30 September 2005

This has already been mentioned on a billion other sites, but I can't resist. Here's the heartwarming trailer for Shining.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Michael Powell, whom I immodestly continue to champion as the greatest director of all time—a flabbergastingly intelligent craftsman who does for thoughtful adults what Disney does for kids. Your assignment for tonight is to watch The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I'm Going, or A Canterbury Tale (if you can find it). Or, failing that, at least check out this page prepared by the British Film Institute, which has a lot of great stuff.

29 September 2005

They're making a sequel to The Dark Crystal?

25 September 2005

Currently on my iPod is Brad Mehldau's wonderful piano cover of "Paranoid Android" by Radiohead. Like a lot of people, I automatically associate a certain style of jazz piano with the work of Vince Guaraldi, so walking around with this song in my head makes me feel like I'm in a very twisted, very scary Peanuts special: When I Am King, You Will Be First Against the Wall, Charlie Brown! Good stuff.
I realized yesterday that when you play the three-minute coda to the Beta Band's "Dry the Rain" (which is still the song at the top of the "Most Played" list on my iPod, with more than twice the number of plays as the runner-up), you can sing "Nah...nah...nah...na-na-na-nah...na-na-na-nah...Hey Jude..." to it in almost perfect time. I thought that this was an amazing insight, but it turns out that this blogger already figured it out. Still, I sense the opportunity for a great MP3 mash-up, if any of our readers is good at this sort of thing.

24 September 2005

This article in the New York Times is the most useful piece I've ever seen on buying vs. renting a home. It also has specific facts and figures for both New York and San Francisco, which makes this piece especially relevant to a majority of our bloggers (and regular readers). I'd been debating whether to get my first mortgage next year, but this article has made up my mind for me: the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of renting, especially if, like me, you aren't sure where you're going to be in four or five years. So I guess I'll be staying put for now.

22 September 2005

On another note, I joined the ABA today. I have to join if I want to take part in a negotiation competition. I'm already a member of AAA, so now all that's left for me is AARP, but they probably won't let me in anytime soon.

(As an aside, the negotiation competition is the only big competition open to 1Ls, at least at our school. It's being handled through the Alternative Dispute Resolution Club, of which I was involuntarily elected Secretary last week. This competition seems to be the biggest selling point of this club, which makes for nice irony: overly competitive 1Ls who can't wait to compete at something go and join the ADR club, whose purpose is supposedly to foster a less combative approach to the legal profession in general.)
I was getting ready to post a link to the latest article about the supposed pulse of Ivy League women, but then the bloggers got there first and argued, persuasively, that it was replete with horrible statistical problems. Didn't the author pass Quantitative Reasoning?
I'd like to give a shoutout to the underpaid editorial assistant who writes the corrections for the New York Times, which I really enjoy reading. They're deadpan, yet cheeky, with just enough context to give you the flavor of the article, and sometimes an extra bit of journalistic color. Really, a perfect canapé. A few random examples from today's paper:
The Patara Journal article on Monday, about an archaeological excavation of the Lycian League parliament building in Patara, Turkey, referred incorrectly to the ancient Greek historian who wrote "The Persian Wars," which mentions Patara as a port used by the Persians in the fifth century B.C. He was Herodotus, not Thucydides. The article also misspelled the name of the wife of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who accompanied him to Patara in the spring of A.D. 131, according to evidence uncovered at the excavation site. She was Sabina, not Sabine.

An article on Sept. 11 about planned events that were interrupted by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, misstated the location of Fiterman Hall, the 15-story satellite building of the Borough of Manhattan Community College that had undergone a $65 million renovation and was scheduled to open in October 2001. It was just north of the World Trade Center, not south. (By the end of Sept. 11, 2001, the hall was buried to the third floor in the debris from the 47-story building next door, 7 World Trade Center. It remains closed.)

Because of an editing error, a recipe with the Fall Cook column in the Dining section yesterday, for Plum Crumble, misstated the number of plums to be used in Step 2. It is 12, not 2.
See? Suddenly I know more about the emperor Hadrian, 9/11, and plum crumble, and I don't even need to read the articles.

I got to thinking about the Corrections page after reading this posting listing the collected errors of Alessandra Stanley, the Times television critic who is currently in a correction-related tussle with Geraldo Rivera. Yes, some of her errors are pretty embarrassing (she recently referred to a certain Emmy-award-winning sitcom as All About Raymond), but reading ten or twenty corrections in a row reveals a certain beguiling rhythm, a certain repetitive poetry: a long, disgressive buildup to set the stage, and then a quick, two-footed curtain line ("She was Sabina, not Sabine").

Anyway, someone should publish a book of these little gems, if they haven't already. (They could call it The Corrections. Or has that already been done?)
I was recently pointed to an interesting site called Lois Law, which provides detailed profiles and Zagat-type reviews of every judge in the Federal Appelate Court system. Here's what lawyers had to say about John Roberts (long before the recent hubbub):
"He is off to a great start. He is the best appellate lawyer of his generation." "He is really, really smart. He has a very good reputation. He will be a great judge." "He is certainly as smart as they come. He is as experienced in appellate litigation as any judge in the country. He had a distinguished career in appellate litigation. He really stands out as a true appellate advocate." "He will be a fine judge." "He is polite—even quiet. He is very respectful." "He expects his questions to be answered. He follows up on them if they are not answered." "He is conservative." "He is very conservative. But whether that translates into his opinions, it is too soon to say." "His writing often will have [sic] literary allusions. He refers to sources that you usually don't find. I really look forward to reading his opinions."
You know what? So will I.
I'm unreasonably excited to hear that Julie Taymor (Titus, Frida) is slated to direct a new movie musical called Across the Universe, a love story told through 18 songs by the Beatles:
A young man from Liverpool comes to America during the Vietnam War to find his father. He winds up in Greenwich Village, where he falls in love with an American girl who has grown up sheltered in the suburbs. Together they experience the sweeping changes of America in the late 60's.
Originally, the movie was going to be called All You Need is Love, before a late—and, I think, well-chosen—change in title. (This reminds me of the time that Noah and I were trying to think of a title for our screenplay about the making of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and rejected A Day in the Life as being too obvious. Dave, of course, suggested that we call it Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.)

21 September 2005

New York real estate makes for strange bedfellows: scary photographer Cindy Sherman's loft in SoHo was just bought by Hank Azaria. That's an open house I would have liked to have seen.

16 September 2005

Hurricane Katrina and the Roberts confirmation hearings have forced us to ignore, until now, the joyous news of one of our lovely blockmates. I've written about diamonds before (I'm too lazy to link to the previous post), but I wanted to see if I could find some statistics out there about the number of fake diamonds on peoples' hands. To make a long story short, I couldn't. The zirconium people are good at hiding statistics.

But I found something just as interesting in my search: Wal-Mart, which (along with the TV Networks and Hallmark) almost has the power to alter popular culture on a whim, tells prospective cubic zirconium purchasers, without a hint of irony, that the artificial mineral is April's birthstone. Huh? April's birthstone is the diamond. There's a difference.
On second thought, I find Roberts's favorite movies to be vaguely suspicious. A little too…mainstream, wouldn't you say?

15 September 2005

Given the history of the Supreme Court approval process, Chuck Schumer makes a rather ill-considered analogy when complaining about John Roberts's refusal to give substantive answers:
"It's as if I asked you, 'What kind of movies do you like?' Tell me two or three good movies.' And you say, 'I like movies with good acting. I like movies with good directing. I like movies with good cinematography.' And I ask you, 'No, give me an example of a good movie.' You don't name one. I say, 'Give me an example of a bad movie.' You won't name one. Then I ask you if you like Casablanca, and you respond by saying, 'Lots of people like Casablanca.' You tell me it's widely settled that Casablanca is one of the great movies."
Hey, why don't we just obtain records of Roberts's video rentals? Oh, wait: somebody already tried that with this guy.

In any case, anybody who likes Doctor Zhivago and North by Northwest can't be all bad.

13 September 2005

Alas, I haven't been able to watch the confirmation hearings, so I'm having Dahlia Lithwick keep tabs for me.

My favorite piece of analysis: "Here's a man long accustomed to answering really hard questions from extremely smart people, suddenly faced with the almost-harder task of answering obvious questions from less-smart people. He finds himself standing in a batting cage with the pitching machine set way too slow."
I'm taking a few days off from work, mostly to unwind after a challenging couple of weeks. I was hoping to write or at least think about writing, but I've been spending most of my time watching the Verbal Kint, er, I mean, John Roberts confirmation hearings. It's great television. My favorite moment so far:
Senator Herbert Kohl: Judge Roberts, in an October 3, 1983, memo you wrote that while you served as associate White House counsel for the Reagan administration, you expressed support for judicial term limits. You did specifically support the idea of limiting judicial terms to 15 years and you said, I quote, to ensure that federal judges would not lose all touch with reality through decades of ivory tower existence, unquote. And do you still support in theory the idea of judicial term limits?

Roberts: You know, that would be one of those memos that I no longer agree with, Senator.
After watching this stuff for hours, I don't really have any more insight into Roberts, except—surprise!—that he’s charming, funny, articulate, and as smart as all get out, even when he isn't revealing anything. Where did they find this guy? It’s like he was built in a laboratory.

12 September 2005

Favorite survival toy I've found this weekend: Cellboost, a disposable cell phone charger that provides 60 minutes of talk time or 60 hours of standby. Should be handy to have when the power goes out. (I've already bought three, one for home, one for the office, one for my purse, er, shoulder bag.) There's also a version for the iPod.

Even cooler is the hand-cranked cell phone generator. Unfortunately, there isn't a version that fits my phone. Yet another reason why I shouldn't have sold my soul to Sprint.

11 September 2005

Uh, anybody know any good rice recipes?
In coming decades, will pop music fans with a shaky grasp of chronology assume that "Katrina and the Waves" was always an ironically morbid band name, like, say, "the Dead Kennedys?" (I guess we should ask the late-'90s synthpop group who named themselves "I Am the World Trade Center.")

10 September 2005

As many of you know, I've always had a weird sort of survivalist streak, especially when I was about ten years old (and enjoyed assembling first aid kits). Katrina has convinced me that I was right all along. FEMA, after all, recommends that every household keep at least two weeks of emergency supplies on hand, including food and water. (Now we know why.) Unfortunately, I'm woefully unprepared these days. As a result, I've been trying to figure out how to assemble a disaster kit adequate enough to provide some measure of psychological security, if nothing else.

Mormons, of course, are encouraged to keep a year's worth of food in storage, usually consisting of four basic staples: wheat, dry milk, sugar, and salt. Since I'm no longer expecting the apocalypse, a year's supply seems a bit much, but one month seems like a reasonable target. After fiddling a bit with the Mormon approach (using this completely legitimate website as a source), I've ended up with the following:
25 lb. white rice
5 lb. dry milk
3 lb. sugar
1 lb. salt
Obviously, white rice isn't the most nutritious food staple, but I'm limited by what's available at the local Key Foods, and by shelf life considerations. (My goal is to buy staples that can be stored for at least five years. Flour loses most of its nutrients after a year, apparently, as does brown rice, because it contains oils that oxidize quickly. Mormons usually go with whole red wheat, which lasts forever, but I don't see any in the baking aisle.) Some long-lasting dietary supplements, like spirulina, should be able to make up most of the difference.

Cooking, of course, will be an issue if the power goes out. For a while, I was considering a Coleman camp stove, but decided that I'd feel less safe with a propane tank in the house. I haven't quite figured out this part yet, but if I decide to get serious about disaster preparation, I might just spring for a Zip Ztove. If anybody has any suggestions, let me know. (Sharon, I'm looking at you.)

09 September 2005

You find all sorts of neat things in law dictionaries...

Suppose a member of Congress wants to resign to, say become a lobbyist for a drug company. What does he or she do? Send in a letter of resignation, of course.

In England, nothing is that easy. MPs are technically not allowed to resign from their posts. So what does an MP do? Ask the Queen to appoint him to be the Steward of Her Majesty's Three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham in the county of Buckingham, of course. Upon taking this purely nominal royal appointment, the MP then cannot simultaneously serve in Parliament, so his or her seat is forfeited. Then the MP resigns from the royal post.

07 September 2005

Quote of the day:
"This is the largest disaster in the history of the United States, over an area twice the size of Europe. People have to understand this is a big, big problem."

—Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska
From an AP article which, according to Josh Marshall, has since pulled the quote. So maybe he was misquoted.
Kevin Spacey is Lex Luthor. Yes.

06 September 2005

From the letters page of today's Wall Street Journal:
Sharon Begley's Science Journal column Friday ("Man-Made Mistakes Increase Devastation of 'Natural' Disasters") describes how the levees have contributed to the disaster at New Orleans. Some new ideas are needed to save the city because the levee model will just lead to worse catastrophes in the future. Why not accept the fact that New Orleans is a city below sea level and make the most of it? Venice has done it and is one of the favorite tourist destinations in the world. Converting downtown New Orleans into a city of canals and gondolas would mark the renaissance of this beautiful city.
Obviously I have no idea if this would work or not, but I find the idea weirdly compelling.

05 September 2005

I can see Chertoff not wanting to spend his time in front of a Congressional committee when he has a disaster cleanup to manage.

But he saw fit to go on national TV and radio and give horrible misinformation ("convention center? I don't think anyone is trapped there") during the midst of the crisis, so I'm not so sure how hands-on he is.

The divided authority issue cuts very deep, and it's something I noticed while working in state government. Basically, you need about ten people to agree in order to get anything done in terms of natural disasater funding, and I can only imagine what the maze is when you're dealing with national guard troops elsewhere in the country. At its best, the homeland security department would be a central command center where efforts could be coordinated quickly; at its worst (and I think we can agree that this experience falls into the "worst" category), it's a black hole where information goes in and disappears, and nothing comes out. No one has full information and every agency involved is left to fend for itself, only to guess as to what will happen next. Maybe with a bit of time we'll learn more about what exactly happened.
By the way, some people, including Michael Chertoff, have argued that we should postpone investigating what went wrong until the rescue and recovery operations are complete. I disagree. I think that we need to start figuring out what went wrong immediately. Why? Because if I were a terrorist, the time I’d want to strike is right now, when FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security are already distracted and overstretched. We may not have the luxury of a long investigation.

Even if we don’t see an attack soon, I’ll bet that terrorists, many of whom are very smart and well-organized, are going to be following future hurricane alerts very, very closely.
In other news, while browsing through Wikipedia, I found myself genuinely surprised by the revelation that Charles Nelson Reilly might be gay. In retrospect, I guess, the signs were pretty obvious.

04 September 2005

I don't know; firing the head of FEMA might raise some uncomfortable questions about why he was hired in the first place. (Here's a story about the guy's resume. Scary stuff. On the bright side, if you ever have any urgent questions about Arabian horse-related fraud, you know where to ask.)

Nat, if you ever end up running a federal agency, can I have a job, too?
Aren't disaster plans supposed to prepare for the worst contingencies and not for the best?

Is it standard for disaster plans to prepare for medium- and long-term refugee housing?

If I were the President I'd have already fired Chertoff and the head of FEMA.

03 September 2005

Oy, what a week.

02 September 2005

I hate to say this, but cities need to learn how to fend for themselves. I have low confidence in the government’s ability to keep a nuclear bomb out of New York, but high confidence in the NYPD’s intelligence and counterterrorism unit, which consists of a thousand smart, scary guys who think about nothing else but protecting the city. (Unfortunately, they don’t control the Port of New Jersey.)

01 September 2005

My heart goes out to all those people in New Orleans, and I hope we do all we can to fix the situation.

I also hope we learn that disasters require some planning and preparation to stop the worst from happening. As a resident of the bay area I sure hope we can start anticipating things a little bit before we hit the trifecta of FEMA's 2001 "three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country".

I'd always assumed that someone has some plan in place to make San Francisco survive a large quake, but given the response in New Orleans, I'm getting a little scared.