Sunday, July 31, 2011

In Defense of Boring

Manohla and AO Scottdefend boring movies.

Hat tip, Hatley.

Scott's best point:

Some of this anti-art bias reflects the glorious fact that film has always been a popular art form, a great democratic amusement accessible to everyone and proud of its lack of aristocratic pedigree. But lately, I think, protests against the deep-dish and the highbrow — to use old-fashioned populist epithets of a kind you used to hear a lot in movies themselves — mask another agenda, which is a defense of the corporate status quo. For some reason it needs to be asserted, over and over again, that the primary purpose of movies is to provide entertainment, that the reason everyone goes to the movies is to have fun. Any suggestion to the contrary, and any film that dares, however modestly, to depart from the orthodoxies of escapist ideology, is met with dismissal and ridicule.

However, here he goes wrong:

Why is it, though, that “serious” is a bad word in cultural conversations, or at least in discussions of film? Why is thinking about a movie an activity to be avoided, and a movie that seems to require thinking a source of suspicion? It seems unlikely, to say the least, that films like “Uncle Boonmee,” “Meek’s Cutoff,” “The Tree of Life” or Jean-Luc Godard’s recently and belatedly opened “Film Socialisme” will threaten the hegemony of the blockbusters, so why is so much energy expended in defending the prerogatives of entertainment from the supposed threat of seriousness?

I think Manohla and Scott are making a classic deductive mistake.

1. Film can be serious, not just entertainment.
2. Hollywood strives to make entertainment, not serious films
3. Therefore, films shunned by Hollywood should be taken seriously.*

*Of course there is a caveat to this, in that only serious filmmakers should be taken seriously. It merits asking, then, who defines serious filmmakers. It is critics. And so it becomes basically a parlor game of critics past and present to determine who are serious and they view their enemy as Hollywood Film Executives who are also in their own game of trying to determine who is a brandable filmmaker.

I would argue each system has a different set of values and different metrics of success, but neither can claim superiority. It is either the critics determining worthiness or the film executives - and both take it upon themselves to speak for the "audience."

The article made me read Richard Schickel, who I think gets Tree of Life correct -- or at least a lot more correct than most critics who seems to bend over backwards to find something they like about the movie just because Malik made it.

Aside from his first movie, the bleak and darkly witty “Badlands” (about a serial killer on the run with his dopily romantic girlfriend), that has not been the case. All of his subsequent efforts have been pretty, narratively empty and emotionally unengaging. You can admire his effort to find new methods of screen story telling, but it has proved impossible to involve yourself with his films at any level.

Yet, critically, no one wants to give up on Malick. He does make beautiful images—though I think they are more self-conscious intensifications of conventional screen imagery than they are highly original—and he plays the role of the dedicated artist convincingly (it is said that he spent four years editing “The Tree of Life”). This makes it extremely difficult for critics to believe that a man so devoted to his creations, so uninterested in grosses or the trappings of fame, could actually be quite an inept filmmaker.

Ouch. But I'm afraid he might be right.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


At Bay Cities today, saw Larry David walking down on Broadway Street. Looked exactly like he does in an episode of Curb. I almost yelled "Loving this season of Curb!" But pussed out.
NFL: Where Contracts Don't Matter

Look, I have no objection to the 49ers releasing Nate Clements and freeing up $15 million in cap space to go after Nnami.

What I don't understand is how the NFL allows teams to release guys and break their contracts. What is the point of a contract if one side can walk away at any time? Very strange. Maybe this was part of the bargaining agreement.
Who The F

Are these people.

Film: Captain America

I didn't find it offensive at all, which is a credit to a comic book movie. Decent thematic of little man gaining strength, etc. My favorite part was Agent Smith doing a Werner Herzog impression as the bad guy. My least favorite parts were the action sequence rip offs of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Tommy Lee Jones admittedly has some good dialog lines.
A Few More Blows

And Al Queda could collapse.

This would be huge. It would be one of the CIA's greatest triumphs. Just ten years ago Al Queda seemed like a difficult - maybe impossible foe - to ever completely eliminate. But if we render them useless - well - impressive.

Obviously, we cannot stop all terrorism. The Norway event - this kind of lone wolf stuff - I would argue is impossible to prevent. Anyone in a free society can go crazy and kill masses of people. This is a serial killer-like problem. Society can survive with these occasional outbursts. We just have to live with them, unfortunately. The threat Al Queda poses (posed) is much different. They were organized, had lots of resources, a home base, a charismatic leader, and a specific set of goals. Because of these factors, they can cause destruction on a much grander scale, but also, are a foe that can be fought. In any case, this is an important distinction to remember as I'm sure the media will not.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Book: Game of Thrones

Strangely, I think the TV show is better than the book. It is more concise and captures all of the big surprises, characters, and moments. The book is nice as it has more history and a wider set of characters - but I found the big emotional and memorable parts in the show captured in a more elegant fashion. Maybe it is just because I watched the show first. The test will be book 2 and season 2. I'll read the book before the show this time.


In favor of an unbalanced budget amendment.

The unbalanced budget amendment is a requirement that in good times the government must run a budget surplus. The virtues of such a rule are that it allows for counter-cylical fiscal policy during a recession. Indeed, it reduces the cost of counter-cyclical fiscal policy because it guarantees a reserve fund for just such emergencies. The unBBA is thus a type of automatic stabilizer of the kind I have argued for before.

This amounts to going on a savings spree when you find yourself in possession of cash. In other words, a good idea.
How To Marry A Rich Man

Why not?

I see no difference between this and internet dating.

Monday, July 25, 2011


TV: Entourage new episode, Curb

Man...if Entourage isn't the worst show on TV, by the end of the year it might be a contender.
Debt Limit Press Conference

Listened to the last part of Obama's debt limit speech. Struck by this line I keep hearing about how the lack of the debt deal will spike interest rates and cause a defacto "tax" on the American people. This strikes me as a disingenuous claim. Interest rates going up is not a tax. It makes the cost of borrowing money higher. It incentivizes saving vs. spending and creates opportunity to make more money for lenders and savers. This is not the same as the government taking more money from people and either spending it or paying down debt. A very dubious thing to say. Might even call it an outright lie.

Film: Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief

I watched about 1/4 of the movie, but it was enough to understand what it was all about. Oh Pierce Brosnen...I just wonder what James Bond would've said to the vision of himself with horse legs.
I Still Don't Get It

Google + to provide the web's "social backbone."

Someone is going to have to explain this bullshit to me:

Google+ is the rapidly growing seed of a web-wide social backbone, and the catalyst for the ultimate uniting of the social graph. All it will take on Google's part is a step of openness to bring about such a commoditization of the social layer.

I'm not sure I understand anything the guy is saying in the above paragraph. In his conclusion:

Computers ought to serve us and provide us with means of expression.

Really? Here all this time I thought they were a porn portal, a way to pay bills, and a thing that you can hook up to a printer to print stuff.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I'm Paying Attention

To Elizabeth Warren.

She speaks with passion. It's not too much to say that it's that sort of thing that didn't help her case all that much. You'll hear talk in Washington that Warren was too anti-bank, too anti-Wall Street. And there's something too that, by her own admission. "We're not here to serve banks. We're not here to serve Wall Street. We're not here," she emphasizes that last bit, "to serve Congress. We're here to serve American families." But there's a real way in which Warren just seemed, well, too invested in her cause -- creating a powerful Washington presence that would bring transparency, structure, and some measure of sanity to the consumer credit market.

"I have become con-tro-ver-see-uhl," she says, "which I think is code for getting something done."

These are the kind of people we need.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


TV: Party Down, ep 1-2

I noticed it was on Netflix streaming and people talk a lot about this show. I dunno. Kinda just seems like ripping off The Office and Parks and Rec style humor tossed in a catering service about out of work LA actors, screenwriters, and comedians. Rather pedestrian if you ask me. Also suffers from being too obvious and shallow about the show's political leanings. Much less elegant than Parks and Rec. Can see why it appeals to people struggling in LA because it is basically about them...but it isn't all that good. Maybe it gets better.
I Hate These Kind of Lists

10 Reasons You Aren't Rich.

11. Your Job Doesn't Pay You A Shit Ton of Money

Fucking morons.
But It Creates Work For Lawyers

The owner of Home Depot on the Obama Administration crippling business.

IBD: President Obama has promised to streamline and eliminate regulations. What's your take?

Marcus: His speeches are wonderful. His output is absolutely, incredibly bad. As he speaks about cutting out regulations, they are now producing thousands of pages of new ones. With just ObamaCare by itself, you have a 2,000 page bill that's probably going end up being 150,000 pages of regulations.

Ouch. As to whether he is right or wrong, it strikes me the proof is in the pudding - the unemployment rate.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


TV: Curb, last season final two episodes

Was thinking about the two episodes of Curb and went back and watched some of the final episodes from last year on demand. Leon has re-created the show. The guy makes me laugh out loud whenever he shows up on screen. The guy is a genius. Bill Simmons talks about the funniest man on the planet as being this yearly thing where Zach Galifianakis took over recently...I think Leon just took his crown. Granted, he probably isn't widely seen or known yet, but there is no one I find funnier. Probably the funniest moment I can remember in recent television is when he is on set watching the Seinfeld reunion and reacting during the taping. He is standing next to Larry and Jerry and Elaine are acting their lines. Leon is eating food and he's like "Who are those two?" Larry looks at him with disbelief - he's like - that's Jerry Seinfeld. You haven't seen the show? Leon is laughing and smiling at the sitcom jokes and is like "he tapping that ass, huh?" Larry is dumbfounded. Then Newman comes in and Leon starts cracking up and is like "who IS THAT fat little dude. That dude is funny."

Man, just thinking about it is making laugh again.
Cool Tips

On how not to be unemployed.

One thing that always surprises me about career advice is how lousy most of the writing is. They say the same boring, formulaic ideas over again. They convince you that if you do this one thing, it will all work out for you. The worst thing they do is tell you to follow the rules. This is a terrible idea. I suspect too many of the people who have been unemployed for a long time are trying to play by the rules.

Finding a job is chance. It’s luck. It’s randomness. You have to start making abrupt decisions, engaging in counterintuitive acts, and forcing yourself to do things that you don’t really want to do. Because what you are doing isn’t working. You have to do something else.


I suspect they are right about many - not all - but many - on the Left.

I always figure that people who feel this way do so because they think they’re better at sucking up to authority figures than at creating value on their own.

Great idea: Deadline Hollywood Game.

I had a similar idea years ago in a critical studies class (I have the paper as evidence) but it was essentially fantasy hollywood rather than fantasy baseball. This game sounds more sophisticated and better.

Monday, July 18, 2011

On Sacrifice

A rather earnest, but still nice essay on sacrifice.

Great unhappiness arises when we fail to acknowledge the necessity of sacrifice and subconsciously hold the idea in our heads that we can have both things at the same time.
Famous Number 2s

Thinking about how much I liked the Luke Cafferty character in FNL, except for the coda for him during the finale. Lame. But it got me thinking about good beta males depicted in film and tv, especially after that interest baboon article about how alpha males have a lot stress being in charge of the tribe.

Notable: Sylvio Dante in the Sopranos, Boon in Animal House, Tom Hayden in The Godfather, Stringer Bell in the Wire


TV: Curb Your Enthusiam, Friday Night Lights Finale

Two of the better episodes I can remember in recent times.
Another Test For the Internet

If the internet is as revolutionary a technology as advertised, I have a simple question: what scientific or other important break-through for the benefit of human kind has developed as a direct result of the internet? I know the internet hasn't been around all that long, but in theory, if this thing is as important as advertised, it ought to yield some impressive results. As far as I can tell, the three most impressive developments are:

1. Online shopping, ie amazon, itunes, netflix, pornography. These more or less made it easier to buy or rent basic consumer items. Not a huge achievement in terms of human development.
2. Email. Really revolutionized how we communicate and transmit information. Made it a lot quicker. Basically, made us greater slaves to work.
3. Hastened the decline of the news business. We get all our news via the internet now. And sooner and less professional. Ups and downs to this one, but it has changed.

Compare this with other developments in the 20th century - putting a man on the moon - inspiring science, inventing the airplane and automobile - which has redefined the way the developed world lives and travels, the nuclear bomb - ending a horrific war, but also threatening all life on the planet, the improvement of basic pharmaceuticals - basic stuff just like penicillin and heart disease medicine making people live a lot longer, birth control - revolutionizing male and female relationships.

I'm curious what the internet is going to change in human of yet, most of the developments are just in the field of data organization and searching and this nebulus thing called social networking.
Why Google Groups Sucks

To be fair, the article is about the pros and cons, but you can skip the pros and just get to the cons.

The maintenance required for grouping our friends is too high and too vague. We simply don’t have the rules as clearly defined as programs require and even if we did, the parameters change. Your personal tastes change. The influential people change. Even your friends change. Keeping the groups accurate and remembering its members is a challenge.

I've still yet to a see a technology emerge from these "groups" and "friends" that is superior to the group email.

Werner Herzog talks about psychiatry as a dark, inhuman science. I believe he is onto something. This article about the difference between having sex and making love also illuminates an important and under-discussed topic: how we are voluntarily dehumanizing ourselves with our reliance on certain scientific and technological practices (the twin towers are facebook and psychotherapy).

Today there is no doubt that we tend compulsively to think in terms of object, function, or mechanism whenever we consider the incalculably human. Love is something to be “worked at” like a problem in mathematics that must be solved for the sake of its practical application. Friendship is called a “support system.” A Pascalian terror before the cold immensity of the universe is excessive “stress,” as if one were absorbing too much force for the mental “structure” to distribute and resolve successfully. For post-structuralists, a novel or a poem is only the manifestation of an “abstract model.” Wisdom is a kind of “flexible adaptability.” Desire is libidinal “tension” which must be “discharged.” And what was once called “making love,” an expression that however glibly it was employed still retained the implication of a genetic mystery, is today airily dismissed as “having sex,” a phrase which seems to concede in the direction of honesty but really betrays our attitude of therapeutic mechanism — like having an enema, a check-up, or an operation. Sex is an excellent way of running the machine.

The cybernetic revolution has only abetted this most infectious of diseases. We not only tend to regard ourselves as biological computers but have begun to fall in love with cute little nuclear-powered robots with numbers for names and fuse boxes for brains or with the nimble and magical denizens of simulated realities. Some of these can even build sculptures of light to create a Halo of nobility and bravely accompany us into the game world. The joke is that we will have to wait until the Grade-B humanoids take over the world for the numinous and spiritual dimension of life to make its retributive comeback. At some critical point in this manganese utopia the robot will insensibly begin to consider his support system as a friend, his repair facility as a prophet, and his cell recharger as that most profound and unsearchable of mysteries, a spouse.

There is an ethics at work underneath the computerization of the human experience. One of the chief conquests of the computer is the practice of internet dating. Think about this practice fundamentally - it is willfully ceding one of the most obviously important and biggest decisions one will make in their life: choice of spouse - to a computer. Sure...I know what people are saying...the computer doesn't choose, it just weeds down the choices to good matches, etc, etc, and the people are still making the choice, it is just a tool, etc. Perhaps.

An interesting counter-example is Game of Thrones, the popular fantasy series on HBO, which is heavily influenced by midevil English traditions. With respect to marriage, they are largely arranged marriages through families and for strategic alliances and so forth. But what the show does a good job of depicting is how characters exert influence and make decisions within the context of such practices. For instance, when Robb Stark needs a crucial ally in his war against the Lannisters, he agrees to marry one of Lord Frey's daughters AND for his younger sister to marry one of the sons, thus tying the houses together. (One of the great scenes in the entire show, especially for Theon Greyjoy's giggling reaction throughout the entire process). Marriage is a big theme throughout the show - the failed marriage between Robert Baratheon and Cerci Lannister - the potential future marriage of Prince Joffrey and Sanza - but remember that the individuals involved still have a vote. They can veto or get vetoed. There are consequences, but there is also flexibility. Marriages can be refused, undermined, or possibly even work, all within these set of practices. My point isn't that we ought to return to a caste system and arranged marriages. My point is that we recognize it is A SYSTEM with certain underlying ethics. At the heart of the caste system is the idea of divine rights of kings and of hereditary rights and other, ancient practices. We do not believe in these things. We believe in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and other formulations of the idea of freedom and liberty. But my main point is that the idea of internet dating is not neutral. It is rooted in an ethic - a new ethic - an ethic that is different from arranged marriage and also different from prior practices of marriage in America where people meet in school or in jobs or through friends or family.

So? What is at stake with internet dating and other modes of ceding control of our identities and selves to the computer. I would say - at the core - is the attempt to distance what it means to be human from the physical. It is an attempt to suggest the physical - our bodies - are what ultimately limit us. This is not dissimilar from the old mind-body distinction or the old body-soul distinction, only that this new cyber-reality doesn't seem particular concerned with the spiritual - it posits a theory that if only we can computerize and crunch enough numbers and get enough data - that we can unlock the mysteries of human experience. We can find our best potential match through the computer (internet dating). We can create the best versions of ourselves (via Facebook) and we can have access to all the knowledge collected in the history of the world in our pocket (via the internet on iphones).

There is a certain appeal to these ideas. My only problem: it is a bunch of bullshit. I see no evidence that the computer picks better matches than simply meeting the people with whom you cross paths. I see Facebook as bringing out the lamest, most narcissistic versions of ourselves. And I see most of the internet just a bunch of noise and very little knowledge - and what's more - the knowledge that is out there, takes industry to find, and those with such industry could probably have found such knowledge without the internet (as they did for the 1000s of years it didn't exist).

And so what of this idea of getting away from the physical? After all, it is our bodies which eventually give out and cause us to die, correct? Wouldn't it just be preferable to be brains in the vat with a brilliant scientist pushing electrodes to give us pleasure? Endless, eternal pleasure?

Methinks this isn't the point of human existence and so don't advocate moves in that direction - such as internet dating.
Fire! Ya Ya. Fire!

I need no more evidence than being at a bbq yesterday.

“I took my boys camping last summer. We drove a hair-raising set of muddy cliffside roads to a secluded campground in the middle of nowhere. We lit a fire and ate mediocre food and slept in a soggy tent and woke up in a puddle. What do they remember from that trip? The fire. Only the fire. All the sticks they burned in it. Watching it change as the evening wore on. Getting close and burning new things. Their fascination with our firepit is the foundation of all scientific discovery. This is, I believe, Mr. Gurstelle’s point, and he has explored it admirably.”

I like fire. But am wary of it, too. Fire keeps us warm but can also burn down our homes. Important to remember - and it applies to all technology.
Great Interview

With Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin.

Here is how he got the idea for GOT:

Martin found his inspiration for A Game of Thrones during a visit to Hadrian's Wall, in northern England.

"But, of course, fantasy being bigger and more colorful" than real life, Martin says, "I couldn't have a wall that was 10 feet tall like Hadrian's Wall. So I had a 700-foot-tall wall, and I made it out of ice, and I gave it this storied history. And then, of course, I wanted something to emerge from those hills and trees to the north that was a good bit scarier than Scotland, so I came up with that, too.

"So you start with the kernel of reality, and then you extrapolate and you build from there."

The lesson I take away: travel and trust in your talent to come up with the rest of the stuff later.

Other very good point that is in the interview, but not in the article:

Martin explained to the enthusiastic interviewer that there are two kinds of writers – architects and gardeners.

An architect, he explained, is a writer who crafts in excruciating detail the skeleton of his narrative and the identities of his character. An architect outlines and revises before even putting prose on page.

Contrarily, a gardener is a writer who begins with a seed, an idea planted from their swirling subconscious on to the page, and then tends that idea as it courses on to completion.

If you write or want to write, it is a good idea to figure out what type you are and adjust your work habits accordingly.
Introduction to Soccer

If I were preparing a course entitled introduction to soccer, I'd show yesterday's Woman's World Cup final. It was the perfect example of incredible soccer drama, the unique way inferior teams can win soccer games, and how luck plays a much larger role in soccer (and life) than espn would have us believe.

Any layperson watching the game, from any moment, during the entire 120 minutes could tell the US was clearly the superior team. They were faster, bigger, more skilled on the ball, and more skilled in the air. The only category where an argument could be made for Japan was in possession...but still...I think the US probably had equal possession ability as the Japanese and it just got overshadowed by the much larger discrepancy in almost every other aspect of the game.

The US should have been up 2-0 at half and won the game 3-0. If these teams played 10 games, I imagine the US would win 8 of the games with a goal difference of 2 on average. In the first half, the US had about 5-6 legitimate should-have-been-goal moments. But they didn't finish. And this is the great lesson all soccer players know - when you don't finish - you are in trouble. You can hit crossbar after crossbar. You can shank open nets. The goalie can make incredible, once-in-a-lifetime stops. And it all seems to happen on the same day.

Finally, the US broke through with the super sub play of Alex Morgan . But Japan just kept playing...and there is a lesson in soccer and life as well...sometimes all you need to do is just keep playing because although the gods are often cruel, they are also sometimes kind. Japan didn't try any new tactic or adjust, they just stuck to their game plan on got lucky. The US defense got nervous and rattled and one dumb non-clear and a Japanese girl found herself with the ball on the 6 and even she could beat Hope Solo in that scenario. And thus, it was tied. But the US came back and was furiously attacking and were too good. Finally, they finish on another fantastic play by Alex Morgan and finish by Wambach. So again, it felt like the US had pulled out the inevitable. But then, a holy-fucking-shit moment happened in the 117th minute. The type of goal that NEVER happens, happened. The Japanese center midfielder did a near post flick with the side of her foot off a corner, it bounced off one of the US players, and into the back of the net. This was an instance of pure, crazy luck. And then, it was over.

It went to PKs and despite the US having the advantage on paper, their spirits were crushed and they knew the gods were not favoring them today. The little Japanese goalie made an incredible kick save on the first shot. The US girl shanked the second shot and it was over.

Great win for Japan. Tragic loss for the Americans. But that's soccer. Yesterday was an example of why it is the world's most loved game. You don't get that type of upset drama in basketball or baseball or football in a one-game setting. Or at least it is very, very rare. In basketball, the most interesting thing that happens is a big match up problem, but let's be honest, the US was like the Miami Heat playing Japan who was like a good college team. There is almost no scenario in basketball where the Heat would lose such a game. But in soccer, well, you just witnessed it.

Lastly, the mega story here is something much bigger: the women's team was fucking fun to watch. Cannot underestimate the significance of this. I have yet to enjoy a women's sporting event other than tennis until this world cup. The Brazil match and this match were legitimately good. This of course is embarrassing for MLS who can't say the same...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hard Being Number 1

Interesting study about male baboons and how alpha males incur a lot more stress than beta males.

Just ask Sylvio Dante who has a hart attack during the episode when he needs to run the show after Tony gets shot.

Bicyclists vs. Jet Blue on carmageddon.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Grantland does an oral history. Well worth the read. I love this, none of what I knew:

Berg: Linda Lowy did a really good search. She brought in girls like Minka Kelly, who, prior to doing the show, was working at a plastic surgery clinic, prepping girls for lip jobs and boob jobs.

Minka Kelly (Lyla Garrity): I was working as a scrub nurse. I was an actor — I was auditioning — but I was always embarrassed to say I was an actor because that's not how I was paying my bills.

Scott Porter (Jason Street): Before Friday Night Lights, I was singing and beat-boxing in an off-Broadway show and sleeping on my buddy's couch. I had auditioned for a Disney musical and their casting director asked me to be an understudy for the lead. I didn't want to do it unless I had an out in my contract for TV. He said, "We're not going to do that for you. You don't want to TV anyway. As green as you are, you'll just be the fourth handsome boy from the left on some WB show for a couple of episodes."

Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen): I was working at [a sporting goods store], folding clothes. I'd been out of school for a little under a year, and it was my first pilot season. My manager and agent said, "There's this project, and this project, and this Friday Night Lights one, but we don't know if you'd be into that." I was like, "Wait, Friday Night Lights the movie? The book, Friday Night Lights? You don't think I'd be into that? Do you know me?"

Something is pretty unimpressive about Hollywood that they hadn't discovered Minka Kelly prior to FNL. Yowza. One look at her and it's like - write her a part.

Two trailers actually look interesting to me: The Thing prequel actually doesn't look bad. They seem to have the proper reverence for the psychological aspects of Carpenter re-make (yes that was a remake itself) and don't have any stars in the movie. Also...this John Carter picture from Disney starring Tim looks ambitious and creative and what the studios ought to be doing for tentpoles. Who thinks movie studios can't come up with better stories than Marvel and other comic books? I think they (we) can and it is time the movies got bold and confident again. I'll see it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Dr. Helen lays it on thick.

Funny, feminists have always told women they "could have it all." Now that they do, they are all a bunch of martyrs, no different than the way the 1950s housewives were described by feminists. Have you noticed that women are always portrayed as a bunch of martyrs who "never put themselves first," no matter the circumstances? The solution to their woes always seems to be to get more "me time."

I often watch men drag themselves to work or do things that call for sacrifice without complaining or sometimes, they have a heart attack or other health problem that no one really cares about and certainly, they get little sympathy.

I believe men are told to "man up."

Nikki Finke writes Warner Bros puff piece on Harry Potter.

Things have turned out so well that it’s easy to forget what a huge risk Warner seemed to be taking more than a decade ago when it bought the Potter rights. The studio didn’t know how the series would end. And J.K. Rowling, who wrote the series, was a wild card.

Uh, really? Who is she kidding? On what planet can WB be patting themselves on the back for taking a "risk" with Harry Potter? That was the biggest breakaway slam dunk in recent movie history. So much so, no one thinks any of the movies are any good and it still makes billions. JK Rowling handed them a hit and a gigantic audience. This hagiography is disgusting. They make it sound like they took some unknown situation and made it into movie-gold. All they did was film a brand people loved and not fuck it up. I suppose in the corporate world you can call that taking a risk. In the real world, we can and should scoff at such things.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Greatly Exaggerated

The news of the death of blogs, I think, is greatly exaggerated.

If you only ate beans and drank water, you'd save a ton of money. But who gives a shit? You'd still die, just with more money.

I hate these little financial tips that are like - if you don't buy a cup of coffee for every day for 35 years, you'll save 250,000 or what the fuck ever. It's like these people don't actually live in the real world when they suggest things like this.
Can We Survive This Way

Tom Friedman writes about future jobs.

Can everyone be a small business entrepreneur?

Why small businesses aren't hiring.
As They Usually Are

Home buyer tax incentives: simply a redistribution of wealth.

To this day, I still don't understand why home-owners are a particularly protected class of American citizens. During the housing crisis, left and right both thought we needed to "protect the home-owner." Why? What it truly boils down to is protecting debtors in favor of potential home-owners - who would be purchasing if the market was allowed to do it's work.

On the price hike.

I'm going to drop either the streaming or the dvd by mail. I think Netflix probably looked at it's streaming numbers and was like "shit, people are using this A LOT." I definitely watch streaming - because it is free (or at least a sunk cost). Doesn't mean I could easily go without and just rent. Maybe I'll look again at the Vidiots monthly plan and get rid of Netflix altogether. To be honest, Netflix only becomes a great deal when you are hooked on a tv show.

Note: it may be different if you have your netflix somehow hooked up to your tv, which I don't.
Student Loans on the Table

Getting rid of subsidized student loans.

Basically, this will mean two things: parents of middle class kids will shoulder more costs and it will push the cost up for lower income students and grad students. I imagine fewer people will attend school at the margin, which may not be a bad thing since as is too many students are finding themselves jobless and in debt at the end.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tito's Tacos

Supposed to be a classic taco joint in Culver City. On the Jonathan Gold list. It is a certain kind of old fashioned American-style taco. I liked the simplicity of the place, but the set up was curiously inefficient. It is very popular and there are 4 lines to take an order. But once you get to the front, you order and then wait for your order. When it comes, you pay for it and wait, while your order-taker goes and stands in line with the other order takers for the cashier. When the order taker finally gets your change, he brings it back to you. It was amongst the dumbest set ups I've ever seen. Have these people never been to an In and Out burger and see how they handle volume. Anyhow, the taco was solid and enchilada good. I went around 2:30pm today and just needed a break from writing, so didn't mind the wait. But under normal circumstances, no thanks.

The CIA getting back in the game.

Good to see they are thinking.

Film: Slap Shot

Much better first half of the movie than second half. Thought it suffered from less than elegant plotting and purpose and so while it had a great attitude and fun characters, the movie as a whole didn't have a cohesion and felt like it wasn't sure what it was trying to say by the end. Nevertheless, very quotable. A good pairing with Bad News Bears. Not quite up there with the greatest of sports movies, however, like Bull Durham, Breaking Away, Hoosiers.

Backpedals on stimulus. When you're wrong, you're wrong. Of course, there isn't any personal consequence to supporting the stimulus other than bankrupting the country. No worries, just increase taxes on the billionaires...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mila Kunis

Is Mila Kunis the coolest chick in the world?

Hat tip, Phil.

Couple with this and the fact she likes to play Settlers of Catan. Next we'll learn she likes to shoot guns and cook for her man. Jesus Christ.
Conservative Movement

It would not surprise me if a lot of young smart people rebel against Obama's economic policies.

It is natural for folks - particularly men - to become more conservative the older they get. With the unemployment as bad as it is now, I imagine a speeding up of this process, particularly amongst recent college grads who can't get work. I don't know that they will directly connect Obama's economic policies with their "worse-off" state or even recognize their state as being "worse-off" than earlier sets of graduates. In any case, what will become more evident is the lack of connection between liberal policies and goals of government and the business of making money and supporting families. Entitlement and redistribution programs might be all very well and good, but someone needs to pay for it. Who will it be?

Why unemployment matters.
A Useful Idea

It would be excellent to have a tax accounting program that shows precisely where your money in taxes goes toward and what benefits you receive.

Basically, a receipt, like a credit card breakdown. Then we would be able to see how our money is being spent and whether we are getting a good deal or bad deal from government programs. This must be feasible and I imagine useful in these tight times.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not Sure the Lesson Here

A pet store in New York bans drunken puppy purchasing.
It Doesn't Bug Me

Paul Ryan drinks a $350 bottle of wine.

For some reason, this doesn't offend me at all. What is the objection? That a $350 bottle of wine exists? Or that a Senator proposing budget cuts spends a lot of money on wine? I rather like that we have nice things such as expensive wine. Who should drink it?
She Ain't Ugly

Hope Solo, the best female goalie in the world.

Friday, July 08, 2011

My Favorite One Yet

Digital media and critical studies professors must get boners about the constant re-appropriation of this movie scene. It probably proves something about our post-modern blah-ditty-blah.
A Simple Explanation

For why Google + might really work.

People want to start from a clean slate on a social network after they learned via myspace, friendster, and facebook what works and what doesn't. It is a pretty good theory, actually, as the same thing has occurred with email development over the past 15 years or so.

Film: Submarine

An excellent first half of the movie, then it slows down and becomes pretty boring. A good example of why plotting matters. But worth seeing for sure. Reminded me of a different time of the late 90s to early 2000s.

Technology for the sake of technology.

Nowadays, when I see an ad for something new, I often have no idea what it is. So my husband explains what it does. Then comes the whole new question: why would anyone want such a thing? It’s not just that the products are new and unfamiliar, but they fill needs which are themselves unfamiliar and dubious.

It gets worse. More and more, technology is not only nearly useless, but it actively betrays us—creates more problems than it solves.

Her examples aren't great, but I fail to see what the iphone or ipad or a lot of these things are really offering that is new. Basically, in the best sense, they are small tvs and maps and internet browsers. All of which I already have.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Face of Evil

This is the second comedian's scalp the do-gooders can claim. The first was Michael Richards from several years ago who was basically castrated on Letterman in front of the entire world. Now they're parading Tracy Morgan around the country on an apology tour like a caged child.

Tracy and Michael should have both said - "Fuck you, it's comedy."

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Strangely Unsaddened

By starting law school salaries dropping dramatically.
Why Not Borrow From Christopher Nolan

A new and insidious twist on terrorist suicide bombs has federal officials issuing new warnings to international and domestic airlines and stepping up security measures here and abroad. In 2004 al Qaeda tried a shoe bomb to take down an airplane. Five years later their so-called “Christmas surprise” was an underwear bomb on a plane. In both cases, they failed. However, new intelligence indicates al Qaeda now wants to surgically implant bombs directly into a suicide bomber’s body, reports CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

Looks like some pirated copies of The Dark Knight finally made it to the caves in Afghanistan or the suburbs of Pakistan, wherever the brain trust of Al Queda is now hanging.

Film: Le Samourai

A film more to study than to enjoy. I rather like thinking about it afterwards, but I admittedly fell asleep during.
Tree of Life

A review of Tree of Life.

I want to offer a critique of Tree of Life that doesn't resort to mindless populist ideas such as boredom and lack of story and not providing a neat and tidy, Hollywood-esque formula. It strikes me there is a reflexive admiration of certain types of films that manage to go against the grain and exist outside the corporate demands of Hollywood amongst many cinephiles. It is as if to win Canne or Sundance or be the late work of a master (or better yet, both) is enough to garner all sorts of admiration and praise and to be a litmus test of whether you love cinema. I find this attitude different, but equally maddening, to the suggestion that box office receipts can be equated with "success." I think we are too easy, in a way, on filmmakers we admire simply because we lack an alternative. Because we hate the work of Michael Bay, we must love the work of Terrence Malik, or something along those lines.

I don't think it, because I don't feel it. I saw Tree of Life and wanted to love the film. I made a point of seeing it in the theater, alone, with a coffee, for maximum concentration. I was ready to be blown away. I've been looking for inspiration all around. I've been reading about God and virtue and other topics recently, as these things have begun to interest me, as they haven't much before. So I seemed primed to be into this film. And yet I wasn't.

And it wasn't because the film wasn't "Hollywood" or neat or emotionally "satisfying" whatever that means. I found it rather pat. I found the characters rather uninteresting. An abusive father who regrets choices he made. An angelic mother. Sibling rivals. I've seen these things before...and a level of complexity I was expecting just wasn't there. Surely, it was beautiful. And the performances - particular of the boys - were great. But therein lies the problem. It is always when you break down elements of a film to praise, when the elements become the first thing to be discussed, it is then you realize you are talking about a lesser work. In Days of Heaven, the first thing you discuss is the cinematography. In Badlands, you don't discuss the cinematography. You gush - in awe - about how someone could of made such a masterpiece for their first film. You are offended you hadn't seen the film earlier.

All movies can't be masterpieces of course. And Tree of Life is certainly worth seeing if you are a cinema buff. But I can't recommend the movie to regular people. I remember looking at my watch in the theater. I thought the preview was much better than the movie. Those three indications suggest I didn't like the movie, in the same way when you avoid answering the phone when the girl you are seeing is ringing, or when you make excuses for not having sex, these are the early warning signals that something isn't working.

I don't doubt the amounts of praised heaped of Tree of Life are honest. Certainly, we all do not need to agree on all movies, and who is to say one experiences in these things. And timing matters. And expectations. But the fact that I can't imagine rewatching the film strikes me that something is missing and I don't know - movies can be many things - but I don't feel they ought to be a struggle. There are better mediums for stuff like that.

Debunking the myth that happiness isn't connected with income and wealth after a certain point. Some study made it a popular claim that once a certain level of wealth and basic needs were met, more happiness did not accrue from more money. This debunks the theory.
Adjusted For Inflation

Amount of federal debt per American.

Yikes. Pretty ridiculous.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


TV: Treme, final episode of the season. Friday Night Lights.

The final season of FNL has finally become what the show could have been all along. Pretty much as good as one can expect from a network drama these days. Impressive how the show started off great, then stumbled, then recovered. Almost like the arc of one of the characters in the show. Any episode without Julie is a good show - maybe even great.

Treme finale was a disappointment. Some very strange stuff. I suppose it is tough to wrap these things up. At least the Davis storyline is interesting.

Re-watched some episodes of Game of Thrones. Really a fantastic show. The more I think about it, I now put it into the same category as Sopranos, Deadwood, and The Wire. The only other drama I can think of putting up there is Breaking Bad. I'm just not a big enough fan of any network dramas to include them, much as I would like to because I feel way too HBO-biased. In some of the interviews with Benioff and Weiss about Game of Thrones they suggest the show is about power. I actually disagree. Initially, it seemed like it was about power and the quest for it, but it became a show about duty and obligation and nobility. The best characters pursue their duties or their lusts and use power as a tool. There is very little naked quests for power.

Film: Iron Man 2 (fell asleep within 10 minutes), City Hall (turned off within 10 minutes to watch Iron Man 2)

Something occurred in the last year, but I swear to God, I can tell if a movie is good or bad within almost 5 minutes. I knew Bad Teacher was bad 5 minutes into the film. The same goes for Iron Man 2 and City Hall. Netflix instant makes it easier to turn bad movies off - which is maybe a good thing.

That said, some bad movies are worth watching all the way through. Things to Do In Denver was a bad movie, but worth watching for what it was trying to do and to see how a group of relatively smart and talented people make a poor movie. You can learn from such bad movies. There are lessons in there to avoid. Season 2 of Friday Night Lights is bad. But worth watching to see how one plot element can almost single handedly destroy an entire show. "He Walked By Night" is bad storytelling by contemporary standards, because it was a cheap B-movie, but still worth watching for the influence on later films and to be literate about noir movies of the time and to see how a director like Anthony Mann got started. The Treme season finale is bad, but worth watching as a reminder that even great writers can screw up and it likely has to do with a combination of age, over-confidence, and being surrounded by people who will only sing your praises.

Other bad movies are not worth seeing. Bad Teacher is pointless. It is merely a marketing concept - actually a pretty good marketing concept, but a movie devoid of any urgency or value or attempt to say anything new. It is transparently by the book storytelling - and bad by-the-book at that. I imagine the screenwriters and producers used Blake Synder's checklist and tried to reverse engineer the script to put it into shape. I imagine they rushed to shoot the thing to fit Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake's schedule. I imagine the director was smoking pot during production a lot to try and make things funnier and got stupid ideas like - what if this scene took place in the bathroom while the principal was taking a shit?

It would be interesting to have seen the development of this movie. I wonder if along the line, someone in the brain trust knew the idea was good and the script wasn't. I fear they didn't. I fear the truth of the situation is that a lot of the brain trust behind movies today cannot tell whether a script is good or if it isn't. They can't tell if a scene is working or if it isn't. They put all their trust in the "elements," ie the talent and the talent's past history of some success. They hide behind the numbers, ie tracking and box office, and measure success by those standards because they don't really have the ability to otherwise evaluate. They haven't watched enough movies. Haven't read enough books. Haven't seen enough plays. Or, they just don't have confidence.

Or, more hopefully, they know things are working, but they are on a schedule. They need to make SOMETHING. They promised. And sometimes in creative endeavors, things just don't work out and they do the best they can with the circumstances. This is possible. This is what I hope. But there is something about HOW these movies suck that makes me suspect it isn't. It is incompetence. It is the result of a system that rewards making deals and not making movies and looks to marketing to help them reach the bottom line. What not of these people realize or care about is that one day the audience will leave if you make enough shit. It will happen suddenly and without warning. It'll be a tipping point and then it will be over. Movies have such a long tradition in America and goodwill, but so did music and so did GM. The lesson in the post-9/11 world is that the most unexpected of things can - and will - happen. Believe it is possible the audience will leave and not come back. And it will be the result of pissing them off with shitty movies and not offering up something original and fun and exciting and inspiring.

I'm reading an excellent book called THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND by Allen Bloom. It is about college education in America, but like all great books, about much much more. It feels as if was written today, but was actually penned in 1984. Here is one great passage about psychology in American life:

Once Americans had become convinced that there is indeed a basement to which psychiatrists have the key, their orientation became that of the self, the mysterious, free, unlimited center of our being. All of our beliefs issue from it and have no other validation. Although nihilism and its accompanying existential despair are hardly anything but a pose for Americans, as the language derived from nihilism has become a part of their educations and insinuated itself into their daily lives, they pursue happiness in ways determined by that language. There is a whole arsenal of terms for talking about nothing - caring, self-fulfillment, expanding consciousness, and so on, almost indefinitely. Nothing determinate, nothing that has a referent, as we saw in Allen and Riesman. There is a straining to say something, a search for an inwardness that one knows one has, but it is still a cause without an effect. The inner seems to have relation to the outer. The outer is dissolved and becomes formless in the light of the inner, and the inner is will-o'-the-wisp, or pure emptiness. No wonder the mere sound of Existentialists' Nothing or the Hegelians' Negation has an appeal to contemporary ears. American nihilism is a mood, a mood of moodiness, a vague disquiet. It is nihilism without the abyss.

Well, at the very least it explains Kobe Bryant and the movies of Sophia Coppola.
Not A Bad Idea

A conservative rationale for raising taxes.

It strikes me as not a bad idea for taxes to go up and down with the amount of government spending. Right now, the two aren't correlated as the government can borrow and spend and does so liberally. Now, it would be silly to put a super tight straight jacket on things, especially for national emergencies like war, etc. But at least some type of standard formula that impacts EVERYONE - rich and poor alike - when the spending goes up. This makes us feel our choices more immediately and probably would engage more citizens in how we spend our money.
Google Hangouts

Everyone can videochat with one another at once. Great. I hope this replaces parties and get togethers. 'Cause you know, we could really do with less of those things that are you
I Wonder Why Not

Facebook won't let you take your friend data over to Google +.

Facebook is all about transparency and sharing information when it is your data, but not theirs. What a crock of shit. I hope this Google + puts a dent into Facebook. I don't feel any urgency to join Google +. I don't even know what it provides. I still don't see a fundamental difference between Facebook posts and email. Facebook is just one big group email to everyone you know formatted in a specific way. Google + is talking about "circles." Again, it's still just a group email, right? I don't get any of this stuff.

I honestly don't understand why we haven't blow up their headquarters yet.

Pointless article on Bad Teacher, but there is a good joke in the preamble.

“I can’t get a date, Doc,” the new patient griped to his psychiatrist. “See, I sweep up the circus elephants’ droppings and can never wash the stench off me.”

“Perhaps you should get a different job.”

“What, and quit show business?”

Worth Following

LA County condemns land in the Antelope Valley.

What’s going on in the Antelope Valley is not a human interest story about a quirky character fighting the cooler heads of his community. It is a hard news story about the class war in Los Angeles, in which swarms of officers from a multitude of new offices are engaged in a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the delusional object of turning a sprawling desert county into New York West.

Hmmm. Well, I'm partial to the Antelope Valley for the vast spaces one can film. And I certainly object to the idea that America needs to be turned into one big suburb.
Good Bedfellows

China is interested in buying a stake in Facebook.

It all comes back to the question of why do people entrust their private information to a dopey kid like Zuckerberg?

Monday, July 04, 2011


Film: Bad Teacher

One of the dumbest movies I can remember seeing. I can't believed I still get suckered into going to some of these movies...just from the get-go, this film has no inspiration or life to it. The filmmaker stages some beyond stupid scenes, scenes which make no sense in terms of what the characters are up to or where the scenes take place. There are a few accidentally funny moments.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

On Employment

Grandpa's vs. teenagers.

The big issue of both the present and future is the question of work and where it will come from.
Stimulus Pro and Against and Was It Enough

A critique of those who would critique the stimulus for not being enough.

I fell more on the anti-stimulus side. I could get behind some common sense projects to take advantage of cheaper labor and keep some people working, but all the transfer payments and propping up of shitty industries always seemed pointless and short-sighted to me.

On why we work hard and feel poor.

In the last 30 years, productivity grew, but it didn't make you rich because all the benefits went to make stuff cheaper. You can see this in Walmart and on your computer screen. Food and clothes have never been more affordable. Information has never been so easily accessible. Electronics have never been so advanced. Consumer products have never been so diverse, effective, and cheap.

If everything is getting cheaper and better, why don't you feel richer? Because the basic necessities -- homes, gasoline, health care, and education -- are not getting cheaper. Real housing prices slowly increased for 30 years before the housing boom. Real gas prices are the same today as in the 1930s. The cost of health care is growing faster than wages. Higher education costs are growing even faster.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Superstar Advantage

Cool article on how playing against a superstar actually makes people play worse.

Only partially related, I liked this excerpt:

Beilock has shown that novices hit better putts when they consciously reflect on their actions. The more time they spend thinking about the putt, the more likely they are to avoid beginner’s mistakes and sink the ball in the hole.

A little experience, however, changes everything. After golfers have learned how to putt — once they have memorized the necessary movements — analyzing the stroke is a dangerous waste of time. Beilock has found, for instance, that when experienced golfers are forced to think about their putts, they hit significantly worse shots. All those conscious thoughts erase their years of practice; the grace of talent disappears. And this is why it’s dangerous to compete against a superstar: Players end up thinking up too much.

It may seem strange to think about this in the context of writing screenplays, but I actually think a similar phenomenon occurs. While you must learn the basics of structure and scene structure in order to be a writer, when you've taken all that information in, it does not pay to constantly be thinking about it.

Friday, July 01, 2011

On The Virtues of Infidelity

Interesting article.

Film: He Walked By Night

Another Anthony Mann noir (shared director credits). Great cinematography. An early police procedural. Little heavy handed voice over. Creative collaboration during the film is eventually led to Dragnet, the original TV show.
Oye Vey

Al Pacino made a movie about this several years ago called Simone...but now Japan has created a computer generated pop-star.

And people are into it. I imagine there is a large contingent of the population who will never be interested in things like this. I don't see this being a trend to be on the lookout for, just an aberrant thing for a moment.
WGA Report

Interesting info on how much money writers made in 2010. Part that struck me:

The fluctuating nature of employment in feature film writing continued in 2010, with 1,615 writers reporting earnings compared to 1,818 in 2009. Earnings decreased 9.9% over 2009.

Not exactly the best business to be in.