12.31.2007

A Venn diagram of the mind

Somehow I think the intersection between "Atrios readers" and "people who fire their guns into the air to celebrate the New Year" is not vast.

12.30.2007

"Oh please oh please oh please let this get around"

I didn't even know that conservatives were mad that Senators forced the NFL to show the Pats-Giants game on TV till I read about it at Roy's:

"This leaves it to bloggers and other operatives to tell America how awful it is that politicians violated the sacred rights of corporations so that people could watch a mere football game, and to their commenters to announce how they boycotted the game rather than enable statism. Which will earn them all the respect such a stand is likely to generate."

Annals of capitalism, random reading of Consumerist edition

Insurance: Insurance Company Denies Coverage For 3-Year-Old's Only Source Of Nutrition

Over 17 Million Items Recalled For Lead Contamination in 2007

Coachie dearest

Here's a heartwarming little story from a favorable profile of Georgia coach Marc Richt:

"During another family outing, Richt and his two sisters, each of whom played volleyball in college, were playing beach volleyball against a group of teenagers. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brad Johnson, who is married to Richt's sister Nicole, also was on their team. When Richt's team lost, he screamed at his sisters. Nicole Johnson left the beach crying."
You can't even measure all the character that got built there -- why, it's the size of a subdivision!

Shorter "There Will Be Blood"

Not only is there no God, but people in the oil business are assholes.

NY Times to hire another neocon opinion generator

This guy called it:

See skulking Truth to her old cavern fled,
Mountains of Casuistry heaped o'er her head!
Philosophy, that leaned on Heaven before,
Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.
Physic of Metaphysic begs defence,
And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense !
See Mystery to Mathematics fly!
In vain! they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die.
Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,
And unawares Morality expires.
Nor public Flame, nor private , dares to shine;
Nor human Spark is left, nor Glimpse divine !
Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos! is restored;
Light dies before thy uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
And universal Darkness buries All.


12.29.2007

LA, my town

Not to be too Tom LaBonge, but there's a cool gallery of LA photos from 2007 here.

To reinforce the stereotypes that non-LA people have (that I used to have), here's another one, from the Griffith Park fire:



Happy New Fire Next Time Year, y'all!

12.28.2007

I didn't even know it was sick!


Tail O' The Pup is gone? Wow. Mrs. D and I always used to bring friends from New York there. The hot dogs weren't much, though -- esp. compared to Pink's. It's not too early to go to Pink's, is it? Naw.

Why they fight

Via United Hollywood, this interesting bit:

"From Wall Street's perspective, we estimate the impact of accepting the [writers'] proposal is largely negligible," Bear Stearns wrote in a report last week.
The firm estimates that the $120 million figure would carry an average impact of less than 1% on annual earnings per share for the media companies. That does not factor in any concessions by the writers' side (the WGA),
where the principal issue is a desire for a piece of ad dollars from new-media distribution.
The potentially small financial impact suggests that studios (Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers) are more concerned about setting a precedent in new-media revenue sharing. However, Bear Stearns wrote that the writers' forecast for that market "strikes us as fairly aggressive." The firm hinted that studios are looking to the future. They are concerned that a favorable settlement would embolden directors and actors in their coming renegotiations.
I think it's more that the moguls

1) have dreams of a union-free future, just like everyone else in at Herb Allen's in Sun Valley. Steve Jobs doesn't have to deal with unions, just engineers and Chinese prison labor.

2) take offense at writers being, not in the same social class, but a class that's visible from the class they're in. What are writers' children doing at Harvard-Westlake? It's not natural.

3) Just hate writers in general. This actually might be something where the moguls could find common ground with many members of the guild.


UPDATE: Or, as Atrios says about the auto execs:
I really think I have to put this in the "they're just assholes who don't like to be told what to do" category instead of the "rational economic actor" category, though perhaps someone can convince me otherwise...

12.27.2007

Partisanship

We like partisanship when it comes to sports, right? What's so bad about it when it comes to politics?

I like politics in general because it's messy. To paraphrase the original Dr. J, nothing is too messy for so messy a creature as man.

Master cleanse



I apologize for the shitty cell-phone photo, but it cracks me up that the Whole Foods has an endcap devoted to the ingredients for the Master Cleanse -- maple syrup, lemon, cayenne pepper, and then, for the Whole Foodsy touch, some mumbo-jumbo vitamins.

I have friends who've done the Master Cleanse and lost tons of weight while feeling energized!, which I attribute not so much to the beneficial results of maple syrup (Grade B, please) and cayenne pepper -- or the salt water you have to drink -- but to the fact that without food or caffeine you wind up sleeping 10 hours a night. The feeling of being well-rested can be a revolutionary one for most modern adults.

Recycled showrunners

A commenter over at Yglesiastalks about consultants:

"It's like coaching - as long as you have run a campaign in the past, they will throw money your way."
But not only consultants and coaches are like that -- showrunners are also. If you've run a show, the studios think you Have What It Takes to run another show, irrespective of 1) results (not fully in a showrunner's control) 2) whether he got the most out of the people he had (totally in his control -- and it is almost always a he, too). In fact, there's no quality control at all as far as I can see, which is funny because these studio executives seem more like business people than showbiz people, so you'd think they would at least be good at business-school stuff like evaluating administrative talent.

Note that I'm not saying all showrunners are bad. I've worked for people who are quite extraordinary. It's just that there's no system in place as far as I can see to identify who would be good at it, and I've also worked for people who were terrible (you'd think they'd know who they are, but they don't).

Strike note

Via TV Decoder (terrible name), this article, one of many, about the changes coming in TV development:

Talk of industry change is dismissed by some writers as spin designed to undermine union resolve on payment for streamed and downloaded distribution. But networks contend the strike has given a new urgency to the need to confront ballooning costs and an evolving marketplace.

"The strike is forcing us to look at the way we all do business and to make choices that were tough when business was as usual," said NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker. "This is allowing us to make the tougher choices."
Well, there's no reason it can't both be spin and true at the same time. The truth is that the development process -- particularly on the comedy side -- is broken. Last season I was told NBC ordered something like 60 comedy pilot scripts (mine among them). They shot eight. They took none. That's crazy for reasons including but not limited to:

1) That's an awful lot of money for nothing.
2) Those 60-odd scripts all come in over the same three-week period and are read by what, four or five guys. That's not a process that's going to lead to discriminating choices.

I mean, I see why it happens, because there's so much mystery in the process -- maybe you buy an idea on the hope that it comes way up on the page, or you go to pilot in the hopes of finding casting magic, but overall hope, as they say, is not a plan.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: I haven't noticed anyone getting force-majured. What happened to that?

12.26.2007

A crank speaks

And I use the term with love -- I prefer a certain kind of crank, someone who doesn't give a shit about what anyone thinks of him/her -- although they often don't mind being seen as someone who doesn't give a shit about what anyone thinks of him/her. But people take offense at self-created personae too much nowadays. To me, it adds spice to life -- not enough people have a fondness for spats, say, or a conviction that we are on the last days of the world we know. I am in the former camp (not that I wear spats, I just have a fondness for people who do.) And Stirling Newberry is in the latter:

There will come a point where military conflict will be used by those others to evict the United States from the privileged position of having 6% of the world's population and using 25% of the world's oil. That day is coming and the question now is how many millions of people will die when it arrives. Americans have declined, and will in 2008 decline again, to do anything to stop the arrival of a real world war, to replace this fake made for cable one. There aren't many any chances left. This same was true in the 1840's and 1920's. The real instability is yet to arrive.

When it does arrive there will be several islamic states with atomic weapons and the means to deliver them. They will, as the underdogs in the conflict, have the ability politically to use these weapons, perhaps assymetrically, to bring down an order that they do not need. New York City and London are simply too tempting as targets, and the counter attack against the oil fields would destroy what we need. The arabs do not need our financial centers for much longer, we will need the oil in such a conflict.

There is at this point nothing that will be done about this.
And also:
2004 was the most important election in your lifetime. 2008 is the least important election in your lifetime. Nothing is going to be decide. Nothing. After that? Change is possible, because the pain may well be enough.
Don't read the whole thing, because Stirling Newberry's gift is not for compression. Then there's CIP:

Shaking v. stirring

Others can comment on the news of the day, but this is the piece in the LA Times that caught my eye -- about how it is the done thing, now, to stir your martinis -- shaking either emuslifies the liquor, or causes tiny bubbles, or makes unsightly pieces of ice float on the top. But for those us of, however, who like our martinis Really Fucking Cold, a little emuslification is a small price to pay.

A far cry from yesterday

It's 10 am and both my children are still asleep.

12.24.2007

Lullaby

Birth I gave you in a desert
not by chance,
for no king would ever hazard
its expanse.

Seeking you in it, I figure
won't be wise
since its winter cold is bigger
than its size.

As you suck my breast, this vastness,
all this width,
feeds your gaze the human absence
it's filled with.

Grow accustomed to the desert
as to fate,
lest you find it omnipresent
much too late.

Some get toys, in piles and layers,
wrapped or bound.
You, my baby, have to play with
all the sand.

See that star, at terrifying
height, aglow?
Say, this void just helps it, eyeing
you below.

Grow accustomed to the desert.
Uniform
underfoot, for all it isn't,
it's most firm.

In it, fate rejects a phantom
faint or gross:
one can tell for miles a mountain
by a cross.

Paths one sees here are not really
human paths
but the centuries' which freely
through it pass.

Grow accustomed to the desert:
flesh is not --
as the speck would sigh, wind-pestered --
all you've got.

Keep this secret, child, for later.
That, I guess,
may just help you in a greater
emptiness.

Which is like this one, just ever-
lasting; and
in it love for you shows where
it might end.

Grow accustomed to the desert
and the star
pouing down its incandescent
rays, which are

just a lamp to guide the treasured
child who's late,
lit by someone whom that desert
taught to wait.

-- Joseph Brodsky

"I asked God to send me right away a hundred million moths to eat up my Toronto Maple Leafs sweater"

Via the good folks at Hockey Widgets, here's something a little Christmasy -- the animated short "The Hockey Sweater". It's about 10 minutes. The narrator sounds like the great-uncles I'd see at wakes.

12.23.2007

I look forward to more of your incisive humor

So here's this dude in the LA Times who writes:

I am a recovering screenwriter who is now a novelist. By the time I got around to my first book, the movie business had been picked clean like a turkey the day after Thanksgiving. I took a short lateral step and set my novel "The Bones" in the world of sitcoms and stand-up comedy. After exploring shtick and its variegated dysfunctions, I found myself wanting to write about people who make an honest living. This is why I've set my next novel in the world of prostitution.
Get it? Did you see what he did there? Fuck you too, buddy. At least the Thanksgiving-turkey metaphor lends a welcome consistent unfreshness to the paragraph as a whole.

The War on Christmas: What You Can Do

Some conservative tropes I get, like the War on Terror -- I mean, Al Qaeda did destroy two huge skyscrapers, so it's not like the terror threat is non-existent, even if it's not existential. But the existence of the War on Christmas I don't get.

First of all, as I said at Yglesias's place, Christians ought to be rooting for the War on Christmas -- see Luke 6:22. The Christianity of the Gospels is an outsider force -- being esteemed by the government or society at large is a trifle Pharasitical, I think.

But also I wish they'd adduce some actual evidence for the war beside "Happy Holidays" and no creches (graven images, remember) on public squares. I mean, I'd adduce KOST playing soppy Xmas music from the beginning from November as undermining the sacred character of the holiday and making it collapse from within, but that's not what I think the partisans of the war (or "War") are driving at.

12.21.2007

Cleaning out my net news wire

I'm off to see "Charlie Wilson's War" but here's some posts of note:

• Via EDSBS, Blue collar attitude meets no-collar web layout (I'm one to talk, I'm sure)

• "As you all know, I hate logo creep and see it as a symptom of a much bigger problem (i.e., the encroachment of advertising into public space).": A thoughtful essay from Uni Watch. The decline of the idea of the public thing is something we are paying for and will continue to, again and again.

This is going to end badly -- I'll try to explain why I think so if I get a chance tonight. The reader is invited to guess until then.

12.20.2007

Hey sexy

From the front page of the WSJ online. At least Murdoch's going to make it more entertaining.

Xmas shopping story

While at the Borders on La Cienega I saw a book called, "Historic Photos of Anaheim." Discounted, if you can imagine. And it reminds me of the time I went to a wedding at a fancy country club in Westchester and, being early, killed some time looking at the books in their library, or gun room, or whatever the fuck it was, until I came upon the title, "Waggish Tales of the Czechs."

Now I feel compelled to Google "Waggish Tales of the Czechs," and it turns out to be a fake title for a volume of "smoking room jests or stories" . So I guess that room in that Westchester country club was the smoking room.

Concur

From D-squared:

Meanwhile, we're trying to block and censor jihadi forums and blogs in order to stop the internet from being used as a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda. How mad is that? Of course the jihadi sites are going to recruit bored British teenagers into extremist Islamism. Specifically, they're going to recruit the Walter Mittys, halfwits and loose cannons that will end up destroying their movement. I really don't think it's a good idea to put any obstacles in the way of Hizb ut Tahrir's drive to recruit the Mark Colletts of the future.
No, I don't get the reference either, but if we say that, in the West, being a terrorist is kind of a stupid thing to do, then stupid people will tend to do it; and that's why I don't think of terrorism as an existential threat on the same order of climate change (which threatens our water).

12.19.2007

Transformational Year For Cable

More blogging from New York Times blogs! This one's from TV Decoder and it talks about how cable TV has gained at the expense of broadcast. I believe it. I worked on a cable show this year, and what really jumped out at me was the close connection the suits had with their audience, and how sensitive they were to something that was written in bad faith -- or that you could claim that their note, if enacted, would be perceived by the audience as bad faith. Because cable networks have very specific brands, all your creative discussions take place in a well-defined space.

Contrast this to network TV where nobody even knows where the goalposts are, so it's very easy for executives to get nervous, and nervous executives are death to comedy. (My line has always been that the comedies would be better if the executives still drank at lunch.)

Sports: Do something with the Presidents' Trophy

One of the nice things about the NY Times' hockey blog is that it gives us a lot of Jeff Z. Klein, with whom I once had a cliche-off at a Rangers game:

"It’s a shame that despite this sterling record, many regard the Wings as a disappointment because they haven’t won a Stanley Cup in this period. (They won their last Cup in 2001-02, six years ago.) That’s a result of the constant denigration of the regular season by commentators, coaches, players, fans and even the league itself. There is no reward for coming in first beyond winning the President’s Trophy and getting an extra home game in the playoffs, and the former is considered a waste of precious effort by the majority of fans in the US and Canada.

Until the league makes winning the regular-season championship a real honor with attendant rewards nearly equal to winning the Stanley Cup itself, people will continue to discount the Red Wings’ perennial October-to-April excllence as an effete, meaningless exercise instead of recognizing it for the amazing achievement it actually is."
I'm all in favor of this -- although it would require North American sports fans to have a more European attitude towards being at the top of the table. But it's worth recognizing the effort of the teams that show up for -- and try to win -- that otherwise meaningless-seeming game in February, which was maybe the only one you could afford to go to all year.

Maybe it's as simple as allowing clubs only to hang banners that commemorate a Cup or a Presidents' Trophy. Flags fly forever, after all.

(N.B. A balanced schedule would be essential if the Prez. Trophy were to be meaningful.)

Walt Disney Studios creates garbage.

Literally!

I got my screener for "Dan In Real Life" today, which comes with the following message:

"WARNING: You may not copy, publicly perform, loan, rent, sell, upload, post, transmit or give this screener away. We have individually watermarked each screener and can trace any copies back to the authorized recipient."

Wow. That's harsh on one's mom, who would like to see a screener and feel like part of Show Business. I guess I can watch it with her -- that's not expressly prohibited that I can see. Although it is Disney, so they'll probably sue anyway.

Fortunately there's a handy return envelope so they can recycle this or -- wait! There isn't! And I have all the coasters I need. So I guess the landfill and I both win.

A thought I almost put on an Amazon e-card to my niece, but decided not to

"Like you, snowflakes are beautiful, unique, and mostly water."

This Christmas, why not send your true love

...a German hockey jersey? (Via Hockey Widgets, where there's a whole collection.)

12.18.2007

I always hated classical music before, but now that you're showing me some cleavage, I guess I'll try it.


Via Alex Ross.

Concur

The Big Picture:

"Ultimately, most political and economic extremists collapse under the weight of their own slavish devotion to a universal idea that is inapplicable to a specific situation. Some people call this consistency, but the word 'stupidity' means the same thing, and can be typed with less letters."

Sudden thought about Hilary

If she blows this, it will really be like having Mozart and Salieri in the same marriage.

12.17.2007

The very idea!

This image is from the AMPTP site (the real one). This, I guess, is their whole justification for not negotiating -- it's wrong for writers to make as much as doctors. Not so wrong for executives: it's natural for executives to make as much or more than doctors. But writers? Surely we can all agree that writers should be making 0.6doctorincome at most. We don't even do any of that color-coded filing shit.

I always suspected that the studio intransigence comes from those guys being pissed off that writers' kids went to the same schools as their kids, and this just proves it.

P.S. -- note the "working" part. The whole reason we're fighting for residuals is for when we're not working, dumbass. That guy in the picture may be a doctor, but he doesn't have a lot of common sense.

Late P.P.S. -- and of course the contract doesn't even set salaries. It sets script minimums. Salaries are set by the marketplace -- the studios themselves. So they object to the living you can make doing this purely on objective grounds.

Frantic

Fucking Xmas. Fucking Xmas. And the big membership meeting's tonight! I told a friend of mine to bring a cake in the shape of the internet -- we'll see if she does.

Maybe they'll be more over the next few days now that we're taking a picketing break. Probly not, though.

12.16.2007

Then how the reindeer loved him..

One of the things I like about Rudolph, the song, is that it proves to kids that if you don't do popular things, like save Christmas, no one will love you. That's an important message for them to hear at this time of year.

More Nice Guy

I saw this rant -- how you women turned your nice pedestal-placing guy into a cad by blowing them off -- a couple places, but the link is to Lawyers, Guns and Money. The thing I want to tease out is in this graf:

"At the time, you probably joked with your girlfriends about how he was a little puppy dog, always following you around, trying to do things to get you to pay attention to him. They probably teased you because they thought he had a crush on you. Given that his behavior was, admittedly, a little pathetic, you vehemently denied having any romantic feelings for him, and buttressed your position by claiming that you were 'just friends.' Besides, he totally wasn't your type. I mean, he was a little too short, or too bald, or too fat, or too poor, or didn't know how to dress himself, or basically be or do any of the things that your tall, good-looking, fit, rich, stylish boyfriend at the time pulled off with such ease."
Wait, what? Should she really be expected to love a bald fat poor guy? Were you, formerly nice guy, mooning around a fat slobby girl? I doubt it.

What that girl did to you , Nice Guy, was relegate you, just as if you were Derby or Sunderland and she was Man. U. Go after the girls in League One.

12.15.2007

Julius Shulman

Just a quick note that the boy and I took a quick tour through the Julius Shulman exhibit at the Central Library, and it's worth the trip downtown, even if you're vacationing at Shutters. Bring your skates and skate in Pershing Square, then enjoy the big gingerbread house at the Biltmore, and then see the photos (I'd never been in the 2nd floor rotunda of the library, it's really cool.)

12.14.2007

This really is kind of awesome

I don't think I could have written this as an undergraduate:

"Had they been locked in a house together, Milton Babbitt and Harry Partch would have made a great reality TV show. While the drama over Babbitt's tape reels getting in the way of Partch's lightbulb marimba ensued, their monologues in the confessional would surprise viewers hoping for more disagreements. For while Babbitt would fight for more private time, free from Partch's constant percussion, their ultimate frustration would be shared: the fear of stagnation in modern music, and the importance of radical reform. What follows are some thoughts on how the episodes might go. (Although, it should be said: who cares if you watch?)"

Steroid question

Why are ballplayers who inject steroids in their ass terrible role models, but actresses who inject botox in their face goddesses? Aren't they just both in show business?

Poem

Actually just K-EARTH DJ prattle, but it becomes a poem:

I know what I'm doin' tonight
Goin' to the Arclight
Ventura and Sepulveda --
"I Am Legend"
Big Willie Style!
Got your back, buddy.

A height tax?

I'm game. "From each according to his ability to reach stuff off the high shelves" has always been my motto, as is well known.

12.13.2007

Why we fight (4)

The Big Picture | Online Ad Spend: $42 Billion by 2011

Personal Best

This is the most posts I've ever had in one day, which proves

1) Maybe I should do more quick Atrios-style posting rather than going for the Theory of Everything, and

2) There is no limit to what man can achieve when he should be doing his Xmas cards.

BREAKING: Holy Shit!

FuturePundit: Sexbots In Our Future.

Remember your "Goodfellas" -- Friday is for the wives, Saturday is for the sexbots.

Against baseball

I love baseball, myself -- but does it make me a bad fan if I don't care about the steroid report? Well, either way, even though I enjoy baseball, I enjoy Orson Swindle's rant against it just as much (warning: dirty). Small excerpt:

"Oh, but the romance! The history! It’s our national pastime, hearkening back to a SAHAHAKEREEGGHGHHKKKFJDmakdfadfkjg. Apologies. That noise was us garroting George Will, W.P. Kinsella, and any of the other bullshit geysers who’ve built up the myth that for some reason, merely because it’s very old and has been around a long time, that there’s some kind of moral or cultural onus to like baseball. (God, that felt good.) No one’s better at pulling a phantom peanut of sublimity from steaming turd of reality than a writer, and in baseball they’ve had a whole open sewer to browse in their quest to make shinola from shit."


Also, Bill Plaschke ("America's Worst Writer!") weighs in as only he can:
Four hundred and nine pages.

Eighty-six players.

One fatal injection into the heart of a national pastime's history.

Baseball will survive the steroid-bloated Mitchell report, which was released today with countless stories of cheating by players, compliance by owners and protection by the union.

Baseball will survive, but Roger Clemens will not.
It's a fatal injection that you can survive. Only in Plaschke World! (Also note that the report has somehow taken steroids -- I can't tell if that's intentional or not.

"We just do not care. We don't."

David Appell:

Today Science has a paper on corals, basically, that there aren't going to be any for much longer. Scientists are calling for "immediate action" to prevent their deaths, but of course that isn't going to happen. We just do not care. We don't. Let's face it.

Here's why I don't think there will be a science debate: science appears nowhere in the top seven topics that people say they care about. People, and the press, seem much more interested in which magic-man-in-the-sky a candidate believes in than anything having to do with the larger forces shaping our world.


These days I think we're just fucked, climate-wise, and am occasionally thankful that my lack of funds is here to distract me.

Not that it matters

but I'm into this dude Sir Charles they have over at Cogitamus. He's a lazy blogger's blogger!

Blue skies and open water. Lots and lots of water.

"The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming. Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines."

-- NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally


(Via Gristmill.)

12.10.2007

Strike effect?

NYT:

"According to an article in Mediaweek, “NBC has quietly begun reimbursing advertisers for fourth-quarter prime-time ratings shortfalls, averaging about $500,000 per advertiser, according to media buyers, marking the first time in years a network has taken such a step to compensate marketers for ratings deficiencies.”
My favorite quote, though, is this:
Laura Caraccioli-Davis, an executive vice president at Starcom Entertainment, which specializes in entertainment marketing, told MediaWeek that she and her colleagues were trying to understand NBC’s recent programming moves.
Honey, I've pitched to them for four years straight -- nobody understands what they're doing.


ALSO WILL THE NEW YORK TIMES PLEASE STOP REFERRING TO THE WRITERS GUILD AS "SCREENWRITERS"? It's as if I were to call people who write for the Times "novelists".

12.09.2007

Noted

From Cogitamus:

"I've been involved in only a handful of strikes over the course of more than twenty years of working in a practice that's almost exclusively devoted to representing unions. At least half of those strikes were deliberately provoked by management in an attempt to abnegate relationships with unions. In other words, few cases could be described as workers asserting themselves to better their lot – rather, the strikes were essentially defensive and reactive in nature."
That's what I think is going on here. The studios are tantalized by their dream of a union-free environment. I don't know what else to think because we're really not asking for all that much money.

12.08.2007

War on Christmas: The Inflatable Figurines of the Marne



Via Metroblogging LA. The Valley, of course, but it could have also been my little mill town, so it makes me feel at home.

Dedicated to Maria at Crooked Timber who doesn't feel at home in LA.

Good times, good times

Reading this post (about how even high-income people are about to get burnt on junk mortgages) reminds me of how eager my bank used to be to get me into a home equity line of credit. Distrusting my sales resistance, I finally told them to stop calling, and they did, graciously.

The Tory in me wonders if the attraction of already rich people taking out home equity loans is a reflection on the virtue of the populace. But I try not to listen too much to the Tory in me.

Democrats: they suck too

I used to read Digby fairly regularly, but haven't in a while. However, all are urged to read this post about various union-unfriendly Democrats (see: Clinton, H.R., and Obama, B.).

I guess my they-think-they're too-good-for-us rage is kind of what the below-the-line guys must feel about the writers.

12.07.2007

Not the thing itself, but ideas about the thing.

Mr. Ken writes (about M*A*S*H):

"How many television series have books and scholarly papers written about them? Although I must admit, I’ve read these and they’re a joke. They talk about the brilliant symbolism, our deeper philosophical and empirical meanings, the clever use of the Anti-Christ, affectionate homage’s to classic literature – none of that is true. We were just looking to come up with a joke so we could go to lunch or a story beat for Radar so he’d leave us alone."
But I was raised by my father (an English ABD) that authors, in some sense, do not know what their works are about. (Is that called the intentional fallacy? It's too late to look it up.) Or, to put it another way, it's mostly a joke that gets you to lunch, but it also happens that it's a clever use of Anti-Christ. I wouldn't necessarily privilege one over the other -- except that when you're in the room and you hear the crinkle of the arriving lunch bags, well, there is no deeper meaning to a writer.

I might also add that this is one of the irritating things about pitching -- they want to know what your show is about. I describe it as having to pitch your show and the American Studies paper about the show.

Talks break off

Details here.

I honestly think it pisses the studio guys off that writers can live in big houses. None of the other moguls they see at Sun Valley or Davos have this problem.

12.06.2007

Now that's a saint

Today is St. Nicholas's day, and here's a highlight from his legend:

"Indeed, even as an unweaned infant, he fasted regularly on Wednesdays and Fridays...."


See? I bet you didn't have what it took as an infant. That's why you'll never be a saint. Also:

Pictures of Nicholas often show three bags of gold next to him, and often these bags have become simply three disks or balls. Nicholas became the patron of an Italian city (I think Bari, which is where his body is now buried) that was a center of the pawnbroking business, and hence a pawnbroking shop traditionally advertises by displaying three gold balls over its front. It is thought that some persons looking at pictures of Nicholas confused the three round objects with human heads. Hence there is a story of a wicked innkeeper who murdered three boys and salted their bodies to serve to his guests, to save on the butcher's bill. Nicholas visited the inn and confronted the innkeeper, who confessed his crime, whereupon Nicholas prayed over the brine-tub and the three boys leaped out unharmed.


Brine for everybody on the feast of St. Nicholas!

12.03.2007

You don't say

"John Sides at The Monkey Cage asks whether whites are more likely to support the death penalty when they think black people are being executed, and finds that the answer is yes."

(Via Crooked Timber

Hockey Advent Calendar

The boys at Hockey Widgets have started an Advent calendar. Up first -- Bernie Parent of the hated Flyers.

12.02.2007

Why I don't blog more

Not that I'm refreshingly original or anything, but I don't want to write things like this:

ESPN - Chaos doesn't legitimize ignorance or stupidity of flawed systemt: "There will be those who say the unpredictability of this season and of the BCS is what made college football so compelling in 2007. I'd say the BCS is what made this season so embarrassing."
First of all, observe the "Some say/I'd say" structure, without which sports pages could not function. But, really, who's embarrassed here, and in front of whom? I mean, I love college football -- it has the palpable tang of corruption, like a nice cheese -- but I just don't see why this ramshackle BCS structure is kind of a disgrace.

You know who's a disgrace? You are. Because you want a clear-cut champion. You're not willing to live with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the world as it is -- you have to impose your pissant playoff structure on its polymorphous perversity.

Some would say you're a simple minded child. I say you're a sportswriter.

Annals of capitalism

Jared Bernstein:

"The fact that real middle-class income may barely make it back to its 2000 peak stands as the strongest indictment against the current American economy. It’s partly due to the fact that this recovery began with the longest jobless period on record, but the forces of inequality are the main driver of this unfortunate outcome. Globalization, YOYO economics, [You're On Your Own -- ed] and the absence of worker bargaining power have interacted to steer the lion’s share of the economy’s growth to a narrow sliver at the top of the wealth scale."

12.01.2007

Yahoo notes

I'm gonna teth to make a push to post more here...

I'm playing with the yahoo go! [sic] thing for my cellphone (a blackberry - yes, I'm an asshole) and I have to say that the bells and whistles sound pleasingly to my ear. It's funny because their new version of their portal stinks.

11.25.2007

This place is turning into fucking Russia (2)

Yeah, yeah, I know it's Canada. The point is that increasing we seem to have split the difference on the Cold War.

11.17.2007

Signs of the times

How to profit from a 'police state'. Great quote:

"There are ways for cynical investors to make a buck off the new world disorder, and that is by considering investments in companies that supply security guards, build and staff prisons, and run psychiatric hospitals. It is an unsavory business, to be sure, that has had run-ins with the law, politicians and common sense. "

11.16.2007

Brush with greatness

Today, while chatting on the line at Universal, Harlan Ellison upbraided me for using "like" too much.

I was too afraid to tell him about my sentence structure.

I don't even know

What to say about this Zizek piece:

"One of the clearest lessons of the last few decades is that capitalism is indestructible. Marx compared it to a vampire, and one of the salient points of comparison now appears to be that vampires always rise up again after being stabbed to death. Even Mao’s attempt, in the Cultural Revolution, to wipe out the traces of capitalism, ended up in its triumphant return."
Yes, well, it was certainly a tragedy that the Cultural Revolution didn't work out quite the way it was expected.

One might say that since, like the laws of gravity, it is here to stay, but, unlike gravity, we can change it, then we ought to tame the beast, do what we can to make us ride upon the railroad and keep the railroad from riding upon us. But that's not Zizek's answer. His answer is -- Hugo Chavez!

It is striking that the course on which Hugo Chávez has embarked since 2006 is the exact opposite of the one chosen by the postmodern Left: far from resisting state power, he grabbed it (first by an attempted coup, then democratically), ruthlessly using the Venezuelan state apparatuses to promote his goals. Furthermore, he is militarising the barrios, and organising the training of armed units there. And, the ultimate scare: now that he is feeling the economic effects of capital’s ‘resistance’ to his rule (temporary shortages of some goods in the state-subsidised supermarkets)[Ed. note - !!!], he has announced plans to consolidate the 24 parties that support him into a single party. Even some of his allies are sceptical about this move: will it come at the expense of the popular movements that have given the Venezuelan revolution its élan? However, this choice, though risky, should be fully endorsed: the task is to make the new party function not as a typical state socialist (or Peronist) party, but as a vehicle for the mobilisation of new forms of politics (like the grass roots slum committees).
Yeah, yeah. Even if you think Chavez gets demonized a little too much in the American press, you can see where this is going, can't you? A Revolución Cultural!

And they say intellectuals have no common sense. Is it me, or does this essay give you a craving for Starbucks?

(h/t: AL Daily.)

Our methods

I was writing a big long post about various strike criticisms and abandoned it. Not just because I was as usual sick of my writing; but also I felt myself getting in the weeds a little bit. This is what I get for thinking too hard about stuff left in a comments section.

However, let me pull out one little thing: that our striking methods aren't sufficiently badass, what with the kids and the gays and the people playing guitar. To that I say: we can only be who we are. And we are people in the entertainment business. We're all looking at our finances and getting scared. We all realize that the crew people are also out of work (although not if they work on movies, not yet). We all realize -- well, most of us do -- that fighting for our fair share is going to move the Social Justice meter* a little less than janitors getting their fair share. But we're in the entertainment business. We deranged our personalities to be this way.

And besides, the Teamsters are the only people who we can really keep from crossing, and that's going to happen even if the "line" consists of two wispy guitar dudes. Although if the Teamster happened to run over the dudes' guitars while backing up, that wouldn't be a tragedy at all.

11.15.2007

11.12.2007

More from United Hollywood

Via Artful Writer:

LA liberals not so green after all

So years ago I signed up for the LA DWP's Green Power program. I pay about 5 bucks a month more for power and they say it comes from dams and wind and shit. I just got my "annual report" on it (printed, naturally, on offwhite recycled paper). Guess how many customers are willing to pay a surcharge to grow green power:

22,860.

That's less than 2%. Granted, if giving the power company extra money isn't a luxury good, I don't know what is, but still -- it's not that much, and it can't be that much of a scam, or DWP would be promoting it more. Sheesh.

11.09.2007

The rally

was awesome, by the way. I've been working out here a long time, and I saw people from every show I've worked on, and then some. Even actors from shows I've worked on. I didn't hear any speeches or anything, I was too busy schmoozing -- but that did as much for my morale as any speech. Even the bitterest, most cynical people I know are determined and ready for a long haul. It was quite inspiring and fun.

When things go well in this business, we have the greatest jobs in the world. But the more we allow the studios to disrespect us financially, the more we'll be disrespected creatively. And the jobs will start to suck. I'm perfectly willing to make a money-for-freedom trade -- that's what it is to work on a cable show. But I want to share in success. That's all we're asking.

Plus, there were free bagels and coffee from William Morris.

So my copy of Entertainment Weekly comes

and naturally they've got their lead on the writers' strike. The pictures in the lead spread are:

• Tina Fey, with some kind of crazy come-hither look on her face. It's not quite come-hither, though. I don't even know how the hell to describe it. Anyway, Tina Fey.
• Julia Louis-Dreyfus, shouting.
• And the back of a writer. How would the people in Entertainment Weekly react if they saw the face of a writer? Although now that I pose that question, good call, EW. You don't want to lose votes in the heartland by showing them the face of our (frequently rootless-cosmopolitan, or urban, or just snotty in general) guild.

Also note: no disrespect to T. Fey, who is obviously an awesome writer, or J. Louis-Dreyfus, who I saw today at the rally just standing in some shade like a regular person. And in fact SAG has been great. I've heard some sneering about how these stars are only doing it to get on TV, and maybe there's some truth in it, but there's more truth in this: when you work on a TV show (as opposed to a movie), the actors and writers get to know each other. And there is team spirit. It's mostly TV stars out there, partly because the movie stars are still working, but also because the TV stars have seen us bust our ass for them (as they have for us, frequently bailing us out with excellent acting on our off-days). Good on you, SAG. It's okay that your random members come to my line with their hair done.

11.07.2007

Why we fight (3)

I have been asked to forward this three-minute video on what our issues are:

Where is the FreeDarko of hockey?

The fact that Free Darko can claim an Yglesias makes me wonder. Theory of Ice has some nice theory, but it isn't pop enough. Of course, hockey isn't particularly pop, either.

On the line

Nikki Finke chronicles all the nice things that stars and agents are doing for the striking writers. Will the cookies still be coming six weeks from now? Twelve weeks? Twenty? Because that's what it's going to take, I'm afraid.

11.06.2007

Quis custodiet etc.

The Agonist:

"While all mass conscription societies aren’t democracies (the USSR, for example), few democracies aren’t societies where mass military manpower has been used. The US has been and continues to move away from that model, while having a military that self-identifies with one political party, is trying to reduce its reliance on manpower, uses mercenaries and foreigners extensively and shows greater and greater restiveness at laws that restrict its ability to operate in the US or engage directly in politics. The culture of civilian control over the military has been waning as well, with the deliberate cultivation of the attitude that those who haven't served have no moral right to so much as criticize anything the military does, let alone tell it what to do

Great nations, great republics, are rarely destroyed from the outside: they almost always rot from within or are destroyed by their own defenders."

Why we fight (2)

Variety:

"Another senior agent estimated that current studio residual payouts are around $55 million, and that if the studios upped that 20%, the writers would be overjoyed.

'Even if they doubled that figure, when you share that cost between signatory companies, it would be less than they spend on a G-4 jet or even what they spend to redecorate the offices of top executives,' said the agent. 'Studios are being piggish, and when you look at the spillover effect, and how many businesses from messengers to florists will be decimated, the cost just doesn't justify the pain.'"
That's what makes me think this strike is to break the union.

Writers Strike FAQs

(Ed. -- I wrote this and sent it into the paper, but they passed, so I'm posting it here.)


WRITERS STRIKE FAQs

So you Hollywood writers are on strike, huh?

Yes. Our demands concern residuals –that is, our share of revenues from the content we create – and how, with the Internet a growing --

Right, right. So, what does a Hollywood writer do during a strike – switch to domestic wine?

Nice try, smartass. Writers Guild members, prepared for the producers’ intransigence, have been stockpiling inexpensive Chilean vintages. More to the point, the producers’ lawyerly definition of “promotional use” –

Seriously, though, some of you guys drive BMWs. How can you go on strike?

Maybe it’s because we’re in BMWs that we’re grateful to our union for having stood up in the past.

Dude, don’t get preachy.

Sorry. It’s just that residuals are a kitchen-table issue to us during times we’re not working. The producers are looking for ways to end that system, so we’re touchy. Go ahead, ask your question again.

Seriously, though, some of you guys drive BMWs. How can you go on strike?

“Until you’ve been on strike in Dolby Surround Sound, you haven’t really been on strike.” Is that better?

Come on, Preachy Q. McRighteous, you admit that millionaires on strike is pretty funny, right?

The standard disclaimer is that the average writer makes far less, but there are some who own one-bedroom fifth-floor walkup apartments in New York City, so yes, some of us are millionaires.

And yes, I know that writers on a picket line is funny and incongruous. It’s like the way politicians look when they’re trying to pretend that they like to kick back on Sunday and enjoy the NFL, when we know they’ve spent every Sunday since high school laying out their clothes for the week and reading about our troubled aquifers. But this is a negotiation, and you don’t have leverage in a negotiation unless you can walk away. In our case, that’s a strike.

You’re not going to try to make a larger point, are you?

I was going to – about how, in an era of gigantic media consolidation, there ought to be some support for Galbraith-style countervailing power, or about how unionization might be a good idea in other incongruous fields (how else are doctors going to stop HMOs pushing them around?) or how the producers’ proposal is symptomatic of the overcompensated managerial class’s contempt for anyone outside of that class. But instead I’ll just write the following jokes:

• My carpal-tunnel wrist brace will come in handy carrying the picket signs.

• I hope the production assistants’ union isn’t on strike, or who will get me coffee?

• We have to picket outside? The “outside” is exactly what I became a writer to avoid!

• To boost morale, there will be a benefit concert performance of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

• Although we are disgruntled, we are willing to accept a fair deal even if it only offers partial gruntlement.

Well, those are going to be the cleverest picket signs ever, right?

No. In the words of a more famous cranky writer, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

11.05.2007

Bad ethanol!

CIP is always blunter than I would be, but yeah, ethanol is bad -- not as bad as coal, but still. Think of all the fossil fuel it takes to make ethanol.

If there's a better way, like some say there has to be, ethanol isn't it.

11.04.2007

I'm starting to get nervous about some of this strike shit

I was at the WGA building today, loading stuff up on the vans for tomorrow's picketing. And I learned that there are chants. You know, like "What do we want? [Insert demand] When do we want it? Now."

Oh no. On the other hand one must do something to pass the time, and I'm sure none of us know the "Internationale".

Otherwise it feels weird. For us, the tribe of writers, this is a borderline-existential confrontation, and yet the rest of the world -- while hearing about it because, what the hell, it's entertainment news -- could give a shit. So, although I feel a little apocalyptic, I think that the rhetoric isn't really justified except when I am among my own. So I'll try to keep it to a minimum.

"Hey, hey, ho, ho/Overheated rhetoric has got to go."

11.03.2007

Green envelope

I got one today. It means a residual -- in this case, for a show I worked on eight years ago. Talk about "show 'em what you're fighting for" -- there couldn't be a better reminder of how important the residual system is. Especially when you're unemployed, as I would have been either way, strike or no strike.

Aux armes, citoyens!

10.31.2007

What Ken Levine said

Right here:

"I’ve been through three strikes already. Many of the companies I struck are no longer in business. Two-thirds of the people I struck with are no longer in the guild. And unlike actors and directors, when we go out it doesn’t just shut down the industry. It slows it. Hair restoration cremes have faster results. But as someone who has prospered and enjoyed the gains writers before me have won, I feel it’s my obligation to fight the good fight for the next generation. And hopefully in twenty years, when the issue is holograms transmitted directly to the back of viewers’ eye lids, WGA members will hang tough for a piece of that pie."
See you at the convention center tomorrow! I'll be the slightly overweight guy in a baseball hat!

10.28.2007

2034

This might be a shade too optimistic, but it feels possible, if we try.

Via Gristmill

10.24.2007

Programming note

When I saw that it was Chris Berman doing the series highlights, I turned off my TV.

Working for the Clampdown

Frank Church, of course, got his ass handed to him in 1980. That'll teach you to stand up for old-fashioned American values like openness, in favor of new-fashioned American values like the national security state.

10.23.2007

About the fires

Nothing much to add, really, except for the ashy dusty feeling my mouth gets when I go outside. Except to note that it's interesting that this column, on California's ungovernability, comes out the same week of the fires (case in point: this WSJ story about how San Diegans refused to pass a tax to pay for more firefighting equipment.

The demographics -- more and more people, basically -- and climate change point to more and more technocratic government as a solution: government setting the rules for the market so people can't just build anywhere and put whatever they like in their gas tanks and use water however the hell they want. They're going to have to live in society like civilized people.

UPDATE: White ash all over my car this morning. I'm 25 miles from the nearest fire, in Malibu, 30 miles from the Castiac fires. No weird light today, though.

Our 30-year campaign of mal-education continues to bear fruit!

Bernstein makes first visit to Nixon Library - Los Angeles Times:


"Sayra Morales, 26, a journalism student at Fullerton College, said she attended for extra credit. She said she was unfamiliar with the details of Nixon's presidency, of Watergate, of Bernstein's role in history. She knows him as the author of the Clinton biography. 'I'm not big on politics,' she said. "
Of course, neither are most journalists, I guess.

10.18.2007

I'm out

The World Series is a week away. The World Series is a week away. This is ridiculous. I'm as big a baseball fan as they come, and I cannot possibly keep my interest up that long -- especially since the delay, far from whetting my appetite for more baseball, instead sharpens my perception that MLB is a bunch of whores who would probably blow Rupert Murdoch in Times Square for the loose change in his pocket (which, to be fair, would likely be considerable). Honestly, I'd rather look at Ducks-Flames right now. s

I wish that MLB were more like the Masters when it came to negotiating with the TV networks.

G

I'm just a comedy writer, with an American B.A. to boot, but g has always struck me as a concept someone pulled out of their ass.

Any theory that you can imagine Alec Baldwin's character spouting on "30 Rock" is probably pretty suspect.

10.15.2007

The sad truth

My man Reeves:

"I have written 180 columns against this war in the last four years or so, and I thought I should re-read them now that I'm back in this shining city on a hill. I couldn't. It is both too boring and too depressing, to say nothing of being so ineffectual. The only justification for such an exercise is that it ends any illusions one might have about what we knew and when we knew it. We are what we are: great talkers about human rights and the dignity of man and woman, but capable of believing any lies and going along with any injustice that does not disturb the collection of our daily bread."
This is where my religious training is very helpful; it teaches me not to believe in American exceptionalism. The great powers come and go, and they are usually pretty disgraceful as they go.

10.14.2007

Annals of capitalism, John Bogle is upset edition

Legendary Vanguard foundercan't stand our economy:

"And the financial service economy is what troubles me. Because it's diverting resources from the investors to the capitalists. To the entrepreneurs. To Wall Street. To the investment bankers. The hedge fund managers. To mutual fund managers. And that is a negative to our societal values. Where agriculture and manufacturing and services, I mean, I'm perfectly willing to give a high value, for example, to art and poetry and literature. They add value to society. It may not be easy to measure it in a society that measures too much of what's not important. And not enough of what is important. As the sign in Einstein's office says-- 'There are some things that count that can't be counted. And some things that can be counted that don't count.'"

10.11.2007

Note on Base Ball

If you like the idea of the Wild Card play-in game as a way to make life harder on the wild card team (and I do), the Rockies beg to differ.

10.10.2007

It's not the heat, it's the humanity

Study: Rise in humidity caused by humans - Yahoo! News

I just want to be the first to use this headline. (I googled to make sure.)

Still away

I'm still away; my job ends just around the time of the strike, after which I may have time for a little blogging.

Over/under on percentage of WGA members who start blogs: 90.

9.20.2007

If Alex Ross

would just allow comments on his blog, I would give him megakudos for this post:

“All this work makes me wonder whether we are heading toward something like world classical music. People right now do partake in a recognizable tradition, but they want that tradition to acknowledge the world as we experience it, especially after the nineteen-eighties, when suddenly we became more conscious than ever before of living in a global culture, or on a globe of many cultures. Nothing is totally distinct. Every great world religion has elements that are taken from other religions or overlap with them. It’s a sort of biological or ecological need to keep evolving. If we don’t, then a tradition gets smaller and may eventually die out. If we want to preserve a tradition, the best way to preserve it to let it evolve."

9.13.2007

My annual Rosh Hashanah joke

"I'm still writing 5767 on my checks!"

9.08.2007

Annals of Capitalism

Attention unbought insurance regulators (you know who you were):

In Favor of Disruption - New York Times: "Homeowners often receive “30 to 60 percent of the cost of rebuilding a damaged home — even when carriers assure homeowners that they’re fully covered, thousands of complaints with state insurance department and civil court cases show,” write David Dietz and Darrell Preston in an article, “The Insurance Hoax.”

“Paying out less to victims of catastrophes has helped produce record profits,” they add. “In the past 12 years, insurance company net income has soared — even in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Property-casualty insurers, which cover damage to home and cars, reported their highest-ever profit of $73 billion last year.”

The writers say court records in some states show that property insurers “systematically deny and reduce” their policyholders’ claims and routinely refuse to pay market prices for homes and replacement contents and “use secret tactics to cheat homeowners.”

It's not news, exactly, but it can't hurt to be reminded of the soothing power of the invisible hand.
One tactic that insurance companies use, they say, is to put off paying for as long as possible, by delaying settlements and stalling court procedures brought against them by frustrated policyholders. "

8.23.2007

Conservatives at work

George Skelton (who the LA Times should be featuring more prominently) on what the California Republicans won in our state budget struggled:

"The compromise budget is pretty conservative for most people's money. It increases spending by only 1% and doesn't raise taxes. It strips $1.3 billion from public transit and freezes payments to the elderly poor, blind and disabled. It provides a tax break for Californians who buy yachts out of state."
From your yacht, you can see the snarled traffic!

8.20.2007

Leona Helmsley Is Dead at 87

Fortunately, this trailblazer lived long enough to see her motto, "Only the little people pay taxes," become the fiscal policy of the United States.

8.16.2007

True story of the National Security State

A friend of mine is writing a spec "Weeds." So she did some research, looking up all these pot websites. Then she got an e-mail from the FBI telling her to quit it.

Watch what you do, watch what you say, y'all!

Cleaning out my net news wire, get up on that bandstand and play your ass off edition

Tom Benjamin explains how YOU can make money owning a sports team -- while claiming you lose money! (As a writer in Hollywood, this isn't surprising.)

• Speaking of sports, a profilette of former Yankee organist Eddie Layton.

• Speaking of music, transcripts of the famous Buddy Rich rants. (Probably from "Dial M for Musicology," but I can't remember.)

• And from the nature poem, (via Kit Stolz, who's as gloomy as I am about the climate.)

8.14.2007

The Scooter

Lots of tributes today, but as someone who spent many an hour in front of WPIX Channel 11, I remember him as a poet:

My Secret

When I'm driving
To Yankee Stadium and back,
I do it so often.

I don't remember passing lights.
I don't remember paying tolls
Coming over the bridge.

Going back over the bridge,
I remember...

August 19, 1992
Oakland at New York
Mike Moore pitching to Mel Hall
Fifth inning, one out, bases empty
Yankees lead 4-1

Six centuries?

I'll take it.

8.13.2007

Coach Karl

The thing I have always thought about Karl Rove's genius is that he's like a coach who runs up 60-3 scores against The Citadel and Arkansas State, and loses his bowl game when he finally faces opponents who can tackle.

The fact that the Democrats were bothThe Citadel and, more recently, the opponents who can tackle? I attribute that to a mid-season coaching change.

8.12.2007

Real estate counterfactual

In fact, thinking about the crazy real estate market we had here in SoCal, my mind turns to the stomach-churning story of a couple days ago -- how we're way overdue for a catastrophic earthquake. The "what if" question is, imagine that earthquake happening in 2001, or 2003, as the market was really getting crazy. One can see how you're driven to the Great De-randomizer in the Sky in the face of such contingency.

Annals of capitalism, we know better than people in the field edition

I saw this post by Atrios about the SoCal market. Here's the lead:

Major lenders are repossessing homes in Southern California much faster than they can sell them, a development that could set off a downward spiral of price cuts and more foreclosures.
And since I happen to have a physical copy of the LA Times right on my kitchen table, I thought I'd go read it. Here's the part I want to pull out:
To move their growing inventories, lenders solicit local agents to do what they call broker price opinions. These involve the agent's physically examining the home, getting an estimate to clean up any damage, checking to see what similar homes in the neighborhood have recently sold for and suggesting a price.

Thanks to globalization, requests for BPOs can come from the other side of the world. Ocwen Financial Corp., a Florida mortgage company that is trying to sell 753 foreclosed homes in California, has outsourced its BPO review office to India.

Agents who work with Ocwen e-mail their reports to India, where they are processed and sent to the company's headquarters in West Palm Beach. Asset managers there decide on the price.

"We're here and they're not, but they resist our expertise," said Jason Bosch, president of Home Center Realty, an Inland Empire firm that works with Ocwen and other lenders. Home Center has put 42 lender-owned homes on the market since the beginning of the year. Only two have sold.

Bosch cited one house in Perris that a lender listed for $427,000. Home Center received an offer of $419,000, but the lender said it wouldn't budge. The would-be buyer moved on to a more flexible seller.

Ten days later, the lender lowered the price to $417,000, where it still sits.
People who keep telling me that businesses aren't run anything like those government bureaucrats need reminding that all large organizations tend to resemble each other.

8.09.2007

Why we fight

Phil Ford at Dial M:

Humility is the right attitude in the face of The Tradition -- the great accumulated weight of thought we might imagine being kept in some Great Book, the Book of All Books, by the Recording Angel of Academia. Sometimes, when I've done something I think is clever, I think I'm pretty awesome. But nothing I've ever done, or ever will do, will amount to more than a footnote in the Great Book. And this is the same attitude everyone must learn in college. It's a bit like the "Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei" episode in Kill Bill.
I might note that we don't really preserve the tradition by treating everything as if it were 1948, or 1498 for that matter. But it's The Book of All Books that is endangered by our barbarism and our callous disregard for the earth that we wrote it on. I don't want it to have to be preserved in a cave, on the high ground.

Ford goes on (because, amazingly, his isn't really a post about sleep-debt-fueled fretting over the apocalypse, it's about teaching):
If the knowledge you seek is really worth attaining, it's worth showing some respect first. The professor who demands respect isn't necessarily demanding it for himself alone (although he might be). Ideally, the respect you demand is for the enterprise you share with the student, something that's bigger than both of you. Undergrads especially need to discover that there is something bigger than them.
I'm certainly enough of a Tory to appreciate that.

Housekeeping

Things are hectic because I am working on a cable show and writing a pilot and thinking about writing another pilot, because times is tough. But I promise to finish Matt and Ezra -- I've got the ending figured out and everything. I know no one cares but me, but I do care.

Awesome day!

Awesome!

Awesome!

Digby does some awesome chronicling of the death of the republic!

Foux la fa fa

8.08.2007

The Ballad of Matt and Ezra (3)

I don't know what the point of this is, except I'm enjoying it. Previously (see below) we left Ezra telling Gilbert Arenas about health care, while Matt cooled his heels:


Ezra starts elucidating
While the cooling Matt is waiting
Out among the sad displays --
Off-branded stuff from Frito-Rays,
Sea salt-vinegar flavored snuff --
Matt stalks out, hot. Enough’s enough.

Abandoned and alone, he stalks.
And above him, floating where he walks,
A cloud pours rain -- but just on him.
When you're M.Y., you just can't win.
Like his shoes, his hopes are soggy:
It's hard, sometimes, being bloggy.

No future joy, he contemplates,
Could adequately compensate
For this pain now. Like Young Werther,
Why (he thinks) go any further --
Had he a gun, he'd fire it.
But where, in D.C., to acquire it?

8.06.2007

The Ballad of Matt and Ezra (2)

I was out of town dropping the kid off at sleepaway camp (his first one, he's looking forward to it, Mrs. D and I are terrified). Here's some more stanzas:

So Ezra shrugs, and Ezra goes
And Matt remains with meth-mouthed hos
Feeling sick (and looking sicker
In that wan fluorescent flicker).
But it's no cheeseball liquor shack
When Ezra enters the room in back.

Of its swank words cannot speak.
Its paneling's endangered teak,
Hot waitresses keep oysters iced,
And of-the-moment chanteuse Feist
Goes mouth agape when she sees Ez:
"My favorite blogger's here!" she says.

Gilbert Arenas turns at this
And grabs our Ezra by the wrist.
Ez starts to fawn, but Gil demurs:
"My swag is but .8 of yours.
I'm paid to ball, but you're the player.
Come, fill us in on single-payer."

Noted with pleasure

Phil Ford at Dial "M" for Musicology uses Biggie's "10 Crack Commandments" as a guide for academics. Sample:

"Number six: that goddamn credit, dead it/You think a crackhead payin' you back, shit, forget it

For 'crackhead,' think 'student with a late paper.' For 'credit,' think 'extension.'


UPDATE:Breaking sports music news -- Jets coach Eric Mangini's a Mozart fan.

8.05.2007

The Ballad of Matt and Ezra

Sort of based on this post. The dynamic of two people together, one of whom is way more popular than the other, is always funny to me, I guess because if I didn't think it was funny I couldn't have gotten through high school.

Oh, and it's to be continued if I find the time to continue it. Sorry.

Yglesias and Ezra Klein
Went out one night to buy some wine
Got to their local liquor store
(Guarded by a meth-mouthed whore)
Where fluorescents flashing gas
Flickers off the plexiglass

The proprietor of the place was churlish
Till he saw Ezra. Then, he girlish-
-Ly squealed: “OMG, I know that face!
A leading blogger’s in my place!
In back I’ve got a special treat!”
“But Matt? – “ “Your hanger-on can cool his feet.”

8.03.2007

Another way Hollywood is like Washington

From Yglesias:

"His [Steve Clemons'] perspective, he says, is that Washington is 'a corrupt town.' From that perspective, he says that 'the political-intellectual arenas is essentially a cartel' -- a cartel that's become extremely timid and risk-averse in the face of a neoconservative onslaught -- and 'blogs allow smart people to break the cartel.'"
It's the groupthink, stupid!

8.01.2007

Overheard at Hollywood Toyota

A male employee, fortyish, is talking to a female employee.

Male employee: Yeah, so I went down to San Diego last night to see Rush.

Female employee: [inaudible]

Male employee: Yeah, Rush is not a woman's group. I always wanted a girlfriend who was into Rush, but...you know "Tom Sawyer?"

Female employee: [inaudible]

Male employee: But your son does! Nah, he probably doesn't.

7.31.2007

LA Semipretention

How come the big nonprofit theater group in LA spells "Center" with an "er" but "Theatre" with an "re"?

7.29.2007

Apologies

I'm just going to take a moment, a precious moment on this earth, to apologize for being a lousy blogger. The truth is that I have been wrapped up in my little cable show (not even mine), as well as this pilot I'm trying to get together. I just can't make myself march into my office after that and write the light verse, and we are all losers because of that, and I'm sorry.

I also note that my spelling seems to deteriorate after a couple of drinks, which is a sign I'm getting old, I guess. Thank god they have tools for that nowadays.

Two other things:

1. Free partisan joke: "The Republicans' idea of alternative energy is burning witches." Written it out like that, it looks totally hacky now. But I actually enjoyed it when I thought of it.

2. Last night the Family Delicious went to see Free Shakespeare in Barnsdall Park (itself a rather underrated nice thing about LA). Recommended.

7.25.2007

Return of the double dactyl!

Fuck all y'all
Alberto Gonzales
Under his lying
Delivering truth:

"You don't have the balls for
Accountability
So we'll treat the law
Like Bonds treated Ruth."

7.14.2007

Why not just call it "SIRIUS Scoundrel"?

Rick Perlstein on Sirius politics:

"The liberal channel is called 'SIRIUS Left.'
The conservative channel is called 'SIRIUS Patriot.'"

7.11.2007

Fillbusters

Hey, did we really sign up for everything in the Senate to be passed by a three-fifths majority? (Although we know how much the Framers loved three-fifths.) That's why I'm 100% in favor of this. Make them actually fillibuster! Nobody looks better than when they're opposing the majority! Plus, it would be fun to watch, and isn't that what our government ought to be about -- fun!

7.10.2007

Truman

LGM:

Halberstam's piece is especially useful for deconstructing the Truman Analogy, by which true believers continue to find hope in Bush's entrenched approval ratings, his "bold" doctrinal pronouncements regarding freedom, and his oversight of an inconclusive and increasingly unpopular war. The logical pattern here is familiar. Just as many contemporary conservatives profess their love for a civil rights movement they most certainly would have opposed in its day, Bush and friends genuflect at the altar of Harry, even as they behave in a way that most closely resembles Truman's bitterest foes.


You know what else made Truman special? He listened to striped-pants effete State Department types like this man

7.09.2007

Let me play Devil's Advocate:

The Devil is great.

LA Bigots of Anaheim

So, I see by the bus ads that Arte Moreno's radio station -- the one that substitutes the Angels logo for the "A" in "AM" -- is big on Michael Savage.

Yes, the Michael Savage who enjoys bashing your immigrants and your gays.

I wonder what Arte, or the Angels, or Major League Baseball for that matter, have against these groups.

7.05.2007

The return of the Schwarzenegger Bullshit Watch!

This time it's only global warming.

President Cheney

I was about to say that it couldn't be any worse than what we have now, but then I remembered war with Iran. However, I do think Cheney the President, the guy who has to be the embodiment of policy, in the public eye (even to the limited and Potemkiny extent that Bush is in the public eye), might be a different cat. He can't hide in his man-sized safe. He has to come out and blink in the sunlight.

All this is by way of saying that impeaching Bush wouldn't be the end of the world. On the other hand, war with Iran, so maybe it would be.

Good to be big

I agree withAllan Muir here:

"A sport needs its marquee franchises to be marquee franchises. Is it any wonder that interest in hockey dwindled last year as four of the Original Six --Boston, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto -- were hitting the links when the playoffs got under way?"
I've always thought this is true in baseball too. Why shouldn't the playing field tilt toward the big markets, where more people are? New York has like a zillion hard-core baseball fans; why shouldn't those guys be rewarded a little more than the hundred thousand or so fans in Kansas City? I mean, I get bored with the Yankees' constant success too, so there has to be some principle of freshening; but in general, I say, let's limit the athletic socialism, shall we?

7.04.2007

Today's double dactyl

Boom go the fireworks
U.S. of America
Held self-evident truths
For a cent'ry or two:

But nothing was ever like
Islamofascism --
So ideals must be beaten
Red white & blue.

6.29.2007

Today's Double Dactyl

Sanctimonosity!
Opinions on steroids
Sportswriters' processors
Daily extrude:

I don't need the moral
Superiority
From professional watchers
Eating free food.

Today's Double Dactyl

Bong Hits 4 Jesus!
Gang of Five Justices
Say Equal Protection's
Not something you need:

It's not that they mean to be
Resegregational --
It just that it happens
With deliberate speed.

6.28.2007

The good life: it takes $$$

George Skelton, in something on the front page of the LA Times that belongs there:

No, the lesson from the Tahoe wildfire is this: There's no economy in numbers because of an exploding population — no growth discount for taxpayers funding the services they need.

It's precisely the opposite: The more people we cram into California — not just beneath the pines and along the waterfronts, but into the comfy suburbs and struggling inner cities — the more it's going to cost each of us. Cost us not only to retain some semblance of the California lifestyle, but often to survive. There's a premium to be paid for living here, and it keeps rising...

Here is one example of how ridiculous our tax system is:

My wife and I are partners with some other people in a condo on Tahoe's north shore. Because the place has been, for tax purposes, under the same ownership for decades, our property tax bite is a laugher: only one-seventh of our neighbor's, who bought his condo just last year. Mind you, ours isn't even a personal residence. It's a vacation retreat.

A lot of us aren't paying our fair share, especially we who live in tinderboxes.

Preventing and suppressing wildfires is just one government expense that increases for each Californian as the population grows.

We also have to pay for water supply and flood protection. The water gets harder and more expensive to find; people keep crowding into flood plains near leaky levees. Because all this is so pricey, we have to borrow at double the cost, counting interest.

Never mind natural disasters. Just packing people into densely populated areas causes problems.

I call this the chicken coop syndrome, observed as a boy while growing up on a small citrus ranch in Ojai. The more chickens we'd cram into the coop, the more they'd act up, compete, fight. That's nature. And it's human nature.

It requires big bucks for gang suppression — and also for locking up bad guys in separate pens. Isolating criminals is something the public favors in concept, but doesn't want to pay for with higher taxes.

Just getting people into crowded cities for work requires increasingly more tax dollars to build longer, wider freeways — or improving rapid transit. Either way, it's public money.

The more people there are, the heavier each Californian's tax burden. ....

But we can have it all — the mountain paradises, affordable universities, civilized commutes — if we're willing to pay, which is something anti-tax Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't want to hear.
See, I'm not in favor of more socialism out of idealism; if I had ideals, I wouldn't have come to Hollywood. It's just that we need a little more socialism.

6.27.2007

Today's double dactyl

I rise from my sickbed, but probably it's the scansion that's nausea-inducing:

Read all some about it!
News Corporation
Adds to its empire
The WSJ:

Its power is quasi-
Monopolistical;
Its taxes are something
The rest of us pay.

6.25.2007

Today's Double Dactyl

Ashes to oyez
Our virtuous senators
Corrupted for dollars
(Also, tickets to sports).

All men aren't equal in a
Kleptoplutocracy
Or so say the wise men
On our supreme court.

6.24.2007

Today's Double Dactyl: The President's Balls Are Missing

Special Sunday edition!

"Whatever you say, Dick!"
Our bold "Chief" Executive
Lost in the musky Vice-
Presidential mystique:

Was George's decisveness
Misoverestimated?
Eternally Cheneywhipped,
Our W's weak.

6.22.2007

Cleaning out my net news wire.

• Hey, it's one of my pet peeves: Everyone in public life -- certainly every actor -- needs voice lessons. Talented young actors with untrained voices bug me the most. Learn to use all your tools, people!

• A discussion of Ken Dryden's The Game. You'd think that I, a pretentious Canadiens fan, would like it, but I've never cottoned to it: Mr. Dryden approaches hockey as if it were a painful duty. That was some fucking great team though; and I do appreciate Dryden's appreciation of Guy Lapointe.

This is why I like Stoat. There's no denying climate change, or how serious it could be, just a bit of skepticism that it's going to End The World As We Know It. I find that reassuring, although I still wonder how we are going to get water here in LA in 20 years.

• Great interview with the dude who runs LACMA. Sample quote:

I don’t think philanthropy is a weird word, but you’ll find people will only use the word investment. They don’t like the idea of just giving away things. But on the other hand, a lot of people invest in their museums and in their cities on that level, I think largely for themselves. I mean for their sense of self, because your sense of self is that you come from and inhabit a great city. And they contribute to it so that they can share in the pleasure of it.
LA's not quite there yet -- I wish people would wake up and feel like they're living in the greatest city in the world. That requires, as noted, a certain amount of civic identity. But I think it is coming, and will come. That's what makes LA so fascinating in a way that New York, which has finished its project and is now doing revisions, can't be.

• From Dial M for Musicology
Frankly, I still like to listen this way, to care this hard about music I hear to the point of tearing off slices with my teeth. Perhaps this accounts for my impatience with concert hall behavior—sitting as if in church, enduring the performance, and at the end applauding oneself for having attended.
Emphasis added for emphasis. You see this a lot at the theater too -- people rooting for their money.

6.21.2007

TV note: In which I finally have an opinion about The Sopranos

I never really watched the Sopranos, because I just cannot commit to hour-long shows*, but it occurs to me that no one has made a connection between the fuck-you-audience-these-are-not-nice-people ending of The Sopranos, and the fuck-you-audience-these-are-not-nice-people ending of Seinfeld. And Larry David and David Chase both seem cut from the same difficult New York cloth.

I actually liked the Seinfeld finale, because finales are impossible anyway, so putting your characters in jail is as good an ending as ever. And I thought it was a great antidote to the "How will we live without these loveable characters" kind of hype that surrounded the run-up to the show's ending.

I also suspect (or project) that the two Davids have a similar attitude toward TV in general: that good TV is great, yet TV as a whole is kind of evil, and people who over-like TV are probably barking up the wrong tree.


*The only hour shows I think I have ever watched regularly are Rockford (in reruns, late night in college), and The Tudors, which was magnificently awful, but hypnotic, almost "Meeting of Minds"-like, for the fan of the period. I take Wolcott's enjoyment of the show as the pose of a contrarian dandy (which is a good thing).