Archive for March, 2009

Locks

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

The good thing about a lock is that it’s not worth stealing. You don’t have to be too smart to know that, and the people I work around are all very smart. Nobody steals a lock. This is a good thing because I am very forgetful. I stopped working out for a month because I thought it would be more fun to drink like a fish and smoke like a chimney and work until late. When I came back the next time to the gym my padlock was laying on top of the lockers like I’d left it there the night before.

Nobody steals a lock. It’s not because people respect locks, it’s because if you don’t have a key or know the combination a lock is only worth as much as the metal it’s made of. As long as your lock is not very heavy or very golden, no one will steal it.

I was thinking this the next night when I had left my lock at the gym again and it was there just the same, and I had no more thought it than I turned around and saw a big shiny U-Haul padlock hanging on an open locker with the key in it. I looked around the locker room but there was nobody it could belong to.

I’m not a natural thief. I like the sneaking around parts, those are fun, but I don’t like taking other people’s stuff. The whole night when I was working out I was saying to myself that you ought to do things in life that you’re never going to have a chance to do again, and when are you going to have a chance to steal a lock that’s actually worth something?

I do a lot of security work so my sense of irony almost demanded I steal that lock. When I went back to the locker room it was still there so I showered and dressed and put on my hoodie and in one smooth motion pulled the lock from the locker and put it in my pocket.

I didn’t look around to see if anybody had seen me because I knew they hadn’t and if I had it would only make me look suspicious. I slung my pack over my shoulder and I walked out of that locker room and I made for the front door.

When I was sure that nobody had seen me, and no one was going to stop me, and I had without a doubt got away with it, I stopped by the empty front desk and took a stick-it note and wrote “found on locker 87″ and stuck it to the lock, and left it there. I signed it with a big enigmatic K like I was Zorro or something. Or Korro, anyway. What do I need with a lock, when I’ve already got mine?

Had mine. I left it in the gym on Friday and when I came back today to work out it was gone. I guess not everybody’s so smart. It could still turn up somewhere, though. I’m very forgetful.

Sunday. On call, so stuck home.

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

It was forty-six degrees this afternoon, less with the wind. This is not a natural temperature for a Texan, but the sun painted the grass green and the flowers yellow and the blue sky with its fluffy clouds would not let me stay inside.

I found things to do and I wore micro fleece and a knit cap while I drank rum and coke and read a Woody Allen book in sock feet with Birkenstocks. I sat on the porch in the sun and pretty soon forty-six degrees wasn’t very cold after all.

I drained my hot tub and cleaned it and filled it up again. It was really dirty, brown and filled with leaves after our first party. I’m not sure how it happened but it did get awful dirty. It didn’t take me long to clean out. I have this week to balance it before our second party this Friday.

I crushed all our cans and separated a few months of recycling and all I could think was we sure do put away a lot of booze.

TARP II

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

So the Obama administration is leaking its latest greatest financial bailout plan to the New York Times, and the very first thing I thought was that Geithner must have hired Henry Paulson to work it out, because, aside from some extra polish (we’ll have auctions to determine how much these mortgages are worth!) it’s the same damned turd Paulson originally pushed through Congress as the Troubled Assets Recovery Plan, and it’s as stupid now as it was then. Paul Krugman explains why, but the short answer is that Obama and company seem to think we’re in a bank panic rather than a recession, and that we can buy our way out by paying bankers top dollar for the big huge mortgage dump they just took on us. The Financial Times gives a convincing explanation of why this is bunk.

The fact of the matter is that home prices got swollen beyond all reason, and if the government pays top dollar for these upside down homes, they’re going to get screwed in the end, because people are and will continue to walk away from mortgages where they owe hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the home is worth. Nothing that happens in Washington is going to make anybody pay a million bucks any time soon for the house I’m sitting in in California. The notional buyers of these CDOs know that’s probably true, and this plan just allows them to make a highly-leveraged gamble with taxpayers money: only 3% of the outlay is from private parties! Does that sound at all familiar to you? Because if you’ve been paying attention it should!

Or maybe I’m just sore because this deal is beiing offered to financial wizards on Wall Street and nobody’s offering me a piece.

My Ten Favorite Movies of 2008

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

The Oscars were pretty cool this year; I really liked the bit with using former winners as presenters. I was going to make my standard snide remark about the Academy having no taste in movies, but after making the list below, I found to my horror that many of them had, in face, received an Oscar or two. Here, in no particular order is a list of my favorite movies of 2008. Not necessarily the best, just my visceral favorites. What’s yours?

Hellboy II — Beautiful production design, great makeup, interesting characters, good one-liners. Sure, moral ambiguity with a darkly admirable villain and petty, petulant heroes has been done to death, but what hasn’t?

Vicky Cristina Barcelona — Sure, sure, you think I just put this movie here because it has Scarlet Johansson making out with Penelope Cruz, but that’s only half the story. The other half is that it’s a stunningly beautiful movie with colors and textures that make my eyes happy.

Baghead — Mumblecore slacker horror moviemaking satire relationship flick. The unspeakable truth of low-budget indie flicks is that the acting mostly sucks ass. Not here, man, not here. Of course, it’s an Austin flick, so I may be partial.

WALL-E — Top-notch animation and a great story are par for the Pixar course, but I like this movie because it is so intensely visual–most of the interesting stuff in the movie happen without any dialogue at all. That’s a rare thing in movies, and it works here as it does in a couple of my other favorites, I am Legend or The Scent of Green Papaya.

Batman: The Dark Knight — This is really a so-so movie. “What we’ll do is, we’ll move the shenanigans of the past eight years into a fictional setting, and construct all these situations that show the moral conundrums the current global environment poses, and it’ll be all allegorical and stuff”. Meh. Been done before, whatever, blah blah blah. At least they blew up a major character, so that was unexpected, for Hollywood at least. Really, the reason this movie is on the list is Ledger’s Joker. It’s not because he’s dead–it was just one hell of a performance. Lip-smacking creepy scary crazy louche fantastic is what it was. Heath ledger made Jack Nicholson look like a chump, and that’s no mean feat.

Smart People – Dennis Quaid does a very believable turn as a socially challenged professor, Ellen Page proves she’s can play more than one note as his daughter, and Thomas Haden Church is hilarious as his slacker brother. Sarah Jessica Parker puts in a solid performance too. The movie itself is like Little Miss Sunshine without the sap, the talke of a semi-functional family that works, except when it doesn’t. What I found really interesting about it was the really geeky, intellectual voice that motivates all the dialog.

Rambo — This is the bloodiest, most brutal movie I’ve ever seen. That’s why it’s on my list of favorites: because I spent the whole movie going “Whoa, FUCK! Did you just see that? I can’t even believe I just saw that.” It’s like Stallone was worried people thought he’d gone soft in his old age, so instead he just decided to sit down with a nice Chianti, throw a baby or two on the fire, and write a movie so over-the-top violent that it would set a new benchmark for deaths per minute.

In Bruges — A sort of thinking man’s action flick. A bit heartless, perhaps, but not everything has to be about heart. The performances are all smooth, the dialog pitch-perfect, and the plot seamless. It is in many parts laugh-out-loud funny, and never seems to take itself too seriously.

Body of Lies
— I’m a sucker for spy flicks, and I’m a sucker for Ridley Scott flicks, and I’ve never seen a bad movie with Leonardo di Caprio in it. This movie is all three. ’nuff said.

W — I fucking hate George Bush, and this film managed to make him in some ways sympathetic without making him a total moron, which is a good trick. It does make him look pretty bad, though, and I like that; it uses his own quotes and footage to do it, too, which is genius of Tina-Fey-as-Sarah-Palin caliber.

The Watchmen

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Alan Moore must have taken his name off Watchmen out of jealousy. It is a beautiful and very faithful rednition of the comic book. The ending, while substantially the same thematically and plot-wise, has a significant change to the specifics of the villain’s plot that makes it, if anything, more plausible and satisfying than the original.

The action is brutal, the effects spectacular, and the characters as layered and complex as the ones that made the book a classic. You should probably go see it immediately, in IMAX if possible.

A big fat load of hooey

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

If you look at Time magazine this morning, or the Washington Post editorial page, or the Politico, you’ll see the representatives, elected and otherwise, of the Republican party telling the same story:

Ol’ Obama rode into office promising to change the way politics works, and here he is engaging in a coordinated–coordinated!–attack on Rush Limbaugh and the Republican party, implying Mr. Oxycontin is the party’s leader, and all in an attempt to distract the public from the Democrat party’s ginormous spending.

I’ve never heard a bigger load of hooey in my life. You can agree or disagree with the actions Obama’s taking–I happen to agree with most and disagree with some–but it’s a lie to say that anybody’s trying to duck discussion of it. Hell, it’s all over news. Obama’s made a couple of high profile speeches this week in support of his spending bill, and just got done with an extremely public debate over the stimulus package. If that’s changing the subject, I don’t know what isn’t.

One consistently repeated nugget of…whatever in this little tale the Republic party is telling is that the Democrats have authorized more spending already than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and Katrina combined. I’m not sure how they figure the $787bn stimulus bill exceeds the $872bn cost of the wars so far–maybe they’re including the $350bn TARP monies originally requested by Bush–but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exceed the conservative $2.4bn final bill estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.

Democrats–and especially Obama–have argued all along that we weren’t spending enough in Afghanistan, and if I were the Republic party, I wouldn’t bring up the contractor give-away that was Katrina at all. Ever. You’d think Bobby Jindal would’ve taught them that already.

The Republicans are not completely without valid, issue-based rejoinders right now; it’s too bad they’re not using any of them. It’s a great question about whether we should be pouring more money into the big three, a collection of companies so thoroughly and dependably incompetent they make AIG look like a bunch of Geniuses. With Lindsay Graham pointing out that re-ownership of failing banks may be necessary, the Republicans could totally own that issue, and ask why the government is giving out metric assloads of taxpayer money to financial institutions and getting next to nothing in return. Some party is going to have to sack up and advocate wiping out the shareholders in these failed companies and selling off whatever good assets they have left. If you can’t lose money by investing in a company that’s a failure, then America is not a market economy. It’s too bad we don’t have an opposition party ready to do any of that.

This is the part of the post where I make some pithy and gratuitously offensive non sequitor like “Also, fuck Rush Limbaugh,” but I just got a picture of that in my head and my heart’s not in in it any more. Sorry.

My French Whore

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

It should surprise no one that Gene Wilder is an excellent writer. His only Oscar, after all, is for writing, and Young Frankenstein, the movie he won it for, is a cinematic classic. Still, I didn’t expect Kiss Me Like a Stranger, his autobiography, to be the fascinating, well-paced, top-shelf literary experience that it was.

My French Whore: A Love Story, Wilder’s first novel, is similarly inspired. “Novel” may be a bit of a stretch–it’s a hundred and sixty pages in a small format of large print, and “novella” would probably be a more fitting term. This is as it should be; Wilder here makes an explcit more than passable attempt at imitating the economical style of Ernest Hemingway. Each word and sentece feels turned over and re-examined and re-written until the largest amount of meaning is conveyed in the smallest number of words. It is a small, intricate jewel you can read, as I did, in a lazy afternoon at the beach.

It tells the tale of private Paul Peachy, a none too brave American soldier in World War I, who by unhappy but plausible accident ends up impersonating a high ranking German spy, and is sent to hobnob with French and German aristocrats at an old castle comandeered as a rear operating base. It is there that he meets the titular Frenchwoman, falls in love, and learns what it is to do a brave thing.

In Austin, you can sometimes find this book discounted at book people, and elsewhere perhaps at Barnes and Noble, where I found it. I suggest you give it a read.