Sunday, August 31, 2014


Film: Funny Girl

William Wyler sure knows how to shoot a scene.

There he goes and writes the best article about cinema in my recent memory. Hats off to Armond White -- 2004, The Year the Culture Broke.
Suddenly, the 20th century’s great unifying art form — the movies — got reduced to a medium for generating polarized reactions, its artists and audiences divided by media agitation. With no place for evenly waged exchanges of ideas and aesthetics, national sensibilities could only fracture. No-longer-impartial media used their prominence to drive those who disagreed into quiet but resentful enclaves. This rupture was not along lines of taste but was instead derived from religious and political differences. It divided the moviegoing public along lines of alleged bigotry and professed grievance. In this light, charges that Gibson was anti-Jewish were impossible to challenge, but those aggrieved accusations destroyed any chance of achieving common ground. Trust was obliterated. No film has split the country so decisively since The Birth of a Nation in 1915. 
The Passion and Fahrenheit, as movies and as cultural events, are showcases of media corruption and dereliction of duty. Such obstruction of justice and abuse of power created a psychic stress that the culture couldn’t overcome.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Newspapers Will Die

It's demographics.

I am extremely pessimistic about this development. And I ought to feel guilty because for a long time, I didn't order a newspaper (I do, now). We recently passed a healthcare law no one read. Vlad Putin is overturning global norms (ie how nation states behave and interact with one another) since the end of WW2 as we speak. We have tremendous issues, both large and small to deal with for the next 5, 10, 30, to 100 years. If we believe liberal democracy has a place in finding the answers to these questions and defining the future, we need an informed citizenry. Without news, we won't. I have absolutely zero faith there will be some type of digital revolution that will make all this information free. The very idea is preposterous and ludicrous prima facie.

We are veering toward an ominous point, where authoritarian, capitalistic regimes will hold significant power. And they will exercise it -- have zero doubt about it. Read this. If we want a glance at the future, simply look at how the Russian and Chinese governments treat their people and neighbors. American democracy is not healthy. Our foreign policy is lost. Our domestic policies are bandaid solutions. Propping up the stock market and taxing Peter to pay Paul isn't the way to rejuvenate the country.

We don't have the answers, but believe me, the end of the newspapers isn't going to help us figure it out.
Doesn't Get Old...

Cespedes trade isn't working. Watching the game right now. A's down 2-0, top of the 9th. Feels like we haven't scored in ages. Donaldson up. One man on. It'd be nice if Cespedes was in the on-deck circle. Underrated aspect of power hitting - they are up every night. As much as the stat nerds are convinced baseball is an individual sport masquerading as a team sport, I'm convinced a line-up matters and is interconnected. You'd like to mix righties and lefties and give the other team something to fear. Not to mention the fact you want a guy who is a threat to jack one everytime and can get hot when others aren't. I didn't like the trade, still don't. A's were the best team in baseball. Now, they are barely a .500 team because they can't hit.

Book: Beyond Bogota by Garry Leech

A skim. A not well-written account of a journalists kidnapping by FARC guerrillas in Columbia. South American history is pretty fascinating and a subject I'm presently curious about -- but this particular book was not very enlightening. The opening parts of Killing Pablo were much more pleasurable to read.

Film: Stand Up Guys

Not hip, not great, but not terrible either. Easy to mock and for "cool" people to ignore. But I prefer a world in which movies like this can exist - even thrive - versus a world where movies like Spring Breakers are heralded. At least there is heart in here, a few decent lines of dialog, and some fun scenes and pleasant faces to look at.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Super Bowl Future Bets

The odds. I only like longshots for future bets that can possibly be hedged later.

San Diego Chargers - 43 to 1
Arizona Cardinals - 60 to 1
Minnesota Vikings - 100 to 1

I could see a scenario where San Diego has the best offense in the league and times it right with Brady and Manning finally hitting problems with their age. I could see Arizona's defense becoming the best defense in the league in the second half of the season and this Ellington becoming a Jamal Charles-esque player combined with a Super Bowl hangover year from Seattle and the Niners regressing because of defensive injuries/suspension/age followed by a Kaepernick or Harbaugh meltdown.

Minnesota won't win the SB, but maybe AP goes crazy again and they go deep into the playoffs.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Josh Gordon

The star receiver on the Browns suspended for 1 year for smoking weed. Has the NFL gone crazy? Don't they know weed is defacto legal now in many states? Don't they know professionals all over the country routinely smoke weed? Don't they know an enormous number of their players are using PEDs and they NEVER suspend anyone for PEDs, but weed gets a year? Also - and maybe this shouldn't factor - but Gordon is a young superstar, the type of guy the league should desperately want to be playing. What a strange decision.

Book: The Mounner by Richard Stark

In every one of these Parker novels, there are a couple of paragraphs that just make you think: goddamn, that's good writing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Old School

This feels like a plot straight out of LA Confidential...Nikki Finke exposed on a website: NikkiStink.

Pure silliness and kinda fun. Good for her for managing to stay private and hidden for so long in this day and age.

On Lena Dunham haters not seeing her art.

I confess to being a Dunham hater, but not based upon her so-called privilege. I could care less about her privilege. And was she really so privileged? We're not talking about Bill Gate's kid. We're talking about a girl who's parents were artists no one has ever heard of. Since when does that constitute privilege? Does merely growing up in the New York art scene make one privileged? If people want to target "privilege" why not go after Megan Ellison who simply uses daddy's money to fund filmmakers she likes. Or perhaps Sophia Coppola who grew up the daughter of a famous filmmaker. But as a broader point: who cares? Talk about the work...

...and I'm not a fan of Dunham's work. I don't feel more connected to people or any type of joy from watching her show and movies. They are a slog. They peddle in cruelty masquerading as comedy. She takes the painful and ugly and shove it one's face like abortion protesters carrying around pictures of dead fetuses. I think the show is for depressives. And it makes me depressed to watch. So I don't. And I read Parker novels and old movies instead.
It's Because They Don't Have Any

Millenials don't pay in cash.
Words From Donald Westlake

An interview.
Question: You’ve written over 100 books in your lifetime. Do you have any advice on productivity to share? 
Westlake: I don’t know that I have any advice to share, because I pretty well don’t know how the trail led to this spot. There’s one thing I’ve learned, and that is that the writer isn’t supposed to know what he’s doing. If you know what you’re doing, you can’t do it. Later, you can look back and see, with some surprise and maybe pleasure, what it is you did. In the early days, I used to answer questions about what I meant to do next, until I realized, by the time it was in print, I’d been absolutely wrong, every single time.
and this:
Westlake: I hadn’t looked at it that way, but I suppose it must relate to Hemingway’s judgment on people, that the competent guy does it on his own and the incompetents lean on each other.

Film: The Trip To Italy

A sequel to "The Trip." They went overboard on impersonations in this one. Just barely worth the $5 tuesday special at the Sundance theater.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Film: The Tin Star

The second half of the film is better than the first half.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Consumption Tax

Repeal corporate taxes, reform income taxes, and introduce a Value Added tax.

I'm open to ideas about tax reform. The current system is complex and incompetent. Anyone with a high school eduction should be able to figure out their own taxes, but our best and brightest can't pay their own taxes without the help of accountants.
Idea Weekend

Not sure these would completely work in practice:

1. During recession, in order to stimulate the economy, why not spend a lot of government tax money (say, the millionaire tax dough) on improving America's public toilets? Perhaps even create a mandatory restaurant-toilet improvement program where restaurants can receive government money to improve the restrooms. This would get tied into local health inspection processes. They would need to hire some additional toilet inspectors, the construction of new toilets would employ a bunch of people, and hopefully, it would improve the restaurant experience, thus stimulating more people eating out. At the very least, the public toilets would be nicer and who doesn't think that's a worthwhile investment? Use Japan's nice public toilets as an example.

2. Freezing hair on guys who fear they might go bald one day. I don't know if this would work, but could scientists figure out how to freeze hair on people in anticipation of going bald one day? I suppose that hair would get kinda gross after a couple years. Maybe this is not a great idea.


Movie tracking isn't working. Anyone who needs tracking statistics to make decisions about movies is in the wrong business. This is a biz of gut instinct. I'm all for using numbers and collecting data, but they are merely clues. And the minute you think they provide answers, they'll no longer be relevant. The world is too big, complex, and fast. It always has been - the internet didn't change this.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014


Book: Man With the Getaway Face by Richard Stark

Another Parker novel, the one right before the Outfit. I read them out of order. It didn't matter. I wish there was some deal on the entire collection. I'd just carry one around to read while waiting around. 5 pages here. 40 pages there. Easy, fun, delightful. Better than watching the boobtube.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

App Economy

Sorry to link to a pay site, the Dish. But I paid 1.99 for a month subscription, the cost of a cup of coffee. I have no problem with this. We should pay for content.

Anyhow, they make a great point:

The second reason is because the notion of a STEM shortage plays into a misguided and destructive vision of our economy– a moralizing notion of our labor market where your outcomes are all a matter of choices that you have made. This is the chumps narrative, where people who have suffered in our labor market have done so because they have pursued foolish, “impractical” careers or education. Virginia Postrel has written cogently about this phenomenon in the past, pointing out, among other things, that it isn’t the case that people with supposedly impractical majors systematically underperform the average, and also that they are such a small slice of the labor force that they can’t possibly account for our problems. I’ve pointed out many times before that going to law school went overnight from being the mercenary path for those bent on riches to a pie-in-the-sky, impractical move for dreamers, as soon as the law job market collapsed. The narrative changes to preserve the idea that individuals are responsible for their own joblessness, and in so doing keeps us from pondering systemic change. 
Look at the app economy, which was meant to be the hot new ticket into the land of abundance. (See this 2012 piece from The Atlantic for an indicative example of app economy woowoo.) What could better play into our notions of how to get ahead in America in this new age than the app economy? It’s dynamic! It’s innovative! It’s disruptive! Gone are the days of putting on a suit to go work in some stodgy firm. These days, it’s all about being your own boss, building an app with some buddies in your dorm room, and reaping the whirlwind. It’s a Tom Friedman wet dream, an Aspen Ideas Festival panel sprung to life, the validation of every buzzwordy Wired article and Business Insider post you’ve ever read. 
As the indispensable Valleywag tells us this morning, people within the app economy are catching on to the fact that it’s not, actually, an industry in which they can achieve long-term economic security, let alone riches. The bottom 47% of developers make less than $100 a month. Studies have shown that the vast majority of revenues goes to a tiny fraction of developers. The numbers are even more stark when it comes to in-app revenue. Less than .01% of all apps will be considered a financial success, according to some estimates. It turns out that, as in so many other things in the American economy, the app industry is a winner-take-all field, a lottery ticket economy where a tiny number make out like bandits and most people can’t get ahead. And as usual, it’s only the biggest firms– Apple, Google, Microsoft– which are getting ahead.
Digital utopianism rearing its ugly head. Don't listen to these people. When it comes to career (or jobs) pick a skillset someone will pay you to do that you enjoy doing more than your peer group and devote your time to becoming really, really good at it. And then be flexible if things change (ie people don't pay you to do it anymore, or you cease to enjoy it, or it turns out you aren't very good at it) and don't go into debt. Seems to me, most people will be fine if they follow this path.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Global Warming

Question: What is the point of the global warming narrative, ie "It's Happening!" or "It's Not Happening!"

Seem to me, either way, our behavior doesn't change. The debate is really about signaling our tribal allegiances.


Book: Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet

I've read this book three times, which is saying nothing about me because it can be read it in one sitting. My advice to all would-be screenwriters is to toss out McKee's Story and Blake Synder's fill-in-the-blanks and just read this little guy over and over until it is memorized.

And PS, unlike those other books, this one is actually a joy to read. Unsurprising because it was written by a good writer.

Monday, August 18, 2014


TV: House of Cards, still somewhere in season 1

A second time trying to watch it and again having trouble. This show is actually quite bad. They are trying to mask inferior content, ie story/writing/themes/drama, with prestige and darkness. I'd hesitate to even call the show dark, just ultra cynical and almost its own kind of inversion of sentimentality. Is there a word for this? I suppose it would be the opposite of saccharine -- this totally false darkness that doesn't much bear any resemblance to life as it is lived.  Take away the movie stars and the high production value and you're left with content soap opera producers would find mediocre.

This is what we get from content makers striving for awards and prestige foremost. I'd sell my Netflix stock if owned any.

Film: Winchester '73

Awesome. Surprised this idea hasn't been remade. Remarkable and inspiring in all these Jimmy Stewart/Anthony Mann westerns how much screen time is spent away from Stewart.
Oil Trust

This would've been a good idea in 2003.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014


TV: Married pilot and disc one of All in The Family

We can thank "Girls" for the new FX show "Married," the basic premise of which could be called "Life with a married couple in the tone of Girls." It proves that hipster-pieces of shit don't stop being pieces of shit once you get married. The glee and casual cruelty in which characters take in the misfortune and sexual humiliation of others is disgusting and mistaken for humor. Truly strange. Especially watching in contrast with All in The Family, a show every single television executive on the planet today would deem "too offensive." And yet, the show's hilarious. Archie is of course, racist, but the entire premise of the show is that he is a buffoon (as is everyone else on the show, save Lionel) and the show is happy to portray an overtly racist character with sympathy. And so we can laugh and cry with him and at him. The difference with Girls and her descendants is that the main characters are considered heroic and "brave." They have extraordinary self regard, these contemporary TV characters. And if, so if the TV fans are correct, and TV has taken over from movies in social relevance in America today, it only suggests to me one thing: Americans are worse people than we once were.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Book: The Outfit by Richard Stark

Another majorly enjoyable Parker novel. These little tombs don't get boring.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Film: The Furies

"Don't name him after me, the shoes'll be too big to fill." Quite a line to die on. This is a strange and progressive film. Unique, too.
Someone Is Smoking the Crack

Forbes ranks the "coolest cities in America."

Washington, DC is #1. I like DC, but it is most definitely not the coolest city in America.

Houston, TX is #4. No way.

San Diego, CA is #6. San Diego is not for me, but I could see how the city could be really high up there for a lot of folks. Still, 6 seems awfully high...

Riverside, CA is #8. I've never been, but having gone to college in the basic vicinity, I don't think so...

(and keep in mind, NYC is ranked #11. That's right, Riverside, CA beat NYC.)

Sacramento, CA is #14. Here's something I've never heard out of a cool person's mouth: I really want to move to Sacramento. That said, I like Sacramento.

San Jose, CA is #16. San Jose may be a lot of things, but cool is not one of them.

Bethesda, MD is #19. I don't know Bethesda, but Tyler Cowen says it is not cool and I believe him.


Film: Edge of Tomorrow

Chuckled quite a bit in this one. You wouldn't have thought. Tom Cruise has a bit of a slapstick edge in some of his recent films -- I'm thinking Knight and Day.

Film: Bend of the River

Terrific movie. Incredible action set pieces. Very physical. Can't decide my rankings yet, planning to make it through a good chunk of Anthony Mann westerns before deciding upon my favorites.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Middle East Meltdown

Here's what is happening.

What a shithole. Fundamentally, America really needs to decide whether we ought to be an empire or part of a multi-polar world.
Super Rich Not Leaving Fortunes To Kids


I rather like this quote:
Unearned money, he said, is a curse. “Who’s inherited a lot of money that has gone on to do things in their own life?” asked the CNN star, who earns $11 million a year. “From the time I was growing up, if I felt that there was some pot of gold waiting for me, I don’t know that I would have been so motivated.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Film: The Naked Spur

Didn't enjoy this one as much as The Man From Laramie. DVD was 4:3. Not sure whether it was originally shot that way. I guess this one won best screenplay, but it strikes me all the Boettcher-Kennedy westerns employed a similar set up and were better written. My second film seeing Robert Ryan and in my opinion his performance in Act of Evil was much better.
Chinese History

Reveals their game plan. You don't hear much about the Mongols these days, do you?

Friday, August 08, 2014

Facebook's New Messenger App

Soon, Facebook will require their messenger App to be used on the phone. Here's what that will allow Facebook to do:
  • Change the state of network connectivity – This means that Facebook can change or alter your connection to the Internet or cell service. You’re basically giving Facebook the ability to turn features on your phone on and off for it’s own reasons without telling you.
  • Call phone numbers and send SMS messages– This means that if Facebook wants to…it can send text messages to your contacts on your behalf. Do you see the trouble in this? Who is Facebook to be able to access and send messages on your phone? You’re basically giving a stranger your phone and telling them to do what they want when they want!
  • Record audio, and take pictures and videos, at any time – Read that line again….RECORD audio…TAKE pictures….AT ANY TIME!! That means that the folks at Facebook can see through your lens on your phone whenever they want..they can listen to what you’re saying via your microphone if they choose to!!
  • Read your phone’s call log, including info about incoming and outgoing calls – Who have you been calling? How long did you talk to them? Now Facebook will know all of this because you’ve downloaded the new Facebook messenger app.
  • Read your contact data, including who you call and email and how often – Another clear violation of your privacy. Now Facebook will be able to read e-mails you’ve sent  and take information from them to use for their own gain. Whether it’s for “personalized advertisements” or if it’s for “research purposes” ….whatever the reason..they’re accessing your private encounters.
  • Read personal profile information stored on your device – This means that if you have addresses, personal info, pictures or anything else that’s near and dear to your personal life…they can read it.
  • Get a list of accounts known by the phone, or other apps you use – Facebook will now have a tally of all the apps you use, how often you use them and what information you keep or exchange on those apps.

The only think I find personally puzzling about the entire thing is how surprised Facebook users are about the privacy intrusions. The entire concept of Facebook is about privacy intrusion and figuring out how to profit from user data.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Return of Genocide

ISIS kills a lot of people.

Well, we tried it Obama's way and are seeing the results.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Read Between the Lines

49ers simplify the playbook. Let's be real here - Kaepernick couldn't learn the complicated playbook. Do you honestly think Frank Gore or Anquan Boldin is having any trouble? Gimme a break. Even Vernon Davis, who does not seem like a Mensa candidate, understood the old playbook. The downside to Kaepernick is that he can't read defenses or memorize the playbook. The upside is he can run.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

New Niner Stadium

Supposedly a dud.

Sounds like another product of digital utopianism, the foolish line of thinking that believes anything new and digital improves upon that what existed before. As far as I can tell, the digital age has cannibalized a lot of decent (albeit imperfect) industries, impoverished content creators, and lined the pockets of the data-aggregators. The internet has cut out the time and money spent on newspapers, books, and music albums and replaced it with porn, Facebook, and cat videos. We've yet to see the long term effects of such changes in society, but the previews don't make it seem good.
The Spurs Hire A Woman Assistant

Via Grantland:
“She’s been perfect,” Popovich says in that clip. “She knows when to speak, and she knows when to shut up. A lot of people don’t figure that out.”


In case we need it, of what happens in Palestine:
Not only is there Holocaust denial—there’s Holocaust denial that then asserts that we will do it for real if given the chance. The only thing more obnoxious than denying the Holocaust is to say that it should have happened; it didn’t happen, but if we get the chance, we will accomplish it. There are children’s shows in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere that teach five-year-olds about the glories of martyrdom and about the necessity of killing Jews. 
 And this gets to the heart of the moral difference between Israel and her enemies. ... 
What do we know of the Palestinians? What would the Palestinians do to the Jews in Israel if the power imbalance were reversed? Well, they have told us what they would do. For some reason, Israel’s critics just don’t want to believe the worst about a group like Hamas, even when it declares the worst of itself. We’ve already had a Holocaust and several other genocides in the 20th century. People are capable of committing genocide. When they tell us they intend to commit genocide, we should listen. There is every reason to believe that the Palestinians would kill all the Jews in Israel if they could. Would every Palestinian support genocide? Of course not. But vast numbers of them—and of Muslims throughout the world—would. Needless to say, the Palestinians in general, not just Hamas, have a history of targeting innocent noncombatants in the most shocking ways possible. They’ve blown themselves up on buses and in restaurants. They’ve massacred teenagers. They’ve murdered Olympic athletes. They now shoot rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas.
Leftists like to complain of the Palestinians living in prison-like conditions. But when a majority of the people support exterminating their next door neighbors, what other option is there?
Worrying Vacuity of Hillary

She's not the only politicians who suffers from this.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Is Luck A Skill?

How to improve one's luck. Note: not an article about betting.

Film: The Man From Laramie

Also my kind of movie. Now that's how you shoot a wide shot. Plotting, particularly towards the end, was a little wonky, but I enjoy that kind of stuff. Each of the characters goes through some type of change and so almost the more emotional and meaningful stuff happens outside of the protagonist. I wish more movies had the balls to tell stories in this way rather than following the blue print.

Film: Calvary

Very enjoyable film. Writerly and stage-like, not particularly "cinematic," but still pretty awesome. There were grand insert shots of the Irish countryside, which I liked, but most of the movie is scene-work and it is handled plainly. Still, my kind of movie.

Saturday, August 02, 2014


Jon Voight takes Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem to task.

He's right. They're wrong. They aren't anti-Semetic, but they are foolish. And foolish people in charge of things mean the world goes to shit. So I'm glad they aren't in charge of things.

The world (in particular, the Europeans) will side with Israel the day they lose a war, but of course, the day Israel loses a war will be too late for them.

Film: Adventureland

A rewatch. Some things I noticed more on a second viewing: Eisenberg and Stewart actually don't have much chemistry at all. And in fact, Stewart's performance isn't very good. She's got one incredible skill: a doe-like, come hither look. It's gotten her far. The movie is made by the side performances, which are incredibly rich, and more pleasurable than the main storyline. Also surprised on second viewing on how much drama vs comedy there is. Perhaps the casting, or the director's background with Superbad and Arrested Development, and you just assume the movie is a comedy...and there are funny bits...but the main story is pure drama.

Consider this: there are a number of Kristen Stewart - Ryan Reynolds scenes and he out-acts the shit out of her in their scenes. Now, I don't consider Ryan Reynolds a particularly great actor, so consider what this says about Stewart. That said, this is his finest hour and he does a ton in this film with very few words.

Still the best teen movie I've seen in a long time, but falls a bit short of the pantheon.
A Strange Irony, Indeed

Obama originally got elected because he was right about Iraq and most pols were wrong. Supposedly. So why did he make Hillary Clinton the SoS? Obama defeated Clinton in the primaries based on the fact he opposed the war and she supported it. So it seems ironic, if you believe Iraq was a huge FP disaster, that you would place someone who supported that disaster in charge of foreign policy.

Of course, the answer only makes sense when you consider all the decisions were political (versus substantive) in nature. Appointing Clinton SoS works because it brings her political supporters into the fold. Of course, then what you are also saying is opposing the war in the first place was a political calculation and not a conviction. Or, it wasn't truly a disaster, but a 60-40 gambit.

Royals 1 - A's 0

...are we missing Cespedes yet?

Friday, August 01, 2014

Cease with the Ceasefires

Thomas Sowell points out the obvious:
The Middle East must lead the world in cease-fires. If cease-fires were the road to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet.
 "Cease-fire" and "negotiations" are magic words to "the international community." But just what do cease-fires actually accomplish? In the short run, they save some lives. But in the long run they cost far more lives, by lowering the cost of aggression.
At one time, launching a military attack on another nation risked not only retaliation but annihilation. When Carthage attacked Rome, that was the end of Carthage.
But when Hamas or some other terrorist group launches an attack on Israel, they know in advance that whatever Israel does in response will be limited by calls for a cease-fire, backed by political and economic pressures from the United States. It is not at all clear what Israel's critics can rationally expect the Israelis to do when they are attacked. Suffer in silence? Surrender? Flee the Middle East? 
Or -- most unrealistic of al -- fight a "nice" war, with no civilian casualties? General William T. Sherman said it all, 150 years ago: "War is hell." 
If you want to minimize civilian casualties, then minimize the dangers of war, by no longer coming to the rescue of those who start wars. Israel was attacked, not only by vast numbers of rockets but was also invaded -- underground -- by mazes of tunnels.
Which is why what Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Almodovar is not only dumb, naive, but also harmful.
A Liberal World...

Urban containment policies in the Bay Area are the reason for the high housing prices.
Sowell continues: "There are people who claim that astronomical housing prices in places like Palo Alto and San Francisco are due to a scarcity of land. But there is enough vacant land ("open space") on the other side of the 280 Freeway that goes past Palo Alto to build another Palo Alto or two -- except for laws and policies that make that impossible. 
As in San Francisco and other parts of the country where housing prices skyrocketed after building homes was prohibited or severely restricted, this began in Palo Alto in the 1970s." As in Palo Alto, outrageous price increases began in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, and were the predictable outcome of urban containment policies (smart growth policies) that rationed land for development.
House prices are three times as high relative to incomes in the Bay Area than they were before urban containment regulation began in the early 1970s. Among New World (US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) major metropolitan areas, only Vancouver has higher house prices relative to incomes.
House prices relative to income should be an important statistic for policy makers to consider when thinking about development and livability.