Saturday, January 31, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Is There a Sports Bubble?

Galley Hero Steve Czaban says yes! I think he may be right.

But the bubble isn't the classic one you might think--bubbles are, in the strictest economic sense, formed by speculators and pro-sports doesn't have a lot of those. There are a pretty small number of owners who are all in it for the relatively long-haul.

Instead Czabe thinks, and I agree, that the bubble may be on the demand side for both tickets and stadiums. If there is a bubble there, then the stadium-revenue model for pro-sports, which undergirds every league, could be in for a big correction.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Samantha on Style--Updated

Galley Friend Samantha Sault has launched what I suspect will become D.C.'s indispensable fashion blog: SamanthaOnStyle..

Sam should be the go-to alternative to the ridiculously overrated Robin Givhan because she (a) knows a truly insane amount about fashion; (b) has a sense of humor; and (c) knows how to write.

It's like Washington has gotten its very own Fug Girl.

Update: Why is Sam so money? Because of posts like this.

The A Team

So which will be worse? The Stephen Sommers G.I. Joe, or the Joe Carnahan A Team?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Santino Goes Global

Video, a link on Drudge, and a confrontation with Fenster.

A star is born.


Courtesy of Galley Friend P.G., it turns out that the Circuit City "liquidation sale" is a fraud.

Just one more example of why this chain deserved to die.

Bad Robot

Galley Wife S.L. sends along this link to J.J. Abrams's TED speech. It's a pretty good talk, and possibly worth your 18 minutes. But what's particularly interesting is the revelation that Kevin Weisman's "Marshall" character from Alias was basically a spot-on imitation of Abrams.

T.O. Gets His Own Reality Show

VH1 is to blame. But the really interesting bit in the story is that it seems Owens has replaced his old publicist Kim Etheridge--the gal who awkwardly boasted that Ownes had "25 million reasons to live" after he kind of/maybe attempted suicide.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Aussie Open Notes

How about Jelena Dokic? Her match to get into the quarters was one of the gutsiest things I've seen on the women's side in years. All of my memories of Dokic were of her as a hot-shot teen, storming Wimbledon--to see her making this run as a 25-year-old, in her adopted homeland, with all the things she's seen in recent years, is pretty wonderful.

Looking at her now I'm struck by how old her eyes look. It's rare to see someone finding redemption like this on a tennis court. Good for her.

In other notes, have you seen ESPN's addition to the telecast: the blonde, super-thin trainer/TV personality Tiffany Cherry? That's the most ready-made porn name I've ever heard.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Aussie Open Notes

How many times will Richard Gasquet break my heart? In tennis there are usually a handful of players with the skills and physical gifts to be champions. Non-physical factors separate these players from the champion: work-habits, circumstance, timing, luck. But the head counts for so much--I fear that by this point, Gasquet is so far gone that he'll never win a major. It's crazy: Gasquet has top-5 talent. He's a brilliant shot-maker, the best serve and volleyer left in the game, he has amazing feet.

And for my money, his game is, Federer excepted, more fun to watch than anyone on the tour. It's a thing of beauty.

But having match point in the third, going to a fifth, holding serve, but blowing 5 break points, and then losing 12-10? This is the type of loss that haunts you your entire career.

In fact, I suspect you can trace today's defeat to Gasquet's similar collapse at Wimbledon against Murray last year.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Screw the Dark Knight

Santino does the work for me.

BSG: Decline and Fall?

Ellen Tigh.

So what do we think about that? For my part, not very much. But after reflecting on the first episode of season 4.5 ("Sometimes a Great Notion," ep. 4.11) for a week, some thoughts occur to me:

* There was a lot to like in 4.11, first and foremost being the suicide of Dualla. Moore and writers David Weddle and Bradley Thompson needed to convince us of how severe a blow Earth's false paradise was. Dualla's suicide accomplishes that and fits within the arc of her character, which has been trending toward deep unhappiness since New Caprica.

But it does something more: It serves as a stunning indictment of Lee Adama. The young Adama has his father's ambition and sense of command but has always been corrupted by an enormous egotism. Remember the first moment we met him: He was being bitchy and condescending to the Galactica's deck crew because he wanted to be sure that these people, who he'd never met before, understood his displeasure with his father. Lee showed that kind of righteous self-absorption over and over again, but the writers never made him pay for it with the audience. They always left a way for people to overlook Lee's flaws and see him as the fair-haired boy that we want to see.

In episode 4.11, Lee is standing in front of his ex-wife, a woman whose heart he treated very shabbily, and she is clearly in distress. Yet he's so blind to the world that he keeps talking about himself and his own troubles that he can't see that she needs saving. And so Lee walks away, still thinking of himself, while Dualla puts a gun to her head.

* Meanwhile, what's up with Lee's father? The admiral hasn't been himself for a few episodes now--crying and wallowing and, in 4.11, trying to goad Tigh into killing him. If you go back in time, you'll note that this unraveling of the great admiral began when he admitted that he had fallen in love with Laura Roslyn.

I think there's something going on here about romantic love being incompatible with command. And I like it all the more because it's being explored purely with subtext.

* As for the big reveal, I really don't know what to make of Ellen Tigh being the fifth cylon. Maybe it will make sense after some explanation. (I think it's now clear that when Deanna told one of the final five "I'm sorry, I had no idea" back on Kobol that she was speaking to Tigh, not the obscured "final Cylon.")

But my real fear all along has been that Moore is creating the show's mythology on the fly and not according to a long developed, pre-conceived plan. As with any show that has a deep mythology to it, that's a path to narrative chaos.

This interview is particularly unsettling because Moore says that he decided Ellen would be the final Cylon during the third season. Two problems here: (1) The importance of the final five seems to have occurred to Moore as the series was progressing; and (2) So did their identities.

We've seen this kind of unraveling before with very good shows--Alias, Lost, X-Files, etc. A great concept is sustained for a few seasons but then peters out because the showrunner didn't know ahead of time what the final act would be. It's fine to freelance your mythology during production so long as you know where you'll eventually end up.

I maintain that BSG will successfully conclude if it can coherently answer two questions:

(1) What happens to the humans?

(2) What was the Cylons' plan?

If Moore can get those two answers right, then nothing else really needs to be explained. We don't need to know who was on earth or what the 13th tribe was. We don't even need to know what happens to the mass of cylons presumably still hanging around Caprica and points West. (Remember, throughout the series, we've been watching a conflict between a small band of humans and, one assumes, a reasonably small group of Cylon chase ships. The main body of the Cylon civilization and navy is most likely still back around the colonies doing whatever it is they do. In that way, the series is a lot like Master & Commander: We're at the far edge of the earth watching a struggle that's really only important to the two players involved in it.)

In any event, if Moore loses sight of those two big questions, or garbles them with other questions, the chances of BSG holding together in the final reckoning decrease. He's done so much right that I'm happy to follow him to the end; I just hope his conclusion is worthy of his beginning.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Penn Family

The Oscar nominations are out and, of course, Sean Penn got a Best Actor nod for Milk. I haven't seen the movie--maybe it's great--but I did get a funny email over the weekend from Galley Brother B.J., who exited the theater wondering whether or not Harvey Milk was mentally handicapped. I assured him that the real Milk was not.

His reply:

So why does Penn have his Magic Retard FaceTM on the whole movie? Was he just trying to stack the deck for the Academy, worried that playing gay and martyred wasn't enough?

Maybe. Sean Penn seems to get a lot more credit than he deserves as an actor. How many good performances has he given over the last decade? But sadly, his brother Michael Penn seems to get almost no credit at all for being one of the better singer/songwriters of his generation.

I'll grant that Penn's stuff (Michael, I mean) isn't designed to be hugely commercial. But, to my ears it's incredibly catchy and smart; pop music for people who read. And I'd argue that what he does--finding new and clever and beautiful ways of saying things which have been said millions of times--is harder than putting on a Magic Retard FaceTM by an order of magnitude.

But to restore your faith in the Academy, how great is it that Melissa Leo got a nomination? She's a total stud.

The Eye Is Watching

I noted elsewhere Venus Williams's refreshingly non-worshipful shrug at the Australian Open when asked by reporters about the magnificence of President Obama. If you haven't seen it, it's worth following the link and reading the exchange just for the sheer novelty of seeing a celebrity say that they don't really know anything about politics and aren't too excited by it. Sample awesome:

Q. Politics aside, does it inspire you with the inauguration and with president‑elect Barack Obama?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Can you be more specific, please?

Twenty-four hours later, Venus was bounced in three by the unseeded Carla Suarez Navarro. Punishment for her deviationist views?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No Escape From D.C.

Even the Australian Open broadcast won't stop talking about the Obama inauguration, in the most reflexively slobbering tones imaginable.

It's all kind of confusing: 46 percent of the country voted against Obama. You would think that people in business might want to avoid potentially antagonizing such a big chunk of consumers.

Apparently not.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Debacle

A few thoughts:

* Objectively speaking, these Cardinals are surely the worst Super Bowl team in the modern era, no? Who are the other contenders? The Stan Humphries-led Chargers? The '86 Pats? The Grossman Bears? At least those teams had impressive regular season records padded from being in a weak conference. This Arizona team doesn't even have that.

And for the record, if the Eagles had won, I think they would have been the worst Super Bowl team ever.

* Did you like that pass interference no-call on the final drive? Kind of beyond comprehension. I choose to blame George W. Bush. It seems incontrovertible that President Bush is the one who picked up the red phone and told The Commish that the Eagles' 4th quarter drive better not end in anything crazy.

Look, you can say what you want about Bush, but on his watch, he did what he had to do to keep America safe. And you and I both know that the consequences of a World Series/Super Bowl double for Philly would have been terrifying.

* Where does this rank in the Pantheon of Philly losses? I'd say it's up there. Way up there. The only loss I can think of that comes close is the NFC championship choke against Tampa Bay.

That Tampa Bay loss was hideous. First, it was against Tampa Bay, an expansion franchise which had been hapless for it's entire existence. Second, Philly was home, and favored. And finally, Tampa had some ridiculous streak--something like 0-54--in games where the temperature was below freezing. That streak ended in Philly.

On the other hand, Tampa actually won the Super Bowl. Arizona is going to get crushed.

* On the bright side, only 111 seasons of Philly sports left until our next championship. Rock on.

Updated Final Thought: How many QB's have taken two different teams to a Super Bowl? How many have won with two different teams? I'm not a football stat-head, but those must be very short lists. So you would think that between this accomplishment and his insane career numbers that Kurt Warner would be regarded as one of the great quarterbacks of all-time--at least in the top 20.

Yet he was buried on the depth chart under Matt Leinart after being kicked to the curb for Marc Bolger. Neither of whom, I'm guessing, will make the Hall of Fame.

Which just goes to show that true meritocracy doesn't really exist anywhere, even in the NFL, which is about as much of a pure capitalist, results-oriented marketplace there is. Situations matter. Personalities matter. Non-talent, non-results-based decisions get made all the time because the people charged with making the decisions have other agendas.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Eagles Stag Film

Philly Love and Baltimore Hate, Together At Last


I was at a game at an interleague game at Camden Yards in the spring of 2004 (this being still when the Or-ee-oos were the closest available MLB team to me) during the brief period when the Ravens were trying to orchestrate a trade for Terrell Owens which he nixed in favor of going to Philly (even T.O. isn’t dumb enough to want to play for the Ravens). The game was between the Giants and the Orioles, yet an entire section of Eagles fans had gotten tickets for the express purpose of chanting “WE GOT T.O.! WE GOT T.O.!”

Yes, at a game between the San Francisco Giants and the Baltimore Orioles, a group of Eagles fans had bought up an entire section at a baseball game and driven in just to taunt people from Baltimore about a football transaction that had taken place in the off-season. And this wasn’t a quick little chant. It went on FOR FOUR FULL FUCKING INNINGS! And nobody tried to stop them, save shooting them the occasional ugly look.

It's funny on so very many levels.

Headline of the Day

"Extensive reshoots for WOLVERINE... Is Fox financing it with some new glowy blue money?"

BSG Tonight

I confess to being somewhat worried that BSG has placed so much store on the reveal of the final Cylon. To my mind, the most crucial questions of the series--by which I mean, the questions that, if answered in a satisfying way, would make the series a final success--were:

(1) Where do the humans go?

(2) What was the original Cylon plan?

(3) Is there a reconciling between human and Cylon cultures?

(4) Whose theistic views are correct? The pagan humans or the monotheistic Cylons?

I've always thought that if Ron Moore et al could answer those questions is a satisfying way, then the series would have an enormously successful conclusion. Instead, we seem to have reached a place where series turns on a twist reveal, like an M. Knight Shyamalamalaman movie. Narratively speaking, I think that's dangerous ground on which to make your final stand.

All of that said, I'm not as down in the mouth as Gregg Easterbrook, who says that nothing about the Cylons makes any sense.

Instead, I'd posit that everything about the Cylons makes sense, if and only if the Cylons are right about there being one god. If the Cylons are right, then we can view the series as grounded in a sort of Old Testament ethos--a universe where there are prophets and visions and the hand of god actively moves among the earthly. If that's what's going on, then we can explain and believe the Starbuck's visions, Leoben's prophecies, etc.

Also, if I were a betting man, my guess would be that Adama is the final Cylon. He's the only character who makes sense narratively, logically, and theistically.

Tragedy in the Desert

Here's the Czabe on what that Eagles +4 line is really saying:

Think about this: if a team had beaten another team by a 48-20 margin in the regular season, even if it was at home, how on earth would they only be 4 point road favorites? Makes no sense right? Unless it makes perfect sense. Arizona is one of those typical “front running” teams, just like their fans, who are SUDDENLY on the bandwagon. Now that the Cardinals have a chance to go to the Big Game, I think they’ll play like a house on fire. Plus, isn’t Philly’s move to CHOKE when everything is perfectly lined up for them? This is who they are. This is what they do. Westbrook, hurt. Boldin, back. Nah. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb aren’t this lucky. PICK: Cardinals 38-21.

I have no retort.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jim Johnson Puts You On Warning

KSK has Jim Johnson's blurb:

I coached the number three defense in the league and am really the only thing that’s kept Andy Reid employed the last few years. I’m four years younger than Old Man LeBeau up there and twice as dessicated. And I’ll send nine guys after your quarterback up 30 points in the 4th quarter on a 3rd and 20, ’cause I don’t fucking like your face.

Deserve's got nothin' to do with it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lereah Watch

Another hit-piece on David Lereah, this time courtesy of the WSJ. You should read, and savor, it all. But just to tantalize you:

* Lereah claiming that was only following orders!

* Lereah's wife lamenting that they have "an expensive lifestyle" and that her husband needs to make some more money so they can still afford the housekeeper, the country club, etc.

* Lereah explaining how great he is now as an analyst: "I feel I have such a refreshing view now because I'm not representing any interests."

(Is that even English? What is a "refreshing view"? Does Lereah actually have one, or does he just "feel" like he has one?)

The best part is the revelation that Lereah is now working for himself, advising "Japanese companies" (he's huge in Japan!) and churning out a weekly newsletter on the housing market, for which he charges $495 a year.

Lereah says he's got "under 50" subscribers now--which could also mean 2 subscribers--but expects to have 1,500 by the end of the year. The market for his refreshing views is red-hot!

And the Oscar Goes To . . .

Sean Penn, Milk!

Give Me Odds

Who will be the first to run this headline next week:

"And The Government Will Be Upon His Shoulders"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On vodka

I now know of three people who are involved in the ever-expanding luxury vodka industry. One works at Diageo, an empire of alcohol whose vodka products include Smirnoff and Ciroc. His house is never dry, though it comes close when I am there. Another is an old friend from New Jersey who invested in a fledgling company a few years back and from what he tells me, the numbers already look good. The brand is called Americana Vodka and if you consider yourself a patriot, you'll buy it! Not that it is available everywhere. Yet. But up in the tri-state area it is certainly in stock. Just look for the handsome angular bottle with hues of red and blue. The cap is actually a cork. And the flavor... well, it is vodka after all so there really shouldn't be a taste or smell. But it is extremely smooth and does have a clean finish. Try making a vodka martini with it or mix in some club soda and a twist of lime. No, I do not get any kickbacks for supporting Americana Vodka. I'm just doing my job. As a patriot.

If you cannot get a handle of Americana, be on the look out for another fine brand known as Koval. The website has not yet gone live but the distillery site is here. At the moment, Koval is a husband and wife team. Robert Birnecker left his job at the Austrian embassy and his wife left her tenured teaching position to move back to Chicago and devote themselves fully to the operation. Ultimately they plan on distilling not only vodka but fruit brandies and other liqueurs. Since the age of 16, Robert has been interested in distilling, watching his grandfather at work back in Austria. That sort of professional craftsmanship he is now carrying over to Chicago. The potstills are imported from Germany.

You're probably thinking there couldn't be a more perilous time for such ventures. After all, isn't there already a glut in this market (think Grey Goose, Ketel, Belvedere, Chopin, Imperia, Stoli, Absolut, Smirnoff, Van Gogh, Level One, Hanger, Effen--yes, Effen Vodka--Skyy...)? Robert would argue that with a wealth of expertise and knowledge and just the right amount of careful marketing, there is still room for good vodka. (We both agreed that Svedka has got to be the worst.) He also pointed out a few misnomers. For instance, just because a vodka is super-filtered (Absolut is more filtered than Ketel) does not make it better or more enjoyable.

Robert had recently done extensive taste tests on vodkas (not actually ingesting) and considers--next to Koval--a Polish vodka to be superior. Unfortunately he forgets the name. He used to enjoy Absolut but not as much these days. He is not a fan in the least of Grey Goose. If Koval is not on the shelf, what would he prefer? Ketel One.

They are living the American(a) dream. And I wish them all well. No, I do not expect a case of vodka to come my way. Maybe a bottle? In any event, they at least are doing something they love. Or at least I hope. I asked Robert if his wife (and business partner) likes vodka. He said, "She does now."

Superman Co-Creator Draws Fetish Art

He was young, he needed the money.

Brief Political Aside

News items:

"President-elect Barack Obama made an unannounced visit Saturday night with his family to see the Lincoln Memorial, paying tribute to a former president he frequently invokes as an inspiration. . . . After touring the memorial for about 20 minutes, including the lower part of the memorial that houses some exhibits, the Obamas walked out, facing the reflecting pool and Washington Monument. They waved to some onlookers standing around the memorial's lower steps. Obama frequently invokes the memory of Lincoln. He announced he was running for president in Springfield, Ill., at the steps of the Old Capitol, where Lincoln was a legislator."
-Washington Post

"President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible upon which President Lincoln was sworn in at his first inauguration."

"President-elect Barack Obama will welcome Americans to his inauguration at the memorial to his political hero, Abraham Lincoln."
-Associated Press

"Obama's jampacked Abe-apalooza moved into high gear with an announcement from the Congressional Inaugural Committee that it will hold a luncheon next Tuesday following the swearing-in ceremony that's modeled after foods Lincoln enjoyed. . . .Part of the meal will even be served on replicas of the china picked out by First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln at the beginning of her husband's first term in office in 1861. . . .

"The painting, which will hang behind Obama, is a landscape of Yosemite Valley at dawn - representing Lincoln's signing of the 1864 Yosemite Grant that set aside the land as a public reserve. . . .

"[T]he Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which handles much of the inaugural planning, has deemed that "A New Birth of Freedom" will be the official inaugural theme.

"The phrase, from the Gettysburg Address, expresses Lincoln's hope that the sacrifice of those who died to preserve the nation would lead to "a new birth of freedom" for our nation."
-New York Post

Yes, we fucking get the point.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why Can't Us?

Philadelphia is now poised to take its rightful place among the great powers. We hereby announce our intention to formally annex the NFC West. We have suffered this pathetic division's insolence for nearly four months and will not tolerate further provocation.

Once we have consolidated our rightful dominion over the National Football Conference, we will determine our future demands.

Neocon exit question: Who would be more obnoxiously aggressive--a Philadelphia fan with a Super Bowl and World Series victories or a nuclear-armed Iran?

Friday, January 09, 2009

In Defense of Answer

Santino is goading me with a post in response to this Matt Yglesias post questioning the talents of Allen Iverson. Since I, too, aspire to hold my own, I must rise up in defense of Answer.

First, understand that I'm an Iverson partisan--I've got a signed edition of his Sixers jersey in a giant frame at home. So take this as you will, but I think Yglesias underestimates both Iverson's offensive and defensive skills.

Let's start with Answer's shortcomings: His big problem is that he shoots a relatively low percentage from the floor. There are all sorts of rational explanations for this: He's little, he's shooting under double-teams, he has only recently had a secondary scorer on his wing. That said, there's no way around it: Answer's game requires a lot of shots for him to get his points and a lot of touches for him to get his shots. This has traditionally caused rebounding and fast-break defense problems for his teams.

But in his defense, what choice has Answer ever had? During his tenure in Philadelphia, when he was at his physical peak, he was paired with a succession of "riding shotgun" players who turned out to be over-the-hill busts: Toni Kukoc, Derrick Coleman, Glenn Robinson, Keith Van Horn. Iverson never had the scoring help he needed.

It's no coincidence, then, that his biggest success as a Sixer came when GM Billy King and Traitor Larry Brown finally abandoned the attempt to give him a secondary scorer and instead surrounded him with low-cost, highly specialized role players. Aaron McKie and Eric Snow provided ball handling and spot-up shooting. Theo Rattliff provided rebounding and shot blocking. George Lynch provided more rebounding and defensive presence. And then a bunch of other role players came off the bench to handle very specific tasks: Tyrone Hill did low-block scoring, Raja Bell did defensive guard work, etc.

You could make the case that had Matt Geiger stayed healthy (and Brown not made the insane trade for Deke), the Sixers would have had (at least) one more year of title contention because they were finally a team built to allow Iverson to get his shots, efficiently distribute the other scoring duties among the rest of the roster, and take advantage of Answer's high attempt-per-point-ratio by getting offensive rebounds and being defensively tough, especially in transition.

(And let's not forget that the Sixers were *robbed* in Game 2 of the Finals. If they get that game, the series is very different. And that was the closest 4-1 series in the history of sports. Yes, I'm a homer, but it's also true.)

(Also, also, remember that The Traitor Larry Brown began blowing up this team even before the season was over, despite the fact that they had the best (or second-best, I forget) record in the NBA for most of the season.)

As for what Yglesias says about Deke being the heart of the Sixers defense during their Finals-run, he was a presence late in the season, but not particularly effective in the post-season. Most of the defensive intensity on that squad came from Lynch, McKie, and Iverson, who really did wreak havoc in the passing lanes. And from Ratliff, who, for one and a half seasons, looked like he might be one of the great shot blockers in NBA history. What happened to him, through injury and condemnation to Atlanta, was tragic.

I get that there's a lot of Iverson haters out there. In general, I think they hate him because they don't understand him. They see the tats and hear the "practice" clips, but don't understand that on the court, he's actually a throw-back player. He gives his body up every night, dives for every loose ball, plays every game like it's Game 7. He never takes a quarter off and rarely whines about calls. And to go into the lane like he does--I've walked past him and he's barely 6' in sneakers, maybe 180 pounds--takes real guts.

It strikes me that athletes have limited control over their own success. Or rather, no matter how great an athlete is, they can only do as much as the system they're in allows. You see this with NFL quarterbacks all the time. If Tom Brady had been a first-round pick to the Lions who started right away, I doubt he'd be Tom Brady today. Some athletes, like Jordan, or Peyton Manning, have skill sets which are conventional enough (and gargantuan enough) that it's easy to see what to do with them. Iverson's skill sets were so quirky that no one ever quite figured out how to build around him. Or perhaps, by the time King/Brown did figure it out, Answer only had a brief, one-season window and then things fell apart.

I'd put Answer in the category, with Marino and Barkley--guys who were truly great, but whose gifts were odd enough that the franchises around them weren't able to figure out how to win the big one with them.

To my mind, that's a very different issue than the players being over-rated or having chemistry problems.

Real Estate Rebound

The Pig sends along this link:

Goldman: "New York apartment prices are very high relative to the observable fundamentals. Using three alternative yardsticks—price/rent, price/income, and affordability—we find that prices would need to decline by 35%-44% to return to the valuation levels seen in the 1995-1999 period, before the start of the recent boom."

That is, unless things get really bad:

Goldman: "It is instructive to consider the potential implications of a return of relative Manhattan incomes toward the national norm prevailing before the Wall Street boom of the past two decades, either because of pay cuts in the financial industry or because of a possible out-migration of affluent individuals. From 1969 to 1986, Manhattan per-capita income averaged 2 times the national average, with no clear trend. Over the next two decades, however, it grew to 3 times the national average. If incomes fell back to the pre-1986 level of 2 times the national average—and if national per capita income remained unchanged—prices would need to fall as much as 58% to return to the 1995-1999 price/income ratio."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

This Isn't a Brains Kind of Outfit

Mike Russell interviews the great Chris McQuarrie. Don't miss it. Just as a tease, McQuarrie reveals this very interesting note about Valkyrie's profusion of characters:

[I]n earlier cuts of the movie, when characters walked onscreen, their names appeared on the bottom of the screen that told you who they were. We did the full-on "Midway." And a contemporary audience, watching that, would respond, "There are too many characters to keep track of. I don't know who all the people are." And by the way, the script was written with those title cards in mind -- so we didn't put in dialogue that explained who they were. We let the title cards do it. And interestingly enough, when I took out the title cards, that note went away. Because they knew less about the characters, they felt they didn't have to keep track of them.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, 1936 - 2009

The Gormogons had a lovely tribute to Fr. Neuhaus earlier this morning but now, sadly, he has been called home. For Catholics, losing Avery Dulles and Richard John Neuhaus in a span of weeks is almost too much to bear. We pray now for his soul.

Kaus = KSK?

Has Mickey Kaus always been using tags as bonus punchlines, a la Big Daddy Drew, et al? Either way, they're funny. He should do it more often.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Gaming Lawyer

Galley Friend A.W. passes along this great interview with Shawn Foust, who does video game legal work. Some highlights:

How long have you been a gamer?

Since I was around six or seven. My friend attained “best friend forever” status when his parents gave him an Atari 2600, which introduced me to console play. I learned some of the most important life lessons from Joust: 1) Always take the high ground; 2) You never have enough time to do everything you want to do; and 3) No matter how tough you think you are, there is some giant invincible pterodactyl that is tougher. . . .

Favorite console? Grey box. Nintendo Entertainment System. You just don’t mess with your starter system. Also, I have immense respect for any piece of electronics that can be fixed by rapidly pressing the on/off button and blowing on the offending portion.

No Comment

In re: Samantha Ronson's next-gen tech:

If one day you're watching the news and the anchor says some dude in NYC was discovered with a whale dick that shoots out vodka and Red Bull, you can can go ahead and assume that a genie is telling Lindsay Lohan that she has two wishes left.

What Dies Next at Sony?

The Playstation 3 couldn't go the way of the Dreamcast, could it?

Almost certainly not. But this does sound ominous.

Tennis Porn

The latest issue of Tennis magazine is out with a little feature on the 10 most influential racquets of all time. If you've ever followed the sport, you can probably guess five of them off the top of your head. But buried in the entry on the Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 85 is this fascinating nugget:

Pete Sampras didn't merely play with the Pro Staff 6.0 85; he insisted on playing with those produced in a former Maidenform undergarment factory on the [Caribbean island of St. Vincent] (early Pro Staffs were made in Wilson's Chicago factory and later ones in China). When the St. Vincent factory closed in 1990, he stockpiled a bunch of the frames and got more from Wilson when he ran out. The St. Vincent Pro Staffs had a slightly wider beam due to older manufacturing techniques. According to Sampras' stringer, Nate Ferguson, the St. Vincent racquets are also slightly stiffer than those made elsewhere.

This sort of thing always amazes me. There's a story about Bill Bradley going to the opening of a YMCA or some such (maybe from A Sense of Where You Are?). Bradley was to dedicate the basketball court by taking a free throw. He missed the first free throw, clanging the ball off the rim. He took another one, with the same result. He grumbled that the rim was an inch off. Someone measured it and sure enough, it was.

I think we mortals often underestimate how different it is, as a simple physical proposition, to encounter the world as a professional athlete. It's not just what you can do--it's that you can actually see and feel things that normal people can't.

PS: Why wasn't the Wilson Profile included in the Tennis list? It totally revolutionized raquet design, even though it was more cricket bat than raquet.

Theater of the Absurd

Galley Brother B.J. sends along a link to the lobster knife fight. Which is kind of awesome.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Tentacle Grape?

What does this mean, exactly? I mean, on the one hand, it's kind of awesome. But on the other, isn't it wildly disturbing? Are we close to Cinnabon launching a Bukkake Blast flavor?

Why Can't Us?

On the pick that Samuel returned for a TD yesterday, did anyone notice the vicious block that got thrown on Tarvaris Jackson just before Samuel got into the endzone? Dear God, it was righteous.

(BTW, Jackson deserves a ton of credit for hustling back and whole-heartedly trying to make a play, knowing he had a giant bullseye on him. That's all heart.)

The Joker's Henchman Gets Work

Is anyone else disturbed to see this guy as the normal-guy office-worker star of a Wendy's commercial?

BSG Webisodes

A brief FAQ and ode to Jane Espenson, here.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Nerd Alert

I did a short review for the Wall Street Journal last week about The Race for the New Game Machine and now all my nerd dreams have come true! The piece was noticed by G4, joystiq, kotaku, and gizmono. It's like a white way of geek delight.

I mention this only because with mentions at AICN and already in the bag, I think this puts me just a LeakyCauldron away from hitting for the Nerd Cycle.

PS: If you're into flame war stuff, just check out the PS360 battle royals in the comments on those links.

Write Every Piece Three Times

I forget whose maxim that was, but it's a tried and true rule for journalists, which particularly holds for your bad pieces.

Last year I took after a writer named Lori Gottlieb for publishing this piece in the Atlantic about how women should settle and marry whichever schlub they can get their hands on because being a single mother is really hard. You can read my brief against the piece, and the editors at the Atlantic, here.

In any event, I was paging through Parents magazine today (no comment) when I stumbled over a piece entitled "I Heart Your Husband." The first three paragraphs sounded remarkably familiar--turns out it's Gottlieb, writing the same piece with different names and similar anecdotes.

I don't mention any of this to impugn Gottlieb--she's done nothing wrong and if she can get two high word-rate mags to buy essentially the same piece, good for her! And the second piece actually fits pretty well in Parents; it makes sense for them.

My point is that the Atlantic, which was once America's most important intellectual journal, is now running copy on par with Parents magazine.

Happy New Year to You

"But of course, most of those assumptions are ridiculous. Kolb is not a starting NFL quarterback. He's a young Doug Pederson. And the Eagles have no chance--zero--of making the playoffs this season."
--Doing your oppo research for you

But seriously, here's what I want to know: What is a team that's 2-4 in division (4-8 over the last two seasons) doing in the playoffs? It's not quite the travesty of San Diego getting in at 8-8, but it's not that far off.

All of that said, the Giants' Superbowl victory last year is proof that in today's NFL, any reasonably-decent team has a chance to win a championship, in a way that reasonably-decent teams in the NBA and MLB do not.