Saturday, April 28, 2012

North Carolina Woop Woop

In NC for a wedding.  Never been before.  In an area around the center of the state Asheboro / Greensboro.  Nothing dramatic to report.  The famous food around here is BBQ and the style is a vinegar-based BBQ sauce.  It's all pork and you order sliced or pulled, with the option of corse or regular.  Played golf at a gorgeous country club called Pinewood.  Really enjoyed although my game is terrible.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Rich Getting Richer

Elizabeth Warren gets an interest free loan from Harvard.  Her political opponents bring this up to make her look out of touch and privileged, and to get perks her students wouldn't.  The real story of course, is this type of stuff is totally par for the course -- a women earning a salary of 350,000 per year gets an interest free loan of 50,000 whereas students with zero money are paying interest on their student loans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bad Draft Picks

The worst draft picks of the 49ers.

Pretty sad to read about these players - some felled because of injury, but most because they couldn't learn, didn't have the skills, weren't mentally built to succeed, or were overrated to begin with.  I wonder what their lives must be like - having had such potential and hope at one time and then to never really make it and be viewed as a failure.  Strange.

Was thinking about winning and losing yesterday and how much our culture emphasizes what it means to be a "winner."  My current soccer team is uncompetitive in our 11 v. 11 league and we are losers by any definition.  We lost 6-2 on Sunday.  Then I find out after the game, some of the players on the other team were former pros.  Then I get an email about our Tuesday league - which is a subset of the players on our Sunday team - and we're in first place.  I didn't realize.  Same team.  Winners in one league, losers in the other...for obvious reasons, in one league the competition is much stiffer and the build of our team - we don't have a lot of depth.  But this provides, I think, a small metaphor for life, how a winner in one spot can easily be a loser in another spot -- and this is a strange thing to think about because this frame of reference can really shape the image of oneself, can shape ones entire fate.  So it is no small thing.
The Novella

I'd like to check some of these out.  You could view a novella as a written movie - sit down and read over the course of 2 hours.  I could never see myself writing a novel, but a novella, possibly.

Monday, April 23, 2012


On student loans.
Any other industry that did this sort of thing would be denounced as predatory, but government and higher education get a pass.
All those folks who single-mindedly blame the banks for unfair lending practices don't seem to be speaking very loudly when it comes to universities doing the exact same thing. I wonder why.

Film:  The Messenger

Thought I'd enjoyed this movie more.  The first 30 minutes were awesome, but then it really slows down.
Home Field Advantage

Saints could eavesdrop on opposing coaching staffs.   I suppose that could explain the Saints home field advantage -- everyone thought it was the turf.
Bad Sign For Obama

53% of college grads are unemployed or underemployed.  That is a staggering number.
True or Harsh

VDH on Trayvon Martin.
The liberal narrative about the case is now destroyed; it had nothing to do with finding out the truth, whether a trigger-happy vigilante murdered Trayvon Martin, or a desperate neighborhood watchman saved his head from being pounded to smithereens by pulling out a gun and shooting his assailant, or something in between. The narrative instead was solely concerned with taking a tragic shooting case and turning it into more fuel for a fossilized civil rights industry (since the case broke, dozens of violent crime cases of blacks against whites and Asians are splashed over the news, enraging readers and escaping liberal commentary). All we know now is that the “narrative”—a preteen shot “like a dog” while eating candy by a white “assassin” who uttered racial epithets and was never even touched by the victim, only to be let go by a wink-and-nod police force—is false.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


TV:  Game of Thrones, Veep, Girls

Veep was remarkably short.  Girls - could the sex be more disgusting?  Game of Thrones - season 2 is a big drop off from season 1.  I feel like the characters are stupider.
Lakers - OKC

Catching bits and pieces of the game.  Questions:

1.  Why are Sessions and Bynum not playing any crunch time minutes for the Lakers?

2.  Why do the announcers keep talking about Ron Artest and his "progress."  That elbow was a ridiculous, totally out of nowhere, violent cheap shot.  I do not like Artest.  He's nuts.

3.  Westbrook is improving in his crunch time decision making.  Whereas in the past, it seemed like he forced things, he is more careful with the ball, knows when to defer to Durant, but also remains aggressive.  This is a good sign for the Thunder.

4.  The Thunder really suffer from not enough down low scoring.  Can't Perkins post up?

5.  Kobe played very well in the 4th and OT, hitting a lot of important shots.  Thunder should have doubled him.  Who else was going to score?  Gasol was the only other scorer on the floor.

6.  I did not like Durant's pull up 3 at the end of the 4th quarter.  He started way too late in the shot clock. Why not drive and force a foul or a pull up 15 footer?  I suppose the logic was not to leave any clock for the Lakers, but I still go for a good shot there, rather than a do or die 3.  Not sure what the percentage odds on that play are.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blogger Sucks

I suppose there is some irony in writing such a post, but why does blogger keep switching around the formatting?  So freaking annoying.  I want my blog simple.  I know how to work it.  Why change?  This is a theme of Google these days.  It used to be a company that built things, now it just tinkers.  They basically switched the blogger format to the live journal way of doing things.  Don't you think if live journal was better, everyone would have adopted it?  This would be like Apple redesigning the Ipod to be like a Sony Walkman.

Film: The Cabin in the Woods

Really? This is the movie everyone is talking about? I was bored. I think we need a moratorium (spoiler alert) on movies that involve the end of the world. This is how movie studios react to the strength of tv drama. Because tv drama by definition must continue, the end of the world option is off limits. In movies these days, an inordinate number of blockbusters seems to be about the end of the world - Battle Ship, Wrath of the Titans, I could go on, but the movie ideas are so mindnumbingly trying to be "big." 

There is another thing going on - an abuse of mystery by JJ Abrams and the poor man's JJ, Joss Wheton. Each of these guys withholds information to keep the audience guessing about what is going on, but the mystery never pays off. The plotting does not reward the audience for paying attention - there are no interconnected themes or any layers. It's just purely withheld information, like an annoying girl saying "I heard something about youuuuuuu---" all provocatively and you're like "What?" and they say, "Something......" and you say, "Just spit it out, you dumb bitch." And then she walks away. I don't know where example that came from.
California Problems

Our problems are huge, a great article describing all of them.
According to Mr. Kotkin, these upwardly mobile families are fleeing in droves. As a result, California is turning into a two-and-a-half-class society. On top are the "entrenched incumbents" who inherited their wealth or came to California early and made their money. Then there's a shrunken middle class of public employees and, miles below, a permanent welfare class. As it stands today, about 40% of Californians don't pay any income tax and a quarter are on Medicaid. It's "a very scary political dynamic," he says. "One day somebody's going to put on the ballot, let's take every penny over $100,000 a year, and you'll get it through because there's no real restraint. What you've done by exempting people from paying taxes is that they feel no responsibility. That's certainly a big part of it.
In the article he rightly states a family can make $250,000 a year and not be able to purchase a home if you live in the Bay Area (also applies to LA)...which is simply preposterous. Progressives have ruined this state - perhaps the most naturally endowed place on the planet. And there are no Republicans to blame here, because it is well know CA is the most blue of the blue. We have serious house cleaning to do. And I say this as a lifelong Californians from the bluest of blue regions and one whose family probably benefits from such an alignment as my parents would qualify as some of the people who "got here early."
What Is Going On?

 From Levine Breaking News:
Over 50% of all singles in America have not had a date in more than two years.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Next Generation Laptops

Changes are coming.
American Character

Is there something wrong? Have the adults left?

This makes me want to start tucking in my shirt.

Spec Script: The Counselor by Cormac McCarthy

Surprised by the writing and style - very underwhelming. Reminded me of reading the pilot for Luck, which I did not understand.

Mike Tyson's lowest point of his life:

‘This is really dark. I am in my hotel suite, I’ve got seven women there, and I have a morphine drip, and I had my cocaine, and I had my (Viagra like pill) Cialis, I had my marijuana, I had the Hennessy, and I am at my lowest point because I got paranoid and I thought these women were trying to rob me and set me up.

‘I started beating them. I was in a dark place. There was a purpose, though, because I didn’t want to give them any more of my soul.
Thank You

On the unfairness of the tax system. This is a criticism of obtuseness and incompetence moreso than ideology. Let's face it - American politics and the tax system is becoming a system of graft where various interest groups simply buy off units to get their agendas across - Dems and Republicans.
Easy There

Doth protesting too much thee single lifestyle.

Check this stat:

He leads the Heat in scoring, shooting, rebounding, assists and steals and is generally recognized as the team's best defender. But that sort of control of a team hasn't happened … since James did it two years ago when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We forget perhaps that Kobe, Durant, CP3, and all these other stars don't guard the toughest guy on the other end of the floor. Perhaps LeBron's 4th quarter shrinking partially has to do with being tired - of always doing all the work. This guy is far and away the best player in the league and by the end, will be vying for best of all time, barring injury.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


The Californians.

I don't know why I find this so funny.
Buffet Rule

Two economists attack inequality. Hat tip, Chuck.

Massive inequality is worrisome, especially in the way money is characterized as "speech" and plays such a large role in political power, but I don't think it is the primary problem with taxation. I'm more concerned with unfairness and legal corruption than strict inequality. I don't care if Bill Gates earns 60 million a year, so long as he pays a fair tax rate (ie higher than someone making a normal income). But I don't think the guy should pay 90% of his income - or even 70%. That seems crazy. What bugs me is Romney earning 10 million on investments and paying 13%. That is just corrupt - perhaps legal - but nonetheless corrupt.
10 Ways To Avoid Taxes

Schemes for wealthy and very wealthy people use to avoid taxes.

Many of them basically end reclassifying money as collateral, loans, or investments with different tax status as income. This allows enormous amounts of money to sit around untaxed and held onto or passed down to heirs.

Look, I don't begrudge anyone earning a lot of money and being successful. This is freaking America! We should celebrate such things. But what the financial collapse shined a light on is that so many of this "successful" people are financial money shifters who are simply gaming systems to enrich themselves without contributing to the economy. Financial gaming is not adding to the economy - it is a wealth transfer - no different in principle than welfare (taking from one person and giving to another). And yet we shield so much of this type of activity from tax (probably why it is done in the first place). When you dig into this, it makes one want to puke. And it seems like Madoff is less an aberration than a symbol.

The reviews are ridiculous.

Which brings us to Girls, a series which The Hollywood Reporter calls "the most original, spot-on, no-missed-steps series in recent memory". The Daily Beast calls it "the sort of television show that comes around but once in a decade." I call "just freaking fantastic." What TV fan, regardless of gender, wouldn't want to watch a show that's heralded in such a way? Especially considering, as many critics are pointing out, the series—a glorious, of-the-now portrait of four not-so-fancy girls struggling to come into their own—speaks to a generation of twentysomethings in general, and is as on-the-nose with its depiction of the conflicted young man as it is with the young woman.

Either I'm missing something, or these reviewers are passionately biased towards a depiction of a very narrow sliver of incredibly shallow slice of American life -- the culture of unexamined privilege (borrowed phrase from somewhere). I imagine many of the reviewers come from exactly such a place. It will be interesting to see what happens to Girls, either it will get better and find a big audience, or it will be a show written by and for the reviewing crowd. I suppose it wouldn't be the first time.
Tax Code

It truly is too complicated and it does not do a good job of distinguishing between rich and really, stinking, rich.

Even people with similar incomes are often treated unequally by the tax code because of all the special breaks for certain types of activities. The tax difference between a homeowner and renter with similar incomes, for example, could be thousands of dollars because of the special breaks for the former under the income tax.

The underlying cause of the tax-code mess is the political urge to socially engineer society. Many politicians are “class warriors,” who favor penalizing high-income earners with complicated provisions such as the alternative minimum tax and Obama’s new Buffett rule. Class warriors also favor subsidizing low-income tax filers, such as with the earned income tax credit, which is so complicated that it has an error rate of more than 20 percent.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Clippers

OKC was up 9 at halftime and the Clips ended up winning by 15. They absolutely crushed them in the second half. It seemed like they figured out how to totally break down OKC's defense and get open 3's, Blake down on the block one-v-one, or just let CP3 do his thing if OKC didn't double him. On the flip side, when Durant or Westbrook can't get their outside shots to go down, OKC can't score. Strange - at times - they look unbeatable when Westbrook is getting to the rim, Durant is the smoothest scoring machine in the league, and Harden herking and jerking his way to 20. But at other times, they just look terrible, like when the Clips when to a zone and just crammed the perimeter, they couldn't make shots. NBA playoffs will be awesome and is totally going to come down to match ups.

TV: Game of Thrones Ep. 3, Girls Pilot

GoT is still slow going. I suppose season 2 is not going to be as satisfying as season 1. Maybe because I read the book. Maybe because the newness factor wore off. I'll still watch so long as they keep making. This should not be confused as criticism, I still think it is the best show on TV.

Girls. I have an idea - let's throw a mixer between the girls in Lena Dunham's world and the guys in Noah Baumbach's world. They can live happily ever after off their parents and talk about ennui until the end of time. If Lena Dunham is in fact the voice of her generation, I suspect the Chinese will be running the world in about 20-25 years -- and then, she won't even have the option to blog. The glowing reviews of the show worry me. It means either a) I totally don't get it or b) the reviewers are all totally full of shit and have bough hook line and sinker into the best free PR hype since Mark Sanchez joined the Jets.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Not A Bad Way to Go

Obit in Denver times:

“Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors’ orders and raising hell for more than six decades. He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died.”

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Film: Charlie Bartlett and Natural Born Killers

I turned both these movies off. Simply couldn't get into them. I've seen parts of Natural Born Killers in the past, but man, what a travesty of a film - gets way worse with age.
Wha, Wha, Wow!

A brilliant response to Tyler Cowen's Great Stagnation argument. I hope our leaders are reading these things - I suspect they aren't.

He even addresses my great question - on the issue that we no longer need labor --

For the most part, Tyrone pointed out, technological progress is labor displacing. It simultaneously creates valuable new techniques for reconfiguring real resources while diminishing the number of people who are required to participate in those transformations, and who can therefore trade their participation for spending power. There is a myth among neoliberal economists that labor markets have always “adjusted” sua sponte: that when laborers were displaced from farms, “higher value” factories arose to employ them; that when the factories were downsized and offshored, a more pleasant, higher-value service economy came to be; etc. That narrative is wrong, he told me. At best it is criminally incomplete. With each technological change, new social institutions had to arise to sustain dispersed purchasing power despite a reduction of numbers and bargaining power of workers in old industries. Displaced workers ultimately did find new work, but only because the new social institutions “artificially” created buyers for all the things displaced workers reinvented themselves to sell. Without this institutional innovation, Tyrone tells me, something like the Great Depression would have been the new normal. Historically, institutions that have arisen to sustain purchasing power despite increasingly labor-efficient core production include direct government transfers and expenditures, labor unions, monetary policy interventions, financial bubbles and financial fraud.

His point -- we create fake stuff to sell and trade to keep people busy. Sounds like 1984. Sounds like Brazil. Sounds like Facebook. Is it possible modern life is just playing a real life monopoly game?
Cannibalizing The Young

Here is a paraphrased comment I put on Left, Right, and Center blog regarding a topic they need to address: how tax policy cannibalizes the young.

Suggested topic for major discussion: tax rates. Obama pays a 20% federal rate on 800,000 last year. Romney is paying 13% of multi-millions. Last year was the first year I made a good salary in my adult life and I ended up paying 27-28%? My lifestyle is a cheap - rented apartment with no dishwasher and driving a 10 year old car and I'm paying a higher tax rate than these guys? Look - my life is good - I love what I do, have great friends, a great relationship, and I'm admittedly frugal. But I hear these tax statistics and it seems radically unfair. Tax policy seems geared toward helping those with wealth maintain wealth and those at the very bottom to get by - at the expense of the people in the middle doing what they can to acquire wealth. The most obvious example would be the continued propping up of housing prices via interest rates, tax breaks, and banks holding onto distressed properties. This simply helps those already in homes at the expense of someone like me who would be a prospective home owner, but refuses to pay the ridiculous price for a good place to live (granted, this is an LA regional problem more than a national problem, but the point remains). I don't have time to understand all the nuance of tax policy, but my gut instinct is that we are cannibalizing the young to pay for the old - we do it blatantly with healthcare, social security, and then sneakily via real estate investment breaks, capital gain taxes, loan out corporations, trusts, and other stuff I know nothing about. Please discuss and put your big brains onto this issue.

Just make a simple progressive tax schedule that applies to all income equally. Here is my proposal:

0-20,000 - 5%
20,000-30,000 - 7.5%
30,000-40,000 - 10%
40,000-60,000 - 12.5%
60,000-80,000 - 15%
80,000-100,000 - 17.5%
100,000-150,000 - 20%
150,000-200,000 - 22.5%
200,000-300,000 - 25%
300,000-400,000 - 27.5%
400,000-500,000 - 30%
500,000-1 million - 32.5%
1million to 10million - 35%

Why treat capital gains differently? Why give real estate breaks to anyone? (which, by the way, just helps those who are buying investment properties anyway) Why punish productivity (income) vs. passive income (investment)? I'm sure there is a clear economic argument -- but look at this way -- money in the hands of individuals is fungible. If you earn $20,000 in investment income on top of your salary, just tell yourself that is your first $20,000 and you're paying only 5% "capital gains" tax on it. I mean, honestly, what difference does it make? What are they scared of people with 10 million bucks in investments investing it elsewhere to avoid paying the 35% tax? I don't see how this works. If they live in the US, they have to pay the tax. If they invest in US companies, they have to pay the tax. If they are benefitting from our military keeping our country free, our government making roads, our public institutions like school and police keeping the communities safe, we don't need to justify collecting taxes from people at this high end of the income scale. Not only that - it should be a point of civic pride for anyone making that much dough - the type of my-kids-will-never-need-to-work money to pay the taxes. I mean - how is this an issue people can argue with a straight face?

And we wouldn't have these stupid discussions on how much Romney or Obama pays in tax rate. You'd simply look at the schedule and see: Romney pays what everyone else pays on his first mil, but then pays 35% on the rest. Obama pays 32.5% on most of his income and what everyone else pays on the rest. Why is it such a bad thing to have a transparent and fair tax system everyone can buy into? Why do we have all these gimmicks designed to maximize "productive" behavior like buying houses and having kids. You think people really have kids for the tax benefits? Come on. This kind of government engineering is foolish, not what the founders intended, and reeks of nanny-statism. It is a vote buy off and invites more and more levels of corruption.

Friday, April 13, 2012

That Whole Next Generation Thing

There was this moment in the early 90s when all sorts of new American filmmakers emerged onto the scene - Soderbergh, David O'Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alexander Payne, Quentin Tarantino, Gus Van Sant, Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, Bryan Singer, Todd Solondz, Whit Stillman, Noah Baumbach, Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, Sophia Coppola - there are more, but you get the idea. Combined with the 70s generation, these guys make up the list of the auteur filmmakers we commonly think of when we think "filmmaker." But there seemed to be a gap forming. Rushmore was almost 15 years ago and that was the tail end of the first films by this generation. So is there a new generation out there?

The two filmmakers than come to mind of a new generation - my generation - would be David Gordon Green and Jason Reitman. There are others emerging in different ways at different rates - but throw in Rian Johnson, Neill Blomkamp, the Duplass Brothers, Josh Trank, Lena Dunham, David Michod, Jason Segal (not directing, but he seems to be shepherding projects now), Jody Hill, maybe include Diablo Cody, Liz Meriweather. I don't know if you can connect this crew in the way the 1990s were connected with Sundance, Miramax, and Focus or the way the 70s were connected by film school, Corman, and the influence of the European auteurs, but it does strike me that David Gorden Green is no longer this single example of a young auteur and Jason Reitman is no longer just Ivan Reitman's possibly-talented son. I don't know what connects this generation other than a fluidity with TV and Movies that didn't exist in the prior generations (David GG and Eastbound and Down, Lena Dunham from Sundance to HBO, Jason Segal from Freaks and Geeks to Muppets, Mark Duplass from Puffy Chair to The League), but it does strike me that "new" voices are emerging onto the scene or at the very least, are being marketed that way.
Oh Boy!

NBA playoffs coming up. Simmons thinks the Celtics are contenders. They are a lovable team.

An early review from the Atlantic. The show could be really good if it ends up being about underemployment.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Film: District 9

Once again stopped watching at about the halfway point. This is the first movie I've tried to watch twice and stopped both times.

Film: Something Wild

Why was I thinking about this movie today? I don't know. I can remember seeing this movie in the theater with my parents. It must be one of my early memories of being in the theater, I was probably only 8 years old or so. Perhaps it was the first pair of boobs I ever saw. Is that possible? I always remember the coffee shop scene where Jeff Daniels tricks Ray Liotta with the cops. Watching it again - man - Ray Liotta takes over this film. I mean it is such an obvious thing to say, but his screen presence -- this is easily his best role. I feel like it blows the performance in Goodfellas out of the water and that's saying something.
Hulu Plus

A note...the movie Something Wild is on Criterion Collection, but cannot be found on Hulu Plus. Why? It seems as though Hulu Plus only has certain Criterion movies. This is my single biggest frustration with streaming both on Netflix and Hulu Plus - you can count on very little. These services are becoming auxiliary tv channels, not much different that free on demand that can be found via cable. I see this as a problem. Netflix started as a mail order video store and as such, closed down video stores, like Blockbuster, etc. Blockbuster, of course, closed down the mom and pop shops. But now, where can we rent movies? Luckily, I live down the street from Vidiots, which will be the last video store on the planet and they seem to be on the brink of going out of business. This is a major problem for the movie business and me, as a fan. Where will I be able to get movies in 3 years time?
Why Stay?

Does Revis want to stay as a Jet? Doesn't it seem exhausting to deal with Rex and the Sanchize and now Tebow-mania?

Come to the Niners, Revis. We'll win Super Bowls with ya.
Almost a Must Read

Planning Los Angeles - essays on the planning of the city.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Like the H-Wood Shout Out

Tyler Cowen on the United States being the most productive economies of all time:

Internationally speaking, in the richest and most productive global economy of all time, which is our most competitive sector?

Hollywood? Maybe, but it could well be higher education. Students from all over the world want to go to U.S. higher education. If we had nicer immigration authorities, this advantage would be all the more pronounced.

Film: Blow Out

Can't say I really like this movie very much. Again, it's one of those kinda cool formal experiments in movie-making that doesn't do much for me emotionally. I find it strange how Pauline Kael and Quentin Tarantino both hold it in such high esteem. It really is a bizarro movie. I mean - what in the world is John Lithgow up to? His plan is so preposterous, it really defies any sort of relationship to the real world, and really is just a convenient plotting tool.

A New Yorker article examines why so many Americans are living alone. Hat tip, C.

The results were surprising. Klinenberg’s data suggested that single living was not a social aberration but an inevitable outgrowth of mainstream liberal values. Women’s liberation, widespread urbanization, communications technology, and increased longevity—these four trends lend our era its cultural contours, and each gives rise to solo living. Women facing less pressure to stick to child care and housework can pursue careers, marry and conceive when they please, and divorce if they’re unhappy. The “communications revolution” that began with the telephone and continues with Facebook helps dissolve the boundary between social life and isolation. Urban culture caters heavily to autonomous singles, both in its social diversity and in its amenities: gyms, coffee shops, food deliveries, laundromats, and the like ease solo subsistence. Age, thanks to the uneven advances of modern medicine, makes loners of people who have not previously lived by themselves. By 2000, sixty-two per cent of the widowed elderly were living by themselves, a figure that’s unlikely to fall anytime soon.

What turns this shift from demographic accounting to a social question is the pursuit-of-happiness factor: as a rule, do people live alone because they want to or because they have to? At one point, Klinenberg suggests that living alone provides “restorative solitude”; it may be “exactly what we need to reconnect.” But most of the people he introduces seem neither especially restored nor vigorously connected. They are insecure, proud of their freedoms but hungry for contact, anxious, frisky, smug, occasionally scared—in short, they experience a mixture of emotions that many people, even those who do not live alone, are apt to recognize.
Filed Under Contract

From Letters of Note - by Jack London to a young writer.
Championship Odds

The best bets to me would be the Spurs at 7 to 1 or the Grizz at 25 to 1.

Wouldn't you consider the Spurs to have an equal shot as OKC at this point and OKC is 7 to 2? And Miami is a ridiculous 7 to 5.

Monday, April 09, 2012

I think I missed this commercial during the Super Bowl. A lot of fun.

Is this the coolest looking car on the road?
Contract Model

In light of the contract/status model discussion below, I happened upon this science fiction manifesto. I wouldn't normally link to it, but this author very clearly outlines the contract model attitude--

Writing is communication. Your objective is to communicate with as many people as possible. Or at least to amuse them, distract them, or make the burden of life less burdensome for a while. Wishing to feed your family is also an acceptable goal.

TV: Game of Thrones, season 2, ep. 2

There is a cost to killing off your main character...and I think we are learning it right now...the show feels a bit uncentered this season. I still love it. I love the look, the attitude, the characters. We suffer from wanting to be with characters more. This is one of those good problems, I guess. I suspect this season will not be as rewarding as season 1. There is no shame in it, but I'm just lowering my expectations. At the moment, I am regretting, a tad bit, having read the book for season 2. I wish I were enjoying this is real time and so I may hold off reading the third book at all.

I would rank this world as the greatest fantasy achievement of all time. I prefer it to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, and I haven't read Harry Potter, but I'm sure this is better -- what else is there?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Mr. Difficult

Been thinking more and more about this essay by Jonathan Franzen. In it, he breaks down the reader-writer relationship into two models: The Status Model and the Contract Model --

"the best novels are great works of art, the people who manage to write them deserve extraordinary credit, and if the average reader rejects the work it's because the average reader is a philistine; the value of any novel, even a mediocre one, exists independently of whether people are able to enjoy it. We call this the Status Model. It invites a discourse of genius and art-historical importance."

On the other hand --

"In the opposing model, a novel represents a compact between the writer and the reader, with the writer providing words out of which the reader creates a pleasurable experience. Writing thus entails a balancing of self-expression and communication within a group, whether the group consists of Finnegans Wake enthusiasts or fans of Barbara Cartland..." an adherent of Contract, the Status crowd looks like an arrogant connoisseurial elite. To a true believer in Status, on the other hand, Contract is a recipe for pandering, aesthetic compromise, and a babel of competing literary subcommunities."

The essay goes on to examine William Gaddis, one of Franzen's literary heroes, and the embodiment of a Status writer. He discusses "difficult books," ones that are clearly geared toward challenging the reader, basically the postmodern fiction movement - Pynchon, DeLillo, these type of writers. In the end Franzen rejects Gaddis' Status model in favor of the Contract model, ultimately calling out his hero for "serving a fruitcake he wouldn't himself eat."

I think this breakdown is rather brilliant and goes a long way to explaining divergent literary views. I think it applies rather well to movies as well -- to put it simply -- the Contract folks would be Hollywood, BBC, TV, etc and the Independent filmmakers would be Status.

And it also helps me understand the movie that most puzzled me last year -- Tree of Life. At my core, I know I am a Contract movie person. I think most people are. As difficult as it is to take Status authors seriously (outside of college English departments, I mean), it is even more difficult to take Status filmmaking seriously, because of the vast industrial apparatus and cost to getting a movie made and watched. Tree of Life was the ultimate example of a Status movie - difficult, challenging, and daring to be accepted only on it's own terms, rejecting any Contract with the audience to clarity, narrative, story.

A movie I didn't watch, which I imagine to also be a Status movie, is Lars Von Trier's Melancholia. I wonder if Von Trier and Malick actually watched each other's work. I wonder if they enjoyed each other's movies? I rather doubt it. I'd be willing to bet they each liked Moneyball and Crazy, Stupid, Love better.
Having It Both Ways

Baylor mistakenly dumps data on law school admissions giving an inside look at affirmative action policies. This blogger writes a passionate plea suggesting that affirmative action is no big deal - that it boils down to a mere 4 LSAT points - and therefore the opponents of it are stupid.

But that seems to be a strange conclusion. You can't on the one hand argue affirmative action is no big deal and then also argue it should be kept. If it's no big deal, it seems to me an argument for getting rid of it altogether, just so no can use it as an excuse one way or the other - pro or against.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Derbyshire Fired

From the National Review. The firing letter is actually quite logically sound. Here is the article that got him fired. I don't find it particularly offensive, but I can see how many will.

Non Fiction: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Basically, the most well known true crime book about serial killers. Follows the horrific trail of Ted Bundy, told by a women who knew him and actually suspected him early on. I'm about halfway through. Scary. Readable. Fascinating. Not sure I'll finish, though, because the story gets a bit repetitive and really is about documenting the entire series of murders, which in some way doesn't totally interest me.

Essays: How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen

This guy has become one of my favorite writers. His overall attitude about writing appeals to my sensibility. I also like how he thinks a lot about writing and reading and what it means to our society. I'm skipping around the essay book - at first I was reading straight through - but I got really bored during his piece about the post office. So far my favorites are the "Harpers Essay" and "Mr. Difficult" where he addresses the issue of reading today. The one about his dad and alzheimer's is quite moving.

Non Fiction: The Murderer Next Door by David Buss

I probably won't finish this book, but it's about the impulse to murder and his finding that a large number of people have detailed murder fantasies which involve planning. His basic premise is that murder is an essential part of being human and not a construct of society or poverty or video games. Of course, I already thought this, so I'm not sure I need to read the entire book.

Just wrote a longer comment than I expected on Phil's blog.

Friday, April 06, 2012


TV: Justified, penultimate episode, season 3

Well, that was quick. A few weeks ago I was thinking this was the best show on TV, now I think it's jumped the shark. The last episode was remarkably inept. What are they contracted with some of these actors to keep them alive for the whole season? Kill somebody already! I think there were about 5 instances in a single episode where a character who another character wanted dead was caught, but instead of killing them, they decide to lock them up and keep them under guard by someone incredibly easy to escape from. Totally ridiculous. The final episode of the season better be good, but I doubt it can make up for this mess.
Trayvon Martin

Good point.

In this country, we don't send people to jail on the theory that we don't know if they are guilty or not.

May I remind everyone this applies to Jerry Sandusky as well.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

No Big Surprise

Online porn is popular. Who knew?

According to this tool, the online porn kingpin Xvideos feeds up 4.4 billion page views per month. That’s about 10 times as many as the New York Times and three times as many as YouPorn—another site packed full of stimulating content—notches 2.1 billion page views per month. And while people spend a few minutes per day on news sites, they tend to spend 15 minutes or more on porn sites, which would seem to say something rather definitive about, er, male stamina.

I suppose from a biologists perspective, our priorities are correct...
And They Have A Good Basketball Team

Need a job? Go to Oklahoma City.

From Levine news:

STUDY: 1 MILLION DUMPED CABLE LAST YEAR FOR NETFLIX, HULU: Tempted to cut the cord? You’re not alone: Even with overall TV viewership on the rise, about 1 million cable or satellite subscribers dumped their service last year. According to research by the Convergence Consulting Group, about 2.7 million U.S. TV subscribers unsubscribed from their traditional service to rely solely on over-the-air signals, Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and other online outlets over the past three years. About 1 million of those viewers cut the cord in 2011. The research forecasts another 900,000 will defect this year. Furthermore, about 19 percent of viewers watch between one and two episodes of TV online each week (either via a network’s own Web site, or another distribution outlet).

Good. I have little sympathy for the cable companies who definitely jack up costs when you aren't looking (know as cramming, and is actually illegal, if anyone bothered to pay attention). If sports and HBO figured out how to stream or whatever, I'd dump the cable TV too.
Gregg Williams

Jesus f---ing christ.

I hate to be Pollyanna about this - perhaps this goes on in every single NFL locker room - but man - I think this guy needs to be banned from football. Targeting guys heads after they've been tackled and hit? Especially after what we know about the long term effects of concussions and how the NFL doesn't monetarily support these players after they've retired? And plus - he's targeting 49er player that I love. Fuck Gregg Williams. The only guy that got KO'd in that game was his boy - Pierre Thomas. I can't decide whether to be horrified or gloat in the 49er toughness vs. the Saints.

There's being tough and there's trying to injure people. I think Ray Lewis or James Harrison put it this way, and it rings true to me - I want to hurt guys, but I don't want to injure them. Williams is talking about injury - and serious injury. That's the line. And it isn't cool.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Film: The Conversation, Blow Up

The Conversation was Coppola's ode to Antonioni's Blow Up. I think I enjoy each of these movies more on a formal level than an emotional level. If they were novels, you wouldn't exactly call them page-turners. In Blow Up, the discovery of the murder happens after the halfway point of the movie -- of course in an American studio picture this would occur in the first 20 minutes. Nevertheless, the movie's final scene is incredible and for me, makes the entire movie...actually the same can be said of both movies.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Biggest Issue of the Future Is...

The end of employment. I've been casually thinking about this for awhile now, but it's pretty obvious to me there are simply not enough decent jobs to support a large middle class in America anymore.

Forget Islamic Fundamentalism, which at worst, will dirty nuke one of our cities until we butt out of their business and cause oil to be priced sky high. Other than the 1% chance of such an occurrence, I imagine it will be more of a nuisance than existential threat. Forget environmentalism, which will take many generations to see a significant impact (if we cannot find technological solutions prior).

I am most concerned with the end of the middle class employment, which, coupled with the skyrocketing costs of healthcare, housing, and education will cause severe social unrest and affect families at a core level.
Looking For Reading

I'm looking for new blogs/sites to follow. My site number has lowered and lowered over the years. I'm open to trying new websites, if anyone has any suggestions. Going to add several new blogs/sites to my blog roll to test them out.
The White Savior Industrial Complex

Well said, sir.
A Good Movie or Mini-Series

The hunt for KSM.

Well, I'd certainly watch it.

Monday, April 02, 2012


Film: Henry, Portait of a Serial Killer

Wow. This is a surprisingly high quality film. Could only watch the first 2/3 this AM, but will finish later on. Great acting and writing, especially given the scale - made in 1986 for $110,000. I feel like you could make a film like this today for about the same price. The processing cost would be lower, but the wages for actors would be higher. I would point to this film as a good example of how a drama could be made on a budget.

TV: Game of Thrones Season 2, Ep. 1

The first episode was all set up. They've earned the right to this with how the storytelling unfolded last year. Grantland has a nice little piece about TV and how GoT is the most reliable show on TV.