Friday, March 29, 2013

Stock Market

The stock market has recovered 100% since the financial crisis.  But anyone who is out there amongst the living knows the economy and jobs are still weak.  What is going on?

Thomas Sowell talks about whether what can happen in Cyprus can happen here.  He explains how the Fed is more clever and powerful than Cyprus.  Rather that seizing people's savings accounts, the Fed merely prints more money, diminishing the value of existing money, ie inflation.  So while people's money sits in savings accounts getting zero interest, the amount of stuff people can buy shrinks.

Inflation is what is going on with the stock market.  Inflation is what drives the Fed's policy QED policies.

What does this do?  Transfers money from savers to borrows.  Encourages taking on more debt and more spending.  Obama admin thinks this will kickstart the economy.  Sure it will.  Put money into the hands of spenders who don't earn it from savers who would tuck it away and consumer spending will go up.  It just can't keep going up, however, because at a certain point, someone has to make the stuff and be productive and innovate products.  And when you punish the folks who would do that - well - pretty soon, you'll even run out of other people's money to spend.
Perfect For Him

Zuckerberg going to get involved with politics and social issues.  He's good at the smoke and mirrors.  He realizes he can't build anything with value and wants to move onto the only bigger scam than Facebook:  government.
Self Employed To Get Hit by Obamacare

Middle class?  Self employed?  Premiums are going up for you.

Yeah, we probably shouldn't aim to make life more burdensome for middle class self employed types....does not sound like a recipe for a strong economy or country, for that matter.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Film:  Mulholland Falls

HBO on demand.  A totally by-the-numbers noir.  Nothing special to recommend it.  I'm a sucker for most things LA-noir, but this was a true disappointment.  Terrific cast, written by Pete Dexter, had all the elements to suggest something good.  Except that it wasn't.  I should caveat, it's better than the 10 minutes I saw of Gangster Squad, but that is saying nothing.  LA Confidential blows it out of the water and Chinatown...well...just fuggetaboutit.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


LA restaurant posts dinner no-show names on Twitter to shame customers.

I don't typically no-show reservations, but if I did, I could give a shit if a restaurant posted my name on twitter.  Why would anyone find this shameful?

18 principles for creative living.
3. Life doesn’t happen in sequential order (build career/find mate/have kids). The version you carry in your head of how your life should be was probably cobbled together from movies, TV, other forms of fantasy handed down by a culture that wants you to buy stuff. So junk it. Redefine success. Embrace the mess. There’s beauty in the imperfection.
I'd just call them principles for living.  I'm really sick of all the structures in our world that are designed just to sell you shit and rob you of your money (and hence your autonomy, power, and liberty to walk away).
Illogical Lunatics

From LBN:
NORTH KOREA: NUCLEAR WAR ‘SIMMERING’: North Korea said on Wednesday that it will be cutting off all direct military communication with the South, including access to a military hotline. North Korean officials said they would inform the United Nations that the tense conditions on the peninsula have created a situation “for a simmering nuclear war.” The strong rhetoric from North Korea even caused concern from China, Pyongyang’s only major ally in the region, which called the situation “sensitive.” As if the situation couldn’t get any more tense, a South Korean soldier standing guard at the border threw a grenade at a moving object in the dark early Wednesday. A patrol searched at daylight and found no indication of any infiltration by North Korea.
We simply can't have illogical lunatics running around with nukes.  The world will survive, but we are at constant risk of like 10 million people being murdered in one swoop.  This alone makes me a fan of preemptive actions like in Iraq when it is so obvious and clear you have an illogical and psychotic political state in power, to change it before they figure out the nukes.  NoKo is its own unique situation, but man, is it scary.

US v Mexico

The US gets a 0-0 tie in Stadium Azteca, which is an accomplishment.  Mexico was the better team and missed chances.  They were also robbed of a penalty -- and arguably two.  The announcers were beating up on Dos Santos for Mexico, but I like that guy.  For the US, Bradley played well as usually, but man, he looks slow out there.  One of the new defenders played well, too.  Forgot his name.

Overall, not a great game to watch.
This Guy Is the Worst

Greenwald from Grantland on Game of Thrones.
And so, in "Blackwater," the penultimate episode of Season 2, hours of story and untold millions of euros finally ignited like so much wildfire. Until then, I had been watching the show like Cersei Lannister at a dinner party: a drink in my hand, a bloodless smirk on my face. But all that time I thought I was keeping my distance — not only had I avoided George R.R. Martin's books, I could barely spell Qarth — it turns out I was actually sinking deeper. In "Blackwater" I was finally flooded with big-screen bombast that merited the bluster of backstabbing brothers and know-it-all Martin readers alike. It was an unblinking glimpse of the savagery that had lurked beneath every alliance made and promise broken in the battle-scarred Seven Kingdoms. When Ned Stark lost his head it taught audiences that no one, not even stars, are safe. When Blackwater Bay ignited it carried a different lesson: The main character of Game of Thrones is Westeros itself. And, before all is said and done, it will suffer more than Ned's neck ever did.
What a dullard.  The show caught me with the first scene and solidified it with the final scene of the first episode.  The last three episodes of season 1 are still the best.  The Blackwater episode was good - but it doesn't nearly match the spectacle of movies - that is nuts.  The show is amazing from the breadth of the story and material.  This guy gets his premise right - that GofT is the most important show on TV - just for all the wrong reasons.  Actually, important is the wrong word.  That's just a bs term for critics to appeal to their readers - the show is the most original, most ambitious, most spectacular show on TV.

Monday, March 25, 2013


The Side Effects podcast discussion is up.
Things I Recommend

1.  Trader Joe's Boxed Shiraz Wine.  It costs only about $13, but is 3 bottles worth of wine and very easy to set up and pour yourself a little glass in the evening.  Great for weeknight drinking.  Tastes decent.  Like having a little keg of wine.

2.  Moving your laptop screen up to your eyeline.  My lower back started to hurt from being at a computer too often.  A physical therapist suggested a couple things, but the main thing was getting the laptop screen up to your eyeline, so you weren't hunched over the keys and looking down.  Back problem gone. (will need a separate keyboard, but I already had one)

More to come as I think of them.
Recounting Iraq

VDH does a good job recounting the logic of the war.  He ends with this:
Going to war is a matter not of avoiding mistakes, but of seeking to correct them as soon as possible. For a postmodern society that knows no history, mistakes must not occur. And when they do, someone else is always to be blamed.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

True That

On the media criticizing football players for being disloyal.
The real truth about the relationship between owners and players was expressed in the classic 1979 football movie North Dallas Forty: "Every time I call it a game, you call it a business. And every time I call it a business, you call it a game."
The Case Against Being Adventurous

There's a Korean crab joint on Western Avenue near 5th street.  I'd walked by a couple times and it looked full of Korean people.  Seemed like a spot worth trying since the wait at Boiling Crab tops 3 hours on a Saturday evening (and people still do it).

Bad idea.  Cost was expensive.  The crab was terrible.  Overcooked to the point of softness.  It was served with an incredible amount of bean sprouts.  Why?  Even the normally reliable Korean side dishes were luke-warm.  Oh yeah, and no one spoke any English.  This is a strictly Korean joint.  In itself, this isn't a problem and certainly would have added to the charm if the food was good.  Unfortunately, it was not.  In this era of yelp, it's becoming tougher and tougher to find your own special places and it becomes less-and-less a matter of finding a nice little spot by trial and error and more about just riding the word of mouth.  I miss the act of discovery.

Film:  Fargo

Better or worse with time?  I think better.  In a yet to be released episode of the Moviegoers, we talked about Side Effects and the Informant came up.  I am not much of a fan of the Informant.  I prefer the memorable Mike Yanagita scene from Fargo, which basically takes the same of idea of the Matt Damon character from the Informant and condenses it down into one scene and tells you all you need to know.  And it was 10 years before.

Also, interestingly, similar structure of Fargo and No Country For Old Men, following three separate story-lines continuously and how they intersect.  Never noticed it before.

Film:  Jack and Jill

I was curious.  Very strange movie.  Watching it was a meta-experience.  I laughed quite a bit -- not so much at the humor -- but at the meta-experience of thinking about what the filmmakers/Sandler thought would be funny.  It totally lost the luster after half the movie, and I turned it off.  Was waiting for Pacino to show up and he was pretty disappointing in the little bit I saw.  I mean, the idea of Pacino falling in love with Sandler's twin sister makes me giggle.  But they didn't quite pull it off.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Late Marriage Cost and Benefits

Interesting study.
The simplest way to interpret this impact is suggested by the write-up the study received from the Atlantic: Great for college-educated women, pretty good for the rest of the female population, bad for men and particularly bad for working class men.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Mini Housing Bubble?

McArdle thinks so.
It's hard not to wonder if the Fed's current low, low interest rate policy isn't touching off another little mini-bubble--not as destructive as the last one, but likely to leave some couples hurting when rates rise and prices fall. 
Am I being too much of a worrywart? Maybe. But the trend of the last decade or so is that Fed loosening seems to show up less and less in general prices, and more and more in financial assets, or quasi-assets like housing. The stock market is booming, and the housing market is booming, even though GDP and unemployment haven't recovered. I'm not saying that this is definitely a fool's rally. But as I say, I am disquieted.
I would be, too.  My impression is the demand is fueled by low rates versus stable income, but I could be wrong.  It might just be a lot people putting off buying for years, too.

Film:  The Five Year Engagement

Not a bad movie.  Overly long.  Very down the middle.  But a serviceable romantic comedy with fun characters.  I laughed quite a bit once the movie got going.  No reason for the movie to be 2 hours, especially because you know exactly what's going to happen the entire time.  But still, enjoyable on a weeknight.

UPDATE:  What is it with the depiction of Asian women in comedy these days?  In nearly every comedy series or movie dealing with romantic stuff, it feels like there is a "bad" older male character who has a much younger Asian wife or some other Asian-female-as-threat-to-white female character.  The comedy/joke is always the same -- the Asian girl is a prop joke -- someone hanging on the arm of some irresponsible older man -- always a sign of weakness in the male character and the Asian girl is given no personality at all.  Off the top of my head:  30 Rock, Girls, Parks and Rec, Five Year Engagement, Pitch Perfect, all using the same, basically racist joke.  Strange.  Lazy.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

No Trickle Down To the Creative Class

The data is in and there is no trickle down to the work of the creative class.  I'd take it even further: the art coming out of these "enclaves" isn't very good, either.
Some Interesting Movie Critics

I'm amazed it took me so long to find any critic worth reading.  Now I've found three:

Armond White at City Arts.

Wesley Morris at Grantland.

Nick Pinkerton at the Village Voice.
Why Economists Push College But Not Marriage

Which makes me gravitate towards a more parsimonious explanation: all economists are, definitionally, very good at college. Not all economists are good at marriage. Saying that more people should go to college will make 0% of your colleagues feel bad. Saying that more people should get married and stay married will make a significant fraction of your colleagues feel bad. And in general, most people have an aversion to topics which are likely to trigger a personal grudge in a coworker.
I see a pattern in society.  We push ideas that are easy to get through (ie popular), but aren't necessarily right (or more right than other ideas).  Prosecutors bring to trial the easiest cases to win, but not the most important in terms of justice.  We run the most electable candidates, but not the best.  And on and on.

Film:  Spring Breakers

A movie?  A music video?  A soft core porn?

Or just more nihilistic hipster darkness masquerading as profundity?

I felt empty after watching this film.  Which is puzzling, after all, I walked home down the piss smelling streets of Hollywood past transsexual prostitutes hanging outside a liquor store / hotel complex on Vine and so the whole thing should speak to me.

That said, I wasn't bored watching the movie.  Despite the repetitiveness, the lack of plotting, and the mind numbing soundtrack, it kept my interest.  And there were moments that were great.  James Franco saves the movie when he comes on screen at the beginning.  It almost fell off a cliff into nothingness.  He ultimately doesn't take the role anywhere - it's what you would call a "one-note" performance - but it sustains the movie for a little while.

There are some terrific images and a few worthy scenes.  But in the end, I'm left feeling nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Unmoved, uninspired, unhappy.  And a bit puzzled.  Puzzled about what the movie is trying to say about living, about human beings, about the state of cinema in general, what I expect from movies in general.  All of these things end up rattling around in my brain.

Where does this nihilism lead?  Could one interpret this work as a warning shot -- this idea of striving after the permanent Spring Break will lead to death and despair.  I don't know.  I think that's being generous to the film.  I think where it leads, truly, is back into itself and it's own fascination with looking at "good" girls in bikinis gone bad.  The world depicted is not a world for the living - no one is procreating in this world - the world doesn't gone on.  The logic of the world depicted leads to suicide.

Anyhow, I was never a fan of Kids much, I suppose for similar reasons.  It hangs it's hat on "being real" and then fails to show any of the light that accompanies the dark.  This film bears resemblance to the youthful nihilism of last year's Project X -- with more boobs and guns and indie cred -- and the two will play together in 20 years at a New Bev double feature or in cinema classes if they go off the deep end.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


What is the deal with these Google laptops for $250?

I'm interested.  Cheap is good.
Good Office Dating Advice

The Decline of Marriage

The reasons.
Now that women are better educated, with greater control over both their fertility and their earnings, modern marriage has changed from an arrangement where men marry for a housewife to a "hedonic" model where both partners can be the breadwinner. As marriage has shifted from opposites-attract to like-attracts-like, researchers have found that sorting has increased all along the educational scale. College graduates are more likely than ever to marry college graduates, as Charles Murray has written. High school dropouts are more likely to marry high school dropouts.
Hmmm...economic rights of women vs. equality of opportunity for children.  Seems like there is evidence to suggest these values are causing social friction.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This Is One of the Greatest Blog Posts I've Ever Read

How Karate Kid ruined the modern world.  Or, more broadly, training-sequences in movies.
Accomplishing worthwhile things isn't just a little harder than people think; it's 10 or 20 times harder. Like losing weight. You make yourself miserable for six months and find yourself down a whopping four pounds. Let yourself go at a single all-you-can-eat buffet and you've gained it all back.
and this
It applies to everything. America is full of frustrated, broken, baffled people because so many of us think, "If I work this hard, this many hours a week, I should have (a great job, a nice house, a nice car, etc). I don't have that thing, therefore something has corrupted the system and kept me from getting what I deserve, and that something must be (the government, illegal immigrants, my wife, my boss, my bad luck, etc)."
The whole thing is worth reading.

Also - someone needs to do a piece on how method acting has lead to facebook and twitter and all this internet noise.  Seriously, this idea of looking inward to one's internal emotional experience in search of value for the external world is thanks largely to the method.  And also, wanting desperately to be seen.
Read Option

Mike Tomlin calls it the flavor of the day and implies the solution "...We'll see if guys are committed to getting their guys hit."

The Ravens were jacking Kaepernick whether he handed the ball off or not in the Super Bowl.  I suppose that's legal if the QB is faking a run.  Maybe the Niners were too quick to ditch Alex Smith.  We'll see.
Crunchy vs. Soggy Systems

Very insightful thoughts and from way back in 2001.  Applies to the present.  One of the reasons I like sports:  very crunchy system and clear where you stand.

One problem with crunchy systems:  they make it very difficult to plan for the future or enable stability. Yes, they work on a macro level, but do they work on a social level?  You can fire or get rid of people who are lousy at their jobs

Monday, March 18, 2013

Look Away

The Eurozone confiscates money from savings accounts to pay for Cyprus bailout.

This is how revolutions and wars can get started.
Kindle Testing

One of my favorite aspects of the kindle is the free sample to test out whether you like books or not.  Recently, I tested the following:

Homicide Life on the Killing Streets by David Simon.  Really good so far.  Obviously the basis for the tv show and later, The Wire.  Probably will read the whole thing someday.

Fletch by Gregory McDonald.  Don't think I'll be reading this one, I was mainly curious about the tone and how he mixes comedy and mystery.

Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell.  I'm a fan of this guy.  This book talks about why fuzzy generalities and fantasies about improving the lives of disadvantaged people lead to reckless and destructive social policies.

The Jasons:  The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite by Ann Finkbeiner.  I didn't like how this book was written, but I'm surprised this group of mysterious scientists haven't been popularized already by some tv show or movie.


Where have all the good men gone?  That's the title of the article.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Writing and Living

An interesting interview with Neal Pollack - who I've never heard of - about living as a writer and the ups and downs of things.

There is a pretty interesting period when he moves out to LA to dabble in film and TV.

TV:  Girls, last episode season 2

Late last night I come home to the GF watching the final episode of season 2 of Girls.  I'm basically forced to watch.  The plot was Lena Dunham stuck a q-tip in her own ear.  Another moment I remember - a girl sings at a party and we're supposed to feel like this is some awful embarrassment --  but I didn't see what the big deal was.  Then the girl who sang at the party had sex with her ex-boyfriend where others might see.  And then another guy lasted for like two seconds after making a girl crawl to bed and jizzed on her chest.  So basically, HBO made a lousy porno.

Pretty strange how this show is a widely regarded critical hit, although most normal people don't watch it, just the chattering classes.'d think the chattering classes would be able to recognize good drama...after all, most of these people consume and view lots of art and drama, but the show is really just an attitude...and not one I'm particularly fond of.

UPDATE:  Woops.  That was the second to last episode.  Whatever.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Book:  The Closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom

I started this book a couple years ago and just never finished.  I got into it again and plowed through the rest recently.  Really intelligent plea for what the university ought to be in American culture and how we've veered off into viewing education as primarily about finding a job.  The book was written in 1984 and is highly intelligent and erudite.  But it confirms a lot of my instincts about education and how it should be viewed as an end in itself.  That is to say, being an educated person means something beyond whether it leads to a job or a specific trade.  It means a certain familiarity with a broad spectrum of fields and works from the past.  I think back upon my own schooling, which for the most part was pretty "good" by American standards - and it encompasses about 20 years if you include grad school and college - and yet - I haven't read all of Shakespeare and have only a passing knowledge of Greek Myth and the ancient philosophers.  What the hell did I do in all that time?

At least the good thing about reading is you can continue to pursue it on your own.  Just the older stuff is easier to read and digest in the context of a class and with a teacher.

I suppose my little summary most deeply describes the latter part of the book, which I most recently read.  Bloom also rails against certain trends in education, particularly relativism and various forms of ethnic studies, and how democracy is undermined by such teachings at the expense of a classical liberal education.

Anyhow, I found it a good read.

Film:  Wild At Heart

Since there is nothing in the theater to watch, I headed to a screening of one of the few Lynch films I haven't seen.  It felt like a rough draft of things to come in Twin Peaks and Lost Highway.  Not one of my favorite Lynch films, but some terrific bits later on in the movie.  Willem Defoe is a madman doing his version of Frank Booth.  And I'm not sure if people given Laura Dern enough credit for what she pulls off in these movies.

Is it just me, or does there seem to be a declining space for a filmmaker like Lynch?  Like I cannot imagine a filmmaker coming along with such a strange and aberrant vision who is also able to find an audience.  Maybe the miracle is that there was one, as opposed to the probability there will not be another.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


On the next episode of Girls:
“The scene is raw, it’s brave, and it’s the boldest thing we’ve seen Dunham do yet: a smart, unsanitized comedy of errors that perfectly captures the experience of being at the ob-gyn,” said Huffington Post television critic Kia Makarechi of the envelope-pushing episode, wherein the burrito-eating Dunham elects to be examined completely nude because hospital gowns make her “feel like she’s dying of bone cancer or something” and awkwardly flirts with the 55-year-old gynecologist before violently shitting herself and then asking if the doctor can prescribe her anything for her anxiety. “When a naked Hannah dribbled hot sauce all over herself in front of the doctor, shit in every corner of the office, cried, became angry with the doctor, had sex with the doctor, finished her burrito, had sex with the doctor again, shit herself again, and then realized who she was really angry at and sexually attracted to was Adam, I just closed my eyes and said, ‘Thank you.’ These are real girls with real bodies doing things that real girls do.”
Also, I liked this description of the show I overheard to someone who didn't know what it was:
"You know how Sex And The City was about old women being whores but it was wish fulfillment and every woman wanted to be Carrie?  Girls is about young women being whores but there is no wish fulfillment and no one wants to be Lena Dunham."
I thought that summed it up rather well.
Yes, But Can You Kick My Ass?
PHYSICISTS SAY THEY HAVE FOUND A HIGGS BOSON: The search is all but over for a subatomic particle that is a crucial building block of the universe. Physicists announced Thursday they believe they have discovered the subatomic particle predicted nearly a half-century ago, which will go a long way toward explaining what gives electrons and all matter in the universe size and shape. The elusive particle, called a Higgs boson, was predicted in 1964 to help fill in our understanding of the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang.
Cool.  I guess.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lean In

A smart critique of this new Sheryl Sandburg book "Lean In" everyone is talking about.  The premise, apparently, is woman need to be more confident in the workplace and "lean in" more -- whatever that means.  (I will not be reading the book)
Quality is the goal, not quantity. Leaders need to create a culture in which talented people are judged not by the quantity of their work, but by the quality of their contributions. This can't be hollow blather. Someone who works 20 hours a week and who delivers exceptional results on a pro rata basis should be eligible for promotions and viewed as a top performer. American corporations need to get rid of the notion that wanting to work less makes someone a "B player."
Of course, I'd take the critique a bit further -- it doesn't just apply to women at all - but rather our entire work culture which rewards dumbass people like this guy.

After the Palestinians, the whiners I'm the most sick of hearing from are the "feminists" who complain about how difficult it is for woman to succeed at a high level in the United States corporate culture and how to find the perfect "work/life" balance.  Let's be perfectly clear who we are talking about - a class of people - highly educated American females in the dawn of the 21st century - who are amongst the most advantaged group in the entire history of mankind -- and we think tackling the question of how these woman's lives can be marginally improved is a topic worthy of books, articles, and constant seminar discussions and blogs and so on and so forth.

For my generation, where I grew up, guys and girls got equal opportunity.  I know because I was there.  It strikes me as a strange, unhealthy phenomenon, where this group of highly advantaged and highly capable people perceive themselves as disadvantaged and "need to work twice as hard" to prove themselves.  They should be thinking about what they can use their advantage and skills sets for - and how to contribute to the world positively and make it a better, more functional place - as opposed to how to improve the opportunities for an already highly privileged group.  What kind of backwards world do they see?  Would they trade their lives for any human beings from around the world or across history at any time?  No way.  It utterly fails the envy test.  This is just interest group propaganda.
"These Computers Will Be The End of Us"

A quote by my physical therapist.  Lower back issues.  Apparently she sees it everyday.  I think she is onto something more.
Wealth Inequality

How to fix America's wealth inequality:  get people to save and invest more.  Uh...yeah...

You could easily make a good argument public high schools should be teaching Suze Orman level finance classes.  Seriously.  I just got an idea - a high school class called "Money."  Every student begins the semester with zero and they are charged with coming up with a plan to maximize the amount of money they can make in a semester.  Some will get paid jobs.  Others will try business ventures.  (you might need to max the amount of "homework" time).  Some will invest profits, some will re-invest.  The only goal is to make money.  The prize at the end of the semester?  You keep what you make.  You can't tell me this is a worse idea than human sexuality or physical education (especially when a lot of kids already play sports).

On not returning voicemail in the digital age.  A lot of the new phone technology basically just enables rudeness.

I don't return calls unless the person leaves a voicemail.  No voicemail means they don't want a call back.

When I was young, I didn't think manners were important.  The older I get, they seem to be one of the few ways people can acknowledge on a day to day basis, we live in a civilized society and are not just a bunch of apes living off the tits of men and woman who created civilization.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Film:  Ted

Finally finished Ted.  I found it pretty boring.
NFC West

Seattle just traded for Percy Harvin and the Niners just traded for Anquan Boldin.  If these weren't the two best teams in football this year, they just became them.  I'm terrified of Seattle.
On Risk

On the A's constantly updating their Moneyball strategy.  Note this:
“If you’re a small or mid-market team, you’re compelled to engage in a high-variance strategy. We don’t want to just run our operation the same way everyone else does, with the same blend of stats and scouting, In some sense, the optimal strategy is to take risks. We make trades that might be perceived as risky. Sometimes they pay off, like Josh Reddick. 
Sometimes we acquire guys it turns out we were wrong about. “If there isn’t some residual between how you evaluate players and how other teams evaluate them, then you’re just using industry values to put together the second-lowest payroll team in the league, and likely end up being the second-worst team. You kind of have to take those risks to outperform your payroll. Sometimes it’s going to backfire, just because you have to try to do something different. 
“If I was the Yankees, that wouldn’t be my strategy. All I’d have to do is be as good at scouting and analytics as everyone else, and my payroll gives me the advantage. If you don’t have that advantage, you have to do something else.
Pretty similar to playing the small stack in poker.  It's generally worth it to jump in on a 50/50 gambit to double your stack when you're small, but if you're in the lead, you want better odds to possibly let the opponent back into the game.  Then again, sometimes if I'm the big stack, I like to throw the pressure on the small stack guy if I sense they fear getting knocked out of the game.  Just depends on who you are playing.

I think this can apply to other things in life as well.  In my field, screenwriting, I generally think there are advantages to being non-professional (and talented) in that you can essentially write anything you want.  When you become professional, your time suddenly has value, and you often have collaborators, so you tend to write towards a specific audience with commercial concerns always hovering around.  You should always be writing for an audience in mind - even with a spec - but it's just you can pick and choose as small or large audience as you desire and should you fail, no one will know it.  Point being, a spec screenplay should be riskier than a commercially contracted screenplay.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What Happened to Zankou?

Ate at Zankou on Normandie tonight, the "original" Zankou chicken.  Yikes!  That place was terrible.  Service was slow and lazy.  The food - everything except the chicken - was inferior to all the other Zankou's around town - Westwood and Glendale.  What happened?  The garlic paste was lousy; the hummus was terrible -- like they bought it from Trader Joe's.  Even the pickle salad was all messed up.  Do not go to the Hollywood Zankou.

Side note:  Hamburger Hamlet sells milkshakes for $2.  Pretty good deal considering Ben and Jerry's they'll cost you $6.

Derrick Rose reporting hamstring issues post-ACL surgery.  I had the exact same problem - I imagine most people would given what your leg looks like post surgery.  Except if you use PEDs or some super freak therapy, both of which I imagine Adrian Peterson did.
Wiping Out The Savers

Bernanke and company are wiping out savers to help the debtors.
If you go back in history, you'll see what happened to the Germans when they wiped out their savings class in the 1920s. It didn’t lead to good things down the road for Germany. It didn’t lead to good things for Italy, which did the same thing. There were plenty of countries where it wiped out the people who saved and invested for their future. It’s usually a serious, political reaction, desperation in some cases, and looking for a savior and easy answers is usually what happens when you destroy the people who save and invest for the future.

Saturday, March 09, 2013


Film:  Stoker

Dull is the first word that comes to mind.  Nihilism the second.  Phoniness the third.  I saw this film because I'm a huge fan of Shadow of a Doubt, but the film only seems to pay passing homage to it in the most generic ways - naming a character after the Joseph Cotton character and using the strange relative comes to stay with the family idea.  But beyond that, nothing.  Which is strange, right?  Why market yourself as a reimagination of a film and then fail to deliver?  It wouldn't surprise me in the filmmakers weren't even fans of the original.  The movie was off from the beginning.  The filmmakers were most interested in the erotic pleasure of murder, which in my limited and privileged life experience, isn't all that relatable.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Young People

Althouse questions the reasoning behind young women's desires for boyfriends.
The point of love is so you can do even more work. The stereotypical traditional male works so that a woman would have him and he could have love. Love was the end, not the means. If, for the woman, love is the means and the end is career advancement... then what? And why?
Young people are lost.  Much of this is due to the shattering of religious beliefs and the elimination of rules/principles on how to live.  Nowadays, anything is game, and young people aimlessly wander around trying on different ways of living to figure it out.  People try drug culture, they try hipster culture, they become obsessed with sports, with music, with movies, with making money, with real estate, with career, with politics, with causes, you-name-it.  What did we expect when we threw out any "moral" way to live?  People still need to do it, after all.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Back in these days, Eddie Murphy didn't get upstaged very often, but Bronson Pinchot manages it here.  I swear Eddie Murphy is trying not to laugh at one point.  Brilliant.
Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling

Helpful reference.
Is Drug Use Rational?

Well, there certainly is a reason for it.
It is a constant struggle to choose the unpleasant and real over the blissful unwinding of our evolutionary danger signals. This is where all discussion of drug policy should start.
Maybe it's just me, but in the morning, the real world never seems that bad.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Film:  From Russia With Love

Don't believe I had ever seen this one in its entirety.  Most of my early exposure to James Bond was catching them on TBS when I was a youngster and so I would watch bits and pieces of a lot of them.  Eventually, I watched my favorites in full, but don't remember seeing this one.  A rather good Bond, I'd say.  Would work as a stand alone spy movie.  Felt smaller in scale than many of the later ones.  I know they always say From Russia With Love is what made the Bond formula, but I actually think Goldfinger is the most prototypical "Bond" and FRWL is a bit different.  Just that Bond doesn't enter the film until minute 18 (if you don't include the clever opening) and so much of the bad guy plot remains hidden from Bond for so long makes it stand out in my eyes.

People don't think of Bond this way now, but at the time, it must of been considered one of the greatest sequels ever made -- and if Bond had just been a trilogy -- Dr. No, FRWL, and Goldfinger would have been an interesting case study in a trilogy actually getting better from movie-to-movie, which rarely happens nowadays.  Maybe this is why the franchise has lasted for so long.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Money To Be Made

Rupert Murdoch is trying to create a new sports network to rival ESPN.  Smart.  Someone just needs to figure out how to bring European Soccer into American prime time and they are going to make money. Fox seems like the right place.  He went after CNN at the peak of their powers and took them down.  Why not ESPN?
Against Fairness

A sound premise for a book.
Children's entertainment, like "Sesame Street," erroneously labels basic good behavior—don't be racist, share—as "fairness" when in fact it is "tolerance" or "generosity," both of which are fully compatible with favoritism. Mr. Asma makes a powerful case that egalitarianism is driven principally by envy, and in our materialistic, post-religious age, emotions like envy "find new secular outlets." 
Fairness has become a collective faith, especially on the left. Sometimes the consequences are comical, as when schools try to legislate equal "valentine outcomes" for every student on Feb. 14. But often it carries a heavier price.
I always  thought the old cheesy Skee Lo song "I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller..." captured the absurdity of "fairness" as a virtue quite well.
Nepotism in Hollywood

Marginal Revolution asks:  why isn't there more of it.

A pretty good comment section as well.  I added my two cents to a particular commenter:

I agree you will find similar correlations in other industries, but I would further argue, the more idiosyncratic the industry, the more likely individuals will follow in family footsteps (whether you want to identify that as nepotism or something more benign).  The barrier for entry for idiosyncratic industries is tougher for outsiders and gives insiders an advantage.  And obviously, the usual things that attract people:  money, lifestyle, work enjoyment, etc, will exacerbate the phenomenon. 
You will probably find the same dynamic in "unattractive," yet idiosyncratic, industries like joining the Mafia or a terrorist organization.

Hat tip to Grantland.  George Karl has his big man tip-toe out of bounds on pick and rolls to make this kind of play happen.  Never noticed or seen a play like that before.  Very clever use of space.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Oh Boy

One of the Better Film Writers

I'm starting to enjoy reading this Wesley Morris fellow over at Grantland.  He reviews 21 and Over.

I don't agree with everything he says, but he talks about interesting things.  I rather liked this bit:
Lucas and Moore acknowledge the existence of race, but they don't seem to grasp what about it is funny beyond the novelty of non-white people being something other than what white men assume them to be. That's what made Seth MacFarlane so exasperating about women, brown people, and homosexuality last week at the Oscars: It's like he'd never left his cave. It's a kind of achievement that Lucas and Moore often devise movies that know there's more to the world than straight white men. But if they're going to continue to direct what they write, it would be refreshing to see them do more with that world than laugh at it.
While race has never been a particularly interesting subject to me, I've noticed a certain handling of it in films and TV recently that seems oddly disconnected with the world I know.  Sometimes the punchline of the joke is that an individual is another race.  This is a rather strange development as American films treated race is a pretty interesting and realistic way going back to the 1970s.

Maybe this is the result of a more hermetically sealed society we've achieved by shoving the middle class into upper and lower and creating a credentialed professional class.  Who knows.  But I find it very strange.
Low Growth

Why low growth is a problem.  Basically, all of our financial and cultural ways of doing business are based on a growing economy.

I don't think we can count on continuous growth -- and certainly cannot manufacture it at a consistent and fair pace.  Therefore, it is wiser to prepare ourselves for this than the alternative:  getting over-leveraged.

Film:  Burn! with Marlon Brando

Let begin by saying thank God the revolutionaries didn't win during the 20th century because the world would have been one big boring place to live.  This film had many good elements and should have been good - Brando as a charismatic lead character, a story about a fictional revolutionary state that I thought resembled a mini-version of Brazil in the racial dynamics, a filmmaker who was willing to go out and find real faces from god-knows-where and shoot the movie off in some treacherous territory, a pretty good score by Morricone.

But the scenes were just bad and didn't flow from one to another.  It was more lecture than drama and it didn't matter how good some of the elements were, I was in and out of sleep in 30 minutes.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Jordan vs. Magic vs. Barkley

Who wins the post career championship?  Each has done different things - Jordan became the worst owner in basketball, Barkley became the best personality on television, and Magic Johnson cured AIDS and became a hugely successful businessman.

Sorry Barkley, as good as you are on TV, Magic cured freaking AIDS.  He wins.

I'm happy the Ravens had to overpay to keep the guy.  No more Super Bowls for them.

Simmons does a salary cap column and makes a point about the Spurs I've noticed over the past couple years --
I don't believe the Spurs are even remotely boring, and anyone who says that doesn't actually like basketball.
Or watch them.  I basically think animosity towards the Spurs boils down to anti-foreigner sentiment.  Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker are all foreign-born and Ginobli probably the one who irritates people the most (because he is white).  Since it became socially unacceptable and on the border of lunacy to dislike a "black" street ball type of play (Jordan basically ended this), the tribal irrational element of fandom now focuses it's irrational dislike on foreign players, or a foreign style of play.

Even within my lifetime, before Jordan, you would routinely hear people chastise players for "bad free throw shooting" and "showboating" which was code for a dislike of the black style of play.

Now, the less progressive elements of basketball fans focus on the foreign to irrationally dislike -- you routinely will hear people criticize Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobli, Joakin Noah, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, et all.  Often it will be coded as "soft," implying that passing and shooting are inferior to driving and hogging the ball.  The one player who really overcame this was Nowitski, who for years was irrationally considered soft until he totally dominated the playoffs in 2010.  Ironically, I think black foreign players get more of a pass than white foreign players - thinking of Hakeem and Mutombo.

Enough of that, though.  The NBA is simply awesome right now.  Think of all the interesting teams/good teams.

1.  Heat
2.  OKC
3.  Denver
4.  Memphis
5.  Clippers
6.  Lakers
7.  Boston
8.  Golden State
9.  Houston
10.  Knicks
11.  Spurs
12.  Chicago

Then there are other teams that might have mildly interesting elements:  Atlanta, Utah, Brooklyn, Indiana.

On what Woodward is standing for.
I have no doubt that, like Lee and Meade at Gettysburg, Woodward blundered into this fight — he wasn’t looking to start something, just articulating the unexceptionable truth that, based on his reporting, the sequester was Obama’s idea, and that it was the height of hypocrisy for the president to rail against it and try to pin it on the GOP. (That tactic, by the way, is failing.) But here he is — even invited to speak at CPAC!  
But now that the fight’s here, let’s have it. I think it’s entirely likely that the journalism I was taught (on the job, by the way, not in a classroom) is dead, having fallen victim to the radicalization of the universities, to mad credentialism, and to society’s overall abdication of moral standards in favor of “non-judgmentalism” and “fairness.” And, of course, the satanic code that makes all this possible, “political correctness” — a term worthy of the Gulag Archipelago.
How Wrong Was Iraq?

To me, we seem stuck in the same argument with hardened positions.  Fallows regrets not being more stridently against the war and chastises hawks (liberals and conservatives) to be more humbled and grapple more with their poor decision-making.  But I think people are far from convinced Iraq was as big a nightmare decision as Vietnam and while the strongest argument that liberals were right, ie there were no WMDs, was more of a mistake due to bad intelligence than a deliberate folly.  Of course, it strikes me the cost of being wrong the other way were much higher than being wrong in the way we were wrong.  That is to say, had Saddam had weapons, and we didn't stop him, that the situation would be much worse than the present.