Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Classic Video: We Came, We Saw, We Kicked Its Ass!

I've never had sex (at the same time) with Angelina Jolie, all the Victoria's Secret models, Marilyn Monroe, Helen of Troy, and/or the goddess Aphrodite, but it's entirely possible that the Internet video equivalent of what that might be like has happened.

Imagine an orgy of these movies:
  • Ghostbusters
  • Back to the Future
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Big Lebowski
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • School of Rock
  • The Godfather
  • Robocop
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Star Wars
  • On the Waterfront
  • Airplane
  • E.T.
  • Top Gun
  • The Naked Gun
  • Jaws
  • Anchorman
  • Short Circuit
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  • This Is Spinal Tap
  • Pulp Fiction
And mix in these TV shows:
Yes, imagine that orgy.

(The following words and video are clipped directly from Lemondrop, a website geared toward the ladies. And to our legions of lady readers, I say this: Check this site out any chance you get. It's great. And, for the record, I have absolutely no employment connection to it whatsoever.)
"We're just gonna come out with it: This clip is amazing. Some editing genius named Ricardo Autobahn had the incredible idea to make a song out of ... movie clips. Now before you start imagining some medley you'd watch at the Oscars, let's talk about the fact that this guy's managed to string together the clips in a way that rhymes AND has a beat.

"We've been playing our own personal game of Guess the Movie and nodding our head to the rhythm for about 20 minutes now. Join us in watching and try to imagine just how much time this guy had to invest in movie-watching to put this together. The mind boggles. Enjoy!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Taliban defeats Al Qaeda, 6-1

Thus begins the World Series.

Mets fans have argued recently over which team we should be rooting for.

I recently discussed this with Side Bar, and he asked me who I would choose. I told him that the only answer was neither. A Mets fan cannot possibly actively root for either side.

If forced to choose, I would have to go with the Taliban. Side Bar disagreed, and not without reason. I completely understand his position. After all, the Taliban are in our division. They are now our chief rival. And wow, have the last three years have been excruciating for Mets fans America.

But for me, it came down to two things. 1) The Taliban are in the National League, and I was raised to root for the National League team in the World Series; and 2) Although the Taliban's fans suck mightily, they are largely located much farther away. Al Qaeda's fans, on the other hand, I have to deal with every minute of every day. As much as it would suck to have to deal with the Taliban's retarded supporters, distance counts; and Al Qaeda fans are close by and in the millions. They also tend to be very rude and love the number 26 for some reason.

Anyway, I didn't watch tonight's game and I don't plan to watch any others, but I did hear that my homeboy Alex Rodriguez struck out three times. Man, that guy's terrible. Remember when A-Rod had a few bad postseason games and Joe Torre batted him 8th in the lineup against the Tigers? I think Joe Girardi should just shoot him this time. As many Al Qaeda fans have said these past few Octobers, A-Rod sucks at baseball -- but worse, he sucks at suicide Bronx bombing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things That Are Overrated: 30 Rock

So 30 Rock just won it's third straight Emmy as the best comedy series or some such thing. This is an absolute travesty. I'm not going to try to persuade you that 30 Rock isn't a good show, it's pretty good, well it's OK, but all this praise is really unwarranted. Let's delve into this a little bit. I want to give you two examples (sorry to those who require 3 EXAMPLES!!!) of shows that are superior to this one, and I'd also like to talk about the flaws of the show.

First of all, the general format of the show is that they live in what is an obviously thwarted, but typically normal life, and then they cut away to crazy clips of strange things happening, and then they come back to the normal life. This is essentially how they show gets its laughs. Now this format isn't new, and isn't groundbreaking, and this isn't even the best show that has this format.

The best show with this format is Family Guy. Family Guy is way more edgier (yeah, I said more edgier, what are you gonna do about it?), way funnier, and amazingly is way more believable. It's much easier to carry through with this insane format in a cartoon, and I imagine that's why this show is so much more successful than any other with the absolutely arbitrary cutaways. I can't really picture a live action show where the kool-aid man blasts through the wall from time to time. Even so, this year Family Guy was actually nominated for the best comedy show along with 30 Rock, but obviously didn't win.

Another show with a similar format is Scrubs. For whatever reason Scrubs never really gained any traction, and for a show that's been on for like 7 seasons, I don't really know anyone other than me who loves this show. The format of this show is pretty similar to that of 30 Rock. JD, the main guy, walks around his real life but it is intermittently infused with these absolutely arbitrary fantasies about things he imagines happening that relate to the story in some way. This show is absolutely brilliant. The fantasy scenes are always good, and frequently astounding in their somehow being both completely random and perfectly apropos. I can't really say why this show never became super popular, especially given the popularity of both Family Guy and now 30 Rock. But this show is infinitely superior to 30 Rock.

Back to lecture at hand (perfection is perfected so i'ma let 'em understand). 30 Rock was a show that was being hailed as a work of genius by everyone before an episode ever even aired. Am I the only one who saw the first 5 episodes. Because this show took a while to find its stride. The first 5 episodes weren't just shaky, they were absolutely terrible. After that, they got into a bit of a rhythm, but it still doesn't live up its hype. I mean seriously, it's just not that funny.

Tracy Morgan, in like 15 years of being someone who I have been aware of as a comedian, has been funny like 6 times. He and Horatio Sanz should get together and start a comedy troupe of gies who were funny two times ever in their lives and somehow made a career out of it. Bring Jim Breuer with you, fellas (Jackpot!!).

The show has an ensemble cast of like 13 people who get like 2 lines each per show. I don't really understand this except it's clear that in writing this show it became apparent that the only characters who were worth anything were Jack Donaghy and Kenneth the page. The only reason this show is even watchable is because of Alec Baldwin. All of the show writers at this point are now just window dressing. And there's a third gie who supposed to be a cast member of the show who's not even in the show any more (though he did make a cameo in the season premiere in which they made fun of the fact that he's not on the show).

This show is hardly a work of genius. It is somewhat clever. It straddles the line between watchable and pretty good. There are at least 7 or 8 comedy shows on the air today that are better than this one. Family Guy, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Scrubs is still technically on, this new show Modern Family is freaking hysterical. Anyway, the only reason 30 Rock gets all this praise is because whatever hipster douchebags decide these things decided that this was some kind of masterpiece without ever actually judging it. Side note, The Hipster Douchebags would be a great name for a band.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Eight Days: A First-Hand Account of the 2008 Financial Panic

LJT did two excellent posts on the Bear, Lehman and AIG components of the financial collapse a while back. But he was writing those as the events developed, and with no benefit of hindsight. And, also, LJT is just some gie, not a reporter, so he didn't get to interview lots of people about what happened.

We are now more than a year removed from that week in September when the final unraveling began. This dude from the New Yorker decided that while LJT's work was good, he wanted to build on it. So he went and interviewed pretty much everyone who was involved in the financial crisis that exploded in September of 2008. Since there are six people who read this blog, I am comfortable that the New Yorker will not come after me for copyright infringement, so if you want a copy I will send you the PDF. I would put the link here, but you have to register for the site in order to access it. Assuming you don't want to do that, he basically explains the financial crisis this way:

1). Lehman Brothers had a leverage ratio of 30 to 1 (i.e., for every dollar of assets, it had thirty dollars of debt). So in the face of significant losses by Lehman on sub-prime mortgages (which had been packaged together and sold as investment products to pension funds, insurance companies, and other institutional investors) investors start to worry that Lehman's assets were insufficient to cover its liabilities, which begat a run on Lehman;

2). Politics, poor communication, and artificial line-in-the-sand-drawing, resulting in no government bailout for Lehman, begat the Lehman bankruptcy;

3). The Lehman bankruptcy begat the "breaking of the buck" at the Primary Fund (i.e., a money market account whose value fell under $1.00 per share - a previously theoretical (but now not so much) scenario in which a money-market fund (basically a savings account, but not FDIC-insured) has insufficient assets to cover all deposits);

4). The breaking of the buck at the Primary Fund begat a run on all money-market funds with investors pulling $4 trillion out of the private sector and putting it on deposit with the government (in the form of T-bills);

5). The run on money-market funds effectively suspended the purchase of "commercial paper" - short term debt issued by companies like GE, FedEx, etc. to fund daily operations, payroll, and the like.

6). The inability of companies to access the credit markets and obtain liquidity to operate threatened to create a run on the bank and become a widespread and irreversible panic.

And while all of this was going on, AIG was on the verge of collapse because one division of the company - the Financial Products division - was facing staggering losses on credit-default swaps (CDSs). Through CDSs, AIG basically provided insurance to investors that if a security (a bond, a pool of securitized assets, a stock, etc.) defaulted, they would pay the investor's losses. And as the risk of default increased, AIG would post additional collateral to prove that they could cover in the event of an actual default. So as subprime mortgage crisis ballooned, and more and more borrowers started defaulting on their home loans, which led to more and more defaults of the now-infamous "mortgage-backed securities," this division of AIG had to post more and more collateral. So even before an actual default, the mere increased risk of default was proving unmanageable for AIG.

But if AIG failed, everyone who had insurance (and therefore valued their investment by accounting for both the investment itself and the value of the insurance on top of it) would be sitting on uninsured investments that were tanking by the hour. It would be (sort of) like if everyone driving in Manhattan found out at the exact same time that they were uninsured, and there just happened to be a blizzard going on at that very moment (sort of). There would be a mass exodus from the roads, and the fear of lots of car accidents would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The sudden instability that thousands of institutions would have faced from the change in their investment portfolio would have had catastrophic consequences.

So the government bailed out AIG, because as LJT noted even a year ago, they really were too big to fail. But one of the author's points is that, in light of the dominoes that came down after Lehman failed, maybe it was too big to fail, too. Because once it did, the only way for the government to stabilize the markets and prevent another Lehman-type failure was to inject $700 billion directly into the financial system.

In the end, he is sort of critical of the decision to let Lehman fail, but acknowledges that these guys were making impossible decisions with no time for any real study, and they had to balance political, financial and other unknown factors in making their decisions. There was no playbook for this, so even if they should have stepped in to shore up Lehman, it is tough to fault them for that now. Particularly because (a) if they had, they might have only been delaying, and not avoiding, the total collapse that followed the Lehman bankruptcy, and (b) every other decision they made both before and after the Lehman bankruptcy - to get the TARP funds in sufficient magnitude to prove that the government was on top of the problem, to back-stop money-market funds, to restrict short-selling in financial stocks, to bail out AIG, etc., etc., - has proven to have had a stabilizing effect on the markets and mitigated the problem considerably.

Or, to put this post more succinctly: this is, without a doubt, the best and most comprehensive description of the financial collapse that I have seen. You should read it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Where's Luke Concert Series: Regina Spektor

Tangentially related, two of our four blogmates went to the Springsteen concert last week, but nary a word of it has hit the interweb. Seems like something that would make a good blog post, especially since both of them told me the concert was awesome.

Anyhow, the week before the aforementioned concert Side Bar says to me, he says, "I'm going to see Springsteen and he's going to play the entire Born in the USA album. I'm pretty phyched." And then I said, "You may be going to see Springsteen or whoever, if that's how you pronounce it, but I'm going to see Regina Spektor at Radio City Music Hall." And then he goes, "Who's that?" For serious, that's what he said.

So, on that note, if you've not heard of Regina Spektor, then you are missing out. Or if you just saw her for the first time on Saturday Night Live last week, then you gots to get your listen on. The short version of the story is that Regina is a female songwriter and piano player and so she automatically falls in the category with Tori Amos and Sara McLachlan and maybe an Alannis Morissette or Fiona Apple. The thing is that Regina Spektor is as different from those people as it is possible for a female songwriter and piano player to be.

First of all, she's originally from Russia, then from the City but spent her high school years at Yeshiva in Bergen County and also in Fair Lawn High (go Cutters! side note: that Fair Lawn mascot must have taken on a whole new meaning circa 1998), so she's cool. Second her songs are just awesome. She really plays with the rhythms and melodies of each song and the lyrics are really interesting. She plays a lot with strange dissonances that don't sound non-musical, but rather highlight different aspect of the song. I could go on, bottom line, she's awesome and pretty amazing.

Anyhow, last night was the concert and it was enormously cool. First of all, after all these years, I had never actually been to Radio City Music Hall. It's a beautiful theater and it's enormous. Like, enormous. Then the concert was just great. She managed to play all of the songs I like from four different albums. It was a very cool experience. It was similar, but somehow unlike any other concert I'd ever been to. The sound was great, her voice is beautiful, and she's got a really interesting way of pronouncing some words in her songs. I'm gonna post a couple of videos to give you an idea of her stuff.

This is her best known song, I think, "Fidelity". Notice what I mean about the playing around with the sounds. Speaking of people from North Jersey, doesn't Regina look a lot like another Toker who knows how to, but won't, say "cheeseburger" in Russian.

This is my current favorite song of hers, "Us", which, incidentally, opens the movie 500 Days of Summer, which I also really liked.

The last video is "Ode to Divorce". This is a really good example of the strange, seemingly non-fitting lyrics here right at the 2:00 mark. Also it's a beautiful song.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mr. Dinkins, Would You Please Be My Mayor?
You'll Be Doing Us A Really Big Favor.

I don't exactly understand Mike Bloomberg's strategy in running this election for his third term. I mean, if he didn't have ads on every 20 seconds saying how bad Bill Thompson sucked, I would bet a good amount of money that most New Yorkers wouldn't have the slightest idea of who was running against him. The only reason people know Bill Thompson's name is because of those ads.

What he should have done was just put those ads on where he's walking around an idealized city and people talk about how great he is, whether it's actually true or not, and just put out the image of himself that he wants out there. He's outspending this gie a trillion to one, but he's essentially advertising for Thompson. The smear campaign is so overused at this point that it's just standard fare. All it really serves to do is get the names out there. Bloomy doesn't need to counter any negative ads from Thompson, because Thompson isn't running any ads at all. I know it's just a reflex to run negative ads at this point, but seriously, you're doing yourself a disservice here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

People Who Are Old: Open Bar

On this day in 1978, Open Bar's proverbial keg was tapped.

31 years, a few teeth left on the bottom of the swim club shallow end and one ill-advised admission on national TV later - he is still rocking it out.

Happy Birthday!

Seriously, Though, What Is The Best Beatles Album?

First of all, is there a difference between your favorite Beatles album and the one that is objectively the best? Can you really make a coherent argument on a foundation of, "Well, in terms of being groundbreaking, Rubber Soul is their 'best' album, but my favorite is still Magical Mystery Tour."? Also, do we have to count the entire White Album? Because, honestly my favorite Beatles album is the first disc of the White Album, whereas I can do entirely without the second disc. But I also love Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. And, well, shit it's all great isn't it?

At the same time, what is your favorite Beatles song? I'd be lying if I said that I had a single favorite static Beatles song. I do know, however, that I'm a Paul devotee. I love Yesterday, Blackbird, She's Leaving Home, Maxwell's Silver Hammer, I Will. It's not that I don't love the others, but I do find myself leaning towards the Paulish stuff.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Dumbass Award for Lazy Writing goes to ... Joe Ward!

... for his article entitled "Moving Home Plate Could Help Mets."

(This is a quick response to the article Chuck posted below, which was gonna be a comment, then became a commmmmmmment, then grew legs and walked on over to the New Post nursery, and Poof! Here it is, a brand new post! They grow up so fast…)

It's an interesting idea, this whole Mets-can’t-hit-home-runs-so-let’s-shrink-Citi-Field thing, but the author leaves out some glaring, rather obvious information.

For example, he says:
"The Mets have the fewest home runs at home of any team in the majors this season, with 47, and also have the fewest home runs over all, with 93."
Using calculus, I deduced that the Mets have therefore hit 46 home runs when not playing at Citi Field. Which, if I understand word meanings correctly, is fewer than they hit at Citi Field. Which doesn’t seem to support the idea that Citi Field is the problem.

Aside from home runs, let’s take a look at the Mets’ overall home/away power numbers this year:

Home: 135
Away: 151

Home: 29
Away: 17

Slugging percentage:
Home: .402
Away: .381

Now while those numbers (including homers) are all god-awful sucky bad, it’s actually quite clear that the Mets – if anything – have more power at Citi Field than away from it, though admittedly it’s very close.

Also, regarding David Wright, he writes:
"...the Mets, and particularly, David Wright, have struggled to hit home runs at home." [Ed. Note: Awful usage of commas there, too.]
David Wright 2009 home runs:

Home: 5
Away: 5
Which: the same

(And regarding the Mets as a team struggling to hit home runs at home, please see above where the Mets hit more home runs at home than not at home.)

Look, the Mets fucking suck. They can’t hit for shit, that’s obvious. But you really can’t say Citi Field is the problem when they actually hit better there than not there. The problem is that they can’t hit anywhere.

Finally, the article's headline, "Moving Home Plate Could Help Mets" is also just...ugh. How is moving the plate 10 feet closer supposed to help the Mets? Wouldn’t it help their opponents equally and, therefore, actually help nobody? (And yes, I realize Joe Ward probably didn't write the headline. Nevertheless, it's a good summation of his article, so I still win.)

Rather than Citi Field, here is an off-the-top-of-my-head list of things genuinely wrong with the Mets that should be fixed/traded/released/fired/sacrificed to the Mayan God of Round Trippers (Pujolsia) in an unholy ritual involving testicle removal and mouth-shitting:

1. All of the players
2. All of the coaching staff
3. All of the front office
4. The cast and creative team of “Entourage” (the Mayan thing)

Someone Actually Wrote Something Interesting About The Mets. Sort Of.

The only interesting thing I've heard about the Mets in the last several months is this. It's an article that's basically an opinion piece about how the Mets should move home plate forward in CitiField by 10 ft. The graphics that go along with the article are pretty cool.

The two things that it doesn't really mention that they could also accomplish by doing this would be to get some room down the foul lines and to increase the space behind home plate, which is currently the smallest in baseball and is too small.