Monday, October 27, 2008

Hope

Yeah, yeah. I know it's rhetoric. But this is what I want the president of the United States to be like:



"Let's get to work."

"It's not exactly a Hobson's choice, but it's close..."

Larry David, exhibiting his genius.

And here's the classic Larry David stoned scene, which gets good at 2:30, and escalates to the mirror sequence, which is brilliant:

"The Top Ten Reasons Conservatives Should Vote For Obama"

You go, Andrew Sullivan.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"99% of people don't know what the f*$k they're talking about"

So says Howard Stern, and he's dead right. Interesting audio piece (disregard the fact that it's on YouTube, there's no video) from Stern's show where someone went up to Harlem and interviewed people who, unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly supported Obama for president, even when the interviewer represented McCain's policies as Obama's and Sarah Palin as his VP pick. It's a perfect example.



This isn't a racial thing, of course. Rampant ignorance is an equal opportunity American trait.



One of the things that's interesting about this election is the profound infusion of identity politics- obviously, most clearly for women and African Americans. This is nothing new, of course- though it is new to have these specific identities represented so far along in the presidential contest.

Infuse identity politics with typical voter ignorance and you've got a fascinating social commentary on America in 2008.

Anyway, yours truly,

Jeff, the white, Jewish, Obama supporter. For what it's worth to the commentary.

A rock opera in three songs

Discovered this morning during my workout. Serendipity.

1. Introduction ("Jane Says" by Jane's Addiction)
2. Her side of the story- let's call her "Jane" for the purpose of this exercise ("Going Under" by Evanescence)
3. And, of course, his side- let's call him "Sergio" ("Diary of Jane" by Breaking Benjamin)

True, it's missing a definitive conclusion. But that's okay, for this tragic opera about tormented love, or drug addiction- or both- ends unresolved.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

With any luck, our next president



Looking at that little kid, the notion that he could be the next president pretty much defies most of the conventional wisdom that we all grew up with in this country. And it represents the best kind of country I could imagine.

Nice summary on the state of the race

http://www.pollster.com/blogs/14_days_to_go_and_no_change_in.php

Of course, this is already 9.5 hours old, which is roughly two lifetimes in this game.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama

This is the most even-handed, concise, and honest summary of where things stand right now.



And God bless him for singling out the issue of certain segments of the Republican party casting aspersions on Muslims.

Here's a clip of Powell talking to reporters outside the MTP studio after the taping:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Presidential



Courtesy John Gruber's Twitter stream.

Best moment of the debate- clarified (though unfortunately edited)

Here it is, full context:

"Health of the mother"

McCain literally put that phrase in air quotes. The exchange below pretty much sums these two guys up, as far as I'm concerned.

Best moment of the debate

I wish this clip featured John McCain's question, which leads into it. Basically, McCain jumped on Obama, challenging him to tell Joe the plumber how much money he would be fined for not providing health insurance to his employees. McCain acted like he nailed Obama, and then we had this:

Monday, October 13, 2008

"There's this nation across the water there, called America..."

The last portion of Barack Obama's economic policy speech today was so inspiring that I'm posting it here as an .mp3 file.

After speaking for nearly half an hour about the specific challenges we face and some of the difficult things we will need to do to overcome them, he reminds us that "we can do this because we've done it before."

Obama girds his audience for the challenge of confronting our economic crisis by recalling the basic essence of Americans in our own family histories who have sacrificed to give us more than they had. He recalls and elegantly lays out the American dream in a manner that can be identified by everyone, and then directly ties it to himself as a politician of the moment, and then invites everyone to join him to renew the America of our dreams.

What is most amazing to me is that he is rallying us around the idea of sacrifice- that we will be doing this for those who come after us. He concludes not with a list of promises or a vision of life on easy street, but by telling us that we can aspire to be good enough, and tough enough, to build something better for future Americans.

There are an infinite number of reasons to be cynical, but at this moment, I am choosing to cling to the hope that maybe, just maybe, someone has come along who can make us all believe in our country again, and who can do just as much good with the presidency as the outgoing occupant has done harm.

Barack Obama's speech on the economy



The proposal to allow people to withdraw a portion of their 401(k) without penalty is interesting.

This bit of rhetoric is particularly candid and right-on:

Part of the reason this crisis occurred is that everyone was living beyond their means - from Wall Street to Washington to even some on Main Street. CEOs got greedy. Politicians spent money they didn't have. Lenders tricked people into buying homes they couldn't afford and some folks knew they couldn't afford them and bought them anyway.

We've lived through an era of easy money, in which we were allowed and even encouraged to spend without limits; to borrow instead of save.

Now, I know that in an age of declining wages and skyrocketing costs, for many folks this was not a choice but a necessity. People have been forced to turn to credit cards and home equity loans to keep up, just like our government has borrowed from China and other creditors to help pay its bills.

But we now know how dangerous that can be. Once we get past the present emergency, which requires immediate new investments, we have to break that cycle of debt. Our long-term future requires that we do what's necessary to scale down our deficits, grow wages and encourage personal savings again.


But get a load of the last two minutes- starting at 23:39 and going to the end- for one of the most inspiring bits of American political speech I've ever seen. He's done it again.

Feel Your Boobies

http://www.feelyourboobies.com/

Christopher Hitchens endorses Obama

Quote: "McCain lacks the character and temperament to be president. And Palin is simply a disgrace."

Pretty much sums up the most obvious reasons why McCain has disqualified himself as a viable candidate.

"The Happening"

I like M. Night Shyamalan. "The Sixth Sense" is a classic and has some of the most intense moments I've ever seen in a movie. His subsequent films have all exhibited some degree of clever premise, effective suspense, creepiness, and wonder. They've also exhibited degrees of contrived plot, really awkward human interaction, predictable unpredictability, and outright silliness.

But still, I'm glad he's making movies, and the kind of movies he makes are the kind of movies I like to see.

When I first heard about "The Happening", I was excited about it. I didn't know much, but I'd heard that the basic idea was that there was some sort of end of the world doomsday scenario that was wiping out large numbers of people. Cool.

Harry Knowles at Ain't It Cool News had a copy of the script and proclaimed "This has the potential to be the best film M Night has made."

Okay, good.

And then it came out, and the reviews were stunning in the degree of their condemnation.

Here are three quotes from the three reviews linked above:

"Jesus, God... What went wrong?"- Harry Knowles

"It is an astonishment, so idiotic in conception and inept in execution that, after seeing it, one almost wonders whether it was real or imagined."- Christopher Orr, The New Republic

"It's borderline unwatchable and raises the question of whether anyone will be satisfied with what the director has translated from script to screen."- James Berardinelli, ReelViews

Is "The Happening" that bad? Yes, it is.

Here is how it's bad:

While the basic premise is intriguing, the script is terrible. The plot is very weak. The specific course of actions that unfold is simply not very engrossing, and certainly not believable. Worse, the characters are lame and uninteresting. The bits of conflict and connection they share are contrived and so shallow when they purport to be meaningful. It just doesn't hold up.

The acting is terrible. And this is strange, because most of the actors in this film are quite good. But I have got to believe that Mark Wahlberg, John Leguizamo, and Zooey Deschanel (who I don't know that well) would conclude that this film showcases their worst performances ever. As actors, they certainly deserve some of the blame for this, but they are bad in such a strange way that it's pretty clear there are other factors contributing to these horrible performances.

The directing and editing is terrible. There's not much I can say specifically about this, except that the movie just doesn't feel properly structured, shot, blocked, etc. Film students can learn a lot about what a director's job is by observing the things that feel wrong about this movie.

So basically, every component fails, starting with the bedrock element (the script), continuing up through the performers, and ending with the person pulling the strings and gluing it all together.

That's the how.

As for the why... I have no idea.

There's no rational explanation I can think of that would make sense of a scenario where talented people got together and produced "The Happening". I guess I can chalk it up to the idea that there is magic involved in filmmaking. Great movies come together and are propelled to be better than their constituent parts by something intangible that is unique to the medium. I suppose "The Happening" is an example of that force acting malevolently.

It's like the evil mother who was poisoning her daughter in "The Sixth Sense" got hold of everyone involved with this movie and cursed them.

amNewYork

Yesterday I was approached by a nice young woman who asked me a few questions about my thoughts on the stock market. I tried to respond thoughtfully and clearly, which I clearly did not. ;)



If I could go again, I'd say, "Put whatever you'd like into the market, as long as you're prepared to potentially lose it all."

Here's the full paper.

Mark Wahlberg talks

I liked this skit when I first saw it:



Now that I've seen "The Happening", I like it even more:

Friday, October 10, 2008

William F. Buckley’s Son Says He Is Pro-Obama

"God save the United States of America."

Will this election end in a civil war?

Dave Winer asks the question.

This has been on my mind the past few days. If McCain wins, I can imagine a worst-case scenario that involves rioting and widespread violence against a government many in this country will feel is simply no longer accountable to the people it governs. If Obama wins, there could well be widespread anger and violence about the election of a man that is deeply hated and mistrusted by a large number of people- many of whom are being whipped into a frenzy by McCain and Palin as we speak.

We are setting ourselves up for a scenario where either way, a large number of people on either side are not going to be able to accept the validity of the outcome.

Civil War may sound crazy, but given that we're in the middle of a financial civil war that would have seemed crazy just a few months ago, I'd say all bets are off.

And just imagine what might happen if, God forbid, a terrorist attack or an assassination were thrown into the mix.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Country first?

Dave Winer puts it pretty well.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Reckoning

As I write this, the DJIA has lost nearly 600 points and is below 10,000. This is less than a week after the market suffered its largest daily point loss. And it's only 10:50 in the morning.

It's an understatement to say that we're in for some rocky economic times. We're right in the middle of an economic 9/11, and who knows how much worse it's going to get, or if the economic version is going to culminate with WMD. Anything is possible.

Much like 9/11, the world will be changed when this immediate crisis is past. Hopefully, we will embrace the lessons we're being taught right now and move forward with more unanimity than we did seven years ago. A better president will be critical to this.

Our economy has been coasting along on the momentum of the Greatest Generation, while the fundamental underpinnings have been getting yanked away piece by piece. We used to be a nation of builders, thinkers, and doers, but that's changing. The collapse of our education system has contributed to the erosion of the greatest capital we could have- our unparalleled workforce- and while for a time it seemed like our biggest companies were doing just fine, it seems like many of them were engaged in little more than a shell game that not even congress can figure out how to unravel.

These times are the ultimate condemnation of trickle-down economics. Sure, successful companies and corporate growth were good for everyone when that growth actually lifted everyone up. But with CEOs and executives raking in unprecedented percentages of earnings compared to the rank and file- and with more and more of the rank and file work being performed overseas- very little trickles down anymore.

This is one reason why we can have an economy where almost everyone feels a severe pinch, but the growth numbers tell us we're still not officially in a recession.

Our economy has simply stopped working for the majority of Americans.

Okay, back to work.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Four years ago...

I made this video four years ago, in the run-up to the 2004 election. I'd say it's even timelier now.

We need to turn the page so badly right now it hurts.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Dealing with Iran

Great segment on NPR's Fresh Air featuring former CIA Iran specialist Robert Baer.

Baer's basic thesis is that Iran has arrived as a powerful, rational power in the region and the vanguard of an historic Shia ascendancy. It is too late to stop them. Military conflict will lead to apocalypse. So the best hopes for the future of American and Israeli interests lie down the path of diplomacy and partnership. Essentially, cozy up to Iran, accept their help in negotiating a legitimate end to the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, and go from there, quite likely alienating the Saudis and the other Sunnis in the region.

It actually makes a lot of sense. Worth listening to.

Link courtesy Dave Winer.

Friday, October 03, 2008

New e-book reader from Sony

Kindle competition is heating up.

I can't for the life of me understand why Amazon would want to compete with Sony. Why aren't they opening the Kindle store to devices like the Sony e-reader? That would be the best possible scenario: let the hardware companies do what they do, and let Amazon dominate the market for content.

At its heart, the Kindle store represents a viable shot at being the marketplace for books in the digital world. That would be a major coup for Amazon- and seemingly is the strategic goal behind the Kindle effort- but I don't think they can get there if they don't open the store up to other hardware devices.

Perhaps Amazon's trying to do this but Sony wants to retain control of their own store.

That's the only possible explanation I can come up with, and it would be very short-sighted on Sony's part if true.

Using the iPhone as a BlackBerry

It's been a month since I gave up my BlackBerry and turned to my iPhone as a replacement for my work email and calendar. I'm mostly happy with it. Here are my thoughts:

<> It's really nice to have a single device for all of my stuff. The strength of this benefit is even greater than I expected.
<> The iPhone keyboard is nowhere near as good as the BlackBerry's. Not even close. With the BlackBerry, I could bang out emails with almost as much ease as I could on my computer. I never had to postpone writing a long email on the road. With the iPhone, I only have patience for tapping out truncated, "this will have to do for now" messages. This is a big step backward.
<> The iPhone's offline support for Exchange is very weak. When I'm out of cell range (i.e. on the subway) and I try to delete messages from my Exchange account, or write new messages and try to send them, I get connectivity errors. This is pretty basic stuff- the iPhone should cache those requests and batch them when the device gets a connection, not throw up errors.
<> I like the iPhone's Exchange calendar support. It's more elegant than the BlackBerry's- but you can't create appointments and invite people to them from the iPhone, which is a major limitation.
<> There's no support for multiple e-mail signatures. I have three email accounts on the device, and I'd like to have a different signature for each- particularly for my work account. The iPhone only supports a single signature.
<> There's no support for setting an out-of-office message on the iPhone. There is on the BlackBerry.
<> Lack of copy and paste support is a real bummer.
<> Lack of support for Exchange tasks and notes stinks too.

So there are a few positives, and a lot of negatives. Still, I wouldn't go back. The convenience of having one device for everything trumps all of the negatives, and I'm hopeful that most, if not all, of them will be addressed in upcoming software updates.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tonight's VP debate

Wow.

Undoubtedly a big moment in American history, so I tried my best to transcribe it. Results available here for download.

The Blair Diddy Project

Sarah Palin debate prep

I'm surprised they let this out before the actual debate.

Obama campaign launches iPhone app

Damn, it's like I am right dab-smack in the eye of the demographic storm on this one!

http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/iphone

Inspirational speech from the AFL-CIO

Wow, this is a speech that makes me proud of the AFL-CIO, and hopeful for America. Link courtesy Andrew Sullivan.

Register and vote

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

And now for some fake news to distract us from these troubled times...



DAMNIT, that was a misfire.

And now for the fake news:


China Launches First Willing Manned Mission Into Space

Bill Clinton campaigning for Obama

Very good. More, please!

Good article on the mechanics behind cell phone signal strength

http://arstechnica.com/articles/paedia/cell-bars-reception.ars