28 February 2003

Talk about harsh:
The Nuggets would be a great college team with an excellent shot at winning the NCAA tournament. At the NBA level, they have only one very small consolation: Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers have the better talent and play in a less-competitive conference, Denver has a better record. And even with their abysmal record, Jeff Bzdelik has the Nuggets playing hard every game.

I love Matt Yglesias's comment on the snow penis debate:

"More importantly, it seems to me that the strangest thing about being a Harvard student is that every little inane thing that goes down on campus can be expected to get national media coverage."

I for one miss the place.

And Nat, don't you have any inside scoop since this was the crew team?
Thinking about the infamous snow penis, I got to wondering, why do we think of an errect penis as demonstrating male dominance and power, when it seems to me that its precisely a symbol of male weekness, I mean guys are constantly doing stupid rediculous and degrading things to get laid... It seems as though socially there's an awful lot of power that females have, socially at least, precisely because guys have such a tendancy to think with the wrong organ. So how does it become a symbol of male dominance when it is precisely the seat of male weekness?

I'm not entirely serious, but it is odd the way symbols get attached to ideas.
Can someone please explain the difference to me between "the best player" and "the most dominant player"? As in, "Of course Shaq is the most dominant player in the NBA, but Kobe/Duncan/McGrady/Kidd/Garnett is the best basketball player." What is that supposed to mean? I read it all the time, for example, this article: “I think Kobe has become the best player. Shaq is still the most dominant. He’ll always be that." It seems really silly.
Try saying "froogle.google.com" ten times fast without laughing.

27 February 2003

Shaquille O'Neal on your basketball team... $21.5 million dollars per year
Yao Ming's slaray... $3.4 million per year
The amount of that which goes to paying off the Chinese government... $1.7 million per year
Christina Aguilera's record contract... grrr... google won't tell me how many millions of dollars

A picture of the three of them standing next to each other?
Priceless
nba.com brings us the following gem about Shaq (scroll down to the very bottom):
"His first and middle names, Shaquille Rashaun, mean "Little Warrior" in Islam"

Errr... do they mean Arabic?
So i had a couple thoughts on the mathematicians not dying thing the other night as I was going to sleep:

"Old Mathematicians don't die, they only go off to infinity"

and the one i really like:

"Old mathematicians just die like 1/log x"
There's something in the world trade center proposal that's really great, the weird jagged tower taller than anything else in the world just has this wonderful: "New York gives bin Laden the finger" aspect. As Monty Brogan would say, "No, fuck you."

Still though, modern archetecture is just weird.
Anyone remember this trailer?
So someone recently got the bright idea that maybe some of us mathematicians should see each other sometime outside of classes, and organized about a dozen of us to come to his house for dinner. It was good fun (though the food was pretty poor), and afterwards we were all hanging around talking about random stuff, and the conversation turned to bad lecturers and/or bad goofs professors make in lecture. Someone told how one of his lecturers had said, "Any manifold can be embedded in R^n for sufficiently large R," upon which all but one of us burst out in uproarious laughter. The one who didn't was a lone history major who had somehow slipped in; he was less than amused. In fact, he had been lost throughout much of the dinner, for as happens with any large gathering of mathematicians, the topic of conversation always returns to math. He tried to make up for this by doing the same thing with regard to Cold War naval history, which didn't always fly so well. But I did envy how he could explain his field to non-specialists in five words.

I don't think this anecdote has any particular point. Maybe it's that I was reminded that mathematicians can in fact be entertaining, even without alcohol.

26 February 2003

This is the first installment of the new reality show: Who Wants to be Noah's Advisor. (Well i suppose it should be, whom does Noah want to be his advisor, but that doesn't quite have the right ring.)

Today's contestant is Prof. Richard Borcherds. He has a British accent. He has a Fields medal. (I know, Dave isn't impressed, as he said: "everyone here has a british accent and a Fields medal.) He studies really cool things, including the modular forms and the Monster group. Here is a lecture on Monsterous Moonshine, which is what he's famous for (it even has audio). There are several other lectures with video on his site, if you want to see what he looks like try this link. What would I study? In short he studies particular objects which have strange properties. If there are infinitely many examples of it then it probably isn't what he's looking at. Here's a rather nifty paper of his with a whole bunch of open problems. His most recent two students have studied even unimodular lattices of dimension 32 and "interesting" hyperbolic reflection groups. He's really quiet though, which I'm not sure is the best personality match, and apparently he's a bit hands off as an advisor; e.g. his first question is "well what do you want to study?" and if you haven't figured that out you go read until you come up with a problem. But even though he's quiet, when he does talk he's funny and understandable and interesting. He has a decent geneology, but nothing to write home about, Conway and Littlewood are cool, but there's no Gauss or Artin or someone like that. Apparently he has a very extensive collection of toys which you can build stuff with, like legos and other such things. He has the being a math professor and wandering the halls looking completely absorbed in thought thing down to an art. Oh, lastly, here is his Ph.D. thesis, recommend you have a look at the last twenty or so pages of tables. I want a thesis which is either 9 pages long or that has 20 pages of tables in it.

Anyway, this is all we talk about here these days, who we want to work with.
Wow... James Harris has started blogging...
Do the rest of you ever have the kind of day where you keep forgetting where you're going? Today was one of those days. At one point, I was leaving the library when I remembered that I hadn't picked up my bag and coat from the coatroom. But since I was already in the revolving door I had no choice but to keep going all the way around. The guy waiting to come in the door was really confused.

25 February 2003

At moments like these I really wish we still had Clinton as president, someone who, for all his downsides, I feel completely confident in his ability to be smarter and more convincing on the fly than anyone the world could throw at him.
Thanks to Bessie I've discovered that my town made it into the new york times. Better for this than for the whole racist murderer mayor thing...
I stumbled accross the following paragraphs in yesterday's campus newspaper here:
Nearly one-sixth of Berkeley High School students skipped class Friday morning, parading through Downtown to the UC Berkeley campus to protest a possible U.S. war in Iraq.

About 500 students walked out of class at 11 a.m., although the crowd dwindled to 200 by the time it reached the UC Berkeley ROTC building where the rally was held, said Mark Coplan, Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson.


Pretty priceless...
I wonder if you could get malpractice insurance insurance...for say in case you got transferred to another job where the higher cost of the insurance would affect your standard of living.
Ezra writes in with:

"Old mathematicians don't die, they just misplace themselves."

"Old mathematicians don't die, they just execute a transformation into zero dimensions."

"Old mathematicians don't die, they just forget to keep breathing."

The best I've come up with so far is:

"Old mathematicians don't die, they just pass to a universal covering space."

24 February 2003

Incidentally on an old topic, I've misplaced the link by now, but, an Obstetrician in California (one of the cheapest states) pays $70,000/year in insurance, while one in Florida pays $210,000 on average.
David points out that the great British mathematician Hardy has a famous quote which roughly means:
"Old mathematicians don't die, they just write books."

But Hardy killed himself I think, which suggests that this wouldn't be true.

Blake suggests:

"Old mathematicians don't die, they just shrivel up into their own asymptotes."
Here's an interesting tidbit from Nick Hornby's Songbook that Noah might appreciate:

The first thing I ever wrote, a TV play that I never sold, I wanted to sound like the piano part on the intro to Aretha Franklin's "I Say a Little Prayer"; maybe the reason I never sold the play is that the piano part is less than thirty seconds long, which isn't really enough to sustain a whole play. "About a Boy," my second novel, was intended in some way to resemble "E-Bow the Letter" by R.E.M. How? I don't know how. I just know that there was a tone in the song that I wanted to replicate in the book, something simultaneously mysterious and wry and reflective. Generous readers might give me the wry part of it, anyway.

Noah, as a generous reader and R.E.M. fan, what's your reaction to this?

(I can certainly relate to Hornby's attempt to capture the mood of a song in a piece of fiction. I once wrote a short novel that was infused, at least in my own mind, by the mood of R.E.M.'s "Suspicion," as well as a teleplay similarly in debt to "Sunday" by the Cranberries. A subcategory of this, perhaps, is my desire to make a movie someday where the emotional arc of the entire story would only be complete if a particular pop song (such as "Get the Message" by Electronic, "Signs of Love" by Moby, or "Sulk" by Radiohead) were to seep onto the soundtrack in the movie's closing moments, and play over the closing credits. I don't have the slightest idea what this movie would be about...but I know exactly how how the closing credits would feel.)

23 February 2003

Fill in the blank:

"Old mathematicians don't die, they just __________."

Best answer wins a prize.

(I thought of this the other day while running. This is what happens when you don't listen to music while you exercise.)
Does anyone over there pay attention to the BAFTAs?
Update on Nicole Kidman's Fake Nose:

According to Roger Ebert's always excellent Questions for the Movie Answer Man column, the reason that The Hours wasn't nominated for a Best Makeup Oscar, which it clearly deserves, was because some digital post-production work was done on Nicole Kidman's nose. I'm sure you're all glad that somebody finally cleared this up.

(Ebert's column also spotlights what was, in many ways, the biggest omission from this year's Academy Awards: the amazing City of God, arguably the most exciting and entertaining movie I saw all year, was not nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar, and apparently suffered from massive walkouts during its nomination screenings. Maybe I'm missing something here...but I can't see how someone who cares anything at all about movies could walk out on City of God. Hate it? Maybe. Find it flashy and manipulative? Sure. But walk out?)
Ok, I know the Brits are rubbish at American geography, but this is absurd. Today's news on the Student Broadcast Network (which is piped in to dozens of universities around the country) had an item about the nightclub fire on Rhode Island. You'd think whoever's writing the news would know that Rhode Island isn't actually an island.

22 February 2003

If you'd told me that I'd be recruited as a good friend's last-minute replacement date to see Les Miserables not once, but twice in my short lifetime, I'd be understandably skeptical. But somehow, it's happened again. (Tamara had tickets to Les Mis on Broadway, but Steve got sick, so I was called in from Astoria to join her forty-five minutes before the show began. It's still a great musical. One of these days I should actually pay to see it....)
So I got to thinking about interacial dating after reading that article... And my second brother Jesse (who is white) has been dating someone hispanic for a couple years, and my youngest brother AJ (who is black) has a thing for blondes (who thus tend to be white), and so i've gotten to thinking it would be really really cool if the four of us (two white, one colombian, one black) could marry people of the same racial distribution, but all mixed up. Not only would everyone be incredibly confused as to who the inlaws are, but my parents grandchildren could all kinda look similar. It'd be wonderful.
It stuns me sometime how stupid people can be. Here's a quote from an exchange about an article saying Black men should marry Black:

There was never much that was "intimate" about the rape and sexual violence that was perpetuated against black women by white men in this country for over three centuries. It is the major reason more black women do not seek the company of white men. (How many Jewish women do you know who seek the company of former Nazis?)


I am not a former lyncher and rapist because I am white. The analogy would be "how many Jewish women do you knwo who seek the company of Germans?" and the answer is probably a whole lot different from the question she's asked.

21 February 2003

Yes, I was kidding when I made the last post.
Roger Ebert had no right, just because he was frustrated, to lump David Gale with The Doom Generation. The former may be a dishonest movie or whatever, but it is not the offense to humanity that the latter was.

Oh, and now that I'm in the governor's office I'm trying to figure out the reason behind the bizarre psychological therapy laws in my state (you know what I'm talking about). I'll let you know if there are any developments. Right now I just make people really scared when I tell them about the law as I remember it.

Lobbyists give the staff free food and goodies almost every other day -- right now I have chocolates, peanuts, and pecans still to eat. I don't know why these lobbyists think that buying me free stuff is going to get their legislation passed; I have about the same influence as a mousepad. Consequently I have turned down free meals (but the snacks are ok). I figure when I actually do have some influence and control, then I'll let the bidding wars begin.
Speaking of double movie outings... And I'm going to refrain from telling any stories about girls I've met who were my type (brown hair, shorter than me, "normal hair for a girl," sweet, etc.) and also went to Smith.
Short answer to the question below: Nope.
David Gale update: Roger Ebert has given this movie zero stars, which puts it in the company of such illustrious pictures as An Alan Smithee Film, North, and The Doom Generation. Interesting footnote: David Gale was originally slated to be released in time for Oscar consideration, but postponed. I'll keep you updated as to whether any critic thinks that this film is any good whatsoever.

20 February 2003

Dahlia Lithwick is brilliant and funny as usual as we edge closer and closer to my predicted future world where "safe sex" includes a contract as well as a condom.
As a new union member I feel as though I need to post this in some sort of solidarity or something (i still don't quite have the hang of these sorts of liberal things).

Its odd to see: "It is disappointing and disturbing that any group would attempt to disrupt the education of our students to advance its own ends," Yale Provost Susan Hockfield said in a statement.

Yale Provost Susan Hockfield? I don't know her...
I think this is one of these headlines that miss the point:
"Kasparov criticised as sore loser after Op-Ed on Deep Blue (Op-Ed)"

Of course he's a sore loser. How do you think he got to be one of the three or four best chess players in the history? By liking to lose? By taking it easily? Of course he's a sore loser, and all the more so because he was robbed of the only revenge you can get in that world, another chance at his opponent.

Of course, chess has a long history of champions refusing to replay their top opponents. Look at Alekhine and Capablanca.


So The Life of David Gale is set to open this weekend. As a reminder, this is the movie that inspired Haiwen to dicate the following letter to me as we were watching the trailer a few months ago:

To the producers of "The Life of David Gale":

I've just seen the trailer for your latest movie, "The Life of David Gale." I am writing to point out a small factual error that I've noticed in your film:

THERE'S A WHITE MAN ON DEATH ROW!!!!

Sincerely,
Haiwen Chu


This was a pretty funny joke the first twelve times I heard it. Anyway, don't know if I'll be seeing this movie or not (Dark Blue, the Kurt Russell cop drama with a story by James Ellroy, seems like a much more promising choice), but I was just reading my weekly box office update on Box Office Guru, and was struck by the following sentence: "Despite a bland title, David Gale automatically becomes looked at as a smart picture thanks to its lead actor." Amazingly enough, this is true. I can't think of any major star besides Kevin Spacey whose presence immediately suggests that a movie will at least be intelligent. Not sure why this is the case (for every Usual Suspects on his resume, Spacey has at least one Pay it Forward), but Spacey's presence seems to have become an unofficial heuristic for intelligent moviegoers.

Personally, I think people would be much better off going with Tom Cruise...but hey, that's just me.

19 February 2003

Speaking of "outings," here's a funny story from the world of high finance:

Back in October, shortly after I started work at my current employer, I had lunch with the girl from human resources who had processed my application and candidacy. This girl is also...well, let's just say that she went to Smith, and leave it at that.

In any case, we had lunch one afternoon, because she'd mentioned in the elevator that morning that she'd been meaning to ask me to lunch for a while. And as we were walking back from Bryant Park, she said to me: "I just wanted to say that if you ever want to talk, about this company or anything else, I'm always happy to listen." And this really touched me; after all, I'd only been at the firm for a few weeks. But oddly enough, since then, I've never had lunch with her again, despite having e-mailed her several times.

It turns out...wait for it!...that she thought that I was gay. How did she get this impression? Well, like I said, she processed my resume, and saw that I'd worked for the San Francisco Bay Guardian for a summer, which is true. Somehow, because the Bay Guardian is very progressive and based in San Francisco, natch, this meant that I had to be gay. And when she asked me to lunch that one time, she was planning to give me some advice about being gay at our firm...only to pick up my overwhelmingly straight vibe, of course, as soon as we were alone. (I don't actually remember hitting on her, but let's face it, I probably did. Mistakes were made, etc.)

(Actually, I don't know for sure that it was the Bay Guardian that outed me in her eyes, but the other alternative is too depressing: that somehow she confused the Harvard Advocate with, well, The Advocate.)

So the long and short of it is that we haven't had lunch again, and I still don't know the first thing about being gay at a hedge fund. If I learn more, I'll be sure to let all of you know.
I saw it again the next month silly.
I've just realized that in the post below, "outing" is a singularly poor choice of words.
When you say that you had a "date" to Attack of the Clones, are you referring to me, or to Mike Weidman?

(I shouldn't make fun. I haven't said much about my double feature outing with Haiwen on Valentine's Day, but I should note that I haven't ever laughed so hard as I did while watching The Jungle Book 2 at 11:30 in the evening in Times Square. Maybe I'm just immature, but the whole civilization = straight culture vs. jungle = queer counterculture allegory works just a little too well... After a certain point, I was reduced to tears of laughter by such exchanges as the following:

Lucky, the vulture: "Have you heard? There's a man-cub in the jungle!"
Shere-Khan, the tiger: "A man-cub...?"
Lucky: "And he's gone down the river with a bear!"

I dunno, maybe you had to be there.)
Speaking of French, I took my second language exam last week. I passed the French in the fall, and this time I was taking the German. German is so much more difficult because the sentences are so much longer and more complicated. You can almost go word for word from French to English, and when you can't you feel like its because English is just being inelegant. I really love to read math in French, it looks so nice. German on the other hand gives you these mountains to climb. You sure feel like a graduate student and like you're learning something really difficult.
In case you're wondering how to translate that into French, Le Monde supplies:
"Primates capitulards et toujours en quĂȘte de fromages."

Not sure it quite works...
Best... Retraction... Ever...

The following was printed by the Guardian's Corrections and Clarifications column, Thursday February 13 2002

The description of the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" was not coined by Bart Simpson. It comes from the Simpsons character Groundskeeper Willie, the Scottish immigrant who takes care of custodial matters at the elementary school.
Oh, right, that subplot.
Why on earth is Bush trying to phrase the upcoming war in Iraq as a "Pre-emptive War"? It seems to me that all the good pro-war arguments argue that it is not pre-emptive at all: e.g. "ten years ago Iraq started a war and in the postwar settlement agreed to certain things which they have not kept up."
The concept of "Modulo such and such" needs to enter the general vocabulary, so I can say memetics is the study of ideas modulo their content.
Matt Yglesias has something on memes today, and since they're one of our favorite subjects I responded on his comments writing this:

Yes, meme is a synonym for idea, but it emphasizes that you're analyzing the idea in a different way. You don't care about its content or truth value, but only its ability to spread.

Maybe its more natural for me to think about it this way as a mathematician, since we're often forgetting all additional structures and thinking about say the real numbers "as a group" or "as a Q-module" or "as a topological space" or "as a Hilbert space" etc. Memetics is just ignoring certain additional structures of ideas (like truth, or ability to make money, etc.)

Secondly, it seems the reason that memes are so popular among webloggers is that the internet, and the blogosphere in particular is a place where the ability of ideas to reproduce themselves quickly becomes most important. There are sooo many ideas floating around on the internet, and most of them just die in obscurity, but the lucky ones act like epidemics and suddenly you find that every website in the world is saying "Axis of Weasels."

Two brief responses about 25th hour. So, X-Men 2 is coming out soon, and I'm realizing yet again the way movie franchise make you compare times in your life. Since I did have a date as hoped for Star Wars episode II, I can't complain too much about this. But anyway what does this have to do with 25th hour? Well Anna Pacquin will always make me think of that film, and although I'm not posting it online, anyone who knows the circumstances of my seeing X-Men and has seen 25th Hour will understand why that whole subplot was somewhat disconcerting.

On a less Noah note, I've been trying for the past week to put together this political subtext which seems to be lurking around the edges of 25th Hour but which I can't yet put into a well thought out paragraph. One of the big themes of the film is: "you didn't tell him to stop being a drug dealer when he was paying for you, now you have to reep the blame for this." I wonder how this fits in with September 11th. I don't want to draw too close a parallel, but there does seem to be a "You weren't complaining when you were reaping the benefits of such-and-such which lead to this." But I can't quite put my finger on what...
By the way, I think that the Salon review slightly misquotes the last line of 25th Hour (at least, if it's the same as the last line of the book, which I think it is). I'd put it right up there with the greatest curtain lines in movie history:

"This life came so close to never happening."
Thanks for the link to the Salon review, Noah. I was beginning to think that my love for 25th Hour was one of those accidental things that happens when you see a movie at a point in your life where you're abnormally receptive to what it has to say; I might cite Chungking Express and Blue Velvet as other examples, or even High Fidelity. Other people may love these movies, in other words, but what sets them apart from other movies in your imagination is something that you bring to them yourself. Anyway, that Salon article comes very close to expressing how I feel about this movie, so it's nice to know that there's enough magic there for anyone to see.

(Amazing how rich that movie is, without even seeming to try. The Salon article focuses, with good reason, on the 9/11 angle, but it's also incredible how much interesting stuff is going on at the edges of the frame. The image from 25th Hour that sticks with me the most is that moment in the nightclub when Philip Seymour Hoffman kisses Anna Paquin, turns, runs from the room, and then literally glides down the stairs. It's just a throwaway moment, but it's perfect. 25th Hour is full of moments like that; not since Chungking Express and Fallen Angels have I seen a film where the director seemed to think in movies so naturally. And this is Spike Lee we're talking about! That's something that his many detractors would do well to remember: the man knows how to direct.)

18 February 2003

It's too bad it's subscription only these days, but Salon has an article titled:

The best movie you haven't seen
Suffused with a sense of 9/11 loss, Spike Lee's overlooked "25th Hour" is the most emotionally wrenching film of the year.
My sister describes her trip back to Philadelphia from Chicago (she was supposed to go home Sunday night, and when last I had heard was scheduled at 6:45 am tomorrow):
I got a 10:30 flight somehow, on American Eagle. I found it by calling last night and asking if there was any possible way to get back and she was like "Yeah sure, I'll put you on the 10:30 flight," as if that were normal...

The lady told me I had to have a window, and she hoped that would be ok. And then I discovered it was a window AND an aisle. Three seats across in the entire plane! I felt like I was in a lego plane.
By the way, in case you hadn't heard, it's kinda snowy in New York.
No doubt I'm the only person on this blog who followed Joe Millionaire from start to finish, but I'm telling you: if you didn't watch this show, you missed out (regardless of what Dave Barry says). Watching last night's finale, I was aware that I was being shamelessly manipulated, and in retrospect had been manipulated since the very first episode...and I occasionally reflected that what I was watching could be seen as a pabulum to distract the masses from their own empty lives and the dismal prospect of a senseless war...but, I mean, awwww. Maybe they did it with mirrors or camera tricks, but that little shhhhh that Zora gave the babbling Evan at the very end was one of the sweetest moments I've ever seen on television. I know I'm smitten with her.

17 February 2003

You all know my every december observation that if you want a song to last just tie it to a part of the year (e.g. a long december) and it'll live forever during that one week or month. Well another twist on this is to just write a song about an event that happens with relatively high frequency, like wars with iraq.
I discovered an excellent way to spend Valentine's Day: hang out with a bunch of relatives whom you like and haven't seen in a long time. Bonus points if all of them are from Southern California and you're in Chicago on a particularly cold and windy day.

16 February 2003

Grrr... I just wrote this long post on protests, and blogger ate it. Maybe I'll write it again later.
Google buys Blogger! Here's to no more archive bugs!
The always insightful Tuesday Morning Quarterback observes in the New York Times today:
"Your risk of dying in a car accident while driving to buy duct tape likely exceeds your risk of dying because you lacked duct tape."

15 February 2003

I'm reading Great Expectations again, and its been a long time since I've read Dickens and I'd nearly forgotten how delightfully fun he is. One of the great things about novels written in installments (besides their being really long so you don't have to worry about them ending before you want them to) is that each chapter ends with something nice to keep you coming back. Latest example:
That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, or thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.
Tonite I saw 25th Hour by myself, and it was really good. I don't have much to add to what Alec said cause he says it better, but man I miss watching movies with you.

14 February 2003

Valentine's Day update: Haiwen and I went to see Daredevil AND The Jungle Book 2. Now he's off to Michigan for a week, which I think is probably for the best.
The AIM add running currently consists of the following:

A red background with white letters reading: "This Valentine's day"
Another screen same style: "hit the Love Tub"
Cut to picture of two slightly blocky cgi humans with drinks in a hot tub.
Add on text: "The Sims Online, click here to heat things up"

Now I understand that part of the appeal of the sims is that you can replace your completely boring life with a moderately more interesting virtual life where you're virtually getting some action, but it seems this add is just making that a tad too explicit to really be effective. I mean its like: "Single on valentine's day? Feel pathetic? Can't find any real dates ever? Why not hook up with chunky blocks of pixels online?"

(Reminds me of this onion article...)
Well, it looks like I'll be spending Valentine's Day with Haiwen. Apparently we're going to see either Daredevil or The Jungle Book 2 in Times Square. I should explain about the latter. It seems that "bear" is a slang term for a middle-aged, beefy, grizzled gay man, who tends to be seen with young boyish Asian types. Based on this, Haiwen has constructed an hilariously elaborate homoerotic reading of the relationship between Mowgli and Baloo the Bear in The Jungle Book 2, based on the commericals, which makes him think that it would be great fun to see the movie. You know; young Indian boy leaves the jungle, tries to start a civilized life with a pretty girl ("I knew she was going to be trouble!" chortles Baloo), only to be drawn back across the river where his bearish pal, who calls him "Little Britches," awaits. As one character observes, "You can take the boy out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the boy." Hmmm, right.

(Also, at one point Mowgli is menaced by an enormous snake.)

13 February 2003

By the way, I give up on the liability insurance question.
The Pet Shop Boys have a new album out, by the way, which is currently at the top of the Billboard electronic charts. Which isn't saying much; probably fewer people in this country will end up buying this album than buy Avril Lavigne's latest on any given Tuesday. I have nothing against Avril Lavigne, by the way, except that I pass an enormous billboard of her pouty face on my way to work every morning. ("Come on, you know you'd hit that," I imagine Haiwen saying.)

But anyway...Disco 3 is great electronic fun, especially for those of us who thought that their last album, the guitar-driven Release, was something of a disappointment. (See the very first post on this blog for details.) The best part, in a way, is that for complicated reasons I can no longer update my iPod with new songs, which means that I can only listen to this album when I get home from work. Hence a CD which otherwise would have been overplayed within a week remains surprisingly fresh, which is nice.
Wow, if I had a million dollars, I'd definitely invest it with this company. Those 32% annual returns sound pretty good to me!

(Make sure you click on all the links. I don't know if this is at all amusing to anyone who doesn't work for a hedge fund, but oh well.)

12 February 2003

I love the Internet. I did a Google search for "Roman Polanski" and "statutory rape," and guess what came up first? Our favorite website: www.ageofconsent.com.

The page actually contains some enlightening articles, along with an interesting detail about the case that I'd forgotten (Polanski was arrested at Jack Nicholson's house). I agree that saying that Polanski's history might offend "the so-called family-values gang" is an absurd understatement; what the man did is reprehensible by any standard.

In any case, I'd say that we're less likely to see Polanski at the ceremony than any other nominee. Including Donald Kaufman.
Another great headline:
Duct tape sales rise amid terror fears

11 February 2003

Speaking of the academy awards, one of the nominees is a criminal on the run. As usual you can go to France and they won't send you here even if you've committed a crime. Anyway, I've seen this mentioned a few times, usually mentioned with no explanation as to why (assuming perhaps that you've heard the story), but sometimes you get remarks like this: "It remains to be seen whether Polanski's fugitive status will have any bearing on his Oscar chances. There is a chance that because his transgression was having sex with an underage girl, the so-called family-values gang will protest his nomination." from salon. This is quote makes it sound as though he did something which wasn't that bad, i mean sex with an underage girl could mean a lot of things, and although its usually illegal, and certainly not a particularly good idea for adults to be having sex with older teenagers, it certainly doesn't have the same ring to it as someone on the lam for say murder. I mean most 17 year olds are having sex anyway. But, if you look into this, as they have say at the Volokh Consipacy, you discover that what he did wasn't "having sex with an underage girl" but raping (and I don't just mean statutory) a thirteen year old! This shouldn't be something taht you think of as something that just the "the so-called family-values gang" is upset by. We're not talking about a 17 year old having consenual sex with someone who may happen to be older than her (which again, i don't think is a good idea, and I wouldn't do it, but most 17 year olds are having sex after all) we're talking about drugging and raping a 13 year old kid.

I wouldn't vote for him. I'd considering voting for his film, but there's a limit to what sort of people you recognize with awards, and he's crossed it and should be in jail.

This post is a particular example of my general dislike of using really bad terms for things which are a lot less bad. We shouldn't call consenual sex with 17 year olds "rape" of any sort, because regardless of whether its a decent nice thing to do, it is in a different category then what say Roman Polanski or any other actual rapist has done.
Check out this picture.
Well, it looks like my much-vaunted "sleeper hit of the year" prediction didn't quite pan out: for whatever reason, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was shafted by the Oscars. However, the other nominations were more or less what I'd expected. Biggest surprise: the Academy reversed its tradition of ignoring really, really, really good movies in the Best Documentary category (e.g. Hoop Dreams, Crumb, everything that Errol Morris ever did) by nominating Bowling for Columbine, which may actually be the first Best Documentary nominee in history to make money at the box office. Other surprising oversights: The Hours didn't get a Best Makeup nomination (I agree with Nat that the makeup in that movie was among the best I'd ever seen), and Minority Report, which was much, much more visionary then either Spider-Man or Attack of the Clones (or any other movie this year, for that matter), didn't get nominations for Art Direction or Visual Effects, which is just a crime.

Another historic moment: Eminem was nominated for Best Song, deservedly, although I'm guessing that U2 will take it home. And Jon Brion really should have received a nomination for Best Song and Score for Punch-Drunk Love, which also deserved kudos for Best Sound; it didn't have any big explosions or flashy sound effects, but Punch-Drunk Love really forced me to rethink what a movie could do with sound, which was only one of the many pleasures of that dubious little movie.
I was offered the opportunity to smoke a joint (ok, take a puff on one) last night and declined. I'm such a square.

10 February 2003

Yes, this is a real headline:
The threat of a U.S.-led war on Iraq has proven a tourist boon for Lebanon, as Gulf Arabs flock to spend the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday in the relative calm of Beirut, Lebanon's tourism minister said Monday.
Oscar nominations are just around the corner, and I haven't even posted my predictions yet. I actually had a long list that I was going to bore you with, but I'll confine my thoughts to the following: Chicago wins Best Picture over The Hours, Gangs of New York, The Pianist, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding; Scorsese finally wins Best Director; Nicole walks away with Best Actress; Jack Nicholson becomes the first person since Katherine Hepburn to win four Oscars for acting; Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep win for Adaptation.

Wait a minute. That's exactly how the Golden Globes went....I must be getting lazy. Anyway, when I was a real film critic, my Oscar prediction track record was pretty abysmal (I predicted that Catherine Keener was going to win Best Supporting Actress over Angelina Jolie, for chrissake), so there's probably no point in getting fancy, right?
Cary Tennis hits an ace today:
One of the most important things to learn in life is how to deal with questions for which there are no answers -- how to identify them, how to attain a just and sane posture toward them, how to regard them, how to carry them around with you, how to honor them, where to store them at night, how to recognize them when they visit you in your dreams, how to know whether to speak of them or not, and to whom.

09 February 2003

Just threw a frisbee for the first time in months... Hadn't forgotten how at all, which is always good to know.
Here are some pictures of me doing radio. The girl is Tamsyn, the other classical DJ. Adrienne, upon seeing these, pointed out, "The studio is very blue. That must go over well with you."
A couple responses. First to Nat, I guess the reason I'm happy about this is just that the Lakers are likely to be a very low seed and if they're playing Dallas or Sacramento, or even Portland, I don't want the "dethrone the champs" series to be 5 games. On the other hand, going down to 6 teams a division would be fine, you're right it is a little large... Although one could also just shorten the regular season, since the playoffs are such better basketball anyway.

As for football vs. baseball... Yes most of the time nothing interesting is happening in baseball, but the same is true of soccer, most of the time they're just passing around doing nothing with no chance of scoring in the immediate future. In baseball at least you know when something interesting is about to happen. You can go get a beer, go to the bathroom, and be back knowing that you're probably not missing anything too crucial if you're only gone for 2 minutes. With football, although the vast majority of the time is boring, the whole game is decided in a few exciting moments here and there and you don't know when they're coming and they don't take breaks during the game. What sort of attention span do you have over there??

Alec and Dave any guesses on liability insurance rates or should i post the answer?
I had in mind not cricket but football, or soccer as they call it back home. I don't think anyone here actually likes cricket.

08 February 2003

I have to dissent from Noah on the issue of the playoffs extension. The NBA playoffs are ridiculously long already, and they should contract to 12 or fewer teams. The last thing they need to do is get longer. As for the issue of the good teams getting beaten in a best of 5 series, I don't think the numbers bear out an unreasonable number of upsets. Since this playoff system was instituted in the 1983-84 season, there have been seven upsets involving number one or number two seeds in the first round of the playoffs, according to my count. That's about one upset every 11 series, which seems like a low enough number to me. Furthermore, of those seven upsets, four of them were accomplished in under five games (Indianapolis sweeping Atlanta in 1995, the Chris Mullin-led Golden State Warriors beating San Antonio in 4 games in 1991 and Utah in 3 in 1989, and Seattle topping Dallas in 4 in 1987). If you get beat in three or four games, you clearly did not show up to play in the playoffs. Of the remaining three upsets, the higher seed choked in two of them: Seattle lost with a 2-0 lead to Mount Mutombo and the Nuggets in 1994, and Miami blew a 2-1 lead to the Knicks in 1998. The remaining upset was the rematch to that series the following year, when New York again beat the Heat in five games.

In summary, I think that first round upsets are rare, and when they do happen they're usually decisive enough that the favorite has only itself to blame. The NBA playoffs do NOT need to get any longer than they already are. Interestingly, the playoff format before 1984 was a best of 3 series in the first round.
There's hardly any action? Excuse me? Do these people WATCH cricket?? Baseball games can last 4 hours when they drag on. Cricket matches can go 4 days. You can turn on the cricket match and the same schlub is up to bat (or whatever they call it in cricket-speak, I don't care) for hours on end. He can just keep fouling the ball off indefinitely, except in cricket, every ball you decide not to run out is a foul ball. So you hit the thing and as long as it's not caught in the air, you don't have to budge. So while there might not be the down time where people are doing nothing, I much prefer at-bats that are only a couple of minutes, not hours and hours. With cricket, then, there's still plenty of stretches where there's no real action going on at all. In baseball, you know that every at-bat something important will happen.
Great news, the NBA players association has finally agreed to allow the first round of the playoffs to go best of 7 instead of best of 5. See this article. Why is this such good news? Well, take last year for example: the pacers came within a point (twice) of knocking off the Nets and then the Nets continued to the finals. The Kings vs. Jazz series was also like this, to a lesser extent. Its too easy for good teams to lose best of 5's. This is especially important because the Lakers will probably be a low seed which means that two of the best teams will be playing in the first round. Having one of them eliminated only by losing 3 games leaves way too much to chance.
I agree that baseball is superior, but how do you respond to arguments that there's hardly any action?

07 February 2003

When I was in Florida one doctor I spoke to said that insurance companies were asking some new doctors to pay as much as $75,000 a year for malpractice insurance. I think the average rate is much lower...maybe $40-45,000?
This week's winning entry in The Cambridge Student's "Best of Cambridge: College Scarves" contest:
"All of my clothes are blue, and so are my towels, my duvet, and my bike. My favourite colour is blue. My favourite scarf is Pembroke's because it is blue on blue."
--Dave, Emmanuel
TCS's response:
Congratulations Dave! You have won a postcard signed by everyone who was in the TCS office on Wednesday night. Thrilling stuff huh? Sadly it isn't blue, but maybe that's for the best. Here at TCS, we think that you should perhaps get out more and maybe experiment with other colours.

Personally I think that purple is rather nice. Maybe you should develop a bizarre obsession with purple instead? It's just a suggestion. Also the people behind me are making quite a strong case for pink. TCS feels strongly that there are lots of other lovely colours out there besides blue.

06 February 2003

Nat wanted me to post this.
Yes, it's February, everyone's least favorite month. But what's February's redeeming quality? Baseball is right around the corner! The new strat cards have come out and even though I haven't bought them (I have no money) it's exciting just to know they're out there. In other good baseball news, the cloud of darkness that has hovered over the LA Dodgers is lifting. Rupert Murdoch is trying to sell the team, so in the future won't have to feel pangs of guilt as I watch them play on Fox (although they won't appear on Fox as much if they get sold). The other good news is I get my minor league franchise back this year after ole' Rupert uprooted the Albuquerque Dukes and shipped them to Portland (the less said about Oregon, the better). Unfortunately this new team is called the Isotopes and they're the AAA affiliate for the Florida Marlins (gag), but baseball is baseball.

And in case any readers of this weblog are stuck on the wrong side of the Atlantic this spring, make sure you point out to everyone that baseball is far superior to cricket, rounders, and whatever other games they play over there.
That Ap article that never ran is really amazing, I'm so fascinated by the paths history doesn't go down. I wish I could peruse the files of obituaries for living people at some major newspaper.

Question: How much money do you think an average Obstetrician in California pays per year in liability/malpractice insurance (one of the lowest rates in the country)? Florida (one of the highest)?

(I'll post the answer later, no googling, I'm curious to know what sort of range you'd guess.)

05 February 2003

Interesting collection of Columbia links on Slate, which I'm sure Noah has already seen. By far the most fascinating is this thread from Space.com, which dates back to 12/10/02 and provides a heartbreaking, real-time glimpse of the shuttle enthusiasts who followed this mission from the very beginning. Also worth a look is the AP article that never ran.
Quote of the Day:

"Well, at least you aren't a slut."
-- Haiwen, to Alec, attempting to console him on his lack of romantic success.

03 February 2003

At least I didn't say "maths professors."

02 February 2003

I love it when I go to this site and there are long posts by people other than me. I do miss you all.
We wouldn't be a credible media outlet if we didn't say something about LeBron James. So, here it is: LeBron James, LeBron James, Hummer, LeBron James, Circus...

I will say this: LeBron's pretty good, but I'll take Justin Conway to captain my team any day. (He's the captain of the Santa Fe Prep basketball team that's currently 13-3. He's a class act, a great leader, and one heckuva monster on the basketball court. Oh, he's also still elegible to play.)

I will also say this: the kid's bein' used by everyone, and I hope when he's an NBA star that he's a classy guy like Kobe and Kevin Garnett appear to be, 'cuz I'm sure it ain't easy bein' used.

(I'm writing more informally as a protest against the spelling of the word favourite.)
I was thinking about Valentine's Day and looking at some quotes from Swingers on imdb.com just now, and thought I'd post this. You remember the scene:

Trent (to Mike): You know what you are? You're like a big bear with claws and with fangs...
Sue: ...big fucking teeth, man.
Trent: Yeah... big fuckin' teeth on ya'. And she's just like this little bunny, who's just kinda cowering in the corner.
Sue: Shivering.
Trent: Yeah, man just kinda... you know, you got these claws and you're staring at these claws and you're thinking to yourself, and with these claws you're thinking, "How am I supposed to kill this bunny, how am I supposed to kill this bunny?"
Sue: And you're poking at it, you're poking at it...
Trent: Yeah, you're not hurting it. You're just kinda gently batting the bunny around, you know what I mean? And the bunny's scared, Mike, the bunny's scared of you, shivering.
Sue: And you got these fucking claws and these fangs...
Trent: And you got these fucking claws and these fangs, man! And you're looking at your claws and you're looking at your fangs. And you're thinking to yourself, you don't know what to do, man. "I don't know how to kill the bunny." With this you don't know how to kill the bunny, do you know what I mean?
Sue (after a long pause): You're like a big bear, man.

(Just in case someone needed the pep talk. God, I hate February.)
In other news, I finally feel qualified to publish my list of the ten best movies of 2002. There are still a few films from last year that I haven't seen yet (Talk to Her and The Pianist come to mind), but I think that I'll feel pretty good about this list no matter what happens:

1. 25th Hour
2. City of God
3. Minority Report
4. Bowling for Columbine
5. Gangs of New York
6. The Bourne Identity
7. Spirited Away
8. Far From Heaven
9. Adaptation
10. Y Tu Mama Tambien

It wasn't quite the best year for movies since 1999, as I predicted on this blog a few months ago, but it was a solid one by any measure. No real patterns here, except that the shadow of 9/11 was predictably felt in many good movies, and that it was a great year for character actor Brian Cox, who does fine work in 25th Hour, The Bourne Identity, Adaptation, and also The Ring, apparently, which I didn't see. As for the worst movie of the year...well, as usual, the films that annoyed me the most were the ones that squandered splendid resources and talent to tell a story that left me cold on the inside. Nothing quite like Fight Club, of course, but Road to Perdition, One Hour Photo, and The Hours certainly qualify as disappointing.

The truly terrifying thing, by the way, is that Haiwen has seen many more movies than I have this year, given that I saw most of the above with him, and that he often goes off on his own excursions with his..."friends." (He also says that I can't compile a reasonable top ten list without having seen Barbershop and The Good Girl. He's probably right.)

01 February 2003

Note: I began writing this post before watching the news this morning, but it seems just as relevant, if not more so:

A few days ago, I found myself reading a post that I'd made back in April, way back when this blog was new, about five films that had left me speechless after seeing them. This morning, just before getting up, I suddenly realized that two of the films on that list, Saving Private Ryan and The Last Temptation of Christ, which are the only two films to ever make me cry, both do so for the same reasons. I don't want to give away the endings to either, especially the second one, but I'll say that I cry at both films at a moment near the end when a man, expecting death, receives life instead, and is forced to decide what kind of life would be worthy of such a second chance...that is, when every added day is a gift that you might not deserve. I don't know why this idea moves me so much, but I suppose it ties in with the questions about life that trouble me every day.

Anyway, this is all pretentious prologue to the point that I've seen a movie worthy of being placed alongside the two I've just mentioned, and while it didn't make me cry, it moved me in a way that I haven't felt in a long time at the movies, and finally gave me that one emotional cinematic experience that I've been searching for all year, in vain. The movie is 25th Hour. This is a movie that I didn't especially want to see. Noah will remember that we had the chance to see either 25th Hour or Adaptation, and I chose Adaptation, even though I'd seen it before. Even last night, I only saw 25th Hour because some piece of shit action thriller was sold out. The trailer just didn't grab me, I guess: it just seemed like the sort of movie that I would admire, respect, but not particularly love, and I've seen way too many movies like that this year. (Major example, also from this week: The Hours.)

But what can I say? I was wrong. About halfway through 25th Hour I began to realize that this could be one of those movies, like Chungking Express, that will grow in my imagination for years after I've seen it. By the time it was over, I knew that I would be watching it again and again for years to come. It's hard to explain if you haven't seen it yet: it's about a drug dealer played by Edward Norton who is about to go to prison for seven years, and on his last day of freedom he gathers his old friends (played by Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman), his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson), and his father (the amazing Brian Cox) for one night of farewell. It's very tightly structured, but it's one of the very few recent American movies that grants itself utter freedom to be funny, sad, random and beautiful, and to say something about life in the shadow of 9/11. Mostly, it's about the dream of the life you might have led if you'd been aware of what a gift life was. I can't live that way, of course, not every day...but it's always good to find a movie that reminds me that this dream exists.
Apparently match.com is doing a big targeted advertising campaign at slate. What's odd is how its targeted. All the ads consist of attractive young women and one of the following three quotes:

"I fantasize about filibusters"
"I love talking politics at dinner parties"
"Foreign policy exhilarates me"