Monday, December 31, 2012


Film:  Flight

This movie felt like it belonged to a different time.  But as opposed to the Artist or Django, which are odes to silent movies and Spaghetti Westerns, Flight felt like an ode to an early 1990s Hollywood "important" drama, like say, Philadelphia or Quiz Show or A Few Good Men.  This strikes me as a strange genre to reboot or reimagine - not enough time has passed, nor is it clear this genre has stood the test of time.  There are other problems with the movie, but overall it just felt like a strange project to tackle, especially in a time when the studios make so few movies.  This isn't to say I disliked the picture -- it wasn't terrible -- and I was perfectly okay watching it, but there was nothing special to it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Zero Dark Thirty

We discuss on the podcast.

I re-watched the other night as a screener.  The movie holds up.  Enjoyable again on second viewing.  Some minor details clarified.

Film:  Promised Land

Surprisingly good first two acts completely sullied by a cliched and nonsensical twist toward the end.  I found myself somewhat bothered by semi-famous actors playing down home farmers.  I doubt most others will be, this is a product of me watching too many movies.
Red Flag

Yeah, I'd agree with McArdle here that our spidey senses should tingle whenever the government can claim more of your income than you take home - even for the very top earners.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Film:  Silver Linings Playbook

A good, solid movie.  Small.  Pretty similar tonally to The Fighter, but lacks the scale.  Best scene in the movie and one I will think about for a long time is when Jennifer Lawrence comes in and explains to De Niro in his own superstitious, gambler logic why Bradley Cooper should come to her dance competition and how she didn't jinx him.  It was the best De Niro moment in a movie in a long time and a scene than O'Russell can make work better than any living filmmaker.  The asides from other characters in the room "She's right." "Uh, huh's," etc are amazing and give this lively texture to a family scene and gathering that is so often missing from these type of scenes.

I listened to O'Russell on the Treatment yesterday and in a tiny aside he mentions "he writes for a living."  The thought occurred to me, directing movies isn't really a job.  It's an expensive hobby.  Even directors like Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson -- an argument can be made -- they produce and/or write movies for a living and hire themselves to direct.  They don't really get hired to direct movies and they have to perform all these functions of a producer - finding material/script, arranging financing and distribution, all this other work in order to direct the film.

I think guys like O'Russell and Alexander Payne basically doing writing jobs to pay the bills and then direct when they find the right project.  Perhaps you can look at a guy like Fincher as a director exclusively, but I imagine he still does commercials and things to buy himself time to do these big projects.  And these are all guys at the top of their games.  Maybe film schools talk about this, but I don't think the students hear it.  You hear people saying all the time "I want to be a director," which is like saying "I want to collect stamps" for all practical purposes.

Films:  Near Dark and Strange Days

The other night, I treated myself to a long overdue Katheryn Bigelow fest.  In the wake of Zero Dark Thirty, these were particularly interesting films to watch.  Incredibly different style.  Would be stretching to say the films were representative of the same filmmaker, although some philosophical similarities.  Near Dark is an interesting genre exercise, a mixture of vampire lore, western symbolism, outlaw love story.  I don't know if it was her first film, but it sure felt like a "first film," where some really cool, exciting elements, and then some amateurish ones to keep the story going along.  I was particularly impressed with the shots of vampires on fire.  There are a number of films where a character is on fire and it always looks bad to me, but in this relatively cheap vampire movie, the fire was at least interesting to look at.

Strange Days is simply put, one of the weirdest big scale films I've seen in awhile.  The movie feels both incredibly dated and oddly prescient.  It might make a bizarro pairing with a movie like Demolition Man - another incredibly strange representation of the future.  The human relationships and characters in Strange Days are the weirdest part - aside from all the futurism and virtual reality stuff.  Can someone explain to me how Ralph Fiennes is an ex-cop and spends the entire movie getting his ass kicked?  Aren't cops trained to be tough or at least be able to fight back?  In contrast, Angela Basset is this kick ass limo driver who (from the flashback) used to be a waitress?  Huh?  Why is she protecting him the entire time?  I seemed to have missed something.  The story about a rapper being killed by rogue cops and the cover up mixed in with the insane serial killer was completely bonkers.  Why did Vincent D'Onofrio start shooting all these random people at a big New Years Eve party in an effort to cover up another murder?  Wouldn't that be illegal as well and create a hundred other witnesses?

Also, why did the cops allow for this gigantic New Years Eve party in this chaotic, revolutionary times in the first place?  Doesn't the city have a permitting process?  How were the bands allowed to play and all the crazy party set up?  Just a thought.

This was a big Cameran-Bigelow collaboration and it the movie itself was any representation of the marriage, I can see why it didn't work out.  Too all over the place.  That said, I was glad to have watched it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Level of Conversation

Wow.  The NRA goes after Hollywood and Video Games to explain the mass shooting.

What a disgusting and cynical move.  It is also a good indicator of how dumb our national conversation has become.  Thank God our problems are relatively small, I'm not sure we could handle something real with our leadership today -- across industries and fields.
The Answer Is No

Is the Ivy League fair to Asian Americans?

American liberals want the Benetton Ad - the visual appearance of fairness and diversity - not actual fairness and diversity.  Then again, I suppose this is preferable to segregation, voluntary or involuntary.
Our Own Fault?

Backlast against managed care options in the 1990s could explain the rise in health care costs.  Opps.

Sometimes doing nothing is much smarter and more productive than doing something.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


TV:  Homeland Season Finale

Goddamit!!!!  I think they pulled me back in.  I can't tell you how upset I am about this.

I am beginning to actively despise serialized television.  The amount of energy and time these shows ask of us to consume is sickening.  Someone recently said to me, "Boardwalk Empire gets real good in Season 3."  Oh really?  So I need to watch 26 freaking hours of television for something to get good?

I think about Treme and how I actually kind of like the show, but the show makes itself almost impossible to watch with the low stakes, low drama, general unpopularity (no one to talk about it with), and just the time and money and total disregard for plot twists and turns and any action whatsoever.

And Mad Men.  Oh, season 4 is really good.  Who cares?  If I am asked to spend 20-40 hours of watching to reap the benefits of this wonderful, important, drama, my answer is no thanks - I'd rather read a book.  I still have never read Moby Dick.  You're telling me Mad Men is worth my time over Moby Dick?  I doubt it.  Or just a pretty good non-fiction book.  I'm sure it would be better for the soul.

My favorite show of all time has swung back to Seinfeld.  I long for the good old fashioned episode.  It asks so little of you.  You can just enjoy it, get your mind off of work or whatever nonsense your day has thrown at you.  You don't need to consume the 40 hours of prior shows to enjoy it.  You don't need to DVR the damn thing.  You don't need to have some sort of interesting opinion or take on the show.  Even if the episode is lousy, you don't even feel bad for having watched it.  Even a lousy episode generally has a laugh or two.

As good as the Wire was, Season 5 begins to upset and annoy me the more I think about it.  These shows are asking for marriage when all I'm interested in is dating.  They simply ask too much for being TV.  TV is not high culture.  TV is not educational.  TV is freaking TV.  It is the boob-tube.  It is designed to sell you products.  It is designed to get you on your couch and not be productive.  And it is trying to kill the cinema, a better and higher form of experience.

I don't care about all this nonsense today about how TV is "better drama" than movies.  The form - the serialized form - is a gaping asshole trying to suck 5 years of your life away.  We should have seen this coming with shows like Lost and 24.  Just endless circles of consumption spinning around in circles, never doing anything of interest other than trying to rope you in.  Homeland is the worst offender -- we all know what type of crap is going to happen.  We all know it will ultimately be unsatisfying.  And yet they keep coming up with tricks to keep us watching.  What an offensive display.

A movie, in contrast, can be anything.  It can be a new style, a new story, a new character, a new ANYTHING.  Something invigorating.  A classic tale told in a new way.  A TV show can never be anything else than what it already is.

And that is my lunatic rant of the year.

This is crazy.

Brett Easton Ellis apologizes to Katherine Bigelow.

This episode is why I don't believe Twitter and Facebook are impressive or useful technologies.  Think about it:  Twitter enables people to broadcast every mumble and stupid thought they have all day.  By their nature, these stupid thoughts are going to be offensive and not thought out.  People read other people's stupid thoughts and then get offended and demand apologies.  Then people apologize for having stupid thoughts in the first place.  This is technology that is going to change the world?  It sounds like a gigantic waste of time.
What Can We Do?

Megan McArdle wrestles with what we can do about spree shootings.  Her analysis is very comprehensive and concludes:  nothing, really.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


TV:  Seinfeld - The Soup Nazi

This episode is a lesson on humor and how far you can take one joke.  It is also a lesson in how you don't need jokes to be funny.  During the entire Soup Nazi scenes, there isn't a single joke cracked.  All you have are people lining up to get soup they really want and the Nazi has strict procedures about what they need to go through.  No gags.  No puns.  No badumpty-dump-dump type of lines.  The humor is all in the various characters reactions and abilities to please or not please the Soup Nazi.  The episode is freaking genius.  "No soup for you."  The line is part of our cultural lexicon.  What is inherently funny about it?  Nothing.  Just a simple thing Larry David and Seinfeld found amusing.  So simple.
My Middle East Peace Plan

From my perspective, as someone who has never been to the Middle East, the major reason for prolonged mini-wars between the Palestinians and Israelis is the Arabs do not know how to lose gracefully or admit defeat.  They lost the wars against Israel and have never come to terms with it, instead choosing to manufacture a fake narrative about occupation and resistance and the right of return and so forth.

If they simply admitted defeat in either 1948 or 1967 and rebuilt their society around the areas in which they lived and pursued a legal strategy, perhaps they would have a better claim and certain a happier, healthier, and more productive people.  But instead they chose permanent war.

A leader is highly unlikely to emerge to lead them away from this self-destructive cycle.  It has become embedded deeply in their culture.  My solution, therefore, is a ground-up solution and involves something I do know about:  youth sports.

An NGO should focus on starting a highly competitive and top notch youth soccer program in the Palestinian controlled territories.  If the Palestinians are like the rest of the world, they probably love soccer.  What's not to love?  Do not try anything foolish and force the Palestinians to play with Israeli kids or anything like that.  Just make Palestinian leagues and then make all star teams and tournaments and so forth.  Let it get going.  Encourage the best players to become involved with coaching later on and training the younger players.  Give them some years to get good.  Eventually, the players will get better.  Focus only on that.  After awhile, if enough time and effort and expertise is put in, the youth national teams might get good.  They might even get competitive.  This will give them an enormous sense of pride.

All this while, however, the kids are learning the most important lesson sports can teach you:  how to win and lose gracefully.  How to admit defeat.  How to understand the impermanence of the moment.  How to move on, live to fight another day, how to respect the opponent.  Imagine a generation of Palestinian adults who fundamentally understand this natural state of being.  How to be part of a team.  What works and what doesn't.  This, I think, would work.  I suppose Hamas would probably not support it, but if there is anything more popular than Islamic Fundamentalism in the Arab world, it just might be soccer.
Bay Area Sports

From Grantland.

He captures the ironies of the supposedly laid back Bay Area with the hyper-intensity of pro sports.  If the Bay Area is too soft and hippy-dippy, how come our teams are so good?  Interesting question.

Instagram owns your photos.
More Dynamic

Cowherd spoke about Kaepernick and Smith and put it well - Smith is solid, but can only win the game one way - by playing perfect and not making mistakes.  Kaepernick will make more mistakes, but gives you more ways to win - playing conservative, QB running plays, QB making plays outside the pocket, and throwing deep.  Dynamic QB play is the key to winning Super Bowls.  It gives you more options and makes you harder to prepare for.

It makes sense.
Mental Health

If we want to stop school shootings, this seems to me the right kind of thinking approach.
In the mid-1960s, many of the killings would have been prevented because the severely mentally ill would have been confined and cared for in a state institution. But today, while government at most every level has bloated over the past half-century, mental-health treatment has been decimated. . . . People who are serious about preventing the next Newtown should embrace much greater funding for mental health, strong laws for civil commitment of the violently mentally ill—and stop kidding themselves that pretend gun-free zones will stop killers.”

Monday, December 17, 2012


Football is the best sport to watch.  Monday night, I'm bored, there is a horrible game on TV:  Jets-Titans.  Both absolutely terrible teams and still fun to watch just for the meltdowns.  A quarterback cannot play worse than Mark Sanchez today.  5 turnovers.  I've said this guy sucked for years and now it is becoming apparent to the rest of the world.  The Jets are the most fun team to root against in the league.
What Is Going On?

I read the movie studios are canceling premieres and showings of Jack Reacher and Django Unchained.  Why?  What does this have to do with the Newtown shooting?  Is the idea that violent movies are insensitive in a time of crisis?  I just don't quite get the logic.

I realize all my comments about the Newtown shooting must come across as terribly insensitive.  I guess not being on the East Coast and not having little children somehow distances me from feeling the true horror of the spree shooting.  But the senselessness of these types of things leave me feeling unchanged and not as if we should stop living how we live.  There are crazy people who will do horrible things now and again.  That's about all I can take away.

Film:  Tower Heist

My DVD player doesn't seem to work, so I'm left watching what's on HBO on Demand.  Just straight by the numbers movie.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What Would Warren Buffett Say?

Gerad Depardieu moves away from France to avoid paying taxes.
"I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned," he said.
Before you liberals mock, read this part:
Belgian residents do not pay wealth tax, which in France is now levied on those with assets over €1.3m.
Nor do they pay capital gains tax on share sales. "We no longer have the same homeland," Depardieu said. "I no longer have any reason to stay here. I will continue to love the French and this public that I have shared so much emotion with."
Hollande is pressing ahead too with plans to impose a 75% supertax on income over €1m
75% seems like a lot, doesn't it?

The Niner-Patriots game nearly gave me a heart attack, but a win against the #1 ranked team in football on their home field speaks for itself.  Harbaugh deserves credit and our trust - he went with Kaepernick because he can win games like this.  I think we go 2-1 with Smith at QB against the Rams, Miami, New England, but we win against the Rams and probably lose against the Pats.  And we went 2-1 with Kap, but we win against the Pats and lose against the Rams.  If all that matters is the playoffs, I suppose we are better off with the ability to beat the best teams versus the ability to not lose against the mediocre teams.  This is what the choice boiled down to.

Kap makes those big throws the two Crabtree TDs and the Walker TD.  Give him credit.  He also tosses the picks and can't handle the snaps.  I don't know what the hell to think.

I wonder if New England fans feel like Brady kind of choked the game away.  I know he lead the huge comeback, but then he seemed to lose his energy and missed some plays at the end.

The NFL is freaking garbage.  The only reason the Pats even got back into the game were two BS pass interference calls.

The Niners hit Hernandez so hard, he didn't want to catch the ball on the next play and it resulted in the Aldon Smith pick.

Thank God the Niners don't need to win against Seattle at Seattle to get into the playoffs.  Last year, it was the hardest hitting game I've ever seen, and there is a chance Seattle and Niners are the two best teams in the NFL on a neutral field right now.  Sadly, I'm pretty sure guys are going to get injured next week.
Disgusting Pigs

How can they cut to a completely useless Obama speech about the Newtown tragedy during the beginning over the Patriots-Niners football game?  Good grief.  This pornography of indulgence over tragedy is getting totally out of control.  Let people grieve, don't shove it down the throat of the entire country.  What the hell can Obama say that could possibly make anyone feel any better or different?  Truly disgusting.  What the hell is NBC doing?  For godsakes, end this torture.
Logging - Holy Crap

Fight:  Pacquiao-Marquez 4

Just watched the replay.  I know what's going to happen and it was still a crazy fight.  Best fight I've ever seen and I'm not an expert.  Actually felt like an early Rocky movie.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Adding To The Dumb Hysterical Discussion

We'll talk about guns for a bit, I suppose, in our national discussion of the Newton tragedy.  The only big thing that is obvious to me:  there needs to be some better local systems for preventing guns - especially powerful guns - of getting into the hands of lunatics.  We know nothing of this shooter yet, but I'm sure we'll soon learn about warning signals and people who knew he was crazy and ordering assault rifles over the internet or something.  I don't imagine this would be a terribly difficult system to build, although like all things it could easily lead to abuse.  It seems rather dumb, in hindsight, when everyone who knows these shooters thinks to themselves "this guys is going to kill people soon" and there is no way to minimize the potential damage.

I don't think we want our 1st grade teachers carrying guns in the classroom.  People, I'm sure, have suggested this and anyone who has ever been in 1st grade knows this is not a good idea.

Likewise, we aren't getting rid of guns in America, nor should we.  The 2nd Amendment seemed pretty damn important to the Framers, and there is just no getting around it.  People who say the Framers didn't intend for assault rifles, etc, are basically just making shit up to support their cultural biases.

So, that's my addition to the incredibly stupid discussion the nation is having over the internet.

ESPN reporter suspended for comments about RG3 not living up to a racial purity test. 

Friday, December 14, 2012


Film:  LeS Miserables

Carve Anne Hathaway onto the supporting actress Oscar.  I witnessed something I've never seen before in a film:  applause during the movie.  Real, true applause, as in "wow."

I was thinking about whether I've seen this before - perhaps in some nostalgia fest screening (and certainly it is the norm in musical theater) - but this felt different.

Hooper uses the camera well.  He uses some type of weird lens during many sections of the movie.
Good Quote
"People focus on role models; it is more effective to find antimodels -- people you don't want to resemble when you grow up." -- Nassim Taleb
He Should Know

BofA CEO says not everyone should own a home.

I don't even know why so many people WANT to own a home.  If you don't have kids, a stable job, and a stable place in the community, what advantages does it confer?
Fixed Costs

Are what's driving Americans to the poor house.

Yeah, I hate the personal finance articles that tell you how to save more money by eating out less and making your own coffee.  You want more money?  Earn more, pay lower rent, and don't use debt to pay for things.

A journalist has a puzzling problem with Zero Dark Thirty.
But as it stands, we're getting the myth of history before getting the actual history.
This is a strange claim.  Of course we get stories about the present - whether they exist in films or not - before historians can reflect upon them.  Should we only make period movies and cartoons?
Amen, Brother

There's no perfect time to have kids and other smart points.

The tendency to see death, and therefore life, as impediments that can be removed through more optimal strategizing—that's not feminism, per se. It's late capitalism, or modernity, or the post-enlightenment, or whatever you want to call where it is we live now. The obsession with empowerment requires us to see our lives as things we tinker with and recalibrate and drive beneath us towards some perfect, ever-expanding nirvana of utility. From this perspective, the most real part of us becomes not who we love, nor even who we are, but rather what we have "sacrificed". If only I hadn't had kids, I could have gotten that job; if only I hadn't taken this job, I could have had kids; if only I'd slept around; or married and settled down; or started a family earlier, or later. We spend all our time mourning the stronger, brighter, better selves we could have been, if we had only more fully maximized our choices.
The impulse to "tinker." The vain attempt at "perfection." Gigantic waste of time and energy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Film:  No Country For Old Men

I re-watched the mysterious scene of Tommy Lee Jones going back to the crime scene where Chigurh is apparently hiding behind the door several times.  The only explanation is that Chigurh is in Tommy Lee Jones imagination at that point in the movie - he is a "ghost" as referenced in the scene before.  The scene is physically impossible.  He cannot be literally behind the door, as the filmmaking suggests.

This is my favorite movie of the aughts.  I can't decide whether it's better than Fargo.

Restaurant:  The Apple Pan

Steak Burger or Hickory Burger?  I used to always get the Steak.  Last night, I tried Hickory.  I like Hickory better.  Smoky taste.  Very nice.

TV:  Homeland

Officially one of the most annoying shows ever created.

Film:  Django Unchained

Thoughts will be saved for the podcast or post-Christmas.

UPDATE:  I can't resist saying, I think it might be my favorite DiCaprio performance ever.

Films:  Romancing the Stone and 48 Hours

Some re-watching of 80s films this past weekend.  Romancing the Stone is such a beloved film, but it doesn't quite do it for me.  Too cheesy.  For my money, Raiders gets the proper seriousness vs. cheese balance correct, whereas Romancing the Stone overloads the cheese.  A perfect movie to show a beginning screenwriting class, however, about story structure.

I remember 48 Hours as a comedy, but the film is actually a hell of a lot grittier than all the later "action comedy" films.  Even Lethal Weapon, the 48 Hours sequel, Beverly Hills Cop, all of these films feature significantly more comedy than the original 48 Hours.  In fact, other than the famous redneck bar scene, I would venture to say the comedy in 48 Hours is more akin to the comedy expressed in Westerns than the comedy expressed in the genre known as action comedy.

Monday, December 10, 2012


The upper 1/5 of households will pay an average of $6,000 per year next year in taxes to fund the healthcare law.

I wonder what happens when we run out of people to pay for all these things.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Episodes 8 and 9

Of the Moviegoers Podcast are up.

I prefer the Lincoln discussion in 9 to the Cloud Atlas discussion in 8.  The source material is incredibly important to the podcast - some movies are just more interesting to talk about than others.
Film Directors

A roundtable discussion with Tarantino, David O Russell, Ang Lee, Gus Van Sant, Tom Hooper, and Ben Affleck.

At one point they discuss how to keep sane as a movie director.  It strikes me, the key to being a good director is to be both sane and insane at the same time.  This might be the greatest challenge to being a filmmaker and why the job is so difficult, to be able to find the balance of sanity and insanity.  No completely sane person could be a good filmmaker, just like no sane person could be a good football player.  A little insanity is needed.  But no insane person could possibly organize and run a film shoot, much less have the discipline needed to complete a script, develop a vision for a film, sell the money people, wrangle and convince the cast and crew, etc.

Also, they discuss Tarantino's position that he will stop making films after 10.  At first, his position comes across as a bit childish, but he articulates it rather well -- he wants all of his films to be worth seeing -- his list is incredibly important because he is making his films for the 14 year old kid who discovers his work 20 years after he is dead and he wants to feel confident that kid can go to any of his movies and be satisfied by watching them.  He says "Deathproof HAS to be my worst movie."

There is something to be said for this.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


TV:  Homeland, season 2, a couple of new episodes

I think I forgot to write about this show as Zero Dark Thirty made me block it out.  I've really turned on it.  I now find this show incredibly trashy and stupid.  And it's one of those things where it makes you look back and regret ever getting sucked in.  Some stuff turns bad and it saddens you a bit because of how awesome you know the earlier parts were and you wish it didn't just go off track.  This is more severe.  This show's ridiculous nature makes you question why you allowed yourself to get sucked into watching it in the first place.  Kind of reminds me of The Killing in that way.

I'm going to rent and watch OZ, I think.
Brick and Mortar

How the buying experience is better in person than via the internet or big box stores. 
I've bought my daughter, who's nine, a lot of shoes at big discount places: Target, Kohl's, Shoe Warehouse. When she was little, that was fine. Now that she's older, it's harder to find shoes that she likes, and that will fit, and hard to keep her size straight. So on Saturday I went to Coffin's Shoes, a venerable Knoxville outfit that's been selling shoes the old-fashioned way since the 1920s. A friendly salesman, who had obviously been doing his job for quite a while, measured her feet, listened to her talk about what she liked, had her try on a couple of shoes made on different-shaped "lasts" to get an idea of what she found comfortable, and then disappeared into the back, reemerging with a stack of shoes for her to try. 
After about half an hour of individual attention, we departed with two new pairs of shoes that she pronounced "the best shoes ever." And, she reported, they were comfortable.
I think about the video store.  I still go to the video store.  I love the video store.  But the video store is dying.  I don't often consult with the employees, usually I know what I want, but occasionally I will.  I'll ask them for recommendations or if a particular title is out, they will suggest, "oh, how about so-and-so."

I think people should still use the video store.  I hate this movement to all digital.  What a waste of time in the end.  Think of the joy you are brought by seeing a good movie vs a bad movie.  How is that capture in sales statistics?  How is it captured online?  And I'm not talking about yelp reviews or internet commentators or this aggregation bullshit.  I'm talking about just saying, dude, "I liked Charley Varrick, what else do you got?"  That's how you see movies -- that's how you find good movies.

People sometimes call me a luddite for taking such positions.  They like Netflix recommendations.  They are nerds.  And worse, they fetishize the promise of the internet versus what works in the real world.  Check out this month's Atlantic cover story about why the future of manufacturing is in America.  (print edition).  Some manufacturing is moving back to the states in some cases because they found it cheaper overall, even though the wages were higher.  Fuel costs, innovations, expertise, pairing engineers with builders all made the process better and more efficient, as opposed to chasing wage cuts by building things in China.

I'm not a luddite, I just don't believe in fixing things that aren't broken.  The video store works.  I wish people would see it.

Film:  The Dion Brothers aka The Gravy Train

A Stacy Keach film from 1974 - very difficult to find - wasn't on DVD, and I eventually got a copy from Cinephile which was recorded off some strange TV station a long time ago.  The film is a comedy heist movie about two hicks brothers who get screwed over by their crew and seek revenge and money.  A pretty joyous, 70s, B-movie romp, with an absolutely fantastic final scene involving a chase through a building while it is being destroyed by a wrecking ball.  Ahhh...I miss the grindhouse and the straight to video films from the past -- it seems like that kind of imagination is moving over to graphic novels or something.  Or maybe it's Jason Stathem.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


We need more failure.
A Case Against Passionate Arguments

Man shoots girlfriend over argument about The Walking Dead.
Interesting Point

Defending David Stern on the Popovich fine.
The NBA will always provide the illusion of competitiveness, which fans will unconsciously accept as viable entertainment. If you turn on an NBA game, you will see the game you expect (and will be able to pretend that it's exactly the game you desire). You will get what you think you want, and any question over what that should (or should not) be will not factor into the equation.
It's about the NBA as product vs. the NBA as about winning. Viable point. Otherwise, why do we sell tickets to all these games?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Grantland Podcast:  Nate Silver

Interesting podcast with Nate Silver.  Toward the end, they talk about sports betting and confirmed what I've long suspected:  you can't beat the house.  They talked about a guy who they both considered the most mathematically sound and best bettor in the country and he gets 57% of his bets correct.  That is big enough to make a handsome profit, but he works 80 hours a week in order to stay ahead of the curve while already being essentially the most knowledgeable dude in the world.  A somewhat less skilled guy, if he can predict 55% correct, can still make a living.  Any less than that, down to 52 or 53% and you get into trouble turning a profit because of deviations, etc.

What an incredibly difficult racket.

Silver also talked about online poker gambling.  He made a really smart point - for awhile there was easy money out there - but it quickly went away.  He said he was in the top 90 percentile for awhile and making dough online, but then all the losers either stop playing or get good and soon, the easy money disappears.  The only way to sustain easy money in poker is continually getting new people to play.

By the way, I see the same trend of social media - the currency of social media is new people joining.  Once everyone is on it - what's the point?

Film/Animation:  Ratatouille

Good for what it was.  But I had a realization watching about these Pixar movies -- they are easier to write than "real" movies.  They are able to maximize dramatic irony and set up good situations because they aren't constrained by real world logic.  I think if you went back and examined all the Lassiter/Pixar movies, you'd find this same issue, and why a smart betting man might bet against the directors/writers coming out of this school in their transitions to live action.

Brad Bird did Mission Impossible 4, which did well at the box office, but was pretty preposterous.

Andrew Stanton did John Mars.

And I suppose we'll see what happens with these new Star Wars movies.

I'd say there is some evidence supporting my suspicion.


Film:  Killing Them Softly

Boy...well, I didn't think it deserved an "F" cinemascore, but it was far from a masterpiece.  You'd think with the Dominick pedigree and this level of dialog from the source material, it'd be tough to go wrong.  Goes to show plot and ideas matter.  This core concept of the movie taking place during the 2008 election feels so dated and hackneyed, I can't believe no one in the brain trust just said - we have to take it all out.  Overall, the casting felt a bit off as well.  Johnny Sack, Richard Jenkins, the guy from Animal Kingdom, all were in the right general concept of casting, but it didn't glue together for some reason.  A puzzling overall movie and yet, I still found myself enjoying parts.  I'm such a freaking sucker for guys with guns movies, it is like tossing a dog a bone.
Good Lord

Jim Harbaugh was on Saved By The Bell.
Lincoln Roundtable Discussion

At the Atlantic.

Monday, December 03, 2012


Books:  Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and Tiger Trap by David Wise

Finished both these books.  Both worth reading for the subject matter.
The Flip Side:  In Defense of Kaepernick

Maybe at some point during the 23-3 loss to the Giant's earlier this year, Harbaugh came to the realization that the Niners could not beat the very best of teams with Smith at QB.  And he may well be right.  I still hold that game goes different if a few plays swung our way -- but maybe the reason we don't get into the end zone in the first quarter rather than settle for field goals is Smith.  Last year, we had chances to beat the Giant's, but eventually they prevailed.
Delusions of Grandeur

I am reminded by a Grantland column today of San Diego firing Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season to go with Norv Turner.  The idea was Schottenheimer couldn't win the big one.  How has Norv Turner done in that department as a replacement?

In high pressure, competitive environments, people make stupid decisions by seeing all upside to the unknown and refusing to imagine the unexpected from the known.  Yes, I am talking about Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, but I am talking about other things as well.

The Niners lost on Sunday because of Kaepernick.  Anyone who denies this claim is lying to themselves.  This doesn't necessarily mean it was a mistake to play Kapernick, but let's not lie to ourselves.  We must be saying, we will take these losses because the future upside is better.  Perhaps it is.  But a lot of people have lost a lot of money and wasted good parts of their lives chasing unknown upsides.  You hear about the good stories - the stories where Brady replaced Bledsoe is a ballsy move.  Or the stories like Robert Roderiguez selling his blood to make his first movie or Kevin Smith doing it on credit cards.  We like stories when people risk it all and come out ahead.  But I'd be willing to bet, of the people who risk it all, well over 90% lose it all and we hear stories about the others.

I used to be a win the Super Bowl or nothing guy.  Then I watched the Niners from 2002-2010.  I came to appreciate the playoffs and chance to play for something.  And with the NFL structured the way it is structured now, with parity, it's just luck and timing if you put yourself in the top 8.  The Niners are in the top 8 with Smith.  Kaep is the future - maybe - or maybe he isn't.  Smith was the future once, too.

Film:  Zero Dark Thirty

I'm almost hesitant to write about it because technically it isn't out for about 3 weeks.  But I thought it was terrific.  It made Argo look like amateur hour.
Real Bummer

Oyster farm closed by government in Drake's Bay.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Niners - We Made Our Bed

I don't know the right football call - Smith vs. Kaepernick, but as a fan, I know this:  I like our team less right now.  When a man leaves his loving family for his hot secretary, you don't root for their relationship to succeed.  You don't necessarily root against it, but you don't root for it.  The Niners went that way.  We got swept up in the bullshit.  We got swept up by Kaepernick making a few great plays and passing the "eye" test.  Although, as I pointed out last week, the Bears game was a bit deceiving because the Bears did not come to play.  It wasn't like Kaepernick defeated a team who came to play -- and Kaepernick has played against such teams - the Rams twice and the Giant's for a few snaps.  Both times, he looked decent to bad, just like Smith has looked at times.  And if Brooks doesn't intercept that pass at the end of the half against the Saints, that game goes a different way.  I hate rushing to judgement on a rookie, but that's what kind of environment we've built, the type of expectations we've set for ourselves with installing Kaepernick.  He has to outperform Smith to justify playing.  And thus far, simply put, he has not.  Smith has games that can stack up against Kaep's performance against Chicago - Green Bay week 1, Arizona a couple weeks ago, Saints playoff game last year.  Do we forget all this?  And why are people bringing up 6 years ago with respect to Smith?  If we want to go back and look at college tape of Kaepernick, I'm sure it wouldn't all be pretty.

Make no mistake, we lost the game today because of Kaepernick.  Let's not sugar coat it.  We all know that game is a W with Smith at quarterback.  If Kaep is the future, so be it, let's accept the rough spots.  But these Niners are built to win NOW.  We have as good a chance as any team in the NFL to win with Smith at QB.  For chrissake, if it weren't for Kaep, that game is a shutout.  He handed the Rams 10 points with a dumbass safety where he either needed to take the sack early or throw it way and that ridiculous read option play.

And I don't like the look of Kaep's throws.  He takes too long to wind up.  This is not good.  He threw people for a loop, and everyone thinks he's Tom Brady.  It makes me really not like the sports media and the hubris and arrogance of the Niner brain trust.  They made decisions just like all the bankers moving into mortgage back securities and all these other tales of guys thinking they are smarter than they are (Vietnam, etc).

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Future

The birthrate dropped 8% during the Great Recession.  Ross Douthat makes some important points:
The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

From my perspective and in my field, I see this represented and celebrated in movies and television, this "spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be."  Is there a better description of the ethos celebrated in HBO's Girls?