Friday, November 30, 2012

How Did I Miss This?

This Is Fun

The Randell Cunningham play is my favorite.  You watch these plays - and Berman makes the note that the Eagles don't win the game - and it is a reminder of one of the great elements of sports -- that sports are not entirely about winning, sports are about glory.
The Power of Narrative

Talking about Matt Ryan and sports narratives.  This is an astute article.
The opposite of that is true, too; once we've defined a player to possess something special in terms of his ability to win in the playoffs, he can do virtually nothing to erase those claims. The thought experiment I always pose in arguing that one is simple: Take Tom Brady's playoff career and flip it, so that he begins his career with the 2011 season and ends it with the 2001 campaign. Brady's a totally different player with a totally different career story line. He's the guy who can't win the big game, the quarterback who has the Giants stuck in his head from the start. He loses to them in the 2011 regular season and then in the Super Bowl when Manning finds Manningham. Given a second crack a few years later, he finally beats them in Week 17 to extend New England's perfect season, but the Giants come up in the clutch in the Super Bowl in a way that Brady just can't match, as the "greatest offense in league history" implodes and scores just 14 points in an embarrassing loss. You can feel the invective spewing through the Boston papers as Brady gets blown out by the Ravens in 2009 and is trampled by the Broncos in Denver in 2005. Finally, he gets his ring after seven disappointing playoff runs at the helm, but only by blowing a playoff lead to Jake Delhomme before getting bailed out when the opposing kicker boots the final kickoff of the game out of bounds. Brady goes on a nine-game playoff winning streak and shakes his playoff blues. In the real world, Brady's playoff career is pretty similar to Derek Jeter's, a guy who repeatedly won at the beginning of his career before a long stretch of mostly coming up just short. Flip it, and he's more like Jordan, a guy who had the playoff choker label slapped on him before making the whole thing look silly. Winning in the playoffs matters, but a win in the 10th year of a guy's career means just as much as one in his second year.
Kobe and Brett Farve are my two biggest beefs in sports narratives. These guys are totally overrated for their clutch performances, which are average at best. The impressive thing is their longevity, not their playoff mettle.
And All That Said

This might be the best stand alone scene (or shot) I've seen all year in the movies:

The shipwreck sequence in Life of Pi is close - but I need to see it again to understand what I saw.

Film:  Holy Motors

By far my favorite sequence was the accordion musical bit.  It was exciting and joyous.  It takes one a moment to get oriented into the mindset to watch a film like this, a true art film, and challenges the viewer to accept it on different terms than a conventional film.  I guess the only way to evaluate is one's enjoyment of the movie, and although there were parts to enjoy, I felt a distance from the movie while watching it.  There is a feeling that anything can happen and this can be a double edged sword - exciting and annoying.  In the movies, there are all sorts of references to other movie genres and even ways of making movies (I'm thinking of the motion capture bits), but it leaves me thinking - don't I just prefer an actual gangster film to an art film which references gangster films?  And so forth.  I've been thinking about this lately as there was a New York Times article about hipsters and the possible social problems with ironically enjoying things...dressing ironically...listening to music ironically.  I guess I think about it this way - does it make a difference if you are being an asshole ironically or just being an asshole?  If you are being an ironic racist, is that different from just being racist?

All said, I could see this film being a great hit at Cannes and it was worth seeing.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Fast food workers trying to unionize.
Cheap fast food and their cheap workers impose a cost on the country in the form of food stamps, welfare through the tax code, and social safety net programs. This is a place for government to intervene -- and for corporations to sacrifice some of their profits -- by raising wages to a livable level.
It's pretty hard to be unsympathetic to people trying to earn a living wage given the state of the economy and the trends of globalization, if you have any sense of fairness or equality of opportunity.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

That Time of Year

Niners suffer two somewhat worrying injuries:  Kendall Hunter and Kyle Williams are both gone for the season.

Both play important roles.  Williams is our "quick" receiver, in the mold of Welker.  Not nearly as good, he gets a few tosses a game.  He also returns kicks and is our back up punt returner.

Hunter is our 2nd back and gets a lot of playing time.  He averages over 5 yards a carry and with Gore makes the Niners one of the best backfields in the league.

So these losses will matter.  Hopefully, however, we'll get to see the Niners two top draft picks from last year get some playing time:  AJ Jenkins and LaMichael James.

Will James return some kicks?  I hope so.  Our kick return game has been pretty bad this year, with Ginn being out and then fumbling a horrible ball last game.  Maybe James can spice it up and become a Sproles like player.  Will Brandon Jacobs get some more runs?  He looked good in the two hand offs he got last week.  I still like a platoon running situation to keep Gore rested for the playoffs.  Hopefully James and Jacobs can step in and be effective.  It will be nice to see what these guys can contribute.  Last year, Williams started playing around midseason and looked pretty effective out there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Facebook = Stress

The Atlantic makes an obvious point about facebook.
Facebook's power, and its curse, is this holistic treatment of personhood. All the careful tailoring we do to ourselves (and to our selves) -- to be, say, professional in one context and whimsical in the other -- dissolves in the simmering singularity of the Facebook timeline.
This idea of personhood is what a college sophomores thinks is "authentic." I say the folks who experience stress deserve it. No one forced them to sign up for facebook.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Night Football

Oy Vey - what an ugly game.  I'm just watching the end now - Carolina vs. the Eagles.  Just this sequence alone - Eagles go for it on 4th and inches down by 2 points with about 7 minutes left.  They call a slow developing run play and Carolina stuffs it.  Carolina gets the ball back and starts driving down the field.  During this sequence, the Eagles commit 3 offsides penalties in the red zone giving Carolina about 10 chances to score a TD, which they finally do.  So now Carolina goes up 8 and misses the extra point.  How impossibly stupid - they can put the game out of reach and can't convert an extra point.  But never fear, the Eagles fumble the ball on the kick off and the Panthers get it back.  They smartly run the ball on 1st down, but do two more stupid things - 1) commit a holding penalty and 2) the running back runs out of bounds.  This is with about 4 minutes left, up by a score and they are just trying to run out the clock.  This is a battle of dumb teams to see who will blow the game.

Watching Cam Newton play and I'm reminded of Kaepernick.  They bring the same type of strengths - running and downfield passing - and explosive play.  They bring the same type of excitement in their first two games.  But remember this:  Cam Newton has had a huge drop off since the first half of last season and doesn't win close games.  The NFL figured him out.  Granted, the Niners have a much stronger supporting cast and a better coach.  But would I trade Alex Smith for Cam Newton?  I wouldn't.  Would I take them on the same team?  Yeah, I would.

The most effective quarterback in this mold is Big Ben Roethlisberger.  I think the Kaepernick - Newton comparison is better, however, because Big Ben isn't as fleet a foot - he doesn't run like the other guys - he more uses his size to stay alive in the pocket and make plays downfield.  The big difference between Big Ben and Cam is his late game performance and knack for winning big games.

I guess all I'm saying is the folks who are excited about Kaepernick are the same type of folks who were excited for Cam.  Those type of folks overestimated Cam's value.

Note:  Finally, someone makes a smart play - Mike Tolbert goes down after securing a first down by staying in bounds.  Now the Panthers can run out the clock.
Niners - Saints

All the national media can talk about is Colin Kaepernick.  His stats were about the same as Alex Smith.  He brings some stuff to the table - the run option - more downfield passing - and more confidence on 3rd and longs.  I feel like the Niners are more "explosive" offensively with Kaepernack, but also higher risk.  In either case, the Niners have the best back up QB in football now and will be effective with either one.  If Drew Brees doesn't throw that pick 6 at the very end of the 1st half yesterday, the game goes totally differently and this QB controversy is heated.  I'm wondering if Smith supporters will come out of the woodwork the first time Kaepernick loses, which I imagine he will at some point.

The most noticeable element of the game, by the end, was the sheer physical intensity the Niners brought to the Saints.  They were done at the end.  Brees didn't want to be on the field and that guy is normally a warrior.  The Niners KO'd two receivers on big passes over the field.  Donte Whitner hit Lance Moore so hard, I couldn't believe it.  His arms went limp and the ball fell out.  That poor bastard probably had a tough time getting out of bed this morning.  Where did the Niners find these safeties?  They are dangerous, man.  I was seriously worried about the Saints yesterday.  I'm not kidding.  There was a play where it looked like Patrick Willis grabbed Brees by the neck and threw him to the ground.  It was brutal.

Data shows the 401(k) doesn't work.  People use it, but they don't save any more money.  At least in Denmark, where the study was conducted.  It doesn't surprise me.  The 401(k) was never truly designed to help people - it was meant to shift investment risk from employers to employees.  And people ate it up because the stock market did well.  Until it didn't.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Film:  Life of Pi

I still don't get 3D.  I look at it through the lens of the audience experience, as opposed to being wowed by technological accomplishment.  It does not make the movie any more immersive or special to me.  It gives some depth - but for all these directors who talk about 3D being more life-like, etc, this is a complete joke and a borderline hoax.  In no way is the theatrical 3D experience even close to life-like conditions of experience.  First of the, the depth feels to me like about 6-7 feet of screen depth.  You get maybe one or two "layers" of space.  In real space, I can see from inches in front of my face to miles away with innumerable space in between and all around me.  This 6-7 feet of space illusion with glasses is nothing.  It still feels like a gimmick to me.  I don't get any more emotional or narrative satisfaction from the experience - it does not enhance performance or writing or visual wonder.  It is more artifice and less dream.  If anything, the whole set up feels less realistic.

James Cameron has talked about people watching 3D and how it activates more receptors in the brain and ends up triggering all these different things to make it a higher level experience.  Maybe he is scientifically correct - but I'm not going into movies to maximize my brain triggering mechanisms.  I'm going into movies for a variety of reasons - to relax and enjoy a community storytelling experience, to enter a dream world, to get told a nice story, to see a wonderful performance, to laugh, to cry -- and none of these things are much enhanced by 3D.  3D is a businessman's gimmick to get people into the theater and to pay a premium price.  It is also a technical accomplishment of what seems to me, astonishing complexity.  But that is not why I see movies - maybe some do - but I do not.

Pictures - photography - have a special power.  They capture moments to the exclusion of others that clarify and identity an emotional state.  They summarize what it feels like to be alive.  I don't think we are getting tired of looking at photographs - nor will ever tire of looking at photographs.  After all, facebook is really just one big photo album.  Movies are extensions of this fundamental technology and power - photographs plus movement plus sound, which creates an emotional experience of looking at a 2D representation of 3 dimensional space and time.

But yes, Life of Pi is wowing.  Watching the shipwreck all I can think about is - how the hell did he do this?  Watching the Tiger and the animation or whatever you want to call it - is amazing.  But ask yourself this - what would a similar movie look like if they used an actual tiger?  It would probably be impossible to make - but what would that experience feel like watching?

As to the story - bleh.  Didn't care for the framing device of the author interviewing the guy.  I've seen survival stories before, done better.  Not a great movie, but not a terrible movie.  Will not be in my tops for the year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


TV:  Homeland, S.2 e.7

Ugh.  This show is becoming a real bore.
Taxes Going Up

Megan McArdle corrects the correctors.
To be sure, there are a bunch of people who confuse marginal with effective tax rates, and their error should be gently pointed out. But it is hard to correct the errors of others while simultaneously making a fairly sizeable error of your own. So I've put together a handy graphic showing you what income levels trigger deduction phaseouts or surtaxes.
Gotta Love SF

Driving home to SF yesterday, I love hearing the local radio.  All the sports people can talk about is Colin Kaepernick.  On the news channel, the big issue yesterday was the San Francisco city council voted 6-5 to ban public nudity except on certain events like Bay to Breakers, etc.  I love this story.  First of all, that there is a problem with public nudity is hilarious unto itself.  Apparently, in the Castro, there are lots of dudes - and they made the point it is mostly dudes - who just sit around nude all day.  People complain.  So somehow it gets to the city council and the vote is narrow - 6-5 - in the favor of banning public nudity.

And this ban has prompted nude protests, of course.

What's not to love?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Who's Hiring

$100,000 per year jobs people don't want.

It is somewhat embarrassing to list the number of books I am in some stage of reading.  Why don't I finish one before starting another?  I don't know.

2666, part 2, 3, and 4 by Roberto Bolano:  I was loving this book and then got to The Part About the Crimes.  I stopped reading.  I just got tired.  And in a 900 page book, it is tough to start slogging through only to get to another 300 page section.  I hope I will pick it up again and finish.  I like the idea of reading hard things as well as easy things, although I imagine you could easily waste your entire life this way.

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming:  I once read Dr. No and thought it was terrible.  I figured the Bond movies were better than the Bond books.  But I enjoyed the recent Bond film and decided I wanted to check out some new spy books and Fleming's name kept popping up.  I can't believe how good this book is.  I'm going to read at least two more Bond novels afterward:  Moonraker for sure (which is acclaimed as the best one) and possibly the short stories or Goldfinger, we'll see.

This book is strangely dark and hard boiled.  It is racist and misogynistic -- one of the characters talks about how women have fantasies of being taken off into caves and being raped.  Foreign characters are often portrayed negatively with exaggerated racial features.  And I think these elements are why Bond books are pooh-poohed by critics and academics and just generally not read much anymore.  But the writing and storytelling is wonderful.  And Fleming's descriptions of the world are born out of experience -- the man interacted with the types of people he writes about.  It isn't politically correct, but I prefer this kind of candor to the mealy mouthed politically correct "opinions" that are not born out of experience living in the world, but rather experienced by hiding within the walls of academia and suburbia, taking cues of the way the world is by Benetton ads as opposed to seeing it for oneself.

Apparently, the Bond books are of mixed quality.  From Russia with Love and Moonraker are supposedly the best two.  Fleming would write one a summer while he vacationed in Jamaica.

Suspects by David Thomson:  Going to read this one slowly.  You could call it noir fan fiction.  Thomson imagines the lives of famous movie characters from Jake Gittes to George Bailey from beginning to end, outside the lines of the films.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain:  Pretty fun and easy read so far.  Kind of a must read for those of us interested in the behind-the-scenes element of the food world.  I generally don't like reading memoirs very much and this will suffer from being one of those.

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl:  See above.  I may have already logged this one before.  Can't remember.

Tiger Trap by David Wise:  How America does battle with Chinese spies.  Really strong, grounded book thus far.
This Movie Sounds Terrible

I can't barely read this glowing review of The Comedy. Try reading this paragraph:
People who hate The Comedy (and possibly Girls) will argue (with good reason) that the indie exceptionalism it eviscerates is also what makes a film with such a narrow scope possible. The Comedy won't play to audiences in Bismarck or Sheboygan, and this is obviously by design. As off-putting as The Comedy is, it feeds into the vanity of those most like the characters on-screen. If this is true, what does that say about the audience? That, at best, they accept the premise that their lives are cinematic shorthand for soullessness? Or, at worst, that they inhabit an impeccably curated hellscape filled with bitchin' stuff but no substance? What have they done to believe that they deserve to be subjected to a film like The Comedy?
This is the world Facebook hath brought us.  Everyone an opinion, everyone the star of a movie.  If anyone thinks internet comments are what the people in the future will read, then I suppose these folks are onto something.  I imagine people of the future will be smarter than the folks in the present and not waste their time with them, or these kind of movies, or the reviews, that address such small, unimportant things.
Secession Fever

Well, I'd hardly call it a fever, but yeah, this is a good reminder of why a Federalist system is a good model of government.
Living Without Irony

Interesting article.  Hat tip, Viner.
Why Soccer Is The World's Greatest Game

Great article.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Film:  Perks of Being a Wallflower

Screener season has begun, and I started getting them.  I heard good things about this film and was happy to receive it.

But the good/bad thing about getting screeners is how easy they are to turn off if you aren't enjoying the movie.  And turn off Perks I did.  I just couldn't get into it.  Felt incredibly cliched.  And boring.  Recognized one of the actresses from Arrested Development.  She played Ann, George Michael's girlfriend who Jason Bateman refused to recognize.  So I watched 3 episodes of Arrested Development.  What an amazing show.

I Go Back and Forth On This

The death or estate tax. 
"The idea behind the estate tax is to prevent the very wealthy among us from accumulating vast fortunes that they can pass along to the next generation," said Patrick Lester, director of Federal Fiscal Policy with the progressive think tank -- OMB Watch. "The poster child for the estate tax is Paris Hilton -- the celebrity and hotel heiress. That's who this is targeted at, not ordinary Americans."
Is it the job of the government to prevent fortunes from being spread?  And wasn't the money taxed already when the person first earned it?
If I Were A Republican...

...and I wanted to win the Presidency, I would focus on California.  Absurd?  California lone can flip 55 votes - it would swing an election - and there are plenty of issues to divide Californians.  But the big one for Californians elites:  copyright.

You want to mess with Hollywood, mess with this system and the laws.  You want to pit Hollywood and Silicon Valley against one another?  Copyright and piracy are the issues.  One simple flip in Hollywood could throw the town into chaos:  what if screenwriters had copyright to their work?  Imagine the ramifications to the movie making process and the money.  Screenwriters have never fought for copyright because they always took the money - but it isn't out of the realm of possibilities to imagine a world where studios don't own screenplays, they simply act as publishing houses or theaters with respect to the underlying work.

There would be less money all around - and I'm not sure if I'd personally like the situation - but it would be entertaining to imagine this alternative world.
The Future

When I think about the future of entertainment, I'm less inclined to listen to prognostications from CEOs of media companies -- since usually they are just hawking their products -- and more likely just to look at the landscape of porn.
At the same time, shrinking porn profits and a talent supply-and-demand imbalance have caused performers' salaries to decline....While a decade ago the average female performer would make about $100,000 a year, Spiegler says she now might make as little as $50,000 -- all while juggling responsibilities such as social-media outreach and personal appearances.
More work and less pay. Sounds like Hollywood. Sounds like the rest of the America. Get ready folks -- we might see a revival of Colonialism as soon as people realize how difficult life is when the free market gets hold of every corner of the earth.  All the folks who cried for social justice and fairness will hate their new jobs as much as the next person.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why McDonalds Is A Smart Company

They own the land, too.
McDonald’s has a pretty unique approach to opening new stores. While many investors don’t realize it, McDonald’s often owns the land underneath franchised store locations, generating bigger royalty streams from each location than rival quick service restaurant chains.
Hot Money

is flowing into SoCal right now screwing up the local housing prices.

These real estate speculators are real pricks.  Kind of makes me want to get in the game.
New Poverty Terms

Now Obama's team wants to measure poverty in relative (vs. absolute terms).  This confirms Republican suspicions of his redistributive goals.  Of course, no one is talking about it.

Restaurants:  Soot Bull Jeep and Hiko Sushi

Went to Soot Bull Jeep last week and it delivered as always.  I've yet to find a better group dinner spot in LA.  You eat meat and drink beer until you are full and it costs between $25-30 per person.  Your clothes stink and you'll wake up the next day with a headache from smoke inhalation, but the pork?  The steak rib?  The bean paste and cooked garlic?  Worth it.

Hiko Sushi is arguably the best sushi I've eaten.  Not that I'm some sort of connoisseur, but over the years, I've been to some good spots.  But the overall quality of sushi seems to be going up as it has become more and more popular and main stream.  Thinking back - I probably didn't even try sushi until right after college.  And now?  It is as common as a hamburger, at least in LA.  Hiko is a small little spot in a strip mall on the Mar Vista / Palms border.  It would be quite easy to miss it.  You walk in and it seems like a middle of the road little sushi joint.  The omakase comes out on cheap, inexpensive dishes.  The beer costs $3.50 for a draft of Kirin.  But don't let the ambiance fool you - this place is NOT cheap.  We ate, not paying too much attention to the cost.  The Toro was like butter, the albacore delicious; but the best piece was a white fish with a piece of seaweed on it - I think the waitress said "like Sea Bass," but I can't remember what it actually was.  I don't think it was on the menu.  Really, all the sushi was delicious.  The only thing I could have gone without was the crab roll, which was just okay.  Don't go here to save a buck -- go here to splurge.

Film:  Arthur, the original Dudley Moore version

I never saw the remake, but there is no way it is as wild as the first movie.  This was clearly a huge influence on the Adam Sandler and Chris Farley man-child films.  And it got me thinking about Bad News Bears.  Why do studios remake these gonzo, wild movies, and then totally neuter them?  It makes no sense.  It's like they don't understand why these films are beloved.  They think Bad News Bears or Arthur works because of the title?  They work because they are drinking movies about alcoholics.  All the comedy in Arthur is drunken comedy.  The movie is far from perfect and I'm not even sure I'd recommend it, but it is full of life and sloppiness and absurdity.  I'd take a movie like this any day over the glossy humorless trying-too-hard versions of remake comedies - even one's that do ok, like 21 Jump Street.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nate Silver, Nate Silver, Nate Silver

The nation, as we all know, is swept up in the fact Nate Silver predicted 50 of 50 states.  But isn't this achievement a bit overstated?  How many states were actually close?  In the end, only really 2 states were within 2% -- Ohio and Florida.  There are about 8 states listed as battleground states.  So really, Nave Silver was 2 for 2 or 8 for 8.  Still good, but not exactly 50 for 50.

Now I say this as a person who suspected Romney was going to win - a person who got caught up in the media coverage and who didn't pay attention to polling.

I was more impressed with Brower going 11-1 a couple Sunday's ago against the spread.  Now that's impressive.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another Thing About Lincoln...

They don't shine too big a light on it, but Lincoln was basically self educated.  I almost can't fathom a person in today's America being self-educated, much less being able to rise to the President of the United States.  And much less rising to being the greatest President of all time.  I find this notion a tad maybe the structures of our institutions are faulty.  Perhaps we overly focus on credentials.

Film:  Julie and Julia

I am live blogging while watching this film.  It isn't good.  I don't enjoy main characters whose goal is popularity.  Diary of a Wimpy kid uses this device, of course, the character is a middle school student.  In Julie and Julia, the Julie character's main goal is to get popularity via her blog.  This is distasteful, both as a moviegoer and a blogger.

Scary, But True

How to get a Hollywood Greenlight.
AO Scott

I don't usually agree with him, but he nails it on Lincoln.

Film:  Lincoln

I'll be surprised if there is a better film this year.  These type of movies are the hardest to make - historical dramas without any action.  How do you keep the audience engaged?  Here's how they do it:  fantastic writing, surprising humor, and top notch acting all the way up and down the movie.  The most incredible accomplishment of the film is how they convey a complicated legal reasoning for the necessity of the 13th Amendment within the dramatic form and how this need drives the movie.

Normally, there are blips in Spielberg movies where it gets overly sentimental and annoying.  There were hints -- he almost went there with the Sally Field character, almost made the Joseph Gordan Levitt relationship too much -- but he pulled back from the brink, probably constrained by the reality of events.

I can't praise this movie enough.  It is my favorite Spielberg film in years and would be deeply surprised if there is a better film this year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Thinking more about Bond and The Walking Dead and the tone of the cultural touchstones at the moment and surprised by how dark our national mood has become.  Looking back, at least artistically, it strikes me the two earliest and most influential voices that properly express our current cultural tone are Alan Moore and Cormac McCarthy.  Specifically, I am thinking of The Killing Joke and Watchmen  for Moore and Blood Meridian for McCarthy.

The Killing Joke was published in 1988 and Watchmen in 1987.  Blood Meridian was published in 1985 and is probably McCarthy's magnum opus (along with the Border trilogy) with themes he later explored in tighter, shorter stories:  No Country For Old Men and The Road.  But Blood Meridian was the major introduction to this noir western tone and the earliest work people seem to talk about - at least popularly.

Moore's Joker is what influenced Nolan's Batman trilogy and this McCarthy tone has found itself reaching all the way to Bond, if you ask me.

I wonder what was happening in 1985-1988 and where these visions came from.  And why are they influential now?  The Soviet Union wasn't even done yet.
Militarization of the CIA

The "real" Patraeus scandal is the increased militarization of the CIA.  Very good article.  Hat tip, Chuck.

It's as if the CIA started acting how they were depicted in the movies.  Which, by the way, would be completely unsurprising given the times we live.  After all, the imagination behind 9/11 was straight out of a Bruckheimer film.
Discouraged Workers

Marginal Revolution suspects we are undercounting very discouraged workers in the unemployment rate.

They might want to also point out: the jobs aren't coming back.  If anything, the American workplace was bloated with superfluous employees for the past 15 years pre-recession.  Anyone who worked in an office or saw Office Space can attest.  What the recession did was forces businesses to get lean to get profitable, which they have, and maybe will hire a few more people now to stop leaning too hard on the productive employees.  But the jobs?  I don't see the jobs coming back.  Someone is going to need to figure something out to get our full population working again.  A world war is not preferable.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


TV:  Homeland S.2 and The Walking Dead S.3

These shows are absolutely bonkers.  Homeland is a such a curious show.  There are times when it is incredibly good and arguably the best show on TV and two scenes later will be soap opera quality.  Very strange.  I feel like a total idiot watching it at moments and yet, probably look forward more to it to any other show on TV other than Game of Thrones.

The Walking Dead is easily the most holy-fucking-shit of all the holy-fucking-shit TV shows on right now.  In fact, this little era of TV, post-Wire, post-Sopranos, should already be termed "the holy fucking shit era."  We are experiencing the hangover period for a great leap forward in TV-drama quality - the whole Six Feet Under, the Wire, Sopranos era is over - and in the wake of it we have the lesser quality offshoots:  Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Treme and then the holy-fucking-shit shows:  Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, True Blood, Walking Dead, Girls, Homeland...I must be missing some others as well.  These shows are nuts.  They are like the insane crazy younger brother of the star athlete in high school who could never imagine measuring up to the older brother, so he doesn't even bother and carves out his own identity by being totally bonkers.  Half of them involve eating people or cannibalism, the "grounded" ones include a girl hooking up during a miscarriage, a terrorist running for vice president, and a high school chem teacher becoming a drug lord and poisoning little kids.

But The Walking Dead is the king of all this madness.  I personally like Game of Thrones the best of these shows, and superficially, it would appear to be the more bonkers show with the gratuitous sex and dragons.  But Walking Dead...I don't even know where to begin (and there will be spoilers in this)...maybe with the amateur c-section being performed while under attack by zombies.  Who thought of this?  How did this get through?  I thought there was Standards and Practices and you know, studio executives who wrestled with what middle america wants to see and were the "suits" making sure the creatives didn't get too offensive.  Half the stuff shown on Walking Dead I cannot believe makes it onto television.  One entire storyline of this last episode was a dude going crazy and bashing zombies heads with an axe and then finding the zombie who ate his wife and killing it and trying to cut it's stomach open.  I am not making this up.

There is an entire side show to The Walking Dead called "The Talking Dead" that is simply devoted to talking about the show.   Because, I forgot to mention, The Walking Dead is like the most popular basic cable show to ever be on TV.  I'm pretty sure it is more popular than anything on NBC.

What the hell is going on?

Film:  Skyfall

Or should I call it No Country For Old Bond?  On the one hand, I want to put points against Bond for shamelessly ripping off The Dark Knight in the main bad guy plot line and basic conception of evil-as-emotional-chaos, but I found myself enjoying the film in a way I didn't expect.  It is far from great and I would have been pretty satisfied if it ended with the shootout in the courtroom, but these modern studio films for some reason feel the need to tack extra acts (Batman, Mission Impossible, all the Marvel films).  So I stayed and watched and they did a mini-Bond version of Straw Dogs and did my favorite moment of the film - just a look by Javier Bardem - after Bond plunges into the water with the 2nd to last villain - of complete and utter exhaustion and preposterousness.  I laughed for a good few seconds.

I'm not sure whether this movie got good or bad reviews.  At first, I heard it was good, and then I heard everyone hated it.  So I don't know what is going on, nor does it change too much my experience with it.  What did I expect from Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig?  Well, Daniel Craig is serious-Bond with Freudian issues, so I knew it would be a certain tone.  I know Sam Mendes as the director of American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Jarhead, and Road to Perdition, not a really good movie on the list.  So given all this, I was surprisingly satisfied with the film.

The story was not totally smooth - it took too long to get going - and then they couldn't figure out a good 3rd act transition because you could feel the movie almost come to a stop and then need to re-start again.  But it did a good job of crystalizing the themes for mass audience consumption - youth vs. experience, computer/desk vs. the field, loyalty - all these ideas that are ripe for exploration in our present time and work within the context of the Bond universe.

This was not a callback to earlier Bond movies and did not employ much humor or sexiness.  It tried to explore modern ideas of cyber-warfare and a post-national world in a serious way.  I prefer this above all the other Daniel Craig Bond movies and is my favorite Sam Mendes film.  In terms of the Bond franchise...time will tell...

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Niners

In 9 games this year, the Niners have already had 3 let downs.  Strange year.  At times, the Niners look superior to last year, and at times, inferior.  There are many factors.  The raised expectations affect the team internally and externally.  Yesterday's game reflected both.  The Niners came out totally flat after demolishing Arizona and expecting to cruise against St. Louis at home.  The Rams were pumped up for the game - hitting hard from the opening snap - and clearly prepared to try and steal the game by plotting the fake punts.  Alex Smith goes down because of the hard hitting and the Niners fall behind 14-0.

But, to the credit of the Niners and Kaepernack playing decent back up, they came back.  In fact, they had the game when they went up 21-17 and stopped the Rams.  But then another fake punt and the Rams drove down on the defense.  Akers missing the field goal was killer.

The selection effect - and why people who move to California from the midwest tend to be unhappy.

The basic idea: those who "think" their unhappiness will be solved by moving anywhere (in this case California) are bound to be disappointed, but those who end up moving somewhere with lower expectations tend to be surprised at how much they like it.  Again, it goes back to lowering expectations.

I have a little personal history with this - I moved across LA from Silver Lake to Santa Monica a couple years ago because I got a new job and could not bear the commute.  I thought I wasn't going to like Santa Monica as much, but it turns out I liked it quite a bit.
Lower Expectations

Keys to happiness - mostly deals with the degree to which you meet or exceed lifetime expectations.

And the happy stuff comes when you are young.
Good News

Energy agency predicting US will be oil independent by 2017.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Romanowski on Cowherd

Bill Romanowski was on Cowherd this morning and said a few interesting things.  For those who remember, Romanowski was a linebacker on the Niners, Denver, and Oakland.  He was a total psychopath and a maniac.  One, he said there were times on Monday morning - and almost all football players go through it - when he literally could not get out of bed.  It came up because Trent Dilfer said there was a time he needed to crawl to the bathroom.  Romanowski described it as worse than that.

Second thing he said was Mark Sanchez was a really talented guy who doesn't love football.  This is why he won't be great.  Interesting.

Last thing he said:  he works out everyday in some capacity.  If he ever takes a day off, his back starts to hurt or some old injuries that existed during his playing days.  I found something similar happen - when I started working out more - little back problems started to go away.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Poverty and Allocation of Resources

Poor people are inclined to make certain types of bad financial decisions regardless of their education level.

I've played craps and blackjack, so I know this from experience.
Wise Words

Kevin Drum puts the election in fair perspective.

Film:  Seven Psychopaths

There are some memorable parts, and I think it would be fun to talk about this movie.  That said, as a whole, I don't think it holds up.  I was falling asleep towards the end of the film, which of course, is not a good sign.

It made me think a bit about storytelling, because it is a big theme of the movie itself.  I imagine a film like this receives more critical interest and is considered more artistically ambitious than a middle of the road studio film.  But I actually think it is harder to write a cohesive film than taking this meta-movie approach, which felt uninspired.  The movie is saved by fun actors inhabiting the roles and in that respect is indebted to McDonough's artistic reputation.  But hey, refs used to give Michael Jordan the benefit of the doubt.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Filmmakers and Artists

Should be incredibly disturbed by this.

California just put a man in jail for the content of a film he made using the excuse of "parole violation."  If this isn't government censorship and a violation of free expression, I don't know what is.

So why are filmmakers and other artists offended?
Two Americas

This article outlines very accurately the division between two Americas and how we aren't talking to one another.  Plenty of people like it this way.  I personally, do not.  I think it encourages radicalism and tribal thinking and empowers the delusional maniacs on both sides.  So what's a moderate to do?  Keep their head down, I suppose.
The Election

I was wrong.  I suspected Romney was going to win because I vibed people were more passionate about Obama losing than they were about Obama winning.  I actually think my analysis was correct, judging by the reaction to the election - the despondency of libertarian blogs I read versus the not-very-excited-more-like-we-avoided-disaster reaction of all the Obama supporters.  Where I was wrong, was my conclusion:  you don't unseat an incumbent in a referendum vote.  You unseat an incumbent by providing an inspiring candidate.

When it comes down to the Presidential vote, I think agenda matter less than personality.  And more importantly, the enthusiasm and love of core supporters, or a strong "base."  Looking at the last couple Presidents:  Obama, GW Bush, Clinton, all of these candidates had bases who really loved them.  Sure, Bush had many haters, as does Obama, but both candidates enjoy very passionate support of a certain segment.  If you look at the losers:  Gore, Kerry, McCain, and now Romney, none of these candidates seem to arouse passion in their core supporters.  They each seem like journeyman politicians, good sons, good holders of the torch kind of candidates, but none of them transformative.

The one election I'm curious about:  1988 when G Bush Senior won.  In that election, it seemed like neither candidate had particularly passionate support.  But Reagan did.  And I wasn't around before that.

Anyhow, looking forward to paying more taxes the next four years...

Monday, November 05, 2012


TV:  Treme S. 3, ep 1-2

The first episode was awkwardly directed and the second episode was one of the best in the whole series.  Where do they find these faces for the small speaking roles?
I Wonder What We Should Take From This

Cat Power is broke.  Here is the gist:
It's no shock to learn that musicians lead financially precarious lives, but the thought of an artist as big as Cat Power going broke is particularly disheartening. The album Marshall released last month was as successful as any indie product could hope to be in 2012. Sun broke the Bilboard Top 10 and made a splash in Europe, peaking at No. 6 in France. It went over just as well with the critics, with reviewers calling the album "honest, accomplished, and pretty much just beautiful." Then she did what's required of every modern day songstress wanting to put bread on her table—she went out and played, selling out a number of clubs. If that's not enough to turn a profit in indie music, then who knows how deep in the red all the artists who didn't make it onto the Juno soundtrack must be.
The future is going to be ugly when people who do all the right things in their field aren't rewarded.

Sunday, November 04, 2012


Film:  Someone to Watch Over Me

I knew this person once who cited this movie as being their favorite of all time.  Strange choice.  Ridley Scott does this after Blade Runner and borrows his own "look" for the film.  Watching this movie is like being transported back to a different time.  That is a kind of way of saying it doesn't quite hold up.  Someone should do a study of male-female infidelity thrillers from like 1987-1992 because I think there is something interesting going on during this time period in American consciousness that has to do with the breakdown in the institution of marriage.  Off the top of my head, I'm thinking about this film, Fatal Attraction, Internal Affairs, Basic Instinct, and Final Analysis, although I'm sure there are a lot more.

Christie imposes gas rationing and people are trying to hoard gas.  The lines sound like a nightmare.  Sadly, they just need to let the prices skyrocket to determine the demand.  Otherwise, you incentivize hoarding, which is what people are doing.  Scary to get a glimpse of what society looks like when civilization breaks down just a little bit.
A Way to Eat Well, Cheap, and Healthy For a Week

I don't know why I don't do this more often.  Actually, I do:  laziness.  But here goes:

One day, make a big meal:

Roast Chicken
Broccoli (head)
Roast Potatoes (get a good amount)

Cost:  $12-15

This takes time, but is relatively easy.  Just stuff the chicken with a lemon, thyme, salt, pepper, garlic.  (there are many other ways as well, but it is overall pretty simple).  Put the chicken on top of the cut up potatoes and cook on 350 for 1-1.5 hours.

Cook the broccoli separate however you prefer (I steam).

When done, this meal is large and can serve 3-4.  In my case, it served 2 and we had tons of leftovers.

The chicken will be delicious.  I forget how tasty roast chicken is -- very juicy when you cook the whole bird.  The potatoes are delicious too as all the chicken juice and oil and salt and pepper falls into them and seasons them.  Broccoli is broccoli and good for you.

I ate this meal for 3 servings:  2 the first night, and then another full dinner of leftovers the next night.

And there are still major leftovers.  Here is what you do with them:

1.  Shred all the leftover chicken you can get from carving the roast
2.  Keep the carcass
3.  Remember you still have Broccoli and Potatoes

Chicken Soup / Jook

I make Jook, a Chinese porridge, but it is basically a form of chicken rice soup.

Take the carcass and put in a pot.  Fill with 3-4 stalks of celery and 1 cut up onion. (you can add other stuff, the chinese do, but this is a basic broth)  Fill with water.  Boil.  Then simmer for 2-3 hours.  After that, strain all the veggies and chicken and you have a broth.  You can remove the remaining chicken from the carcass easily and set aside.  Put in a cup of rice and again boil.  Cook the rice in the broth and then add back in the shredded chicken from the carcass.  You can also add pork bits or anything else for flavor, including salt and or pepper.  You could use noodles instead of rice.  Either way, this will make you a huge tub of soup.  (extra cost: $4-8)

This will be about 10 servings of soup that can be eaten anytime.

Chicken Pasta

With the shredded chicken (not from the carcass), you can make a simple pasta.  Just grab a green pepper and/or jalapeno pepper.  Dice garlic and toss in jalapeno and green pepper all in olive oil.  Add some lemon.  Toss in the cooked chicken after it has all sauteed a bit.  Boil pasta.  Drain.  Add the rest and parm cheese.  Simple and tasty.  (extra cost:  $3-4)

You also have leftover broccoli and potatoes.  Make breakfast with them.  Dice garlic and cook broccoli with garlic and oil.  Crack two eggs and mix in with garlic and broccoli for a scramble.  Throw some cheese (whatever flavor you have).  Heat up potatoes.   There is your breakfast.  (extra cost:  $1-2)

Bottom line, here is what you get for about $25-30:

3 full roast chicken, broccoli, and potatoes dinner meals (full dinner)
2 full chicken pasta primavera meals (lunch or light dinner)
10 servings of soup (5 breakfast/lunch/dinner small meals)
1-2 full breakfast meals

I'd say it works about to be about 10 meals for $30 to be conservative with the cost.  Of course, you'll have to assume certain costs, like salt and pepper and oil, and other things.  But $3 a pop is pretty damn cheap for the quality and level at what you get.  Plus, basically everything is healthy.

It does take time, but not a ton of labor.  So it is good if you are around the house a lot.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


Film:  Intolerable Cruelty

I believe the only Cohen Brothers film I now haven't seen is their other foray into screwball comedy:  The Ladykillers.  This movie was not terrific, but it was worth watching for a few laughs.
Study:  Marriage Works

I suppose it shouldn't be such a surprise, there's a reason people have been doing it for a long time.
But evidence suggests a link between solitariness and poorer health outcomes (mirroring, bleakly, the evidence about the outcomes for children raised in single-parent households). One paper I read showed a significant increase in the prescription of antidepressants to the solitary, compared with cohabiting couples. Correlation doesn’t prove a sociological theory, of course, but it’s hard to ignore the link between living alone, and other deleterious life choices.  
Which demands a political response: marriage is the most important institution to act as a bulwark against loneliness, and the Government should promote it.
Then, of course, there's also this Martin Amis quote addressing the flip side:
"After a while, marriage is a sibling relationship – marked by occasional and rather regrettable, episodes of incest."

Restaurants:  Cafe 50s, The Apple Pan, Gjelina Next Door

Cafe 50s is a greasy spoon diner down on Lincoln Blvd.  It is one of the few places nowadays where you glance at the menu and are delighted with the prices.  On the weekdays, you can order a substantial breakfast for $4.50.  Overall, the food is just a tad better than you'd expect at the price.  It beats places like Swingers or Denny's, but make no mistake, you're eating regular diner food with lots of butter and carbs.  But I like that sort of thing, and I put this place up there with Rae's for diner spots in Santa Monica.

The only choice at the Apple Pan is between the Steakburger and the Hickory Burger.  I always get the Steakburger.  I've always liked Apple Pan and the older I get, it only grows in my esteem.

Gjelina Next Door is a take out counter next to the famous (and expensive) Venice restaurant.  I was down there last night on first friday when the food trucks line the streets and young people walk around eating all sorts of treats from waffles with nutella to lobster rolls.  How anyone can eat at food trucks when Gjelina Next Door is still right there as a brick and mortar spot is beyond me.  The food is like $2 per plate more expensive and 100% better.  Food trucks, for the most part, are carnival food.  If there are truly any exceptional trucks, they will quickly become restaurants.  I feel like food trucks are the equivalent of spec scripts to the movie business.  Most of the best ones will become movies/restaurants anyway, and so what you're searching for, really, are the few that have something special but for whatever reason, don't have enough appeal to be a movie/restaurant.  And there are some.  But you'll need to trudge through tons of crap to find it.  So is it worth bearing the crowds, the lack of parking, and uncomfortably trying to eat on sidewalks to discover one gem in fifty?  I say no, especially when you can get dinner for two at Gjelina next door for $24 and eat spicy meatballs with two sides and a salad.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Neurotic QBs?

Espn ponders about the rise of neurotic QBs.  Say what?

Can you believe the nerve?  All ESPN does all day is question the psyches of these guys over the public airwaves and then they wonder why they get neurotic?  This is like when Islamic Terrorists attack Western civilians, and then get retributive attacks by Western governments, and then complain about Western governments attacking them to justify more attacks.  Seriously.
Rooting For Alex

This makes me like Alex Smith more: "I don't have a twitter."

I really want the Niners to win the Super Bowl with Alex Smith as the quarterback.  For him, it would just be a gigantic "F-You" to all the criticism and shit the guy has gone through in the league.  And what a story it would be: boom to bust to boom.

What's funny about all the praise and attention Smith is receiving right now for his 18 for 19 game...I wasn't all that impressed.  Most of the throws he made were short and normal for him.  Of the three touchdowns, two were run after the catch plays, and basically secondary mistakes by Arizona.  The one three yard touchdown to Crabtree was awesome - and on 3rd down - one on one against Peterson.

The play calling in this game was better.  They did more throws on plays in which there could be runs.  This is the way the Niner offense works best, on misdirection and throwing the defense off balance.  We are not Green Bay or the Giants or the Patriots who have big play makers and can succeed on 3rd and long situations.  If we get a penalty on 1st or 2nd down, we are often screwed.  We need the balance of the possibility of run and pass.  We clobber teams when we have this.  But when thrust into passing downs, we are vulnerable, as seen in the Giants lost and the Baltimore loss last year.
Good Incentives