Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stephen A. Smith, Political Pundit.
MSNBC, Disgrace.

We all knew this was going to happen.

But still, it's pretty jaw-dropping. I'd like to see my liberal friends defend this.

Belated Note on Jim Johnson

The Eagles defense wizard died earlier this week. He was a great one. Galley Brother B.J. pays homage: "His one regret was not figuring out how to do a 12 man blitz--a scheme causing so much confusion that one of the opposing team's players--or an official--became a blitzer."

If only he'd had more time.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bloggers Roll Over for Twitter?

Was this a big story that I missed?

Early yesterday, we [Twitter] were contacted by two blog journalists who had just been offered internal business documents stolen from Twitter by a hacker. . . .

Twitter is more than jotted-down notes from a handful of meetings. Our future will be shaped by the passion and inventiveness of everyone who uses Twitter and through the execution of our ideas. Nevertheless, the publication of stolen documents is irresponsible and we absolutely did not give permission for these documents to be shared. Out of context, rudimentary notes of internal discussions will be misinterpreted by current and future partners jeopardizing our business relationships.

So the bloggers were asking for permission from Twitter to publish the documents they received? And then, permission denied, they just quashed them?

It's going to be awesome when Citizen Journalists put the Old MSM out of business!

Skip Gates: What Really Happened

Now we have the whole story.

It's KSK's finest hour. Don't miss it.

First Time Blumenthal, Second Time Farce

So, will he get back-pay?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Erin Andrews Conspiracy Theory

The Czabe has one. And it's a doozy.

Also, not totally implausible.

Friday, July 24, 2009

More Skip Gates--Updated--Final Update--Final Final Update (Bumped)

It's bad enough that I have to side with Gates, but now I'm siding with Obama, too. Ugh.

I'm a little troubled by how quick some people (particularly on the right) are to make Gates' behavior the crux of the issue. Even without videotape, I think it's reasonable to surmise that Gates acted badly (though not illegally). From there, the general consensus on the right seems to be of a piece with this bit of folk wisdom from Tom Maguire:

Back in 1986 I was in Beverly Hills for a friend's wedding. While out jogging at about 9 in the morning I was hassled by a cop for jaywalking and threatened with a trip downtown since I didn't have any ID. A trip "downtown" in shorts and a t-shirt really didn't appeal to me or fit into the wedding schedule, so rather than summon forth the memory of centuries of British oppression of the Irish I employed the power of positive groveling. Don't cop an attitude with the cops - is that rule too complicated?

The general assumption being that if you're rude to a police officer, they then have carte blanche to abuse the law. This seems like an awfully dangerous idea to accept.

Let's leave aside the First Amendment implications for a minute. (Even though they're pretty substantial, haven't a lot of American soldiers died so that you can cop any sort of attitude you want towards the police, so long as you don't break the law?) The problem with Maguire's dictum is that it demotes police officers to the level of private citizens, giving them no greater expectation or accountability.

That simply can't be. Police officers are entrusted with the state-sanctioned use of force. We give them the power to arrest and kill. When police employ any of their powers, they do so not on their own behalf, but on behalf of the whole of society. (Remember that criminal offenses are, properly understood, offenses against society itself. That's why, in a murder trial, it's the state against the defendant, not the victim against the defendant.)

Because police are acting not as private citizens but as agents of the state, they should be expected to enforce the law fairly and dispassionately at all times. Not just during business hours. Not just when they had a good night's sleep. Not just when the citizen in question is especially winsome or accommodating. If an offender breaks the law, groveling and sniveling before an officer should not affect the officer's judgment. By the same token, someone who does not break the law should not be able to change an officer's judgment by being rude and inconsiderate. The law is the law is the law. (And besides, as I said yesterday, the police don't do this stuff out of the kindness of their heart. Cops are paid precisely to endure such abuse in the course of their duties. That's why they're compensated and don't work as volunteers.)

All of that said, the consensus view seems to be that, political theory aside, in the real world one must expect police officers to be incapable making such fair-minded, dispassionate distinctions. Steve Sailer writes,

[Yo]u don't make serious unfounded accusations at a cop if you don't want something bad to happen to you. It's not fair, but that's the way it is.

But is that really true? Are no police officers capable of tolerating a rude civilian, making an even-handed judgment about the law, and concluding an encounter without letting their egos take control the situation (leading to poor applications of the law)? I very much doubt that. And if even one police officer would have been capable of handling the Gates situation better, then we must expect all officers to live up to that standard. The "that's just the way the world works" shrug we're seeing is the worst sort of defining deviancy down. That way lies the police state.

Update: More great moments in policing here.

In the comments, Anonymous Super Trooper, who in the past has claimed to be a cop, begins his argument by asserting, "Gates did break the law." Once again, Anonymous Super Trooper does more to injure his cause than to assist it. Gates did not break the law. Gates is not even alleged to have broken the law. The police arrested him, charged him, and then dropped the charges. With neither a judgment nor a charge against him, there are no grounds to assert that Gates' behavior transgressed the boundaries of the law.

The fact that Anonymous Super Trooper can't make even this basic distinction--and that he feels no compunctions about rendering illiterate legal conclusions--should serve as a broader caution for those who would give cover to the police to handle social (rather than legal) transgressions as they see fit.

Final Update: The great Mark Steyn takes a line similar to most other conservatives:

I certainly sympathize with the general proposition that not all encounters with the constabulary go as agreeably as one might wish. Last year I had a minor interaction with a Vermont state trooper and, 60 seconds into the conversation, he called me a “liar.” I considered my options:

Option a): I could get hot under the collar, yell at him, get tasered into submission, and possibly shot while “resisting arrest”;

Option b): I could politely tell the trooper I object to his characterization, and then write a letter to the commander of his barracks the following morning suggesting that such language is not appropriate to routine encounters with members of the public and betrays a profoundly defective understanding of the relationship between law-enforcement officials and the citizenry in civilized societies.

I chose the latter . . .

What strikes me here is how analogous this response is to how the left viewed the Danish Mohammed-cartoon crisis. Sure, they said, free speech is nice in theory. But it's rude to purposefully provoke another religion. And when Muslims the world over riot and kill people well--what do you expect? That's just what they do. Better to keep your voice down, make nice, and never offend them.

Substitute "cops" for "Muslims" and you have the conservative position on police misconduct.

In both cases, the sentiment is wrong-headed and pernicious.

Final Final Update: Radley Balko makes the case against Officer Crowley much better than I did, so we'll let him have the final word. I'm going to excerpt heavily, but you should read it all:

By any account of what happened—Gates', Crowleys', or some version in between—Gates should never have been arrested. "Contempt of cop," as it's sometimes called, isn't a crime. Or at least it shouldn't be. It may be impolite, but mouthing off to police is protected speech, all the more so if your anger and insults are related to a perceived violation of your rights. The "disorderly conduct" charge for which Gates was arrested was intended to prevent riots, not to prevent cops from enduring insults. Crowley is owed an apology for being portrayed as a racist, but he ought to be disciplined for making a wrongful arrest.

He won't be, of course. And that's ultimately the scandal that will endure long after the political furor dies down. The power to forcibly detain a citizen is an extraordinary one. It's taken far too lightly, and is too often abused. And that abuse certainly occurs against black people, but not only against black people. American cops seem to have increasingly little tolerance for people who talk back, even merely to inquire about their rights. . . .

If there's a teachable moment to extract from Gates' arrest, it's that arrest powers should be limited to actual crimes. Instead, the emerging lesson seems to be that you should capitulate to police, all the time, right or wrong. That's unfortunate, because there are plenty of instances where you shouldn't.

The most obvious case where deference to authority can be counter-productive—both in practice and in principle—is when police attempt an unlawful search or seizure of your person and property. But there are plenty of other instances as well, particularly with the spread of information technology.

Photographing or videotaping police ought to be a protected form of expression under any reasonable interpretation of the Constitution. Yet at the website Photography Is Not a Crime, photographer Carlos Miller has tracked dozens of cases in which police have unlawfully demanded someone cease photographing on-duty cops. Typically, police demand photographers hand over their cameras, and those who refuse are often arrested. In some of the cases, the preserved video or photographs have vindicated a defendant, or revealed police misconduct. Miller started the site after he himself was wrongly arrested for photographing police officers in Miami. . . .

Just days before Gates was arrested, Philadelphia newspapers reported on a local cop who was captured by a convenience store's security video brutally assaulting a woman who had been in a car accident with his son. He then arrested her and charged her with assaulting him. The officer then demanded the store clerk turn over surveillance video of his attack. The clerk says other officers made subsequent demands to turn over or destroy the video. To his credit, the clerk refused. The video vindicated the woman. The officer has since been suspended. . . .

[conservative] deference to police at the expense of the policed is misplaced. Put a government worker behind a desk and give him the power to regulate, and conservatives will wax at length about public choice theory, bureaucratic pettiness, and the trappings of power. And rightly so. But put a government worker behind a badge, strap a gun to his waist, and give him the power to detain, use force, and kill, and those lessons somehow no longer apply. . . .

Verbally disrespecting a cop may well be rude, but in a free society we can't allow it to become a crime, any more than we can criminalize criticism of the president, a senator, or the city council. There's no excuse for the harassment or arrest of those who merely inquire about their rights, who ask for an explanation of what laws they're breaking, or who photograph or otherwise document police officers on the job.

What we owe law enforcement is vigilant oversight and accountability, not mindless deference and capitulation.

Case closed.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I'm only two weeks late to seeing it, which is kind of remarkable in its own right. All in all, quite enjoyable. It was my favorite of the Potter movies until the last 10 minutes, in which it went a little off the rails. Some thoughts (if you haven't seen it, there will be SPOILERS):

* Daniel Radcliffe is better when they let him be funny. He still can't do serious. Emma Watson seems to be getting worse with each film. Rupert Grint should actually have a career as an actor if he wants it.

* I'm not sure if it was intenionally done with make-up, but Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon looked suddenly very, very old.

* Jim Broadbent's Slughorn was truly wonderful. It's a very different interpretation from the book--much more sad than blustery. It worked for me.

* For the first time ever, quidditch looked both real and interesting. Compare the quidditch scene in HBP with Sorcerer's Stone on blu-ray. What a difference eight years makes.

* Overall, the f/x was pretty great, which it should be when money is no object. But there were a couple moments when the green screen was so glaringly obvious that it was a little jarring. Such as the final scene with the kids in the Hogwarts tower looking down at what might as well be painted back-drops.

The other moment which was distracting in its poor execution was the set design for the hidden horcrux. The crystal island looked straight out of Return of Superman. After being in a world that felt, for the most part, lived in and real, all of a sudden we're on a soundstage with what is obviously a movie set. I wouldn't complain except that for this franchise, the money really does grow on trees. Every single set should be perfect.

* One of the complaints leveled against the movie is that it adheres too slavishly to the book. That criticism strikes me as off the mark. There's lots of deviation from the book done specifically for the purposes of story-telling. Some of it, like Harry hanging around in the Underground in the beginning, works very well. Having the Weasley Burrow burned to the ground is also a nice bit of shorthand to show us the loss that peripheral characters are sustaining without going character by character.

* My big complaint is actually about a piece of adaptation that I thought didn't quite work: the final battle at Hogwarts.

Once Harry and Dumbledore return to Hogwarts, Malfoy has let Voldemort's crew of Death Eaters into the castle. But all they do is sneak upstairs to confront Dumbledore. There is no pitched battle for Hogwarts. After Snape kills Albus, they high-tail it off the grounds.

This didn't work for me for a few reasons:

(1) We don't get to see the students and staff of Hogwarts suddenly thrown into combat. Everything has changed by the end of HBP not only because Dumbledore is dead, but because the professors and the students have suddenly become soldiers. By keeping them out of the battle, at the end of the movie, they're still just on-lookers, essentially the same position they've been in at the end of all the other movies.

(2) Malfoy's big vanishing cabinet plan doesn't make much sense without a larger assault on Hogwarts. Why bother importing Belatrix, Greyback, et al for the sole purpose of letting Draco kill Dumbledore? The only reason to have them there is for it to be an all-out invasion.

(3) I understand that cleaving a little more closely to the book would have incurred significant costs of both time and money. But couldn't that have been conserved by eliding the intro where we see London under assault from the Death Eaters? Shifting the set piece to the end seems a net plus in terms of story.

* My only other real quibble is with the portrayal of Snape. In the book, his role is quite ambiguous by the end. In the movie, not so much. I think it's reasonably (though not totally) clear that he's ultimately on Dumbledore's side. I missed that extra layer of complexity where no one knew if he was a triple- or quadruple-agent. Also, his final encounter with Harry--the last time they'll see one another until Snape dies, I think--felt a little rushed for such an important moment. In the movie's own terms it didn't even make much sense for Snape to cop to being the Half-Blood Prince. Why not just leave that a mystery?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

LeBron Samizdat

The dunk tape is out.

And it makes LeBron look even worse because there's no reason he should have been so sensitive about it. He's not the one guarding Jordan Crawford. Crawford blows by his man and LeBron steps over to help from the baseline where he had been guarding the post man. He's a little late, but, in fairness to him, he needed to stay home an extra millisecond because otherwise Crawford drops a short pass to the post for a sure dunk.

LeBron made the right play from the help side. Crawford made a really good move and finished well. What's embarrassing for Bron-Bron isn't that he was dunked on.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm with Skip Gates

For the first time ever.

Taranto's piece is even-handed and fair, but I'd add one (important) thought to this:

This is not to say that the police are always right, and it seems to us that arresting Gates was an unwise use of the officer’s authority. Having ascertained that the burglary report was false, the cop had no reason to remain on the scene. This appears to have been a misunderstanding between two stubborn men, both of whom would be better off had one of them exercised some maturity and forbearance.

The difference is that in encounters between the police and the public, it is the police officer who is being paid to exercise maturity. If a citizen acts less maturely in such an encounter, he is simply behaving poorly. If a police officer acts less maturely, he is doing his job badly. That's a substantial difference.

Friday, July 17, 2009

One Shining Moment

Don't get me wrong--I'm very much rooting for Tom Watson at the British Open. He is, however, currently tied with Steve Marino. The UVA golfer has yet to win a major tournament and the weekend is still ahead of us. (His best finish was earlier this year at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial where he placed second.) But at least for the moment, Marino is in the spotlight. And it brought to mind a piece in the Washington Post Magazine, in which staff writer Eli Saslow invites Marino to play a round at one of the District's public courses. Being accustomed to the carpeted greens of Turnberry and Augusta, Marino finds it a bit of a challenge at the rough-and-tumble Hains Point.

Watchoo talkin' 'bout Willis?!

Willis Group Holding, a London-based insurance firm, has purchased the naming rights of Sears Tower, rechristening it Willis Tower. Not that anyone will call it that.

Sears Tower will always be Sears Tower, even if you haven't been to a Sears since 1983. Just like the PNC Bank Arts Center will forever be the Garden State Arts Center, where I once saw Hall & Oates. Did I just admit that? (Next stop, Brigantine Castle!)

Gasquet Was Innocent!

Remember when Richard Gasquet was suspended from the tour for cocaine use? No? Well play along anyway.

An ITF panel has now found that level of cocaine Gasquet was found to have in his system was no more than a grain of salt" and that he had ingested it by making out with some chick at a club and that "the amount of cocaine in the player's body was so small that if he had been tested only a few hours later, his test result would be likely to have been negative."

As if he hasn't had enough bad breaks already.

Dept. of Statistics

Did Jon Bon Jovi really see a million faces? Did he really rock them all?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two Four Years Late to Everything

That Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a heck of a movie, isn't it? Maybe too clever by a third at some points, but overall, it's pretty rewarding. And Val Kilmer's best work since Tombstone.

I wonder if Shane Black will ever get another bit at the directing apple.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

UFC and Anti-Trust

So the black-balling is true. To recap: EA Sports is making a videogame called "MMA" which seeks to license the likenesses of real MMA fighters. The rumor had been that UFC head Dana White had threatened to black-ball any fighter who sold their private rights to EA. And on Saturday night, White confirmed that the rumor is true. The other important fact in the case is that the UFC currently has a license with another game producer, THQ, for their own game.

White is particularly savvy about the values of intellectual property. He built the UFC by purchasing the video rights for the nascent company and then using that leverage to buy the rest of the UFC outright. You could make an argument that any enterprise organized around a pay-per-view model needs to smartly manage its IP, striking the right balance between giving away enough product to stoke demand and keeping enough product walled-off to generate revenue. I suspect that White sees the EA-UFC fight as another instance where his company needs to aggressively control what they see as their intellectual property (even if the IP they're trying to lay claim to isn't actually theirs).

This brings up two questions: The first is whether or not White's stance violates anti-trust (or employment discrimination) laws. I doubt that Acme Widgets could, as a matter of company policy, refuse to hire people who made side-income selling comic books on eBay. (Acme Widgets might be able to demand that employees not sell other widgets in their spare time, which is the nature of non-compete clauses. But I'm not sure that licensing your likeness to another videogame is direct competition to the UFC. Direct competition to THQ, maybe, but not to the UFC itself.)

The second question is whether or not White is smart to create a point of labor friction with this fight, even if he is within his legal rights. The UFC is the dominant organization in its space (at least in the U.S.). But it's still a relatively small operation. I don't think UFC's dominance is so total as to be able to ward off any potential competitor. Creating dissatisfaction in the labor market is practically begging for the creation of a rival brand and the barrier to entry seems pretty low. A rival could duplicate most of the UFC's distribution (save the Spike reality series) relatively easily. UFC's competitive advantage lies with its fighters. Unless the company's position is more dominant than I understand (a very real possibility!), White should be trying to protect that advantage while creating other areas of strength.

He's a long way from having Vince McMahon levels of monopoly power.

Friday, July 10, 2009

An American Hero

Carl Cannon: Anti-anti-Palinite.

Unbelievably damning. And for whatever it's worth, I suspect it took a great deal of courage for Cannon to write this. He's not some guy from the conservative ghetto hurling stones at the establishment. He is the establishment and he's taking dead aim at his peers. Good for him.

Comic Book Notes

I have a short piece in the WSJ about how President Obama has overrun the comic book industry. Of particular interest is a bit of art which didn't fit on the page, the cover of the first issue of a new independent book, Barack the Barbarian:

Of much more importance was the decision handed down on Wednesday by Judge Stephen "Dredd" Larson (who's a total IP stud) on the damages in the fight between the heirs of Jerry Siegel and DC Comics (meaning Time-Warner). (You can find the background on the original suit here. I had written it originally for the Philadelphia Inquirer, but my three years of columns for them have been disappeared from their archives.)

Anyway, the latest Larson decision is marginally a victory for Time-Warner because it limits the moneys the Siegel heirs are entitled to to simply profits from the Superman comic-book business. But the lawyer for the estate is making ominous noises about Superman's future with DC:

"To put this in further perspective, the entire accounting action pales in comparison to the fact that in 2013, the Siegels, along with the estate of Joe Shuster, will own the entire original copyright to Superman, and neither DC Comics nor Warner Bros. will be able to exploit any new Superman works without a license from the Siegels and Shusters."

At that point, we could conceivably see Superman imported to, say the Marvel universe. Which would cause spontaneous combustion among the continuity obsessives.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Who dunks on Bron-Bron? Nobody dunks on Bron-Bron.

Galley Brother B.J. sends us this awesome story of image control from The Chosen One (Basketball Division). Here's the story from CBS:

You want to see video of Xavier's Jordan Crawford dunking on LeBron James?

If so, too bad.

Because you're not going to see it.

Thanks to Nike.

Turns out, there were at least two cameras rolling Monday night when Crawford dunked on James during a pick-up game here at the LeBron James Skills Academy. It was a two-handed jam, the kind that would've circulated quickly on YouTube. But Nike officials eliminated that possibility shortly after the dunk happened by allegedly confiscating tapes from various cameramen.

Freelance photographer Ryan Miller was one of the cameramen shooting the game.

He told that Nike Basketball Senior Director Lynn Merritt took his tape.

"He just said, 'We have to take your tape,'" Miller said. "They took it from other guys, too."

Worth noting is that there is no policy against filming at the LeBron James Skills Academy, and Miller said he had been filming all day without incident. Nobody ever told him to stop. Nobody ever said there was a problem ... until after Crawford dunked on James.

"LeBron called Lynn over and told him something," Miller said. "That's how I knew his name was Lynn. LeBron said, 'Hey, Lynn. Come here.'"

Minutes later, Miller said Merritt demanded his tape.

Maybe it was the Puppet LeBron who got posterized?

Fake Steve Jobs

Nearly as brilliant as Fake Michael Bay. Fake Steve Jobs is pissed about the Google OS:

What the fuck is going on inside Google? How much more out of control and undisciplined can this place get? How many new goddamn operating systems are they going to create? They've already got Android, and nobody wants it. Now they're going to make yet another operating system, this time out of a browser that nobody wants. What's next? A Gmail-based operating system? A YouTube-based operating system? Honestly, Google, is there anyone in charge over there? Is there anyone who knows how to criticize anything in that fucked up little Montessori preschool of yours? I mean I guess it's nice that you all get to spend 20 percent of your time dreaming up useless shit, and I guess you have to use the Montessori method and tell everyone that whatever little piece of shit they've created is just so wonderful and perfect and beautiful -- but really, as I've told Eric before, that doesn't mean you have to release everything these bozos dream up. There's a word for this. It's called "no." Have you heard of it? I mean, fine, let them fuck around with stuff. Engineers like to tinker. So let them tinker. Then when they bring you whatever it is they've made, first you say you're too busy to meet with them. Then you say you've changed your mind and you will meet with them after all. Then you wait until they're all in the conference room with everything set up, and you send Katie down to tell them that you're going to be a little bit late. You make them wait an hour. Then two hours. Then, at six in the afternoon, you send Katie down to tell them that you've changed your mind again and now you can't make it. Then, finally, you set up another appointment and this time you do meet with them -- but before they can even speak you just look at whatever it is they've made and you say, I'm sorry, that's a piece of shit, and you walk out. Trust me, engineers love this. They're all masochists. That's why they became engineers in the first place. . . .

But if that's your big goal in life, the chance to maybe put a stick in Microsoft's spokes -- well, we've come a long way from the days of Sergey and Larry with stars in their eyes, wanting to make the world a better place. If that's really what gets these guys up in the morning, well, friends, I will pray for your soul. Here at Apple we have better things to do. Like creating new devices that nobody else has ever created before, and restoring a sense of childlike wonder to people's lives. Or inventing whole new multi-billion-dollar markets that didn't exist before.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Day One

If only BSG had been set in LA, by way of Lady in the Water . . .

I kid. The trailer for Day One looks pretty neat.

The Case for the Decepticons

Why didn't I think of this?

What is the status of the Transformers at the beginning of the film?
The Autobots have joined the military to hunt down the Decepticons. We're told the Decepticons are "doing things," but they appear to be hiding peacefully when the Autobots show up and brutally murder them.

Yeah. The Decepticons aren't apparently doing anything, then the Autobots show up, the Decepticons run for their goddamn lives, and the Autobots hunt them down and brutally murder them. It's kind of weird.

This FAQ is DuPont-worthy in its awesomeness, by the way. More samples of excellence:

Can you explain Megan Fox's appeal?
Yes. She looks like a porn star and has the same acting talent as one, yet for some reason she makes mainstream movies. This tonal disconnect is what's so appealing about her.

If you had to pick a single scene that exemplifies Michael Bay's utter disdain for story and continuity, what would it be?
When five Decepticons sink to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve Megatron's corpse. A submarine tracks five "subjects" going down, and when they get there, one of the Decepticons is killed to give parts to Megatron. 5 -1 +1 = 5, right? No, because the sub somehow tracks "six" subjects coming up. Not only is this very basic math, this is the simplest of script errors. It could not possibly have been more than one page apart in the script. And yet Michael Bay either didn't care to notice or didn't give a fuck. "Math? Math is for pussies. My movies are about shit blowing up, man."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Dept. of Literature (and Video Games)

I'm not an expert on Italian literature and but I'm pretty sure that none of these scenes from the video game version of Dante's Inferno were in the actual book.

Galley Wife S.L. will have to weigh in.

After we get the game, that is.

Summer Reading

I just caught up with Brian Azzarello's Joker and if you missed it, like I did, you might want to grab a copy. Chris Nolan and Heath Ledger must have been leaning on this pretty heavily for Dark Knight (either that, or they came to surprisingly similar interpretations of the character on their own) and it's great stuff. First-rank comic book writing.

On a different plane is Chris Caldwell's Reflections on the Revolution in Europe which is a stunningly smart, and detailed, look at the intersection of Europe, immigration, and Islam. I can't say enough about the book. Total hotness on every page.

Update: For those who don't understand how the comic book world works, a long graphic novel has an enormous lead time, often years. DC's parent company rode herd over both properties. And while I was trying to be polite, here's Azzarello talking less politely about the similarities between Joker and The Dark Knight:

Wizard: I know you and Lee came up with this almost out of Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, now that's way before "The Dark Knight" movie, and yet, this Joker that you've crafted and the story, fits so seamlessly into that "Dark Knight" interpretation. It's kind of eerie. What do you think of that?

AZZARELLO: Gosh, I don't know. You think someone might have saw the script or Lee's art? I don't know. Look, it's Batman. I can't be proprietary about that stuff. It's happened to me before. It seems like whenever I touch these company-owned characters, for some reason something that I do ends up somewhere else. It's the nature of the beast.

Monday, July 06, 2009

UFC Anti-Trust?

It's unclear whether or not this story has any merit. But I'm interested to know what the legal ramifications would be if it were true.

The contention is that UFC, which is kind of like the WWE of ultimate fighting (not in the sense that it's bogus, but in that it's the dominant company and it's run by a single owner), is telling fighters that if they sign deals with a mixed-martial arts videogame, they will be excluded from the UFC for life.

Again, who knows if this is true? But if it was, would the UFC be running afoul of any anti-trust laws, or would they be within their rights?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Worst Ever

Consider this a public service announcement: When it comes to stopovers, Charles DeGaulle International Airport is one of the worst. On my return trip from Prague, with roughly 50 minutes between landing in Paris and boarding the plane to Dulles International Airport in Virginia, the scene is nothing short of bedlam. Passengers have only signs to let them know vaguely in what direction is Terminal 2E. There is no one to direct you or to let you know you have to walk seemingly half a mile; that you must wait in a nondescript holding pen with other travelers packed-in like sardines, or on the nonworking escalator (a good thing too since people would have fallen on top of each other) with no air circulating and a rising temperature from all the body heat and heavy breathing—not to mention the fetid odors. Desperate passengers start forming their own lines, which leads to cutting and arguments and one American (already late for his plane to Atlanta) exclaiming, “And you wonder why we hate the French!”

Eventually we make our way through a door and find two customs officers casually stamping passports. One takes a break and the other continues at a leisurely pace. Planes are being boarded at this very moment. Once through customs, we wait to board a convoy of shuttle buses. Then we wait inside the bus until it is filled to capacity and proceed around the airport to eventually get to Terminal 2E but not before we come to a complete stop behind a construction vehicle with its hazards on. Arriving at the terminal, travelers race their way up more stairs and escalators and wait in another massive line to get through security. At this point tempers are flaring. Some are yelling at the screeners who have decided to prevent some individuals from entering the metal detector zone for no apparent reason—the security monitors are just standing around while passengers stare back at them and no one is getting through unless the screener lets you through in his infinite mercy. (And it doesn’t help that some travelers wait until the last minute to check their pockets, remove laptops, untie shoes, and drink bottles of water.) Finally through, it is a marathon past the duty free corridors and to the gates.

Needless to say the passengers boarding my flight had tense expressions. Inevitably this also led to a screaming match between two individuals—a woman telling a man not to touch her bags and the man defiantly moving them aside to make room for his own luggage. The woman’s husband gets involved and now these men are in a standoff, their noses mere centimeters away. Kudos to one of the flight attendants on Air France flight 26 who defused the conflict, urging them that “we’re going to have a happy flight,” and “now shake hands” so we can get a move on.

And move on we did, with only the occasional annoyance from the row in front of me: a Czech family brawl in which the teenage boy pushed around his sister until his mother started slapping him around.

In short, always go for the direct flight.

Talk You Off What, Pop-Pop?

Did anyone else know that the great Mitch Hurwitz went to Georgetown? And majored in theology? Hurwitz has this excellent story of his Hoya days:

Here’s a funny thing about Georgetown: At the end of each year the college would create this mathematical formula to figure out the average salary each major would eventually earn. English majors earned, on average, about $30,000 a year. But majors in the fine arts earned more than $1,000,000 a year. And that was because there were only six of them, and one had been [Knicks basketball-team center] Patrick Ewing.

More interview here, including some great stuff about the idea of "call-forwards." (Hand chair.)