Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Favorite Random NBA Players

1. "The Professor" Andre Miller. You gotta love the professor. He looks like an old man playing against high school kids. His shifty moves, clever passes, and inability to run or jump -- awesome. Brains over brawn.

2.  "Z-Bo" Zach Randolph.  I love when Z-Bo uses his bullhead to create just enough space for himself to get off his little lefty shot.  Z-Bo's dirty, old school, post game is pure old man skill.

3.  John Wall. Does this guy have a nickname yet? It should be "Arms" or something.  The guy's arms are incredibly long.  I'm new to watching Wall, but I like the guy.

4. Tony Allen. He's a pitbull, a junkyard dog you sick on your best player. Durant is having nightmares. Love the guy.

5. Patrick Beverly. He's similar to Tony Allen, but smaller and faster. Fearless.

The Thought Police

The NBA bans Donald Sterling for life.  The sanctimonious crowds cheer and claim another scalp in the quest for "racial tolerance."  This is social justice on the cheap because it costs no one anything - except, I suppose, Donald Sterling.  And another creepy case of The Thought Police going after jobs and reputations much in the way of the Hollywood Black List of the 1950s.  Note -- the CEO of Mozilla who just got fired for "supporting traditional marriage," Armond White, the film critic who got banned from the NY Critics Circle for "heckling,"and now, Donald Sterling for racism.  You could also toss Alec Baldwin and Michael Richards into the mix for saying "offensive" things.

Bret Easton Ellis calls this "outrage culture." And the trend you'll notice is none of the people actually did anything illegal or immoral.  They merely thought wrong, or uttered wrong, or supported an unpopular political position.

The Donald Sterling story is not about white master culture and black slaves.  The Donald Sterling story is about outrage culture and the horrible glee with which we like to take people down.  This is a reflection of misery and anxiety about the future (ie economic) and taking these "scalps" gives a temporary sense of satisfaction that others are "worse people" and being punished.

You ask how I think society ought to handle the situation? Do nothing. Ignore him. He's a doofus, not a threat to the social fabric.  But Big Brother won't stand for it.  Orwell was wrong about one thing - he thought Big Brother was the government - but it turns out - Big Brother is us.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Donald Sterling

"Don't bring black people to my games."

So bizarre.  Is it legal for TMZ to record private phone conversations?  Why does a racist own an NBA team, a league that is predominantly African American?  How can an owner be punished by the NBA?  He's the owner!  And what did he do?  He said something uncouth in private.  Why is being racist the worst thing a person can do in 2014?  Criminals get more respect than racists.  Again, why does a racist own an NBA team?  Why did Sterling say this in the middle of the playoffs when the Clippers are contenders for the first time in ages?

I hope the players and Doc try to ignore the situation the best they can and keep winning.  But imagine them refusing to play or something in protest.  Now that would even be more bizarro.  Political correctness meets big business meets sporting competition at the highest level.  Enjoyable. Very enjoyable.

Monday, April 21, 2014


One thing about the Bay Area : when I'm here, I follow baseball.  Prediction: Oakland A's will win the World Series this year.  They are GOOOOOD.  Right now, they have the 2nd best record in baseball with a rocky start by their bullpen and two injuries to starting pitchers.  Combine this with a stud prospect who will be brought up at some point in the year (Puig, Trout, Harper, anyone?) and the A's just have that feel.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Government Spending

A good 12 point summary on econ.  My favorite one:
10. When a government spends, its citizens eventually pay, either today or tomorrow, either through explicit taxes or implicit ones like inflation.

Obamacare Flaw

One of many, seemingly.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Defining Success and Failure

Ross Douthat tries to come up with metrics to determine whether Obamacare works or not.  It's hard.

But then again, life in general is kinda like this...how do you measure how you're doing?  I'd say most of the time there are both positive and negative signs.
What Could Go Wrong?

Jews in Eastern Ukraine ordered to register with pro-Russian authorities.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Should We Force People to Save For Retirement?

Asks Megan McArdle.  Short answer: no.

In my experience, forcing people to "behave" never solves the underlying problem - discipline - and tends to create host of other, unanticipated ones.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


A brief, brilliant essay on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
In the episode with Mr. Seinfeld and David Letterman, the departing host of the “Late Show With David Letterman” on CBS, the guest seems uncomfortable being in an actual coffee shop, speaking within earshot of actual people.  
 “Can we just ask these people to leave?” Mr. Letterman says. 
 “We don’t own this place,” Mr. Seinfeld answers. Mr. Letterman allows himself a chuckle, then says, “We can change that, though, can’t we?” They can. Must be nice.
I enjoy the show, but the guy is right. We're turning into a caste society, at least on the coasts.

Film: Election by Johnnie To

The comparisons to The Godfather are inaccurate. If anything, Election and Triad Election more resemble Goodfellas.  But the comparisons are meaningless -- the films are not as strong throughout as the American classics. But the final scene of Election is so remarkable...I can think of nothing to compare it to other than 2001 Space Odyssey (hint: not the end bit).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

An Oldie, But A Goodie

The Niners should not pay Kaepernick.  This article nails it. Excerpts:
Put emotion aside. Think who Kaepernick is and what he’s accomplished. The 49ers dumped Alex Smith and anointed — yes anointed — Kaepernick to win the Super Bowl. Nothing less. They didn’t anoint him to lose the Super Bowl, something he’s already done. And they didn’t anoint him to lose in the NFC championship game. Smith already did that and he came pretty cheap. The 49ers expect Kaepernick to be above the Alex Level and you could argue forcibly he is not. The 49ers inserted Kaepernick into the best team in football as the final ingredient and he did not come through. For that, a man does not earn $20 million. Or $15 million. 
Still, if I’m the Niners, I don’t pay Kaepernick Flacco money. I don’t make him obscenely wealthy because I think one day he just might win a Super Bowl, not sure when. I don’t pay for hypotheticals. I pay for production. And I sure don’t ruin my salary structure for Kaepernick, don’t risk losing in free agency Anquan Boldin, Donte Whitner, Phil Dawson, Tarell Brown and others. I do not degrade my team to make Kaepernick happy.
The Super Bowl champion Ravens degraded their team — goodbye, Anquan — to satisfy Flacco, and they tanked this season. No thanks. 
I’ll tell you something else. If I’m the 49ers, I don’t sign Kaepernick to Flacco money because I (me being the 49ers) don’t ask much from my quarterback — at least not from Kaepernick as he currently exists. Flacco, Cutler, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers — you name them — are vital to running their teams’ offenses. But the Niners run a glorified college passing game. I’m not the first to say this. Every Kaepernick read is predetermined — even that last failure of a pass to Michael Crabtree in Seattle. It’s something like, “Colin, just make the throw we tell you to make.” The 49ers do not ask him to read the field. It’s more like they tell him to look at the defense, decide in advance — hope — which receiver will be open and throw that sucker. This is not difficult. This is not Peyton Manning studying the field. Why should the Niners pay big money for something so remedial? I mean, really. The 49ers could get someone else to do that. On the cheap. 
Question: Why don’t the 49ers let Kaepernick play out his contract year and then slap the franchise tag on him after that? 
Offer Kaepernick a contract extension — although I’d have no problem making him play out his contract year for bupkis. But OK, offer him an extension for the goodwill of it. Offer $7 million a season, $8 million a season, stuff like that. Modest. Sensible. What he’s worth. Don’t expect him to take it. Let him play out his contract. If he wins the Super Bowl, give him the big bump he wants. If he doesn’t win the Super Bowl and wants more than you think he’s worth, let him walk.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

First Good Simmons Article In Awhile

On Letterman retiring.
After Johnny Carson retired in 1992, David Letterman became the king and stayed the king, even as his show transitioned from antiestablishment to establishment. Leno drummed him in the ratings without matching Letterman’s relevance; he never mattered as much as Letterman did.
and this:
After Carson retired, only Letterman intimidated guests with his fame and talent, and later, everything else he came to mean. It’s probably not happening again. Even after I stopped watching Letterman regularly, like so many others, I always liked knowing he was still there.
Conan grabbed his “cool” corner first, then Stewart hijacked it for good (and graciously shared it with his buddy Stephen Colbert). But the multiyear Leno-to-Conan-to-Leno debacle kept Letterman relevant, if only because he seemed classier and more impressive by comparison. In 2014, “Jimmy vs. Jimmy” replaced “Jay vs. Dave” as late night’s ongoing narrative, with Fallon unexpectedly thriving by tapping into a new generation of Internet-savvy viewers. Fallon gushes over guests, plays mindless games with them and basically acts like they’re sleeping over in his bunk bed. He gravitates toward ideas that might catch on virally, like Kevin Bacon becoming the Footloose guy again, or Arnold saying “Get to the choppa.” It’s a relentlessly happy, well-structured, well-produced show built around a talented performer who doesn’t want to have a coherent conversation. With anyone. Nobody will ever fear going on Jimmy Fallon’s show. That’s the way he wants it.

You Better Have the Right Opinions

The new CEO of Mozilla was fired for having a political opinion.

We are now a country who goes after people's jobs when we disagree with one another.

I suppose we've tossed the old liberal saying "I don't agree with a word you said, but I'd fight to the death for your right to say it" and replaced it with "I don't agree with one of your opinions and therefore I'm going after your job."

And Will Saleton puts the shoe on the other foot.
Dissension. Building the team. Don’t fit. Sounds a lot like the case for removing Eich.
Two months ago Wayne Shimer of Des Moines, Iowa, sued his former employer after he was fired from his job at a convenience store. According to Shimer’s lawsuit, the store manager found out Shimer was gay and told him not to act "feminine" because it would “make customers and co-workers uncomfortable.” Shimer’s attorney says the manager made clear that “she didn't want his 'feminine behavior' to scare off the customers, and she was concerned that it may have some impact on some of the employees.”
Scare off customers. Make co-workers uncomfortable. Does that ring a bell?
Instapundit gets it right on American liberals:
I think, rather, that their view of liberalism is like Erdogan’s view of democracy — it’s a bus that you take until you get to your stop, at which point you get off.

Monday, April 07, 2014


TV: Banshee, pilot Episode

Almost good, but just a tad too cheesy. Some of the actors are good - the bad Amish guy, the female lead, Frankie Faisan. But others bring it down - the transvestite, the lead, and the Russian mobster. The show has some good ideas, but it'll be tough to stick with it.  Serial dramas are real challenges -- they inevitably become soap operas unless they have fantastic source material (ie GoT, Deadwood).  Even as good as True Detective was, it was smart to end where it did because the drama was going to spin into nonsense.  The Sopranos and The Wire are exceptions that prove the rule, in my opinion.  Both were created by men with massive stories to tell about cities they lived in -- and could draw from a massive well of source material (ie Mob coverage and/or city of Baltimore stories).

TV: Game of Thrones and Hannibal

One is my guilty pleasure (is guilty pleasure something you are embarrassed to enjoy?) and the other is the most impressive show on television.

Hannibal is preposterous, but the preposterous is just what franchises need.  And make no mistake, Hannibal Lector, a fictional cannibalistic serial killer, is one of the biggest franchises around.  What Marvel Character can stand up to this?

Red Dragon (book)
Manhunter (film)
Silence of the Lambs (book)
Silence of the Lambs (film)
Hannibal (novel)
Hannibal (film)
Red Dragon (film)
Hannibal Rising (novel)
Hannibal Rising (film)
Hannibal (TV Show)

I'd say none.  What this says about our culture, I don't want to know. But someone ought to write a dissertation on it.

Hannibal the TV show is the third best of the book adaptations after Silence of the Lambs and Manhunter.

Hannibal the show is far more creatively ambitious than anything Marvel does with their universe in the film and television realm.

Nothing to say about GoT other than I'm looking forward to the next episode.

Film: Enemy

Excellent filmmaking. Less interesting story. Overall, the movie a bit academic for my taste. Found myself checking email and the time. Also, a bit lacking in emotion. Nice ending, though. Spooky.

How long before Sarah Gadon gets cast as a Targaryen?

Enjoyable final. One great aspect of the NCAA tournament is watching fatigue become a factor. The guys get really worn out at the end of the game and in a one-and-done tournament, there is no tomorrow. Great match up of speed and quickness versus size and strength.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

My Letter to the Editor

Please stop the insanity of CicLAvia.
The last thing Los Angeles needs is more traffic.  Of all the streets in town, why close the main thoroughfare of the city, Wilshire Blvd?  There are plenty of other spots: Downtown; Skid Row, Figueroa St; Angeles Crest Highway; Ocean Blvd in Santa Monica, PCH.
And why are the events never well publicized to the residents?  It sneaks up on the locals and there's nothing worse than driving to an engagement and finding Wilshire completely closed and terrible traffic on Western and La Brea thoroughfares.  Carmageddon, the LA Marathon, all these events manage to publicize and allow residents to plan around them.  Even TV shows notify people in the neighborhood when they will be filming.
Traffic is one of the biggest problems in Los Angeles.  The organizers of CicLAvia seem to take a perverse delight in exacerbating it.
I doubt it'll get published.  So I'm glad to have a blog.
The Honorable Schoolboy and How I Knew The New Arrested Development Would Suck

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is one of my favorite books. It would come with me to the desert island if they said pick 5 to read for the rest of your life.  There's only a few big novels I've read multiple times - East of Eden, Tinker, Tailer, American Tabloid, Lonesome Dove -- can't think of others off the top of my head --

And yet, I've tried to read The Honorable Schoolboy (the sequel) at least 3-4 times now and I get progressively less far before putting it down.  Maybe it's because I own the "Quest for Karla" 3-bound books in a single volume and it feels weird to read it that way.  Maybe I need just a paperback.

But it says something strange -- that here there is an all time favorite -- and you go with same author, some of the same characters, the same world, and even a continuation of the same story...and it becomes unreadable. How does such a thing happen?  Because writing and creating fiction is a magic trick and a mystery.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Sitcom

In my opinion, the greatest of the TV forms.  It can pull things like this off.

TV Drama, on the other hand, can only deliver lesser versions of what the cinema or novels already do.  I suppose the best of the TV dramas give the non-readers the closest approximation to reading and a good reason to sit on the couch.
Who Will Replace Letterman?

I assume they'll use the Louie episode as a rough draft.

The only interesting person I can think of would be Seinfeld.


Restaurant: Church and State

Fancy French Bistro very near skid row. Strange town, Los Angeles. Charcuterie plate good. French onion soup good. Gin martini good. Salad good. Overall, a tasty, hip, pricey place to dine. I probably won't be going back soon.

Hike: Ferndell Street. Up to the observatory. My new favorite LA hike. No need to ever do Runyon. Santa Monica mountains still great, but for the proximity to my place and sites, this one is tough to beat. Can't believe I've lived in LA all these years and never done this one. Dumb. And you can get coffee and treats at the Trials restaurant.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


Film:  Carrie (1952)

Directed by William Wyler, starring Laurence Olivier.  I believe the filmmakers of The Artist were influenced by this film.

I didn't love the movie, but it was good and certainly falls under the category of "they don't make them like they used to."

Book:  The Secret Pilgrim by John Le Carre

My third favorite of Le Carre after Tinker Tailor and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.  Clever structure, a bit like a book of short stories, divided by chapters, but has a cohesiveness I enjoyed.  My favorite short chapter was about Smiley giving a pair of parents a chance to remember their criminal son fondly.  I got misty.

And now check out what Smiley said in 1990 and think about Crimea and Putin today:
"The first is no, we can never trust the Bear. For one reason, the Bear doesn't trust himself. The Bear is threatened and the Bear is frightened and the Bear is falling apart. The Bear is disgusted with his past, sick of his present and scared stiff of his future. He often was. The Bear is broke, lazy, volatile, incompetent, slippery, dangerously proud, dangerously armed, sometimes brilliant, often ignorant. Without his claws, he'd be just another chaotic member of the Third World. But he isn't without his claws, not by any means. And he can't pull his soldiers back from foreign parts overnight, for the good reason that he can't house them or feed them or employ them, and he doesn't trust them either. And since this Service is the hired keeper of our national mistrust, we'd be neglecting our duty if we relaxed for one second our watch on the Bear, or on any of his unruly cubs. That's the first answer."
There is a second answer as well and Le Carre, as usual, is of two minds.  Maybe our foreign policy establishment should read more fiction.
Maybe I'll Only Appreciate Kobe When He's Gone

Kobe is an asshole.  But sometimes assholes are what society needs.  He's right on this:
When I brought up LeBron James posting online a photo of the Heat players dressed in hoodies, with their heads bowed, in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, as political expression, Bryant seemed nonplussed. "I won't react to something just because I'm supposed to, because I'm African-American," he said. "That argument doesn't make sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and as a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American, we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we've progressed as a society? Well, if we've progressed as a society, then you don't jump to somebody's defense just because they're African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won't assert myself."

7 Million

Does the 7 million number make Obamacare a success?

The jury is still out.  And just wait until people start getting fined for not signing up.  Then we'll see if the so-called "mandate" works.
Did The Game Really Happen?

If you can't watch the Dodgers in LA, did the game really happen?

Magic Johnson better get on this one...
Gangster Bankers

Get ready to be outraged.  David Simon predicts we are entering the golden age of corruption because the local press is decimated.  I'd say we're already here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Smart, But...

Sheryl Sandberg sells half of her Facebook shares.  A smart move, no doubt, but if your COO is bailing out of the stock, it doesn't exactly bode well for the long term prospects of the company.  Just goes to show what I already suspect: the whole thing is a pyramid scheme.