28 October 2004

This was the year.

27 October 2004

How about that! I wish I were in Boston...oh wait, no I don't.
My two-cent political advice: polls no longer matter. While I've been visiting www.electoral-vote.com as much as anyone in recent weeks, it's my belief that field operations, not polls, will decide the election from this point forward, especially given the unreliability of the polls leading up to the 2000 election. And we really have no idea how effective the field operations are right now.

25 October 2004

For those who haven't heard about this yet, some mighty strange things have been happening on Pitcairn Island, home of the descendants of the Bounty mutineers.
Talking Points Memo, an excellent blog, has some great coverage of the 350 tons of explosives missing from Iraq. My favorite detail is the Bush campaign's stinging response to Kerry's attacks on this issue:
Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt issued the campaign's response: "John Kerry has no vision for fighting and winning the War on Terror, so he is basing his attacks on the headlines he wakes up to each day."

20 October 2004

Speaking of scary stuff, as of ten minutes ago, the FAO Schwarz website is finally live. For your shopping convenience, luxury gifts can be found here. (Remember, for every 3D Motion Simulator that you guys buy, I get another couple of bucks in my annual bonus. I hope.)

19 October 2004

Slate has an article on five possible ways that the upcoming election could end up in the Supreme Court, again. Scary stuff.
Forget all those sissy "Christian" mutual funds: the real challenge lies in starting hedge funds that are compliant with shariah, or Islamic law, which forbids riba ("usury") and gharar ("trading of risk"). Short selling, futures, and options are all prohibited. You can't use leverage, and you can't earn interest on your cash balances. Oh, and you can't invest in companies involved in the sale or distribution of alcohol, pork, gold, music, silver, tobacco and pornography, which also includes restaurants and motels that sell alcohol, casinos, movie theaters and financial services firms. Nonetheless, at least one shariah-compliant hedge fund has just been launched. It required the development, among other things, of a complicated but shariah-friendly way of selling short...which, I guess, is sort of like inventing a Sabbath-friendly light switch. Good stuff.

18 October 2004

Faithful readers will remember that I bought Netflix stock a couple of years ago at $7.00 and sold it shortly thereafter at $9.00, thereby missing out on an incredible run as the stock zoomed to $70 and above. Anyway, Netflix has been up and down since its peak, and, on rumors of a price war, it just plunged 41% to $10.30, not too far above where I originally sold it. I may be forgetting a stock split or two, so this probably isn't quite as catastrophic as it seems. Still, I'm better off sticking to index funds.
It struck me last night that my fondness for The Empire Strikes Back may be due to the fact that it was the number one movie in America on the day I was born. In other news, Mount St. Helens has been acting up again, which may explain why I've been so grumpy lately.

17 October 2004

I finally picked up a copy of the Star Wars trilogy on DVD, and I've got to say, The Empire Strikes Back is still a great movie. Wow. The others...not so much.

12 October 2004

I love wireless internet... It lets me liveblog while i sit here listening to Corrinne Crawford talk about why the Union is so wonderful in a stupid mandetory meeting... She's not using the microphone in a large auditorium and just talking loudly.

11 October 2004

The lovely Ex-Pegasus and I saw Morrissey this weekend at Radio City Music Hall, which was great fun. I love pop stars who cheerfully embrace all of the standard stage conventions of big stadium shows, but ironically. For example, we loved the twenty-foot-high letters reading "MORRISSEY" in flashing red lights that rose slowly up from the fog-shrouded stage, but only because they were set off by invisible quotation marks. The Pet Shop Boys have mastered a similar sort of pop star irony. There's lots of it in Urgh! A Music War. Bono hasn't quite figured it out yet.

My favorite moment was when Morrissey introduced one of his old hits with the words: "When this song came out, there was some controversy. Too depressing, people said. But what's so great about being happy, anyway?" Quick—which one of his songs did he mean?

10 October 2004

Yes, sadly, the Twins are out of the playoffs. This was going to be the year to beat the Yankees...The Twins have the best pitching staff in the league, including the Cy Young winner and another guy in the top five, they finally have a real cleanup hitter, and the Yankees have proven that they are very beatable. Last year they had Mussina, Pettite, Clemens, and Wells, all of whom struck fear into hitters' hearts; this year they have only Mussina.

Saturday's loss was not nearly as heartbreaking as Wednesday's. On Wendesday they battled back against Gordon and Rivera and actually took the lead in the 12th, only to blow it in the end. Saturday they went with the formula that had worked all year: Rincon in the 8th, Nathan in the 9th, and Rincon had a bad day. If Rincon hadn't done what he did this year the Twins would never have been in the playoffs. Also, he had pitched three hitless innings in the first two games, so there was no reason to suspect he would give up four runs. But it was the Yankees, and they always find a way.

This article sums up pretty well Minnesotans' attitude towards the series. I like the paragraph about the Twins fan who was 8 in 1987. But I watched it happen in '87, and I was at Game 7 in '91, and I do believe that someday the stars will align again and the Twins will be back in the World Series. And I will be waving my Homer Hanky the whole time.
One of the big sports questions of the weekend (besides the obvious question of why Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire is allergic to bringing in relief pitchers once the guy on the mound has allowed multiple baserunners) is whether Friday Night Lights would live up to the hype and become one of the great sports movies of all time.

The story itself is hard to top -- hardscrabble, undersized oil patch kids carry the hopes and dreams of their hard-luck town all the way to the state finals. I don't think it tops Hoosiers or Rocky, though, for a couple of reasons. First the coach -- Gary Gaines, played by Billy Bob Thornton -- is more of a soft-spoken, love-your-teammate kind of guy in the mold of John Wooden, and not a Vince Lombardi clone who spits out memorable quotes left and right. The great sports movies give you great quotes that can be posted on the locker room wall of every high school in America, and this movie doesn't measure up.

Second, you see too clearly the toll that football takes on the psyches of these players. You still want them to win, but you also see the absurdity of the whole town pinning its happiness on a band of 17 year-olds. The kids are told that the high point of their lives is playing football, and it will be downhill after that. And no one in town cares to keep that mania in check. It's fascinating, but you lose that romantic vision of the football that is necessary in the great sports movies.

Watch the movie; but watch it as a movie about Odessa, not about winning.
Great news for all those parents who think their kids should take after Fox News commentators: Bill O'Reilly has written a book for kids. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. I also wonder if O'Reilly goes into topics such as anger managment and fact checking, which aren't his strong suit.

07 October 2004

Tom Lehrer claims that when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, political satire became obsolete. The Onion seems to be next in line for obsolescence, now that the Associated Press is running headlines like this.

06 October 2004

To be honest, I was vaguely embarrassed by Edwards's performance last night. He responded to most of the questions with the same handful of talking points, and once he'd gone through each of his sound bites, instead of digging deeper, he'd just repeat them verbatim. As a result, compared to Cheney, he came across as coached and a bit superficial.

He won the debate, of course, but only by being right.
Cnn's graphic puppet sex article of the day:
Hollywood's film ratings board reached accord with producers Tuesday over how much puppet sex moviegoers under age 17 are allowed to see in an upcoming action-thriller spoof starring a cast of marionettes.

05 October 2004

More on surprsingly graphic puppet sex.
I hate to admit it... But I really like Cheney a lot more than Bush. The other day I was complaining about Bush's stupidity and incompetance and whatnot, and someone said "you just don't like him because you don't like his policies" and I had to say that it was definitely the other way around. I wouldn't mind his policies so much if he weren't such an idiot implementing them... Cheney was at least competantly and intellegently evil, and that at least gets some respect from me. I really hate stupid evil a lot more than competant evil (even though the latter is abstractly worse).
Remember the scary, headless dolls that my company bought a while ago? Well, they're b-a-a-a-ack....

Be sure to click through the personalize a doll section before you go. I'd like to hear your comments.

04 October 2004

Request for Nick Hornby fans: I'm trying to remember a quote from the book High Fidelity where Laura complains that Rob's mix tapes are too didactic (i.e., that he's always trying to educate her about obscure blues musicians, and not making tapes of stuff that she actually likes). If someone has a copy of the book, could you find this quote and post it? Thanks.

(This is for my Wikipedia article on the mix tape, which is growing truly enormous.)

02 October 2004

That's what Giants fans deserve. They've gone on plenty long enough with their steroid-induced wins, and they've never represented the division well in the playoffs (in marked contrast to Arizona).

Too bad St. Louis is about ten times better than everyone else at everything...otherwise this could be the Dodgers' year. On a side note, while I'll be the first to cheer if Adrian Beltre gets the MVP, my alternate team MVP candidate is Cesar Izturis, who I firmly believe is the driving force behind the team's success the past couple of years. He's turned into a fine leadoff hitter and he anchors the best defensive middle infield in the league. And most important, he's clutch.
It'a a bad weekend to be a baseball fan in the great state of Northern California.

01 October 2004

The oddest moment in last night's debate, which I haven't seen discussed anywhere, was an inexplicable insertion by Jim Lehrer after the candidates had given their views on "the single most serious threat to the national security of the United States." Kerry said, unequivocally, that it was nuclear proliferation; Bush tried to spin this as "weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network," and said that anti-proliferation was part of a "multiprong strategy" to make the country safer. Lehrer followed up with this:
Mr. Lehrer: Just for this one-minute discussion here, is it—just for whatever seconds it takes: so it's correct to say that if somebody's listening to this, that both of you agree—if you're re-elected, Mr. President, and if you are elected, the single most serious threat you believe—both of you believe is nuclear proliferation.

Mr. Bush: I do—in the hands of a terrorist enemy.

Mr. Kerry: Weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation.
It looked to me like Lehrer was trying hard to get the candidates to say that their positions on nuclear proliferation—or at least on the seriousness of the threat—were identical. Certainly, a lot of viewers may have emerged with that impression. In fact, their answers were considerably different: Kerry said that fighting nuclear proliferation would be his number one priority; Bush that it was one of multiple "prongs" in the war on terror.

I'm not sure what Lehrer was trying to do here. Still, it bugs me, because this is an issue where there is, for once, a clear difference between the two candidates. It's also an issue that could single-handedly sway a lot of undecided voters. I'm especially sensitive about this, if only because I work about a hundred yards from where Seventh Avenue meets Broadway—an intersection which is used, for the sake of vividness, in almost every scenario of a nuclear bomb going off in the United States. (You can only read so many hypothetical case studies of a nuke going off in Grand Central Station before you start to take it personally.)