Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Harden Up



Applicable in the USA as well.

Where to Invest?

Besides guns, gold, and ammo, I'm starting to look at a whole life insurance policy. There are advantages and problems. A lot of people cite how much more expensive 'whole' is vs. 'term' in premiums. Sure you can buy a 30 year term life policy for a lower cost, but what happens in 30 years when you are 60-65 and outlived the policy? Think a company is going to give you any coverage for cheap? No way. A whole policy lasts your entire lifetime and earns a cash value. In case you did not notice the stock market, bond market, and real estate market have all failed investors. Long term bonds return less than 4%, the stock market feels like a rigged game for computers, and many people lost their nest egg when the housing bubble popped. If they had put that money in a whole life policy, it would still be there. I'm going to get a quote now while young and lock in some cheap premiums compared to starting at age 45.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Worst Presidential Bait and Switch

A lot of people are griping about our current POTUS, whether independent, conservative or liberal, support is slipping. Seems he can only get high approval from black voters (Gallup chart). A lot of his supporters feel this is not the change they expected in 2008. One change that would have pleased a lot of people would have been a break up of AIG and Citigroup when they came groveling for more money in Spring of 2009. Being tough with Wall St would have made Main St a lot happier. He didn't do this, Wall St got back to screwing us over, and Main St received more pain. This preference to help Main St and not enact change on Wall St (and subsequent piis poor performance) might qualify as a 'bait and switch', but there have been worse... at least one.

Looking over some historical election records, the absolute worst presidential election bait and switch would be Woodrow Wilson's 1916 campaign and subsequent actions in the spring of 1917. His entire 1916 campaign centered around Wilson keeping America out of WW1 (not hard since we had no must defend treaties with belligerents). Seriously, the campaign slogan was "He kept US out of the War". He even attacked his opponent for talking about preparedness and building up our defense system. He won in Nov of 1916, was inaugurated in March of 1917 for a 2nd term, and what did he do in April of 1917? He sent a War Message to Congress asking to declare war on the Central Powers!!! That is an awful bait and switch.

*I dislike Wilson for many reasons: he imprisoned Socialists for giving speeches, jailed others just for opposing the War once we entered, was a horrible racist, segregated the Federal goverment and rolled back advances blacks had made under GOP admins, created the FED and the progressive income tax. Somehow he is hailed as one of our greatest presidents.

Help with Long Islanders

If ever in a situation where you need to extend a conversation with a person from Long Island, ask them about Billy Joel. In an extreme emergency, ask them which team they cheer for: the Mets or Yankees.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Interesting Read

I found an incredibly interesting read. This is an econ writer, but this really made me stop and think. The sections on social media and how it relates to addiction and distraction were interesting. In the end, Facebook is selling not a product in the traditional sense, but like any other media system, it is selling you (users). They tally your likes, score you on friend connections and can sell screen space for advertisers.

Here's another good one on marketing and plantation style capitalism.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Black Kiss

While in Maine in August, I stopped a comic book store and browsed for some fun. I passed on buying "Crossed", as I could get it cheaper elsewhere. I noticed the catalogue of older stuff, so I inquired about the "Black Kiss" miniseries (I blogged about this before). The owner of the store laughed and said he'd search for it out back. He actually had it in stock! We cut a nice deal, and he said he never thought he'd find a buyer for that so he stuck it out back. We then discussed American Flagg (by the author of Black Kiss), challenges the industry faces, and how the creator of Black Kiss was one of the greatest sketch artists of women in comic history. It was a nice conversation. I left the store with my paper bag under my arm, and didn't read the series until this week.

Quickly: Black Kiss is completely deviant and intelligent. Heck the title and cover art is a play on the French Film "Red Kiss" and its posterart. Compare here and here.

Similar to the Watchmen, if you pay attention to the panels, you can figure out the story before it is fully revealed. The book was sold to adults only, so Chaykin (the author) assumed he had intelligent enough readers, not kids who need to be explained everything. The small details to the panels is what makes comics tough to adapt to movies, and it is one of the things I truly love about the medium. Chaykin places little easter eggs in panels and even in dialogue. The story flows, and is not just cheap sex scene followed by a fight and then more sex. This is not a normal vampire story, but it does involve a vampire. It also reminds me of "LA Confidential" and "The Black Dahlia", both by James Ellroy. The city of Angels has a dark underside, and Chaykin's Black Kiss explores it. Chaykin has a problem of always trying to see a giant conspiracy of evil corporations behind everything, so it was nice to see a crime story from him. Yes there is cult involved and a bit of a blackmail conspiracy, but it isn't some giant all encompassing story.

The art is black and white, and I like the effect it has on the story. There is a noir feel to it despite being set in the 80s. Since the story references the old days of Hollywood and has a main character that was a star in the 50s, it feels right. It also allows Chaykin to draw the female form and use the light/dark contrast to make things look fantastic. Chaykin draws women like the old timey cheesecake pin ups, and he delivers here. I also want to point out that the lead male has the same look of every lead male in a Chaykin story: dark hair, handsome, square jaw, physically fit and slightly above average height. It's a bit weird seeing sex scenes drawn into a comic book, but then again I've seen bodies explode, heads get cut off and arms torn off in comics as a kid.
For such a short series, the characters get fleshed out. These are not just one dimensional psychos, nymphos or knights in shining armor. There are a lot of grey characters in this black and white series. The relationship between Beverly Grove and Dagmar Laine is interesting. Beverly 'saved' Dagmar, and ever since then, Dagmar has been a 'thrall' (slave) for Beverly. They are lovers, and it is obvious they do care for one another, but there is an odd obsession at the core of Dagmar's love for Beverly. Their is an inequality in their coupling, and they know it but don't speak of it often. Dagmar (a tranny) has a strong, same sex non-sexual crush on Bev, as well as truly loving her. Dagmar has had plastic surgery to look like Beverly so much that they could be mistaken for one another. Dagmar desperately wants acceptance and love. She wants to be 'turned', which wouldn't strengthen their love, but would make Dagmar more like Beverly. Their relationship, as twisted as it sounds, is the core of this dark story. I recommend this if comics and dark stories are your thing.

Return to Oz


This reminded me of that 80s movie "Return to Oz". That evil lady with the assorted heads in a room. Between her and the wheelers, I was freaked out. Despite the freaks and frights, I requested that movie often when babysats by Aunts and Uncles. That movie was so freaky, and appropriately had the freaky looking Fairuza Balk.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Differences

My generation chooses to not know that which it sees, my parents' generation lies about what it sees, and my grandparents' generations knows, sees and speaks... and they're the ones dying off.

If Social Security Went Away...

Social Security is another government program that we seem to never want to fix until the very last moment. I have blogged about it multiple times, but I never really talk about the fun one could have with all of that money if the tax went away.

The Tax - 6.2% of the first 106,800 you make. If self employed, like my wife, it is the full 12.4%. Don't stop with the straight taxes. Your employer must pay 6.2% of the 106.8K to the government. If we eliminated SS, you would have 6.2% at the least in your pocket. If employers were to consider that 6.2% part of ee costs and therefore part of hiring you, you could potentially see 12.4% more in earnings. Most likely you would see a portion of that ER 6.2% in luring you to their company.

There is a downside: you have to save for your own retirement. You have to plan for disabilities that might put you out of work or reduce earning potential. You have to take responsibility. That is pretty heavy stuff, but it is something adults used to do all of the time.

Retirement is more of a modern invention. You used to work until you died, and often you died 'young'. SS used to start at age 65 as a means of alleviating elderly poverty. It was for those whoe couldnt work as much or at all (some who never worked), not providing all of a person's retirement income. It started at age 65 as that was the expected lifespan of Americans at that time. Social Security does good things like provide an income stream for people with serious illnesses and poor old people. Odd thing is the wealthiest demographic group in America has been 'the elderly' for quite a while. We should have been means testing the Greatest Generation back in the 80s and 90s. Damn!

If I could have 12.4% of my income handed over to me for my own use, I'd probably put half of it in liquid, low risk bond & precious metals holdings, and then use the other half towards a swimming pool and assorted present day consumption. A inground swimming pool would be great, and combined with extra sacrifice now I could get one in 2-3 years! That is all saving money vs. spending money is. You trade consuming now for consuming later. People relinquished that when SS came along, and the right to pick when you would spend your money was curtailed. First it was 1%, and now it is all the way up to 12.4%. While the Greatest Generation made out like bandits by paying in 1% and then reaping benefits while others paid 10%+, the true thieves were the people who got SS when it started without ever paying into the system. I've got a sneaky feeling we'll be seeing this discussed more. I bet they start with means testing the wealthy which will screw over anyone earning over 250K annually even more than the current tax laws. Then it will be moved 'down'. Let's see what the 'elites' have brewed up for us.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Virgins in America

A 23 yr old former intern at my company, now working elsewhere, is getting married in Nov. I asked if they were living together. Nope. I asked if his fiancee was going to move in right before the wedding to make the transition easier. Nope. Marriage first, then she'll move in. No sex prior to marriage, and even with the church booked and reception planned, nothing. I salute the ability to fend off a young man. It also bums me out that the intern, whom I first met two summers ago, is caving in and marrying now at 23. At lunch last week, I asked how he went from no engagement ring a month ago to a wedding dat in Nov he said "look man, it's simple, i'm not having sex, who needs an engagement period?" He should stay single. The possibilities are endless. Wait, no, no they are not. To each their own.

Adult virgins in America, by choice, they do exist.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hipsters will Cry

American Apparel faces bankruptcy. Where will the hipsters overpay for 80s fashions they could find in their aunt's attic for free go to now?

Beautiful Russian Photos

Check out these photos from Russia 100 years ago. Some of the clothes look so beautiful. It is wonderful that these photos are available.

Cars Take Flight

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Steampunk Movie Casting

Ok, I'm really pumped up by the steampunk movie I outlined earlier. If I were to pitch it to a studio, I'd stress:

1. A really untapped market.
2. It has a built in audience as steampunk has plenty of fans. I think there is pent up demand for a steampunk movie. I know steampunk fans who liked Firefly.
3. It has the nostalgia factor and period piece stuff that women love.
4. Sequels and prequels can be spun off as a 'universe' is created.
5. A studio could have comic book tie ins and spin offs.
6. A studio could sell action figures.
7. The UK setting (and UK heavy cast) would help with International box office revenue.

On to the cast....

Alex Hamilton - Lead Yank - Someone attractive & thin, who is still manly enough to envision investigating in the dark or on the sea. Has to play the fish out of water well, but not over the top.... James Marsden.
Theodore Reynolds - Sidekick Yank - Theodore is the tougher of the two, and more of the rogue. Doesn't need to be super handsome, and more of the Sam Elliot-Harrison Ford-Lee Marvin type. Do these guys exist in Hollywood anymore? Stephen Moyer. He's a bit older than I wanted to cast, but he'll do.
Benjamin Collingstone - Ian McShane. This guy plays tough guys. He plays cool customers with a sharp edge. He's a great 'commanding jerk'.
Shelly Shirtsmith - I'm shooting high. Emmy Watson. I need that smart yet cute look, and I need someone who can play assertive an dhave a chip on their shoulder. She can carry the feminist banner for this role like a proto-Marie Curie. She also has to play both Yanks off of each other
Chet Silverworks - Random chubby Brit with huge hands. Just needs to have that "Oi" accent down right. If Simon Pegg would agree to this role, I'd gladly cast him and just let the camera roll for a while and edit his greatest hits for ramblings.
Murder Victim - Random old Brit. I'd want some fuddy duddy looking Brit with bad teeth.

Movie Idea: Steampunk Movie

Why has no one come up with a steampunk movie? Seriously, how can this genre of fiction that has a pretty cool background: Victorian era steam power and setting combined with technology bits of today as if imagined by the Brits (sometimes Americans). It has been around for 20+ years with plenty of good works to adapt or use as a fresh idea's infrastructure. It is also a wealth of ideas that could be mined and then exploited until everyone got sick of it like "vampires" are right now. Steampunk has the extra wrinkles of selling an alternate history story and nostalgia in the same stroke. Imagining stuffy, Victorian era Brits with a steam powered carriage or computer is appealing. Plus it would give directors an excuse to cast British people.*

Here's my attempt at a steampunk movie: The Automatons of London


It is 1890s Victorian era London, England. A gentleman is going to bed. He has that "Scrooge" curtains around the bedposts set up. He turns off lights and goes to bed. He sees two yellow lights dimly through his curtains and thinks he left two on. He grabs the curtains opens them and then screams and the camera pans away as odd mechanical sounds and his thrashing continue. Camera shows some steampunk looking computer on his desk. We then get introduced the next morning to a newspaper editor's office. He declares some changes anda guest visit by an American correspondent (our lead, Alex Hamilton) and his quiter partner (Theodore Reynolds) from a subsidiary American paper. The Brits will constantly think or address the quiet partner as the lead's valet. The editor declares how the killed man from scene one was a Ministry man working on forming a security unit (early MI5). He had limbs torn off and his CPU was destroyed.

Yanks see the crime scene, ask questions yadda yadda finding out what the guy was up to. Little cultural things pop up, and classic British expectations of good behavior work against them. They see his daily schedule and notice a name pop up often out of the victim's caste and social circles. They meet up with this guy Chet Silverworks who will sound like an uneducated Brit or maybe give him a western accent (i saw me mum de udder day). They drink with him, and he says he can't say details, but that the victim kept going on about realizing Leonardo's dream. The Yanks then track down a name on the schedule of involved with historical studies. Research assitant Shelly Shirtsmith says he was working on unearthed Da Vinci scrolls, which the British Museums had for years sent there before Italian unification, deciphering his work like the wooden car and another oddly 'ignored' by the murder victim, Leonardo's robot.


After this revelation, back at their pad, the assistant Yank tells the lead of tales Scots in Canada and the US told of iron giants that killed and rounded up the Scots during the Highland Clearances. This could be a cool flashback/dream type sequence. He told the lead Yank that no one believed these stories and they seemed to be used to scare children and make them appreciate their opportunities in the USA or Canada. After this story and goodnights are said, the lead Yank looks out his window and sees two yellow lights in an alley where there is no window and too high, large and perfectly symetrical to be a pair of cigarettes. He decides to awake his assistant and investigate. They go down to the alley, only to hear something lumbering through their hotel/apartment and trashing their steampunk CPU.

Yanks go to Scotland Yard to inquire about the murder and talk to the man who took over for the murder victim. They get stonewalled, and ask about the Highland Clearances. They get a death stare from the new head of security, Benajmin Collingstone, and he recovers to laugh at their question. The Yanks take a steam powered supertrain up to Scotland to invesitgate. They ask around in Edinburgh taverns about the iron giant legends, and at closing they get stalked by a young guy, Aidan McElwain. After several blocks, they split up and one feigns passivity while the other blindsides him. He says he knows a legend of the iron giant the Scots broke. His clan did it, they moved to Edinburgh rather than Canada and worked as fisherman/boat carpenters. He tells them he'll take them there. The next morning by steam powered boat, he takes them up the coast and to a spot at some rocky cliff area where they see the remains of a large rusted robot. It would be in pieces. I envision a large cross between the scarecrow and the tin man from Wizard of Oz. The Yanks put pieces together and return to London.

On train ride back, they discuss course of action. See Shelly about Leonardo's robot. They will tail Collingstone. See where he leads them. They go to Shelly about iron giant robot, and she states that a rusted robot that lined up with the Highland Clearances timeline would have to have been huge to hold the coal and smallest steam engine of those days. Makes sense why the murder victim didn't care for her work deciphering it. The Brits in charge had already deciphered it years ago and put it to work. At night in London, they tail Collingstone. He goes to a warehouse with blacked out windows in the Industrial center of London with tons of black coal dust in the air. The lead seperates from the assistant, and there's some creepy, muffled sounds. The lead grabs the assistant and says he found a way in. They get into the warehouse, up to a 2nd level, and see steampunk robots slightly larger than a man but much smaller than the iron giant bots, and Collingstone recording something into a CPU. He states things like "roll out of robot bobbies on target for release" yadda yadda. He wraps up and leaves. The Yanks whisper about evidence and going to Scotland Yard, printing a story or contacting a member of the House of Lords/Commons. Their whispers awake a steambot acting as a sentinel on the 2nd floor. The eyes glow on and he starts towards them. They turn and make a run for it. A quick turn and slide down a metal ladder prove too much for the steambot, and it falls to the 1st floor, breaking up. They creep closer towards it and see the inner workings that resemble the Leonardo Da Vinci drawing and a tightly compressed steampower engine. They notice in the steambots broken arm that it has concealed guns. This would be a huge shock to the UK as bobbies don't carry guns.

The Yanks realize with the broken steambot that Collingstone will know that someone has broken in, and snooping newspaper men that previously were asking about iron giant legends make likely suspects. Lead yank and assistant Yank record a huge expose report on the steambot bobbies with guns and proof of the steambots primitive use in the Highland Clearances. Lead notices glowing eyes in alley again. Assistant goes to finish and submit the report to their editor, while lead takes the steambot for a ride. Lead knows the speed of a steambot and its weaknesses as well as awesome potential to kill. There is a chase through the streets of London. This is action adventure eye candy. Drunks and whores witness a man running from a steambot and yell things like "Oi, somefing looks quee-ah tanight". The steambot closes in, but the lead creeps into a crevice between buildings. We see the steambot raise its arm to shoot and the lead squirms through to the other side. He hears the steambot make its way around the block. As he gathers his breath, he says "the cliffs". He takes the steambot towards the river. We get a steambot cam shot and it is a bouncy steady cam shot. That cam turns a corner and sees the lead standing 20 yards from an edge of the river. The steambot charges for him, the lead runs for the edge, and jumps. The steambot's heavy weight forces its momentum too far forward and it plunges towards the stonewalk by the river. The lead is hanging from a rope he fashioned to something on the wall's edge. Hanging there he puts his hands to his hair and we cut close. As we pull back he is pulling his hands from his hair in the editor's office as the paper prints the shocking headline of the steambot bobbies. Collingstone is arrested. His files uncovered revealing a plan to have roving steambot bobbies all over London to keep peace. It also uncovers a program Collingstone wrote to control individual steambots for assassinations. The steambots have their guns removed and are placed into wooden crates in another warehouse with windows blacked out in London's Industrial section. At a pub, the Yanks and Prof Shelly discuss the boys next assignment, some fluff report on some British cultural thing to write for the American paper... laughter and beer for the both of them.

*In an average year, you might run into one British person. Somehow in Hollywood movies and TV shows, there are British characters that float in and out of every lead's life. Where are these Brits?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mad Men Season 4 Awesomeness

As I typed last week, Mad Men season 4 is giving us great episodes to enjoy. I type 'giving' to stress that these are gifts on the wasteland that is TV. Last Nights episode, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, was outstanding. Mad Men is back to showing the inside of the agency and little business things instead of focusing so much on Don-Betty. Once again, Alan Speinwall reviews this far better than I ever could type.

True beauty in this episode was watching the evolution of luring in a client. Honda comes calling. Pete sets it up, Roger fights it for his lingering WW2 feelings, and Don finds a way to solve the puzzle and pull off a win. The ruse was fantastic, and it was fun to see Joan, Peggy and Don pulling off the con. They had to solve a problem, but could not break the bank and had to cross cultural barriers to do so. I loved this story arc, and welcome the return of things like this to Mad Men.

Now I don't know whether to be ashamed or excited that I called the Sally Draper 'going to the petting zoo' scene. While watching Sally watch "The man from U.N.C.L.E." and Illya the Russian agent, I said to my wife "are we going to see a Sally Draper masturbation scene?" Literally 5 seconds later it was on. My wife and I have been calling for her future bad behavior as she would be a teen in the late 60s-early 70s, and did not think she'd start so early. Punching your brother and kissing a neighbor while playin' grown ups are normal things. Chopping off your hair so your dad will notice you and masturbating at 10 while your friends sleep are outside the mainstream. Sally Draper is played by a good child actor, and she has really been enjoyable to watch onscreen since the start of season 3. Thank you Mad Men!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Following - Nolan's First Film

Finally saw Chris Nolan's first film, Following, and the rest of his films make sense. If he wrote inception 11 years ago, he wrote it around the time Following was made, and this makes sense. There is a 'Mr. Cobb' in Following. There are thieves, there is misdirection, plenty of theft and confusing bits. The idea of 'what is really going on' and 'who is playing who' is central to the story, and there are a couple of twists. I did not see the first one coming, but I did see the 2nd. Following and Memento feel like sibling movies. Nolan once again uses the non-linear storytelling method within a frame story, and this is a nicely done, low budget, black n white film.

I watched a lot of movies while my wife was gone a week.

Therese and Isabelle

Therese and Isabelle is a black and white, French film from 1968. French girls in a private, boarding school fall in love, create a strong bond, and engage in Sapphic pleasures. It is all artsy so it is not a Skinemax flick. It is well shot, the acting is good, the love scenes seem realistic, and the music is enjoyable. This must be a great film for lesbians or confused college age LUGs (how does Jonah Goldberg not get credit on the wikipedia page for LUGs???). Everything is romanticized for the girls and the mother-daughter relationship. Those pesky men are always trying to mess things up from the boy in town to the step-dad. Some shots and scenes could have been tightened up or removed. The film had maybe 15 mins total of useless shots or slow pacing. The narration of the love scenes between Isabelle and Therese is worth watching this alone. You will hear the word 'entrails' multiple times, which never crosses my mind during sex. Thumbs up to Isabelle as well.

My one major criticism is that the movie ends with the line "I never saw Isabelle again". Wait, you two went from they will never tear us apart and all lovey dovey to never seeing each other again? You both live in France and you had each other's name. Why not reconnect somewhere in the future? Why not find each other that summer? Lame. Might have been interesting to see them strike up a life long friendship that would forever carry the secret of what they shared. This could have been a nice denoument to the film rather than the older Therese walking back to her car (and manfriend/husband) and leaving her former school with her memories.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

American Swing

Sex in the 1970s. I have blogged before about the pre-HIV, post-birth control pill era as the era of peak sex and Plato's Retreat was a wonderful example of that peak. American Swing is a documentary that looks at the rise and fall of Plato's Retreat. I laughed quite a bit at different points, whether the inspiration was the situation, comment or picture on the screen. It shows the driving force behind PR, Larry Levenson, in an objective light. They explain his rationale for the club, his honest charm, his sleaze and how he believed his own bullshit too much. HIV/AIDS really did destroy so many fun and good things. PR did give people the chance to enjoy sexual freedom in a safe & open setting. Personally, it is all a bit gross from a hygiene perspective. If I had been a young adult in NYC in the '70s, I would have spent time in discos not in rooms made entirely of mattresses.

I'm not talking about any of the politics and Mayor Koch closing the club down. AIDS hysteria had schools in small town America telling kids that they had just as good of a chance of catching AIDS as big city drug users. The hysteria of the day, including inflated infection rate stats to scare people into spending money on it, will never sit right with me.

The 70s seem so hairy...or is it that the 2000s are so hairless.

Friday, August 20, 2010

George Lucas is a Lucky Fool

George Lucas said that "Empire Strikes Back" (ESB) is the worst of the 6 movies. This does not surprise me as the link notes that Lucas neither wrote nor directed the film. He might just be mad that he destroyed the entire series with the awful 3 prequels, made the terrible special editions of the originals and refused to release the untainted originals on DVD for years considering those special editions as the real deal, and in the 80s ruined Return of the Jedi by using the Ewoks and straining to make a Vietnam analogy. Seriously. E-f*cking-woks. Let's admit it, he was smart with Star Wars, got lucky to have a great director/writer combo to write the dark ESB, and it was downhill from there.

The sad thing is that he was so fortunate to have success, those first two SW films and then Indiana Jones in 1981, that he received a 30 year pass to make a mess out of his creations. Indiana Jones was salvaged by the fact that Steve Spielberg was the director. Without Spielberg, we never would have seen two other good Indy films made. There are countless mistakes he has made, but his fatal flaw is his vanity. He is so vain that he thinks he should be the writer and director. He is so vain, he wants to be the creative genius behind everything. Few individuals can keep producing new ideas and art for 30+ years. Lucas should have brought someone in to help him with the prequels. I vote for Timothy Zahn. Zahn knew how to work in the Star Wars universe, he knew how to handle Jedi powers without making them cartoonish, and would have had Lucas focus on the Force and the space opera. The greatest love of my childhood for pop culture was destroyed by one man's obsessive need for control and praise.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Reminder, No Change

I really thought 'change' was going to come. At least that bankers would be charged for crimes committed during the bubble run up. Nope. Here's a list to serve as a reminder.

Privacy is Worth Gold

Penelope Trunk wrote a blog post recently about privacy being the new celebrity that could not be better supported in any fashion more than the CEO of Google saying that in the future young people will have to change their names to escape their cyber past. This is not the most frightening thing this man said. I will type that out:

"I actually think most people don't want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next" (emphasis added)

The article mentions how Google could remind thme to get groceries, but where does it end? WHere does Google stop? This is the talk of Bond supervillains. He doesn't just want Google to tell people what to do, but he thinks people WANT Google to tell them what to do. This is all from the CEO of a company that tries to polish its image with the tag 'don't be evil'.

Blogger is a Google tool... the Google Borg will be out to get me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dumb Students

Somewhere the history teachers at Padua Academy must be crying....

2012 A Terrible Movie Adventure

Hey let's do an in time review of the horrendously panned 2012 movie. Hollywood is trying to cash in on the Mayan 2012 long calendar finale (Dec 21, 2012) with action-adventure movies. Let's see what happens.

- Neutrinos mutated into a new particle that can heat up the earth's core. They don't heat the surface though, only the core.
- Oliver Platt is alive!!!!
- Danny Glover's speaking voice is messed up. He sounded weird in "Shooter", and he sounds the same here. I bet it is dental work gone bad. His upper lip looks weird.
- John Cusack is here to play the everyman. Wonder if he got his sister a role in this film? He's so good to her. Why does the hero have to be a southern Californian? Why does every story have to be NY or LA centric.
- Amanda Peet playing a mom now. You know this might fit her well as I didn't find her sexy, but she could have play tough and bitchy.
- If only a dozen people know a secret in the White House that is important for national security, the last person the Prez would tell is his daughter.
- Woody Harrelson playing his dream role: a crazy, anti-government paranoid. This is awesome.
- Wait: the earth's crust is destabilizing. ok, so the earth doesn't blow up but the crust dissolves or gets crushed up, what? This is why we need a Moon Base.
- They are inserting a dysfunctional family problem. We do not need this. Give me more action and science. I think it's obvious the douchey plastic surgeon step dad is dying. This dumbass married a woman with two kids already well after her prime, child bearing years have passed. He must really love her. Notice she still defends her ex that neglected her and puts up a front to her loving, touching provider?
- Oooh some science. The crust will break up and move. And???
- The Russian twins have awful Russian accents. They couldn't find two fat Russian kids to play the twins.
- The movie just got funny. "Get in the fucking car right now!"
- Can you outdrive an earthquake? Yes. Jump upturned crusts in a limo? Yes. Avoid all objects and completely clear through a skyscraper? Yes.
- Can a plane outrun the earthquake? Yes. Wait if they took off in flight how is he still flying between the edges of the fault opening? This makes no sense.
- I like how cell phones are working on the west coast as California west of the San Andreas fault slipped into the ocean.
- Yellowston'e supervolcano blows and somehow can't destroy the winnebago or plane that John Cusack's in. Winnebago's can also jump crust chasms.
- The Platt-bad actor playing the scientist confrontation in the plane was wonderfully overdramatic.
- Thandie looks like she stepped into the rejuvenation machine. She looks younger now than in Mission Impossible 2.
- Danny Glover's speech impediment is really messing with me. How did the fake nation in this movie ever elect him?
- "That's a big plane." "It's Russian...hunh?" Wait we the viewers should be saying hunh.
- The ash cloud would destroy those engines, unless the plane could outfly an ash cloud from a supervolcano.
- Vegas to China on one tank of jet fuel. Oh wait, they can refuel in Hawaii. "Vat eez that?" "the state of Ha-va-ee"
- Tsunamis finally show up. It was about time. The big Cali quake would have created one, but it was not needed yet for the awful plot. The tsunami wave shown made the Perfect Storm epic wave look small.
- More family crap for Cusack's character. Lame.
- This Russki pilot is pretty cool. He's got style and machismo. His accent is really funny. Wait he really is a former Russki (Estonian).
- They drive a Bentley out of the back of the plane while it is flying over a mountain with the cargo hold hatch down.
- The Queen shows up with her Corgis. Nice little touch there.
- Looks like Cusack and Co. will hitch a ride with the Chinese welder guy's family.
- The idealism of the First Daughter and scientist guy as they board an 'ark' is annoying. His cell phone still gets reception inside the ark.
- Like a lot of great movies they create the 'ticking clock' effect. There is now a countdown to X event, and this will create tension. They then follow this with another lame Cusack family scene. Wait the Chinese welder speaks English? Oh come on.
- Cusack and Co. sneak onto an ark. The hot Russian calls her dog and we get drama from the dog tight roping it over to her. Come on.
- Scientist guy Helmsley is played by the bad actor from Red Belt. He's giving it his all in this deck scene. It's a cheeseball cherry on top of this movie sundae.
- Tidal wave awesomeness over the mountains. So is seeing the Russian throw his son against all physics into the gate as he sacrifices himself into an artificial chasm.
- Why are these boats taking on so much water? Why is the tidal wave water flooding the entire earth? There isn't enough water to increase ocean levels to frickin' Everest's North Face.
- Oh the gate wasnt sealed. Weird how it was tough to figure that out.
- Of course the lead lives. Yah, a writer survived while billions perished.
- Wait the scientist Dr Helmsley took 27 days to fucking ask the First Daughter out??? Man, he is such a beta.
- Total negative ending would be the decks opening and toxic fumes killing everyone after they just survived that Mayan endgame. Nope. it is the good times sunset on the water ending.
- Wait so the flood waters receded (which should leave the continents bare again), but Africa rose several thousand feet and that is where the ships will resettle. Head is hurting.
- Final Lines: "Daddy, no more pull ups" "Nice". Head exploded.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Smug Pregnant Women

Just remember that when you become pregnant or have kids, do not spend all of your time discussing them. Many people do not care about your kids or you becoming the billionth mom.

The Best Comedy is the Truth



This could apply to modern America as well. I love the answer to the double question "who the hell is that?"

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Change in America

It's a quick comparison through photos, but it might make you tear up.

Mad Men Season 4 Reactions

Update: Alan Sepinwall has a great review of the episode that inspired this post.

Season 4 of Mad Men is back to focusing on Don Draper livin' his life and the ad agency working. Oddly, a Peggy heavy episode inspired this post.



Good Ideas

- Don Draper slowly descending into a sh*thole existence. I love how he finally had an affair backfire.
- The ad agency must come up with ideas. It must get clients. There is a delicate act of running a start-up on display for all to see. The problem of handling a massive client (Lucky Strike) that can make or break you. I loved the goofy little bits about the supermarket fight.
- Peggy going further down the path I predicted earlier but now with a lez wrinkle. I love it. She might be so Catholic that she does not notice the lesbian all into her.
- Pete Campbell being smarmy, and Joan back to being super sexy. Everyone hates Pete with good reason.
- Trudie showing up.
- Lane Price telling Joan that unlike every other man in the world, he will not go weak over her charms.
- NYC artists acting in a super holier than thou attitude just a few years before completely selling out and/or going in such a bizarre route than most people don't give a shit.
- The Karate Kid's mom as the old lady secretary for Don Draper. Oh my God, time flies.
- They raided my liquor cabinet: canadian club and tanqueray on display.




Bad Ideas

- Those dumb ads in the middle of a commercial break that look like a Mad Men scene. They star that "Desperado Episode of Seinfeld" guy, and I dislike him and all he stands for in those ads. Don't trick me into stopping my fast forwarding.
- Joan's husband. Every single time that guy is onscreen, I want to punch him in the face. He's like the dumbest, goofiest SOB to have graduated med school.
- Any scene with Betty Draper. My wife and I severely disliked her and expected her to be written off completely so January Jones could make movies. Nope. We have to suffer her onscreen.


When the season opened, I expected them to throw the attractive shrink Dr. Miller at Draper as his big affair for the season. They showed Draper with a hooker and then drunkenly moving on his young secretary. The secretary affair finally turns on him for once (woohoo), and he keeps hiring the hooker. The downward spiral is on! I really expected this last season with the teacher who got too close and was totally discarded by Don. The season could still have him get with the shrink, but a HUGE sign of his drop would be a rejection by the shrink. I hate seeing this show end, and like LOST, it makes me sad when I see that it only has 8 minutes left.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Crime and Punishment

Dostoyevsky has more appeal than Tolstoy for my reading tastes. It might be the less aristocratic origins and prison term in his personal story that make him more appealing. It is as if Dostoyevsky wasn't just writing about the normal Ivans of Russia, he actually knew them. Crime and Punishment is a labor to read but very engaging. It's a fantastic book that describes the poor, the middle class, the strivers and the connivers. It spotlights and mocks the socialists at times, and it mocks those who only think of their achievement and gain. It feels real and objective.

It also discusses through conversations and the occasional inner monologue the idea of murder. There is that Nietzchean superman idea that murder can be OK for those who are above the morality of regular people and that the ends can justify the means. How can you tell who is a superman and who is not? They are few in number, and of course, a person might instinctively think they belong to that group. This book plays with that idea and will hopefully make you think.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gangsta Card

Ice Cube was an entertaining young rapper with NWA. Ice Cube was pretty good as the tough guy in Boyz in da Hood. He now has his gangsta card revoked. It's like two different people, not physically, but spiritually.


Are we there yet?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good/Bad Joke Difference is Timing or Audience?

A friend* applauded through email the moves of the NJ governor, Chris Christie, for taking on school unions to get some pension reform, to not tax the hell out of citizens, and to be honest about their problems. A friend of this friend** said that's great that he balanced the budget but what will he do about the inner cities (of NJ). I said "Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure". A brilliant reference to Ripley's line from Aliens. She didn't appreciate it. Bad timing or wrong audience? I think wrong audience.

*lawyer working in DC who went to Cornell with me.
**Harvard Grad now doing PhD work at U of Michigan on gender/violence/the disabled.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Beach


Don't burn. Use Coppertone. Tanning prematurely ages skin and creates fine lines & wrinkles. For all of the scare tactics over sun exposure, skin cancer, etc. does anyone out there have a friend or family member who got skin cancer before age 75? I don't. Two grandparents of mine eventually had small skin melanoma spots removed. They were both over 80, fair skinned, and never used sunscreen. This is probably part of some secret conspiracy to get us to buy sunscreen. Once again, don't burn. Trust Coppertone.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Ricky Williams: Enlightened Athlete

I have typed already about liking Ricky Williams. This nice story on a frienship with a midwife from Canada makes me like him even more. I love that they shared stories & theories about the Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner. Most NFL players can't spell Steiner or think Austrian is the national language of Austria. Steiner's stuff is just new age mystical BS enough that it could be laughed at if discussed at a 'stuff white people like' dinner party.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Media Massaging Events

We all know how the media can alter the same fact. A 16 year old boy accused of a crim can become the young man who is the prime suspect. It is all in how 'they', the editors, want you to read the story. A curious case of this massaging of fact is in the obituary for an old child of the 60s anti-imperialism criminal who died recently after serving decades in jail for robbing armored cars. The Brink's robbery (in 1981) is described as a "politically motivated act gone violently awry". Paints a picture of a political act against the capitalist system that just happened to end in dead guards and cops. A few paragraphs down, you read that she was also convicted for a robbery in 1981 of another armored car where a guard was killed. There is also mention of a plea bargain deal where she admitted to being a part of bombings of government buildings. Sorry Ny Times, but I think violence was their MO. No matter how much you might be fellow travelers of the romanticized baby boomer hippie groups, they had violent streaks that did shock the nation.

Going Home

This afternoon I am going home to spend time here. Specific location will be to the right by about 25-75 yards. Beer + Sunscreen + radio + time = Peace



And to see this little bundle of joy.



Friday, August 06, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Maine Now more Obese than Indiana

Wow. I am surprised Maine is now in the top 10 for obesity. An index listing all 50 states is on page 2 of that link. What is sad is that 49 states have an obesity percentage of 20% or higher. Somewhere in the afterlife, Aldous Huxley is cursing himself for not making at least two castes in his dystopian classic, A Brave New World, content being overweight and ecstatic being obese. Can't you imagine "Eating Etas" or "Thick Thetas"? I constantly mention this, but it feels certain forces have us screaming down a road towards that world. I hope it's just paranoia on my part.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

College Advice

If you were thinking about getting a degree, go the cheapest route possibly right now to have as little debt possible from the education process. If leg two of the Depression 2.0 does kick in this winter and next year, we'll see 13-15% unemployment and taking on debt that you cannot get rid of unless you die is unwise. This especially applies to culinary schools (what a rip off now).

Check out Itulip for macroeconomic essays. Eric Janszen is pretty sharp.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Mercedes SL

Until we design self aware robots, the automobile will be the closest thing to a living being that humans have crafted. Mercedes has produced many beautiful vehicles during their reign atop German (possibly the world) auto manufacturing. The SL is the legendary sports coupe of the Mercedes family, and for my money the 70s/80s branch of that family tree (the R107) is the best. From '72 to '89, Mercedes produced these wonderful 2 seaters that looked like a deck of cards on 4 wheels. The 3rd car down in the photo is the era of car I am talking about here. They are short, hanging lower to the ground than a normal sedan. For a kid raised on Camrys and Accords, they looked like a sprinter in starter blocks.



My little pea brain associated this car with 'making it', like you had made it if you were driving in one of these in sunglasses and a Lacoste polo shirt with Blair from Facts of Life in the passenger seat. I'm not alone, as the wikipedia entry has a quote from Andy Reid of Classic Motorsports saying that they were the measure of success. I still see these cars, now sold as classics, and get a bit of a rush. Consumerism and advertising corrupted my little head. Since Indiana does not require car inspections, I could buy one on the cheap and cruise with the top down & Duran Duran blaring. If I had to pick a favorite color/model combo, I'd go with the merlot burgundy exterior with creme beige leather interior (here). Blair not included.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Good Night Good Love

"Could Be (A country thing, a city thing, a blues thing)" is the B-side to a single from Richard Ashcroft's first solo album. The entire album was a love poem to his wife (Kate Radley) whom he was secretly married to for years before they went 'public' with it. This was a wonderful, slide guitar heavy, and sleepy love song that didn't make the album but is forever burned in my memory. I first heard this song late at night on a British radio station. My friend's apartment was incredibly quiet, and the radio sounded so clear. I can close my eyes and still see smoke curl around the radio. The DJ said in a beautiful English voice that this was Richard's take on the "American Country Western" love song. I wrote down the song title and waited months to get back to America to download it. It's not really country, but pump this up to 11 and slow dance with your lover.

"rid me of this logic that leaves my heart branded, (i've been sleeping) take me to the places where the air is clean (and i'll be drowning), meet me at the fountain the one set in the garden, (and you can bless me) i'll wash your hands as you just stand, stand by me" - R. A.


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Documentary Review: Bigger Stronger Faster*

Bigger Stronger Faster is a well done doc on steroid use, and the curious relationship America has with 'steroids'. My rant on steroids was a couple of years ago. I dislike the idea of kids and teens doing it, but if adults want to risk their health, then fine. Some of my fears or concerns with steroids are discussed in this documentary and surprise surprise my school sports indoctrination colored my view of steroids (the Lyle Alzado lie). My dislike of steroids are a bit lower now with time, reading and even this documentary. There are long term risks because few if any studies have been done, but a lot of the information out there comes with complete crap 'children are at risk' bias. I also think new designer drugs will be coming to the market that will make anabolic steroids look mild in comparison, and these drugs will have far less risk because they will not impact your reproductive organs (like SARMs). Once we have gene therapy with no side effects, who would ever chance the side effects from anabolic steroids?

At the heart of this doc, the narrator, Chris Bell, has a loving family that is American as apple pie, growing up in the American Dream but still feeling inadequate. His two brothers use steroids. He pushes them and confronts them. It is a nice touch to the doc, as you hear stats, professionals, medical history and studies in between the Bell family's history and conversations. His mom talking about how Oreo cream is the best part being her story to boost her middle boy's self esteem is precious and something only a loving mom would create. Chris has the older brother he idolizes and the younger brother who 'surpasses' him to interact with through the film. Both have the size or strength Chris does not through better genetic draws and steroids. At the end, Chris says steroids are not the problem but a symptom. Looking at the wikipedia page for the film, I read that the older brother died while in a rehab facility. The film, and Papa Bell's comments, seem eerily prophetic. Steroids did not kill him, but the drive that steroids were an enabler of did.