Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The blog post that writes itself
Sharon Stone, who last year was a guest of the Shanghai International Film Festival, now faces a boycott of her films in China after she suggested the devastating May 12 earthquake there could have been the result of bad "karma."You can click on the story to read more, but here are two ways in which it might have ended:
1) "Ng See-Yuen, founder of the UME Cineplex chain and the chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers, denied that his decision to ban Ms. Stone's film had anything to do with Basic Instinct 2: "I said her comments were 'inappropriate,' not 'God-awful dreck from the dredges of hell.'"
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Regarding Angelina Jolie, I'd like to deny the rough sex
Tirdad Derakhshani has an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer on celebrity activism in politics in which I'm quoted. It's worth a read, but alas, it appears that my quote was sexed up a bit:
Drezner, whose 2007 book, All Politics Is Global, analyzes how globalization affects international power relations, said there's no better way to reinvent oneself in Hollywood than through good works.While I do not have a photographic memory, my New England upbringing has trained me to remember any and all times I say the words "rough sex" to anyone. I never said it to Derakhshani.
The basic thrust of the quote is accurate, but I just want to categorially deny that I alleged anything about Angelina Jolie's sex preferences during the interview.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Op-ed - actual research for op-ed = blogswarm
On Tuesday night, while the G.O.P. Congressional candidate was losing in a Mississippi district George Bush carried in 2004 by 25 points, Barack Obama was being trounced in the West Virginia Democratic primary — by 41 points. I can’t find a single recent instance of a candidate who ultimately became his party’s nominee losing a primary by this kind of margin (emphasis added).The blog reaction:
It took me all of 2 minutes to find what Kristol couldn’t find -Politico's Ben Smith:
Monday, April 21, 2008
All purpose excuses
A few months ago, I observed the following all-purpose excuse used by many conservatives in a bloggingheads episode:
If I did [insert perfectly reasonable and ethical act here], the terrorist win.After ruminating on this Josh Marshall post, I now believe I have found an all purpose excuse for liberals:
If I had not done [insert your own unspeakably inoffensive action, here], you know the Republicans would have done it in the fall.Try it out during your everyday routine... it's easy and fun!
Wednesday, April 9, 2008posted by Dan at 04:58 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, March 24, 2008
What's the worst movie ever?
To qualify as one of the worst films of all time, several strict requirements must be met. For starters, a truly awful movie must have started out with some expectation of not being awful. That is why making a horrific, cheapo motion picture that stars Hilton or Jessica Simpson is not really much of an accomplishment. Did anyone seriously expect a film called The Hottie and The Nottie not to suck? Two, an authentically bad movie has to be famous; it can't simply be an obscure student film about a boy who eats live rodents to impress dead girls. Three, the film cannot be a deliberate attempt to make the worst movie ever, as this is cheating. Four, the film must feature real movie stars, not jocks, bozos, has-beens or fleetingly famous media fabrications like Hilton. Five, the film must generate a negative buzz long before it reaches cinemas; like the Black Plague or the Mongol invasions, it must be an impending disaster of which there has been abundant advance warning; it cannot simply appear out of nowhere. And it must, upon release, answer the question: could it possibly be as bad as everyone says it is? This is what separates Waterworld, a financial disaster but not an uncompromisingly dreadful film, and Ishtar, which has one or two amusing moments, from The Postman, Gigli and Heaven's Gate, all of which are bona fide nightmares.Now I actually enjoy several "bad" movies whenever I stumble upon them in dimension known as late night basic cable morass -- Starship Troopers, Road House, Red Dawn -- but by Queenan's criteria, the worst movie I have ever seen, hands down, was Caligula.
This was Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione's attempt to create an all-star mainstream X-rated movie. It had an all-star cast of British luminaries (Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole) and cost a bundle to make. It is also the only film I have ever seen that was so revolting that I had to walk out before it ended.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Spare me the public intellectual nostalgia
[I]n the last two or three years, a whole host of giants have passed away, men who were political thinkers at a time when that made you a cultural figure. John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Norman Mailer, and now, William F. Buckley Jr. Gore Vidal is just about the last of their number left. And that's a shame. They would write serious books of political analysis and sell millions of copies -- they were the writers you had to read to call yourself an actual political junkie. Now, the space they inhabited in the discourse is held by the Coulters and O'Reilly's of the world. Where we once prized a tremendous facility for wit, we're now elevating those with a tremendous storehouse for anger.Now I know I've picked on Klein in the past, and I know that Megan McArdle has picked on him today -- but give me a f#$%ing break. Comparing Galbraith/Friedman to O'Reilly/Coulter is like comparing apples to worms -- they both grow out of the dirt but are otherwise of a different species.
There are plenty of economists, historians, lawyers, and general-interest writers alive today who can claim the mantle of discourse that the departed once held:
Economists: Larry Summers, Jeffrey Sachs, Paul Collier, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Greg Mankiw, Tyler Cowen, Steve Leavitt, myriad Leavitt-clones.Readers can think of other names to post in the comments. Hell, all you have to do is click over to bloggingheads.tv and you'll get perfectly civil and discourse from a welter of interesting critics and thinkers -- including Ezra Klein.
Some of these people are more partisan than others -- but I suspect they would all tend to get along as well as the people on Klein's list. They're just more likely to do it via short e-mails rather than long letters.
The O'Reillys and Coulters of the world also existed back in the heyday of Buckley and Galbraith: Walter Winchell comes to mind, for example.
Cable television and the Internet enhance the attention directed at hacks -- but I seriously doubt that the state of discourse -- or emnity among those producing the discourse -- among the best and the brightest today is any worse than it was forty or fifty years ago.
UPDATE: James Harkin has an essay in today's Financial Times that underscores the strength and vitality of American thinkers -- compred to Europe:
Ideas are all the rage. Good ideas have always been contagious, but thanks to the internet and the increasingly globalised media, they are now making their way around the world almost as soon as they are invented. As this new market for ideas begins to settle, something else has become clear too - America is way out in front. If distinctively European thinkers such as Isaiah Berlin and émigrés from Europe to America such as Hannah Arendt had dominated the battleground of ideas during the age of ideology (defined, by the British historian Eric Hobsbawm, as the years between the first world war and the fall of the Berlin Wall), one of the oddities of this new landscape of ideas is that Americans seem to be much better at generating them. There are still some heavyweights around in Europe with novel things to say - Jürgen Habermas in Germany and Slavoj Zizek in Slovenia, for example - but they are few and far between. When France's Jean Baudrillard died in March last year, at the age of 77, it seemed to signify the close of an intellectual era. In any case, Baudrillard was canny enough to know which way the intellectual wind blew. For all his criticism of American culture, he was enchanted by this place he called "the original version of modernity". France, he pointed out, was nothing more than "a copy with subtitles"....Harkin raises a point worth stressing again. Part of the vitality of American thinkers is that demand seems to be higher. In terms of books, historical narratives are more popular than ever. Publishers are killing each other trying to find the next Freakonomics. We don't lack for tomes about grand strategy.
Let's face it -- it's a great time to earn a living through the power of ideas.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Your 2008 Oscar predictions!!
The Oscars are upon us yet again, and yet the writers strike deprived us of all the pre-Oscar campaigns by the various nominees. In other words, it's the best of both worlds!! And what better way to provide this blog's sixth (!!) annual Oscar predictions!!
Except the nominated movies are mostly downers. You know you're looking at a depressing set of films when the conclusion to Michael Clayton ranks as one of the happier on-screen endings among the Best Picture noms.
The pressure is on your humble blogger -- I got absolutely creamed last year, a fact that the Official Blog Wife has lorded over me for quite some time now. This time, it's personal.
OK, same rules as always -- predictions of who will win followed by who should win. Once again, I'm pleasantly surprised that the wife and I got to see many of the top-nominated films:
Best Supporting Actor
Bardem and Daniel-Day Lewis are vying for the Official Mortal Lock this year, and he gives a great performance. But I'm truly flummoxed why Breach got no love from the Oscars. If the film had been released in October instead of February, it would have earned a slew of them -- and none more deserving than Cooper's portrayal of the bewildering Robert Hanssen.
Chicks playing dudes + Blanchett's ability to mimic anything and anyone = Oscar love as a general rule. However, Garner pulls off an astonishing turn in Juno. When you first see her, she seems like your stereotypical uptight yuppie professional. As the movie progresses, however, Garner is able -- sometimes with little more than a widening of her eyes -- to show the very valid reasons for her outer shell. In a movie filled with dead-on characterizations, it was Garner's character that provided the most surprising and yet thoroughly believable arc.
Cards on the table -- I loathed There Will Be Blood . [See the Boston Globe's Ty Burr for a defense of the movie] I've had it up to here with Paul Thomas Anderson movies that hint at interesting themes before taking the most obvious metaphor and whacking you on the head repeatedly until you "get" it (also, I find it interesting that Anderson's film scores are always praised. As a general rule I find that when critics praise the soundtrack, it's because the director is going all Brechtian and making things obvious to the movie-goer. It's the ultimate backhanded compliment of the director. Contrast the overbearing music of There Will Be Blood with the silence of No Country for Old Men -- the latter is much more affecting). The final reel of There Will Be Blood is far worse than the frogs from Magnolia, in part because the promise of this movie was greater -- and because the final scene in this movie is so impossibly ludicrous that the "I drink your milkshake!" line deserves to be debased in every way imaginable.
As for Lewis' performance, it's the same thing as the movie -- quite good at the start and then descending into utter hamminess by the end of it (see this David Spade spoof and tell me he doesn't nail Lewis' shtick). He's already received every pre-Oscar award, and clearly knows how to give a good acceptance speech.
However, to repeat my objection from last year:
One of the absudities of Hollywood's value system is that someone who can sing or dance can win an Oscar for one show-stopping number, whereas stars in action films are thought to be tawdry and commercial.Damon's performance in all of the Bourne movies, but especially Ultimatum, highlights the contrast between Bourne's coiled physicality and his repressed emotions.
I haven't seen Away From Her, but if the trailer is any clue, Christie is no doubt the winner. Linney, however, was just sublime in this serio-comic role of frustrated writer/liar who is forced to deal with the institutionalization of her senile and mostly unloved father.
With the exception of the ending (a problem way too many of the nominees had this year), No Country for Old Men had the best combination of camerawork, cinematography, sound, pacing and acting of any live action movie I saw this year.
Unless Oscar-voters really care about endings, No Country for Old Men will win (if they do really care, then Juno pulls off the upset).
I liked No Country for Old Men a lot, but like State's Dana Stevens, there's something about a Coen brothers' movie I just can't love. Brad Bird, on the other hand, has me eating out of the palm of his hand. And the simple fact is that none of the nominated movies contains anyting in it that compares to the scene in Ratatouille when the critic Anton Ego tastes the titular dish for the first time. Nor is there anything in any other movie that can top this speech a few minutes later:So there.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
An interesting test of cultural wills
Here's the new Indiana Jones trailer (hat tip: Isaac Chotiner):Of course, the last time George Lucas tried to resuscitate a classic movie series from my youth, I had to endure the torture of watching Lucas reduce Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Samuel L. Jackson to uttering the worst lines since Showgirls. Even Lucas admitted that much of the second Star Wars trilogy was padding. This is a serious cultural transgression -- I mean, this is Samuel motherf@#$ing Jackson we're talking about!
However, in the case of the Indiana Jones saga, Lucas faces an interesting frenemy -- Steven Spielberg. As Tom Shone discussed in a fascinating Slate story a few years back, the interplay between these two has been fascinating. For the audience's sake, I can only hope that Spielberg proves to be stronger with the force in shaping this movie.
The Westminster dog show finally moves down the learning curve
It took this long for judges at the Westminster Dog show to recognize the friggin' obvious?Of course, Chester would have won this with one paw tied behind his back.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Your cultural question of the winter
As the writer's strike continues to not end, let's consider a key cultural question that's been nagging me in recent weeks.
I don't care for Alec Baldwin's politics, and I suspect he's not really a terribly nice person. That said, the man can chew through scenery with the best of them, and he's the best thing on the best comedy on television, 30 Rock.
So, here's your question: which is the signature Alec Baldwin performance? The gold standard, of course, is his very not-safe-for-work monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross:However, maybe, just maybe, Baldwin's psychiatric role-playing tour-de-force in an October episode of 30 Rock tops his previous acting apex. Watch for yourself and help me decide:
Monday, December 24, 2007
Your semi-interesting travel observation of the day
For those of you who will be travelling this holiday season, here's a useful, spontaneous discovery I made yesterday. This is based on my personal experience with an automated voice recognition software program on the customer service line of a major airline:
If, at any point, you say "f*** you" into the phone, you will be automatically and politely transferred to a human operator.Remember, you have to pronounce the asterisks correctly.
I'm sure my razor-sharp readers were already cognizant of this fact -- but if not, go forth and find out if it works on other airlines.
UPDATE: This site is also useful for figuring out how to talk to a human (hat tip: loyal reader A.A.)
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Hmmm.... that's probably a good idea
From the Associated Press:
Lynne Spears' book about parenting has been delayed indefinitely, her publisher said Wednesday. Lindsey Nobles, a spokeswoman for Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson Inc., said Wednesday that the memoir by the mother of Britney Spears was put on hold last week.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Sweet Jesus. Sweet, sweet, here-before-everyone Jesus
According to Jacob T. Levy, Philip Tetlock won this year's Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Tetlock won for Expert Political Judgment, a book that I blogged about a bit on this hallowed web site (see Rodger Payne as well.).
A key point that Tetlock makes is that experts aren't any better at making political predictions than non-experts.
I bring this up now because it's really, really important to remember that there is hard data confirming Tetlock's assertion when you think about the non-experts in the world. Like, for example, these precious few seconds from The View, courtesy of Crooked Timber's Kieran Healy:Look, the really important thing -- as I told my son sometime this week -- is that the Star Wars saga took place before anything discussed in the video clip.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Rowling outs Dumbledore??!!
Can we forget the the world's troubles for a second and talk about the fact that an author just outed her fictional character's sexual persuasion?
At last night's talk at New York City's Carnegie Hall — an event for thousands of young Harry Potter fans and their parents — J.K. Rowling outed the kindly headmaster.Now this raises all kinds of interesting questions.
1) Does what Rowling think matters?Blog reactions at Red State and Andrew Sullivan.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
I bet Sinead O'Connor is a great mother
I can't resist one bit of Britney-blogging -- namely, that I'm not sure how good high-falutin newspapers are at covering the down and dirty. From Mireya Navarro's account in the New York Times of the custody decision that went against Ms. Spears:
The ruling was the culmination of a rash of bad news for Ms. Spears, whose erratic behavior on and off the stage, including shaving her head and diving into the ocean from a public beach in her underwear, had cast doubt on her fitness as a mother. (emphasis added)Note to self: alert DCFS authorities about these women immediately.
Seriously, there are plenty of reasons on the table to explain why K-Fed is the more responsible parent.... hold on a sec, my keyboard just burst into flame for some reason.... there, it's out now.... but do head-shaving and ocean-diving really belong on the list? I'm going to go out on a limb and say the drug and alcohol abuse and the bad driving might be more relevant.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Your mock music video for today
Hat tip: Garance Franke-Ruta: "Soft power, at its finest, baby."
Those college kids today, with their ambition....
Yesterday was the New York Times Magazine's ballyhooed college issue, which includes a Rick Perlstein essay that seems like a shorter version of David Brooks' "Organization Kid" essay from six years ago (to Perlstein's credit, he does cites Brooks' piece in his essay).
If you want something really provocative, however, check out Jake Halpern's "The New Me Generation" in the Boston Globe Magazine. His opening:
Nicole Mirabile, who is just 15 years old, has a clear vision of her future, and it doesn't involve a boss. The prospect of working at a Fortune 500 company – and landing the sort of well-paying job that Americans once regarded as the benchmark of success – holds zero allure for her. "It would be hard compromising with a lot of different people whom I might clash with," she speculates. Mirabile, a sophomore at North Quincy High School, would be far happier running her own company. "I have the time, I have the brains, I have the patience to do it, and I am not going to give up if I fail once," she vows.I'm not entirely sure Halpern's correct -- but I'd rather argue about his essay than Perlstein's warmed-over copy.
[What's your beef with Perlstein?--ed. Really, it's not intentional -- he's just published two pieces in the last week that have annoyed the crap out of me.]
Monday, September 17, 2007
In other news, Americans still don't like spinach
Over at Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch blog, Gregory Kirschling is puzzled that Iraq is not a real ratings-winner in film and television:
You know one thing that bums me out? A lot of friends I’ve talked to lately refuse to go see movies about Iraq! What’s the matter with people? For the past many weeks I’ve been talking up Paul Haggis’s new film, In the Valley of Elah, and as soon as I mention that it actually has something powerful to say about the war, a lot of folks’ eyes turn glassy. Nobody cares!Look, I liked No End In Sight, but are culture mavens like Kirschling really that clueless about why most people go to the movies? There's not a whole lot of escapism in films about Iraq.
[People go to movies for other reasons as well!!--ed. Yes, but getting angry is usually not one of those reasons. And anyone who sees a well-crafted movie on Iraq will feel that way. Why would anyone who supports the war pay ten bucks for the privilege of having their core assumptions challenged? Why would anyone who opposes the war pay ten bucks for the privilege of having their core assumption -- that the war is a mess -- confirmed?]
The only way I could see an Iraq war movie doing well would be if it was, like M*A*S*H, a very black comedy.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
The ineluctable power of the bad review
In the New York Times Book Review, historian David Oshinsky writes about what he discovered in the archives of the publisher Alfred A. Knopf.
Oshinsky's general finding is that, "the great bulk of the reader’s reports seemed fair-minded and persuasive. Put simply, a rejected manuscript usually appeared to deserve its fate."
This is boring, however. Oshinsky, like too many of us, is attracted to people when they are bad. So the bulk of Oshinsky's essay is devoted to the exceptionally bad reviews -- bad because they were clearly wrong about the manuscript, or bad because the review seemed to go out of its way to belittle the writer.
As an example of the first type of bad review, Oshinsky opens with:
In the summer of 1950, Alfred A. Knopf Inc. turned down the English-language rights to a Dutch manuscript after receiving a particularly harsh reader’s report. The work was “very dull,” the reader insisted, “a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions.” Sales would be small because the main characters were neither familiar to Americans nor especially appealing. “Even if the work had come to light five years ago, when the subject was timely,” the reader wrote, “I don’t see that there would have been a chance for it.”There's more: "Another passed on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, explaining it was 'impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.'"
When rejections are bad, however, they can be delightfully nasty, which is how Oshinsky closes:
Today, as publishers eschew the finished manuscript and spit out contracts based on a sketchy outline or even less, the scripting of rejection letters has become something of a lost art. It’s hard to imagine a current publisher dictating the sort of response that Alfred Knopf sent to a prominent Columbia University historian in the 1950s. “This time there’s no point in trying to be kind,” it said. “Your manuscript is utterly hopeless as a candidate for our list. I never thought the subject worth a damn to begin with and I don’t think it’s worth a damn now. Lay off, MacDuff.”For more on the Knopf archives, click here.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
The cultural question of the summer
Which version of "Umbrella" is better?
Here's Rihanna:Here's Mandy Moore: Finally, there's YouTube phenomenom Marie Digby's version:
I think it's Rihanna, hands down. [Oh, you, always siding with "professionals"!!--ed.]
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Welcome to my musical demographic
After a long stretch of time in which I did not attend any large music concerts, I managed to attend two in the past ten days.
As much of a musical whiplash as these two concerts created, I'm willing to bet that a fair number of people my age attended both of these concerts.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
DC in the summertime
The quote of the day goes to the official Blog Brother, sightseeing in Washington, DC. His description of the city during the summer:
Lots of young people walking around believing that they are very important.He's referring, of course, to the interns. Which is as good an excuse as any to link to this six-year old Slate essay by David Plotz defending interns. Plotz's key point:
In fact, interns deserve neither derision nor fear. They are a wonderfully useful segment of Washington. They are a "backbone" of the city, argues Mary Ryan of the intern-placing Institute for Experiential Learning. For better or worse, they often serve as cheap clerical labor, replacing secretaries at a fraction the cost. They can also make more substantive contributions. They often do hard, nasty work, such as the unpleasant background research for nonprofits or the dirt-digging on a campaign opponent. Interns, in short, are not pointless.The libertarian in me is a little afraid of what happens when you combine idealism with government power. That said, the ex-research intern in me nods in sympathy.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I, for one, suspect Michael Bay
First Ingmar Bergmann dies.
Now it's Michelangelo Antonioni.
Clearly, someone or something is killing Europe's great film directors.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
A small Harry Potter break in the blogging.... and we're back and grumpy
Am reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with spare time.
[It took you five days to get the book?--ed. No, it took the Official Blogwife that many days to read it and then give it to me.]
Everyone go away for a while. Like Megan McArdle, I'm going into semi-withdrawal for a few days.
UPDATE: Is it just me, or does anyone else derive satisfaction from tearing through Rowling at warp speed? I normally don't plow through 750 page books in a day, but I always read Harry Potter about twice as fast as other books. My hunch is that Michael Berube is correct -- the books are a combination of a fully imagined world and the pure essence of plot and narrative. I feel the same way reading a Harry Potter book as I do when I was running a really fast wind sprint.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Fans of both Harry Potter and the Sopranos should really click here.
FINAL UPDATE: OK, I've finished the book and opened the comment thread back up. My critical take on the book appears after the jump [WARNING: MASSIVE PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD]:
I have to say, I thought Deathly Hallows was the weakest of the bunch. Part of this was inevitable -- the ending can't satisfy everyone, a lot of loose ends needed tying up, and there is a clear tension between what Rowling's adult fans and younger fans wanted to see happen. These tensions existed in the previous books as well, but Rowling was always able to kick the can down the road in the earlier volumes. As a reader, I was always confident that unanswered questions (what is Snape up to?) would be dealt with before the series ended.
Now that the series has ended, however, there are still a bunch of cans lying on the road. Rowling has always been able to control her unruly plots, but when I finished this book, I had a hell of a lot of questions:
1) How the bloody hell does the sword of Gryffindor get into the friggin' Sorting Hat? UPDATE: I knew Wikipedia had its uses: "The two items share a particular bond; whenever a "true Gryffindor" needs it, the Sword will let itself be pulled out of the hat."It wasn't all bad. The scene with Harry walking to his doom, accompanied by all the dead who love him, was particularly affecting. The battle of Hogwarts was friggin' awesome (one looks forward to seeing that on film). Rowling always knows when to surprise with the humor. And I think I liked the epilogue more than most -- Harry and his friends have more than earned their happiness. On the whole, though, Michiko Kakutani is full of it -- Dealthly Hallows is a disappointment.
Rowling provides a few more details about the epilogue here.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
What does YouTube mean for punditry?
Increasingly, though, the incentives [for television appearances] are changing. Assume that the incentive for going on television is to raise your profile (which is about 75 percent correct). If I went on television five years ago, a large part of my incentive would be to make the host like me. After all, these appearances pass in an instant, and most of you would never see the program. So if I want to reach the maximum number of people with my arguments and do the most to increase my visibility, I want to keep coming back.Alas, I think Ezra has his logic backwards. What attracts viewers' attention when watching pundits is not whether or not they're making sense, but whether or not they're being disruptive. This, of course, was why Crossfire was on the air for so long. This is why Robert Novak's most memorable TV moment will be when he walked off the the set of Inside Politics. This is why blogginghead.tv's biggest viral moment involved a lot of disruption but not a whole lot of sense.
To put it in terms of inequalities, I would agree that (disruptive + making sense) > (disruptive + nonsense) for most TV viewers, but that (disruptive + nonsense) > (polite + making sense) for most TV viewers as well.
One could argue that this means that the best pundits will be both disruptive and make sense, crowding out everyone else. Color me skeptical, however, for two reasons. First, it's much easier to be disruptive than it is to make sense, and so for an aspiring pundit, the risk-averse attention-getting strategy is making as big a stink as possible. Making sense is optional.
Second, sometimes making sense is not disruptive -- it's boring. Most of the time, life is not simple, does not fit neatly into ideological categories, and requires "on the one hand, on the other hand" calculations. This kind of analysis can be really, really boring to people -- especially if they crave informational shortcuts in the form of brightly colored answers.
Friday, July 13, 2007
The most frightening sentence I've read today
"A lot of suburbanites have moved to the city in the last five years looking for action," said Beehive co-owner Darryl SettlesSuzanne Ryan, "The place to be (over 30)," Boston Globe, July 13, 2007.
Thief foiled by Democratic party caricature
A grand feast of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp was winding down, and a group of friends was sitting on the back patio of a Capitol Hill home, sipping red wine. Suddenly, a hooded man slid in through an open gate and put the barrel of a handgun to the head of a 14-year-old guest.Click on the story to read what happens next... but group hugs are involved.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Drezner's pop culture minute!!
One of the pernicious side-effects of shuttling around small children in one's car is that it causes one to lose with touch with today's music. Anything that's not on "Music Together" or the theme song from Maisy is lost on my youngest child, and she gets very grumpy when her music is not being played.
Even with this caveat, I'll go out on a limb and declare myself a better arbiter of pop music meanings than David Brooks.
This is based on Brooks' column ($$) in the New York Times today, a sociological exegesis of three hit songs today:
If you’ve been driving around listening to pop radio stations this spring and summer, you’ll have noticed three songs that are pretty much unavoidable, and each of them is a long way from puppy love....A few thoughts:
1) David needs to haul his current research assistant into his office and bitchslap him or her for a while. It's the RA's job to have a better grasp of pop culture, and in this case there has been a clear failure, because this kind of song has been around for a while. A decade ago, there was Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know," Fiona Apple's "Sleep to Dream", and Meredith Brooks' "Bitch."
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
It's a 4th of July miracle!!
In a gut-busting showdown that combined drama, daring and indigestion, Joey Chestnut emerged Wednesday as the world's hot dog eating champion, knocking off six-time winner Takeru Kobayashi in a rousing yet repulsive triumph.
Monday, June 18, 2007
You be Newsweek's guest editor!
I find little to cavil about Newsweek's sympathetic profile of Angelina Jolie ("look, she's gone from Billy Bob Thornton's ex to being good at acting, adopting and international public diplomacy!")
Well, OK, there is this rather odd section:
Earlier this month Jolie was invited to join the Council on Foreign Relations, the elite club for the American foreign-policy establishment. It's no room for lightweights. Her fellow members include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Jimmy Carter, Diane Sawyer and Bill Clinton.To my dying day, I will be vexed by one of two possibilities:
1) Reporter Sean Smith sees Diane Sawyer as a foreign policy heavyweight;
A&W sells me on MacDonald's
While engaging in my monthly hotel workout regimen, I caught a new ad by A&W restaurant. The gist of the ad was that McDonald's was not to be trusted because... wait for it... they used beef from New Zealand. As opposed to A&W, which only uses American beef.
Having been to New Zealand,, that ad actually made me want to go out a buy a Big Mac. Because New Zealand grass-fed beef tastes much, much better than American corn-fed beef.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Final Sopranos predictions
1) No one in Tony's immediate family dies;Readers are encouraged to offer their own predictions/postmortems.
POST-EPISODE UPDATE: Wrong on Melfi, but I think the rest of it holds up pretty well.
Monday, May 21, 2007
The most amusing sentence I have read today
"Like all red-blooded American women, [Michelle Obama] isn't afraid to publiclly mock her husband."Laura McKenna.
Friday, May 11, 2007
The most bizarre analyses I've seen today
This is what I get for surfing the web instead of revising that paper-that's-really-just-perfect-the-way-it-is-and-I-don't-care-what-those-stupid-peer-referees-think.
First up, Scott Sullivan, "U.S. Jews Must Protect Wolfowitz," The Conservative Voice:
US Jews must protect Wolfowitz because the allegations against him are baseless and Germany’s motives in pushing these allegations are suspect. Meanwhile, President Bush wants to purge his administration of anti-Iran policy makers. As his legacy, Bush wants to make a strategic partnership with Iran’s Nazi President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Firing Paul Wolfowitz is the down payment on Bush's strategic partnership with Iran.Right.
Next up: Grady Hendrix, "Mocha Zombies," Slate:
The rage virus, with its ability to create red-eyed, screaming monsters, with its instantaneous transmission via liquid, and the fact that its frantic growth can only be stopped by firebombing, is an effective metaphor for the unstoppable, global spread of Starbucks.... Images of rabid globalization... still deliver a kick, and there's nothing that says "New World Order" more than a horde of single-minded zombies devouring the quick and assimilating them into their anonymous, ever-expanding ranks.I think this one is intended to be funny, but I'll let the readers be the judge.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Crooked Timber vs. the suburbs
There's something about the suburbs that appears to periodically freak out the Crooked Timberites. Exhibit A was a Daniel Davies riff against big-box retailers that provoked a very interesting comment thread.
In the Top 10 for Singles are the fun, densely-populated places you might expect: New York, L.A., Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. For Young Couples, we have cool hangouts like Portland, Austin, and Boulder. Empty Nesters get to kick back in Bellingham, Santa Fe, Tahoe and Berkeley....I confess to some puzzlement at Kieran's distress. What most of the top-ranked Family With Children places have in common is that they are semi-affordable suburbs adjacent to cities that fell into one of the other Top 10 categories [What about Noblesville IN?--ed. I got nothing, but that doesn't mean it's a bad place to live.]
In a follow-up comment, Kieran elaborates:
[C]ome on, everyone. Do people really not find the notional life transitions laid out in the chart—from New York or L.A. to Boulder or Austin to … Flower Mound or Gaithersburg—even slightly funny? It’s like, as if the endless diapers and slug-like minivans aren’t enough, here’s where you have to live.
Having made the move from one of the top 10 places for Singles to a place that I'm guessing ranks high on Families with Children, all I can say is, thank God for the suburbs (in fairness, Hyde Park is not exactly a typical urban neighborhood):
Five minute walk to the elementary school? Check.I suspect Kieran was mostly being flip, but I do think there's a part of him that shudders with dread about the exemplary suburban locale.
To which I have to say, sure, it's easy to find fault. But I'll take the small downsides of suburbandom over the nasty stares I recall getting when entering hip and trendy restaurants/supermarkets/stores/shopping malls with a few rugrats in tow. At this point in the 21st century, having small children is kind of like belonging to a different religious persuasion that others view as bizarre and discomfiting. It's nice to be with one's own kind during these years.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Will NBC save our marriages?
It started just the other week as I watched FNL's season finale. I had never bothered to introduce my significant other to the show, because, well, she likes football about as much as she likes my Star Wars lightsaber collection — which is to say, not very much — so I viewed the entire season by myself. But then something else dawned on me: Christina loves teen shows.... It occurred to me that, hey, Friday Night Lights is as much -- if not more -- a teen show than it is a football drama. So I implored her to give it a chance. To my shock, she agreed (again, we're talking about football here). We had the first nine episodes on DVD. We watched one. Then we watched another. Then I went to bed, and she watched two more. Next night, same drill. She went through episodes the way I go through cans of Milwaukee's Best. Only she didn't wake up with a headache in the morning.I lack Ross' NBC connections, but my wife got so hooked on the show after I introduced her to it that she caught up on all the episodes by watching them online (they're all still available, by the way).
And, as in Ross' case, my wife is a huge Riggins fan, even though he's the bad boy of the show. "He's just gorgeous... and smoldering," she said. She then tried to assuage any anxiety I might have had by reassuring me that, "you are as un-Riggins-like as you can possibly be."
I feel much better now.
[Yes, you, who link to Salma Hayek at the drop of a hat, should get upset at this!!--ed. True, though I have never (and will never) told my wife that she was "un-Hayek like."]
Oh, and for FNL afficionados, I'm neither a Lyla or a Tyra guy -- I'm a Tami guy through and through.
Thursday, April 19, 2007posted by Dan at 05:39 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The trailer that haunts me today
I have no idea if the movie will be as good as this trailer (though it seems to have won a few festival awards). That said, it's been 24 hours and I can't shake this from my head.
The official blog wife thinks it's because I'm becoming a complete sap. This is indeed a possibility.
Monday, April 9, 2007
Open Starbucks overheard conversation thread
Virginia Postrel relates a conversation she head while at a Los Angeles Starbucks: "Two screenwriters working over a script that features both the CIA and some kind of evil mercenary hired by...a pharmaceutical company."
For some reason, the Starbucks I occasionally frequent here in the Boston area has much stranger conversations than the Hyde Park Starbucks. In the fall, I overheard two IT consultants bemoaning the fact that some outfit in Sudan (???!!!) was getting a whole bunch of World Bank money that allowed them to be competitive in some niche market. I have no idea if this was true or not, but it safely distracted me from work for twenty minutes.
Here's a good Monday question for readers -- what was the strangest conversation you have overheard in a coffee house?
Friday, April 6, 2007
Even the Onion is vlogging
Well, not vlogging so much as good old fashioned fake news that makes you squirm as well as laugh:
This is going to be very, very bad for my productivity.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
I saw it, so you're going to have to suffer as well
I'm going to have a stomach ache the rest of the day after watching this:I understand what Alanis was going for here, but the fact is, as Hua Hsu wrote in Slate two years ago about the original Black Eyed Peas song, "My Humps":
It is... proof that a song can be so bad as to veer toward evil....Which makes an "ironic" cover of the song... well.... pretty damn bad.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
The thousand nations of the Persian empire are pissed off about 300
Government spokesman, Gholam-Hossein Elham said Tuesday that the movie called `300' insults the culture of world countries.Though Matt and I have had some differences on Iran, I agree with correct lesson he from this tidbit of information:
It's interesting that even Iran's contemporary theocrats regard themselves as the heirs to all the pre-Islamic Persian empires. Which goes to show how misleading it is to frame US-Iranian disputes as part of an apocalyptic struggle with "Islamofascism" rather than a sort of banal (but not unimportant!) situation issue where the government of Iran is seeking to assert its interests in the neighborhood where governments of Iran have traditionally sought to assert themselves.UPDATE: Azadeh Moaveni suggests in Time that ordinary Iranians are equally ticked off about the movie.
Sunday, March 4, 2007posted by Dan at 09:03 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, February 25, 2007
"I wonder why this Council on Foreign Relations meeting is so well-attended?"
Jeremy Grant reports in the Financial Times that the Council on Foreign Relations has announced its latest batch of term members. One of them apparently has some prior experience as a U.N. ambassador:
The dead-pan world of the Washington policy wonk looks set for a dash of Hollywood glamour with the nomination of actress Angelina Jolie to join one of the most venerable think-tanks in the US.
Note to self: check immediately to ascertain if Salma Hayek would be interested in CFR membership. [Um.... don't you have to be an American citizen to belong to the Council?--ed. Hayek is now a U.S. citizen, to vdare's everlasting chagrin.]
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Your Oscar predictions for 2007!!
Well, the Academy Award ceremonies will be upon us in 24 hours, which means it's time for our fifth annual Oscar predictions. We will note that this year, we are wearing black armbands in protest at the brutal discrimination subjected against Salma Hayek in the acting categories. Don't those Academy fools realize that she won Best Nude Scene for 2006 from Mr. Skin for Ask the Dust?! [You'll always have this scene!!--ed. It's not enough. It's never enough.]
OK, same rules as always -- predictions of who will win followed by who should win. Surprisingly, given the move and everything, the wife and I got to see many of the top-nominated films:
Best Supporting Actor:
Eddie Murphy has made a ton of money for Hollowood over 25 years, and proved he can act. Hollywood will reciprocate accordingly -- despite his graceless acceptance speech at the Golden Globes -- because the alternative characters (heroin junkie grandpa, child molester) aren't as appealing.
It's great that Arkin got nominated, but Carrell stole the movie for me. Part of it is that he's playing against his "type" from Anchorman and The 40-Year Old Virgin. Part of it is that, as an academic, I had never seen an actor nail the self-seriousness that we all possess in great quantities better than Carrell.
Best Supporting Actress
Let me preface this by saying I did not see Dreamgirls, but by all accounts Slate's Judy Rosen is correct in asserting that Dreamgirls is "not really a movie, but a song, surrounded by 125 minutes of padding." Plus, Hudson is apparently the sweetest person on the face of the planet. Still, part of me does wonder why this logic did not apply to Queen Latifah's nomination for Chicago.
Adams played Sheila, Ronnie's date in Little Children. She doesn't have a lot of screen time (really, she would win Best Cameo if they had that category and Adams was more famous). I don't want to spoil the movie for the many of you that didn't see it but should rent it on DVD, so can't exactly say why I thought she deserved it. Let's just say that despite the fact that Kate Winslet was astonishingly good in this film, I couldn't stop thinking about the sorrow embedded within Adams' character for days after seeing the film.
My hunch is that if either Venus or Blood Diamond were better movies, Whitaker wouldn't be winning. I still think that DiCaprio has a decent shot at a major upset here. However, Whitaker's acting chops will not be denied.
For me, one of the absudities of Hollywood's value system is that someone who can sing or dance can win an Oscar for one show-stopping number, whereas stars in action films are thought to be tawdry and commercial. Craig was able to take a character and a franchise that defined "cartoonish" and actually make people care about James Bond again. For this, he wasn't even nominated. The really absurd thing is that Craig is not an action star but, by all accounts, a chameleon of an actor. Sorry, Daniel -- if it makes you feel any better, my wife and many of her friends would like to somehow make it up to you.
Look, if you don't think Helen Mirren is going to win, please e-mail me so I can take your money in an Oscar pool.
As for who should win, Mirren was extraordinary -- it's not just the makeup, it's every facial twitch and frown. That sais, Winslet accomplishes the same thing -- she makes us sympathize with a fundamentally unsympathetic character (an adulterer who neglects her child).
C'mon, you know that the Academy is to Martin Scorcese as Lucy is to Charlie Brown kicking the football. My hunch is that Eastwood gets brownie points for directing two superior films in a year and Scorcese gets docked a point for having that rat in the final shot.
Paradoxically, Mirren is so good in The Queen that she's been sucking all the oxygen from the other people that deserve praise. Frears, in particular, managed to pull off an improbable task -- he fit an Oscar-worthy dramatic performance into one of the driest comedy of manners ever made.
Babel is this year's Crash -- on a global scale!! I'm counting on the Academy's guilty liberal conscience to put it over the top. Besides, you know, it aimed high -- which is apparently what matters to Academy voters.
The Queen is the only movie I saw this year that was note-perfect (though Thank You For Smoking came close). Even though, as I said, it's fundamentally a comedy, the characters are never played for broad laughs (well, except Prince Philip). As I said, Mirren's performance has somehow crowded out the attention that it deserves for other reasons, including Michael Sheen's fascinating portrayal of Tony Blair.
Enjoy the show!!
POST-OSCARS UPDATE: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... hmwa? It's over? Jesus, people, if you're going to read your acceptance speeches, how about outsourcing the thing to someone who can write in a concise and pithy manner? This awards ceremony actually made me nostalgic for the 3-6 Mafia.
[You're just bitter because you didn't do so well in your predictions!--ed. Alas, this is true. My sharpest observation of the evening occurred after Alan Arkin won for best supporting actor, when I said to my lovely wife, "I bet you Eddie Murphy leaves the building in the next five minutes." And he was never seen from again.]
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The secrets of Sid Meier
The Weekly Standard's Victorino Matus has a cover story on Civilization and its creator, Sid Meier (I have previously documented how Civilization nearly crippled my academic career).
Read the whole thing, but here are two bits of interesting information:
Meier cites the strategy board game Risk as one of his major influences. "Conquer the world. All those cool pieces. You felt like you were king. It gave you a lot of power." What about the game Diplomacy? "You had to have friends to play Diplomacy so that kind of left me out."....UPDATE: Matus provides some more details in this Galley Slaves post.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Yes, it's the golden age of 80's music-video spoofs
First, there was Justin Timberlake's "D**k in a Box" on Saturday Night Live:Now, there's Hugh Grant's "PoP! Goes My Heart" from Music and Lyrics: Clearly, this is the golden age of music video spoofs. Everyone just sit back and enjoy our cultural crest.
My only complaint is that so far this trend has only covered boy bands. I'd like to see someone like Sarah Silverman spoof a Madonna video (though this one comes close).
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Your amusing quote of the day
For Maoists, they’re very light-hearted.From a comment made at this Crooked Timber post by Scott McLemee.
Must... resist.... looking back through rose-colored glasses
My son is very excited, because today is his very first snow day from school. I'm happy for him -- all children deserve at least one snow day a year. There's something much more enjoyable about an unplanned day of leisure (for the children -- this sort of thing is unbelievably inconvenient for the parents) than the expected weekend days.
That said, I can't shake the feeling, looking outside my window, that Massachusetts has gone unbelievably soft. There is, as I type this, less than an inch and a half of accumulation outside. Why, when I was a lad.... oh, hell, you know how the rest of that sentence will go.
This leads to an interesting question -- beyond the natural, likely erroneous belief that we were just physically hardier back in the day, what could explain this perception that schools call snow days with less weather now than they used to?
1) Media hype. Last night the spouse turned on the local news to catch a weather forecast, and the anchors looked positively orgiastic in their glee about the impending storm. The growth and sophistication of media marketing is greater now than a decade ago, and this affects expectations about the future;Parents, provide your guesses here.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Bring back the siesta!!
A little more than a year ago I mourned the slow disappearance of the siesta from Spain:
[I]t seems hard to dispute the notion that the siesta is a thoroughly inefficient way of inserting break times into the working day. So the economist in me accepts this as wise policy.It turns out there may be another negative externality associated with eliminating the siesta -- according to Stephen Smith of the Boston Globe:
In a study released yesterday, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and in Athens reported that Greeks who took regular 30-minute siestas were 37 percent less likely to die of heart disease over a six-year period than those who never napped. The scientists tracked more than 23,000 adults, finding that the benefits of napping were most pronounced for working men.Well, confirm them, for Pete's sake!
Monday, February 12, 2007
I don't think this headline means what I think it means
From the front page of cnn.com:the enemy at home.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I've gone to the bad place again
Really, I was going to do some work tonight.... but then I kept thinking about this Brad DeLong post about canonical Star Trek episodes. That led to some web surfing, and before I knew it found this at Youtube:This was bad enough, but then it led to this clip, and then that led to this clip, which led to this bit, and, then, well this intrigued me but I just couldn't really enjoy it, and then, finally, oh dear God, there was this extract from my 13-year old id.
I'll post again once I've regained some equilibrium.
UPDATE: Ah, a Youtube video that brings me (sort of) back to the real world.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Where the foreign tourists are
Virginia Postrel has a great column in the Atlantic Monthly about the decline and fall of airline glamour. Go check it out -- if for no other reason than to admire a writer's ability to justify someone paying for her to fly from Los Angeles to London in Virgin Atlantic’s “Upper Class” cabin.
In a follow-up post, however, Postrel makes a rather curious assertion:
I suspect that The Guardian's audience is not as well traveled as they think they are. Outside the major cities in the United States, for instance, the only foreign tourists you usually find are Germans, who will go just about anywhere and rent RVs to do it. How many Guardian readers have driven through the desert Southwest or the Blue Ridge?I've traveled a fair amount in the United States, and my casual empiricism suggests that you'll find quite a lot of foreign tourists in the Southwest. They might not be driving RVs, but they will go there to take in one of the features of the United States that is not quite as common in Europe -- jaw-dropping natural vistas like the Grand Canyon, Garden of the Gods, or Zion National Park. In fact, in my experience, I've bumped into foreign tourists more often at non-urban destinations than urban ones.*
This could be a perceptual bias, so I'd be curious to hear from readers if this is their experience as well.
*If the dollar continues to fall in value, this will change, as even more tourists come to the U.S. for lower consumer prices.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Personally, I'm voting for option A
What does it mean that, when I contemplate the fact that today is Martin Luther King Day, I can't stop thinking about the first three minutes of this clip from Blazing Saddles?:A) I have bizarre sense of humor;
B) It underscores Seth Mnookin's point that, "[It's] twenty-nine years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr…and we still can’t talk openly and honestly about race." UPDATE: Wow, I am old. it's been thirty-nine years since the MLK assassination.
C) All of the above
D) None of the Above
Saturday, January 13, 2007
The truest sentence I will read this weekend
People rarely watch their language when they’re about to be eaten by a giant crocodile or shot in the head by a glowering thug.Parental warning accomanying A.O. Scott's New York Times review of Primeval.
Monday, January 1, 2007
Merry New Year!!
Three thoughts to welcome in 2007:
1) It's good to be near the focal point. New Year's has never been high up there on my holiday list, but I always enjoyed it less when I wasn't in the Eastern time zone when Auld Lang Syne was sung. I have to conclude that this is because the dropping of the ball in Times Square means something more when I'm in the same time as New York. Why this is true is beyond me.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Your holiday quote of the day
It's the holiday season in New York, which means the festive sight of twenty-somethings decorating the early morning streets with the former contents of their stomachs.I strongly suspect that many New Yorkers will vent about this during the celebration of this holiday.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
In your face, everyone else!!!!
Time tells me what my ego wants to hear:
[F]or seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.Hah!! I knew it!!! I knew I was Person-of-the-Year material!! Take that, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- you couldn't do better than second!! Go suck an egg, George W. Bush!! Daniel Craig, I don't care any more that my wife really, really liked that bathing suit scene in Casino Royale. I'm the king of the world!!!!
[Um... you know they meant "you" in the global sense--ed.] Oh.... never mind.
UPDATE: Ann Althouse believes this gambit is "unbelievably dorky." I wouldn't go that far. It's certainly amusing -- I couldn't stop laughing when I first read it. Beyond the instinct to giggle and the God-awful bubble-headed prose, however, there is the core of an idea worth expanding into a popular book -- the idea of production by consumption.
For a wide variety of products, traditional consumers now add value by mixing, matching, riffing, sampling, commenting, critiquing, customizing, and mutating goods and services. In the process, value-added is created. It's an interesting phenomenon, and someone like Virginia Postrel or Robert Wright or James Surowiecki or Steven Johnson should take the idea and run with it -- they'd have to do better than Time.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Drezner gets volunteered results on volunteerism!!
D]escribing the growth of teenage participation in these kind of activities as "volunteerism" stretches the meaning of the word a bit, since "service-learning programs" are often mandated at the high school level (that said, the growth of volunteerism at the high school level might also be a function of market pressures -- you want to get into a good college,you need to demonstrate volunteerism).I've now received an answer.
Mike Planty, Robert Bozick and Michael Regnier, "Helping Because You Have To or Helping Because You Want To? Sustaining Participation in Service Work From Adolescence Through Young Adulthood." Youth & Society, Vol. 38, No. 2, 177-202:
This article examines whether the motive behind community service performed during high school—either voluntary or required—influences engagement in volunteer work during the young adult years. Using a sample of students from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (N= 9,966), service work in high school is linked with community service in young adulthood. The findings show that participation in community service declines substantially in the 2 years following high school graduation but then rebounds slightly once members of the sample reach their mid-20s. In general, community service participation in high school was related to volunteer work both 2 and 8 years after high school graduation. However, those who were required to participate in community service while in high school were only able to sustain involvement 8 years after graduation if they reported that their participation was voluntary. Strengths and limitations of the analysis as well as implications for youth policy are discussed.
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Draw your own conclusions about American pop culture
What is the significance of the fact that the following is currently ranked as the most viewed YouTube video for today?
A) The imminent arrival of the apocalypse?
B) Ironic detachment is now the predominant stance of Internet users?
C) YouTube has jumped the shark?
D) Ain't nothin' over til it's over?
E) There are a lot of Airplane II: The Sequel fans?
F) Montage sequence + Bill Conti theme = Crazy delicious?
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
What happened to bowling alone?
The Corporation for National and Community Service -- a government entity that runs AmeriCorps and Senior Corps -- issues a report that would, at first glance, surprise those who have read Bowling Alone. From the press release:
Volunteering has reached a 30-year high in the United States, as more people pitch in to help their communities, according to a study released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service....After another glance, this result can be partially and uneasily reconciled with Putnam's thesis of declining social capital. First, Putnam focused on a wide range of behaviors beyond volunteerism, which this report doesn't cover. Second, this report still shows a volunteering gap among Gen X-ers like myself, which prompted Putnam's book in the first place. Third, describing the growth of teenage participation in these kind of activities as "volunteerism" stretches the meaning of the word a bit, since "service-learning programs" are often mandated at the high school level (that said, the growth of volunteerism at the high school level might also be a function of market pressures -- you want to get into a good college,you need to demonstrate volunteerism).
One question I'm curious about: these service programs have been in place for quite some time now. Does anyone know if hard data exists showing that participation in them triggers a life-long pattern of volunteerism?
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Drezner's iron laws of high school reunions
Your humble blogger attended his twentieth -- yes, I said twentieth -- high school reunion over the Thanksgiving break. Using some of the fancy-pants Ph.D.-level training I've picked up since my high school days, here are some tips for future reunion attendees that might be helpful:
1) Physically and emotionally, the men will have changed much more than the women. This is mostly physiology -- boys mature later, and are the ones who go bald. Plus, if they're very, very lucky, the men will also meet someone who can dress them better than when they were in high school.As a public servive, readers are hereby requested to suggest their own covering laws.
UPDATE: James Joyner weighs in: "Women, much more than men, still define themselves by who they were in high school. Possible exceptions include men who were star athletes or otherwise peaked as teenagers."
Hmmm... I wonder if this applies to math team captains.....
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
What's the more disturbing video of the week?
Over the past week, there's been a lot of blog chatter about a tazer incident at a UCLA library that was partially captured on video. To quote James Joyner, "I agree that the use of a taser against a skinny student for the crime of being a dumbass would appear to be an excessive application of force."
The video is extremely disturbing for the cries of the tazed student, Mostafa Tabatabainejad. What I found interesting, however, was the way in which every person on that video acted according to type. The security officers acted as brutal thugs who would not have their authority questioned; the students acted as the righteously indignant chorus. Even Tabatabainejad seemed to be playing a role, the belligerent protestor ("here's your f#$%ing Patriot Act!!"). The violence is disturbing, but the characters playing their parts grounds the sequence into familiar tropes. It is, therefore, perhaps less shocking than it should be.
For me, the more discomfiting video was Michael Richards' apology on The Late Show with David Letterman for his racially profane diatribe at an LA comedy club over the weekend. Richards, a comedian, is acting in a non-comedic fashion. The audience, confused about what's going on, begins to laugh at Richards' apology. Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian, tut-tuts the audience for laughing. Richards, who on Seinfeld played a character who seemingly fell ass-backwards into success, has put himself into the exact opposite situation, someone who seems completely mystified about how he wound up in his current predicament.
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
The ultimate election day surprise
Well, if the Dems do worse than expected in today's midterms, I think we know who to blame:
TMZ obtained the legal papers, filed today in Los Angeles County Superior Court, citing "irreconcilable differences." In her petition, Spears asks for both legal and physical custody of the couple's two children, one-year old Sean Preston and two-month old Jayden James, with Federline getting reasonable visitation rights.This is perfect timing for the GOP. She's demonstrated her love of George W. Bush in the past. Now consider the following chain of events:
1) Her divorce will fire up Andrew Sullivan to point out -- again -- how Britney has defiled the institution of marriage more than any gay man ever could.It's genius. Pure genius.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Your sexy sex quote of the day
I have to assume that Reuters reporter Claire Sibonney has sacrificed her first-born child to the hounds of hell, because the following is the kind of quote that would cause most reporters to agree to human sacrifice in order to obtain:
"It's not sexy sex sex, where we're talking about whips and chains, but we will talk about whips and chains," said graduating student Robbie Morgan, 33, who left her job teaching sex education in Chicago to attend the [University of Toronto's] Sexual Diversity Studies program, one of the largest of its kind in North America.Sibonney, "Sex ed gets a lot sexier at Canadian university"
Monday, October 16, 2006
Maudissez cette culture américaine séduisant!
In the International Heald-Tribune, Eric Pfanner reports that despite rising anti-Americanism in Europe, American television has actually become more popular, not less:
In the Parliaments and pubs of Europe, the United States may wallow in least-favored-nation status. But on European television, American shows have not been as popular since the 1980s heyday of "Dallas," "Dynasty" and "The Dukes of Hazzard."It would appear that American television producers have pulled off the same feat as other American multinationals -- marketing their wares to anti-American publics.
My favorite quote from the story: "As recently as 1999, Zeiler said, the only American fare shown during prime time on RTL in Germany was reruns of 'Quincy.'"
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Finally, I get to play Mousetrap
In today's New York Times Magazne, Neal Pollack has an amusing essay about how three-year olds play games:
Soon after coming into his Hungry Hungry Hippos stash, Elijah had a friend over. He was very excited to share with his friend, whom I’ll call Cinderella to protect her identity.The whole essay is pretty funny, but I was struck by this passage about why today's parents buys these games: "This generation of parents, after all, is obsessed with reviving the pop-cultural experience of its own collective childhood."
Speak for yourself, Neal. I buy games for my children for a completely different reason -- I finally get to play the games I was denied as a youth for some reason or another. And as the title of this post suggests, Mousetrap is friggin' awesome.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Hey, this Jew really does control Mel Gibson
From my August 1, 2006 blog post, "Dogpiling on Mel Gibson," here's the beginning of my predicted narrative arc for Gibson:
1) Gibson repeatedly issues contrite apologies -- oh, wait, that's already happened.From ABC News, "Mel Gibson Says He Feels 'Powerless Over Everything'":
In an exclusive interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Mel Gibson talks about his recent D.U.I. arrest, his battle with alcoholism and his anti-Semitic remarks.I'm not right about a lot, but I was right about J. Lo, and now Mel comes through for me as well.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
The comparative political economy of The Office
Liesl Schillinger has an interesting essay in Slate comparing and contrasting four different versions of The Office. In addition to the U.K. and U.S. versions, both French (Le Bureau) and German television (Stromberg) have produced variants on the show.
[T]he base-line mood of David Brent's workplace—resignation mingled with self-loathing—is unrecognizably alien to our (well, my) sensibility. In the American office, passivity mingles with rueful hopefulness: An American always believes there's something to look forward to. A Brit does not, and finds humor in that hopelessness. What truths, I wondered, might Le Bureau and Stromberg reveal about the French and German professional milieus?...
Thursday, September 7, 2006
My top five foods at Trader Joe's
One of the major perks of moving from the south side of Chicago to the west Boston suburbs is that even during rush hour, we are now less than 10 minutes away from Trader Joe's.
In an ode to the store, Laura McKenna recently posted her top 5 favorite foods to get there. While I respect Laura's opinion on a great many matters, I fear that my list is very different from hers.
Without further ado:
1) Chocolate-covered espresso beans. Sweet Jesus, are they decadent. After many years of struggle and toil, my wife and I only consume these delectibles on the rarest of occasions. In a perfect world, however, I could scarf these things down every ten minutes with zero effect on my metabolism and BMI.Now, if my children were doing this list, the Annie's Mac and Cheese and the frozen chicken nuggets would also be making appearances.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
This seems like a good weekend topic
Well, I see the blogosphere is ablaze with talk about this Forbes colum by Michael Noer:
Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career.Read the whiole thing and then coment away.
I'm shocked, shocked that Noer's article, "provoked a heated response from both outside and inside our building." Indeed, after a few days, Forbes felt compelled to publish a side-by-side rebuttal by Elizabeth Corcoran.
Forbes' definition of a career woman is extraordinarily broad, including any woman who has a college education, works 35 hours a week, and makes more than $30,000. So, if you define non-career women as all the "undereducated" who work part-time and make less than $30K, it becomes painfully obvious why female careerists are more likely to divorce than non-careerists: They can better afford to get out of an unhappy marriage than their sisters.I'm sure both Noer and Shafer would point to this Jacqueline Mackie Massey Paisley post to support this argument.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Wikipedia vs. Brittanica
Wikipedia has been able to generate so much content -- 1,000,000 in English, compared to 120,000 for Britannica -- precisely because it has so few rules. As Americans know, it is very dangerous to put limits on free speech when that is the essence of what makes you great. Yet some limits are necessary....
Friday, August 18, 2006
Open JonBenet thread
It's a Friday, it's late August, and I'm technically on vacation. For these reasons, I'm just going to create this JonBenet Ramsey killer thread, walk away from the computer, and let anyone who's still online on this lovely August day a chance to wallow.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go wash my hands.
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Day of the lefties
"Among the college-educated men in our sample, those who report being left-handed earn 13 percent more than those who report being right-handed," said economist Christopher S. Ruebeck of Lafayette College. Ruebeck and his research partners, Joseph E. Harrington Jr. and Robert Moffitt of Johns Hopkins University, reported the findings in a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.I'll leave it to my readers to speculate on possible explanations.
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Dogpiling on Mel Gibson
Unlike Andrew Sullivan, I really don't have much to say about Mel Gibson's drunken, anti-Semitic, misogynist rant against the cops who pulled him over for drunken driving last week. Mostly, this is because Tim Noah framed the event pretty well in Slate:
The best case that can be made for Gibson's belief system now is that he's anti-Semitic only when he's three sheets to the wind. And really, now. Are you in the habit of declaring, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" when you get pie-eyed? Or simply of muttering, "Fucking Jews"? Or of asking your arresting officer, "Are you a Jew?" (Here Gibson revealed an anti-Jewish bigotry so all-consuming that he couldn't even get his ethnic stereotypes straight. The Jews control international banking, Mel. It's the Irish who control the police.)Well, I have two more thoughts on the matter. The first is that there needs to be a term that describes the mechanism through which the New York Times manages to run stories about scandals while claiming that they are really metastories (In the past week alone, they managed a front-pager about the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes baby as well). To their credit, however, the Times story by Allison Hope Weiner contains this juicy tidbit: "On Monday, Hope Hartman, a spokeswoman for Disney’s ABC television network, said the company was dropping its plans to produce a Holocaust-themed miniseries in collaboration with Mr. Gibson."
Second, I'll ask my readers to suggest the likelihood of the following arc taking place:
1) Gibson repeatedly issues contrite apologies -- oh, wait, that's already happened.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Interest group capture and Snakes On A Plane
For nearly a year, SoaP obsessives have been chatting and blogging about the movie, not to mention producing their own T-shirts, posters, trailers, novelty songs, and parodies. As the movie has morphed from a semiprecious nugget of intellectual property into a virtual plaything for the ethertainment masses, Snakes and its cult are teasingly threatening to revolutionize the rules of marketing for the do-it-yourself digital era....New Line execs are not the only people freaking out -- Chuck Klosterman has a rant on this in the August issue of Esquire:
I have not seen Snakes on a Plane, so I have no idea how good this movie is (or isn't). But I do know this: Its existence represents a weird, semidepressing American condition, and I'm afraid this condition is going to get worse. I suspect Snakes on a Plane might earn a lot of money, which will prompt studios to assume this is the kind of movie audiences want. And I don't think it is. Snakes on a Plane is an unabashed attempt at prefab populism, and (maybe) this gimmick will work once. But it won't keep working, and it will almost certainly make filmmaking worse....There are several possible ways this could play out. However, the one that interest group theory suggests will happen is that by trying to please the most ardent base of fans, the movie will reduce its appeal to a wider audience.
Of course, both Jensen and Klosterman miss one important point in their analyses -- they're generalizing from a $30 million dollar film. $30 million is a lot to you and me, but to Hollywood that's barely enough to pay for Jessica Alba's skin care products. Somehow I doubt this kind of interactive filmmaking process would take place with a tentpole movie, as it were. With a bunch of lower-budget films, however, this kind of feedback might increase the viewing pleasure of specialized viewers, even if it doesn't make the movie seem any better to a general viewer.
There's more to discuss here, but I'l leave it to my readers and a plaintive cry for help from Virginia Postrel.
All I want to know is, why isn't Salma Hayek in this mother f*&%ing movie?
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Are you addicted to A Capella?
There is help. And I'm proud to say that my alma mater is at the forefront of this disorder that plagues at least 30% of all graduates of northweastern liberal arts colleges.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
My third concentric circle in hell
Well, I have
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
So you want your child to go to college....
I wasn't too fond of doing my homework when I was in middle school and high school, a fact that exasperated my mother to no end. Seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth grade, she would remind me that, "college is coming sooner than you think!!" At the time, I thought this was a bit of melodrama, but as I've gotten older I do recignize a glimmer of wisdom in her point.
Since modern science has yet to devise a way to clone my mother, and modern ethicists have yet to come to grips with the awesome metaphysical implications of having multiple copies of my mother running around in the world, how can the young people get a grip on the importance of college? This is where Quest For College comes in:
Quest For College is an educational board game designed to provide 8th and 9th graders with some early awareness of the opportunities afforded by higher education. The game was created by Gina Coleman, an Associate Director of Admission at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Coleman created this game in 1999 as a reaction to the inequalities she observed between public and private schooled children in terms of preparedness in the college search and application process.Great idea, but there should be a companion game for the helicopter parents that will undoubtedly buy this board game: "Letting Go of Your Children."
Full disclosure: Coleman was a college classmate of mine.
Monday, May 22, 2006
What's the best mass-market paperback novel of the past 25 years?
So the New York Times polled the literary best and brightest to determine the greatest novel of the past 25 years (It's Beloved, for those who don't want to click through). They've also got an interpretive essay by A.O. Scott, and an online discussion forum with novelists Jane Smiley and Michael Cunningham, critic Stephen Metcalf, a critic, and professor of English Morris Dickstein.
I must make the following confession upon reading the top five on the list: I haven't read any of them. Jonathan Demme ruined Beloved for me with his execrable film version of it, though if Stephen Metcalf's assessment in Slate is accurate, I'm not sure how much I'd like it anyway:
What Beloved does feel grounded in, and firmly, is a repudiation of everything that exerts a soft but nonetheless unpleasant authority in a young person's life. In place of the need to master hard knowledge or brute facts, there is folk wisdom; in place of science, animism; in place of the strict father, the self-sufficient matriarchy, first of Baby Suggs', and later Sethe's, house; and finally, in place of a man's world, the hallowed sorority of women, especially women of color—though on this last, Morrison does not insist too heavily.Why don't my tastes overlap with the New York Times Book Review? There are a couple of possibilities.
First, when I flash back to the books that really grabbed me over that span of time, I find I think first of non-American novels -- Salman Rushdie' The Moor's Last Sigh, Milan Kundera's THe Unbearable Lightness of Being, Tibor Fischer's Under the Frog, or Alan Bennett's The Clothes They Stood Up In.
Second, the American books that come to mind -- Allegra Goodman's Kaaterskill Falls, Anne Tyler's Saint Maybe, Tim O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods -- don't have the sweep of Beloved or Rabbit Angstrom. Meghan O'Rourke -- my latest intellectual crush -- makes this point in her Slate essay on the topic:
The notion that "small" novels are unworthy of high critical esteem has been especially pervasive of late. Somewhere along the way, the critique of the small novel got bound up with a critique of the well-crafted novel that proliferated with the rise of MFA programs. Even as Gatsby, Lolita, and Rabbit Run (all short novels) entered our canon, the "small" novel became inextricably linked in critic's minds with domestic and generally female novels of the sort that Gail Caldwell, the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic, indicted in a 2003 interview, when she lamented the dire state of American fiction. "There are a great number of contemporary fiction writers who go for the myopic sensitive-heart rending personal blah, blah, blah, blah, blah small novel," she complained, announcing her love of "big brilliant novels" and praising the panoramic skills of Jonathan Franzen and Michael Chabon. In 2004, after the National Book Award nominees were announced—in an act of apparent rebelliousness, the judges had chosen five short, lyrical books by women, leaving off Philip Roth's Plot Against America—Caryn James wrote in the New York Times that the real problem with the finalists was not that they were unknown, but that they did not write "big, sprawling novels."There is a final, possible reason: I like potboilers more than I like highbrow fiction. If I was strapped to a polygraph and had to confess which novel moved me the most in the past 25 years, I'd have to cop to Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs.
So..... the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com encourages it's readers to submit their choice for the greatest mass-market novel of the past 25 years!! [How is that defined?--ed. Any novel that was popular enough to eventually be released in a mass-market paperback.] My choice is Silence of the Lambs -- let me know yours.
UPDATE: Ah, this post is perfectly timed to coincide with pulp fiction week at Slate!!
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Why has there never been a hit television show based on an academic's life?
View the first minute or two of this Brad DeLong video post about how he spent his day yesterday and you'll get an excellent answer (You'll also get a nice precis of Marty Weizman's explanation of the equity premium).
This is not to diss Brad -- I too have children to ferry to school, a dog to walk, assignments that are overdue, and bureaucratic minutiae to finish. It's just that, to the rest of the world, it probably looks as exciting as paint drying.
You'll know the reality TV craze has passed when they air a show called The Professor.
Monday, April 10, 2006
The market for matchmakers
Craig Wilson has a story in USA Today about how high-end personal shoppers have added new functions -- such as trying to marry their clients off:
[Claire] Wexler's concierge service helps the wife-seeking man deal with, well, just about everything he needs in his search, from what flowers to send ("Not roses, they're trite") to what shoes to wear ("Brown goes with almost everything"). And if he has less romantic desires like finding a good doctor or choosing new appliances, she can handle that, too.Three thoughts (beyond the obvious reference to Tyler Cowen's "markets in everything" meme):
1) You have to think that some Hollywood executive read this article today and immediately conceived of a romantic-comedy-starring-Rachel-McAdams-kind-of-like-The-Wedding-Planner-but-funnier-and-with-more-heart.
Friday, April 7, 2006
A slippery slope for the Passover diet?
The Passover holiday starts next week. As Jews -- and philo-Semites -- begin to think about the Seder, they should check out this Joan Nathan story in the New York Times from a few days ago. It's about how Orthodox rabbis are lightening up on baking for Passover:
When Emily Moore, a Seattle-based chef and instructor, was invited to consult on recipes for Streit's Matzo, she assumed that the baked goods would have their traditional heft, because no leavening can be used during Passover.This is all to the good... indeed, as someone who, after careful empirical research, has determined that everything tastes better with bacon, I can only hope that small steps like the easing of Passover restrictions lead to larger reforms in the Kosher dietary laws.
Mmmmm..... baking powder.....
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Kurt Anderson has no beef
Kurt Anderson has an essay in New York magazine entitled, "Celebrity Death Watch." The subhead says, "Could the country’s insane fame fixation maybe, finally—fingers crossed—be coming to an end? One hopeful sign: Paris Hilton."
Intrigued, I read the first paragraph:
On a scale of one to ten, one being the least possible interest in famous entertainers qua famous entertainers, and ten being the most, I’m about a six. Until I recently gorged for days on end, it had been years since I had touched a copy of People or Us Weekly. I skipped the Tonys and Grammys and Emmys. But I do skim three or four New York newspaper gossip columns most weekdays, and I watched E!’s Golden Globes red-carpet preshow, and, of course, I tuned in to the Academy Awards telecast. For years, I’ve thought that the intense fascination with famous people must be about to end—and I’ve been repeatedly, egregiously mistaken. But now—truly, finally—I believe that we are at the apogee, the zenith, the plateau, the top of the market. After 30 years, this cycle of American celebrity mania has peaked. I think. I hope.So I read on, eager to see what evidence Anderson had compiled to support his argument. But it wasn't until the third-from-the-last paragraph that I found the evidence, such as it is:
The Nielsen ratings for this year’s Oscars were down 8 percent, and for the Grammys 11 percent. During the last half of 2005, the Enquirer’s newsstand sales were down by a quarter and Entertainment Weekly’s by 30 percent. The American OK! is said to be unwell, the magazine Inside TV was launched and killed last year, and a magazine called Star Shop was killed before it launched.That's it???!!! Good Lord, this kind of evidentiary base makes the Israel Lobby argument look like top-notch social science!!
Even the facts that Anderson presents are bogus. Declining newsstand sales of some celerity mags are meaningless, because of the proliferation of other celebrity mags, like In Touch, Us Weekly, and In Style. Failed magazines are meaningless, since new magazines fail most of the time anyway. Oscar ratings, like Super Bowl ratings, have experienced a secular decline in recent years. And to my knowledge no one has ever cared about the Grammys.
I look forward with bated breath to Anderson's future proclamations of the death of blogs (I beat him to that!!) and why porn has jumped the shark.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
The most interesting fact I learned today
Short [sperm] donors don't exist; because most women seek out tall ones, most [sperm] banks don't accept men under 5-foot-9.Jennifer Egan, "Wanted: A Few Good Sperm" New York Times Magazine, March 19, 2006.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Anti-semitic cartoon contest!!!
Well, after the whole cartoon flap over Mohammed, and the Iranian decision to hold a contest on the best cartoon mocking the Holocaust, you knew this was just a matter of time:
Amitai Sandy (29), graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing, from Tel-Aviv, Israel, has followed the unfolding of the “Muhammad cartoon-gate” events in amazement, until finally he came up with the right answer to all this insanity - and so he announced today the launch of a new anti-Semitic cartoons contest - this time drawn by Jews themselves!Mmmmm.... blood-soaked matzot.
Sandy has a running start on this. Today he was interviewed by Terry Gross for NPR's Fresh Air . Entries are starting to trickle in -- here's one of the first entries:
Furthermore, noted Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt has already agreed to be one judge.
If Sandy needs another judge, I'd be happy to volunteer. I have a Ph.D., I love cartoons, and as my darling wife said when she pointed out this story to me, "you're a prominent Jew in the blogosphere!"
UPDATE: This isn't as cool as the cartoon contest, but on a related note, the editors of PS: Political Science and Politics are calling for papers on The State of the Editorial Cartoon:
The editors of PS: Political Science and Politics invite contributions to a symposium on the state of the editorial cartoon. The symposium will explore the current condition of editorial cartooning, with an emphasis on daily newspaper editorial cartoons but encompassing politically minded weekly newspaper cartoons, magazine cartoons, comic strips, and web comics. The editors invite informed essays that advance our empirical, historical, and theoretical appreciation for editorial cartoons as art, politics, and culture.
A libertarian barista on Starbucks
Jacob Grier has a blog post at Smelling the Coffee on the contradictory impulses he feels towards Starbucks -- as a libertarian who nevertheless thinks quality control at Starbucks has gone down.
Read the whole thing, but the part about how Starbucks has affected the industrial organization of coffeehouses is particularly interesting:
Let's begin with the easy issue: Starbucks is driving independent coffee shops out of business. Anecdotally, this may seem obviously true. Many people can name a favorite coffee shop that went out of business soon after a Starbucks moved into the neighborhood. The fact is, though, that Starbucks is creating a market, not destroying it. Growth in both independent and corporate coffee shops has been huge over the past fifteen years, thanks in large part to consumers being introduced to specialty coffee drinks in the safe confines of their local Starbucks.Of related interest: this Tim Harford essay in Slate about why Starbucks doesn't advertise it's "short" cappucino.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Not the biggest shock in the world
Which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?
You scored as Serenity (Firefly). You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.
Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?
created with QuizFarm.com
Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be in my bunk.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Transatlantic radio and telly debate
Kieran Healy has a post up at Crooked Timber on the superiority of U.K. radio trivia to the United States, and then closes with this paragraph:
Incidentally, Radio 4’s The News Quiz, when set against NPR’s execrable Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, joins the long list of cultural objects that serve to illustrate the difference between Britain and the United States. Others include The Office (UK) vs The Office (US), Yes Prime Minister vs The West Wing, and so on.This has prompted quite a lively debate in the comments section (including an intervention from yours truly), about a) whether Kieran was correct; and b) What kinds of programming do not appear to be replicable across the Atlantic?
For example, Kieran is correct to point out the complete lack of a U.S. competitor to Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister. At the same time, however, I'm not sure that there's anything in the U.K. that can compete with The Daily Show or The Simpsons. The U.K. version of Friends was pretty appalling (curiously, though, that didn't stop NBC from trying to copy it). Both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm are commedies of manners, yet I can't think of their British equivalents.
I'm not sure there's any great lesson to be drawn from this, but I invite readers to do two things: 1) Isolate creative excellence in TV that appears to be non-replicable once you cross the border; and 2) Reasons for why this is so. For example, I'd wager that the U.S. does better at certain kinds of comedies and teen shows because television producers have a much greater comfort level with America's affluent class than British producers have with their yuppie audience (there's that whole need to sell advertising as well).
Monday, February 6, 2006
Super Dud XL
Yesterday afternoon, I was thinking that the Super Bowl had recently been on a decent run of gripping games. Between 2000 and 2005, three of the contests (St. Louis/Tennessee, New England/St. Louis, New England/Carolina) had been pretty gripping games, a vast improvement over the Super Bowls I remembered from childhood.
So much for the nice run -- this one was a stinker punctuated by the occasional nifty play. How much of a stinker? The lead Chicago Tribune sports columnist wrote an entire article about a play that wound up not affecting the final outcome.
As for the ads -- well, to quote Kieran Healy, "I hope next year Burger King Corporation just make a pile of 2 million dollar bills and set it on fire, rather than taking the roundabout method of pointlessly wasting money they opted for this year." On the upside, I did win $100 from a friend who was convinced that Karl Malden had appeared in one of the NFL Mobile ads.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Who gets the Roger this year?
The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning -- click here for the full list.
Last year, I blogged about "a new interactive feature -- who did work that merited a nomination at the very least but got completely shut out." So, who gets a Roger this year???
The hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com has perused the list and.... well, we're having an admittedly tough time dredging anything up. The most glaring omission was Maria Bello as Best Supporting Actress for A History of Violence -- but then again, I wasn't that huge a fan of the movie. Sin City didn't get nominated for anything -- I would have thougt it merited a technical nomination or two, and if you ask me Elijah Wood was far scarier in that flick than William Hurt was in A History of Violence. I would have liked to have seen The Aristocrats nominated for Best Documentary, but I can't get too worked up about that -- especially with Murderball getting a nod.
So, I'll leave it to the readers -- who merits a Roger?
UPDATE: Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch blog has generated a list of its own -- including Joan Allen for The Upside of Anger. Having just seen that movie last night on DVD -- and being a big Joan Allen fan -- I'd argue that she'd have had a better chance if the movie had something resembling a coherent theme or plot.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Seven different ways of looking at Dog Days
Flying back from a conference today, I finished Ana Marie Cox's Dog Days. Here are my seven different ways of looking at the book:
1) It is the perfect airplane book -- provided you don't have a prurient ten-year old reading over your shoulder;
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Those trade ministers mean business!!
Wow, some real progress was made at the Davos Economic Forum for pushing the Doha round of trade talks towards completion. Why, Alan Beattie reports for the Financial Times that trade ministers have agree to.... a new deadline:
Ministers on Saturday set themselves a tight new deadline of the end of April to come up with a framework deal under the faltering Doha round of global trade talks.Well, thank God -- the real problem with this round of trade talks had been the lack of deadlines.
Seriously, Bloomberg's Rich Miller provides some detail on what needs to be done:
Among their goals are resolving 33 differences over agricultural subsidies and 15 questions on industrial products by April 30th. "We've got a big number of topics to be addressed,'' Pascal Lamy, director general of the WTO, told reporters in Davos. ``Most of that has to be done in the first half of this year.''Portman is correct about the need for cross-issue linkage -- but until the ministers in Nath's camp acknowledge this fact, I'm not holding my breath waiting for progress.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Cuba gets to play ball
The Bush administration is letting Cuba play ball.One slightly bizarre aspect to this was the reasoning the Bush administration gave for rejecting the first application back in December:
"The president wanted to see it resolved in a positive way," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Our concerns were centered on making sure that no money was going to the Castro regime and that the World Baseball Classic would not be misused by the regime for spying. We believe the concerns have been addressed."I understand the concern about profit. But spying? Even if there are Cuban spies, what are they going to find in Puerto Rico?
I, for one, welcome Cuban participation -- because I want to see them get whipped by the capitalist teams. Scanning the team rosters and the schedule of games, I'm fairly confident that if they're very, very lucky, the Cubans will get creamed in the semifinals by the Dominican team.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Major league baseball has some bad, bad lawyers
The Associated Press reports that Major League Baseball is about to get into a legal war with fantasy baseball:
A company that runs sports fantasy leagues is asking a federal court to decide whether major leaguers' batting averages and home run counts are historical facts that can be used freely or property that can be sold.I find it hard to believe that MLB could win this in court -- and the PR backlash from going after fantasy baseball operators isn't going to win them any plaudits either.
IP lawyer Kent Goss is quoted as citing an interesting 2001 case in which MLB themselves claimed that player names and statistics were (as far as I can interpret) both in the public domain and free for others to profit from, and the California Court of Appeal upheld MLB's right to use the names and stats of historical players. "A group of former players sued MLB for printing their names and stats in game programs, claiming their rights to publicity were violated," Goss said. "But the court held that they were historical facts, part of baseball history, and MLB had a right to use them. Gionfriddo v. Major League Baseball, 94 Cal. App. 4th 400 (2001)."In other words, five years ago MLB was making the opposite argument of what it's saying now.
This leads me to a question I can't answer -- what on earth prompted baseball to adopt such a hard-line position on an issue it knows it probably can't win in the courts?
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Anatomy of an unbelievable scene
The New York Times' Arts section has three articles by three Times movie critics "looking deep inside three of the year's most haunting scenes."
Until the staircase sex, Mr. Cronenberg has encouraged us to look at Tom the way Edie sees him, to believe the image she has unquestioningly accepted of the good father, the loving husband, the Everyman and the hero. "You are the best man I have ever known," she whispers to Tom after their first lovemaking. Through her ignorance and slow awakening, Edie has served as our surrogate, but in this scene she becomes something else, something other. In a story of blood and vengeance, Mr. Cronenberg asks us to look at those who pick up guns in our name, protectors who whisper they love us with hands around our throats. And then, with this scene, he goes one better and asks us to look at those who open their hearts and bare themselves to such a killing love.Dargis does a lovely job of deconstructing the scene, showing how details like Edie's wardrobe act as a harbinger for what's about to happen. And I suspect that Dargis' interpretation of what Cronenberg is going for are perfectly accurate.
There's just one thing -- that scene completely destroyed my willing sense of disbelief in the movie. Until that point, Maria Bello as Edie acts as our emotional barometer for the events that take place, and I found her responses completely believable -- indeed, they're the best thing in the film.
The idea, however, that at that particular moment on the staircase her character was going to find the violence and identity switches a turn-on was pretty damn ludicrous. Critics might have liked it because it touches on the theme of violence's hidden role in the American heartland, but as a resident of said heartland, the scene looked like pure Hollywood tripe. Edie's first reaction to the discovery of her husband's true identity -- in the hospital room -- was far more convincing.
The staircase moment in the film might have been perfectly staged, brimming with craftsmanship, and well acted -- but without the emotional resonance, it was impossible to be as invested in the characters for the rest of the flick. I think Maria Bello deserves an Oscar nomination -- for everything she did but that scene.
Everyone reacts to movies in different ways, so I'll ask the readers -- particularly the (five or so) women who read this blog and have seen A History of Violence. Did that scene make sense to you?
Friday, December 30, 2005
The greatest quote whore who ever lived
In the University of Chicago Alumni magazine, Amy M. Braverman has an excellent profile of Robert Thompson, Syracuse’s trustee professor of radio, television, and film in the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and founding director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television.
Thompson is better known as being the best quote whore in the business -- seriously, the could be asked to comment on wallpaper paste -- or That 70's Show -- and he'd come up with something worth putting in the first two paragraphs of a story.
What Braverman reveals, however, is that Thompson devotes considerable time and effort to hone this skill:
[A] large portion of his day is devoted to talking with reporters. Most mornings, after waking up at 5:30 to read a novel (favorite authors include Don DeLillo, Nicholson Baker, and Alison Lurie), he makes scheduled calls to a few radio shows. “If you’re a professor holding office hours,” he says, “you’ll talk to anyone who comes in. This is the same thing. If I have three calls—one from the student newspaper, one from the New York Times, and one from CNN, I’ll return them in that order.” When big television events occur, he’s inundated. After the 2004 Super Bowl, for example, “Janet Jackson gets her blouse ripped off, and that killed Monday.” In fact, the Janet calls continued for two weeks. For that particular story, he considered it important “to get another voice out there.” Nobody else, he says, was discussing how the Super Bowl “has always been a raucous, rowdy broadcast with cameras lingering on cheerleaders and crass commercials. What are you going to worry about more—the breast flashing at 50 yards or the countless commercials about beer and the good life? To me there’s no question.”....The webbed aluminim lawn chair. Wow.
I humbly bow before the greatest quote whore who ever lived.
[Isn't there a price to be paid for this kind of slavish attention to media entreaties?--ed. I dunno. On the one hand, Thompson does seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of his subject domain, thanks in no small part to his willingness to talk to the media. At the same time, attempting to render a two-sentence judgment on any media trend or phenomenon under the sun might carry a cost in terms of deeper thought -- a point Josh Korr makes here and here. Er, can't you say the same thing about bloggers?--ed. I'll leave that question for the comments.]
UPDATE: Thompson might be the most prolific quote whore ever, but I'm pretty sure Virginia Postrel will win the award for most profitable.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
What are the lessons of Munich?
Encouraged by the positive reviews it has received from film critics, my wife and I went to see Munich today, and perhaps the most accurate thing I can say about it is that it is, in every way, a lesser movie than the one in Spielberg's prior oeurve it most resembles, Saving Private Ryan.
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
A movie based on or inspired by historical events is always judged on two levels -- the extent to which the film hews to historical accuracy, and the larger meaning that is derived from the current context through which the film is viewed. Munich fails pretty badly on the first point -- as Aaron J. Klein points out in Slate, "Munich is not a documentary. Indeed, it is full of distortions and flights of fancy that would make any Israeli intelligence officer blush." (Check out Klein's interview with NPR as well.) The idea that the Mossad relied exculsively on a private organization for its intelligence and logistics is pretty absurd. The biggest difference might be that the Mossad agents who engaged in the Munich response did not evince any of the moral qualms that Spielberg assigns to his assassination squad. Ironically, this is less of a problem with Saving Private Ryan, even though the main narrative of that film is complete fiction. It is through the journey of trying to find Ryan that the protagonists and the movie-watching audience is exposed to the abject brutality of war.
So, what is Spielberg's larger meaning? There's lots of evidence here. As Edward Rothstein points out in the New York Times:
"There's no peace at the end of this," warns Avner, the morally anguished Mossad assassin, as Steven Spielberg's new film, "Munich," draws to a close. And by "this" he means the targeted killings that Israel is said to have begun after 11 of its athletes were murdered at the 1972 Olympics by members of the Palestinian Black September offshoot of Fatah.It's not just movie critics who have interpreted Munich in this way. Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, after viewing the film, said:
My reaction to it in some ways is less about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more about the larger context of dealing with terror. In many ways this is a historical event. And for the Israelis and Palestinians, while it will move many, you look at the demographics of both peoples and you'll find this is ancient history for them. So, it doesn't have an immediate relevance for them per se, but it does have a relevance in terms of highlighting what happens when you're confronted with a horrific act of terror and you have to do something about it. My reaction to it from the beginning was much more about terror and the responses to terror, and much less about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.In the movie, Spielberg suggests two dilemmas with the Munich response. The first is that terrorizing the terrorists carries with it a moral and ethical price that cannot be easily dismissed (ironically, this is best demonstrated in the film not through any speech but through the last murder the team successfully carries out). The second is that the practical results of such an operation are counterproductive -- they merely encourage one's adversary to escalate its campaign of terror, and those involved in the mission succumb to the grip of paranoia.
The problem with Munich is that neither of these dilemmas is accurately portrayed. Practically, there is evidence that the gains of the campaign outweighed the costs. Klein says that, "The numbers show a steep slide in the frequency of terror attacks against Israelis and Israeli institutions abroad from 1974 to the present." That fact matters in any utilitarian calculation of these actions, but it is never mentioned in the film.
As for the moral dilemma, none of my fellow moviegoers bought the idea that the Israelis would develop any remorse or inner conflict over what they did, and the historical record bears them out. This doesn't mean that in a world of Abu Ghraibs, the question shouldn't be asked. But just as critics of recent wars have argued that what happened at Munich in 1938 is an imperfect metaphor for policy responses, what happened after the Munich tragedy of 1972 is a badly flawed metaphor for the ethical dilemmas we face today.
Ross gets it right when he says, "the choices are hard, and sometimes you pick the best of the bad alternatives." Not even Steven Spielberg, however, can turn that lesson into a compelling movie.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
A new front in the war on terror?
The global war on terror has many fronts -- including, apparently, the pages of the January 2006 issue of GQ magazine:
The person you see above is Wafah
On a hot August afternoon, aspiring pop star Wafah Dufour walks into the media lunch hub Michael’s, in Midtown Manhattan. Accompanied by her publicist, Richard Valvo, the slender, exotic young woman with long dark hair in a high ponytail ŕ la I Dream of Jeannie is dressed in a white tank top, green love beads, lacy miniskirt, and backless pumps. Conversations continue as heads look up to check her out.Lest you think this is some attempt at a put-up job by a deep cover Al Qaeda agent, Gurley provides some additional info:
She has no contact with most of her relatives, including her father, doesn’t speak Arabic, has an American passport… The list goes on. “At the end of the day, I believe that the American people understand things and they have compassion and they see what’s fair,” she says. “They’re very fair, and that’s why I love America, and that’s why my mom loves America.”The entire staff here at danieldrezner.com wishes Ms. Dufour the best of luck in all of her endeavours -- and we hope in particular that word reaches her notorious uncle. As Reuters reports, "Asked how he would react to her posing for racy pictures in a glossy magazine, she said, 'I think he would have a heart attack.'"
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Is now the winter of my baseball discontent?
When my New York Yankee-loving brother starts posting random comments goading me to blog about baseball, you know it's not a good sign for the Boston Red Sox.
Indeed, Johnny Damon's decision to join the Yankees has prompted quite the media backlash against the performace of Red Sox management since Theo Epstein's departure as GM. One commenter on Jacob Luft's SI.com blog put it well:
So right now, the Sox have four guys who played second last year (Graffanino, Loretta, Cora and Pedroia) and three guys who played third (Lowell, Youkilis, and Marte); no real first baseman, no clear shortstop, no center fielder, a disgruntled left fielder and no leadoff hitter.The New York Daily News' Bill Madden sounds a similar theme:
[A]s of now, [the Red Sox] have no center fielder, no shortstop, no first baseman, no bona fide closer and seemingly no game plan.Lest you think the criticism is coming only from Yankee-lovers, consider this Tony Massarotti rant in the Boston Herald (link via David Pinto):
[T]he 2006 Red Sox look like an 84-78 squad with a management team that is playing rotisserie baseball. The Sox still can go out and get players, but there seems little regard for how they fit together. And until we learn otherwise, there is simply no way to know that Mark Loretta and Mike Lowell can shine in Boston, that Julio Lugo or Coco Crisp is coming (or that they, too, can succeed), that Kevin Youkilis can play every day or that Keith Foulke can close again....Ouch.
Is there any hope for Red Sox Nation? I think the answer is yes, but it takes a little work.
First, consider that each of the individual trades/signings that the Red Sox have made this offseason can be defended. No one except the Yankees thought Johnny Damon was worth $13 million a year. Trading a backup catcher for a former All-Star second baseman seems like a shrewd move. Renteria was never comfortable in Boston, and in trading him the Red Sox got one of the top ten prospects in all of baseball. Getting Josh Beckett was worth the costs in prospects -- especially since the Sox also got a premier set-up man and a Gold Glove third baseman. The problem isn't with the individual moves -- it's whether one can see an overall plan when the moves are combined.
Second, left unsaid in all the critiques is the fact that the Sox have done a very good job of rebuilding their pitching staff. In the past few months the Sox have lost Mike Myers and Chad Bradford while acquiring Josh Beckett, Guillermo Mota, and Jermaine Van Buren via trade, re-signing Mike Timlin, signing Rudy Seanez, and picking up Jamie Vermilyea via the Rule V draft. They have also developed a raft of quality arms -- Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen, and Jon Lester -- from their own farm system. That's a set of pretty decent moves made at low cost given the way the market for pitching has gone as of late. And while it may be overly optimistic to expect Curt Schilling or Keith Foulke to perform at their 2004 levels, it would be way to pessimistic to see them be as bad as they were in 2005. To be sure, not all of these pitchers will pan out, but enough of them will for the 2006 pitching staff to look better than the 2005 version.
Third, the off-season is only half over. The $64,000 question is whether the Red Sox can trade from their strengths (pitching, second base, third base, farm system) to improve their weaknesses (leadoff hitter, centerfieldier, shortstop, first base) between now and February. The big concern here is whether these obvious deficiencies will force the Sox into desperate moves in January and February. However, it's also worth remembering that the Sox had uninspiring production from two of those positions in 2005 and still made it to the playoffs.
Finally, it's worth remembering that at this point last year everyone was trashing White Sox GM Ken Williams for a series of moves that laid the foundation for the 2005 team. The only thing that matters is the how the team performs on the field between April and October.
[How convinced are you by your own analysis?--ed. About 55% -- the other 45% of the time I'm with Massarotti.]
UPDATE: Sam Crane offers Confucion and Taoist perspectives on the Damon signing.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Christmas in the Pacific Rim
I'm back from Hong Kong, and seriously jet-lagged. Before I stop thinking about that jewel of a city, however, I have a question for any cultural anthropologists in the crowd -- what's the deal with Christmas in the Pacific Rim?
The city of Hong Kong -- never shy of neon -- was engulfed in Christmas decorations the week I was there. This web site points out::
Christmas in Hong Kong is the time for the tasteless, the season for the syrupy, the holiday for the horrific -- if we're talking about lights and decorations, that is. There may be another city that can equal Hong Kong in the banality of its Christmas decorations, but it's sure to fall short in terms of sheer volume.I was told that I would see the same thing in Tokyo as well.
Many Westerners who attended the WTO Ministerial expressed distaste about this phenomenon as well -- not on religious grounds, but rather because to them it epitomizes the homogenization of western tastes.
I think this is much ado about nothing. I doubt that any North American city, with the possible exception of Las Vegas, would festoon itself in the same way Hong Kong has -- but then again, no other American city is as in love with neon as HK. However, to repeat my question to Tyler Cowen or anyone else who would know -- why is Christmas so big in so many non-Christian countries?
My hunch is that it's a marketing opportunity, but I'm open to other suggestions.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Notes from Wan Chai
There's nothing watching a city gearing up for a major economic meeting. Hotels in Wan Chai -- the neighborhood near the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, where the WTO meetings will be held -- have set up X-ray scanning machines in the lobbies to check for... well, I'm not sure what, exactly but it's definitely a pain.
Protestors started coming out in force two days before the official events even begin. According to The Standard's Doug Crets and Leslie Kwoh, the protests were peaceful but:
Police said they were... alarmed by the mysterious disappearance of uniforms belonging to janitors, watchmen and others from local laundries and dry cleaners. The AFP news agency quoted police as saying protesters might use the uniforms to infiltrate the talks.Meanwhile, the presence of the protestors has also encouraged some investment firms based in Wan Chai to give their employees an early Christmas break. One commentator on Bloomberg TV said, "Happy Holidays -- and thank you, protestors!" And, of course, the strip clubs in the downtown area seem crowded with more raucous Westerners than usual. [How would you know?--ed. I swear, I walked by them to get to dinner last night.]
Of course, in Hong Kong, there are some additional measures taken in the wake of a big meeting. In my NGO accreditation materials, there's a lovely "Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Kit" put out by Hong Kong's Department of Health. According to this document, "If one has not come into close contact with infected live poultry or birds or their droppings, there is no need to be unduly alarmed about acquiring avian flu." So if any pigeons get near me, there's going to be trouble.
But all of this is great for the local economy, right? Well, not according to The Standard's Andrea Chiu:
Wan Chai residents said that, while they welcome the World Trade Organization's ministerial conference and the thousands of protesters in ideological tow, so far they aren't getting much out of it.Well, at least something of substance will be achieved at the WTO Ministerial itself, right? Er, not according to the Financial Times' Frances Williams:
For many of the ministers gathering in Hong Kong for the World Trade Organisation’s biennial jamboree, which opens on Tuesday, the accession ceremony for tiny Tonga could be the highlight of their week.. One last note -- if you're coming to Wan Chai, try to avoid staying at the Novotel Century Hotel. If you took a slab of concrete and wrapped it up in Kevlar, it would still be softer than my mattress from last night
Tuesday, December 6, 2005
George Carlin probably wouldn't call this a sport
God bless the trend reporters at the Los Angeles Times -- particularly Jeffrey Fleishman, who has a story on a brand new sport -- chess boxing:
Martin "Amok" Thomas is jabbing a right, but Frank "so-cool-he-doesn't-need-a-nickname" Stoldt is as elusive as a ribbon in the wind. He can't be hit.The World Chess Boxing Organization provides more detailed rules:
In a chessboxing fight two opponents play alternating rounds of chess and boxing. The contest starts with a round of chess, followed by a boxing round, followed by another round of chess and so on. In every round of chess the FIDE rules for a ´Blitz game´ apply, in every boxing round the AIBA rules apply with the following extensions and modifications: In a contest there shall be 11 rounds, 6 rounds of chess, 5 rounds of boxing. A round of chess takes 4 minutes. Each competitor has 12 minutes on the chess timer. As soon as the time runs out the game is over.And, of course, there is a chess boxing blog. If you're interested in participating in a sanctioned chess boxing match, click here!
[I detect some mild mockery in this post;you really want to piss off the chessboxers?--ed. On the contrary, this could sell. Thirty years ago no one took beach volleyball seriously, and now it's a professional sport.... that advertises on blogs. So would you ever watch chess boxing?--ed. Er, probably not -- but I could be tempted to watch celebrity chessboxing. Just think of Naomi Watts vs. Salma Hayek. Yes, just think......]
Monday, December 5, 2005
Blegging for help on Hong Kong
I'll in Hong Kong all next week to take a first-hand look at the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Conference. I'll be representing the Geman Marshall Fund of the United States as an "NGO observer" -- those of you who have read my scholarly work on globalization can drink in the rich ironies of that designation pour moi.
Anyway, while I won't have oodles of free time, I might have the occasional hour or two off. So I'm asking you, good readers, to fill me in on what must be seen and done in Hong Kong, or even Shenzen. Sure, the New York Times' Keith Bradsher provides some useful tips, but I have every confidence that the collective intelligence of danieldrezner.com readers can improve on Bradsher's advice.
UPDATE: Hmmm.... Justine Lau and Frances Williams have a report in the Financial Times implicitly suggesting that the NGO protestors might get a bit unruly:
Peter Yam, the police director of operations, said he expected at least three large demonstrations to take place, each of which could draw as many as 10,000 people.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
A data point for frozen turkeys
One of the fiercest debates among the staff here at danieldrezner.com about the Thanksgiving holiday is whether the convenience of purchasing a frozen turkey days in advance outweighs the added taste of cooking a fresh, unfrozen bird.
Angela Rozas has a story in the Chicago Tribune that highlights a heretofore unknown value of the frozen turkey -- in an emergency, it can save lives:
Mark Copsy saw the smoke inside the car, and watched as the vehicle careered into a curb in Northlake on Sunday afternoon. It took him only a moment to realize the horror--the car was on fire, and there were people inside. Copsy and his 12-year-old son ran the half-block to help.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Hmmm.. what's missing from this survey?
There are a lot of news stories (here's one from Silicon.com's Jo Best) out today on the latest Pew survey that shows search engines have become the second-most frequent online activity after e-mail. According to Pew's Lee Rainie:
These results from September 2005 represent a sharp increase from mid-2004. Pew Internet Project data from June 2004 show that use of search engines on a typical day has risen from 30% to 41% of the internet-using population, which itself has grown in the past year. This means that the number of those using search engines on an average day jumped from roughly 38 million in June 2004 to about 59 million in September 2005 - an increase of about 55%. comScore data, which are derived from a different methodology, show that from September 2004 to September 2005 the average daily use of search engines jumped from 49.3 million users to 60.7 million users -- an increase of 23%.Here's a link to the data memo in .pdf format. What I found most interesting was "the proportion of that daily population who are doing some well-known internet activities":
Email 77%Two thoughts -- first, this blog number is consistent with other recent surveys suggesting that not a large fraction of Americans are blog consumers.
Second, there's one very large invisible elephant in this survey. One obvious online activity was not included in the above list. See if you can guess what it is. [What is it?--ed.] Umm.... just guess. [Can you give the people a hint?--ed.] Ummm.... er.... Chapelle's Show had a hysterically funny skit about what people do when they're on the web that best captures this activity.
If search engines are more popular than that invisible elephant, then I'll start to disagree with Asymmetrical Information about Google's share price.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Putting on the foil? Read this first.
"On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study", by Ali Rahimi, Ben Recht, Jason Taylor, and Noah Vawter. The abstract:
Hat tip to The American Interest's Dan Kennelly for the link.
Monday, November 14, 2005
My personal apologies to Mitchell Hurwitz
After having digested the first twelve episodes -- and still laughing about them 48 hours later -- I feel I owe an apology to creator Mitchell Hurwitz. I clearly belong to a large swath of viewers who would have enjoyed the show and yet mysteriously chose not to view it when it counted. My only defense is that a large groups of us have small children, and by the end of the weekend have little energy for anything more sophisticated than My Mother, the Car.
Why the show failed to merit any coverage by the Television Without Pity people, however, is beyond me.
Sorry, man -- we let you down.
Sunday, November 6, 2005
Is American political fiction really so bad?
Via Kevin Drum, I see that Christopher Lehman has a long essay in the Washington Monthly asserting the poverty of American political fiction:
This particular subgenre of fiction is the topic of Rachel Donadio's NYT Book Review essay for today. Curiously, Christopher Buckley makes a cameo appearance there as well:
Is the state of American political fiction really so
What's the explanation? Lehman thinks it's because the overarching theme in American political fiction is the loss of innocence -- which doesn't jibe with how politics actually works:
This echoes the complaint voiced by Slate's David Edelstein a few years ago about how politics is portrayed in film and television:
I'm not sure I have a better answer than Lehman or Edelstein, except to say that I'm not at all sure the problem is peculiarly American. Good fiction set in an democratic political milieu just might be a difficult feat to execute.
Readers are warmly encouraged to suggest their favorite political novels.
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Say it ain't so, Theo!
Part of my faith in the Red Sox's future rested with general manager Theo Epstein and the brain trust he had assembled. In contrast to the byzantine organizational structure of George Steinbrenner's New York Yankees.
Alas, this week has scrambled those expectations. Steinbrenner managed to retain Brian Cashman as his GM, and Cashman managed to shift the center of gravity on decision-making away from Tampa and towards New ork.
Meanwhile, Red Sox wunderkind GM Theo Epstein has declined the Red Sox's offer of a new three-year contract. The Boston Herald's Michael Silverman explains why:
Epstein's innovation as a GM wasn't to use sabremetrics to analyze baseball players -- though he was part of the first wave of GM's to do so. No, Epstein's real gift was to think about the 40 man roster as a portfolio that needed to be diversified, and to exploit the healthy payroll he was given to the hilt. In positions where the Red Sox did not have an All-Star, Epstein managed to sign multiple players whose whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Think of Pokey Reese and Mark Bellhorn at second base in 2004, or the troika of Jeremy Gimbi, David Ortiz, and Kevin Millar at 1B/DH in 2003, or Millar and John Olerud this year at first base. Not every signing paid off, but Epstein hit the jackpot way more often than he crapped out. And he did this without trading away all that much in the way of young talent.
Methinks Celizic is way too pessimistic. A rebuilt farm system is going to be providing the Red Sox with a bevy of fresh arms and speed over the next few years. And I think the current owenership is still pretty interested in winning another World Series or two. That said, it's still going to be a very bumpy off-season -- but was true the year they won it all (remember A-Rod?).
However, the staff here at danieldrezner.com wishes the best of luck to Mr. Epstein in any of his futute career pursuits -- so long as they don't entail taking over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' GM job.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Congrats to the pale hose
Back in August, Mike DeBonis wrote the following in Slate:
Now we'll get to test his hypothesis.
Congratulations to the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox. Like the Red Sox last year, the South Siders swept the NL representative. Unlike last year, however, all four of these games were exciting nailbiters until the end. As David Pinto points out in Baseball Musings:
The Red Sox in 2004, the White Sox in 2005 -- man, if the Cubs win it next year, the world really will end.
Of course, I've lived in Chicago long enough to know that until that happens, White Sox fans will be very, very happy to stick it to the Cubs fans.
UPDATE: You just knew Leo Strauss was involved.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
In my first visit to Souther California, my guide took me to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. After gawking at the stores and the price tags, we stumbled into an art gallery that was having quite a function -- lots of guys with slicked-back pony tails, black suits, black shirts, and black ties [Cut them some slack -- this was 1990--ed.]
It turned out that we had stumbled into a retrospective of the artwork of... Sylvester Stallone.
The piece of his I remember the most was "Rocky V." This was a collage of typed manuscript pages on a canvas with gobs of paint splattered everywhere. It was very... three-dimensional.
I dredge this memory out of my brain and inflict it on all of you because of this Associated Press story:
I look forward with bated breath to see the work of art that Stallone will forge out of this screenplay.
Readers are strongly encouraged to suggest an age-appropriate opponent for Stallone's senior boxing flick. With apologies to Fight Club, I'd have to vote for William Shatner.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
The Red Sox cause heartburn -- but do they save lives
It's going to be an agonizing/wonderful/intense final weekend of Major League Baseball's regular season. Whenever Major League Baseball has to post this kind of web page to explain the possible playoff permutations (link via David Pinto), you know there are some close races.
Naturally, the piece de resistance is the AL East, with the streaking Yankees a game ahead of the Red Sox, who are tied with Cleveland in the wild card standings.
I don't know how these games could top the drama of the last two years with these two teams -- but then again, I thought that was true right before last year's ALCS, and look what happened.
Fewer ER visits and more babies -- you know the recent Red Sox revival has been good for New England.
[Sure, there are fewer visits, but do the Red Sox save lives?--ed. The reportage is unclear. On the one hand, it seems that people with chronic ailments might defer or postpone visits. On the other hand, "There was no evidence, the researchers from Children's report, of a surge in ER visits immediately after the game concluded." One has to wonder if there were fewer driving accidents, etc. while people were watching the games.]
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Serenity -- the review
The answer partially depends on where you fit in the movie-going universe:
1) Joe and Jane Moviegoer. If you like action flicks with a dash of surprising levity, Serenity is definitely worth checking out. Writer/director Joss Whedon clearly knows his genres, and has no trouble mixing them -- in this case, sci-fi and westerns -- and has even less trouble subverting genre stereotypes. The best parts are the first and last 30 minutes of the film. There's a lot of backstory exposition, and if you go for opening weekend, you might notice a lot of oddly enthusiastic moviegoers, but I agree with Variety's Derek Elley in saying that, "Familiarity with the original episodes isn't necessary, as a tight opening effectively recaps the backstory." This is not Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me -- thank God.
[UPDATE: I'm glad to see this thumbs-up from someone illiterate in Whedon-speak.]
If geeks and fanboys scare you, do not see Serenity on opening weekend. Then go.
2) Firefly fans. Hmmm... how to put this.... hell yes, it's worth the coin. Whedon brought his "A" game and Universal gave him just enough money to make it very, very shiny. Whedon accomplishes in Serenity what he did so proficiently in his best work on TV -- he creates characters who stay true to their motivations, and then makes you realize that just because an actor is featured in the opening credits, there's no guarantee that they'll still be alive when the end credits run. It's that credible danger that makes the final half-hour of Serenity so intense for fanboys and fangirls alike. In Chiwetel Ejiofor, Whedon has found the perfect villain for this piece. Summer Glau and Nathan Fillion are equally good in the emoting and kickass fighting categories. The rest of the cast has their moments as well.
3) Aspiring movie auteurs: This take from Ken Tucker's New York magazine review should whet your appetite:
My take: You wish you could do a tracking shot like the one Whedon serves up in the opening credits. Serenity is a nice exercise in demonstrating how special effects should serve the story and not vice versa. As for dialogue, one person who saw an earlier preview put it best: "Han Solo wishes he was this cool." Whedon betrays his TV past with some claustrophobic shots at some junctures, but this is a great big-screen directorial debut.
Sara T. Hinson thought the show sounded libertarian themes -- like all sci-fi:
Having seen Serenity, I have to side with Hinson. While I thought the television show had both libertarian and modern liberal themes, the movie is actually more libertarian . Indeed, without giving Serenity's plot away, the information you discover about the Reavers negates one of the anti-libertarian critiques present in Firefly.
So go see the goram movie.
UPDATE: Jacob Levy saw the same screening I did, and blogs an excellent review. This paragraph captures the film well:
Matthew Yglesias also liked it -- though I don't agree with Yglesias' assertion that Whedon painted "the Alliance as a cartoonishly evil empire."
[Dude, don't you and everyone else are overreading a sci-fli flick?--ed. You don't know Whedon. From the Toronto Star's Marlene Arpe:
ANOTHER UPDATE: In Reason, Julian Sanchez has a link-rich, spoiler-rich essay on the philosophical roots of Serenity -- and makes a persuasive case for the role of Camus as well as Hayek. In Slate, Seth Stevenson likes Serenity but thinks Joss Whedon's comparative advantage is in the long narrative arcs of episodic television. Salon's Stephanie Zacharek agrees:
Monday, September 26, 2005
I seriously doubt the latter is true, but I do have a partial explanation for Smith: the motto of Grace Hill Media -- the PR firm tasked with the blogger promotion -- is "Helping Hollywood Reach People of Faith." I wonder if there's another PR firm to hype the event for liberal blogggers.....
2) And I wonder if they're better than Grace Hill Media, because I must agree with this blogger's complaint about the confirmation e-mail they sent to everyone. Juuuust a bit too bossy.
3) As someone who was captain of my high school math team, I can say with some certainty that I know from geeks. With that background knowledge, I must confirm what one of my moviegoing compatriots said: "I've been to Star Wars and LOTR openings, but this was easily the geekiest moviegoing audience I've ever seen."
3) Universal studios showed one preview before Serenity -- Doom, starring The Rock. From an audience primed for Joss Whedon quips, it provoked a... bemused reaction.
4) Despite the high fan-to-nonfan ration, there were enough interested outworlders such that the preview accomplished what Whedon said was the marketing strategy in this New York Times interview:
Thursday, September 8, 2005
Take that, Lincoln Park!!
Residents of Hyde Park are keenly aware that although our neighborhood possesses many fine qualities -- ample bookstores, nice housing, diversity of residents -- one quality it does not possess is a surfeit of great restaurants.* For that, you have to go up to the downtown, the West Loop, or the North side.
Read the whole article, if you care about such things. I've heard this kind of talk about Hyde Park many times since I've been here, but Kleiner's track record makes me more optimistic than usual. Look out, Lincoln Park -- in, say 20 years, we will have closed the restaurant gap!
Of course, this section of Vettel's piece brings me back to reality. It quotes Mary Mastricola, the owner of La Petite Folie, the one high-end restaurant in the area:
Left unspoken in the piece is why Mastricola doesn't just hire neighborhood residents beyond the student population.
And don't get me started on the supermarket situation around here.....
*Yes, devotees of Dixie Kitchen, or Medici, or Pizza Capri, there are some lovely places to eat around here. But a neighborhood of this size needs more than just a handful of good eateries.
Tuesday, September 6, 2005
I'd blog more if it wasn't for that darn Jacuzzi-tusion
In honor of the the 10-year anniversary of Cal Ripken's breaking Lou Gehrig's iron-man streak in baseball, Jayson Stark has an amusing column at ESPN.com on his "favorite injuries, calamities or miscellaneous excuses for missing games during Ripken's fabled streak."
Go check them out -- my two favorites:
I was convinced that last one had to be a misprint, but I stumbled across this fine Peter Gammons column on Ripken that mentioned the same injury:
Monday, August 29, 2005
Open hurricane porn thread
CROW-EATING UPDATE: The post below was written 24 hours before the waters of Lake Ponchatrain broke through the levee, devastated New Orleans, and video footage came in on damage to the Mississippi Gulf coast. I must concur with James Joyner that the coverage of this hurricane was not overhyped in the end, and at this point is a rather trivial issue compared to the damage at hand.
I maintain that my general point stands on extreme weather coverage, but not with this case. Whether there is a "weatherman crying wolf" phenomenon taking place is also worthy of further thought.
Click over to FEMA's list of charities to help out those affected -- or even better, Glenn Reynolds' list of charities
Comment away on Hurricane Katrina -- or even better, the coverage of it. If this report is any indication, the original estimates of potential damage appear to have been overstated (though the New Orleans Times-Picayune has a different take). This is of small comfort to rural residents of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, but better news for oil traders -- who appear to have panicked and then reassessed -- as well as consumers.
This overestimation would be consistent with the growing problem of hurricane porn:
I think this blogger actually underestimates the problem -- it's not just local news, it's the cable nets as well. See Michelle Catalano for more.
Readers are invited to submit the most.... er.... pornographic moment of coverage they've seen to date.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds believe that Katrina was worth the hype. And several commenters have pointed out that the blanket coverage probably saved lives in convincing people to get the heck out of the Big Easy. Valid arguments.... except I've been so inured to prior hurricane porn that it's now tough for me to distinguish between a genuine menace to mankind vs. some weathermen breathlessly claiming that some tropical depression could be huge.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Alas, I spoke too soon about New Orleans.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
The President's suggested reading
The Washington Examiner asked
I will say, though, that Bush's actual selections -- "John Barry's The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A World History and Edvard Radzinsky's Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar" -- aren't too shabby. The first choice, in particular, might have some policy relevance for the future.
That said, Jonathan Rauch's selection is the one that stands out.
Beloit College needlessly reminds me of my age
I have a summer birthday, and I am creeping ever closer to 40. Curiously, I seem to be the oldest member of my peer group, and so all of my friends take great delight in saying "Dude, you're old." at the appropriate moment.
In that spirit, it seems fitting to link to the Beloit College Mindset List for this year:
My highlights from this year's list:
And, in conclusion:
Friday, August 12, 2005
"I was just made by the Presbyterian Church"
It reminds me of an episode from a criminally underrated television series, News Radio. In the "Super Karate Monkey Death Car" episode, Jimmy James needs to read his own autobiography after it was translated into Japanese and then re-translated into English.
And you at home can play this game too!! Just go to Alta Vista's Babelfish page, pick a favorite piece of dialogue, translate it and then retranslate it.
Monday, August 8, 2005
Peter Jennings, R.I.P.
The longtime anchor of ABC news died on Sunday, four months after announcing he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
His career tracked a lot of recent history, as the ABC obit observes:
I am not and never have been a big network news watcher, but my preference was always ABC, and the Jennings' detached, analytical demeanor was the reason. He will be missed.
Thursday, August 4, 2005
Medicine and the modern pitcher
On his 43rd birthday, Houston Astros pitcher Roger Clemens has become his generation's Nolan Ryan, the Official Hero to American Middle-Aged Men everywhere.
No Red Sox fan can have an uncomplicated opinion of Clemens -- however, this Alan Schwarz article in ESPN.com provides a nice illustration of how medical advances made Clemens' long career possible:
Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Who wants their Gore TV?
Fourteen months ago, Al Gore announced his plans to create a new cable tv channel. That channel -- called Current TV -- launched yesterday. Salon's Heather Havrilesky sums up what Gore is after:
Well, Mo Ryan is certainly discussing Current TV in the Chicago Tribune -- and it sounds like Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch can rest easy for now:
Havrilesky dumps on the on-air talent:
Hmmm.... this almost makes the hosts sound like.... bloggers. And yes, the channel has its own blog.
And, if they manage to hang around for more than a decade, you just know that someone is going to write a TV column that begins, "Remember when Current TV used to run pods?"
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Talking 'bout my old generation
Generation X -- you (and I) are old and getting older. Monica Eng's story in the Chicago Tribune explains:
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Danica McKellar's unique two-fer
I'm pretty sure that Danica McKellar is the first person in history to be the subject of a profile in the New York Times science section, as well as ">the subject of a profile and a photo essay in Stuff magazine.
A tip of the cap to Ms. McKellar's very talented and flexible publicist.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
My contribution to the greatest sports moments meme
Earlier this month, Steven Taylor of PoliBlog provided his anwer to the "Ten Unforgetable Sports Moments that You Actually Saw (not ones you saw later on tape)" meme. Kevin Drum offered his as well. More specifically, it's events you saw live, be it in person or on television.
Taylor puts together a pretty good list, but he betrays his youth -- most of his examples are in the last ten years.
Here are my answers -- and remember, the key adjective is "unforgettable," not "greatest":
That's it -- feel free to add yours. [Where the hell is the Miracle on Ice? You saw that, right?--ed. Oh, I saw it, but no one outside of the ice rink saw it live. ABC showed the game tape-delayed. And thank God there was no World Wide Web back then, because it would have been too tempting to find out who had won beforehand. As it was, my parents turned off all the radios and TVs in the house to ensure ignorance.]
Friday, July 8, 2005
Sunday night, or what you will
Readers are free to interpret the story as an example of:
Me, I'm still trying to stop laughing.
Wednesday, July 6, 2005
Those passionate Brits
London has won the right to host the 2012 Olympics. The city defeated Paris in the final vote -- since 1992, the French capital has lost out three times in a row (to Barcelona, Beijing, and now London).
This Associated Press report suggests that the International Olympic Committee was swayed by the passion of the British boosters:
Which is not to say that the French weren't passionate -- it's just that the passion of their president, Jacques Chirac, might have been directed at the wrong targets:
Friday, July 1, 2005
How to reverse New England's demographic decline
Click here for the Globe's accompanying photo essay.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
The biggest threat to Moneyball
With all of the debate over the business logic underlying Michael Lewis' Moneyball, there was a simple underlying assumption behind the book -- baseball teams that are successful on the field are also successful at the gate.
Erik Ahlberg had a front-pager in yesterday's Wall Street Journal suggesting that this assumption doesn't necessarily hold for the Chicago White Sox:
As it turns out, last night I took my father to a pretty exciting game at the Cell -- and would have to concur that the West Berlin answer makes the most sense. The park itself is actually quite nice -- it's not Wrigley, mind you, but it's fan-friendly. However, there is simply nothing (in the way of shops, restaurants, bars, etc.) surrounding the ballpark.
UPDATE: As has been pointed out in the comments, there is a double irony in all of this -- most sabermetric analysts predicted that this year's White Sox team -- built on speed and pitching -- would crash and burn.
Monday, June 6, 2005
What I got out of Mark Felt this week
The orgy of commentary and journalism produced by the revelation that W. Mark Felt was Deep Throat has been staggering -- and mostly unproductive. The revelation that a key source for Woodward and Bernstein was the number two man in the FBI and a J. Edgar Hoover loyalist has produced a lot of bullshit -- and in the case of Pat Buchanan, outright lies.
So has there been any commentary of value to be gleaned from this revelation? I've seen two things worth reading -- though both of them are only tangental to Felt's coming out party. Surprisingly enough, they're written by two people who probably don't get along very well -- David Brooks and Sasha Issenberg (click on this Noam Scheiber essay to find out why they don't get along).
Brooks does a great riff off of Bob Woodward's first person account of how he first met and got to know Felt. This allows him to talk about the topic he covers so well -- what aspiring young people do to get ahead:
As you would expect, one Junior Lippman takes the time to respond -- but if you ask me, Brooks' point has attracted too much attention for it to be dismissed lightly -- see Elizabeth Bumiller and Tim Noah for more on this theme.
Issenberg, meanwhile, has a great piece in Slate about how Felt's revelations bring to mind an excellent Watergate movie -- and it ain't All the President's Men:
Hmmm.... paranoid style in American politics infecting public commentary... yes, that sounds familiar. Well, at least Felt's revelations will put the conspiracy meme to rest on this question. Oh, wait....
Sunday, June 5, 2005
Giving a whole new meaning to "the chosen people" means
This Economist story makes me very, very uncomfortable:
Read the whole article to understand the explanation of Cochran et al. Here's a link to their working paper on the topic.
The thing is, Cochran has also advanced the idea that, "homosexuality is caused by an infection," which is just strange.
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
No one trashes guido the killer pimp on my watch!!!
Any movie with the line, "Joel, get off the babysitter" deserves better treatment than that. Heresy, I say!! Heresy!!
On a slightly more serious note -- I haven't seen the movie in some years, but my memory is that it's quite a good flick. The interesting question is whether this is true because I first saw the movie when I was roughly the protagonist's age. It's possible -- not probable, but possible -- that I'm viewing this film through rose-colored glasses. There are movies that occupy a more prominent place in our personal pantheons because of when we see them, and the good memories we associate with that time. There are "generational" movies that are valued because they click on some level with one's entire peer group -- The Shawshank Redemption for Generation Y or Rebel Without A Cause for baby-boomers, for example.
Readers are encouraged to debate the merits of Risky Business, or to confess the movies that they adore but recognize may not be as good as they originally thought. Oh. and this seems as good a time as any to link to Time's "All-Time 100 Movies."
UPDATE: Hey, apparently this concern of mine has a name -- the Tron effect.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Frank Gorshin, R.I.P. (1933-2005)
Over at Hit & Run, Jeff Taylor observes:
Oddly enough, Gorshin played a role in my movie education -- an awareness of costume design.
In the 1966 Batman movie, Frank Gorshin wore the most awesome-looking suit I'd ever seen -- it's what Gorshin's wearing on the front page of his web site. Nothing Jim Carrey wore in Batman Forever comes close to it. The moment I saw Gorshin cavorting around in it, I didn't want to be Batman anymore -- the Riddler was the guy for me.
Reading the obits, I was delighted to find out in Joal Ryan's E! Online story that Gorshin's co-star loved the costume as well:
The Riddler is dead.... or is he???????????
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Pssst.... religious conservatives... here's some red meat
CBS chairman Leslie Moonves has revamped his Friday lineup. According to this MSN Entertainment story, both his decision and his explanation is likely to rile up religious conservatives:
The Reuters account makes it clear that Moonves said this in jest, but religious conservatives might not get the joke... plus, they'll be too angry about the cancellation of "Joan" to make way for a Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle.... particularly if Hewitt's wardrobe conforms to her stereotype.
UPDATE: Yep -- Drudge has the story. Again, it's worth stressing the Reuters account ("'I think talking to ghosts may skew younger than talking to God,' Moonves joked at a news conference before the upfront presentation).
I suspect this is a case where reading the quote in cold print strikes a dramatically different chord than the effect of hearing Moonves say it.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Why I love geek culture
Go read either James Lileks on the end (for now) of the Star Trek franchise or Harry Brighouse on taking his daughter to see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and you will know what it means to truly adore a work of popular culture.
Monday, May 16, 2005
The confessions of George Lucas
For me, coming out of a vacation news vacuum is like moving from still water to a class ten rapid in thirty seconds -- there's just too much to catch up on. [Didn't you read anything while you were gone?--ed. Honestly, I didn't surf the web at all and the only thing I read in a newspaper that caught my eye was a reprint of this Victor David Hanson essay blasting the concept of tenure.]
Later on in the week I'll try to deal with violence in Uzbekistan, the explosive situation in Afghanistan (and Newsweek's monumental f@#$-up that triggered the problem), but to start post-vacation blogging, let's get to something really important... like George Lucas confessing his moviemaking sins.
In an Entertainment Weekly cover story by Jeff Jensen (sorry, the story is mysteriously absent from EW's Star Wars index page -- which is one of many things wrong with EW's web site, but that's off-topic), we get this little tidbit from George Lucas about how he feels about the prequel trilogy:
I'm glad to hear that Lucas agrees with me about the quality of his last two films... except that Lucas didn't cop to this when Episodes I and II came out. And the promotional campaign for Episode III has been just as heavy as the roll-out for Episode I. So I'm not getting close to a movie house for this one unless there's multiple independent confirmations that the movie is good. [But in the Jensen story the Star Wars-obsessed Kevin Smith is quoted saying, "Sith will not only enthrall the faithful, but it'll pull the haters back from the Dark Side."--ed. Two words: Jersey Girl.]
To date I've been able to resist the siren song of Revenge of the Sith. Reading Jensen's story and thinking about Lucas' execrable "Hamburger Helper" will make it even harder to turn me to the dark side.
[You'll see it at some point. It is your.... destiny--ed. Oh, go do promos for CNN or something.]
UPDATE: Well, A.O. Scott praises the movie in the New York Times, but has this ominous line: "Mr. Lucas's indifference to two fairly important aspects of moviemaking - acting and writing - is remarkable." Meanwhile, Kelli nicely encapsulates my attitude towards Lucas -- and asks an interesting question: "whether to take the kids." Sith is rated PG-13. Discuss away!!
Sunday, April 24, 2005
In praise of the average Americans
If there is one thing that too many modern-day Democrat and Republican party elites share, it's a mild contempt for the average American. For Democrats, Americans are obese spendthrifts susceptible to faith-based argumentation at the expeense of logic and evidence. For Republicans, Americans are obese spendthrifts susceptible to the temptations of a debased popular culture at the expense of moral probity.
Well, a bunch of stories this week suggest that the average American is a hell of a lot smarter than the donkey and elephant elites.
Over at Slate, Daniel Gross observes that Americans are responding to interest rate increases by.... reducing their spending and paying off their debts:
And while we're on the subject of consumer behavior, could commentators please stop bashing Americans for not saving enough when they are acting rationally? If the assets that Americans hold -- like equities or their houses, for example -- are dramatically increasing in value, then it makes sense that their stream of additional savings will taper off.
Meanwhile, earlier this week Jonathan Bor and Frank Roylance reported in the Baltimore Sun that just a smidgen of obesity might be good for you:
The legal team here at danieldrezner.com would like to remind everyone that this report does not recommend obesity and that anyone now tempted to go order several Hardee's Monster Thickburgers are doing so at their own discretion and not with the blessing of danieldrezner.com. More seriously, check out food economist Parke Wilde for an informed appraisal of the ramifications of the CDCP study.
Finally, that allegedly brain-dead American boob tube may acually provide more cognitive stimulation than previously thought. Steven Johnson explains why this might be true in the New York Times Magazine:
Read the whole thing. The only troubling note I found in the piece was the admission that, "The only prominent holdouts [to more cognitively sophisticated plots] in drama are shows like ''Law and Order'' that have essentially updated the venerable ''Dragnet'' format and thus remained anchored to a single narrative line." Which is true, except that when you tally up all the "Law and Order" and "CSI" shows & spinoffs, that's an awful lot of the prime time schedule.
Johnson earns my goodwill, however, by labeling his phenomenon the Sleeper Curve after this classic exchange from the Woody Allen movie Sleeper:
Monday, April 18, 2005
Why my head hurts right now
Alex Mindlin recounts an apparently real dispute about what constitutes fiction between the writers Michael Chabon and Paul Maliszewski in the New York Times. The highlights:
So if I understand this correctly: A writer that has frequently fudged facts for fun has fingered a fellow fabulist for fictionalizing facts for fortune, even though that fabulist foretold his fictions before his oration. [Now my head hurts--ed. If I'm going down, I'm taking people with me!]
Seriously, it seems like Maliszewski is off his rocker.
Charles Krauthammer misses the best part
I know this is a lighter column for Krauthammer, but it's almost criminally negligent for him to go from discussing his passion for the Sox to his interest in the Nats without mentioning how he felt being on the outside looking in at the Red Sox successful 2004 season.
Friday, April 15, 2005
The cyberbalkanization of trivia?
This argument is akin to Cass Sunstein's "cyberbalkanization" hypothesis from republic.com. The only problem is that Curtis contradicts his closing earlier in the piece by observing: "23 years after its American debut, the original [Genus] edition still accounts for a huge percentage of Trivial Pursuit's 80 million units sold." If memory serves, a Genus II edition was also pitched to the generalist. In fact, since most trivia games are played in person, the Internet's effect on this social institution is likely to be marginal.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Real men don't worry about man dates
At a group dinner last night, a male friend who shall remain anonymous said that the first thing he read in the Sunday New York Times was the Style Section. In the Drezner household, that section generally falls under Erika's purview -- much like our division of labor with regard to the Book Review. However, I will often look at an article that my lovely wife recommends. The point is, this declaration from a close heterosexual friend neither surprised nor particularly preturbed me.
Today, however, the front-pager for the Style Section was a Jennifer 8. Lee story about the "man date". Some highlights:
As someone who has gone on the occasional man date, I suspect Ms. Lee might be exaggerating the awkwardness of this particular social institution. Heterosexual men who are unafraid of saying that they read the Sunday Styles section first -- and the men who befriend them -- don't really care what other people think about two men sharing a meal, a movie, or an art gallery.
Next week in the Style Section, I want to read about
UPDATE: to be fair, Mr. Lee changed her name before she became a reporter and did so for reasons having little to do with trendiness. Plus I've been assured by many that she is a very nice person.
This doesn't change the fact that the article is a crock of st, however.
Friday, April 8, 2005
Funny thing about the comics....
Jeffrey Zaslow writes in the Wall Street Journal (that link will work for non-subscribers) about how old comic strips are trying to stay fresh. Apparently the "Family Circus" above is one such example. Others include, according to Zaslow:
The more macro trend Zaslow identifies is the barrier to entry that keeping old strips on the funny pages presents:
What the Internet taketh away, the Internet also giveth. Which makes this as good a time as any to recommend Chris Muir's Day By Day strip.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Warding off the dark lords of dark chocolate
Apparently, the dark chocolate Twix is part of a larger trend. Julie Scelfo explains in Newsweek:
As a lifelong dark chocolate afficionado, I fear this to be a bad, bad, bad, bad, delicious trend. The dearth of dark chocolate opportunities has to date been an effective constraint on excessive chocolate consumption. The proliferation of dark chocolate "microbrews" could overwhelm my feeble abstinence instinct -- this is the candy equivalent of Salma Hayek showing up on my doorstep wearing nothing but a terrycloth robe and asking for a foot massage.
My only viable strategy might be to insist on consuming only very gourmet chocolates. [You could just exercise more and eat less. Or you could be like Virginia Postrel and eat more spinach--ed. No one likes it when you act like a rational editor.]
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Right profession, wrong stage of life
Warren St. John and Alex Williams have a good article in the New York Times Style section about sleep patterns and the character taits that are often incorrectly derived from them. Among the interesting facts:
The sleep schedule is certainly one reason why I gravitated towards academia (and blogging, I suppose -- it's a partially nocturnal event). That said, one of the first internal indications I had that I wanted to marry Erika was that I shifted my grad student work habits from a 7PM-2 AM cycle to a 9-5 schedule without complaint.
Unfortunately, the article fails to address the biggest challenge to late-sleepers. It's not the job, it's the children. Any hope of sleeping in for the next decade is pretty much shot to hell.
The advantages for the children are overwhelming, of course -- but that doesn't mean I don't miss the halcyon andbygone era of getting up past ten o'clock in the AM.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
I will not surrender to the dark side, I will not surrender to the dark side...
Via Ross Douthat, I see the latest trailer for Star Wars III, Revenge of the Sith is out. Last fall, I confess I found the teaser trailer to be very seductive, so I was worried about my reaction to this one.
And I'm happy to report that I mildly disagree with both Douthat and Matthew Yglesias; the trailer is OK, but the dark side has not turned me yet. There are other popcorn movie trailers out there -- like Sin City, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or Fantastic Four -- that have grabbed more of my attention.
Take that, Emperor Lucas!!
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Return to sender
Ian Urbina has a fun story in today's New York Times on the small rebellions individuals engage in every day to protest life's petty annoyances. Here's an excerpt:
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Susan Estrich can't be this stupid
Via Virginia Postrel, I see that the Susan Estrich/Michael Kinsley feud has not abated (click here for my take on the triggering op-ed). James Rainey provides the latest account for the Los Angeles Times. Two interesting facts:
This kind of thinking is on par with Sandy Berger thinking, "Yeah, I bet I can get away with taking some classified documents home without anyone the wiser."
Friday, March 11, 2005
The secret formula for superheroines
Christina Larson has a droll essay in Washington Monthly about how Hollywood has screwed up the female superheroine genre, despite the initial promise from Charlie's Angels or Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the TV show and not the film). The key part:
I would point out that one of Buffy's best seasons was when she had to try to kill her boyfriend -- but that's nitipicking. Read the whole thing.
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Yeah, I'm Jewish too
Your surreal post of the day
I honestly don't know how to categorize this post. I'll just relay what the Associated Press has to say about Russell Crowe and Al Qaeda:
I'll leave it to my readers to figure out if this is a prime example of:
UPDATE: Hmmm.... maybe Al Qaeda wasn't behind this fiendish plot.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Readers are heartily encouraged to suggest which celebrity kidnappings would be the most likely to trigger "cultural destabilization" in the United States. Loyal reader B.A. suggests Oprah Winfrey. [What about Salma Hayek?--ed. Ms. Hayek has the distinction of being the celebrity most likely to culturally destabilize the hard-working staff at danieldrezner.com.]
Monday, March 7, 2005
The U.S. exports comic book heroes
Kim Barker has a story in today's Chicago Tribune on the adaptation of one comic book hero to the Indian subcontinent:
One wonders if the Spider-Man icon is particularly well-suited for export. One of Spider-Man's distinguishing features among the superhero pantheon is his relative poverty.
Readers are encouraged to propose which countries would embrace which superheroes export -- and why. UPDATE: Readers are also strongly encouraged to peruse David Adesnik's thoughts on this very question from his January Weekly Standard essay
Monday, February 28, 2005
Interesting values quote of the day
The following quote comes from Jeanette Walls' source on the fact that Paris Hilton's Blackberry was hacked and its contents made public:
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Oh, right -- Oscar predictions 2005!!
Ever since 2003, we here at danieldrezner.com have been unafraid to make bold predictions about who will win and who should win the Academy Awards. This year is no exception, but I will confess that this time it's a bit more labor rather than a labor of love. [Surely you weren't expecting Ms. Salma Hayek to get nominated for After the Sunset, did you?--ed. Well, just look at her premiere outfit!!
Look, if Kathy Bates can score an Oscar nomination for valiant disrobing a few years ago, surely Salma deserves something for valiant... robing.]
Anyway, this has less to do with Ms. Hayek and more to do with the fact that Ms. Drezner appeared in August, making it very, very difficult to get away for Oscar viewing. There is, however, one other factor -- which Frank Rich raised in his New York Times column: "The total box office for all five best-picture nominees on Sunday's Oscars is so small that their collective niche in the national cultural marketplace falls somewhere between square dancing and non-Grisham fiction." So while I haven't seen many of the top Oscar nod movies this year, I haven't felt truly compelled to see them in the same way as in previous years. Even the fashion is now boring, as Julia Turner points out in Slate (though Turner may have underestimated the effect that 9/11 and Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction have had on muting the red carpet).
In other words, I'm flying blind a bit more than usual this year.
Nevertheless, ignorance has never prevented me from making bold predictions in the past. On with the Oscars!
My calculation on this one is purely stragtegic: this year's Oscars will be a legacy fight between Scorcese and Eastwood. Neither is exactly loved by the system -- however, between Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator, the latter more closely meets the parameters of the standard "prestige" Best Picture. Plus, Million Dollar Baby has just a hint of a backlash because of the controversy surrounding its ending.
Will either of those two films be remembered even five years from now? Unlikely. The same cannot be said of either Eternal Sunshine or The Incredibles.
The one lock of the year. Why Foxx's role in the latter movie is considered a supporting performance is beyond me -- I think he had more screen time than Tom Cruise. It's the contrast between the two peformances that make you realize just how gifted and good Foxx really is. Plus, I really want to see Wanda say something in the acceptance speech.
UPDATE: Honorable mention must go to one Gary Brolsma, for his "Numa Numa" performance. Kieran Healy is dead-on in roasting the New York Times for not understanding Brolsma's confident deadpan style. "Earnest but painful"? Gimme a break!!!
Hilary Swank is to acting as the Florida Marlins are to baseball. For the first nine years of their existence, the Marlins were an under .500 team for seven of those years. The two years they were above .500, they won the World Series. So it is for the first nine years of Ms. Swank's career and her acting choices -- mostly stinker roles (The Core, anyone?) with the occasional jaw-dropping performance. This year yielded a way-above average performance for her.
All Kate Winslet did in Eternal Sunshine was make someone with a bad orange dye job seem simultaneously compelling and thoroughly imperfect. Whenever I think about her performance, it reminds me of what must have been the inspiration for the Sheryl Crow song, "My Favorite Mistake."
Best Supporting Actor
If I was the Oscar coordinator for Million Dollar Baby, my promotional campaign would for Freeman would be real simple -- I'd just send out a postcard with the sentence, "Morgan Freeman has never won an Oscar" and let that fact bore itself into the skulls of Academy voters. WTF?
It is highly unlikely that Mr. Harris will ever win an Oscar -- but damn, that man was funny in Harold & Kumar, the feel-good libertarian movie of the year. [Does he really deserve an Oscar for playing himself??!!--ed. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Harris' actual personality is a bit different from his Harold & Kumar persona. Besides, consider the balance required to perform that scene where he's driving down the road with the two models in the car. I remain unconvinced--ed. C'mon say it with me -- Doogie!! Doogie!! DOOGIE!!]
Best Supporting Actress:
By awarding Blanchett an Oscar this year, the Academy can make up for one of their more egregious f***-ups in not giving her the Best Actress award for Elizabeth. Plus, it will be logically difficult for people to vote for Foxx for Best Actor and not acknowledge Blanchett's similar style of craft. Madsen will give Blanchett a run for her money in this category, and her performance was just effortless -- but Blanchett has the stronger track record, and that will sway Academy voters.
I'm probably one of about 20 people who saw We Don't Live Here Anymore, so I understand if this appears to be an obscure choice. In many ways, what blew me away about Dern's performance was that it was the opposite of Blanchett's -- a portrayal of a thoroughly ordinary, frazzled, and depressed housewife. Dern broght such pain to it, however, that the movie has stayed with me despite its forced contrivances.
I had to sleep on this one -- it's a close call between Eastwood and Scorcese. However, with Mystic River now on cable, I've concluded that Academy voters will give the psychic nod to Clint for both films. [You're kidding me, right? Scorcese has lots of great films too!!--ed. Yes, but the only one on cable right now is Gangs of New York. Er, never mind--ed.]
Enjoy your 2005 Oscars -- especially since the 2006 affair will be so boring, what with the Farrelly brothers' Fever Pitch coming out of nowhere to totally sweep the Oscars!
UPDATE: Well, it's over, Chris Rock killed -- killed -- for the first ten minutes (but see Roger L. Simon for a dissenting perspective -- though the American people seem to agree with me). The bit at the Magic Johnson theatre was pretty funny as well, especially with the Albert Brooks kicker. And I admit that I won't forget hearing Chris Rock read, "Growing up as a young Welsh lass....." anytime soon. Ironically, I think Rock was too good -- he made the rest of the show seem boring by comparison (except for Sean Penn, who came across as a humorless clod).
[Aren't you going to say anything about Salma Hayek's unfortunate hairstyle?--ed. Too depressing to discuss.]
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Interesting facts of the day
The Economist has a survey on New York City that is chock full of fascinating information. Some of the items that piqued my interest:
Click here to hear an audio interview with the survey's author, Anthony Gottlieb.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
A different take on the female public intellectual "problem"
I've got a lot on my plate right now, which is why I've been studiously avoiding the whole Larry Summers kerfuffle -- I haven't had the time to read his remarks in full and don't want to wade in those waters until/if I do.
However, I do want to wade into an eddy of the Michael Kinsley/Susan Estrich blood feud over a Los Angeles Times op-ed by Charlotte Allen. To be specific, I don't want to bother with Estrich or Kinsley -- click here, here, here, and here for more on them -- but rather examine Allen's original hypothesis a bit more carefully -- because, to put it kindly, it's a crock of s***.
Here's the nub of Allen's argument:
Let's conduct a little experiment: as a faculty member at the University of Chicago, and looking only at my colleagues within my university, can I gin up a list of notable public intellectuals who write on topics beyond feminism? Why, yes, yes I can!!:
Hey, I did that without breaking a sweat!!
If Allen -- who co-edits (???) Inkwell, the blog of the Independent Women's Forum -- wants to claim that female public intellectuals are hostage to doctrinnaire feminism, I'll concede that she doesn't have to search that far to find examples to support her hypothesis. However, she appears not to have searched at all for any cases that contradict her hypothesis. And that doesn't make her a very good public intellectual at all.
[You only searched within the confines of your ivory tower. Maybe your university is atypical--ed. I'd agree, but beyond the U of C, it's still not that difficult to think of counterexamples to Charlotte Allen's hypothesis -- Deborah Dickerson, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Jessica Tuchman Matthews, Peggy Noonan, Virginia Postrel, Diane Ravitch, Claudia Rossett, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Theda Skocpol, etc. (UPDATE: Other excellent suggestions from the comments thread -- Anne Applebaum, Amy Guttman, Samantha Power, Elaine Scarry, etc.)]
UPDATE: Aspiring public intellectual Phoebe Maltz offers her take:
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Dumb, dumb A-Rod
[NOTE: If you don't care about baseball, just skip this post entirely.]
Alex Rodriguez reported to spring training for the Yankees today. Over the past week multiple members of the Red Sox have bashed A-Rod to varying degrees over comments he made in the offseason and his on-the-field altercations with the Red Sox during the regular season -- and most infamously, in Game 6 of the ALCS (go to this link and then click on the "Plays of the Game" for the 10/19 game vs. the Yankees).
To which I can only say, "Huh?"
Recall the situation -- the Red Sox were leading 4-2 with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning and Derek Jeter on first base. A-Rod hits a weak squibbler to Arroyo, and tried to slap it away. For his troubles, A-Rod was called out and Jeter was sent back to first base. If A-Rod doesn't slap at Arroyo's glove, he's advanced Jeter into scoring position with Gary Sheffield at the plate. It sounds minor, but having Jeter at second rather than first makes it much easier for Sheffield to drive in a run.
What A-Rod did wasn't silly -- it was downright stupid.
UPDATE: Speaking of A-Rod, Karen Guregian has a piece in today's Boston Herald excoriating the Red Sox players for bashing A-Rod so much. This is a bit rich -- as Murray Chass points out in today's New York Times, it's the media trying to keep this story alive:
Hat tip: David Pinto.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
I know saffron, and The Gates is not saffron
I'm typing this in New York City, about a block from Central Park. As some of you are no doubt aware, Christo has opened up his latest art exhibit, The Gates, in Central Park. This is how he describes it on his web site:
This is great -- but ask the New York cabdrivers about this exhibit as you pass through the Park -- as I did -- and what you get is an impressive string of invective (to be fair, part of this is due to the exhibit shutting down some of the cross-park roads -- but only part).
Having seen it, I'm very amused by the headline for Michael Kimmelman's New York Times review, "In a Saffron Ribbon, a Billowy Gift to the City." Now, if Christo and Kimmelman want to call it "saffron," more power to them. To me, the color of "The Gates" is not saffron -- it's safety orange.
This is the biggest problem with the exhibit: approaching the Park, all you think is that the entire area must be under massive construction. It's just a bizarre color choice, and mars what would otherwise have been an aesthetically pleasing exhibit.
For a somewhat contrary take, see Virginia Postrel's take
Monday, February 7, 2005
Fox's in-game breach of contract?
So the Super Bowl was a pretty good if not great game, and a pretty good if not great halftime show by Paul McCartney (though if there is any song that was made for massive fireworks displays, it's "Live and Let Die.").
The general consensus, however, is that the ads were pretty lame. See Seth Stevenson's review in Slate and Chris Ballard's at SI.com. Part of the reason for this may have been the extent to which FOX and the NFL censored the ads, according to The Age's Caroline Overington:
Forget whether or not this is censorship -- FOX is a private company, not the government -- if Parsons is correct, then I would imagine this has got to be one whopper of a breach-of-contract suit [Ahem, despite what others may believe, you're not a lawyer--ed. Good point -- I'd appreciate some legal takes on this issue.]
If you want to see the "controversial" ad, click here (I recommend the two-minute version -- the last spoken line made me laugh out loud). The ironic thing about the ad is that the object of the satire is not the NFL, but sanctimonious politicians (and, I might add, by far the best ad of the evening was the G-rated one for The NFL Network with Joe Montana et al singing "Tomorrow")
It should also be pointed out that this isn't the first time the NFL has acted like a spoiled brat it its desire to be seen as "wholesome". Last year ESPN aired a fictionalized show called Playmakers, a "behind-the-scenes" look at a professional football team. While the show was a bit over-the-top at times, Playmakers was an above average drama with some excellent performances -- kinda like The Shield for the NFL. However, the NFL believed that the show cast the NFL in a bad light, and made it's displeasure known to ESPN. In short order, ESPN caved in to the NFL.
UPDATE: Krysten Crawford has a story on this for CNN/Money that confirms Parsons' account:
Check out this Parsons post from earlier in the week to see the back-and-forth between GoDaddy and FOX to get any ad on the air. Finally, the advertising blog adrants suggests that the the ad might not have played well. The Associated Press concurs, reporting that an post-game survey of 700 people found the GoDaddy ad to be one of the least liked. On the other hand, the Boston Globe's Alex Beam and the Kansas City Star's Aaron Barnhart both liked it. Howard Bashman correctly points out that, "Congressional hearings don't usually contain this much pretend near nudity."
Writing at WPN News, Kevin Dugan (who hated the GoDaddy ad) makes the provocative argument that blogs have ruined Super Bowl ads forever:
Pamela Parker makes a similar argument.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Joal Ryan reports for E! Online that the FCC received 33 complaints from the Super Bowl this year -- eight of which were devote to the GoDaddy.com ad. Three viewers called in to complain about Janet Jackson from last year.
Saturday, February 5, 2005
I've been happy as a clam not paying that much attention to the Super Bowl hype. It's not that I'm not interested in the game -- it's just that I'm interested in the game and not the two weeks of media overkill preceding the game.
That said, there is one brand of story I always find interesting -- interviews with retired football players who bemoan how the game has changed. A classic example of this genre is legendary Eagle Chuck Bednarik. The Associated Press' Dan Gelston reports that Badnarik doesn't want the current incarnation of the team to win:
Read the whole thing -- I think it's safe to say the Bednarik doesn't pull any punches. He also sounds like the last person with whome you'd want to be stuck in an elevator. [Yeah... think of him as the anti-Salma--ed.]
If Bednarik seems a bit too "old school" for modern fans, SI's Peter King looks at former Los Angeles Ram Jack Youngblood -- whose comeback from injury makes Terrell Owens look like a complete wuss:
Definitely read the whole thing. As someone who has suffered the exact same injury that Youngblood did, let me just say that I'm very impressed with Youngblood's threshhold for pain.
Wednesday, February 2, 2005
This is just sick. Sick, sick, sick, sick, sick.
I must congratulate Maggie Haberman of the New York Daily News for reporting a story that leaves me pretty much speechless. My only thought: this is not a good day for the Tribe.
[What, no excerpt?--ed. Not with this story -- you'll have to click on it yourself. Here's a link to the less lurid but also less informative wire service account.]
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Parents, be sure to add this to your cross-country trip!!
The Economist reports on a proposed new museum in the state of Nevada:
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Does the genius grant work as advertised?
Marc Scheffler has an interesting story in Crain's Chicago Business arguing that the MacArthur Fellows Program -- a.k.a., the genius grant -- hasn't worked as advertised in the case of writers:
One could argue that recognizing past achievement is hardly a bad thing -- except that as Scheffler observes and MacArthur's web site announces, that isn't really the goal of the genius grant:
Of course, this begs the question -- beyond great past performances, what are the available metrics that can be used to measure genius and/or creativity?
Oh, and I look forward to the free-for-all in the comments section regarding the "Crain's determined that 88% of the MacArthur recipients wrote their greatest works before being recognized by the Chicago-based foundation" assertion.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Who got screwed by the Oscars?
The staff here at danieldrezner.com will be hard at work with our annual Oscar predictions. This year, however, we introduce a new interactive feature -- who did work that merited a nomination at the very least but got completely shut out. [You need a catchy name for them, like the Oscars or the Razzies--ed. Hmm.... how about the Rogers?]
Looking over the nominations, the most glaring omission was the absence of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind from most of the major categories. Kate Winslet got nominated, and so did the screenplay, but Jim Carrey, director Michel Gondry, and the movie itself deserved way better treatment.
I'd have added Natalie Portman for Garden State, but she got nominated anyway for Closer, so it's no big whoop. I toyed with the idea of adding Zach Braff for Best Original Screenplay, but the guy is getting thousands of comments on his blog and gets to act with Portman, Sarah Chalke and Heather Graham -- so f*** him.
The staff at danieldrezner.com welcomes other glaring omissions!!
UPDATE: Do be sure to check out the Golden Raspberry nominations as well. As an added bonus, they have the a special â€śWorst of Our First 25 Yearsâ€ť list of nominations if you scroll down.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Your personal ad of the week...
The following ad appeared this week in the Eye, an alternative weekly based in Toronto:
Wait, do you hear that sound? That must be the wails of anguish from women all across North America, upset that they do not live in Toronto and will therefore be unable to learn "the art of bedroom control." Especially when there are young women in Toronto who are myseriously declining this generous offer.
The Greatest Americans?
The Discovery Channel and AOL launched a contest today asking "Who is the Greatest American?" According to the Associated Press story, the specific criteria is naming the Americans who they believe "most influenced the way they think, work and live."
I've already entered my five names, in ascending order of importance:
Honorable mentions for Jackie Robinson, Steve Jobs, Ronald Reagan, Marilyn Monroe, and Henry Ford.
Readers are encouraged to post their own top 5.
UPDATE: Some excellent suggestions have been put forward in the comments -- particularly George Marshall.
Friday, January 14, 2005
Charles P. Pierce doesn't like capitalism very much
Pierce -- who writes for the Boston Globe Magazine, Esquire. and appears regularly on National Public Radio, has a truly bizarre Slate essay that takes aim at Michael Jordan.
What, exactly, has Jordan done to incur Pierce's wrath? He's expanding his business empire:
How dare Jordan cater to old fans!!!
I'm genuinely baffled by Pierce's claim in the piece that "there's nothing wrong" with Jordan just being a great player and great salesman -- because the entire essay is devoted to saying that those things are somewhow wrong. Furthermore, even on this plane of analysis, Pierce tries to diminish Jordan's effect as a pitchman, when in fact his effect overshadowed every other athlete up to his time (click here for the whole story). The fact that Jordan was perhaps the first African-American sports figure to be able to achieve such a high-demand status within the corporate world goes unremarked by Pierce as well.
As for Jordan's business ventures since his retirement, I'll let these words from Magic Johnson speak for themselves:
Side note: I'm personally very, very grateful to Magic -- thanks to his Urban Coffee Opportunities program, the Hyde Park neighborhood has more places to get a decent cup of coffee.
Click here for another blog response to the Pierce essay.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Can the New York Times and booger jokes co-exist?
Over at Slate, Bryan Curtis has a subversive proposal regarding Dave Barry and the Grey Lady:
The big question -- aside from how quickly the Timesmen dismissed this suggestion -- is whether Barry would give up his blog to do it.