Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Detached vs. Engaged

Different types of (political) writers.

Clippers just got worked in game 5 at home by Memphis.  Looking up and down the Clippers line up and they just don't have the horses against a strong team like Memphis.  They played with heart, but they lack the mix of strength and skill.  Their guys are all role players and not excellent at all parts of the game.  Also, strangely, they don't have guys who are good enough shooting the 3, which is where Memphis is vulnerable.

CP3 is awesome, but he is undersized and not a lock down defender.
Crawford is a streaky scorer, but can't play defense
Bledsoe is an athletic and energy guy, who would kill a team like the Lakers, but isn't a good enough shooter and is undersized on the wing against Memphis
Barnes works hard, but can't score and is undersized to rebound against a big front line
DeAndre Jordan doesn't really know how to play basketball
Blake Griffin is a good player, but relies too much on athleticism to get points and can't do it against a strong front line defense.  He needs a Karl Malone type of knock down 15-18 footer.  He tries the shot, but he goes too far back and not straight up.  His form is bad.
Caron Butler is too slow on both ends of the floor
Chauncy is too slow and old on both ends of the floor
Lamar Oden seems a bit out of it.

The Clippers have too many guys who would be great 6th or 7th guys.  They don't have a 3, 4, and 5.  Crawford is a great 6 guy.  Bledsoe is a great 6 guy or a starter on a shitty team.  DeAndre Jordan should be a starter like Tyson Chandler, but he just isn't, and probably won't ever be.  Instead he'll be Javale McGee.  Barnes is a good 6 man, energy guy.  Butler would be a decent 6 or 7 guy.  Chauncy would be a good 6 guy, leader of a second unit at this point in his career.
Devil's Advocate

I know Jason Collin's coming out is a lovely story for the sports world to sit around and pat each other on the back for how open-minded we all are.  It's making me bored for a couple of reasons:

1.  Gay people come out all the time to their family and friends and have been doing so for a long time.  This takes the same amount of courage - if not more - than Jason Collins coming out to the sports world.  The reason I'm saying this is because what Jason Collins is doing is not especially brave, if you ask me.  In fact, it is exactly as brave as EVERY SINGLE GAY PERSON who has ever come out before.  I mean, it must be 10 times as hard to tell your dad you're gay when you know he won't approve of it, than coming out in 2013 to lauding and cheering from every goddamn sports announcer and athlete on twitter.

2.  What team does Jason Collins play for?  To be honest, I didn't even know he was still in the NBA.  Turns out he is 34 and now a free agent.  It strikes me this would be a much more meaningful story if the player was under contract and an important member of a good or decent team.  Not that anyone can control this issue, but I think it it makes the story significantly less important.  And cynically, I think it makes sense for a team to sign Collins as a marketing move and it makes Collins - an otherwise irrelevant athlete - relevant.  

3.  This doesn't really compare to Jackie Robinson because Robinson was a good and meaningful ballplayer and the vehement public opposition to Robinson being allowed into the game.

4.  Jason Collins stole the thunder from Manti Te'o.  Now that would be a story.  Highly touted linebacker coming out as gay at the beginning of his NFL career.  Would he be accepted?  Would he play?  Would he make it?  As it stands, I'm not sure Jason Collins really risked anything to come out.

5.  Let's be honest:  it was easier for Jason Collins to come out than a lot of other athletes.  The guy went to Harvard Westlake and Stanford.  He comes from an upper middle class environment that easily accepts homosexuality.  If the kid was from the deep South or an inner-city environment, this would be much more difficult.

I bring all this up not as an attack on Collins so much as the story itself and the way it's being talked about.  I think there is a problem in the way Americans take lessons from our own history.  We are taught about the bravery of opposing segregation and Civil Rights and the Greatest Generation fighting Nazis and all this.  In lauding these past acts, we embed a seed in the minds of all Americans of wanting to be involved with something important and world changing.  Thus, all the people who vocally support various gay rights like marriage and happily support people who "come out" like to see themselves as latter day descendants of those who supported Civil Rights and marched and risk their lives for others.  Of course, this is not true.  The cost to supporting Jason Collins is little to none.  It takes no bravery.  It takes no backbone, no sacrifice.  In fact, in many areas, you will be chastised for the opposite.

The perhaps more dangerous attitude is reflected in the admiration for the Greatest Generation.  Who thinks that didn't play a role in the Iraq invasion?  The majority of the country who supported the war thought we were liberating the Iraqis the way we liberated Europe and Asia in WW2.  And I count myself among them.  But Iraq was different.  Liberals compared it to Vietnam and Conservatives compared it to WW2.  Both were wrong -- deeply wrong -- and yet we have no other way of understanding the world.

Back to Soderbergh...this is why narrative matters.

I like his state-of-cinema talk.  Of course, it makes me think he could use his Ocean's money and gather some of his wealthy friends and some of their friends with real money and pool to buy a studio that operates exactly as he imagines.  Or find someone to run a studio that way -- some bigtime movie lover.  Would this really be that hard?  United Artists did it once.

David Thomson has written about the studio model and I think he basically gets it correct -- someone needs to decide what movies will be financed and what will not.  Who is best to do that?  Other filmmakers?  Or business people?  He thinks if you tore down the whole studio system and redesigned it from scratch, it would probably look pretty similar to way it currently does.  That's not to get into specifics.  Obviously certain organizations have their own character and problems -- but that's the nature of human institutions.

Film:  Pain and Gain

What does it mean for a film to be bad but still enjoyable?  Does this mean a film gets some big things right and screws up the details?  Does it mean there is something "objective" about quality?  Or is filmgoing experience is inherently subjective and based on mood and company and all sorts of other factors?

Who knows.

But I'll start off by saying this:  Pain and Gain is a comedy made by a group of people with a lousy sense of humor.  Many things that are meant to be funny aren't even close and have the element of the annoying dude at the party telling joke after joke after joke hoping one will eventually land.

The storytelling is weak and repetitive to begin with and then goes on endlessly toward the end.  But something hit me about 1.5 hours into the movie -- when it starts to go totally off the rails -- I wasn't annoyed by the movie and was beginning to somewhat enjoy the feeling of holy-crap-this-has-no-idea-where-it's-going-element.  Do not construe this as praise for the artist.  It is not.  It is a subjective movie-going enjoyment that finds pleasure in small elements and watching what the actors and writers and director are trying to do...an outside the movie enjoyment.  But enjoyment still.  And enjoyment talking about the movie afterwards.  An appreciation of how Michael Bay uses the frame.  The guy fills it up, man.  And shit is always going on.  There's something to be said for this kind of filmmaking, probably what you would call "maximalist."

The film bears some similarities to Spring Breakers.  Normal people who turn to crime and get in over their heads.  An extreme depiction of the human body.  But I'll say this, I enjoyed Pain and Gain a whole lot more than Spring Breakers and am dubious about the claims of any more artistic merit to the latter.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sticking To What You Know

Curt Shilling under criminal investigation for fleecing taxpayers to get his video game company going.

Somewhat related -- why is the state of Rhode Island in the business of giving a rich guy 75 mil for a video game company anyway?

This is making me rethink my opening a deli plan.
The Robots Are Coming

A podcast about how most routine jobs will be replaced by robots in the near future.  The implications are obvious since the majority - even many white collar - jobs are routine.  Not mentioned, but also true, the routine aspect of many jobs make is possible to train people for otherwise very difficult jobs.  People perform the routine tasks, making them valuable to employers, in exchange for training how to do the "real job."  If robots were to take over, how will anyone learn the more difficult jobs?  Will the burden of cost shift to them?  How will they pay for it?  This is a huge social problem.

One idea that came out of the discussion was redistribution.  Since robots will raise productivity, there will be more money made, but of course, it will be concentrated with the super-talented and those who are able to leverage their skills.  Labor is a form of redistribution in that the super-talented need to hire the less talented to work for them to make the products we all enjoy.  And there is another problem:  who will buy and use products if no one has any money?

Say in the future, when 20% unemployment is normal, maybe we will need to give people an "allowance."  This will serve as a basic social safety net and a way to give everyone something to spend.  I suppose in way, this is already welfare and we know the drawbacks of such a system.  Ah...who knows...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stephen Curry 

Say you are an NBA team entering a playoff series.  You look over at the other bench and who are you afraid of?  Obviously LaBron James and Kevin Durant.  Even Russell Westbrook because of his athleticism.  But isn't Steph Curry right up there?  Aren't you thinking "oh shit, how are we gonna stop this guy if he gets hot?"  He could go for 20 in any given quarter.  But he can also pass and get his teammates involved.  He's the only player I've ever seen where a pull up three on a fast break makes sense.

Friday, April 26, 2013

I Like This Quote

“Every great idea is on the verge of being stupid.” Michel Gondry.  Hat tip, John August podcast.

Sadly, the corollary idea isn't true:  every stupid idea is not on the verge of being great.
This Changes Everything

Westbrook out of the playoffs.  The West just became wide open.  All the major teams have significant injury problems.  It probably makes the Heat overwhelming favorites -- but at least the West playoffs will be fun.

OKC - without Westbrook, they are majorly diminished.  Whoever they get in round 2 - Clips or Memphis is going to be a tough, seven game series, I bet.

San Antonio - Ginobli and Parker are banged up, but playing.  OKC was going to be a challenge physically, but now they might be the favorites.

Denver - too injured.  Gallo, Farid, Lawson.  A red-hot Warriors team.  They could get to the finals or get bumped in the first round.

Clippers - actually the Clips are in a good spot, except the fact they are playing Memphis - a team of men - who are a difficult out.  Same as Denver - could get bumped first round or make the finals.

Memphis - don't think they can make the finals without any outside shooting.  I love this team, though, they just need a few guys like San Antonio has.  Imagine if they somehow got a Ginobli.  They would be really, really good.  Love Gasol and Randolph's games.

Golden State - fun as all hell to watch.  Don't think they can make the finals -- to reliant on outside shooting and missing one of their top players now, Lee.  Could upset Denver, though.

Lakers - gone in 4 or 5.

Houston - even without Westbrook, I don't think they can win more than 1 game against OKC.  As good as Harden is, Durant washes him out and their other guys don't match OKC, I don't think.
Cousin Marriage

Is very normal in some parts of the world - especially the Middle East - and makes democracy tough.

I wish someone had brought this up in 2002.  One of the best arguments I've yet to hear against nation building in the Middle East.
A Very Bad Sign of the Times

If you've ever been to poor 3rd or 2nd world countries, there are often parallel economies:  one for rich tourists and one for natives.  Oftentimes, dollars and the local currency will be accepted for goods, and inevitably the dollar will be "more expensive" using a normal exchange rate.  This, of course, is a sign you are being ripped off and more generally, a burdensome, uncivilized way of doing business.

Thing is, America is like this too, but on a grander scale.

I'm reading a book about the NBA -- most season ticket holders are corporate accounts.  These are tax-deductible and thus inflate the cost because no one is paying full freight.  This drives the costs way up and the regular joe is stuck paying a much higher (post-tax) rate for his tickets.  Where else do we see this?  Everywhere.  Food?  Lunches?  Dinner, drinks?  All these fancy restaurants, many are paid by corporations.  Often, the corporations are individual people with enough juice or a job that needs a corporation -- either way -- they are paying with cheaper money.  Company cars.  Entertainment.  Travel.  Stock purchases.  All these things have parallel ways of being paid for -- making it cheaper for those with tax-advantaged set ups and more expensive for normal people who don't.

Separately, college education is also a parallel economic situation.  Different people are paying different rates.  Full freight is impossibly expensive for private schools now - upwards of 60,000 a year.  Who has that kind of money?  Very few.  So yes, there are many who aren't paying the full tuition based upon the decisions of the financial aid folks.  There job is similar to the vendors hawking goods to tourists and locals - splitting up the cost depending on what they buyer can pay.  Not a sign of economic health, I don't think.  Too much energy expended on both sides haggling and over-considering price and cost -- drives people to frustration and eventually quitting the market.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Bet This Is Right

George W. Bush is smarter than you.

I'd be willing to bet GW Bush is smarter than 99.9% of the people who repeatedly called him dumb or stupid.  He got higher SAT scores than Al Gore -- not that SAT scores necessarily translate to intelligence -- but among the people who measure such things, they do.

Reading:  Point Blank screenplay

Fantastic.  My appreciation for this film grows with time.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Book:  Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson

I know he's supposed to be one of the greatest living American writers, but I honestly just don't see it.  The book of stories is spare, clear, well-written, but it never ropes me in or truly delivers an emotional punch.  Maybe I just a hacky reader.  But let me put it this way - I'm reading a non-fiction book right now - The Break of the Game - which is much more engaging and fascinating from a pure reading pleasure standpoint than these stories.  I feel like the non-fiction delivers a much more insightful look into living, basketball, and the American soul than the drug addled adventures of Jesus' Son.

UPDATE:  I guess I'm not the only one -- this guy hates -- really hates - Tree of Smoke.

They pulled an episode.  I want to figure out how to find it.  Internet.  I like this intro and the fact the showrunner looks like Corey Feldman's evil twin.
The A's

Dollar for dollar, the best organization in baseball.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Orwellian Language Watch

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being charged with using a "Weapon of Mass Destruction."  A pressure cooker is not a WMD.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Film:  The Winning Season

Movie came up in one of the podcasts.  Speaking of, here is a link to our discussion of Spring Breakers.

Back to the movie.  Good little indy flick.  Great group of actors.  Writing/story was a bit by-the-numbers, but on a Monday afternoon, who wants to fight windmills?  Not I.
Old Man Miller

Watching bits and pieces of the Warrior-Nuggets game, I got emotional watching Andre Miller play.  28 points.  Go-to guy getting a great shot at the end of the game to win it.  I can't root against either of these teams - they're just too likable.  I remember hearing a story about how Miller would often show up fat and out-of-shape at the beginning of each season because he would just eat McDonalds in the off-season.  But he would always play his way into shape and then show up big in the playoffs.  I miss that element of sports.  I'm tired of all these guys working out all summer, getting injections of alien substances into their bodies to turn themselves into super-humans.  All this "work."  We forget this is a game, too, and we watch because we want to see humans play.  Miller is a human in a game where we reward and celebrate robots (Kobe) -- and now LeBron and Durant are turning into robots as well.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Postmodern Prudes

The schizophrenic nature of popular morality today.

TV:  Game of Thrones, S 3, Ep 4

Easily the best episode of the season.  Felt almost like a season finale.  Lots of big twists and turns.  Now the fun begins.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


TV:  Hannibal, ep 3

My new (very) guilty pleasure.  Boy, was an insane show.  Total wacko trash.  Sick beyond sick.  Is it dark comedy?  I can't tell.  I actually get a little scared watching this show, which is a strange thing for an adult male to admit.  I suppose there was always humor in the Hannibal character.
What To Make of Boston

Strange days.  More than other recent episodes of violence, the attacks resemble the Dorner attack in Los Angeles.  They are the work of estranged, weird fellows who feel ostracised from society and who are obviously influenced by images from mass media, movies, and video games.  They really do play out like the 3rd act of an action film.  Sure, these brothers were Islamic, but bear none of the signs of radical Salafists or Wahhabists whose ideology fuels Al Queda to Hamas to all the groups in between around the world.  Maybe more will come to light later, but the localized character of the attack, the reports from people who knew them, all points towards some weird misfit men-gone-crazy narrative.

I remember a bunch of years ago there was a bank robbery in Los Angeles with two guys wearing armor shooting it out with cops.  Then were the theater attacks and of course, the Columbine shooting.  What are the nature of these things?  From the 70s to the 90s, the nightmare in our society were serial killers and cults -- Ted Bundy to the Zodiac Killer to Jeffery Dahmer to the Masons, to Branch Davidian, to Jonestown.  The 21st century has brought us the terrorists and spree killers.  I wonder if this is a reflection of society or just what the mass media reports.  Or perhaps the mass media influences what shape violence takes?

I heard an interesting thing on the radio yesterday.  They did studies on young children post-9/11 to see what they understood about the event.  They understood the United States had been attacked by terrorists, but thought 400 buildings around the country had been destroyed.  The reason:  endless circular news about the attacks.  Their young minds were unable to understand it was the same video being show from different angles repeated over and over.

Thursday, April 18, 2013



My Heat Is An Idiot by Davy Rothbart

A collection of comedic essays, in the vein of David Sedaris.  Really loved the second essay about Valentine's day.  Guy is fun writer.  Stopped reading about 75% of the way, just got tired of the writing.  Sort of like how even if you like someone a lot, you can't hang out with them all the time.  Will probably go back at some point.

Journey to the End of the Night by Celine

French novelist writing about the experiences of a young Frenchman during WW1 and afterwards chasing love and trying to survive.  Reminds me of a French JD Salinger.  Read the first 100 pages or so, was liking it, but the novels spans a long time period and my attention was drawn away.  Maybe will go back to again.

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Never read the border trilogy, so might as well get it on.  Might read in conjunction with one of the following:  Jesus Son, The Savage Detectives, or The Breaks of the Game
Less Money?  No Problem

Indeed, this is one of the more unexpected and best parts about America today.  You don't actually need much money to live well.  The things that cost are:  housing, healthcare, and education.  One can actually live a pretty nice live separate from those considerations.  A very smart, practical person would rent, eat well and exercise to healthy in a preventative way, and self educate (or try otherwise to enhance whatever public school education is available).

Obviously, these things are easier for some than others.  If you suffer from a chronic disease, get in a terrible accident, or live in an area with bad public schools, it makes it harder.  But still, it's better to be poor in America today, than rich in many parts of the world or at any other time in history.  That's a good thing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Cult of Kobe

The sane people on sports radio are talking about how Dwight Howard and Steve Nash will play better without Kobe.  Very true.  Not only that, Gasol and Blake are playing better.  In and of itself, this does not mean the Lakers are better without Kobe, but the guy doesn't - and never did - make his teammates better.  This is why I don't believe Kobe is an all-time great.  The case for him being an all-time great rests on one item:  five rings.  There is supporting evidence: longevity, offensive statistics, defense capability, but all of these elements are pointless without the rings.

There is slippery logic going on within the cult of Kobe.  Five rings broken up over two different eras.  The Shaq era and the Gasol era.  No even talks anymore about the fact that Kobe was the second best player on the team during his first three rings.  What happens when Wade wins 2 or 3 rings with LaBron?  Does this escalate him into Kobe territory?  Why not?  Wade wins one ring as "the man" and then two or three more as the second best player?

Let's not forget:  Shaq wasn't just the man in the way Dirk is man on Dallas or Carmelo is the man in New York.  Shaq was the best player in the league.  Shaq scored 30 points a game with 12 rebounds and was completely unstoppable.  He clogged the lane on defense and the offense was run through him.  His only flaw was famously poor free throw shooting.  If the guy could shoot free throws and played at his high level a few more years (and maybe if Kobe wasn't such a weirdo), he would be in discussion for greatest players of all time.

In the Gasol era, let's remember two things:  1) Gasol and Bynum won game 7 against Boston in 2010 because Perkins was out.  Kobe shot 6 for 24.  2)  In 2008, the Lakers beat a weak-ass Orlando team.

Kobe gets too much credit for the five rings.  He wasn't the man for three of them and the two other victories were not particularly iconic or even the result of his spectacular play.

Further, the statistics prove Kobe isn't a particularly "clutch" player.  And there is certainly a big enough sample size given the enormous amount of shots he's taken.

Look, he's talented, he's competitive, I get that a lot of people like him.  But his teammates play better when he's not around and the media and his fan embellish his "greatness."  There is a cult of Kobe and many believe he is greater than he is.  Believe me, I've watched him play for a long time.

Film:  Upstream Color

Non-narrative filmmaking has never really been my thing.  During film school it piqued my interest a bit, but ultimately, I don't have much passion for it or anything to say about the form.

And I'd say this isn't really a narrative.  The way I think about it - Upstream Color is to narrative film as as poetry is to fiction.  Good cinematography.

It's Worse Than That

No one is crying about the Decline of Men.  I imagine if you brought this us to feminists, the overt or covert response would be "about time."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Film:  Punch Drunk Love

In the end, I'm not much of a PTA fan.  When you're talking about auteurs, I think you could break them into two basic categories:  genre filmmakers and fetish filmmakers.  PTA is a fetish filmmaker.  He is guided by his own fetishes and sensibilities.  Nic Refn is a fetish filmmaker.  Tarantino is a fetish filmmaker.  David Lynch.  All work within genre - at times - but the genre is secondary.  The fetish is primary.  In a lot ways, these kind of filmmakers are take it or leave it for viewers and polarizing.  That is to say, if you share in the fetish and the world and the sensibility, then you tend to enjoy the films.  Others will not and are generally puzzled by the reception.  These types of films tend to elicit the most passionate reactions from viewers - both defenders and naysayers.  They are riskier in nature than genre filmmaking which relies on story telling and cinematic traditions.  But they are more likely to be unwatchable and embarrassing.

In any case, even among the big fetish filmmakers, PTA is not one I've totally ever connected with.  Same with Jim Jarmusch.  In fact, I tried watching PDL before and fell asleep and turned it off.  I also fell asleep this time watching it.  My ranking of his films:

1.  Hard Eight
1.  Boogie Nights

Too hard to say.  On the one hand, I love the ambition of Boogie Nights and when it's good, it's great.  But it's overly long and depressing and I just don't think about it as fondly as I do Hard Eight, which I view as this incredible first movie made by a 25 year old.

3.  There Will Be Blood
4.  Magnolia
5.  The Master
6.  Punch Drunk Love

All this said about PTA, of all the living filmmakers, I think he has the best chance to go out and make one of the greatest films of all time.  If the guy could get the right material and the right state of mind:  look out.  In this way, I sort of view him like Kobe Bryant.  I don't like the style of play, I don't like hero-ball, but yeah, the guy had an 81 point game.

And just to round things out -- examples of auteurs who make genre films would be Woody Allen, Michael Mann, David Lean, Walter Hill...these kind of filmmakers.

TV:  Hannibal

Surreal times we live in that there is a show on NBC about Will Graham and Hannibal Lector....  Watched the first couple episodes last night and found them strangely watchable although I have no idea how the show will sustain itself.  Are we meant to believe there is a serial killer at work every single week?

The premise of the show isn't bad: we focus on the time period before Manhunter/Red Dragon where Will Graham works with Hannibal before anyone knows he is this awful serial killer.  We know from the backstory of Manhunter, Hannibal almost kills Will, but that is about it.  It should be noted, Hannibal is a side character in the current show and thus far does not occupy much screen time.  You also gotta give Mads Mikkelsen a bit of credit -- he totally makes the role his own -- and doesn't even come close to the Cox or Hopkins way of playing it.

In the second episode there is a serial killer at work who is burying victims alive and using them as fertilizer to grow mushrooms on their corpes.  You heard that right.  This is completely absurd, but also, original.  I've yet to see that before.

Monday, April 15, 2013


TV:  Game of Thrones, Season 3 ep 3

This season is easily the most complicated and confusing of all.  No longer is there a main character, but rather a series of independent stories.  I love it, because I gobble up the exposition and mythology and history, but I imagine it disorienting and confusing for many viewers.  The showrunners deserve patience, however, because they've done it in every season, made all the elements come together by the end.  Also, the reason Benioff and Weiss wanted to make the show in the first place is for the 3rd book/season, so I imagine it is all building to something.

TV:  Louie CK:  Oh My God

It must be a sign of something that I've fallen asleep on consecutive nights watching it.  There is wisdom in some of what Louie is saying, but the humor is oddly spaced out, and I find myself laughing quite a bit less than in the best comedy specials.  I can't tell if the bit about him having trouble putting on socks is funny or actually really lame.  I mean, the bit is about having trouble putting on socks.  Say it aloud:  putting on socks.  Is this funny or just stupid?  I went to an amateur comedy show the other week where a guy did 5 minutes of how much he liked A-1 Sauce and titties.  I can't stop thinking about it, not because it was good, but because it was so preposterous.  "I love A-1 sauce.  I put it on fries.  I put it on eggs.  I put it on steak.  I put it on hamburgers.  I put it on toast.  I love A-1 sauce."  This was the bit.  Then it goes "You know what I else I love?  Titties!  I love big titties, small titties, black titties, white titties, brown titties, all kind of titties."

I suppose I should finish the comedy special, but I hold that Louie's first two seasons of his show are the best expression of his POV.  Some comedians are best on stage:  Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy (although his movies are close), and Richard Pryor.  Some are best on TV:  Louie, Larry David, and Seinfeld are coming to mind.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Good Things/Bad Things

The Good:

1.  Siam Sunset.  Apparently, one of the few places you can get Thai breakfast in town.  They serve Thai jook - a rice porridge.  I love Chinese jook and so wanted to try it.  Place was packed with Thai folks on a Friday morning.  This place is awesome.  Also serves Hainan Chicken.  Will be going back a lot, I imagine.

2.  Trader Joe's frozen chicken tenders.  Cheap, easy to prepare, healthy, tasty..  Leave 'em in the freezer, defrost them before dinner, cook 'em up on the stove in a little garlic, salt pepper, add some water to boil-cook them for the last bit, maybe a bay leaf.  Simple main course.

3.  The smaller head on the Sonicare toothbrush.  I had an old version of this thing and didn't like it much.  Convinced by my dentist to get the new version and use the smaller head.  Much better.

The Bad:

1.  AT&T U-Verse.  Inconceivably, it's worse than Time Warner.  Louie CK has a decent bit about our contemporary impatience with technology -- and I sympathize -- up to a point.  In some ways all this new technology makes life less pleasant.  Yes, we have 100s of channels, but with AT&T U-verse the TV doesn't even turn on half the time and I need to restart the box, which is like restarting a computer every time you need to watch TV.  You call, talk to machines for 5 minutes, get a person, they schedule a service appointment, and then the guy doesn't show up.  Meanwhile, you've wasted half your day making arrangements to be there.  This has happened multiple times.

2.  101 entrance on Western Blvd.  Horrible design.  Impossible traffic.
Holy Shit!

This is the funniest baseball brawl move I've ever seen.  Hat tip, Simmons.

Hope For the Future

This gives me hope for the future:  teens growing tired of Facebook and Youtube.
Kobe Might Be Done

At 34 with a torn Achilles...sad to say...I'm not sure he returns.  I can't imagine Kobe adopting a different style of play like Ray Allen or Jason Kidd in his late career.  I can see him continuing to play like he always has with diminished skills and becoming a burden, but I can't see him adapting his game.  I could be wrong.  I certainly think he will try to return.  The Lakers are in a sticky spot with Kobe.  He's become a legend in the minds of his fans and you don't tell a legend to retire.  But for all those folks chanting MVP -- struggling for an 8 seed -- come on.  This is delusion.  LaBron could play with 4 high school players and ease into the playoffs.

Friday, April 12, 2013

What A Game

Warriors - Lakers tonight.  Awesome game.  Lakers need to win to make the playoffs.  Steph Curry goes for 32 in the first half and 45 for the night.  Kobe played great and then got injured.  Just an overall crazy game.  Lakers won by 2 points, Curry almost made a 75ft shot.

Film:  Easy Money

The Scandinavians are getting pretty damn good at making crime movies.  The last act of this film is a bit of a mess, but I was down with it for a long time.  Sort of what I wished Place Beyond Pines was going to be.  A lot more impressive than the next movie the same director made:  Safe House.

Been confronted with wanting to go to the movies lately and having reservations paying $25 (including popcorn and a drink) to see films unconcerned with story.  Critical culture and the culture of film schools pooh-pooh plot as one of the lowest of all concerns.  And perhaps, aesthetically speaking, they are noble in their pursuit and celebration of "pure cinema."  But it brings up the $25 question.

In the last month, I saw Place Beyond the Pines and Stoker.  Looking at the other options this weekend - Upstream Color and To The Wonder - and I'm guessing about the later, but sure about the former, plotting was of basically no concern to filmmakers.  Mood.  Attitude.  Style.  Imagery.  All these were of higher order priority.

So why pose as a narrative if one is so dismissive of plot?  Why not make an experimental film?  Why not make a short?  We all know the answer: money.  There is no economic model to fund shorts or experimental films, only narratives.  So what should be said of filmmakers who are concerned with the experimental, but sell their products as narrative?  Are they artists or hucksters?  What would say of a hamburger joint who sells us tofu burgers?  We call them crooks.

Stan Brakhage, Chris Marker, Godfrey Reggio all made their films, but didn't pose them as mass-audience narratives.  They didn't try to sell them as remakes (Stoker) or crime dramas (Place Beyond The Pines).

These filmmakers want it all ways.  They want artistic cred, financial remuneration, critical praise, and shiny awards.  They want a wife and a mistress.  I don't think this deserves praise.  And it certainly isn't worth $25 a pop.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Film:  The Place Beyond The Pines

My love affair with movies lasted less than 24 hours.  Whereas The Driver reinvigorated me, this movie made me think the movies are done-zo.  Seriously, it made me think our culture is no longer capable of producing movies - that somehow our mix of money-people, actors, directors, critics, distributors, all of them forgot or never knew in the first place what makes a film satisfying.  How is it that we can be getting worse at making movies?  I suppose the money is less and the experts leave and retire and leave the reigns to the amateurs and the untalented.  Is that what happens?

I wanted to see this film from the preview.  I thought it looked like a James Grey movie, maybe a "We Own the Night," a gritty crime drama.  I heard vaguely good reviews, but mostly a lot of silence, and I hoped to find a little gem in the rough.  Oy vey.  Couldn't be further.  The movie is foremost incompetent.  The storytelling is dull and takes forever to reveal nothing interesting.  The characters make zero sense.  I could list it out, but I'd be giving the movie too much credit.  Just amateur hour and grossly indulgent with the actors.  It's got a great cast - but this is acting run amok.  Give these actors crying bait and they're weeping all over the place, in any scene when it vaguely makes sense.  We have no idea why.  Just terrible storytelling.  The only thing worse was the action filmmaking.  What the f--- was going on in the motorcycle chases?  Were they filmed on iphones?

Gosling continues his nonsensical attempt at tough-guy posturing and has zero sense of humor.  This demonstrates low intelligence.  Jesus, it makes me miss Arnold Schwarzenegger as an actor.

Film:  The Driver

If you want to learn how to make a movie, I'd say watch The Driver.  It was a how-to manual, like a goddamn Ikea instruction packet.  Boy.  I really liked it.  Tarantino must of watched this a couple times before writing and prepping Reservoir Dogs.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Tournament

I watched bits here and there, including some games live.   I ended up rooting for Wichita State, I like how they played.

My biggest overall beef:  I thought the referring was terrible.  They called way too many fouls, except on Louisville, who for some reason, was allowed to rape guys.  Seemed like there was a major drop off in ref quality, but maybe I haven't watched college basketball enough.
Something To Follow

Two big networks are considering going off-air and becoming cable channels.  This event probably sounds more significant than it would be in practice.  Most of the things I watch are probably cable anyway.  Then again, it might be the nail-in-the-coffin for the way I grew up watching TV.  I still think content is king, but my biggest worry is everything becomes a niche and our culture loses anything to define ourselves by.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Don't Become A Literature PhD

A long slate article about how going for a literature PhD will make you an emotional train wreck.  Have you noticed this trend?  Every article tell people what not to do - don't follow my footsteps.  Don't do this profession.  The life is horrible, etc, etc.  We can't all not do stuff - so what's the math?  Should we all sell insurance?

I think it's admirable to follow your passion and go for the gold.  Why not?  You only live once.  I think the caveat people need to take, however, is to be honest with themselves with whether they are capable of achieving it and whether they are on track to.  And if your dreams don't pan out - no big deal - move on to something else and then you tried and learned along the way it wasn't in the cards for you.  What plagues younger folks, unnecessarily, is this idea of failure being all-consuming.  From the article:
By the time you finish—if you even do—your academic self will be the culmination of your entire self, and thus you will believe, incomprehensibly, that not having a tenure-track job makes you worthless. You will believe this so strongly that when you do not land a job, it will destroy you, and nobody outside of academia will understand why. (Bright side: You will no longer have any friends outside academia.)
These are not the thoughts of a mature, well balanced person.  Successful businessmen try and fail with ideas all the time.  They spend years building businesses for them to fail.  So what?  They start anew.  If you love books and wanted to be a PhD, I'm sure there are plenty of high school English jobs out there.  Sure, you're overqualified.  So what?  Teaching young people to be passionate about something - I don't see how that is such a waste of a life.  Shit, work at a library.  Open a bookstore.  Write book reviews.  I don't know - it strikes me there is plenty of jobs one could do with a literature PhD.  Get a job at a coffee shop and run a book club.  I don't know.  Is this so horrible?  Teaching your friends and community members more about your field of expertise.  Do it as a hobby.

All of this is why I believe you should try things you enjoy or at least find tolerable.  Or maybe you just want to earn money and have health insurance and coach your kids baseball teams -- and that's admirable too.  We put too much on "what do you do for a living" when we are young as if it matters.  Ask old people how much they think about work.  I doubt very much.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Unintended Consequences?

Some small businesses will opt to pay healthcare penalty because they can't afford to pay for insurance for all employees.

I expect there will be a lot of this.

Amazon plays by different rules than everyone else.  At the moment, Wall Street doesn't care about profit, but just sales volume.  This is like a bizarro monopoly, when a single company has a gigantic market advantage, but does not strive for profit.  It's like a government utility.  I wonder what will happen - I like the service Amazon provides - but I wonder if I would like it if they started charging full freight.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

I Love This Signing

Niners grab Asomugha for pennies.

It'll help to have an awesome front seven.  And 31 ain't that old.  Asomugh looks like one of those lean guys that can play for awhile - I think he'll be a good fit.
Sounds Like A Terrific Guy

Ryan Lochte wants to be the next Kim Kardashian.
No Name Actor Leaves "Girls"

The life of a character actor is tough and one doesn't generally abruptly leave an HBO show (and paycheck).  I like the article's description of the show:
In case you are not familiar with “Girls,” it is a series about a group of self-indulgent, spoiled twenty-somethings living in New York City who neither know how to act like adults nor engage in socially or sexually normal behavior. It also features Dunham and/ or another character naked in nearly episode.
I also like this:
“[Chris] is grateful for the experience of collaborating with Lena, Judd [Apatow], and the entire ‘Girls’ cast and crew, but right now he’s working on numerous other projects and has decided not to return to the show,” his rep confirmed to Page Six.
I would not be surprised to never see him again.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Did You Get the Memo?

"Thirty is not the new twenty, and pretending otherwise is a mistake."


Listened to David Mamet on the Treatment.  Other than Red Belt, I'm generally more interested in what Mamet says about his work than the work itself these days.  He makes an interesting claim:  movies are dead, but old movies live.

I wonder whether in my lifetime the theater going experience will cease and movies will essentially become relics, theaters supported by public money and showing just old classics.  It seemed unthinkable just 15 years ago and to some extent, still unthinkable today, but rate at which certain entertainment type of things change is pretty unprecedented.

Then again, this realization only makes my desire to make movies more urgent to get one in before they disappear altogether, like a soldier fighting in the Pacific Theater in the last days of WW2.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Americans Not Saving Enough

According to the Economist.  But why would we, given savers are punished by tiny interest rates and debtors are bailed out by the government left and right?
Obama's Basketball Schtick

It really bugs me.  Here is a story about him teasing Rondo about his shot.  Obama has no right to tease Rondo, who is better at basketball than Obama is at anything.  Far better.  Except, I suppose, getting elected, if you count that as a skill.

The stories I read about Obama playing with all this ex-pro and D1 players truly bug me.  The guy played like JV basketball and thinks because he's President, he can ball it up with all these amazing guys on a regular basis.  Either they play with training wheels or Obama doesn't get to do shit during the game.  This bugs me as a sportsman and a competitor.  It insults their skills.  Why would you want to play picked up basketball with guys 10 times better than you?  It's a show off move and unsporty.  I really don't like it.
Early Marriage

McArdle recommends early marriage.
It's hard enough to find the right person. Demanding that you find the right person in the exact five year window that has been socially prescribed for marrying is putting too much pressure on yourself. It risks pushing you into a window where you won't be able to have kids (if you want them) or where you'll be too tired to cope. Which is fine if you've accumulated full-time-nanny money by the age of 40, but I regret to inform you youngsters that most of you won't.

The older you get, the more your dating pool shrinks. You also run into the Problem of Grandma's Lamp: the more settled you get, the harder it is to adjust to a potentially excellent mate who doesn't quite fit into the life you've made. Obviously, these barriers are not insurmountable, since lots of people get married in their late thirties. But it's easier if you've got an open mind: if you're ready to get married whenever the right person presents themself.
There are cities - New York and LA - certainly - where the dating pool doesn't really start to shrink until the mid-30s.  But lets also not forget - someone benefits from a shrinking dating pool.  I know of an older guy who proudly boasts he could only snag his wife because she was getting desperate to settle.  Had they been younger, she would have seen other options available and probably not have gone for him.  They seem happy.

Monday, April 01, 2013


Film:  The Cincinnati Kid

"You're good, kid.  But so long as I'm around, you're second best.  Might as well get used to it."

One hell of a movie.  One of the best gambling movies I've seen.  Definitely influenced the Color of Money.

LA Times does a report about Marin County and affordable housing.

I'm of mixed mind about these sort of things.  I don't live up there now, but know it is very difficult for regular people to buy houses in Marin because of the cost.  On the other hand, the area is beautiful, has top notch public schools, and is generally a fantastic place to live.  People in Marin are concerned if they build more developments, they'll ruin some of the natural beauty and of course introduce more people.  Why should any county be under obligation to build more housing in order for more people to move there?


TV:  Game of Thrones, Season 3, Ep 1

A review from Grantland.

Am I the only one rooting for Stannis to take the Iron Throne?

I enjoyed the episode, but there is so much going on, I don't feel like we get to spend enough time with any of the characters.  We didn't even see Arya or what happened to Theon or the Kingslayer and the monstrous woman taking him to Kings Landing.