be listened to.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


A businessman accidentally brings a snub nosed glock onto the a plane.

And he wasn't caught by security. Once, security found a Swiss Army knife in a side pocket of my dop kit. It was on the return it go by security on the first leg of my flight.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

But of Course He Was...

Julian Assange's internet dating profiles from 2006.

It is impossible to make an internet dating profile without sounding like a creepy bastard. Which is one reason not to do it.

There is an irony to Assange - the guy is getting exactly what he wished for - the type of world where no information is private, so now everyone will know every last little strange thing about the guy. I can't imagine that can sit well with him.
Sandwich Recipes


At the time, I thought Seinfeld came across as defensive. Looking back, he gave him what Larry King deserves. The guy is a star fucker and a bore. I didn't watch him, so I won't miss him.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sounds Good

HBO documentary of Vince Lombardi.
Thank God We Have Gates

What a quote: Saudis want to fight Iran to the last American.

I'm not totally convinced we are on the right side in the Arab/Persian conflict. It seems to me, the Persians are more natural allies to the US than the Arabs. The problem with Iran are the Ayatollah's. The problem with the Arabs are the Arabs. Arab democracy would be Islamicist and racist and dally in fascism. Arab monarchies and autocrats are basically gangsters. There is zero evidence of any better alternatives. What we see in Iraq and Lebanon are the options - one where American gets involved, and one where America doesn't get involved. Both suck. One costs us money and prestige. The other is moral negligence and will end up on our shores eventually.
Good Line

Megan McCardle talking about economic liberty and single payer and the commerce clause:

This doesn't seem to be a question that interests progressives; they just aren't very excited about economic liberty beyond maybe the freedom to operate a food truck.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's Called Gold Digging

And they're ain't nothing wrong with it.

Last year, Jill Berry, the then president of The Girls’ Schools Association, publicly said what many of us women in our late 30s and early 40s have come to realise.

She said that combining a high-powered career and motherhood and doing both well is impossible. It’s time we stopped feeding girls the fairy tale that they can do it all — and I agree.

But, more than that, I think most women — if given a truly free choice — would choose to stay at home and look after their children in their infancy.

When you're right, you're right.
My Kind of Girl

Winona Ryder does not use the internet.

For now, Ryder would rather spend her time pursuing other interests, like making movies, finding a nice guy, and hopefully, having kids.

Ehhh, hem.
Julian Assange

This guy is a bond villain.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


The nearly seven month drought is over. I played teams sports tonight. Pick up basketball. My handles were terrible. I couldn't hit a jumper. My team got their ass kicked three times. I needed to wear an ACL brace. And it was totally awesome.

Let me explain. I had ACL surgery six and half months ago. The only exercise I do is go to the gym and do various cardio and strengthening exercises, ride a bike, go hiking, or run. I enjoying hiking and biking. But neither one of them compares to the simple joy of pick up basketball, much less an organized soccer league.

I don't know what it is exactly. Partially social. Partially competition. Partially creativity - I've come to understand in later years. I can't put my finger on it. But you don't realize how great sports are until you don't do them for awhile.

The one upside of not playing hard sports for 6 months - by toe nails grew back and were almost 100% healed. They haven't been normal since high school. That went out the window tonight as well - I jammed my toe, it is totally black and blue, I'll lose the nail in a week or so.

It's good to be back.
Fox Suing

Fox is suing to stop script leaking.

This is a similar issue to Wikileaks. Obviously, it isn't good for anyone - filmmakers, fans, etc - for early drafts of scripts to get out and make the rounds. Ruins all the fun of the movies.
Good Point, Lou Holtz

On sports radio this morning Lou Holtz was talking about Urban Meyer. Apparently, Urban and a lot of other coaches who know Holtz, call him up for advice. Back when Urban was getting started, he asked Holtz to recommend him for a job at Bowling Green, which he did. When Urban got the job he told Holtz he was going to turn it down because "it wasn't a very good job." Holtz told him - "of course it isn't a good job. If it was a good job, they wouldn't be hiring. No one leaves a good job. There are only bad jobs -- you gotta make it into a good job." Meyer took the job. 2 years later he was at Utah. 2 years after that, Florida.

I think this advise extends way beyond college football and into any career. No one leaves good jobs. No one takes fliers on people without experience for good jobs. Meyer was coming off being a WR coach at Notre Dame. You don't get hired to coach Florida or Notre Dame, no matter how charming and cool you are. (one counter-example: Obama). You get the cool jobs after you have a shit job and make it cool.
The Case Against Being A Political Wife

Yes, it is a sad story. Made all the sadder by the public nature of it.

I think sorrow is better served alone. But I'm not sure.
Of All The Places

I rarely go to Bristol Farms. It strikes me as an older-LA version of Whole Foods. Just as overpriced, but perhaps not as fresh.

But yesterday I was in Beverly Hills needing to grab a quick breakfast. It isn't easy to find a quick, easy breakfast place in Beverly Hills. Dropped into Bristol Farms knowing the BH location had a little cafe. They have this deal: eggs, bacon, toast, potatoes, fruit, and a coffee for $3.99. It was pretty good. Not excellent, but pretty good. What a deal, though. I couldn't believe it. I go to a place like Huckleberry and spent $7-8 to get a coffee and prosciutto croissant.

Sometimes you find things in strange places.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fake Facebook

Fake facebook pages are welcoming incoming college freshman. See...this doesn't seem newsworthy to me. I just assume everything on Facebook is fake. Which it is.

And this is not true:

A Facebook spokesman, Simon Axten, said that the social network “prohibits the use of fake names and false identities.” Mr. Axten said Facebook was “investigating” Mr. Gaither’s endeavors.

How can they prohibit "false identities"? They didn't prohibit mine.
Jeter Pissed

Jeter is upset how his negotiations with the Yankees went.

The conundrum is this: the value of one's labor is inconsistent with one's value as a person. It is in many ways, fundamentally dehumanizing. This why men in their mid 50s get laid off from their corporate VP jobs - they are getting paid too much and don't provide enough value to their companies. So what do they do? They can't go out and get other jobs - they have too much pride, too much experience, too much money to make it worth their while to do jobs they are qualified for. These are men with families. Men put stock and value in what they do for a living and whether they are able to provide. You take that away - and whether it ought to or not - it can crush a soul.

Now any reasonable person would be stupid to feel sorry for Jeter. The man just got a deal that will pay him more than most any normal person will make in his/her life. He's banged more hot chicks than me and all my friends COMBINED. He's marrying Lyla Garrity for chrissake. But his pride is hurting because his value to the Yankees now is not consistent with how he views himself. Look at his stats last year:

Jeter had a .270 batting average with 10 homers this past season, down from a .334 average and 18 homers the previous season. Although his RBIs increased by one to 67, his on-base percentage fell from .406 to .340, and his slugging average dropped from .465 to .370.

And he's 38 years old. If this guy was on my team, I'd tell him to take a hike. I can pay a promising triple A player to get those kind of stats the league minimum or hire a journeyman veteran like Mark Ellis for $3-5 mil a year, I bet. But who wants to face such things? Not even Jeter. To see yourself the way the market sees you - that'll crush a man - eventually.
The Best Every Day Breakfast

Developed over years of testing, I have found the perfect every day breakfast.

Jalapeno cheese bagel purchased from the bread truck at the Santa Monica farmer's market. $1 each (note - a Jalapeno cheese bagel costs the same as a plain bagel - both $1)*

Beefstock Tomato - $2 for a big one

Cream Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Toast Bagel. Put on cream cheese. Put on generous pieces of the tomato. Salt and Pepper the Tomato. Eat either as a sandwich or open faced (open faced is better, but if space is an issue, the sandwich works as well)

Although the beefstock tomato seems indulgent, it is the key. Yes, they are priced higher than regular tomatoes, but the flavor of a beefstock mixed with the spice of the jalepeno and cheese. Really delicious. Salt and Pepper on the tomato is key. Brings over the flavor more. It really is the perfect bfast.

*I also recently learned it does not cost extra to get your fries "animal style" at In and Out. At corner bakery, you order a bagel and cream cheese with tomato and it costs the same as just ordering bagel and cream cheese. I find it interesting when places price things the same, even though it seems like they could add a premium. I wonder why? It might have to do with the system set up with the registers and training employees, etc, that is is simply easier and more cost effective to give away items as opposed to having a system where they can charge for it.
A Word

I doubt there is a word for the overwhelming urge to play Yahtzee, but there should be.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Oh Boy

Heard on the radio today the Dems and Republicans are in talks about a budget deal that will, get this -- extend the Bush Era tax cuts to the top 2% AND extend unemployment benefits.

And we wonder why the tea party is so popular. This is why. Americans are rightfully worried about the debt. Just like they are worried about carrying credit card balances. We understand for every dollar borrowed, we are paying $1.20 to $1.40 in the future. Are deficits the end of the world? No. But we're so overextended right now and weren't tight when we had money, so now we're in a shit position. We are in danger of taking on waaaay too much.

I can't stand the Democrats who call out Republicans and Tea Partiers for being hypocrites because there was a lot of spending during the Bush Admin. Do they forget that we had a fiscal crisis in 2008 that totally changed the way we need to think about how we run our economy? It's as if that factor didn't matter. And extending the Bush Era tax cuts and worrying about the debt at the same time? I mean, jesus, you gotta pick a side if you're a conservative. What it is: tax cuts or cut the debt. One or the other. Make a choice.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Wikileaks Founder

From his blog archive.

Welcome to the future. Where the idiots and nonsense rule.
That's LA For You

A description of the apartment building where the hitman who shot the hollywood publicist lived.

Beginning to sound a bit too familiar.

A study shows that.


Freakonomics argues Russian and Qatar are the losers in winning the World Cup bid. Huh?

There are limits to contrarian thought. It is called common sense. Someone has to host the World Cup. And by Freakonomics analysis, because of the structure of the "prize," the winner is always going to be the loser. Huh? Makes no sense. Maybe Qatar overpaid or whatever. But they don't really define how or why Qatar overpaid.

I see the World Cup as a country equivalent to an individual buying a new car. Invariably, it will partially be about good old fashioned status. And fun. This is why not everyone drives a Honda or sensible cars. People like big ass SUVs and cool as shit Audis. And if you work yourself into a position where you can afford to splurge, there are things worth splurging on. I'd say a nice splurge for a country is to host the World Cup.

And it is embarrassing for the US to go after a bid and lose to Qatar. A freaking country with 1.4 million people. Are you kidding me? Until one of my roommates moved there a couple years ago, I didn't even know a city in Qatar (Doha). They might as well as had Santa Monica host the World Cup.

An examination of Japan's lack of economic growth. Is it a bad thing?

Global headlines describe Japan as a sluggish basket case. But as Europe comes to grips with a common currency and fractured fiscal policies and the United States faces its own excesses, one has to wonder whether Japan may not have quietly, possibly even unintentionally, discovered a new way to manage its economy: a low-inflation system that sacrifices dynamism for steadiness.

Star of David on Iran's National Airline roof. No one noticed until google earth.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Wikileaks totally shut down.

Pretty damn stupid comments from wikileaks supporters on twitter - such as -

"If Amazon are so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books," it read.

Jeez...I didn't know the first amendment meant everyone could read and listen to everyone else's every word. Privacy people! This Facebook and internet world is really dangerous in terms disclosure of information. Ezra Klein via Yglesias weighs in:

Assange isn’t whistleblowing or leaking. Both of those are targeted acts focused on an identified wrongdoing or event. He’s simply taking the private and making it public, with relatively little in the way of discrimination. If he’s really effective, the likely outcome won’t be that people know more, but that they know less, as major institutions — both public and private — will stop sharing their information so widely internally and stop writing so much of it down. That means decision-makers will know less, bureaucrats and managers will know less, reporters will know less, historians will know less, and so on. Assange may think his target is the U.S. government, or Goldman Sachs. But at the end of the day, there will still be governments and there will still be banks. What Assange is really doing is turning them against electronic text, file storage and large internal networks.

Wikileaks and BofA

Big investors step in to buy BofA as the stock plunges on Wikileak information.

Well, this Wikileak stuff is getting mighty nasty. Anyone with a grudge can tank companies and government information by just copying files up to the internet.

A couple of forces converging here -

1. Technology of copying and how easily everything can be copied and disbursed these days.

2. Grievance-mongering and the culture of indulging every single little petty grievance

3. Piracy and the overall erosion of intellectual property value

I remember a couple of years ago being at a New Years Party in San Francisco and getting into a big 'ole argument with some dude about how all movies and music ought to be free over the internet. I'm no stooge of the movie studios or the music studios - but I was like - obviously someone needs to be paid for their work - otherwise no one would make movies or tv. He argued people would still make it. I was like - yeah - but it would suck. I mean, do you watch Youtube? That's what the whole world of entertainment would become - Youtube and Facebook.

Fact is, most young people have never created anything of actual value. And so they don't really have any idea about the sheer amount of work that goes into these things. And they don't want to pay for it because they don't have much money. This is obviously short sited and can be ascribed to a folly of youth. The greater problem is this youthful naivete is lasting longer and longer and being indulged into middle age. This cycle is problematic. You get older people behaving like teenagers - entitled, selfish, etc. There are no jobs for our 20-30 set, so they have no money, no responsibility, and like teenagers, are reliant on largess from parents or government or loans or something other than their own sweat to get by. So perhaps it should not be a surprise that piracy and grievance-mongering is more widespread. Couple this with the EASE of it -- and yeah -- now we have national security leakage and Bank of America stocks tanking.

So what would a smart person do? Buy the stock.

Why animals put up with bullying.

What's more, well-connected marmots lived longer and reproduced more, even if their social connections put them on the receiving end of aggression. "Interacting with others is valuable, even if the interactions are nasty," Blumstein says.

Actually, this makes sense.

And then this:

Blumstein thinks researchers have focused too much on friendly interactions when they study how groups evolved. "We need to think more about the role of aggression," he says.


When I was younger and would get in trouble for picking on my younger sisters, my defense was often "I'm toughening them up for the real world." Although clearly this was oftentimes a clever excuse for the sadistic pleasures of bugging siblings...there may be some truth in it.

Last night I had an hour to watch some TV, so I automatically checked HBO on demand. I've already watched Eastbound and Down season 2 and didn't like it all that much. Nothing caught my eye. I zoned out of Boardwalk Empire midway through episode 3. So I switched over to AMC. Rubicon, Walking Dead, and Mad Men...all shows I'd at least check out.

If it wasn't for LUCK coming soon, I'd consider canceling HBO. What is worth watching anymore? Even the shows I watch - Entourage, Treme are each a little bit of a stretch and no where near the level of Sopranos or the Wire.

I have a theory that the stock market bumps up at the beginning of each month because there is an influx of people adding to their retirement accounts on automatic deductions from their paychecks or otherwise scheduled stock purchases. Someone should look at that.