Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Goddamned Spirit

Alexandra DuPont, who very probably is not Jane Espenson, has the most devastating movie review of 2008, about The Spirit:

There's this cute rookie cop (Stana Tatic) who goes on and on about Sand Serif's "Elektra complex." It's the sort of weirdly self-congratulatory joke -- a nod to Miller's past "Daredevil" glory that only comics insiders will get -- that turns up all over this movie.

In another scene, someone sees The Spirit hanging from a skyscraper and says, "You'll believe a man CAN'T fly!" Seriously? A pun based on the advertising tagline from a 1978 superhero movie? Who is that gag for, exactly? It's like you're watching a very expensive series of inside jokes, or reading a really bad webcomic with a vast continuity and its own tiny and deeply insular LiveJournal community.

This leads me to my larger rant: Watching the movie, I really started to wonder if Miller suffers from that artist's malady where he's been called a "genius" and a "maverick" so many times, he's settled into a nice comfy couch inside his own head and is now perfectly happy cycling through a tiny set of visual obsessions that only he finds funny or profound.

This isn't the Frank Miller who wrote and/or drew dense, scary, funny, moody, multilayered sci-fi satires -- classics like "Ronin" or "Give Me Liberty" or "The Dark Knight Returns" or his staggering takes on Elektra and Daredevil. That Frank Miller was like the James Cameron of comics, young and hungry and drunk on telling bad-ass popular stories full of strong women.

Maybe Hollywood thought it was hiring that Frank Miller to adapt "The Spirit." What Hollywood is about to learn -- in a very public and embarrassing way -- is that the "Frank Miller" comics fans once spoke of in hushed tones stopped making good stories about 10 years ago, if you count "300" as his last ambitious book. It's worth pointing out here that Rodriguez was skillfully remixing Miller's 10- and 15-year-old material for "Sin City" -- material that gets weaker and weaker as that series (and that movie) goes on.

That will leave a mark.

David Lereah Surfaces! Or, "They said he was some kind of scientist . . ."

Just in time for the New Year, the former NAR hack shows up to admit that he was "spinning" with his economic pronouncements in the run-up to the housing bubble.

No news there, of course, but what does seem newsworthy is Lereah's claim that, "I worked for an association promoting housing, and it was my job to represent their interests. . . . I would not have done anything different. But I was a public spokesman writing about housing having a good future. I was wrong."

Here's the important distinction: Lereah was never a "public spokesman"--at least that's not how I ever saw him ID'd. He was always and everywhere presented as the NAR's chief "economist".

If David Lereah had been just a "spokesman," there would have been nothing wrong with his misleading, stupifying, claims. But he wasn't being asked for comment all those years--he was being asked for actual economic analysis. He wasn't Baghdad Bob--he was the Big Tobacco "scientist" presenting data about how smoking isn't harmful for your health.

There's nothing wrong with prostituting yourself, however distasteful it may be. But when you prostitute your profession, there are supposed to be consequences.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Today officially marks the end of VHS.

It will not be missed.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Matt Labash on Detroit

Labash's opus on Detroit is the best magazine piece I've read this year, and maybe the best thing he's written.

Print it and read it now, before Christmas. You'll see what I mean.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The New, New, New, New, New Bailout

Hugh Hewitt isn't happy with the Obama bailout program. Instead, Hewitt wants to see a giant housing bailout that includes:

Fund 4%, 40 year mortgages for people making less than $100k.

Buy up foreclosed properties and turn them into quasi-public housing via transfer to not-for-profits like Habitat for Humanity that qualify tenants/owners on the basis of long experience with the working poor.

Aggressively purchase at fair market value property deemed crucial to species protection to both conserve the property and release the value of it into productive enterprise while honoring the 5th Amendment.

Oh yes, by all means. Let's punish good credit-risk buyers by pushing a ton of people into the marketplace who can bid on property they can't really afford because the government is giving them a 4 percent sweetheart mortgage.

You will perhaps remember that the recently-popped bubble was caused in part by lending which pushed lots of people who couldn't really afford mortgages into the market, thus driving up prices for everyone else. In 2000, if you could reasonably afford, say, a 2,000 square foot home, by 2005 you could only reasonably afford a much smaller home because bad-credit risks (along with speculators and other factors, of course) had entered the market and bid prices up to (obviously) unsustainable levels. So your choice was to buy a crappier house and live within your means, sit out of the market betting that there would be a readjustment, or say, "What the hell" and get in over your head like everyone else.

The only saving grace to responsible people was the prospect that the bubble's unsustainability would eventually punish the risky and create lower prices you could, someday, take advantage of. Hewitt's "plan" would simply push more underqualified buyers into the market by giving them an advantage that responsible, qualified buyers won't get because they're responsible and qualified. In other words, after being punished for being responsible once, they'd be punished for being responsible again.

To top it all off, Hewitt wants to buy up foreclosed properties and turn them into public housing. That's right. Keep punishing the responsible people who have been able to hold onto their properties by creating public housing in the middle of their neighborhoods where none existed before. And just what do you think turning the mass of foreclosures into public housing would do to the long-term property values of suburban and exurban neighborhoods? My guess: Cripple them for a generation. Or more.

Maybe Hewitt was just being ironic and I'm just missing the joke. If not, then with conservatism like this why worry about Obamanomics?


Aside from bringing about the destruction of the godless Soviet empire, the Cold War also gave us the amazing constellation of technology mastered by NORAD. Today that technology is put to good use every year tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

Don't forget to check your NORAD Santa Tracker frequently on Wednesday night.

And if you want to be really fancy, you can track Santa in 3-D using NORAD's specially adapted overlay for Google Earth.

"I'm leaving to tear Dallas a new party hole."

"But don't worry, that Tiger Woods guy will be taking over."

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Spoken Word Majesty of James Tiberius Kirk

Courtesy of Valeria D'Orazio.

Watchmen Watch

I'm not exactly anti-Watchman, only vaguely so. But this report has to be disturbing even to the faithful:

Despite getting 22 minutes in (of what I keep hearing will end up a 150-some odd minute theatrical release) we got exactly 13 pages into the first issue of the comic.


Slate Justifies Its Existence

By having Mick Foley write about The Wrestler.

Blockbuster Does It Again!

A couple weeks ago I wrote a piece elsewhere about how Blockbuster mismanaged itself into a death spiral. Today comes the not-astonishing news that, surveying the wreckage of its business model, Blockbuster has decided to raise the price of rentals instead of chasing digital downloads.

Remember, this is a company that was worth $8.4 billion dollars in 1994 (which is just about $12 billion in 2008 dollars) and now has a total market capitalization of $227 million.

Go ahead and read that again.

Is it any wonder this company is dying?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Newsweek and Fundamentalism

Without getting caught up in the substance of Newsweek's "religious case" for gay marriage, there's a side note which caught my eye. In an intro to the piece, editor Jon Meacham writes that, "This conservative resort to biblical authority [to oppose gay marriage] is the worst kind of fundamentalism."

Which is funny. I might have thought that the "worst sort of fundamentalism" would be the kind of fundamentalism that called for the execution of homosexuals.

Or, I don't know, maybe the kind of fundamentalism that routinely kills homosexuals as a matter of religious law.

This guy gets to run a giant national magazine? Seriously?

Drum Porn

Galley Friend L.B. and I were talking about Primus, Les Claypool, and other mad scientist-type musicians and he sent me this video of Joe Morello, from back in the day. If you're a drum-line junkie, this is absolute pornography. His solo begins around the 2:05 mark and then goes insane around the 3:30 mark.

Note also the points at which Morello switches to snare rolls with one hand so that he can use his free hand to (1) push up his glasses and then (2) pull the bass drum back toward him because it's started to walk away.

Morello is just sick.

The Top Grossing Films of 2009

Dustin has an inspired look-ahead.

Idle Political Speculation

If Hillary Clinton had been the Democratic nominee, would Colin Powell have endorsed her?

Just wondering.


Evidently, Box Office Mojo has been acquired by IMDB/Amazon. Let's hope Bezos & Co. don't muck up Mojo the way they have IMDB.

Eddie Murphy Is the Riddler!

This obviously can't be true.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Redskins Hate

The Czabe sends us to this amazing item about Redskins head of football operations, Vinny Cerrato.

First, some background: In addition to being Redskins head of football operations, Vinny Cerrato was given a radio show on WTEM 980 when Redskins owner Dan Snyder bought the station. Actually, Cerrato was only given the show when the Redskins started winning earlier this season. As a radio host, Cerrato accomplished something like Pravda Radio. He managed to be uninteresting, cliched, insipid, and high-handed--all at once.

But a funny thing happened once the Redskins saw their season start to implode--Cerrato stopped showing up to do his show. The station kept advertising it. Cerrato just stopped going. Remember, it's not like he had to face tough questions or anything. He wasn't a guest--he was the host of the fucking show.

Anyway, after Sunday's loss to the 1-11-1 Bengals, Cerrato skipped his show, again, prompting Dan Steinberg to go through Cerrato's TV archives. Here's what he found:

With Inside the Red Zone off today, leaving fans without a crack at Vinny Cerrato, I thought I'd go back to the executive VP's appearance last week on Redskins Nation with Larry Michael. In addition to discussing the Portis-Zorn incident, Cerrato spoke at length on the draft, and why the Redskins went in the unusual direction they did with their second-round picks.

Here's the key point: Cerrato said drafting according to need can be a way to sink your team. "You can't just go take a need," was the exact quote. "The way that you can screw up your team is if you go draft a need, you're gonna get a bunch of guys at those positions but you're not gonna be happy with the results."

And as an example, he pointed to the poor rookie seasons of two defensive ends who some Skins fans wanted: Miami's Phillip Merling, and Arizona's Calais Campbell.

"I mean, it came down to Phillip Merling, people say that we maybe should have taken," Cerrato said. "He has seven tackles right now for Miami."

Damning. Except it's not even close to accurate.

When Cerrato said this, Merling actually had 23 tackles (17 solo) and a sack, according to For a defensive end who has started just two games, that's actually not too shabby.

By way of comparison, Jason Taylor, who's banking $8 million and cost the team two draft picks, had 22 tackles (15 solo) and 1 sack at the time Cerrato offered this explanation, although Taylor did get three tackles and another half-sack yesterday. Andre Carter, the team's most productive end, had 30 tackles (18 solo) and 3 sacks at the time Cerrato was knocking Merling's production.

"I think Calais has like 11 tackles," Cerrato said last week about another DE possibility. Not so. At the time, Calais Campbell had 19 tackles and a forced fumble. He added four more tackles yesterday, giving him 23 for the season, two fewer than Taylor. His one forced fumble is more than the entire Skins defensive line has contributed.

I'm not saying whom Cerrato should have drafted, and I'm not saying Merling or Campbell are, or will be, stars. But if you're speaking directly to your fans, providing them with "inside information" while justifying your past decisions, and you falsify facts to this incredible a degree....well, even if you don't like drafting according to need, you might want to pick up a fact-checker next season.

That's right, the guy running the Redskins organization knows about as much about football stats at a mid-level fantasy player.

Steinberg has the whole transcript if you want it.

Brief Political Aside

It seems a lot of Republicans are griping about Caroline Kennedy's desire to be named Senator from the State of New York.

Has it occurred to anyone that Senator C. Kennedy would be the GOP's best chance to pick up Senate seat in New York for a very long time?

Plus, if the Republicans are going to eventually make the case that Democrats are a bunch of entitled and/or corrupt elites, Princess Caroline makes a nice entry on the list of supporting evidence.

Plus, plus, does anyone think she'd be a particularly effective senator?

In other words, from the Republican standpoint, isn't Caroline Kennedy an unmitigated blessing?

PS: Sure, maybe Republicans want to complain just enough to get noticed, but not so much as to derail Caroline's coronation. But they should be careful, no?

Hating Will Smith

Is this the meanest thing Todd McCarthy has ever written?

Nor can it be said that Smith, whose most recent box office barn-burners, "I Am Legend" and "Hancock," seemed consciously designed to set the star apart from the rest of humanity, shies away from the saintlike status conferred upon his character. Indeed, he embraces it in a way so convincing that it proves disturbing as an indication of how highly this or any momentarily anointed superstar may regard himself.


Obama as Starbucks?

I've been going back and forth with several friends over whether or not the left will (or could) ever become disenchanted with President Obama. The general consensus from my conservative friends is that the left almost certainly will turn on Obama because he's a closet centrist and blah-blah-blah.

Leaving aside Obama's political leanings, or even his eventual political practices, I continue to believe that there is nothing President Obama could do to cause the left (as a whole) to abandon him. If, on January 23rd, he decided to unilaterally invade Iran, install a nascent democracy, and personally torture Muqtada al Sadr while cutting taxes for ExxonMobil and advocating school voucher programs, I suspect the left would stick with him, whole-heartedly.

I may be wrong--we'll see soon enough--but all of that is just wind up to say that if the left did turn on Obama, it might look a lot like this open letter to Starbucks from a former barista and the comment thread which follows it. You can't believe that mushy-headedness on display.

* "You are indeed correct, and echoing a sad sentiment from all of us who ever dared to believe, believe that passion, and knowledge, and hard work, and talent, could in some way make a difference. I joined Starbucks 4 years ago, cynical from a lifetime spent in an industry where respect, integrity, creativity, and dignity were often foreign concepts. . . . Gone is the passion which lead to the talent, and the connection, and the credibility. Leaving those of us who loved our community, our partners, our guests, and our company, manipulated, lied to, disrespected, and most of all devalued. Thus, valued, respected, talented, enthusiastic partners are now crushed, faithless in our leadership, and dejected."

* "Well, it's nice to see that people are finally waking up and realizing this isn't the company they signed on for 2, 4 or more years ago. And if you think for a moment that your DM or even SM feel the slightest bit of remorse for what they are putting you through, I have a bridge to sell you. Don't even think for a second that anyone above the DM level cares one whit what your life is like."

* "I have been here for 3 years (granted, not 10) and i used to LOVE everything we stood for. Making the WHOLE experience. . . . I'm all about thoughtful feedback, but i would like my company to be honest with me for once."

* "A-fricking-men! I used to love it here, but not so much right now.
There's still time to turn around, Howard! Please do it!"

So if you were thinking of naming your son "Adolf Hitler" . . .

it turns out that the name's taken already.

NJ represent!

Tron 2, in 3-D!

If that sort of thing excites you, then good news.

I was kind of underwhelmed by Tron, probably through no fault of the movie itself. I was just a kid when I saw it on VHS after about two years of wasted quarters on the really cool looking, but ultimately insipid, arcade Tron.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Spirit

It may be even worse than it looks. From a very funny AICN review:

(Costumer Designer: Hi Mr. Jackson, it’s Susie over at Lionsgate. Listen, we’re wondering if you have anything you’d be willing to bring in for the shoot tomorrow. Do you have any old costumes from movies you’ve done in the past? Mr. Miller wants to blow the whole budget on “the look,” as he calls it.

Sam Jackson: Well...let. Me. See, little lady. I do still have my mutton chops from when I played Vincent in Pulp Fiction. Will that work?

C.D: Perfect. What else you got?

S.J.: I’ve got some old mothafuckin’ samurai robes from a chewing gum commercial I did in mothafuckin’ Japan. Don’t MAKE me smell yo’ bad breath! That was the tag line.

C.D.: Fantastic. Anything else?

S.J.: Well, I really wanted to be in Valkyrie, so I bought an authentic Nazi uniform. A hat and everything. But that SONOFABITCH Toooom Cruuuuise said there WERE no Black Nazis. I said, “There weren’t no mothafuckin’ black Jedis either, bitch, but that didn’t stop George Lucas from putting me in there.” Oh, that reminds me, I have my purple light saber. Will that help?

C.D.: Yes to the Nazi uniform, hold off on the light saber. Aww, hell, bring it all! I don’t know how, but we’ll shoehorn all this stuff into something. Thanks!

A Remake of Robocop?

Why not.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Criterion and Blu-ray

Santino looks into the Criterion Collection's move into Blu-ray.

Which probably means he's on their comp list for forever. Damn him.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sack of the Huns

If you've ever hated Baltimore, this is pure gold.

Dark Knight, Blu-ray, and the Liberal Order

Finally fired up the Playstation machine last night to watch The Dark Knight in Blu-ray for the first time. Several observations on the tech and further thoughts on the movie:

* The PS3 menus are poorly designed. It's an OS which has to do relatively little, yet the long horizontal menu list with obscured pull-downs requires a lot of work to navigate. The entire user interface should be overhauled. So it probably won't be.

* The Blu-ray picture was stunningly good. In particular, the giant, Imaxed scenes blew me (away) and what drove me especially nuts was the use of the IMAX frame for all of the big, outdoor establishing shots. The slow glide in to the Hong Kong skyline, in particular, was just unreal. I'd buy a $25 BR disc of just those.

* I noticed only two aliasing problems with the picture: (1) In the underground Bat Lair, there was a moment when the grid of white lights in the ceiling produced almost imperceptible jaggies; (2) In a scene with a silver flat-panel TV in the background, the speaker on the bottom of the TV in the picture had some aliasing issues with the little holes in the grill.

I'm not enough of a tech-head to know whether these issues were the fault of the BD player or my TV. Since the PS3 seems to be the reference BD machine, I'd suspect that it's my TV's fault. But I have a pretty high-end Pioneer and never so any artifacting like that watching HD-DVDs. Just saying.

* The Dark Knight came with three discs in the package, even though the case only lists the contents for two of them. The third disc is labeled, I think, "digital copy" or some such. I have no idea what it's for.

But wasn't one of the selling points of Blu-ray that it's storage capacity was so gargantuan that you could put entire seasons of a TV series on one disc? Can't they pack all of the extras and the feature onto a single BR disc?

* I've seen fewer movies this year than at any point in my life since I was 5-years-old, so I really can't speak to matters of awards. But if The Dark Knight isn't one of the five best pictures of 2008, then this was one of the best years in modern cinema. It should get, at minimum, five nominations: picture, script, director, score, supporting actor.

* Just one example of the unexpected, really interesting directorial choices Nolan makes comes in the final exchange between the Joker and Batman. The Joker is hanging off the building, upside down. Nolan does not shoot the conversation in full-frame: he uses coverage between the two characters. What's really interesting is that he decides to show us an upside-down image of the Joker--that is, the Joker appears onscreen upright, but with his jacket and hair and arms all pointing to the top of the frame. It gives him an eerie, not quite right, affect. Everything about him in that scene feels wrong and I think it's in part because our eyes are perceiving him as being upright, but he's dangling and dancing like someone who's upside down.

* The writing choices are equally interesting. Upon third viewing, I'm totally convinced that Harvey Dent's transformation is earned. From the scene in the restaurant where he talks about Caesar to his attempted interrogation of the Joker's goon, Dent is much closer to the edge than either Batman or Gordon (or, for that matter Rachel) realize the whole time.

* But more than anything else, what makes The Dark Knight so interesting is that Nolan has something to say the nature of our liberal order. Despite what he says to Dent in the hospital, the Joker is not an agent of chaos. He's an enemy of the liberal order.

Start by understanding that everything the Joker tells people in The Dark Knight is a lie. He lies about his scars. He lies about the locations of Harvey and Rachel. He lies to the mobsters. He lies about wanting the Batman unmasked, and then masked. He lies about having mined the bridges and tunnels.

But most of all, he lies to Harvey about not being a schemer. The Joker manifestly does have plans--lots of them. This little speech is designed to corrupt Dent, pushing him over the edge to make him an agent of chaos. And the reason the Joker wants to do this is because he knows that publicly corrupting Dent will destroy the will of the people just as surely as his terrorism. That's why he remarks to Batman at the end, "You didn't think I'd risk the battle for Gotham's soul in a fistfight with you?"

(I think it's pretty safe to assume he has also lied about the ferry detonators. Nolan doesn't show us, but it seems probable that the detonators were actually linked to the ship they were on, not each other.)

The Joker thinks the mores of Western civilization are a luxury which people will abandon in dire times. And he hates these mores--hates the entire edifice of the modern liberal order--so much that his entire rise is directed toward pushing Gotham to abandon them.

But here's where Nolan gets interesting: Batman (and, I suspect, Nolan) essentially agrees with the Joker that the liberal order is a luxury. But he thinks it's a very, very important luxury. So important to preserve, in fact, that sometimes illiberal things must be done in the service of its maintenance.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

CNN has an interesting report on Spencer Elden, the baby on the cover of the Nirvana album Nevermind. Now 17, Spencer still gets a fair amount of attention for his famous swim: "'Stuff happens like random cool situations where I get paid $500 just to go hang out,' Elden said. 'People just call me up and they're like, "Hey you're the Nirvana baby, right? Well just come and swim in my pool and we'll give you some money."'" Which is all well and good. But I still want to know what happened to the woman on the Ohio Players' album Honey. (That is, other than the fact that she was burned horribly by the heated honey and scarred for life when the glass was ripped off her honeyed legs and besides the fact she stormed into the studio screaming during the opening of "Love Rollercoaster" and ultimately was stabbed to death.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Do Newspapers Deserve to Die?

Maybe. I mean, look what the NYT is doing to market

Because self-important testimonials from Manhattan celebrities worked so well for the Gap.

Whatever was spent on this "Conversations" project might as well have been flushed down a drain. Just ridiculous.

Dept. of Huh?

Remember how NBC was shoving aside Jay Leno to make room for Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon? Leno was sore about it and all?

Well, now NBC is bringing Leno back into the fold (which he never actually left) and giving him essentially the same show he does now, but at 10:00 p.m., five nights a week.

I wonder if this is a recessionary move:

Though Mr. Leno will command an enormous salary, probably more than $30 million a year, the cost of his show will be a fraction of what a network pays for dramas at 10 p.m. Those average about $3 million an episode. That adds up to $15 million a week to fill the 10 p.m. hour. Mr. Leno’s show is expected to cost less than $2 million a week.

In addition, NBC will get more weeks of original programming. Network dramas typically make 22 to 24 episodes a year. Under this deal, the executives involved in the discussions said, Mr. Leno will perform 46 weeks a year.

So Leno will give them so much bang for their buck that NBC should be able to accept pretty meager ratings with his show and still be able to justify it on a cost-per-viewer basis.

But the biggest impact of putting Leno in prime-time is that it drastically reduces the available space for scripted prime-time shows. A network only has 15 hours of prime-time a week; this move devotes 33 percent of that space to one show leaving only 10 hours to run existing programs and try out new pick-ups. I don't know how much time reality programming takes up on NBC each week--I think it's four hours--and suddenly you have very little space to work in scripted programming.

If you look at the NBC program list, I can't see how you fit those shows (minus the coming cancellations, even) into the remaining six hours. I suspect that this may mean that NBC will look to run new programming year-round, instead of just during sweeps. It's the only way I can see them getting it all out with the addition of Leno's show.

'90s Music Potpouri

Whatever happened to Primus? If the grunge movement of the '90s was ultimately bad for pop-rock--and I think it was--there's something kind of glorious about Primus in their distillation of the the grunge ethos. (Even if, strictly speaking, they're less true grunge than bands like Pearl Jam.) If grunge was about a wholesale rejection of '80s pop-rock, I'd submit that a track such as "Tommy the Cat" is about as pure a rejection as you'll find.

Plus, it's kind of awesome and Les Claypool was a mad genius.

Anyway, I was just wondering what had become of Primus on the cultural landscape. The wikimachine says they were touring as recently as 2006, but I'm wondering more about whether or not they still register in the culture. You'd think that, at the very least, some enterprising rappers would have made hay by sampling some of their bass lines.

P.S.: Is there a defense to be mounted on behalf of Counting Crows? A few weeks ago I confessed my severe weakness for them to the Pig. He was horrified. Is it possible to count the Crows as anything more than a guilty pleasure?

Monday, December 08, 2008


Everyone has a friend who's a kind of soccer scold. They lecture us about how amazing the beautiful game is. How exciting nil-nil ties are. How soccer players are the greatest athletes in the world. How soccer is the most popular sport on the globe. And, when all else fails, how really, tough soccer players are. Hey, they don't wear pads like your wussy "football" guys do.

Yeah, so here's some video of Vinnie Jones, who I'm pretty sure was supposed to be the baddest dude in the history of soccer, getting dropped by some guy in a bar in South Dakota.


You don't like Family Guy much, do you?

No, I don't.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Do you really want to hurt me?

I'm sure someone already used the headline, but so it goes for Boy George, who, according to the London Times, "is facing jail after being convicted today of handcuffing a male escort to his bed and beating him with a metal chain as he tried to flee after a naked photo shoot." Which sort of reminds me of Culture Club's other hit, "Karma Chameleon":

I'm a man without conviction
I'm a man who doesn't know
How to sell a contradiction
You come and go
You come and go...

Did I just go too far?

War Child News

Santino reviews War Child.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Lamest Superheroes of All Time

The title says it all.

But where's T.C.?

I wanted to directly post this video here but my computer won't do it. So click on the link and enjoy. It is an ad for Monk and a homage to Magnum P.I., right down to the Higgins karate pose.

Brief Political Aside

My friend Mike Goldfarb dresses down Marc Ambinder and the Atlantic, which is kind of great. But in the course of it, Goldfarb says that Ambinder is "well respected by Republicans and Democrats."

Is that really true? Maybe it is. Heck, it probably is. I don't know Ambinder and am not overly familiar with his work, but I do have a distinct memory of being in Nevada the week before the Nevada caucus and reading this post from him:

Why, precisely, do we, the media, not believe that John Edwards could win Nevada?

Because I think he could win Nevada...

Incidentally: my guess, based on what I've seen, heard and read, is that the results will bebunchedtogether and that no one will be able to declare victory.

The final results in Nevada were Clinton +5 with Edwards at 3 percent.

3 percent.

Having been around the state all that week, it was pretty obvious that there was no enthusiasm for Edwards anywhere, from anyone.

BSG Theories

Is the fifth cylon? Clues here.

Craziest theory I've heard yet: The Galactica herself. So crazy it just might be true!

I have no idea who it is, but my suspicion is that the key to understanding the final five is figuring out what the cylon's plan was. I've always believed that the most important phrase in the BSG universe if "And they have a plan."

So why did the cylons return after 40 years? Was it to merge the species, sweep away the old pagan rituals, and establish the kingdom of the one God? Was it to simply exterminate humanity. (I've never thought this was plausible.) Was it to fulfill the prophesies and return to Earth?

Understanding the cylons' plan should help bring the final five into better focus.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Got Milk?

Sitting on my desk is the Nov. 24-30 edition of Variety with a giant, wrap-around ad for Milk. The ad pictures Sean Penn's smiling, slightly addled mug and a long, laudatory quote from Peter Travers, who calls Milk "a total triumph, brimming with humor and heart." "An American classic." And, "If there's a better movie around this year, with more bristling purpose, I sure haven't seen it."

Which has to be the most unsurprising review ever. Maybe Milk really is the best movie of 2008. I haven't seen it, so I don't know. What I do know is that Milk will be the best-reviewed movie of 2008, no matter what. It's from indie darling Gus Van Sant. It's a true story. It's about a gay-rights pioneer. A gay-rights pioneer who was assassianted! It deals prominently and happily with homosexuality. And it stars Sean Penn. The only way this picture could be more critic-friendly is if Harvey Milk had been an alcoholic and/or physically disabled.

Seriously, who in the world would have the stones to pan this movie? I was sort of amazed to see that it had only a 94 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

Who are the 7 critics who dared to say Milk didn't do a body good?

Marvel Floats Throughout the Ages

Courtesy of Valerie D'Orazio:

That's right. Check out the Emma Frost. And the exceptionally gay Magneto. Also, around the 2:40 mark, you can see Doctor Doom rocking out.

The next one is more of a battle spectacular.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What I really want to do is direct . . .

The dream, of course, is to own a comic shop. The problem, or rather the main problem, is that there isn't a ton of money in owning a comic shop.

But Newsarama has a piece by the owner of A Comic Shop in Orlando explaining some of the things he's done right in making his business a success. He does some gonzo marketing and whatnot. But his stroke of genius is so obvious I can't believe no one else ever thought of it:

That's right: Pretty girls. In costumes. In the comic book shop.

It's like printing money.

Dark Knight Day

Today is the day Batman dies. Go buy a bunch of copies and then burn them while cursing Dan DiDio.

Update: Well, that was ridiculous. I picked up a copy (or two) of the final "Batman R.I.P." chapter and I have no idea what happens. It's unintelligible, like watching a movie with a couple reels missing.

There's an impulse to blame DiDio for this--rumors were that he had Morrison re-write the end. But I find nearly all of Morrison's writing disconnected and lazy to the point of meaninglessness. Final Crisis, his old New X-Men--even All-Star Superman gets jumpy and discombobulated towards the end, like Morrison couldn't be bothered to fill in the plot-points needed to get from Point A to Point D.

So is Batman dead? Who knows. The entire episode is so ambiguous--and not in the artly way--that DC can go any way they want with it. Which ultimately makes it meaningless. It's bad enough when a publisher lurches from event to event without ever pausing to simply tell good stores. It's worse when the events no longer hold any meaning.

Fracking Gints

For the Giants hater in all of us.

Oh, and read the comments.

Michael Lewis on the Financial Meltdown

I've always been of two minds on Michael Lewis. On the one hand, he's a great writer. A really great writer. And to make it even better, he's a great writer who's also a good reporter. You can't ask for more than that, really.

On the other hand, there's something a little infuriating about someone who willingly takes advantage of a situation which he knows full well is crazy. Liar's Poker was a great book, but there's a weird smugness about someone trying to tell people how stupid and corrupt the financial brokerage system is after he takes several hundred thousand dollars from that system.

But ultimately, this seems a small quibble. Lewis is the real deal. And here he is revisiting Wall Street at the end times. It's pretty great.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Frack Me

The trailer for the final BSG season is here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

And About that Blu-ray . . .

Galley Friend S.B. sends in this update on Sony's attempt to kill the PS3 just in time for me to buy one:

So here we are, sitting smack dab in the middle of the worst economy since Jimmy Carter; salaries are cratering, unemployment is spiking, deflation plagues the land, business are worried that a poor Christmas is going to sink them. . . so what does Sony do?

Check out your Best Buy circular (you can find it on the Best Buy website). They unveil a new version of the PS3 . . . that's $100 more expensive! Oh sure, it comes with "Uncharted: Drake's Magically Gay Adventure" or whatever that game is called, and 80 GB more hard drive space. Because I'm pretty sure that's what's keeping people away from the PS3: "Not enough hard drive space!" I hear the masses cry.

Seriously: I'm halfway convinced that Sony wants Blu-ray to fail at this point. XBox 360 drops their price by $100, the Nintendo Wii remains the most popular system in the land, and PS3 jacks up their price for the holidays? Jesus Christ.

Dark Knight Blu-ray Watch

A reliable source tells me that the Imax sequences on the Blu-ray edition are presented in 1.78:1 and the rest of the film is presented in 2.4:1.

Just in case you were curious.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Andy Reid, Franchise Killer--
or, How I learned to get over the World Series and be a Philly fan again.

So Andy Reid benched Donovan McNabb at half today against Baltimore. After the game, he refused to name the next game's starter. These are acts of coaching malpractice and Reid should lose his job--perhaps tomorrow, but certainly at the end of the season. Let's give a quick rundown:

* McNabb was having a hideous game. He threw 2 int's and coughed up a fumble. Yet the Eagles trailed only 10-7. McNabb's replacement, Kevin Kolb, threw a couple picks of his own and didn't add any points to the scoreboard.

* Let's grant some premises that I don't think are necessarily true, but we'll do them just for argument's sake. Let's say that McNabb is done, that he either can't play anymore or can't play effectively as an Eagle. Let's say that Kolb is a promising young QB. Let's say that the Eagles are scrapping to get a playoff spot.

Even if you grant all of that, the decision to bench McNabb is still insane. You don't destroy the value of a franchise player by publicly benching him in the middle of a game. You don't start a new young quarterback in the middle of a game against a defense as vicious as the Ravens. And you don't switch horses on a four-day week--the Eagles have to play Arizona on Thursday.

* 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.

* Which leaves McNabb. Is he no longer able to be effective? I don't know. I suspect that no matter what, he'd be more effective than Kolb. What I do know is that by benching McNabb you assure that he can't come back as a permanent fixture on the team and that he'll have no value whatsoever on the trading block at the end of the season.

* So why in the world would Reid bench McNabb? Simple: Because it's now clear that Reid desperately wants to keep his job. If he's going to convince Jeff Lurie to keep him despite the team's recent poor campaigns, he has to have a scapegoat. And that's what today's benching of McNabb was, pure and simple: A blatant, pathetic attempt to blame a player for the team's failure in order to hold on to his own job. It would be bad enough, except that in so doing, Reid also showed that he's willing to hurt the medium-term future of the franchise in order to cling to his post.

Reid, it's now clear, is a cancer. The Eagles will never win a championship with him at the helm. He must go.

PS: For whatever it's worth, the great Phil Sheridan makes a persuasive case that whatever is wrong with McNabb is Reid's fault to begin with:

Anyone could see McNabb played poorly in this game. What is debatable is how this very talented, very successful quarterback got to this point. The short answer from here: He has been ground down by a coach who refuses to run the ball, who seldom keeps extra blockers in to protect him the way other elite quarterbacks are protected and who, with one notable exception, has insisted upon stocking his team with the most mediocre receivers available.

The offensive line is in marked decline. Brian Westbrook is at half speed due to injury. The play calling is hilariously bad. The tight end situation is incomprehensible.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It seems the Guns n' Roses album Chinese Democracy is finally going to come out, first on myspace, then at Best Buy on November 23. But if none of the musicians, other than Axl Rose, are in the band, can it still really be Guns n' Roses? When the remnants of Talking Heads reformed without David Byrne, they could not call themselves Talking Heads. When Robert Plant and Jimmy Page performed, weren't they the Honeydrippers (2 out of 4)? Yet INXS and Van Halen went on (though not successfully) without their lead singers and they didn't change their names. So how is it that GNR is still GNR?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sony = Slightly Evil

So the xBox 360 unveils its new OS, which includes Netflix streaming HD movies. And suddenly Sony films are no longer available for streaming on Netflix--at least to the xBox.

Feed Rinse

Galley Friend A.W. just turned me on to a pretty neat new site called Feed Rinse. If you're into RSS feeds, Feed Rinse allows you to filter your feeds out, by keyword or author. It would allow you, for instance, to get only Jenny posts from IDLYTW. Perhaps there are other group blogs you might want to filter.

I'll just leave it at that. Enjoy.

X-Men First Class

So Fox is going to do another X-Men installment, but not with the mutants we know and love. They've hired Josh Schwartz of Gossip Girl to write X-Men First Class.

All the kids love Gossip Girl, but I'm afraid I've never caught the show. Is it Dawson's or The OC or Veronica Mars, or something else altogether?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Automatic Baby Walker

From Galley Friend B.W. How much would you pay for one of these?

Star Trek, JJ Abrams, etc.

So here's the link to the first full trailer of the JJ Abrams Star Trek. There's also some talk over at AICN about some scenes which were recently screened in full.

Some thoughts: Frankly, I don't know that the world needed another Star Trek movie. For my money, Undiscovered Country stands as the perfect capstone to the franchise. (In my mind, First Contact, Nemesis, and Insurrection never really happened.) I can't find it online for free, but Paul Cantor's "Shakespeare in the Original Klingon" is a cogent exploration of how Star Trek was grounded in Cold War Kennedy-era Democratic principles. (You can also find the essay in Cantor's seriously wonderful Gilligan Unbound. With the Cold War over and the Big-D Democratic consensus about American exceptionalism now a thing of the past, I'm not sure that Star Trek has anything meaningful to say to us today.

Of course, we aren't quite at the end of history yet. And it's possible that Star Trek could be adapted as a vehicle for talking about our latest twilight struggle. But somehow I doubt that anyone outside of Chris Nolan has the stomach to take part in that conversation.

All of that said, the new trailer looks vaguely promising as an earthy space opera. The shot I find most compelling is actually the opening with the kid. There's dust and dirt and the world is not totally unrecognizable from ours. And the defiant way the kid says "James Tiberius Kirk" is kind of perfectly in character.

And truth be told, maybe the world needs well-made space opera even more than it needs a Star Trek commentary for the 21st century.

Update: I don't mean to say that all of the Trek movies before Undiscovered Country were better than all of the ones which came after. It is, objectively true, that First Contact is a better movie than San Fran Whale Watch. Or Search for Spock. Or even Original Motion Picture, for that matter.

What I mean is that Undiscovered Country is such a perfect endpoint that for me, the series ends there.

Monday, November 10, 2008

War Child News

Galley Friend and movie producer U.G. is involved with a really interesting documentary called War Child. It's a film about the life of Emanuel Jai, a Sudanese child soldier turned rapper. After doing very well on the festival circuit, War Child is nearly a theatrical release and has a new website up now.

Keep your eyes peeled for it at your local art house in the next couple months.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


The first look at the new Whedon series is here.

Update: Never mind.

Geek Alert

So Battlestar Galactica is auctioning off all the props from the show.

Do with that what you will.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Dark Knight Production

Not since the amazing first reading of New Warden have young actors been so moving:

In Other News

The conclusion of Batman R.I.P. comes out today, and the general consensus seems to be that one way or another, Bruce Wayne is going to be retired as Batman in the DC universe.

More later.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

More Election Day Thoughts

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Election Day Thoughts

MacBook Notes

I got the new, terrifyingly fast MacBrook Pro yesterday and have three thoughts:

(1) There is a toggle function embedded in the F5 and F6 keys which I can't actually figure out what it does.

(2) The trackpad gestures really are quite nice.

(3) In a sop to PC converts, Jobs has removed the Apple from the Command key. It's a shattering loss.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pimp My Macbook

So if you've got a Macbook and you like the new model Macbooks but are disappointed that Jobs didn't jump to the next-gen tablet version that some people were hoping for, well, you can give these people $1,299 to mod your old Macbook into a tablet.

Pretty sweet, yes?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Philadelphia Phillies, World Series Champs

No words, really, for what happened last night. The metaphysical foundations of my universe have been called into question. Salvation? Original sin? Divine grace? Who knows what any of these things mean now.

But if you'll allow a personal indulgence, last night fulfilled something for me which I never, ever, thought would come to pass: I got to watch the Phillies win a World Series with my son.

Here's what he looked like the morning after the "rain suspension," when the full weight of his birthright bore down on him:

And here he is late last night, basking in the championship:

In the years to come, he will not, perhaps, remember the great run of '08 as clearly as he might wish. But I'll remember it well enough for the both of us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sailer, Krugman, Vegas

Steve Sailer has a long post taking issue with a Paul Krugman column from 1998. Without taking sides in the larger argument, Sailer links to this amazing story about how the financial crisis is hitting the Vegas strip:

There are more signs of just how much the Las Vegas Strip is hurting in this economic downturn. One of the valley's biggest casino companies, Boyd Gaming, saw a huge drop in profits, down 73-percent in the third quarter.

The company has also announced the delay of its signature resort, Echelon, will be much longer than anyone expected. The construction site will sit quiet until at least January of 2010.

The Echelon is the super-lux resort being built on the site of the old Stardust. The picture below is from August, when construction stopped:

Just as a stark contrast between what boom and bust look like, Caesar's Palace Tower was built in something like 6 months with crews working around the clock. This entire casino site in a central location on the Strip is going to sit totally dormant for at least 17 months.

Skynet Is Angry

Engagdet has a fantastic video with a robot mimic arguing that he should be allowed to destroy humanity.

Yes, if only Maggie was still in power . . .

Blu-Ray Days, cont.

Robin Harris makes a half-convincing case that Blu-ray won the format war only to become a niche videophile medium, like laserdisc. Engadget is skeptical of his argument.

I don't much care either way so long as studios keep moving back-catalog material over to the platform, though it would be nice to see wider adoption to push the disc prices down.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Ya-Ya Sisterhood Bullshit"

M.E. Russell puts together a devastating critique of The Secret Life of Bees and the mini-genre to which it belongs:

These movies tend to be based on the sorts of books Oprah likes to endorse, and they contain some or all of the following:

* A precious, self-consciously offbeat title ("Fried Green Tomatoes," "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood").

* A condescending Hollywood interpretation of life in the South, in which people are either abusive racists full of hate or quirky saints full of hospitality.

* Hollywood stars putting on Southern accents like they're doing dinner-theater Tennessee Williams.

There's much more.

Letters from Iceland

I'm usually loathe to link to other writings, but I was in Iceland last week reporting on the economic meltdown over there and I think the resulting piece is kind of interesting. If you're into that sort of thing, it's here.

Après le Déluge

Why can't us? That's why.

There are a few different ways of looking at last night's rain-out. Here they are, in ascending order of paranoia:

(1) MLB did the Phillies a favor by suspending the game after the Rays tied it in the top of the 6th. Had the game been called after the 5th with the Phillies winning the World Series on a rain-out, their championship would have been viewed for all time as fraudulent.

(2) This was simple bad luck, no harm, no foul. They start over tied and play a short, three-inning game. MLB didn't cover itself in glory, but after the way Bud Selig has managed the game in recent years, none of this is any surprise.

(3) The TV network was simply trying to maximize audience by pushing MLB to even start the game last night, despite the fact that meteorologists knew exactly what was coming. There was no conspiracy.

(4) There was a conspiracy, but not against the Phillies. Had the game been called after five, the Phillies would have won the World Series. But MLB allowed it to continue until the Rays could tie it to avoid embarrassment.

(5) There was a conspiracy against the Phillies. Selig's confusing post-game announcement that he had--just recently!--changed the rules for rain-outs in the playoffs reeks of cover-up. If you think that MLB was simply waiting for the Rays to tie the game or get the go-ahead run before calling the affair, Selig's claim that he would never have allowed the game to be completed after five and a half innings doesn't make much sense because (a) No one else seems to have known the rules had been changed; (b) Selig was vague about when the rule was changed; and (c) Then why not just postpone the game in the 5th? Media who were there say that there was no material difference in the field between the middle of the 5th and the middle of the 6th--it was unplayable in both. This looks like MLB trying to bail out the Rays any way they could.

(6) There was a conspiracy against the Phillies. Not by Fox or MLB. You know where I'm going with this: Fog Bowl.

In His wisdom, God does not want the Phillies to win the World Series. So He opened the heavens and sent the rains. He guided the Rays' bats in the top of the 6th. When the game resumes tomorrow (I assume they won't be able to play tonight), the Phillies will lose. Cole Hamels is now done for the series, unless he would be pitched on very short rest for a game 7.

And let's be clear: The only chance the Phillies have to win the World Series now is to win the three-inning game on Wednesday. If they lose that, the entire character of the series will have changed. Destiny will have asserted itself. And order will be returned to the universe.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why Can't Us?

Is this the new 4th and 26?

Has the end of days arrived?

I don't know what I'm saying.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Picking a Fight with Power Line

My friends at Power Line are very smart guys, but sometimes they miss the forest for the trees.

First, John Hinderaker links to something by Orson Scott Card and notes, "I'm not familiar with columnist Orson Scott Card." Of course Card isn't really a "newspaper columnist"--he's a pretty grand sci-fi writer and--most importantly--author of Ultimate Iron Man series 1 and 2. For shame, Hindrocket!

Then in a post today Paul Mirengoff analyzes the World Series by going through all sorts of fancy "numbers" and "metrics." He concludes that the Series is "too close to call."

What Mirengoff misses of course, is the only salient fact: The Phillies are from Philadelphia.

We know how this story ends.

Friday, October 17, 2008

When Wrestling and Life Collide

Nasty Boy Knobbs got kicked out of Fenway during Game 5 last night. For reals.

Go ahead a click--they even have a picture. Knobbs, evidently, is a Rays fan. And he's still living his gimmick. That's kayfabe.

Starbucks Watch

I did a post over at the Standard Blog yesterday about a new directive from Starbucks which tells baristas not to pull espresso shots into a shot glass to inspect them before they go into the beverage cup. I argued that this looked like an admission from Starbucks that the problems the company faces aren't of its own making, but rather are tied up in an economic environment that presents SBUX with an existential threat.

Galley Friend, coffee expert, and barista K.N. suggests that I may be over-reading this development and it may just be the SBUX bean counters trying to bolster the stock price. Her long dispatch is worth reading:

I liked your point in the charbucks post, but I think you're missing the bigger picture: that they have noodle headed weeny bean counters to come up with "action items" about five seconds worth of labor to pour the shots into the cup is the problem. It's the noodle headed weeny bean counters who are screwing things up, and costing them more money, I'd wager, than the average barista taking the time to check the shots.

I give you an example to prove my point: when I worked at the bou, we were in an economic upturn, hence labor was scarce. Rare was the manager who was actually staffed appropriately. We begged, borrowed, stole to cover shifts, but ultimately managers (who weren't supposed to be behind the counter at that point in time, a policy they've since changed) wound up working way too many hours. To "solve" this problem, the genius Jay Willoughby (the man the board hired to take the company public, whose previous job was to take Boston Market public, a case study which is now taught at Harvard Business School about what NOT to do) and his stooge, Larry DeVries, came up with the brilliant concept of the "Labor Management Manual." We managers were to go through our sales for the week, hour by hour, transcribe them into a nifty notebook, then look on a chart to see how many people we should have had on shift during that time and then mark that down. This was mandatory and was supposed to help us staff our stores more efficiently, and to keep labor costs down. Never mind a. that we had a shortage of employees, not that we were staffing too many people and b. that any decent manager (myself included) already knew how many people they needed on shift to handle the business. I had to turn in this stupid worksheet every week with my P&L statement, receipts, overrings, etc. I wasted hours on this thing--hours I wasn't being paid for because I was salaried and already was over my thirty-six hours. How did it help me to staff my store in a labor shortage? They never looked at anything they could actually do to bring in employees---they only looked at what they could to make the numbers look better. They were trying to position the company to go public. To do that they had to keep the numbers looking good, and as labor is the biggest cost, they weren't trying to help us get staffed, they were trying to make sure things were under control so the investment bankers would like what they saw.

I'm not bitter. Really. It's hours that I'll never get back, but who's counting? Really. I'm fine.

Jay and Larry have since moved on to Pret a Manger (sp?) and last I heard they hadn't driven it into the ground...yet. There's still time, though, if they're still there.

Anyway...the point being that this doesn't necessarily mean the economy is going down, and charbucks is finally realizing this, it's more about the stock market being all over the freakin' place and this is what charbucks can do to fudge the numbers, so the shareholders stay happy. Of course, taking away the shot glasses because of a perceived increase in labor costs is going to ensure shitty shots make it into someone's $4 latte. Which means unhappy customers, who are already shelling out more for lattes than they probably should, so if they want one, they might just go somewhere else next time. Like Caribou. Which makes better lattes to begin with.

If they need to save some money, it would probably be better if they just fired an accountant or two. I mean, really. If they've got the time to figure this kind of crap out, that's not the kind of productivity most board members like to see.

Never mind the fact that the barista who takes five seconds to pour shots into a cup is not qualified to work even at Starbucks. Pfft. Amateurs.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Why Can't Us?"

That one's just for the Pig.

Rays in five. Obviously. Because what could be more humiliating than losing to an expansion team in its first post-season. To a 10-year-old franchise which has never even won 70 games in a single season.

That's why can't.

Yeah, my pennant celebration lasted all the way through the 5th last night.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lynda Carter on Wonder Woman

I hate to take issue with Lynda Carter, with whom I was somewhat obsessed around age 5, but here she is criticizing Sarah Palin for being the "anti-Wonder Woman."

Here's Carter's description of how what Palin stands for is anathema to Wonder Woman:

She's judgmental and dictatorial, telling people how they've got to live their lives. And a superior religious self-righteousness . . . that's just not what Wonder Woman is about.

Let's leave Palin out of the discussion. Does Carter really know what Wonder Woman is all about? Wonder Woman is an Amazon princess--an anti-democratic royal from a society which borders on a theocracy, so intertwined is it with religious tradition. Heck, as a member of the royal family she practically has a direct link to the gods. And talk about self-righteous: Princess Diana has no doubt as to which society is better, the all-woman, Amazon sisterhood or the corrupt, godless world of men.

Maybe the '70s TV version of Wonder Woman was a more egalitarian take, but that's not the classic view of the character.

All of that said, Lynda Carter is still getting it done at 57.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Narcissists for Obama

Andrew Sullivan, Chris Hitchens, and now Chris Buckley.

Birds of a feather and all that.

The Return of V

There was a time in my life when V seemed like the greatest TV maxi-series of all time. Now it's going to be re-made for ABC.

Let's hope it's done well.

Firefly Season 7 Review

Galley Friend M.R. points us to this fantastically in-the-weeds mock review of season seven of Firefly which, sharp-eyed readers will remember, never made it past its first half-season.

But to really, really get in on the funny, keep following down to the comments, where people take the gag and run with it. Sample:

At least Firefly season 4 stayed true to the fun action of the first season -- it could have gone completely dark like season 2 of Wonderfalls, what with Jaye going increasingly crazy and ending the season locked up in a mental hospital.

And who in the world thought it was a good idea to give Freaks and Geeks a 10th season -- all of the characters now are either homeless white trash victims of Reagan's Welfare reform, have contracted HIV, or are Wall Street yuppies. Did we really need to see Bill OD because he was trying so hard to fit in that snorted enough coke to kill an elephant?


The third season kicked a@@! (They won three Emmys, for frak's sake! And I STILL say Joss was screwed over - Abrams is good, but "Lost" was [and STILL IS] just a 'gimmick' show!) But I thought Mal being on the other size of the law let them explore some "gray zones" of morality - the REAL cause of Bowden's Malady (with the great Gregg Henry reprising his role as Sheriff Bourne) - And Badger revealed as a paid snitch for Blue Sun - Or what about the two-parter where the crew finally gets their (legal!) revenge on Niska? And who didn't shed a tear over Zoe's pregnancy? Okay, Wash going undercover with the carnival was just a rip-off of "The Trouble With Tribbles" -except with baby geese - but it WAS funny! And speaking of funny, what about the episode with Jayne's mother and four sisters get quarantined aboard Serenity for a month? I usually don't care for Melanie Griffith, but I thought she was perfectly cast here...I could go on, but I urge everybody to go back and take another look at Season #3!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Daily Beast Lives Up to Its Name

Tina Brown has launched a fun looking site, The Daily Beast. Today's edition carries a story by Scott Horton about how my boss Bill Kristol put Sarah Palin on the McCain ticket. Horton contends that it all began when Kristol met Palin in Alaska on The Weekly Standard cruise.

I won't spoil the fun for you, but I've written a small bit about it here. Let's just say that the Daily Beast is living up to the very best traditions of British journalism.

All hail the New Media!

Great Moments in the Real Estate Profession

The Pig sends us to this amazing site collecting the most idiotic RealtorTM ads you've ever seen. A sample:

This stuff can't be real, can it?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Netflix = Slightly Evil (cont.)

So if you get Blu-ray discs from Netflix, they're going to charge you more than a regular subscription.

I know it's only $1 a month, but still. Pray they don't alter the deal any further.

PS 3

Despite my constant belittling of Sony's Playstation 3, I'm about to buy one because Sony has found a killer ap--The Dark Knight on Blu-ray, coming to a store near you on December 9. Believe me, no one else is more horrified than I am.

Yet my impending purchase of a PS3 does little to convince me that they system represents an enormous failure for Sony. I had stopped following console sales for a while, but looking at the numbers now is pretty shocking: The PS2 sold over 50 million units in its first 36 months of release. In its first 24 months, the PS3 is on track to sell 15.7 million units.

And it's not like there's an army of losers (like me) rushing to reverse the trend. For September, the PS3 is predicted to see sales declining by 7 percent, to a paltry 160,000 units per month. This while the Xbox 360 is seeing a 31 percent increase in sales, to 320,000 per month. And all of this is just jockeying for second place, as the Wii is crushing them both.

Triumph of the New Media

You know how Hugh Hewitt is always, like, talking about how stupid and dead and moronic the, like, you know, Old Media is? You know, how it's totally like the difference between, like, steam power and the tall ships with the saily thingees?


Friday, October 03, 2008

Eva Longoria prefers Magnums

At least when it comes to ice cream. This caught my eye when I was in France last week. It also reminded me of how major movie stars do ads for products abroad that they would never do at home. Like George Clooney.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin Precog!

Who knows, maybe Sarah Palin will be dreadfully outclassed tonight and John McCain's campaign will enter full Hindenberg mode. But whatever happens in the actual debate hardly matters to the media horde--they're going to say the same thing, no matter what.

So I invite readers now to try to out-parody the Palin criticisms ahead of time. I'll give it a shot first:

Palin's performance tonight marked the low-point in modern vice presidential history. By comparison, she made Dan Quayle look positively Solomonic. This red-neck moron with her hackneyed down-home manner was an embarrassment to the Republican party but most crucially to John McCain. No candidate for president ever dared to place someone as manifestly stupid and unqualified so close to the Oval Office. The fact that McCain chose this woman is, alone, reason enough for America to reject him root and branch.

I'm certain you can do better.

Michael Bay Does Twitter


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

MLB Playoff Notes

I'm not normally prone to apocalyptic hysterics, but let me say this: If the Tampa Bay Devil Rays meet the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series, I'm going to spend the next month locked in a bunker awaiting the seventh seal/rapture/end of days.

The Dark Cowboys

The Gormogons suggest that maybe Tony Romo shouldn't sip from that bottle of scotch he keeps in his desk drawer.

The Godfather and Blu-ray

Slate has an engrossing piece about the restoration of the The Godfather and Paramount's transfer of the film to Blu-ray disc. Well worth your time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Considered Thoughts on the Paulson Bailout Plan and the Ultimate Risk to U.S. Credit Markets

Just kidding. But the Gormogons do have a very funny post with a picture (possibly) taken outside Wall Street:

Also, there's this:

It's long--8:50--but totally worth it. Particularly for you, CPW.

ESPN Does Something Right

Very right, actually. Tune into ESPN Classic at midnight and they're re-running AWA wrestling from the 1980s. It's pretty fantastic. The other night featured a match between a young Jerry Lawler and Kerry Von Erich. In the last week or so I've seen young Eddie Guerero (who was part of the Guerero Brothers), Cactus Jack, the Midnight Express, the Rock'n'Roll Express, and the Midnight Rockers--as a kid I could never keep them straight. There are even semi-famous recurring jobbers, such as Van Van Horn. It's a fabulous cultural artifact sure to rekindle many fond memories of childhood. A few observations:

* The crowds are very, very different than what you see at wrestling today. These audiences were not the state school frat boys, po-mo ironists, and NASCAR fans we see in wrestling arenas today.

* The actual wrestling is much, much better than today's product. Today's wrestlers are more like stunt-men, enduring dangerous accidents. Yesteryear's wrestlers actually mastered the craft of technical professional wrestling. You see lots of drop toe holds, spinning hammerlocks, suplexes, and piledrivers. The simple fact is that this is more fun to watch than what's aired on RAW.

* The commentary is particularly jarring in its difference from today's commentators. The guys calls the matches in the AWA days are sedate and professorial, treating the entire affair as if it's a real sport--they note changes in strategy and point out the amateur athletic backgrounds of the wrestlers; they offer critiques of the action as it unfolds. It's a far cry from the carnival barker schtick the WWE employs now.

* The most stunning aspect of these old broadcasts is how much of a difference it makes not having the governing body acknowledging that the preceedings are fake. When the WWE decided to become open about the fact that they were producing entertainment and not a sport, it created an existential disconnect for the product. I'm not suggesting that, while watching the old AWA stuff, you'll be fooled into thinking that it's real--of course you won't; we weren't even fooled watching contemporaneously as kids.

But it does make a huge difference in terms of entertainment value to not have the wrestlers acknowledging the fakery. In other words, it turns out that the kayfabe is tremendously important.

Anyway, go set your DVR and enjoy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dept. of Oops

In a post the other day I mentioned two giant, book-length mistakes. The first was by NAR "economist" David Lereah, who wrote Why the Real Estate BOOM Will Not Bust. The second was James Glassman and Kevin Hassett's Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market.

As it happens, the WSJ had a revealing piece mentioning both of these failed efforts in the September 10 issue.

In the first case, the chief of Lereah's publisher, Doubleday Business, defends his book by saying, "In retrospect, everyone was fooled. I would certainly say I was fooled. No one saw what was going to happen with real estate."

In the second case, the Journal asks Hassett about Dow 36,000: "Kevin Hassett . . . says criticism of his book isn't something he's lost a lot of sleep over. He is now an economics adviser to Republican presidential candidate John McCain."

There you have it.

Terror in the Skies

Drudge is carrying a terrifying story, purportedly about a man crossing the English Channel with the aid of a "jet-propelled wing." Here's the pic:

But the man and technology in question are obviously aligned with the international terrorist group known as COBRA. Intelligence sources first identified the "jet-propelled wing" in 1984 as the C.L.A.W.

Blueprints compiled for the C.L.A.W. by American special forces showed the vehicle to look something like this:

And while the pilot who used the vehicle to cross the Channel did not initiate hostilities, here's an artist's rendering of what the C.L.A.W. is capable of:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

All Hail the Gormogons!

Galley Friend B.W. has a new blog full of goodness, starting with this piece of must-have.

I'm amazed to find this image invokes nearly the same feelings as the brass bikini . . .

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Most Important Blogger In the World!

Okay, that's totally unfair of me and I already feel bad about it. What Andrew Sullivan actually calls himself is: "the most popular one-man political blog site in the world." I'm sure that that's true--I don't dispute it. But should you really go around saying stuff like that out loud? Maybe I'd feel differently if I had more than three readers. Who am I to judge!

(New GS motto: The fourth-least popular two-man non-political blog site in Washington D.C.)

All of this is prelude to today's Howard Kurtz story on Sullivan's using The Atlantic to question whether or not Sarah Palin is Trig Palin's mother.

I don't have much to add to the story except to (1) Congratulate Kurtz for taking a look at it; and (2) Observe that there is a bit of a double-standard going on with The Atlantic and the McCain campaign.

Sullivan complains that the McCain campaign has ignored his requests for proof of Trig's parentage.

This is, however, common practice in political journalism: Campaigns often don't respond to reporters they don't like or to questions they don't feel like answering. This rarely has any nefarious implications. I wrote a ton of fairly sympathetic copy about Hillary Clinton during the primary season and had, I think, good relationships with people on her campaign staff. But when I wanted to find out who was running her speech-writing shop, I spent almost two months making calls and sending emails and knocking on doors and getting not a single reply. This didn't mean that Clinton had no speechwriter, or was trying to cover up the fact that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney were penning her speeches. (Or does it!) For whatever reason, they just saw no advantage in playing along with that particular question. That's the way the world works.

But here's what's funny: I know at least one person who has emailed The Atlantic's head honcho, David Bradley, asking for comment on Andrew Sullivan's recent work. I was copied on the email that was sent; here it is:

From: xxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Thu, Sep 18, 2008 at 11:10 AM
Subject: The Atlantic's official position re: Identity Theft

Mr. Bradley,

Does The Atlantic Monthly endorse identity theft as a legitimate political vetting tool? I'm only curious because a Sr. Editor at your publication recently endorsed this tactic on an official Atlantic blog:

If this is not the official position of your publication you might want to publish a disclaimer disavowing Mr. Sullivan's recent endorsement of said crime.


Bradley has yet to send a reply. Of course, Bradley is under no more obligation to answer questions from the blogosphere than the McCain campaign is. But perhaps Sullivan's gripe about not getting answers would carry more weight if his employer answered the questions being raised about him.

Update: Patterico goes all next level on Sullivan.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

About That Financial Crisis . . .

I know that all the cooler heads will prevail and that the grown-ups are in charge and that the people who actually understand the intricacies of our financial markets will surely figure out the best course of action for our nation and our economy. If my time in Washington has taught me anything, it's that when great minds such as Barney Frank and George Bush come together, only good things can happen.

But while we're waiting for the big fix, you'll excuse just a moment of small-minded exasperation at the idea that a non-trivial amount of taxpayer money is about to be used not to build highways or kill jihadists, but to clean up the mess made by people who've been (transparently) peddling snake oil for the last five or ten years.

Is no one ever held accountable for their actions?

Update: Here's Kevin Hassett, co-author of the above book, explaining how incredibly simple the entire situation is. I'm certain you're as reassured as I am.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic, and the Endorsement of Criminal Behavior

For the last two weeks, Andrew Sullivan has used The Atlantic as a platform to smear Sarah Palin, questioning over and over whether or not Trig is actually Palin's son.

But last night, Sullivan and The Atlantic went even further: An internet group hacked two of Sarah Palin's email accounts. And Sullivan celebrated the act.

Commenter P.G. puts this in proper context:

[T]oday he endorsed identity theft as a legitimate tool against Palin.

I cannot comprehend how he has not been fired today. The Atlantic Monthly, one of the great publications of the past century+, now endorses identity theft. This is far more shocking that the lunacy and rumor-mongering of the past 3 weeks. Identity theft is a truly insidious crime that destroys peoples lives every single day. Today a Sr. Editor of The Atlantic Monthly, on their own pages, proudly endorsed this tactic. That the Washington Post is not investigating this situation is a complete and utter sham. Howard Kurtz should be ashamed. I plan on calling The Atlantic tomorrow to inquire as to their official position on identity theft and their comments on Sullivan's endorsement of it.

P.G. seems right to suggest that at this point it's The Atlantic itself which is endorsing the commission of crimes against Palin--because no one else at the magazine has written to contradict Sullivan. Whether by design or not, Andrew Sullivan is now speaking for the entire magazine by applauding criminal behavior directed at Sarah Palin.

What does David Bradley think about this? Why are no media reporters interested in asking him?

Update: Tech Guru P.G. expands a bit on hacking and identity theft:

I've read elsewhere around the web the notion that hacking an email account does not qualify as identity theft, but may be covered by various anti-hacking laws.

This is not necessarily true. The method most likely used to gain access to the account almost certainly qualifies as identity theft.

I can think of only a few ways to gain access to a private email account: some sort of brute force password hack, or trick the provider to reset password and/or account info.
Brute force attacks these days are mostly defeated by security protocols in place designed specifically to stop such attacks. It is probably highly unlikely that this was a brute force attack, and if it were Yahoo has a huge problem on their hands regarding their security.

In all likelihood this was either a web-password-reset or some other form of reset that gained access to the account. If a web-reset occurred it is possible that with the plethora of personal Palin information available to the public someone might be able to answer the questions set up before a reset can occur (i.e. where did you attend middle school, what is your dog's name, etc...) If you read a EULA or any agreement, to answer these questions as though you are the account holder is identity theft. It is also possible that someone simply called Yahoo to get this information, again under the guise that they were Sarah Palin or someone authorized on her behalf. This constitutes identity theft.

Nonetheless, whether it violates a hacking law or identity theft laws, it was a crime. And The Atlantic sanctions crimes against Sarah Palin. Until a retraction or disclaimer is provided, this is their official position.

Update 2: Orin Kerr has more on the criminal actions in question.