Friday, April 29, 2011

The Good Old Days

Interesting lament on the way things used to be for white children.

A great example of tension can be found in the final episode of Breaking Bad when the two guys decide to steal chemicals. The writing is worthy of study...
Beating the Lakers

The key to beating the Lakers, methinks, is three things:

1) Dominate the point guard position with a fast PG who can dribble-penetrate
2) 2-guard who can match up with Kobe and play him straight up for at least 3-4 games in a long series. Challenge him on both offense and defense. Or better yet, outplay him, but that's unlikely.
3) At least two big men who can battle with their size in the paint and not let them dominate offensive rebounding.

The model for this is the Celtics of a couple years ago. Rondo could break down Fisher easily. Pierce and/or Allen could go head-to-head with Kobe and in that particular series, Pierce outplayed him. And Perkins/Garnett could muscle with Gasol and Bynum down low. So they won in 6.

The teams that have given the Lakers trouble (but not beaten them) the last couple years have 2 of the 3 elements. The Rockets took them to 7 games without McGrady or Yao, but because they had Aaron Brooks giving them fits and Artest/Battier able to guard Kobe and play him at least straight up for 3 games, they caused trouble. Ultimately, they were short a big man, and gave up too much down low. Scola was not enough.

Same with the Hornets. Paul decimated them. And strangely, Ariza matches up well with Kobe in terms of athleticism and size. But again, they didn't have the size down low.

OKC has Westbrook. I wonder if their two bigs can muscle with Bynum and Gasol. It remains to be seen. Durant doesn't exactly match up with Kobe - but he can sort of cancel him out by outscoring him - which I imagine he will do. Last year, OKC didn't have the inside presence. strikes me Dallas has the size with Chandler and Dirk, even though Dirk doesn't go low much. He brings other things to the table. But they seem to be missing the fast point guard and someone to match up with Kobe. Terry? I don't know. Barea off the bench? I don't know. Kidd vs. Fisher seems like a wash to me. Both old point guards with strength and no speed. But the key to beating the Lakers is not to just match up well on the point, I think it's the area that needs to be attacked. Maybe Barea will give them problems...but I don't know. He is awfully short and I can't tell if the guy is actually any good or just a good inspiration/energy guy. Same thing with Terry for that matter...he strikes me as good for some points off the bench...but not a playoff winner type of guy. Dallas can throw some bodies at Kobe - Marion, Butler (challenge him on offense) - the Celtics did this well. Could be a good series, but I imagine the Lakers win in 5 or 6 if they play like they did in the last two games against Charlotte. The real test will be OKC and it will come down to the inside game because I think OKC will win the perimeter game against the Lakers.

Breaking Bad. Finished season 1. It's good.
Walmart CEO

"Our customers are running out of money."

My take on the economic issues is pretty simple - and very well may be wrong - but the government bailouts and stimulus were designed to protect the stock market and the homeowners, ie stock holders and home owners. The cost of doing so was to increase the money supply, thereby driving up costs, ie causing inflation and we are seeing it in gas prices, food prices, and other commodities. (Note: situation in the ME also is contributing to gas prices)

Since commodity prices (or taxes) are inherently regressive (they are felt more by the poor than the rich), you could make a fairly sensible argument that the bulk of government spending served to transfer money from the poor to wealthy. Not a direct transfer, but a protection of a certain class of assets/wealth at the expense of future prices.

Not that it was the intention of the Obama Administration to do so. They also extended unemployment benefits and there were residual effects of certain bail outs to middle class jobs (GM) and probably some residual employment gains by protecting the stock market and not letting firms fail. And it is also true that it is much harder to help the poor than help the rich because frankly, the rich tend to make better decisions with their money (which is why they are often rich in the first place) and have more options with their money (which makes it easier to make better decisions). And perhaps the idea was to protect the rich in the short run knowing that in the long run, we're going to make up most of the debt by taxing the wealthiest when the economy starts chugging again.

But doesn't it just seem easier to let some of these markets bottom out? Especially the housing market. Everyone got so up in arms about people "losing their homes." By definition, these weren't people's homes. Renters get kicked out of their homes all the time. What is so precious about living spaces? If you lived in your home for 10-20 years and your kids are in school and you are invested in your community, I get the issue. But in those cases, it doesn't strike me you'd be underwater with your mortgage. And if you were, well, whose fault is that? So let the market bottom out. Let these lame companies like GM fail. If I fail as a screenwriter, no one is going to bail me out. Even if, by some folks argument, GM is now chugging along fine. Yeah...maybe if someone gave me 100,000 to live for 3 years, I could produce a good screenplay. Guess what? No one is doing that and certainly not the government. In fact, I'd give myself better odds than GM. The cost is what other companies could do in the place of GM or in place of me as a screenwriter. That's the issue - that it's totally anti-competitive.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Work Schedule

The last couple weeks, I've been working totally out of my home and developed a schedule that I find works well.

Wake up - 8am-9am.

Read news, go on run, go on walk, check email, make breakfast...some combination of those things for about 1 hour. But no longer.

9am/10am-work until 12-1pm - Writing (scenes or outline or editing)

1pm-4pm - break. Walk, run, read book, watch movie, eat lunch, watch a tv show, do errands (am looking into other break activities)

4pm-7pm - back to writing

7pm onwards - whatever, make dinner, go out, relax

One the hardest things about switching from an office job to a writing job - a thing people don't talk about much - is the psychological aspect of the work. Certainly, it takes self discipline to get yourself to work without a boss, but it is actually something else as well, the self discipline to relax. Writing screenplays is a long haul compared to writing an article and a short haul compared to writing a novel. You can't do it all at once. Your mind needs breaks. You can't allow the project to take over your life. And you can't beat yourself up over every spare minute thinking to oneself - "I need to be working now." That can't be healthy. But then again, you don't want to work just 2 hours a day and surf the internet. You'd feel like a real tool. So how to fix it? I've found the long lunch break in the afternoon re-energizes me. It used to be I could only write in the AM. All my energy came in the AM, all my good thoughts. What I've found with the long afternoon break is that I'm just as vigorous in the afternoon now and oftentimes will write past my 7pm stop time if I have nothing scheduled. These are good things. I found myself being less productive in front of the computer when I tried to work for 5 hours straight. For one thing, my first hour would be lazy and I wouldn't get to work right away because I had so much time. And then I'd get tired in the later hours and again be unproductive. I find 3 hour chunks to work best. 2 hours is good. I'd say 1.5 hours is the minimum to get anything good done. And if you get hot, well, the sky is the limit, just keep going. But 3 hours is good. 4 hours is great. I've yet to find a better analogy than athletics. It just feels like practice used to feel. You can't go forever, but you also know when you aren't practicing hard.

Screenplay: Sideways

It doesn't get old.

Movie: Greenberg

This movie took me a long time to watch. I started and stopped 3 times. I laughed several times. I suppose it's the best Noah Baumbach movie, which isn't saying much. I don't know...the other day Malcom Gladwell wrote the litmus test of a memoir is whether the author's life was more interesting than your own. I don't know if the same litmus test applies to movies, but certainly if the movie is more boring than my own life, there is a problem. So...Greenberg, Bored to Death, and any mumblecore movie can pretty much fall into this category.
I'm Down

Mickey Kaus asks: why not debate affirmative action.

There's no way around it, affirmative action yields all sorts of confusing and unfair results. Kaus makes an interesting point about Obama, the affirmative action president:

Were Obama a magnificent president in all respects, Trump’s charge would have little resonance. Who cares how Obama got into Harvard Law? In 2008, it was obvious enough to voters that he might have benefitted from preferences. He won a national majority anyway. But it turns out there are some ropes Obama doesn’t seem to have learned in his turbo-boosted ascent up the political hierarchy. He hasn’t been alert to some ingrained bureaucratic pathologies–he told Jon Alter he learned as president that “one of the biggest lies in government is the idea of ’shovel-ready’ projects.” Wish he hadn’t had to learn that! Nor does he appear to have acquired the skill–that someone like Bill Clinton would need to acquire to survive several terms as a governor–of making a policy sale. And would a leader versed in effectively wielding power declare that, say, the leader of the sovereign nation of Libya “needs to go” if he wasn’t willing to do what was necessary to make him go? Rookie mistake?

Now...I think it's unreasonable to think any President is actually going to be ready for the job prior to having it. But I think the point Kaus is making here is Obama was particularly unready versus say, Hillary Clinton, and benefitted from people liking the idea of a black President. I don't think he is wrong. Then again, Bush won because of who his mother and father were. I wonder if it makes sense that our Presidential elections now mirror the college admissions process. Famous legacies and minorities getting a leg up...what's next...a scholar-athelete President? I suppose I wouldn't object.
Getting At Something

Reading all these numbers are confusing, but they are on the right track in terms of figuring out how wealth is now distributed in the US. By lopping off the top 1% and then the top 10% of household who own the majority of wealth in the US, and discounting the bottom 25% who practically owe nothing, we are left with the "middle class," who per these numbers got raped by the housing crisis, ie lost nearly 50% of their wealth. Check the numbers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Book: Siberian Education: Growing Up in a Criminal Underworld

Cannot recommend this book - was a struggle to get through.
Carbon Taxes

Good back and forth on carbon taxes and why they both work and don't work.

Basically, consumption doesn't go down much unless the price shock is enormous and similarly innovation does not increase with higher price.

Obama releases his birth certificate now.

Strange. I guess Trump got to him. I never really understood why he didn't release it earlier...was the idea not to cave to ideological nutjobs? Only to then cave to ideological nutjobs?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chris Paul

Watching Chris Paul play...I don't think this guy would want to play with Amare and Carmelo in NY. Paul plays tough and it strikes me he would like character guys, which is pretty much the opposite of what New York has to offer.

On another note - Kobe is playing great tonight (so much for his fake ankle injury, thanks Barkley for pointing that out) - but watching Paul this series - he might be the most intelligent basketball player I've ever seen play. Who else could compete for this crown? Bird? Magic? Dennis Rodman (on his rebounding skills alone). Having trouble thinking of others...

Krugman outed for being for entitlement reform and now against it.

Let's face it - all these people who's living depends on punditry - etc - are simply writing what their customers want to hear. Krugman is paid by limousine liberals to harangue conservatives. Malkin is paid to point out Krugman's hypocrisy. What is problematic with this? Well...I suppose nothing...unless you want to face the real issues as opposed to just feeling like a member of a team.

Coffee prices hit 34 year high. I have noticed coffee costs more in restaurants these days. I haven't noticed a corresponding price bump in buying ground beans, though.

Commodity prices are rising across the board. We call this inflation. And it's what happens when we jack up how much money we print to try and weasel out of debt. Is stagflation coming?
Libertarians Are Really Onto Something

On the nature of an all-consuming politics.

“We have always known that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. It’s worse now, because capture of government is so much more important than it once was. There was a time when there was enough freedom that it hardly mattered which brand of crooks ran government. That has not been true for a long time — not during most of your lifetimes, and for much of mine — and it will probably never be true again.”

This is a dangerous trend in all of American life. We are being gangsterized by bureaucrats and middlemen and lawyering ourselves to death. I can speak to examples in the entertainment industry as it is where my experience lies. If you are a creative, ie someone who actually makes shit, there are all sorts of incentives to get an agent, a manager, and a lawyer on your "team," since the other "team" ie studios and other employers have the same. So just in order to negotiate a smallish contract, the employee needs to pay 25% off the top to the "team." I have seen this over and over again with writers (my area), but I assume it applies to actors, directors, and below the line as well, but lawyers on both sides argue back and forth over minute elements in the contracts in order to justify their fees. Most of these items are pointless and could easily be standardized (especially when you are dealing with non-brand name people), yet we do it anyway. The studios will do it to bully the creatives and so the creatives are forced to jump on with one of the big law firms who can bully back.

What gets lost in this morass is several things. It de-incentives the lower end, ie new people. It kills a lot of our babies. The start up costs are difficult - no one wants to take flyers on new people because they hardly justify the amount of work. New people getting started earn a little bit of money and then pay well over 50% to taxes and representation. And it incentives busy-work over actually creative work. Sure, lots of scripts get commissioned and they are bad. But wouldn't it be a wiser expenditure of resources to take flyers on creative work than to pump that money into legal fees? I wish someone would do an accounting to see how much money ends up in the pockets of creatives vs. how much money ends up in the pockets of agents/lawyers/managers and then do another study taking away the very top 5% of mega-rich creatives like Spielberg, etc and then do the same study. I imagine it would be scary to see this breakdown - but it would be a revealing number to see how much money flows toward paperwork and deal making vs. creative processes. And I doubt it is a healthy number. I suppose it is probably worse in other industries.

Monday, April 25, 2011


TV: Treme

Treme stole one of my descriptors - Sofia tosses the line "Perfect fucking Benetton diversity" near the end of the episode. I've been using that shit for years and I think I made it up, although I suppose it's possible I heard it somewhere and started using it. Anyhow, don't know if this is a good thing or bad thing - certainly am proud a show as good as Treme used this description, but on the other hand, it came out of the mouth of a teenager.
Employment Numbers law schools lie about their employment numbers.

Campos looked at "employment data drawn from 183 individual [National Association for Law Placement] forms, in which graduates of one top 50 school self-reported their employment status nine months after graduation," and found that "fully one-third of those graduates who report they are working in full-time jobs that require a law degree are in temporary, rather than permanent, positions." (Go to the link if you want to know how he dealt with judicial clerkships, which are temporary, but usually excellent jobs.) Counting temporary and permanent jobs, only 45% had "real legal jobs." Drop below the "top 50," and the percentages are almost certainly worse.

I'm sure film schools are actually much worse in this regard. Someone ought to do a study. USC said 75% of their graduates work in the industry, but like the above article, they really ought to do a sample that distinguishes the level of work, ie jobs you could do without having gone to film would also be interesting to track 9 months out, 3 years out, 5 years out, etc.

500 Taliban prisoners escape.
Oil Prices

Why they are high and going higher.

The article blames our currency devaluation (ie quantative easing) for the price increase in oil.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Interesting article on energy policy and how we're stuck into dumb long term positions.

Housing policy, too, needs to change. Supporting consumer spending on buying a new home instead of renting or rehabilitating an older home in the inner-city has led to suburban sprawl. Not only does this mean people drive more and drive farther but that they live in detached houses and work in suburban office parks and strip malls, all of which consume more energy than apartment buildings, town houses, and urban skyscrapers. We need to stop favoring new homeownership over renting (via the mortgage interest tax deduction and other subsidies). Decreasing the emphasis on homeownership and single-family home development will have the added benefits of preventing future housing bubbles and increasing socioeconomic and racial integration.

Middle-class families are also lured to the suburbs by education policies that allow those schools to be so much better than the ones in inner cities. Whereas many countries finance schools largely through general revenues at the national or regional level, the U.S. leaves most school funding up to localities, which often rely largely on property taxes. The result? Suburban school districts have more advantaged populations and better resources. Most suburban students rely on school buses or cars to get to school. This, of course, uses more oil than walking and the cost of all that gas guzzling has become a major problem for districts struggling with rising gas prices. But the bigger problem is that the socioeconomically segregated schools create inequality of opportunity and, from a land-use perspective, this means that middle-class families will keep leaving the city to give their children a better chance in life. If we raised state and federal income taxes and provisioned funding more equally across districts and also created regional mega-districts to integrate suburban and urban school districts, we could remove this incentive for white flight and suburban sprawl.

Interesting connections being made here.

Forgot to log: DRIVE by James Sallis, THIEVES' WORLD by Claire Sterling (read only parts).

TV: Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad (Ep.4-5)
I Didn't Know That

Walmart considering online grocery delivery in California. Walmart makes 54% of its revenue from groceries. That surprises me, although I don't know why. I spend most of my discretionary money on food. My monthly nut is rent, utilities, insurance..after that, the spending is food, gas, entertainment, clothes, and other discretionary items depending on the month. I think about what I spend money on and it continues to puzzle me how things like Facebook and Google are considered so valuable, since I spend exactly zero on them.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, Parks and Rec. Not sure gorging on TV shows is exactly worth logging as cultural intake, but hey, there it is. Also watched latest episode of Justified the other day. Parks and Rec was a particularly funny episode with Leslie joining internet dating and getting matched up with Tom.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pt. Reyes Hiking Food

Here is a spot I want to try on my next Pt. Reyes hike in the bay area: Tony's (scroll down link).
Palms Thai

Ate the other night at Palms Thai food on Hollywood Blvd. Surprisingly good Pad Kee Mao, which is basically my litmus test for Thai food. Open until midnight on weeknights at 1:30am on weekends. A good option for late night cheap grub in Hollywood.

Apple and Google not only collect, but store, your location data from iphone and google android whatever.

So yeah, someone has all your information about your whereabout...or at least your cell phone whereabouts. Scary? A tad.
Oil Speculators and Gas Price Task Force

I heard a clip of Obama talking about gas prices yesterday and I guess he's organizing a task force to look at oil price speculators who could be involved with the crazy high prices. Really? Come on. I listened to this and was like - jeez - am I a college freshman or something? Is the President of the United States really trying to suggest our higher gas prices are the result of some greedy cabal of oil speculators and not unrest in the Middle East combined with the myriad of other, unknowable, and uncontrollable factors of price? Jeez.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Do The Work by Steve Pressman. Free on the kindle and took me about 1 hour to read. Basically, a self-help book on how to write...recommended by one of my favorite blogs and it was FREE. Can't go wrong, I suppose.



Noir double feature at the Egyptian. Both about women being persuaded they are going mad. Appropriate double feature. Nina Foch starred in Julia Ross - the legendary USC acting teacher.

Breaking Bad episodes 2-3

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ruining Our Brains

Via multi-tasking.

And now I'll be shutting the internet off.
Good Idea

Instapundit from 2008 on shared sacrifice. This strikes me as a rather good idea:

Personally, I'd like to see everyone pay at least some income tax, and I'd like to see the amount of tax paid, by everyone, go up or down every year in tandem with federal spending. That would encourage fiscal discipline directly. It would also make it harder for politicians to promise everybody a free lunch, but hey -- why shouldn't they sacrifice something, too?

I can imagine a progressive tax system that still has these built in incentives. It makes sense, doesn't it? I suppose a lot of folks will argue it would be penny-wise, pound-foolish to pinch pennies during recession or other times of crisis, but the fact is, when you don't force responsibility on spending, there are always excuses to spend and not save, ie borrow. Which is how we get into major trouble.
Bring 'Em Down!

Housing prices still have a ways to drop.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011


Book: Best American Crime Writing 2007

SUPER RICH SEE BIG TAX DROP: The 400 richest taxpayers in the country—average income $345 million—pay about 17 percent of their income in taxes on Monday, down from 26 percent in 1992. Over the same period, the average taxpayer’s federal income tax rate has declined less than one percent. Still, 45 percent of households will pay no income tax at all.

Both of these statistics are absolutely horrifying. How can 45% of households pay NO income tax. They drive on roads, don't they? They have children in public schools. They ought to pay something - even if it is just a token amount to make it clear government is funded by someone and not just a dispenser of goods and services. And is it that I pay a higher tax rate than the 400 richest taxpayers in the country? Oy vey.

Atlas Shrugged - the movie - ripped apart.

I wish I could report that the movie holds out the same kind of promise that the first Lord of the Rings movie did. Unfortunately, it's . . . how do I say this . . . an incoherent mess that put me less in mind of Peter Jackson than Tommy Wisseau. It was a huge mistake to watch it on a laptop; I spent the entire time fighting a nearly overpowering urge to check my email.

It seems this movie is on another level of bad - the level where you actually pity the movie as opposed to just not liking it. Many student films are like this.

On another note, there was a ridiculous preview of a film called DEEP GOLD they kept showing throughout the NBA playoffs. It looked as if some pirate tv station had suddenly taken hold of the airwaves - the movie looked like a bad straight to dvd movie with hot asian chicks and somehow it got previews during NBA playoffs. What? And a theater release? I was totally confused.

A foreshadowing of what will happen if our debt ceiling is reached and our credit downgraded.

Not good.
But What Can You Conclude From That?

Blind tasters can't tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine.

But that isn't to say there isn't a difference, just most people have no taste. We shouldn't be surprised by this.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Ate at Savoy Kitchen in Alhambra yesterday. Delicious.
NBA Today

I've been saying for a couple years now we're entering into an era of the point guard. Derrick Rose's ascendency this year reinforces this theory. At the very top tier we have Paul, Rondo, Deron Williams, Rose, Russell Westbrook (not a real point guard), and Tony Parker. All of these guys are their teams number 1 or number 2 most important player. Other point guards who are among their teams top 3 players are - Mike Conley, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups, Jameer Nelson, Andre Miller, and maybe some others, but I haven't watch their teams play enough (like Denver's Ty Lawyson or Bibby or Collison on Indiana).

The prevailing counter-example is of course the Lakers whose biggest weakness is Fisher (although he brings some intangible strengths to this particular team) and the idea of length being the predominant factor in winning the NBA championship. Bill Simmons talks about last years game 7 and how the Lakers controlled the 6 feet in the paint against the Celtics and that is what won the game. I suppose until the Lakers are unseated, the length argument is difficult to dispute. I watched the Memphis Grizzlies defeat the Spurs today - the first time I've seen Memphis play this year. Interesting team. Two really big guys in the middle who can score and rebound - Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph. Neither look quite like an elite position player - they don't have quite the defensive presence of Dwight Howard or Kevin Garnett - or the offensive elegance of Pau Gasol or Tim Duncan or Dirk - but they seem to play tough on both end of the floor and have some good chemistry. So maybe the way to look at these teams is front-line pairs:

Garnett-Perkins; Gasol-Bynum-(sub Oden), Boozer-Noah, Chandler-Nowitski, Randolph-Gasol, etc. Of course, losing Perkins makes everyone thing the Celtics are doomed and I would suspect the same.

Anyhow, these playoffs will be interesting. The Laker model - front-line length with an elite "closer" who can get his own shot at the end of the game vs. strong work ethic/teammate style basketball (New Orleans, Boston, Chicago, San Antonio) vs. young speed and offensive juggernauts (OKC and Denver and Knicks) and then the other teams built around one elite player - Dallas, Orlando, etc.

It still strikes me PG has become an increasingly important position in the NBA as we seem to be moving away from the era of the 2-guard that began with Jordan and hopefully will end with Kobe.
Great Website

Eat LA. A lot of fun to peruse.

LA Times readers upload their favorite hikes photos.

I'm feeling the NBA Playoffs cutting into my hike time.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Catching up: 30 Rock, The Office (Will Ferrell joins), Parks and Rec (Friday)

SUPER last night.
Friday Night Lights Returns

A nice little article on how Friday Night Lives managed to stay around for five seasons.

The DirecTV partnership allowed Friday Night Lights to shake off a disappointing second season—despised even by ardent fans for a nonsensical murder storyline, among other questionable character choices—and return to the quiet moments and small-scale dramas that it rendered so beautifully in its first season. Still, by the time season 3 kicked off, the show was straining credulity with the amount of time its teenage characters had spent in high school. Were we really supposed to believe that beefcake fullback Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), who easily looked 25 in the pilot episode, was just a sophomore when the series started?

I trust this writer because she deftly picks up on the two biggest pieces of strangeness in the show in the above quote.

She does seem to miss the major thing FNL discovered - the coach. He didn't necessarily start as the centerpiece of the show - it was going to be about the football players and the chicks - Street, Riggins, Cerecen, Smash, Tyra, Lyla - but like the Simpsons began as a show about Bart and then discovered it was a show about Homer, FNL rather quickly discovered they had a couple around which the show could be based - coach and his wife.

Friday, April 15, 2011


An online dating site for Ayn Rand followers.

It actually makes more sense to me for online dating sites to be narrower and self-selecting. The real world works this way just by virtue of ones choices about where they spend time. Like I could see an online dating site for athletes or country music lovers or something of this nature because it sort of narrows the gap and doesn't feel so large and there are automatic dates involved - Dodger Game or the Waylon Jennings concert. This poses a problem, however, for online dating sites because I believe they actually feed on the perverse notion that there is someone out there for everyone (and you just haven't found them yet). This is not true. It is a coping mechanism. But obviously untrue from any sort of objective standpoint. You could demonstrate this by looking at any sort of different variables - the number of divorces, the fact that good looking people have a ton more dating options than ugly people - etc. But in feeding on this idea, people are inclined to go to the biggest sites to cast the widest net. or maybe not, I don't know.

Nevertheless, it strikes me as being a step in the right direction for online dating to be narrower.
Maybe I Should Move

The per capita income of Qatar is $145,000 per year.

No wonder they are hosting the world cup. Oh yeah, and the article is about Obama wanting a cooler phone in the oval office.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wish I Had This Opportunity

The founder of paypal is offering high aptitude kids money to stop going to school college.

The entire profile.

And pretty much rips Harvard to shreds here -

But Thiel’s issues with education run even deeper. He thinks it’s fundamentally wrong for a society to pin people’s best hope for a better life on something that is by definition exclusionary. “If Harvard were really the best education, if it makes that much of a difference, why not franchise it so more people can attend? Why not create 100 Harvard affiliates?” he says. “It’s something about the scarcity and the status. In education your value depends on other people failing. Whenever Darwinism is invoked it’s usually a justification for doing something mean. It’s a way to ignore that people are falling through the cracks, because you pretend that if they could just go to Harvard, they’d be fine. Maybe that’s not true.”


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oh L.A.

At Wholefoods tonight. Woman in front of me is middle aged, Mexican, buying just a key lime soda - the Whole Foods brand. Check out person - venice hippy chick. Women says to her "No 7-Up." Check out chick "You want 7-Up? Like regular 7-Up." Woman nods. She wears like a city maintenance worker type of uniform. Chick says "No 7-Up. Dollar store will have it." Maintenance woman gets this look like "What the fuck am I doing here." Check out chick goes "7-Up isn't organic. All our sodas are organic." "Oh. Organic" maintenance woman says. Hands over her 60 cents.
Patriotic Millionaires

A group of rich folks, including Doug Liman and Edie Falco ask to be taxed more.

But as Instapundit points out, what they actually mean is for other people to be taxed more since they can voluntarily make Treasury contributions themselves.

What a bunch of bullshitters.

Interesting article on luck.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I've developed an incredibly strange habit of reading four books at once. Right now, I'm reading Joan Dideon's RUN RIVER, some non-fiction book about Siberian Criminals, THE WORLD AT NIGHT by Alan Furst, and some graphic novels for work (those I'll finish quickly. Bad. Or good. I don't know.

TRAFFIC, Justified (latest episode), Archer (random episode).

Notes: Traffic really didn't hold up for me, actually almost found it bad this time around. Perhaps a testament to the style being influential and so much more advanced now with the gritty, real, panorama style of television. Justified is still enjoyable, but this was one of the worst episodes and I fear a Friday Night Lights season 2 style collapse in the storyline (okay, not that dramatic). Archer was surprisingly funny. Original tone.

I should have started this long ago, but I'm going to start logging what I read and watch. Inspired by Steven Soderbergh. Hat tip, Hatley.

4/11/11 - "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" by David Mamet, Hot Tub Time Machine (turned off), The Killing (ep. 3)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Funny...And Real

TAJIK MUSLIMS TO BAN TEXT MESSAGE DIVORCES: Tajik religious authorities say divorce by text message will soon be banned, as they seek to stamp out the practice in the mainly Muslim Central Asian nation. State religious affairs committee head Abdurakhim Kholikov said Monday that sending SMSs with the “triple talaq,” a Muslim ritual whereby a husband can end a marriage by reciting the term for divorce three times, breaches Islamic law. Divorce by text message has become common in Tajikistan, particularly among migrant laborers living abroad. Households in impoverished Tajikistan depend heavily on cash remittances and divorce usually dooms wives to deep penury.

I don't have a problem with this.
More on the Roth

Megan McCardle doesn't think your Roth is safe.

So I don't advise not saving. But I've started thinking about saving in ways that Uncle Sam won't be tempted to touch--like paying off your house early, maybe buying a vacation home (for cash) if you know where you're likely to want to spend a lot of time, and doing the kind of renovations that save you money in the long run--better insulation, higher-end energy-efficient appliances, etc. Paying now to lower your monthly costs later may have a better after-tax return than that "tax free" account.

Solid points, although someone in my position cannot take advantage because of how much investment is needed to buy real estate vs. the cost of the Roth. I mean, the limit being about $5000 per year - that'll buy you - ah, I suppose nothing in the real estate market. But for people already owning homes, I suspect this is good advice.

She makes the same point I did below that at some point in the fiscal future, the government is going to look around and need money and is going to punish those who saved early. I do agree that there should be limits on Roth contributions - it doesn't make sense to me why earners of over 100,000 are able to save in Roths. Then it becomes used as a tax shelter for estates versus a tool for middle class retirement. What we'll eventually get is something similar to the housing crisis where a combination of factors conspire to hurt middle class savers. Policies with good intentions and start with some early success get overused and abused and eventually cause strange incentives and unfair policies. Then, the government will over-correct in order to redress the problem and punish both the problem cases and the cases where it worked as designed.
Maybe So

Roth IRAs are a financial frankenstein. Maybe so, but they're indisputably a good deal for people like myself to invest in.

Mark my words - 30 years from now - there will be "progressives" clamoring for the tax money from Roth's. They will also be people who didn't invest in them.
True Indeed

Leaving messages.

And it occurred to me that in this new millennial life of instant and ubiquitous connection, you don’t in fact communicate so much as leave messages for one another, these odd improvisational performances, often sorry bits and samplings of ourselves that can’t help but seem out of context.

Hat tip, Robyn.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Preverse Pleasure

A strange look inside David Foster Wallace's private reading collection. Beware, this is a rather intimate look inside the man's mind and almost feels to me like an invasion of privacy.

So much is written about DFW, I find the discussion about him as a writer more interesting than his writing. Perhaps I'm just lazy, but I've always felt like he over-wrote, tried to cram everything in and it just gets tiresome. He has great moments of insight, but you need to read 5 pages to get those single paragraphs. Nevertheless, one of those moments appears as part of his unfinished novel, soon to be published (this must be why stuff about him is all over the blogosphere).

We've changed the way we think of ourselves as citizens. We don't think of ourselves as citizens in the old sense of being small parts of something larger and infinitely more important to which we have serious responsibilities. We do still think of ourselves as citizens in the sense of being beneficiaries–we're actually conscious of our rights as American citizens and the nation's responsibilities to us and ensuring we get our share of the American pie. We think of ourselves now as eaters of the pie instead of makers of the pie. So who makes the pie?

Very well put. Who makes the pie indeed - that's the question I've been pondering for years now.

And here is another smart point by the writer of the article:

I am making an informed guess that these things that we dwell on with our therapists—they may or may not be false, but almost necessarily, they're only the tiniest part of a picture that is so very much larger. To dwell on the terrible things is to miss the point. To fail ourselves, in a sense.

I am fairly public about my beef with therapized culture. This idea of incessantly talking about our preoccupations and breaking ourselves down into "root causes," etc, etc. is itself missing the point. I like how the writer puts it above. Now...this should not be confused with therapy to deal with trauma or acute problems with depression or whatever. I actually think therapy in these cases strikes me as a relatively cheap, risk-free, and useful. But I live in Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry. Therapists in this culture - and they way they are presented - are more like friends all too happy to take loads of money and listen to problems that really aren't problems. But hey, everyone needs to make a living, right? I just don't see these people as adding to the pie-making process.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Convincing Argument

Sullivan makes a convincing case against intervention in Libya.

This is how many wars start - by initiating relatively minor interference with good, even noble intentions, before getting sucked into a far deeper role in an intractable conflict. Resisting that temptation will be the real test of Obama's strength. He is, after all, only president because he opposed a dumb war in Iraq. He surely doesn't want history recording that he started another one.

and also, this:

The Bush administration went into Iraq with a multitude of objectives, from finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction to building a new democratic country in the heart of the Middle East. But even at the highest levels, U.S. officials disagreed over how central the creation of a democratic Iraq was to American ambitions and interests.

This ambiguity of purpose helped create a serious dilemma: The United States undertook a complicated, multifaceted occupation and nation-building project without the planning and resources required for it to succeed. Yet, even after Obama’s speech Monday at the National Defense University, it remains unclear what the president considers an acceptable outcome in Libya.

Tough calls. They dynamic today is undoubtedly different that in 02 and 03. The biggest major difference is that Al Queda has been rolled back and we are not flush with cash anymore. So it makes less sense going out there to fight every two-bit dictator. Then again, there is the imminent genocide argument and we don't have time to discuss. There is also the hangover from Iraq. Tough to tell. When I look back on these things it become apparent - choices made in haste inevitably end up being bad choices. Often, it is better to just sit tight and as my history of jazz professor used to say, "save your money."

Mocking Ulysses.

I can one-up Sullivan - I've never even tried reading it.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Personal Filmmaking

Personal filmmaking is emphasized in film schools and amongst cineastes all the world round as the only real antidote to the schlocky product created by Hollywood year in and year out. The best and most talented of filmmakers are able to bring fresh personal visions to tried and true genres, thus making original and timeless work. But is this really the case? I just watched HANNA, the Joe Wright film starring Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, and the young girl from Atonement. The previews looked good. I'll see most any action movie if given the opportunity and I was lazy today and wanted to get out. The movie starts all right, but as soon as we get away from the genre action-y stuff, we are thrust into the filmmakers personal preoccupations. Hooray, right! Wrong. Are we supposed to enjoy hanging out with a traveling hippy "family" in a camper? Are we expected to be mesmerized by gypsy campfire songs like some teenager on their first acid trip? Are supposed to be afraid of a bunch of gay-neo-nazis driving range rovers and wearing tennis outfits. Que?

Finally, we get back to the action and it turns confusing. If you've seen the preview, you'll know Hanna kicks the shit out of a whole shitload of top secret government people very early on in the movie and escapes an inescapable fortress. But later in the movie, she's running away from a schlubby gay guy that is like a bastardized version of Big Lebowski nihilists and the bad teenagers in Funny Games. And Cate Blanchett. I'm like - huh?

My point is this: we celebrate personal filmmaking when we like the movie. The rest of the time - most of the time - personal filmmaking sucks. Watch any number of these mumblecore movies. Better yet, read incoming manuscripts of books people have worked their whole lives writing. This is personal stuff. And you know what? It's BORING. And tends to be undisciplined and lousy art to boot. Joe Wright, it can be argued, makes personal films. In the same way Ed Zwick makes personal films. These guys are auteurs. Is this preferable to Unknown, or The Lincoln Lawyer, or Taken, movies that don't espouse to be personal visions, but straight genre exercises? I don't know. I just find this confusing because we all look at great work like Mean Streets or the Godfather and explain the excitement about those films being infused by the personal vision of the filmmakers. But if we are to be excited about this concept, we ought to examine the cases didn't work out as well as the ones that did.

Anyhow, one of the more interesting elements of the movie is that I'm sitting in row - this is Friday afternoon - theater about 1/3 full and the only two other people in my row are two hot women each seeing the movie by themselves one on each side of me. Riddle me that. Only in Los Angeles.

Zadie Smith tackles Facebook. She does a much better job articulating some of my fears than I do. My favorite tidbits:

When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned.

And this:

It feels important to remind ourselves, at this point, that Facebook, our new beloved interface with reality, was designed by a Harvard sophomore with a Harvard sophomore’s preoccupations. What is your relationship status? (Choose one. There can be only one answer. People need to know.) Do you have a “life”? (Prove it. Post pictures.) Do you like the right sort of things? (Make a list. Things to like will include: movies, music, books and television, but not architecture, ideas, or plants.)

But here I fear I am becoming nostalgic. I am dreaming of a Web that caters to a kind of person who no longer exists. A private person, a person who is a mystery, to the world and—which is more important—to herself. Person as mystery: this idea of personhood is certainly changing, perhaps has already changed.

Gimme back that mystery over Facebook any day. Maybe the real reason I'm not on Facebook is not because I don't want people seeing me - maybe it's that I don't want to see people that way.

...that's why I don't online date.
My Favorite

10 things that will happen with a government shutdown. Here is my favorite:

Word is getting around that a government shutdown doesn't actually save taxpayers money. For one, it will cost the government money to ensure a smooth transition to a shutdown. Then there's the lost revenue from a variety of sources, from government services to gift shops in government-run attractions such as Yosemite National Park and DC's National Gallery of Art.
Do You Know Who I Am?

Allen Iverson goes off to police.

If one has risen to a certain stature in life, one of the big perks, to me, is the day when it's all tumbled down and you catch yourself saying "do you know who I am!"
Welcome To The Future

We can't afford everything.

We’re not the dominant economy. And our pace of growth has moderated. Our ability to finance this is all limited.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


Obama makes an insensitive comment about gas prices.

Obama needled one questioner who asked about gas prices, now averaging close to $3.70 a gallon nationwide, and suggested that the gentleman consider getting rid of his gas-guzzling vehicle.

“If you’re complaining about the price of gas and you’re only getting 8 miles a gallon, you know,” Obama said laughingly. “You might want to think about a trade-in.”

Conservatives get up in arms about this. I find it amusing, as had GW Bush said the same thing, liberals would be up in arms about it. I wish they'd guys just say, "dude, I don't control gas prices."

Why more people don't cheat on their taxes.

Not to be too cynical, but with the vast complexity of the tax system, those pre-disposed to cheat can likely find legal ways to do it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Disgraced politician John Edwards is said to be deeply depressed, to the point of being suicidal, over the prospect of a criminal trial that could end with him being jailed if found guilty. The 57-year-old former Presidential candidate reportedly told a close friend: ‘I won’t go to jail. I’d kill myself first!’ He has lost 20lb in the last year and is a ‘broken spirit,’ according to sources. ‘In early March, his legal team told him there was a strong chance he could be indicted, and John completely lost it. ‘He cried his eyes out.’ The former North Carolina senator has been under federal grand jury investigation since April 2009 for alleged payments to take care of Miss Hunter, his mistress, in violation of campaign rules. Probes have been carried out by both the IRS and the FBI.

Poor bastard. To be fair, I said I'd kill myself before internet dating, but I think people understood this to be hyperbolic.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Budget Crisis

My read on this: the Republicans are betting if they are able to shut down the government it'll benefit them politically. It'll make Obama look ineffective. Funny gamble as the last time the government shut down, Bill Clinton made it look like the Republicans fault and it carried him into a second term. But Obama is not Clinton and I think they spy his weakness: looking weak.

I'd say this is a pretty shitty thing to do, but it isn't like the Democrats didn't take advantage of a mismanaged war to gain political points. Now the Republicans are taking a mismanaged Federal Budget to do the same. Too bad. But that's the era we live in.
Obama Disappearing Act

Interesting liberal take on Obama's overall disengagement with issues.

This goes back to a reading of Obama by Virginia Postrel and Thomas Sowell during the campaign - of being a glamourous vs. charismatic figure. Charismatic figures are able to convince people of their own POV. Glamourous figures are those enigmatic enough for others to project their own desires upon. Movie stars are glamourous. Winston Churchill is charismatic. (so is Osama Bin Laden - charisma is always used for good). The problem (or maybe it isn't one) with Obama, is that whether he has any core principles or not, he doesn't seem willing or able to convince others to fight for them. His strategy seems to be to gauge what is popular/feasible to do in the moment and either help nudge that along or undermine it depending on the particular issue aligns with his stated policy beliefs or the beliefs of his advisors. Liberals are catching on.

And what could be more obvious than the decision to try KSM in a military court. Liberals are freaking out about this, and I'm no lawyer, but still don't see what the big deal with trying Al Queda in military courts is. We are at war with them.

This google ambassador program makes me suspicious.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Remembering An Awesome Scene

The brawl in the pool hall during Mean Streets while Mr. Postman plays...oh boy.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Great Article

The 32 best players in baseball.

No surprise, no Oakland A's on there.

The article is full of interesting little facts, but I found this particularly noteworthy:

MVPs since the 1994 strike:

Texas: 5

Seattle: 2

Minnesota: 2

Boston: 2

Yankees: 2

Oakland: 2

Anaheim: 1

Chicago White Sox: 1

Strange how many MVPs are from Texas (theory: hitting ballpark), but also how so many MVPs came from those 5 other teams and so few from all the rest. And it's not one person is accounting for all those MVPs, I don't think...

You can trace these Arab uprisings to Iraq.

We have to admit, this is better than the alternative.
Single Life

Wait...this guy had a girlfriend?

A morbidly obese man is dead after he was found fused to a chair that he had been stuck on for two years.

The 43-year-old man from Bellaire, Ohio, was discovered unconscious on Sunday by his girlfriend.

I wonder where they met.