Saturday, December 31, 2011


Ebert on why the box office is down.

The movies stink, man. I know the studios think to themselves, we can only make 5-10 really good movies a year and the rest we have to rely on tricking the audience to go see. How stupid and cynical is that? Once you hold that belief, it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. Also - I know there is an anti-trust thing with the theaters being owned by the studios, but it seems to me no longer applicable. If I were super rich, I'd buy a studio and a theater chain, merge it, keep popcorn prices and ticket prices reasonable, and commit to making only quality movies with budgets under 50 mil. I know people think this is a preposterous goal - but I actually think the competition is so low - it could actually be accomplished. HBO essentially does it on TV and succeeds. It'd be like the Devil Rays or the OKC Thunder of the movie world.

Film: Mission Impossible, Ghost Protocol

Here was my logic - I wanted to see a movie. Girl With A Dragon Tattoo was the obvious choice, but I looked it up and it was 2 hrs and 40 minutes long. This, for a story I've already read, already seen a previous version of the movie, and don't really care for. There are no actors in the film that make want to go see it - the only reason to go to this film, for me, is to see what David Fincher was able to do with the material. I love Fincher. He might be the best working filmmaker in Hollywood, but he is fundamentally, a technician, a visual master, and not someone with something vital to say about the world. I couldn't imagine really enjoying myself while watching this film. I already know what is going to happen and I already know it is not a masterpiece just by the reviews and word of mouth, etc. So what is the point?

Instead, I decided to see Mission Impossible, figuring lower expectations, maybe I'll actually enjoy myself. I was sort of right. The movie had some good wide shots. A few good action sequences in the first half of the movie. But ultimately, it was just exhausting. It felt like they tried to cram in 4 heist movies into one. The entire last act is simply a repeat of the second act. The stakes are preposterous and make ZERO sense. The movie was totally bereft of any ideas. Strange, considering Brad Bird did The Incredibles, a cartoon which was rich with ideas about middle aged angst, impotence, recalling past glory, rising above the crowd, all sorts of good stuff. To like this Mission Impossible is to accept such a narrow and small concept of what a movie can be these days. Non-stop nonsensical action. By the end, when the nuclear missile is flying around the world, not for one second am I thinking "Oh, no, don't let it explode." Stupid. Totally tension-less in the 3rd act.

The only thing worse were the previews. I believe I saw three movies where the "stakes" were the world was going to be destroyed. Is this the only goal that the studios think will get the audiences out of the house? Must the world be actually destroyed for people to go and see a movie? Whatever happened to just a bad guy killing someone or stealing some money? Isn't that enough to root against? Is it really that the entire world is going to be destroyed by some sort of creatures from another dimension or the past or some crazy technology? These plots strike me as "little man's" syndrome, excessive overcompensation for lack of story telling ability.

Friday, December 30, 2011


Film: Due Date

The theme of my Christmas break seems to be mediocre comedies from on demand. I laughed during Due Dute. It was no Hangover, but it wasn't that bad. A very funny line from Zach G. "When he was alive, he enjoyed coffee and when he died, he was enjoyed as coffee." I suppose it only makes sense if you've seen the movie.

Book: The Tao of Warren Buffett

Just simple investing and life advice that took 1 hour to read. When Buffett is about to buy a stock he thinks if the stock market closed tomorrow for 10 years, would he still feel comfortable about owning the company before he purchases. This keeps him away from weird tech stocks and other stuff. Smart.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Writing Advice

Of course the best one comes from Mark Twain.

"Write without pay until somebody offers pay; if nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for." ~ Mark Twain

9 foot tall super soldier mourns Kim Jong Il.

File that one under headlines I would have never anticipated.
Social Media: Too Much Buzz

More like too much bullshit.

Social media is a party that the cool folks left a hour ago.

Film: Dinner For Schmucks

So I only made it about halfway through before falling asleep. Strange movie. I was actually enjoying the tone until Steve Carrel showed up. His character made almost zero sense. I want to see the French original on which it is based. Another plotting point that made no sense was his girlfriend's strident reaction to Paul Rudd going to dinner. Very strange and obviously just some obstacle the screenwriters needed to come up with. Not character based or realistic. A plotting hiccup.
Brilliant Article

Shareholder value: the dumbest idea in the world.

A scathing article on the retarded practices of the business world. One pretty startling point - it all started with creating a problem (principal-agent) that didn't really exist -

The article performed the old academic trick of creating a problem and then proposing a solution to the supposed problem that the article itself had created. The article identified the principal-agent problem as being that the shareholders are the principals of the firm—i.e., they own it and benefit from its prosperity, while the executives are agents who are hired by the principals to work on their behalf.

The principal-agent problem occurs, the article argued, because agents have an inherent incentive to optimize activities and resources for themselves rather than for their principals. Ignoring Peter Drucker’s foundational insight of 1973 that the only valid purpose of a firm is to create a customer, Jensen and Meckling argued that the singular goal of a company should be to maximize the return to shareholders.

I call these people "Tinkerers," the types who are always trying to fix problems that don't really exist and in doing so, often create larger problems. Examples: fans of instant replay in football, drunk driving laws, health care regulations, rewrites on movie scripts, etc.

Jack Welch puts it well -

“On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy… your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products. Managers and investors should not set share price increases as their overarching goal. … Short-term profits should be allied with an increase in the long-term value of a company.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Film: The Artist

After watching this movie, I had an urge to re-watch Miller's Crossing, which I did via on demand. This is maybe the first time I've used on demand. It cost $3 - just as good as going to blockbuster (except that blockbuster now charges only .99). I was impressed with the number of movies available. I love Miller's Crossing. It might be the best written movie of the Cohen brothers - or at the very least - some of the best dialog. People always talk about Sorkin being the successor to Ben Hecht and Preston Sturges, but I don't see it. Miller's Crossing is much more in that vein than Social Network - truly witty dialog, full of flair and panache. Example:

Tom Reagan: All in all not a bad guy - if looks, brains and personality don't count.
Verna: You better hope they don't.

Come on. That's better dialog than anything Sorkin's ever written.

The Artist was enjoyable. Clever. A nice reminder of the basics of movie going. Some very good moments. Every year, someone still manages to make a movie that makes you go "Huh. Good idea." I probably won't watch it again, but was glad I saw it in the theater.

Monday, December 26, 2011

You Don't Say

Affirmative action does not work.

Racial preferences, says University of San Diego law professor Gail Heriot , have backfired. She is one of three members of the civil rights commission urging the Supreme Court to recognize the damage it unleashed when it allowed racial “diversity’’ to trump the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Skin color was always an ill-contrived proxy for diversity of experiences and beliefs. What more than 30 years of race-based admissions have made clear, Heriot argues, is that “even with the best motives in the world, race-based admissions do far more harm than good.’’ Especially to the students they are supposed to help .

I think sport provide a pretty good example of why affirmative action is a bad idea. Imagine tossing in a few token Asians into a basketball game simply because they wanted "diversity" on the field. Whatever it's original purpose, this example shows how it's more outdated than an Apple IIe.
You Don't Say

Affirmative action does not work.

Racial preferences, says University of San Diego law professor Gail Heriot , have backfired. She is one of three members of the civil rights commission urging the Supreme Court to recognize the damage it unleashed when it allowed racial “diversity’’ to trump the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Skin color was always an ill-contrived proxy for diversity of experiences and beliefs. What more than 30 years of race-based admissions have made clear, Heriot argues, is that “even with the best motives in the world, race-based admissions do far more harm than good.’’ Especially to the students they are supposed to help .

I think sport provide a pretty good example of why affirmative action is a bad idea. Imagine tossing in a few token Asians into a basketball game simply because they wanted "diversity" on the field. That's how stupid an idea affirmative action is.
Showbiz Analysis

Pretty interesting.

He likes IMax and not 3-D. I was at Best Buy the other day and the sales clerk says next year, they are going to be pushing 3D TVs and phasing out everything else. Really? Who the hell is going to watch 3D TV? What is it going to even look like? What if you have people over - is everyone going to bring their own glasses? This entire concept is absurd. No one wants this crap.

Also was thinking about Avatar -- by the far the best example of 3D movie making. Question: imagine Avatar NOT in 3D. Do people still flock to theaters? I think so. I think the movie is visually spectacular WITHOUT the 3D. Sure, it made it more of an event, but I still don't believe there is a rich future in 3D. People don't care about this crap. They care about seeing good stories well told. And I think the comparisons to sound cinema are not relevant. Or color. Sound and color are obvious game changers. You could take the dumbest person off the street and they can see the immediate difference and be like: I get it. With 3D, the immediate reaction is sort of like "whhaaaaaa????," and people aren't sure whether they like it better or not. I imagine the majority of people are annoyed with it. With color and sound, you always had purists who though, oh no, this is going to change things for the worse, but the average lay person I'm sure was like - "oh cool, what is this." Not so for 3D. The average lay person is like "$4 more for tickets? I have to wear these stupid glasses to get like 3 feet of depth? Not for me. I'll stream a movie on Netflix."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

NFL Week 16 - What We Learned

1. God was apparently busy preparing for Christmas the last two weeks because Tebow played awful again. 4 interceptions today. I wonder how much longer this nonsense will last. The Broncos can lose to anyone in the league. And seriously - isn't it the job of a reporter to question Tebow - if God is responsible for your good luck, isn't he also responsible for your bad luck? I don't think this is being anti-religious, just a decent reporter. Religious people can't seriously think God would spend one ounce of energy on football of all things.

2. I doubt we will see Adrian Peterson play football again. A torn ACL and MCL in mid-career for a running back. It takes a year to recover from an ACL and this was a particularly bad one judging by the replay and the fact that both the ACL and MCL are torn. I always thought AP was going to get a nasty injury, just by the way he runs. Tom Brady returned after a year off from an ACL, but he's an immobile QB, whereas AP is a violent runner. Also, remember, AP tore an ACL in college. I just don't see him playing again, even though he is a young man. Turning out to be just like Gayle Sayers.

3. Marshawn Lynch is one of the best running backs in the league. The man is a beast. The Seahawks are a QB away from having a legitimate playoff team.

4. Alex Smith is actually a good quarterback. I'm riding this guy. He isn't flashy, he isn't getting on ESPN, but he simply does not make mistakes. All of a sudden, I have confidence in the guy. And I think the Niners are better off so long as the rest of the football world snickers about Alex Smith. Let all the degenerate gamblers outthink themselves and bet against him in the playoffs. He is legit, especially if you consider the Niners are depleted at receiver and Gore isn't running the way he was early in the year.

5. Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan are in a really strange place. I assume the Jets aren't making the playoffs this year. Where does this leave the team? Their aging defense is no longer dominant and their running game is no longer strong. Sanchez is unmasked as the lousy QB he's always been and clearly cannot carry the team. They are in a tough spot. Rex deserves it for being such a blowhard.

6. What is Colin Cowherd going to say when the Jets and Cowboys don't make the playoffs? I think the Giants are beating the Cowboys this week and Cowherd is always fellating Sanchez and Romo for being good when it counts. So what happens when both teams don't make the playoffs? I wonder if he eats his words.

Playoffs are going to be fun this year.

TV: Hung, rest of season 3

Felt unfinished. I guess they thought the show would keep going. It seems HBO is moving away from their experiment in the 25 minute dramadies - Hung, Bored to Death, and How to Make It. Smart move.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Take Your Time

It is okay by me if they keep the shadow inventory of foreclosed homes. Maybe by the time they release the inventory, me and my peer group will be ready to buy -- and it'll be as cheap as can be.

TV: Hung Season 3, Ep. 2-8

Yes, I gorged on six episodes of Hung last night. Figured since the show went off the air, I was 2/3 through and might as well finish it off. Interesting, how the cancellation of the show actually prompted me to watch (and the fact that my parents don't have Showtime and I can't gorge on Homeland). The thing that I can say about Hung is essentially a back handed insult - that it is good because the episodes are 25 minutes. They require very little investment of my attention or time. And for that investment, there is some fun payoff, a few good lines here and there, some good sex scenes. I'll give the show credit for exploring the range of female sexuality and at least poses interesting scenarios in that department. But it falls short of being great. Great stuff is inspiring and Hung is much closer to soft core porn than inspiring drama. Charlie sums it up best, "Ray, you just a stubborn middle aged ho who don't do dudes."

Interesting thoughts on why parenting needn't be so hard.

I actually think this about a lot of things - that there is a culture of stress and anxiety about all sorts of marginally relevant things (NFL football, getting into college, petty problems at work, dating, etc) - that we end up making things that ought to be fun into real chores that sap valuable energy for what otherwise might be spent on productive activity.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Film: Hall Pass

There were multiple cock shots in this movie for like 20 seconds. I couldn't believe it. Other than that, it was very very ok.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Growing Up Poor and Black

An incredibly good analysis of why it is so hard for people to move out of poverty. They have a lot of things going against them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Public Pension

A teacher/administrator gets a public pension of $174,000 a year.

I've got plenty of beef with corporate CEOs and their exorbitant salaries, but let's be honest, there are very few of these jobs and they are being paid by supposedly what value they bring to their companies as deemed by the market. I fail to see how we can afford pensions funded by taxpayers at this high a level for people who ARE NOT WORKING. I mean, this seems insane to me. Every single hardworking 30 year old I know would fall over backwards for a job paying that amount of money - and that money would go towards starting a family, buying a house, saving for retirement, you know, good things for society...

Film: Revenge of the Nerds

"Poindexter, are we going to fuck or not?"
Fun Game

Supervillain or Newt.
This Doesn't Seem Right

A women bumps up from a 25K a year job to a 35K a year job and yet, has less disposable income.

When did it become commonly accepted the Iraq war was a failure? More and more, I read the MSM simply refer to the war in terms like these (re Hitchens position):

"it must not be forgotten in mourning him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life horrifically, petulantly wrong"; indeed: "People make mistakes. What's horrible about Hitchens' ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made..."

Really? You're that sure? After the fact that Iraq is now a democratic state, the US troops are gone, the Arab spring, and OBL is dead, you are really positive that Iraq is a grotesque error?

Let me put this another way - the people who beat drums about the "grotesque failure" of the Iraq war hang their hats on the weapons of mass destruction argument. They call it a lie, when in fact, it was a mistake. But why is there not a similar outrage to the intelligence failure of 9/11? Why is there not the same incessant revisiting of this "grotesque failure?" Why not demand heads roll at the CIA and so forth? And also, what about the gross failure to protect the Kurds from Saddam's retributions after Gulf War 1?

I do think, if America had the ability to see into the future back in 2003, there might not have been the same support for the Iraq war. But who cares? What a pointless way to think about things. I still think the overall logic for the invasion was correct and the outcome, at this particular moment, unlike in 2006, doesn't seem all that bad, especially in historical terms.

They say it happens in threes. Hitchens, Havel, and Kim Jong Il. Imagine that conversation at the pearly gates.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Peyton Manning

To the 49ers?

Boy, is that tempting? Would have never thought this could possibly happen in 100 years, and all of a sudden, it is the leading possibility. Especially with the way the Niners have been playing, they are looking like a 1st round exit in the playoffs, and plus, Green Bay seems set for several years to be tops in the NFC and for a team to get over that hump, they need to be great, not just good.

In the other scenario, where Peyton ends up in Dallas, the Niners might be smart to pick up Romo in a Drew Brees to New Orleans style move. I'm not a huge fan of Romo, but he is certainly an upgrade from Alex Smith.

Here is a strange scenario: what if the Niners, led by Smith, get to the NFC Championship and barely lose to the Packers? How can you NOT bring Smith back next year? The guy has played pretty out of his mind this year. Then again - you get a chance to land a superstar, you land a superstar, right? There is also the injury factor - who knows what Peyton will be like - the guy isn't exactly young. And maybe Smith would even stick around as a back up. Learn from 2 years behind Manning. Is that crazy to go from a starter to a back up midcareer then back to a starter. I don't know...
No Big Surprise

Article: Facebook is Making Us Miserable.

Here is his conclusion:

So, what should we do to avoid these three traps? Recognizing that "quitting" Facebook altogether is unrealistic, we can still take measures to alter our usage patterns and strengthen our real-world relationships. Some useful tactics I've seen include blocking out designated time for Facebook, rather than visiting intermittently throughout the day; selectively trimming Facebook friends lists to avoid undesirable ex-partners and gossipy coworkers; and investing more time in building off-line relationships.

Wait, wait, whaaa? Why is quitting facebook in quotes and unrealistic? He acts like it is living on the streets or not drinking alcohol. I'm still not on facebook and despite all the people who said it would cause me to fall behind, become a dinosaur, and not be in contact with anyone, somehow I've managed to find a job I really like and still maintain a pretty good social life. In other words, I'm doing very good without it.

Will I be buying a Clippers tee shirt this year? You bet. What is there not to like about this team? It's going to be fun, I just hope Paul or Blake don't get injured.

Listening to the radio the other day, someone made a good point about why the Miami thing last year was so offensive to so many people. They likened the situation to a 3-on-3 game where the 3 best players all decide they want to be on one team and play the other 3 guys.

But let me say this - I don't think LaBron is entirely at fault here. I think this idea of "winning is the only thing that counts" has morphed expectations of these athletes into a strange brew and LaBron's decision was a reaction to this culture. Prior to going to Miami, the word on the LaBron was always - "he's great, but hasn't won anything." And the "but he hasn't won anything" cry became louder and louder, repeated on ESPN at all hours of the day. And if you think about it, this claim is ridiculous. He was playing in Cleveland, who literally had no one else good on their team the entire time he was there. Never another all star even. And LaBron, at age 26, is considered a failure? For taking nobodies to the finals twice? A young guy like LaBron can't help but listen to the people and think to himself - "gosh, I gotta win, else these vultures will never get off my case. What is the best way to to do that?" So he goes to Miami and then everyone gets on his case about being uncompetitive and a betrayer and this bullshit. I didn't like the move, and I won't defend it, but I definitely think the "winning is the only thing that counts" culture of sports - which is a new thing - is partially to blame.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Film: Young Adult

Boy, are there few movies I actively root against. So many bad films are made, it is a wonder when anything good is made -- regardless of how insufferable or unpleasant the filmmakers or actors may be. Let's put it this way - Roman Polanski is wanted for statutory rape of a 13 year old girl, but if a new movie of his comes out, I hope it will be good. Which brings us to Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody...why do they both annoy me so much? Jason Reitman hasn't made bad movies. I rather enjoyed Up in the Air and Juno. But there is something about his demeanor in interviews and overall disposition that in the words of Alexander Payne, "just makes you want to punch him in the face." And then there's Diablo Cody, who is clearly way worse and way more insufferable. At least Reitman is somewhat disciplined. Cody is a mess. Why does she spend so much time creating this public persona? Why not try to become a better writer? Her work gets worse and worse. There is no reason to think she will ever write anything as good as Juno again. She is a one hit wonder. She's like a sports star who had one good year and then was absolutely terrible for the rest of her life, but everyone keeps thinking she'll be good again. So...going in, I was rooting against Young Adult, and on that level, it succeed. Massively.

This movie is bad. Really, really bad. As in, the characters don't even make sense and behave in strange, incomprehensible ways. It is also heartless and manipulative and totally predictable. A steaming hunk of dogshit. There were moments when it almost veers into holy-fucking-shit territory. Spoiler alert!!! There was one opportunity for a saving grace moment in the film and it would have involved the handicapped character banging Charlize Theron with his crooked cock, but of course they didn't have the balls to actually show it. Glad I watched it as a screener and didn't spend money.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Going to Get Ugly

When the Tebow goes bad in Denver - and it will go bad at some point - it is going to get ugly. Just like the disappointment in Obama, the Tebow people have irrational faith in the guy and are going to resort to insane arguments to keep the guy playing. Heads will roll at some point. I just hope the forces of rationality win in both the short and long run..they inevitably win in the long run, but there can be many short run casualties.
Infinite Stupidity

This really cool article isn't really about stupidity - here is the brief:

A tiny number of ideas can go a long way, as we've seen. And the Internet makes that more and more likely. What's happening is that we might, in fact, be at a time in our history where we're being domesticated by these great big societal things, such as Facebook and the Internet. We're being domesticated by them, because fewer and fewer and fewer of us have to be innovators to get by. And so, in the cold calculus of evolution by natural selection, at no greater time in history than ever before, copiers are probably doing better than innovators. Because innovation is extraordinarily hard. My worry is that we could be moving in that direction, towards becoming more and more sort of docile copiers.

Well worth reading the entire thing. One interesting point he makes about innovators -- back in the days when we were organized by tribe, we needed a couple innovators per tribe, so 2-3 for 150 people or so and the rest of the people could copy the good ideas of the innovators. Nowadays, since our societies are so much larger and better connected, we really only need 2-3 innovators per 100 million in order to survive and get by because information can be shared so quickly and easily. This rewards smart copying rather than doing the hard work of actual innovation.
Defending Walmart

I could not have put this better myself:

I find that, as little as I like excess and overconsumption, voicing that dislike gives power to people and political tendencies that I consider far more dangerous than overconsumption. I’d rather be surrounded by fat people who buy too much stuff than concede any ground at all to busybodies and would-be social engineers.

Yeah. People who complain about Walmart are snobs. Not that I'm against snobbery - about certain things - but snobbery against people less fortunate than oneself, it's very unseemly.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


TV: Luck

I don't really understand what HBO is doing. They just premiered Luck, but then it says it will be starting at the end of January. I excited about this show. I don't know entirely where to begin, the audience is playing catch up about what is going on, but I got enough to understand the essence. The show is about gambling. And I find some incredible emotion with these characters pinning their hopes on different things. This idea of hope, as put together by Milch and Mann, is going to be much more interesting than the Obama message about the same. Mann and Milch's hope is a tragic and beautiful thing.

Trouble on the horizon. I'm glad we lost today because it will not sugarcoat the issues our team is facing right now - we cannot score in the red zone, we cannot protect the passer, we cannot get open downfield and connect passes, and biggest problem of all: we cannot run well. Actually, there is one other problem: our play calling has gotten a lot less creative. We deserved to lose today. I was watching most of the game with dread. How do you intercept the ball, end up first and goal on the five yard line, with a 3-0 lead in the 2nd quarter and not turn that into a 10-0 lead? Especially with our type of team. Horrible. And then allowing John Skelton to complete these long passes over the middle. We do not look good right now, I'm pretty concerned about a first round playoff exit. The team, without a doubt, has taken several steps backwards. Partly due to injury, I suppose, but there are some other indications of problems: dumb penalties, lame play calling, no one stepping up, type of stuff.

Luckily, there was a distraction during the game - Tebow mania. I'm going to church next Sunday.

Film: I'm Going To Get You Sucka

Rewatched yesterday afternoon. Didn't enjoy as much as I did when I was 10 or whatever.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Film: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Going in, I figured it had a chance to be the greatest movie of all time, so perhaps my expectations were a bit high. In retrospect, the story does not lend itself to a 2 hour film. There is simply too much story, too much time, and too many characters to elegantly weave into a coherent movie. But goddamn, what a pleasure to look at. The style - from cinematography to production design to costume to the faces of the actors is absolutely amazing. Imagine if they went the way Assayas did the film Carlos, and just went all really could have been something. Fans of the mini series and/or the book, know the story works and there is no doubt, Alfredson captures the mood and tone (perhaps the greatest challenge for a director) - of the book. The story simply couldn't fit in 2 hours and so the story is impenetrable to those who don't know it already, and even for those who do, totally lacking in rhythm.

I don't think there is an answer. Economics demand the movie be 2 hours (even 3 would not have been enough), but the story demands more. I suspect, however, this film will age well, and will be worthy of film school study for the composition of shots and cinematography. I could see a class where this is shown right next to The Conformist, another spy film dealing with similar themes, albeit with a much easier to understand plot.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Law and Order SVU

Occupy Wall Street crashes SVU set saying "they are a movement, not a tv plot."

There is some genius in that, they get it exactly wrong: Occupy IS a tv plot, not a movement.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Actually, I Agree

Normally, I am not quick to accuse folks of actual racism or actual homophobia since nowadays a harmless gay joke gets considered homophobic. But watching this Rick Perry ad - he is basically coming out against gays in the military - and slips it non-sensically into this idea that Christians are persecuted in this country. The guy is appealing to homophobia. I suppose this isn't new to politics - the Clintons went racial against Obama - but it is pretty revealing and I dare day, actually homophobic.

Will Matt Forte rush back from his knee injury?

Jon Gruden says he can't imagine any player not rushing back to play because of a contract dispute. So let me get this straight - a guy gets a career threatening injury (knee) - where he is a vital element to a team who will not sign him to a long term contract because they know the diminishing value of running backs in this league. And you expect this guy to rush back and risk his career to play? What happens if he's lost a little burst? His value just went way down. The Bears won't sign him and he'll lose millions of dollars.

They treat these guys like pieces of meat in the NFL and then expect them to be warriors. They expect them to be all about the team, but them cut them and toss them the minute they can be replaced. They demand loyalty and give none in return. One day, it is all about sport and pride, the next day, a cold hard business. The NFL is the only sports league like this. NBA and MLB - those guys get guaranteed contracts and are way overpaid. Not so in the NFL. Forte makes like 600,000 a year. I'm sure he pays an agent and a lawyer. This guy is a top 10 offensive player in the NFC.

The psychology of Nakedness.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Film: The Expendables

I turned this one off also at the 35 minute mark. Something about the Netflix streaming makes it easier to stop watching things. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing. I suppose because I'm not paying per view, it makes it easier than if I had bought a movie ticket or rented the DVD. The quality - I reiterate - is absolutely awesome on the Netflix stream to the TV. Nevertheless, the movie was terrible. What was the deal with the Arnold Schwarzenegger bit? It was literally as if Arnold showed up on set one day and they were like, well, we gotta write something for him. His presence in the scene made absolutely no sense whatsoever. The movie almost could work on a comic level - hey guys, guess what, I got Dolph Lundgren playing a drug addict - that alone might be worth checking out. But I'm growing a bit old for the whole laughing at or celebrating holy-fucking-shit movie stuff. I dunno, doesn't hold the same appeal as it once did. Maybe as more time passes, one realizes these things aren't worth it.

On a side note, I've been watching a lot of Seinfeld recently. I got home tonight, dead tired and wanted to watch something. Expendables didn't work out and re-runs were on. Man, the show is so great. I'm beginning to rethink it might be the best show of all time, ahead of The Wire and Sopranos. There is something amazing about the old-fashioned TV structure, where you can literally enter the universe of the show on any given episode, not need to be briefed about what happened before or later, and simply enjoy the world for that 1/2 hour. It really is a brilliant structure and totally unique to television. Serialized dramas like The Wire or Sopranos, while perhaps more "sophisticated," in the thematics, but are more rigid in their structures and almost more like televised novels than true television with the commercials and everything. Also, Seinfeld seems to grow with age and capture new, young fans who weren't even alive during the heydey of the show. Can one say that about The Wire or Sopranos? Are those shows for only a niche, sophisticated audience? Doesn't it seem like all the people who will watch The Wire or the Sopranos have already watched the shows? Seinfeld, you get the feeling, will be watched 25 years from now and enjoyed just the same.

A blog on how to ruin your life.

First, enroll in a college that you cannot afford, and rely on large student loans to make up the difference.

Second, spend the next four years having as good a time as possible: hang out, hook up, and above all, take plenty of “awesome” courses.

Third, find teachers and role models who will encourage you to develop an attitude of enlightened contempt for ordinary American middle class life, the world of business, and such bourgeois virtues as self-reliance, thrift, accountability and self-discipline. Specialize in sarcasm and snark.

Fourth, avoid all courses with tough requirements, taking only the minimum required number of classes in science, math and foreign languages.

Fifth, never think about acquiring marketable skills.

Sixth, when you graduate and discover that you have to repay the loans and cannot get a job that pays enough to live comfortably while servicing your debts, be surprised. Blame society. Demand that the government or your parents or evil corporations bail you out.

Seventh, expect anyone (except for other clueless losers who’ve been as stupid and wasteful as you) to sympathize with your plight, or to treat you with anything but an infuriating mixture of sorrow, pity and contempt.

If you follow this recipe faithfully, Via Meadia promises that you will achieve all the unhappiness you want. And don’t worry; anytime you feel sad and blue, just read some “lifestyle” journalism in the Boston Globe. It will be sure to cheer you up.

Sounds eerily close to what many young folks do...

Klosterman asks "why do people hate Tebow."

I stopped reading. Boring article. Thing is, I suppose if anything, I'm anti-Tebow, only because his style of QBing is a gimmick. A gimmick we've seen before. It takes a little time for teams to adjust and walla, he's completely ineffective. Eventually it'll be - remember when that guy Tebow...

That said, I love the Tebow-mania and the chance to watch this guy play because everyone puts so much more into his successes and failures. It IS more dramatic right now. And we might as well ride that wave of drama and enjoy it while it lasts. Because I predict it won't.

UPDATE: God, I wish they sold stock on NFL players, I'd short Tebow so fast...
So Many Interesting Scenarios

For a Chris Paul and/or Dwight Howard trade.

It'd be pretty crazy to see Paul throw on a Celtics jersey for one year and those guys make another run for it. And how cool would it be to see Paul as a Clipper? Or a GS Warrior? But neither of those teams can sign him for the long term, I don't think.
Income Inequality

An interesting take.

Their long preoccupation and lately all-consuming obsession with inequality expresses itself almost entirely as zeal to raise taxes on the rich. In that regard, as I say, the US is not much out of line by international standards--and higher taxes on the rich anyway do nothing to relieve poverty, where the US really is out of line.

One thesis could be the preoccupation with income inequality isn't about helping the poor, but rather a class war between the top 2% versus the top 10%.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Yikes, Rudin is Right

A published email exchange between Scott Rudin and David Denby who reviews Girl With A Dragon Tattoo early.

In the scheme of things, these are small issues, I think Rudin is right, the guy got to see the movie on the condition it wouldn't be reviewed until the 13th, so he went back on his word. Plus, who wants to read a movie review three weeks before a movie opens? This seems stupid. Why can't the New Yorker publish multiple reviews at the end of the year Christmas issue? It's when people have the most time to read reviews and go see movies anyway. Strange.

If you want to understand why the movies seem lame of late, you need to look no further than this interview on CNBC.

The vice chair of Lionsgate seems like a really nice, smart guy - someone who is good to do business with. But it case it isn't completely and utterly obvious, he is not a "movie guy." He obviously went to business school and simply sees the easiest way to make money is to brand movies and make franchises and turn the whole thing into a McDonalds like operation. We get boring movies because we have boring people running things. Boring people make investors and stockholders feel comfortable. I know I like to invest money into boring companies who pay dividends and who don't risk the house on gut impulses. But of course, this makes for bad filmmaking. Just like it would make for bad football or bad war fighting or bad writing. In any case, this interview sums up why so many filmmakers and writers and movie fans get so frustrated with the business - because we are almost IN different businesses. We care about making movies. They care about protecting the brands, which they consider the golden goose.
Where Is Sci-Fi Now?

An interesting article discussing it.

Neal Stephenson presses sci-fi writers to help scientists by coming up with big ideas.

Best quote:

“We can’t Facebook our way out of the current economic status quo.”

Indeed we can't.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Film: Limitless

Turned it off. Tedious. Made it 45 minutes in just because I told myself I'd wait until DeNiro showed up. Couldn't stand one more second of Bradley Cooper's voice over. Combine this movie with In Time and what is it about the studios where they simply cannot make an original action movie? Maybe it is the filmmakers, I don't know...

Film: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Swedish Version

Kept hearing how good the first film in this series was, so decided to check it out. Pretty good, not great, movie. Serviceable thriller. Compelling character, that Lizbeth Salander. I'm just not a big fan of the story itself (including the book), but it provides some cheap thrills. Am skeptical the American version will be good, despite bringing out the big guns - Zalian and Fincher. We'll see.
Debt to Income Ratio

A study based on law school earnings vs. debt.

This is a good way to evaluate what kind of debt to take on, whether it be for school, home, car, whatever.
Good Preview

Of a long form interview with Victor David Hanson.
Longing For Ancient Virtues

VDH discusses candor, irony, physical strength, memory, and the mechanical mind.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Movie Previews

Is it just me or are movie previews getting worse? Last night, three stood out. The Madonna-directed movie about the British Prince who gave up the throne. A boring idea to begin with, but the real senselessness is the modern day parallel story line with Abby Cornish. It makes no sense. Maybe I need to see the movie to figure it out. Number 2 - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I don't understand the story. A kid's father dies in 9/11 and then he finds a key and starts visiting diverse people around NYC to figure out what it unlocks? Kid - it is probably just your dad's porn collection in his desk. Relax. I suppose I'll have to see it, but the use of 9/11 in this movie could potentially be quite offensive - as a way to mask weak or no emotion - let's use the biggest, most tragic, horrific event of our lives to make people feel sad. A sort of horrific pedophilic distant cousin to the non-linear storytelling device used by Guillermo Arriaga to mask lame melodrama. But both pale in comparison to Albert Nobbs. I can't say anything about this trailer, I must let it speak for itself:


Interesting alternative narrative on Enron.

I don't know what to believe, but it is becoming more and more apparent with our media culture, the masses are easily stirred up into temporary fits of outrage that result in quick, undisciplined means of punishment.

A good breakdown from Grantland of why the Eagles didn't meet expectations this year. Interesting section:

Problem 3: What Happened to Nnamdi Asomugha?

There is nothing that Nnamdi Asomugha could not do as a cornerback for the Oakland Raiders. He tackled well. He read plays well. He played effectively in both man and zone coverage. He basically played like he was on a higher level. Notably, though, the Raiders only occasionally moved Asomugha around to follow the opposing team's top receiver, and they almost never put him in the slot. Most of the time, they just kept him on one side of the field and let him do his thing with great success.

Once Asomugha got to the Eagles, things changed. With such a versatile skill set, it seemed logical to turn Asomugha into a defensive Swiss Army knife, but the move failed. What we forgot is that Asomugha's rise from good cornerback to transcendent defensive operative came when he learned to use the sideline like an extra teammate. When the Eagles turned him into Charles Woodson lite and moved him into the center of the field, he lost his extra teammate and, with it, his effectiveness as a cover corner. After years of avoiding him like the plague, teams were comfortable going after Asomugha throughout the year with lesser entities like Victor Cruz. Before suffering a knee injury in practice last week and a concussion last night, even Asomugha couldn't help from expressing his frustrations with the new role.

This makes a lot of sense to me. When I was in college, I played marking back on my soccer team. My first two seasons, me and the other marking back, were one of our teams strengths and we were one of the better defensive teams in the league. My junior year, the other marking back graduated and so we were going to inevitably have a drop off at the position. Our coach tried a new plan, moving me to sweeper and bringing in two new marking backs, thinking that as sweeper, I might be able to compensate for the drop off at the other positions. It didn't work. I was a worse sweeper than marking back and the other guys were worse than what we had the other year. We ended up fiddling around with the line up a lot of the year, but for the most part, I returned to marking back, and got first team all league and 2nd team all far west, (although, I'm not convinced I was substantially better than in my first two seasons, but those awards tend to favor guys who have been around and teams with winning records). Basically, I was a very good D3 marking back and only a so-so sweeper. Why?

I've bounced around theories in my head. On the one hand, I only played sweeper for a few games and didn't have any experience at the position, so perhaps, given time, I could have learned. But that theory doesn't make complete sense, because before playing marking back in college, I had never played that position either and I jumped right in. Another theory is that my particular skill set as a player was suited to marking back and not to sweeper. Another theory is that I could have been a very good sweeper with other strong marking backs.

I tend to think it is the 2nd theory. I had played a lot of left wing throughout my soccer career before being a center midfielder in high school. But I was very familiar with playing along the sideline and the spacing on the side of the field (similar to a CB in football). Playing sweeper, the spacing is totally different and if you aren't familiar with it, easy to get out of position. Trying to adjust to new spacing in real-time (ie a game) is impossible. You cannot just jump right in and expect to know it.

I imagine Asomugha's skills as a corner were the result of years and years of practicing, trial and error, understanding his own strengths, and perfecting a very specific craft. Asking him to do an entirely different thing, although seemingly similar, is a tall order -- especially if you expect the same high level of excellence.
Renter Nation

Will America return to renting? I didn't know this:

America is going back to being a renter nation. Up until the 1950s, the percentage of homeowners stayed at 40 percent. Aggressive government subsidies drove the percentage in recent years to above 65 percent. The housing “industry” ran out of buyers. A good 35 percent of Americans prefer the freedom of movement and lack of responsibility that comes from being a renter. We will likely return to being maybe a 55 percent homeowner nation.

We got the home ownership thing backwards. Home ownership is desirable because it is the result of middle ethics - work hard, save, provide for a family. So the government says, let's get more people owning their own homes, which will make them middle class. Lower interest rates, regulations, etc, etc. They wanted to skip the important steps: working hard, saving, providing. Oh well, live and learn.

Film: My Week With Marilyn

Not a good movie. Strangely amateur filmmaking. Looked it up on IMDB and the director is a long time British TV-movie director, which makes sense after seeing the film. A steaming turd of an actor is the main character. Every time the guy comes on screen, I'm thinking, "get this guy OFF the screen for chrissake." He was student film quality. So it was strange seeing him there with Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, the hot young girl from Harry Potter, Judy Dench, Julia Ormond, and all these super talented people. That said, there were some elements of the film I found interesting, most notably Branagh playing Lawrence Olivier and his objection to method acting (used by Marilyn). But let's get to the point - Michelle Williams as Marilyn - I simply assume she will get an oscar nomination and I suppose it is deserved -- my only comment would be she didn't really ooze sexuality and hotness the way Marilyn did. I'm no Marilyn aficionado, but her basic allure was her bonability, wasn't it? Williams plays it fragile, which to me, sort of misses the basic selling point. One final screenwriting note - great example of terrible voice over and various side characters who for no apparent reason offer our main character unsolicited sage wisdom throughout the script. What a remarkable guy this Colin Clark must be for every single goddamn person who interacts with him from Lawerence Olivier to the driver to the wardrobe girl to Judy Dench must offer some sort of pithy life wisdom like "first love hurts the most," "being careful about getting in too deep," and other such ridiculous platitudes.
A Start

Obama calls beer conference for college administrators to discuss affordability.

Good idea. They ought to talk about sticker price vs. actual price as well. It seems to me college shouldn't be like buying a car where you're simply a sucker for paying the sticker price and not dealing with the game of financial aid and scholarships, etc. In grad school I remember the week of chaos around scholarship application time where everyone was hustling to put together reels, etc. I suppose it wasn't so bad and I can't think of a better system for how film school merit-based scholarships ought to work, but as a general thing, there is a limit to the good of everyone paying different price points.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Some Cultures Are More Equal Than Others

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s pardon of a rape victim —she had been imprisoned for adultery —came with a serious catch: pressure to marry her attacker. The woman, Gulnaz, was imprisoned on charges of adultery after she was raped by a family member. Her plight came to light when it was depicted in a recent documentary commissioned by the European Union, and then again when the EU blocked the film’s release for fear of hurting relations with Afghanistan. Because of the attention brought be the controversy, President Karzai’s government offered a rare pardon. But announcement made it clear that there was an expectation that Gulnaz would marry her attacker. Afghan officials deny it was a stipulation of her release saying it was Gulnaz’s own decision.

$3 Coffee

What happened to the price of coffee? Suddenly, two places I frequent, Thyme and Huckleberry, both charge over $3 for coffee. Coffee was already overpriced at $2 per cup, but what is the meaning of this 50% price jump? Are places struggling to make money? Did coffee bean prices go up? Are they manufacturing more expensive beans? I will admit - the coffee quality at both these places is excellent. But $3 a cup makes me feel like a fool, especially when I can make Peet's French Press (pretty damn good) for less than a $0.25 per two cups. I think they've just priced me out.

Well, he wasn't qualified to be President because he's never held elected office. Now, it is clear, he is kind of stupid as well.

Paying a woman for years who isn't his wife...I actually prefer the guy DID have an affair with the woman. If he wasn't, then he's just a sucker and I'd rather have a scoundrel for a President than a sucker.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Shame

If the Mavs don't resign Chandler it would be a real shame for this shortened NBA season. The best story of this upcoming season will be seeing whether Dallas can repeat with their aging team.

Virgina Postrel and Glenn Reynolds talk about college and the skills you ought to learn to get jobs.

The lessons: adaptability, critical thinking skills, and low debt. These tools make you flexible in the labor market, which will inevitably change either in the near or long term.
I Don't Like The Articles, Either

A Brit questions the American obsession with single women.

Clearly, Vows is no more representative of New York – let alone America – as a whole than Bridget Jones's daily life was of Britain, but it does reflect an attitude that plays into the fascination the American media has in single women. Such is the popularity of investigations into the enthralling mystery of single women that these articles are pretty much their own genre of journalism in America, characterised by gloomy warnings about the dangers of feminism, cod anthropological claims, regrets about leaving a nice man because the writer wanted an unspecified "more", self-flagellation dressed up as "honesty" about feminism and they are always – always – written by a woman.

Yeah, I fail to see how this stuff isn't just a choice of a couple of gals and a bunch of their friends living in fabulous NYC, as opposed to some sort of significant statistical or cultural thing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


A discussion about how Obama doesn't like his job.

They surmise Obama actually doesn't like exercising power. One of the more interesting points, I wished they delved into further, however gets cut off. One of the ladies says, "Well, who would?" The guy next to her gets all bullying and lists people who love politics - like LBJ, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan - and makes the point, great leaders love what they do. Perhaps. But not all people love what they do - and plenty of solid professionals don't like significant portions of their jobs. I'm certain lots of doctors don't enjoy dealing with insurance companies, many lawyers don't like dealing with other lawyers, and many football players hate certain Sundays (Rex Grossman). I'm not sure a love/passion test is vital. But who knows...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Will The Believers... their words when Tebow inevitably becomes a joke? I doubt it. But at least we'll have the internet to remember stupid justifications for his terribleness.

Tebow believers remind me of the people who predict the world will end on a certain date.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Good Idea

Professor forces students to bring snacks to class.

Parrott said that considerable research shows that students learn more if they develop the skills to work in teams, to assume responsibility for projects, and get to know their fellow students. Team members need to count on one another, he said, and his students learned Thursday that if someone fails at a task for the team, there are consequences. "They need to learn to check on one another and clearly they didn't get that done," he said. "This was an important lesson."

This kind of falls in my requirement for graduating college that you must throw at least one party.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jerk Off

I'm late on this, but reading that Salman Rushdie calls Game of Thrones garbage and The Wire "just a police procedural," would be fine for a pretentious, unreadable author, except that he lists Entourage as his favorite comedy. Stick to the uber-literary circles, Salman, don't bring that bullshit up over here.

Keep our eyes on Damascus.
Like A Wagner Opera

Breaking Dawn causes some male moviegoers to have seizures.
Interesting Idea

Micro jobs. Really, if you break down what a "job" is, it is all micro jobs.
Interesting Point

On books attacking consumption -

One of the running themes of the economist Robin Hanson's excellent blog is that arguments like the ones found in these books are actually an elite-status proxy war. They denigrate the one measure of high-visibility achievement—income—that public intellectuals don't do very well on. Reading "Shiny Objects," you get the feeling that he is onto something.

Consider the matter of status competition. Mr. Roberts, like so many before him, argues that conspicuous consumption is an unhappy zero-sum game. But this is of course true of most forms of competition: Most academics I know can rank-order everyone in the room at a professional conference with the speed and precision of a courtier at Versailles. Any competition, from looks to money to academic credentialing, both consumes a lot of resources and makes many of the participants feel bad about themselves. Why, then, does the literature on status competition always tell us that we should redistribute capital gains or inheritances and never tell us that we should redistribute academic chairs or book contracts?

Serial killer uses craigslist to lure victims.

Good Thinking

Looking at house-to-income and house-to-rent ratios. According to these charts, American homes are undervalued and hence good to buy.

Too bad this applies on a macro and not a micro level. I'm guessing most of the undervalued homes are in specific areas overbuilt during the housing bubble - like Vegas, Phoenix, etc. It doesn't seem to apply to Santa Monica yet, especially if you are in rent control.
Niners Defeat

Thursday night at Baltimore was a clear defeat. The Ravens defense was on fire. The biggest worry is obviously our pass protection. One of our guards was injured in the 2nd quarter, but it was a combination of factors - falling behind, Smith taking bad sacks, injuries, play design -- the whole thing. But this was a good game. And there was a crucial stretch where weak penalties went against us on a long TD pass and an interception. Those plays go our way and it's a different game. But regardless, it gives the team a taste of what the playoffs will be like. Plus, it was a Thanksgiving away game on a short week against the best defense in the league. By no means a terrible loss. Other concern right now: 1) Gore and our running attack. Gore hasn't been the same in awhile and I cannot figure out if he is injured and this Adam Snyder injury is worrisome. 2) Braylon Edwards is injured and not getting open 3) Our secondary and pass rush -- we never seem to rush more than 4 players and get sacks -- but still, we hold teams under 20 points, so I can't complain too much about defense. What I'm strangely unconcerned about: 1) Alex Smith. The guy has grown a lot and shows confidence and good decision making ability and an understand of his role and what the team is. Even after being chased around the field by the Ravens, I was not worried he was going to ruin the game. The one pick at the end of the first half was stupid but more Braylon Edwards fault - the guy is injured. 2) Crabtree. Crabtree is now our best receiver and he runs hard for yards after the catch. Both Crabtree and Smith are quietly developing into our two most important offensive players for the stretch. I predict Crabtree has a 100 yard game in the playoffs. 3) Run defense. The best in the league. Simply put. 4) Harbaugh. He had the right game plan. We lost, but like I said, a few little things go our way earlier on and we win this difficult game. The Ravens brought everything they had to this game to win.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

But, Of Course

We will see a lot more part time employment when Obamacare goes into effect, so companies don't need to pay for healthcare.

Book: Magic, Science, Religion by Bronislaw Malinowski

I only read the portions of the essays related to magic and how primitive people used it. Very interesting. Salient points - ideas about demons and spirits, etc, came out of primitive people trying to understand dreams. They didn't know how to process the dreams and believed dead people (who they dreamed about) were visiting them from the spirit world. Sort of makes sense if you don't understand neurons and how the brain works. Also, a lot of magic rituals were performed in conjunction with run-of-the-mill tasks. For instance, magic rituals were performed after seeding and tilling a field for a crop. Or before war fighting. Or before going deep sea fishing. Or in trying to woo a mate. The author theorized most magic rituals dealt with activities where chance and luck had a lot to do with the outcome. So, in a way, magic was a way of dealing with the anxiety of the unknown and a way of dealing with powerlessness. From an anthropologic point of view, this makes sense. People who DID NOT practice magic rituals were more likely to be faced with crushing anxiety and to curl up in a little ball in the face of danger and the unknown - like before going into battle or facing a horrific storm in the ocean, or when their love is unrequited. From a "survival" point of view, the folks who practiced magic rituals as a way of saying "i can control or help control" whether my crop yield is good this year, or whether so-and-so will let me have sex with them, or I will defeat this guy in battle when I cast a spell on him, were more likely to succeed than the person who tossed up his or her hands and said, "I got no control over this thing." In short, it was a lot about optimism and false sense of control and the habits/rituals were passed down and believed by generations of peoples. Very interesting, I thought.

Film: Margin Call

Well, another black list script made into a crappy movie. Soon Hollywood is going to catch on and stop making these things. Bad for me. Pretty amazing cast the guy was able to put together for this movie. Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Zach Quinto, Paul Bettany, Demi Moore, Stanly Tucci, the Mentalist. Surprising, though. The script was kind of a mess and the movie making a bit on the cheap side. Not that I mind cheap movies, but for a movie about high finance, the last thing you want is for it to seem cheap and the frame empty. Bigger problem was with the script. Strange structure. Starts as Stanley Tucci's movie, then becomes Quinto's, then becomes Spacey's. All this would be cool if it felt purposeful - like the Insider. But it didn't. It felt as if the momentary main character served no other purpose than to get us to the other character. In short, I suppose, the individual character journey's were not thematically linked in the way the Insider pulled it off. I suppose if you think about this as some guy's first movie, it isn't bad; but it certainly isn't good, nor does it make me want to pay attention to the writer/director's career. Oh yeah, it is about 24 hour meltdown in a finance firm when they realize they are holding toxic assets. But they don't do a particularly good job of explaining what happened or the simple "why now" question.

Wishing for Jimmy Carter.

The Carter presidency was a mixed bag, but he had the requisite adult judgment for the job. He did not abandon his "progressive" values, but he could see the obvious—that the times called for backing and filling in the "progressive" project, not charging ahead, onward and upward oblivious to realities.

He never got credit from the political calendar, but the Reagan economy was truly built on a Carter-Reagan foundation. Lost amid the shouting, the continuities of American life are often impressively large. Check out Mr. Carter's speech to the 1980 Democratic convention, in which he boasted unembarrassedly and at length about "slashing regulations" and "restoring free enterprise" to failing regulated industries.

You perhaps see where we're going. Mr. Obama's career has been one in which the main effect has been the impression he leaves on audiences—the main effect has been himself. Familiarity with his country—or any other country—would be helpful at this point, if only to counterweight his mesmerization with the arc of his personal story.

It's hard to argue with the point.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Broncos front office won't admit Tebow is the long term answer at quarterback, which only proves they are not stupid.

Supercommittee fail and what it means.

In a modern democratic state, two things are true of any policy agenda:

1. You eventually have to pay for it, with actual money.
2. You have to get those bastards on the other side to agree to it.

We seem to have an electorate who believes neither of these things, and the political class has followed them. We passed a giant health care entitlement "paid for" with cuts to existing services that should have gone towards deficit reduction, if they can be done at all . . . and with a structure that risks failing spectacularly and making everything worse if the cost projections are wrong, or the necessary changes prove politically unsustainable. When I pointed this out, I was told "it's not our fault if the Republicans fuck it up," as if it were somehow reasonable policy analysis to assume away the existence of anyone who disagrees with you.

Stop snickering conservatives: you didn't pay for your tax cuts at all, and you tried to get through an equally enormous entitlement change (remember Social Security reform) without funding it in any way, even a stupid and likely-to-fail one.

We are in bad shape politically.

The 57,000 page tax return.

GE paid no tax on their 14 bil in profits last year.

GE’s tax bill illustrates both why our corporate tax rate is too high and too low. The nominal rate is too high which encourages a real rate which is too low.

Consider the resources that GE spends to lowers its tax bill, not just the many millions spent on clever accounting and accountants and the many millions spent on lobbying but also the many inefficient ways that GE structures its businesses just to avoid paying taxes and the many millions it invests in socially wasteful projects just in order to produce privately valuable tax credits. Now add to that the allocational inefficiencies of taxing some firms at different rates than others and you have a corporate tax system which wastes a lot of resources and raises relatively little revenue. Indeed, a corporate tax system with a tax rate of zero could well be preferable as it would waste fewer resources and raise not much less revenue.

Sometimes it feels like America is full of the smartest idiots on the planet. And by the way...this doesn't just apply to the corporate tax applies to our entire tax system. With stories like this, how do you expect a family of four with an income of 80,000 to fork over 20% of their money to the Federal Government. Jeez.

TV: PBS Documentary on Woody Allen

I recorded the first part and watched the 2nd part last night. Quite a good profile on the man. My favorite part was when he talked about Cannes. He basically says "It's all bullshit. Everyone wants to love you and your movie. But none of it is real. You can't believe anyone. They all lie." He is talking about the heaps of praise and the red carpet and the whole celebration of film. Woody holds himself up to a higher standard - he's always trying to make a "great" movie and his reason for his high work rate is that he figures if he produces a lot of stuff, he has better odds of making a great movie. This, I imagine, is the key to his success as a filmmaker. It goes without saying, he is a comic genius and a man of great natural talent. But his refusal to accept the excessive praise, or his ability to compartmentalize the bashing of his unsuccessful films or the Soon Yi controversy, is they key to plugging along. A worthy lesson for all of us.

On the Great Work Divide:

It suddenly occurred to me that this is a standard feature of the work lives of blue state elites: almost all of their contact is with people just like them. Same education, usually the same few states of origin, and a pretty uniformly shared set of values about what work is for and how it should be done.

These people tend to vote Democratic. Small-business owners, who work in much more diverse environments, tend to vote Republican. I'm not going to speculate on why this might be so--but I suspect that it matters.

It is very true and unfortunate. I've had a few work experiences in my life mixing it up with folks from different backgrounds. I always found it rewarding. This is a truer form of diversity, if you ask me, than mere racial make up, which we blue state people seem to value without thinking.

This whole sham of "diversity" in colleges and the workplace is a costless chimera that allows the powerful to do-nothing about class issues or improving equality of opportunity.
This Would Be The Biggest...

...I told you so, in my entire life:

IS FACEBOOK DOOMED? Possibly. In the last week or two, several people I know — all of them attractive women between their teens and early thirties — have quit Facebook. Their biggest complaint is the lack of privacy, and its tendency to attract creeps. Under not just one, but two of Kaus’s Rules Of Punditry (“generalize from your own experience,” and “three events make a trend”) this now represents a legitimate phenomenon.

It helps you keep in touch with people you don't want to keep in touch with, ie creeps.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Educational Rebate

A proposal to rebate tuition to law school students.

Law schools might analogously offer to rebate half of a student’s first-year tuition if the student opts to quit school at the end of the first year. (If the student has taken out government loans, this rebate would first go to repay this debt.) A half-tuition rebate splits the loss of an aborted legal career between the school and the student. Each has skin in the game, so students will not go to law school lightly, and law schools will have better incentives not to admit students likely to fail.

Not a bad idea. A lot of the financial problems facing the country are the result of looking at the wrong timeline and getting into sunk costs.
She Went Through With It

Mila Kunis attends Marine Ball.

Good on her.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Film: The Descendants

Not among my favorite Alexander Payne movies, but still a watchable movie. Oddly, felt like it was cast well all around, except for George Clooney. He is the only one that didn't feel like he actually lived in Hawaii. Not that Clooney did a bad job, it's just the guy is a movie star and you can't forget you're watching him.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bill Maher Ambushed

Elizabeth Hasselbeck ambushes Bill Maher on the View.

On this, I gotta side with Maher, even though I'm not much of a fan. I feel a need to defend all comedians when people get offended or outraged about their jokes. I wish Maher had said something along the lines: look, if you want comedy, the only way you get comedy is to push the envelope of what is acceptable to say. Sometimes, we will be off. Sometimes, we will be offensive. But the alternative is to be self-censoring for fear of upsetting people, and who wants to live in a world like that? So, no. I won't apologize for being offensive. Some of the funniest bits in comedy are rape-jokes (Chris Rock), jokes about child beating (Bernie Mac), so get off your high horse and learn to laugh a little.

Could clumsy writing undo the healthcare bill?

Well, the NBA isn't going to have a season, and this makes even less sense than bungling healthcare.

We truly suffer from a dearth of leadership in all sectors.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Retired By 80

75% of middle class Americans think they won't be able until age 80.

A combination of living too high on the hog and printing money to kick the can down the road (inflation).
Unemployment Benefits

It seems counter-intuitive, but this study says increasing unemployment benefits is the best way to increase job creation.

I wonder how they are calculating.
Niners v. Bears

Every time I read about Matt Forte, it upsets me. The man is 48% of the Chicago offense and they pay him $600,000 a year. He is a top 5 running back in the league. He is professional, hardworking, everything you could ask of a man, and how does Chicago treat him? Like a piece meat. They are going to suck him dry and leave him literally limping in his old age. They won't give him a new contract - they plan to designate him as a franchise player in 2012 - thereby getting their 4 years out of him, let him go in free agency, let some shitty team like Arizona sign him for a 3 year deal where he probably gets injured due to overwork in his first 4 years.

From a strict dollars and cents perspective, it is smart. Running backs are a dime a dozen and bad long term investments. Look at Dallas, basically picking DeMarco Murray off the street, and the guy is arguably similarly effective as Forte. All this said, it is a shitty way to run a business.

When the Niners signed Frank Gore this year to a 3-year, $21 million dollar deal, I winced. Gore is 28 and missed a lot of last year. He is probably past his prime as a running back and everyone, myself included, thought it would take years of rebuilding under Harbaugh before the Niners ever became a contender. Why would we invest in Gore and at a position that is easily replaceable? The reason - because Frank Gore is a Forty Niner. He epitomizes what we want the character of our team to be. The guy dropped in the draft to the 2nd round because everyone thought he had a bum knee. What did he do? Work his ass off and three years later he led the league in rushing on a half decent 8-8 team. He declared he'd run for 2000 yards the following year. He was the one bright spot of a franchise that had sunk into the doldrums.

The Niners decided to stick with Gore. We went against the smart "dollars and cents" move and rewarded the player for his character, past performance, and because we wanted him to finish out his career as a Forty Niner. He will be the Niners all time leading rusher by the end of his career. He is still the character of our offense. And this year, he ran for 100 yards in 5 straight games. Granted, he is injured right now. But he'll be back.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Film: Once Upon A Time in The West

Forgive me, because I'm new to having a nice HD flatscreen TV, but there is something pretty amazing at being able to stream a movie like this via Netflix for a mere $7.99 a month on the incredible quality of an HD TV right in one's living room. It certainly does not match the theater experience...but then isn't 1968 and time travel is incredibly expensive. I love the rhythm in this movie and I'm not sure if it is the same in all Leone Westerns, but the scenes are very slow and deliberate and patient and then erupt into sudden action and then onto the next. In the better scripts I've written, my rhythm tends to be the opposite, where I like to open scenes up into action (I call it front-loaded action) and then end scenes on the smaller, character beats.

Monday, November 14, 2011


The perpetual claim of Palestinian victimhood.

TV: Cheers, Pilot-Ep. 3; Parks and Rec; More Twin Peaks, S. 2

Cheers pilot is excellent. Most notable thing - how much of the comedy is rooted in character vs. jokes/gags. Actually has quite a melancholy tone. Today, something with this tone becomes a mini-major comedy...almost the closest thing would be an Alexander Payne movie or something. Surprised by how much backstory they get into the pilot - and how rich the backstory of each character is. They all feel as though they've lived big past lives before even entering the show. Maybe that is the charm.
Baby Boomer Fail

An interesting article on the failures of the Baby Boomer generation.

What the Boomers as a generation missed (there were, of course and thankfully, many honorable individual exceptions) was the core set of values that every generation must discover to make a successful transition to real adulthood: maturity. Collectively the Boomers continued to follow ideals they associated with youth and individualism: fulfillment and “creativity” rather than endurance and commitment. Boomer spouses dropped families because relationships with spouses or children or mortgage payments no longer “fulfilled” them; Boomer society tolerated the most selfish and immature behavior in its public and cultural leaders out of the classically youthful and immature belief that intolerance and hypocrisy are greater sins than the dereliction of duty.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Occupy What?

VDH lays it out.
In Fairness

At least one person has written a calm, reasoned piece on Paterno and Penn State.

But I will say this: Paterno has paid a price here. His job is gone. His life’s work has been soiled. His reputation is in tatters. Maybe that should be the price. Maybe there should be more of a price. You don’t have to type: “Well, his price is nothing like the price of those victims…” I already know that.

But I think the way Joe Paterno has lived his life has earned him something more than instant fury, more than immediate assumptions of the worst, more than the happy cheers of critics who have always believed that there was something phony about the man and his ideals. He deserves what I would hope we all deserve — for the truth to come out, or, anyway, the closest thing to truth we can find.

I don’t think Joe Paterno has gotten that. And I think that’s sad.

True 'dat.
Oh, That's Why

I hadn't been to the movies in awhile, but now I realize why. Check out the top ten. Jesus. What a joke.

1. Immortals - you couldn't pay me to watch this a joke of a movie
2. Jack And Jill - wasn't this one of the Sandler posters in Funny People?
3. Puss In Boots - i get it, but i don't watch cartoons because i'm not 6 years old.
4. Tower Heist - ratner is a clown and incapable of making a good movie, although his interviews are entertaining.
5. J. Edgar - if this isn't clint's worst movie ever, you need to rethink him as a filmmaker. it is that bad. it is so bad, it cancels out 1/2 of how awesome unforgiven is...sort of like if your 401k has a killer year and then the next year loses all of that money. unforgiven in basically the best western of the modern era and j. edgar is so bad, it wipes out half of the goodwill created in making a modern classic. this is hard to do.
6. Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas - there is nothing that can be said.
7. In Time - an original movie, too bad it totally sucked
8. Paranormal Activity 3 - found footage, sequel, horror movie - this is like the hitler/stalin/mussolini pact
9. Footloose - craig brewer goes out on a whimper.
10. Real Steel - sadly, it probably is the best movie on this entire list and it is about boxing robots.
J. Edgar

Impotent. Is the best word I can come up with to describe the Eastwood/Dustin Lance Black collaboration. Dead on arrival. I knew within 30 seconds the movie was completely lifeless, uninspired, just one steaming hunk of shit. Four words into the voice over to open the film and it was snooze-a-rooz. What is going on? Clint has taken this "I shoot the first draft of the script," too far. Or perhaps he forgot how to read. Dustin Lance Black is the most overrated writer in Hollywood. Milk was carried only by Sean Penn's performance. The screenplay, I remember thinking when I watched the film, was terrible. This movie only confirms my original instinct. The problem, I'm nearly positive, has to do with a cinematic education. Who are these screenwriters who think by reading biographies and interviewing people who knew J. Edgar, that they can construct a film via history? This is amateur hour, the approach an undergraduate with a small interest in movie would take. They go for "psychological realism." I have a better term for it - steaming hunk of dog shit. There is no cinematic tradition considered in the conception of this movie. Did he even consider Citizen Kane? Has he seen the movie? I'm not even a fan of Kane, but isn't this the obvious starting point for doing a biopic about someone like J.Edgar Hoover. Yikes. I love Clint, but if I'm Warner Bros, I'm seriously considering pulling his carte blanche and Dustin Lance Black very well might be a good and decent person, but he should not be paid to write screenplays.

Friday, November 11, 2011

One More Thing Re: Joe Pa

I view the the vilification of Joe Pa as a witch hunt, encouraged by the media. This is why: Let's us assume the worst - that Joe Pa - knew Sandusky was shady, also knew about the rape AND knew Sandusky was still running camps for boys on the Penn State campus AND therefore knew it was probable that Sandusky was still raping little boys. And he turned a blind eye. Why did he need to be fired at the peak of the media hysteria? If he is guilty of these things, time won't change it. There will be plenty of time for his legacy to be forever tarnished and the proper punishment to be applied. But no. The demand is that he be fired IMMEDIATELY without deliberation, without knowing all the facts, without calm, civilized, orderly thinking.

Look, a similar thing happened in Iraq with Saddam Hussein. They rushed to trial and execution and while it is without question Saddam deserved the death penalty, the process was uncivilized. The ends don't justify the means and we don't even know what Paterno knew. It is simple what is going on - people are worked up into hysteria and damaging the lives of individuals not because they are guilty of crimes - but because we are looking for people to blame, whether they are guilty or not.

UPDATE: Okay, two more things...Megan McArdle has an article up about the rumors Sandusky was pimping out little boys to doners.

At least it offers a motive. And yet . . . it seems completely implausible. How does one go about marketing one's alumni relations department as a potential procurer of underage boys for wealthy pedophiles who perhaps also happen to be fans of the Nittany Lions? And how do you make sure that no one--in the department or elsewhere--tells the police? I find these rumors basically impossible to believe.

Yeah, this idea sounds like an incredibly over-the-top episode of Law & Order SUV. Impossible to believe. I think I need to stop writing and thinking about this story. There without a doubt, should be an investigation to figure out what happened. But let me be clear - I don't give two shits about Paterno as a legend or a fatherly figure - I have no investment in Penn State or big time college football except as a casual fan. And from that perspective, I have no grudge or axe to grind about "paternalistic" organizations or societies, nor a particular love or hate of college football. I view Paterno as a man and a person who most likely has some moral failings and administrative problems running a large organization. Penn State football could disappear tomorrow and my life would be no different. So all that said, as a person, Paterno does not deserve the wrath of hatred directed toward him. He may at one point, but not right now. Not based on rumors and speculation. Not based upon American instinctive distrust of the powerful. Not because we find it ironic when squeaky clean people fall off their perch. And not because of the sicko factor of child molestation, which we all know exists and happens.

Harvard students occupy own campus. If they aren't the 1%, who is?

Kinda tough to have it both ways, methinks, that is to say, be apart of the 1% and then protest against it. Of course, what this protest is really all about, is the 1-2% protesting against the 1%.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jonathan Gold

2011 Essential 99 Restaurants.

Who is the best LA-based journalist/writer? Jonathan Gold/Food? Bill Simmons/Sports? Nikki Finke/Movie Biz? Kevin Drum/Politics?

Those last two are generous additions. I must be missing some other possible nominees...
Christmas Tree War and Tax

How the fake tree industry lobbies Washington to tax real trees.

Charlie Brown would be very upset.
Love It

What a great article on Jim Harbaugh. My favorite tidbits:

It's about Harbaugh's childhood as the youngest son of former longtime college coach Jack Harbaugh, back when his family never complained about constant moving or tiny, cramped homes. Jack actually would get so energized while driving his kids around that he'd shout, "Who has it better than us?" Every time, Jim would scream with his older brother John and younger sister Julie, "Nobody!"

It's a message that has so resonated with the 49ers that they chant "Nobody!" every time Harbaugh yells, "Who has it better than us?" after practices and games.

and this

The people who know Harbaugh best say there is no mystery to that approach. He has always prided himself on his toughness. This is the same guy who, as the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, once injured his right hand while punching former Buffalo Bills quarterback and NBC broadcaster Jim Kelly before a 1997 game against San Diego. The minute Harbaugh heard that Kelly had called him "a baby" on the air, Harbaugh found the man and confronted him.

and this

Said Jack Harbaugh: "Jim went back to Al a couple years later and said he had a good shot at getting the head coaching job at San Diego. Al said, 'USD? Jim, why would you want to go there?' Jim said he'd read Al's bio and remembered that Al had taken a college job early in his career. That's when Al said, 'Yeah, Jim. That was U-S-C!' " Harbaugh was so committed to winning at USD that 49ers quarterbacks coach and good friend Geep Chryst said, "They had to calm him down at times. He was running the program like it was Michigan."

Great story. My favorite is the last bit...

Think about this - in 2006 Harbaugh was coaching a I-AA school that didn't have scholarships. Five years later, he's coaching the Niners and will probably win coach of the year. Granted, he was a pro quarterback, but think about how many retired pro quarterbacks there are...a lot. The man moved up very quickly.