The Guys in "Terriers" Are Terrible People


 [The following contains spoilers for the first 5 episodes of Terriers (Season 1).]

This weekend, for the first time after several weeks/months of intense working/recording, I was finally given the opportunity to relax for a few days. So, after an intense Twitter poll last night, I decided to sit down and blow through the first 5 episodes of Terriers, whose first season wraps up this week on FX.

I really enjoy the show, and people on Twitter say that it only keeps getting better. The dialogue is sharp, the one-liners are consistently funny, the acting is uniformly solid, and the direction and pedigree absurdly great for a basic cable show (Clark Johnson, Guy Ferland, and Rian Johnson take on directorial duties, among others. And that's just in the episodes I've watched so far).

That being said, I was a bit taken aback by the complete amorality of the main leads, Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) and Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James). Sure, their camaraderie is intoxicating, but do they really have to commit so many crimes?

In the first 5 episodes alone, these are some of the criminal/wrong acts that the guys have performed:

  • Planted a gun in a man's house, leading to his arrest for murder (though in fairness, he was framed for a crime he DID commit)
  • Directly provoked a mentally unstable bank manager to commit suicide
  • Threatened to destroy a woman's house, in an attempt at flushing out her boyfriend, all for the sake of obtaining a state reward for his arrest
  • Broke into a crime scene and stole $250,000 that potentially might have served as state's evidence
  • Chased a desperate criminal into the path of an oncoming car, killing him
  • Covered up the true cause-of-death of said criminal

Typically, when protagonists flout the law, it's in the service of a greater good. Nope, not these guys. Dolworth is mostly out for revenge, and for money to buy his old house back from his ex-wife.

I get that these guys are meant to be anti-heroes. Their flagrant violations of the law are thrilling to behold (in particular, the crime scene heist was pretty well-executed, given the show's limited resources). I also understand that their collective ethical character will undoubtedly improve as the show goes on. But the show doesn't seem to grapple much with the flagrant violations of the law that these guys perform on a regular basis. Based on the things I've read about the show, neither do most viewers. Perhaps the fact that we're willingly taken along for the ride is a testament to the show's greatness; it's hard to get us to root for the cuckolder, yet this show achieves it.

More reactions later, possibly on the /Filmcast, when I finish the series...

Black Friday Makes Me Proud/Ashamed To Be An American

Today was Black Friday, and while I've enjoyed participating in this day of madness in the past, I just wasn't feeling it this year (probably because I feel like I have everything I need in the realm of material things...for now). Farhad Manjoo has a "Black Friday survival guide" that's also a great summary of why the hell it is that normal, everyday people will turn into complete freaks when it comes to getting $10 off a toaster:

Black Friday superfans concede that they're an odd bunch. They all know that these days it's possible—and maybe even likely—that you'll get better deals online. So why go out at all? Because for some people, shopping on Black Friday is insanely fun. And if braving the cold and the crowds isn't your idea of a good time, you shouldn't bother.

"I love the thrill of going out and getting a deal," Zahary says. "It's very satisfying, like you conquered an objective in life, while still saving money and getting something wonderful for yourself, family and friends." Steffj89, a BFads forum regular, writes, "I love the crowds, the thrill of the deal, the people, the noise, this is MY SUPERBOWL."


Meanwhile, Gizmodo has a great rundwon of "The Ten Most Absurd Black Friday Trample Videos You'll See." Here's a taste:

What I'm Thankful For (2010)

The Great Smoky Mountains

I'm pretty sure I spent most of the past year not really believing that second chances were possible, or (quite frankly) that my life, as currently constituted, was worth living.

And while I can't say I've been completely pulled out of that darkness yet, I can say I've been pulled back from the brink.

If there is one word that can sum up the past 12 months since my last Thanksgiving post, it would be "change." And while i didn't believe the highs and lows in my life would get anymore extreme, this year has in fact brought with it a series of events so bizarre and unexpected that i haven't been able to step back and recover from the madness until today. Sometimes, life whisks you along through breathless turns, and the most you can hope to do is hang on, try to enjoy the ride, and pray to God your appendages are still attached when the dust is settled. Maybe that's all I've been able to manage this year. I think that, on the journey from darkness to light, I'm maybe about halfway there.

Despite the events that have ripped into my emotional well-being, there have also been so many encouraging developments that I can't help but be grateful. I work two jobs; one in education and one in the online film world. Both are difficult to obtain and afford me a number of benefits that are the envy of many citizens. For the first time in my life this year, I was accepted into a Harvard educational institution. This has brought my family great pride and joy. I am surrounded by wonderful people in both areas of my life. And while stress threatens to completely destroy my life on an almost daily basis, I really wouldn't have it any other way. As George Clooney once famously put it, "We are not swans. We are sharks." And sharks thrive on constant motion.

Last year, I listed a bunch of people and things I'm thankful for. All those sentiments are still true. It would be redundant to just repeat everything again, but it really is a mostly-accurate representation of how I feel today. Nonetheless, I wanted to quickly re-iterate some of them, while adding a few others, lest I forget the goodness in my life. Here is what I'm grateful for:

For Matt - For his valuable friendship, his deep understanding, his giving heart, and his unstoppable passion for telling stories. Our meeting has perhaps been the best thing to come out of these past few years. 

For Chi - For her continued patience with me, even as she enters a whole new phase of her life.

For my brother, Mike - For the ways in which he inspires me with his non-stop hard work, and the way he makes me laugh with his over-the-top no-nonsense attitude.

For Linda - For her kindness and companionship, which have been a valuable comfort as of late.

For Stephen Tobolowsky - For the stories, the profundity, the memories, the laughs, the tears that he has brought into this world, and that I have helped to facilitate. For giving me something to be proud of helping to create. Truly, I feel we are at the beginning of something amazing, and not the end.

For Lily - For her compassion, and for reaching out to me under circumstances where few would have dared.

For Deirdre - For her friendship and random acts of kindness.

For Mydhili - Because she is too cool for school. Also, her name is awesome. Seriously though: When people arrive at a new country and at a new school, the process by which they become friends with others can often feel random. I'm grateful that our friendship has somehow emerged newly from this selection process.

For people like Mary HK Choi, Matt Zoller Seitz, Myles McNutt, Alan Sepinwall, Adam Kempenaar, Alison Willmore, Dan Trachtenberg, Jeff Cannata, Matt Singer, Tasha Robinson, Eric D. Snider, Clay Shirky, Bob Garfield, Brooke Gladstone, Kim Masters, Maria Popova, and Katey Rich (and too many more than I can name here) - You inspire me with your writing/broadcasting. And with a few of you, I've been honored to meet and chat with you in the past year, and honored to call myself your friend. The pleasure has been mine.

For Instapaper + my Kindle - Because it has changed the way I read and (arguably) made me smarter.

For Sara - Because she shows me what is possible.

For Garron - Because his generosity and cooking skills know no bounds.

For Angie - For listening to my crazed ramblings when I need to be listened to the most.

For Bob and Jeff - For helping me to laugh with life. And for supporting me and giving me good advice when the time is right.

For everyone at /Film -From Peter, who makes everything possible (but I'm also grateful for his friendship), to Devindra and Adam, who constantly surprise me with their insights into film, to Germain, Russ, and Chris, who constantly churn out interesting and informative content. I can honestly say I'm proud to work for this organization, but I know that there is still much work to do.

For Salon - Because if you look beyond their ultra-left leaning views, you'll find stories about life and stories about love, written with such honesty and grace that they can't help but inspire some kind of admiration.

Again, for you - For reading, for listening, for engaging. For making what I do possible. For giving me the strength to keep going. Thanks all. Until next year...

Why Do News Sites Look So Horrible?

Lauren Rabaino shares some astute points about the sins that news sites make in their designs.

Calm the Hell Down, America: Defending the TSA

A number of people have come out in defense of the TSA's enhanced pat down practices. Kevin Drum writes an "anti-rant" for Mother Jones, saying:

The fact that you personally are annoyed — you! an educated white-collar professional! — doesn't mean that the process is idiotic. I've heard it called "security theater" so many times I'd be rich if I had a nickel for each time it popped up in my browser, but although the anti-TSA rants are often cathartic and amusing, they've never made much sense to me. All the crap that TSA goes through actually seems pretty clearly directed at improving the security of air travel.

Drum does bring up a pretty frightening point, though: If, God forbid, a terrorist attack were to succeed, our ease of air travel would undoubtedly decrease even further.

Over at Politico, Michael Kinsley urges us to remember that TSA officials are people too:

For the most part, the critics have taken aim at the agency and its rules, not the humble employees. But there are jokes about what kind of pervert would want to spend all day looking at X-rays of the privates of overweight Americans and then have the wonderful opportunity to run their hands up your leg. Don’t flatter yourself: Your leg is no thrill. What kind of pervert is attracted to the TSA? The answer is a pervert who needs a job. I favor jokes in all situations, but it would be nice if TSA jokes were accompanied by a note that your intended target is the rules, not the folks who are just trying to enforce them.

But perhaps my favorite response is from Foster Kamer, who just wants America to "Stop Freaking Out":

America, get your shit together and buck up. This is a complex problem that lacks an easy solution. You freaking out at the airport -- regardless of how violated you do or don't feel -- isn't going to make anything better for anyone. Contact your congressional representatives! Do something that will actually make a difference. But whatever you do, do NOT mess with my holiday travel plans. I have an airport bar to get to, and when I get there, I will drink away the trauma of having my cock grabbed by an equally uncomfortable stranger, and then channel this fury into calls and letters forcing the elected officials I appointed to do their jobs into actually doing their jobs. For the moment, though, all of us -- you, me, and TSA screeners -- are going through variations of the same hell. Don't make it worse.

How Amazon Screws Over Local Buinsseses...And Everyone Else

Man, isn't Amazon amazing? I seriously order from them all the time, primarily because they are so cheap. One of the big reasons for the price gap between Amazon and virtually anywhere else I can shop it is the fact that I don't have to pay taxes on Amazon goods.

Farhad Manjoo has a post over at Slate explaining why this is the case. It's nothing new, but Manjoo does what he does best, which is aggregate all the information into one, easy-to-consume article:

Why doesn't Amazon charge you sales tax? It has to do with the regulations states use to determine which companies must collect taxes. According to Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, companies are only required to collect sales taxes from their customers when they have a presence in the state in which they reside. If you buy something from the Web site of a company that has physical stores nearby, you'll most likely have to pay taxes. When you shop at online-only stores, you pay tax only if the store has substantial operations in your state. Since Amazon's headquarters are in Seattle, you have to pay taxes if you live in Washington State, and because it has warehouses or other facilities in Kentucky, Kansas, and North Dakota, you've got to pay taxes there, too.

Pope Says Condoms Are Okay For Women Too

In the Vatican's latest effort to clarify the Pope's recent remarks about condoms, Vatican has said that that condoms are also okay for women. According to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi:

"I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine," Lombardi said. "He told me no. The problem is this ... It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship. This is if you're a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We're at the same point," Lombardi said.

My guess? There's going to be a lot more clarifying on this stance in the days to come, but if this pope finally does bring Catholic sexuality into the 21st century, it will be a thing to behold.

TSA Updates Procedures To Make Them More Unreasonable

Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, Flying With Fish (via BoingBoing) reports that the TSA is going to start threatening to eject people from airports for refusing patdowns.

The new clarified policy for those who refuse pat downs by a TSA Transportation Security Officer (TSO), any pat down, is that the person who is refusing the pat down will be advised that they will be denied entry into the airport, and be escorted from the security screening area by TSA TSOs or police officers. If the person refuses the pat down again, they will be approached by a Supervisor TSO (STSO), who will again explain that a refusal of the pat down will result in the immediate removal from the security area by police officers. Following an escort out of the security area to the pre-security area the person will be informed that that they are being denied entry and that they may not attempt to reenter security.

TSA procedures are awesome for creating an illusion of safety, but I think Americans are starting to realize that the price of this illusion is becoming far too high.

In an interview with NPR last week, TSA Head John Pistole defended the new invasive pat downs, but was unable to answer Melissa Block's question about what we're doing to get ahead of NEW threats. It seems that everytime some terrorist does something crazy (shoe bombs, underwear bombs, etc.), we update our procedures to catch those people. But what will those crazy terrorists think of next? John Gruber points out one problem with this approach to airport security:

Here’s the question for Pistole, and anyone else who argues that these new TSA procedures are an appropriate response to that [underwear bomb] incident: What happens if the next guy hides his bomb up his ass?

Information Seeking Behavior in The Big Lebowski

Emily Dill and Karen L. Janke from Indiana University have written a wonderfully titled academic paper: "'New Shit Has Come To Light': Information Seeking Behavior in The Big Lebowski." A sample:

Whether intentional by the writer/director Coen Brothers or not, The Big Lebowski reveals how subjective the terms "information" and "facts" truly are in the 21st century; a world of nonstop news and ubiquitous talking heads. What is truth to one person is not necessarily truth to another -- what is merely a ringer briefcase full of "whites" to one person can be a $1,000,000 epiphany to the next. The film's most important contribution to the study of information seeking behavior is its illustration of how a highly complex information search is not about finding the "answer," but rather about an individual's ability to make sense of and create meaning from the process of information seeking.

I love when academia and stoner comedies collide. This instance looks to be suitably entertaining.

For further reading on Lebowski, check out "Life Does Not Start and Stop At Your Convenience: The Greatest Mystery of The Big Lebowski."

Pope Says Condoms Are Okay for Male Prostitutes, Still Not Okay for Heterosexuals

Does this make sense to anyone? From the Washington Post:

Journalist Peter Seewald, who interviewed Benedict over the course of six days this summer, raised the Africa condom comments and asked Benedict if it wasn't "madness" for the Vatican to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

"There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility," Benedict said. But he stressed that it wasn't the way to deal with the evil of HIV, and elsewhere in the book reaffirmed church teaching on contraception and abortion, saying: "How many children are killed who might one day have been geniuses, who could have given humanity something new, who could have given us a new Mozart or some new technical discovery?"

MSNBC Is Now Suspending People Left and Right

According to Politico, MSNBC has suspended morning host Joe Scarborough:

MSNBC said Friday that it is suspending “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough for two days after he acknowledged giving eight previously unknown $500 contributions to friends and family members running for state and local offices during his tenure at the network, a violation of parent NBC’s ban on political contributions by employees without specific permission from the network president.

“I recognize that I have a responsibility to honor the guidelines and conditions of my employment, and I regret that I failed to do so in this matter,” Scarborough said in a statement. “I apologize to MSNBC and to anyone who has been negatively affected by my actions,” he said, adding that after he was made aware of some of the contributions, he called MSNBC President Phil Griffin “and agreed with Phil's immediate demand of a two-day suspension without pay.”

First of all, shouldn't MSNBC see that this apparently-haphazard application of their suspension policy is doing more harm to its image than good? [Side question: Does anyone think a two-day suspension is anything but the most shallow of attempts at appearing impartial?] But at least they've learned something from the Olbermann suspension: do it more carefully and you can avoid creating a media firestorm and pissing off your on-air personalities. I was a bit taken aback last week reading Howard Kurtz's deconstruction of the Olbermann fiasco, as it's apparently even more crazy over there than it already appears.

We'll see how the media reacts to Suspending Your Host Redux, but I suspect there won't be as big of a hullabaloo this time around.

Why We Chose Gold

From NPR comes the fascinating story of why humanity chose gold as one of its most valuable metals:

You want the thing you pick to be rare...At the same time, you don’t want to pick an element that’s too rare.  So  osmium — which apparently comes to earth via meteorites — gets the axe. That leaves us with just five elements: rhodium, palladium, silver, platinum and gold. And all of them, as it happens, are considered precious metals.

And to think, platinum, it could've been you if your melting point was just a wee bit lower...

Do you really want random people rewriting your script?

Screenwriter John August, writing about's new movie studio:

Several readers have written to ask my take on all this. I won’t conjecture about anything beyond what’s on the press release and website, but I’m left with some pretty big questions. I have a hunch other screen-bloggers will be tackling some of the glaring ones, like copyright, authorship and the 18-month free option. So I’ll just ask one: Do you really want random people rewriting your script?

...In software development, the open source movement has succeeded in bringing teams of strangers together. But writing code is a lot different than writing a screenplay. A bad line of code is obvious; it doesn’t do what it needs to do. A bad line of dialogue is a judgement call. A thumbs-up, thumbs-down voting system isn’t likely to fix this.

Palling Around with Directors

Last night, Steve Weintraub at Collider posted an extensive interview with William Monahan, the director of London Boulevard. Monahan is probably best known for writing films like Kingdom of Heaven, Body of Lies, and most famously, The Departed. London Boulevard will be Monahan's directorial debut. The film's production was troubled by rumors that Monahan was a control freak, and that many setbacks might have turned his otherwise great script into a mediocre mess.

I've hung out with Steve on numerous occasions and in addition to finding him to be a really cool guy, the one thing I take away from our interactions is that this is a man who is extremely good at his job. Collider always has an ungodly number of interviews and often breaks news by digging out those minute details that other outlets are unwilling or unable to drill down for.

So why did notorious film blogger Jeff Wells take a bat to his integrity in a recent column?

The weird part is that Weintraub has seen the crime drama but declines to post a sidebar review despite the fact that it's opening in London eight days from now, on Friday, 11.26...Weintraub explained [via e-mail] that he was shown London Boulevard as a friend/admirer of Monahan and not as a critic, and that he's simply respecting Monahan's request not to review it. "You're hedging," I replied. "This movie is presumed to be troubled on some level and is about to be reviewed by all of London, and you're holding back on the specifics of your admiration because Monahan is a pally? I'd understand if the opening date was a couple of months off, but EIGHT DAYS?"

...Monahan and Weintraub know that the word on this thing is dicey, and that the general feeling is that it's a bleeding groaning bear with a bullet in its side. If Weintraub really likes it as much as he says he should be a man and tell the world how good it is -- clearly and specifically and passionately. 

I have two reactions to this:

1) First of all, it's hard to explain how difficult it is to own/manage a major film site these days. In addition to the fact that the ad market constantly threatens our solvency, there are issues of press access, credibility, and respect that we are forced to contend with on a weekly basis.

In my opinion, sites like /Film and Collider are in an awkward in-between phase; we are large enough to command some attention from the movie studios (i.e. large enough that Sony will invite someone from each of our sites to see an advanced screening of The Social Network), but have nowhere near as much clout as someone from Entertainment Weekly, Associated Press, or even critics from major local newspapers (although our readership undoubtedly is comparable to those in the latter category). For example, many of us are still forced to respect press embargoes on movies we've seen in advance. But if someone like Entertainment Weekly disregards their embargo and publishes a review early, well, I have a feeling they'll still get an invite the next time around.

As a result, we struggle to strike a balance between capitalizing on the few advantages we get, while still maintaining our journalistic integrity. And to be crass about it, if I was given the opportunity to see the film as a friend of a director and handed a big fat exclusive in the form of a lengthy interview, the last thing I would do is turn around and completely disobey that director's wishes by publishing a review of the film. Does that make me a terrible "film journalist?" Possibly, but it also ensures that I can deliver high-quality, unique content to our millions of readers for the foreseeable future. And in a job where exclusives are difficult to come by, and where readers care more about what they see on the page than what's going on behind the scenes, that'd be a trade-off I'd be willing to make.

[Update: Examples of the type of content I'm referring to, regardless of the means through which they arose: My relatively lengthy interviews with people like Danny Boyle, Chris Morris, James Cameron, and /Filmcast appearances by people like Richard Kelly, Michael Dougherty, Rian Johnson and Vincenzo Natali, to name but a few. I believe these instances offer fascinating insights into the filmmaking process, and that some of our readers/listeners might not have been exposed to them were it not for our site/podcast.]

[Note: In case it's not clear, I would not apply this logic to say, war reporters in Iraq or political reporters in Washington. But we write about who's writing what script, and who's directing what movie, and how much X actor is getting paid for appearing in the Y series of films. There's a qualitative difference in our jobs.]

2) Not everyone can be a complete, unapologetic dick to people and still be invited to things and be perceived as an essential, relevant voice in the film world.

House Rejects Bill to Defund NPR

Dylan Stableford, writing for The Wrap:

House Democrats rejected a bill -- supported unanimously by Republicans -- to defund NPR. The measure, proposed by Republican Whip Eric Cantor, was defeated in a 239-171 vote, with only three Democrats joining the Republicans. "When NPR executives made the decision to unfairly terminate Juan Williams and to then disparage him afterward, the bias of their organization was exposed," he said in statement before the vote. In their own statement after the measure was shot down, NPR said, "good judgment prevailed as Congress rejected a move to assert government control over the content of news."

For some context, I'm reminded of this piece that James Fallows wrote a few weeks ago, a stirring defense of NPR as a journalistic organization in the midst of the Juan Williams firing debacle:

NPR, whatever its failings, is one of the few current inheritors of the tradition of the ambitious, first-rate news organization. When people talk about the "decline of the press," in practice they mean that fewer and fewer newspapers, news magazine, and broadcast networks can afford to try to gather information. The LA Times, the Washington Post, CBS News -- they once had people stationed all around the world. Now they work mainly from headquarters -- last year the Post closed all its domestic bureaus outside Washington -- and let's not even think about poor Newsweek and US News.

Who is left? The New York Times, for one. The Wall Street Journal, with a different emphasis; increasingly Bloomberg, also with a specialized outlook. The BBC. CNN, now under pressure. Maybe one or two others -- which definitely include NPR.

Basic Fact-Checking Draws Praise from Tom Friedman

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has a column today praising Anderson Cooper for performing basic fact-checking on his CNN show:

When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, we have a problem. It becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues — deficit reduction, health care, taxes, energy/climate — let alone act on them. Facts, opinions and fabrications just blend together. But the carnival barkers that so dominate our public debate today are not going away — and neither is the Internet. All you can hope is that more people will do what Cooper did — so when the next crazy lie races around the world, people’s first instinct will be to doubt it, not repeat it.

It reminded me of Michael Hirschorn's Atlantic piece on how internet has killed our conception of truth. When fact-checking lies that are on-their-face outrageous (or what they do on The Daily Show every night) is equivalent to the apex of journalism, we have a lot more problems with our discourse than Friedman is letting on.

The Man Who Writes Your Students' Papers

The Chronicle has a riveting story of a man who students hire to write their papers for them. As one might expect, it's an extremely well-written account of the dark side of academia:

In the past year, I've written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won't find my name on a single paper. I've written toward a master's degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I've worked on bachelor's degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I've written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I've attended three dozen online universities. I've completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

The Avatar Blu-Ray Is Excellent

Scott Mendelson has written up the new special edition Blu-Ray for James Cameron's Avatar (not the bare bones one released months ago) and while I don't share his enthusiasm for the film, this disc sounds loaded!

Aside from the lack of 3D options (and the lack of subtitles on any of the bonus material - boo!), this is as comprehensive a Blu Ray set as any Avatar fan could hope for. In fact, the only thing I wish was included (aside from a theoretical commentary) was the dynamite interview that James Cameron gave with Charlie Rose back in February. In it, Cameron takes on many of the sillier criticisms of Avatar point by point and renders them more or less impotent. The film remains a terrific adventure, and this disc is a genuine labor of love from all involved. Fox is nice enough to house the set in a sturdy book-like box, which is only slightly taller than a normal Blu Ray box. This is no monstrous pizza box or giant collector's case that won't fit on any bookshelf here. The film is presented in three different variations, there are nearly an hour of deleted scenes, plus about eight hours of documentary material and about an hour of other goodies, plus scripts and copious still galleries. If you liked Avatar last year, there's no reason not to pick this Blu Ray set up.

It Gets Worse

Last night, The Daily Show decided to skewer John McCain's increasingly nonsensical support of Don't Ask Don't Tell by creating a parody of Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" videos. Their message to McCain? It gets worse:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
It Gets Worse PSA
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Olbermann's Takedown of Koppel's Cranky Washington Post Op-Ed

The other day, I read with great interest Ted Koppel's screed against the opinion-focused nature of modern-day cable news, in which he specifically named Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly as individuals that aren't helping. And while Koppel is undeniably intelligent and accomplished, the piece was a tinged of a "Get off my lawn!" attitude that seemed rooted in a refusal to accept or adapt to the economic realities of modern journalism. I'm not saying we should surrender to Nick Denton's mantra of "the most hits wins," but certainly there has to be a happy medium out there somewhere.

Tonight, Keith Olbermann responded not merely with a rebuttal, but with a complete subversion of Koppel's entire premise. Compelling stuff:

"We have a word in theater: Gay-mazing. That was double gay-mazing."

From SNL comes a pretty spot-on send-up of the differences between theater and movie acting. Two things to note:
  • Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men was originally written as a play. I wonder how the performance depicted here compared to the real thing
  • This is the most emotive I've ever seen Scarlett Johansson in any context

Newsweek and The Daily Beast: Two Great Tastes That Probably Won't Go Great Together

David Carr, on the imminent merger between The Daily Beast and Newsweek:

Putting together The Daily Beast and Newsweek makes little financial sense, includes not much in the way of editorial synergies — is it The News Beast or The Daily Week? — and marries two properties that have almost nothing in common other than the fact that they both lose lots of money. Other than that? A great idea. Brilliant, really. And it will be fun to watch...

“When you step back, this is not a marriage made in heaven,” said Mark Edmiston, a former media investment banker who was the president of Newsweek in the 1980s. “You have two very different owners with very different motivations...And if you leave Tina out of it for a moment, what is the model?” he added. “I don’t see how you can take two money-losing businesses and put them together and come up with a single entity that makes money.” 

According to Carr's statistics, Newsweek is still losing $500,000 per week while The Daily Beast will lose $10 million this year.

Harman (who acquired Newsweek for $1 and $40 million in liabilities) has been looking for someone to lead the magazine for quite awhile, and The Daily Beast's Tina Brown was originally in the running. But after reading New York magazine's feature on the first, failed attempt at a merger between these two entities, I find it hard to believe that the most serious leadership issues have already been resolved (Brown will not report to Harman under the new arrangement).

The most baffling element of the merger? Brown will be shuttering and directing all traffic to The Daily Beast. This will undoubtedly confuse the hell out of a bunch of Newsweek visitors. In addition, she'll be surrendering a brand/URL that has a lot of goodwill, not to mention a lot of inbound organic traffic (Newsweek gets more than 2x the traffic of The Daily Beast).

Some employees have already launched a Tumblr to plead for the preservation of their jobs and of the respected news weekly's website. Their poignant manifesto is worth your time:

In the face of indifference, condescension and even outright hostility from its print counterpart; with little to no resources; with more high-level hires and fires over the past couple of years than anybody could possibly count—and a revolving door of editors—the small but tireless staff at consistently created editorial work that made waves: via a Website, on video platforms, through multimedia, photo and social media. Whatever happens to Newsweek, we are all proud to have played a part in that.

Mind = Blown

The past week the Xbox Kinect went on sale and while some reviews haven't been overly kind, it shows a lot of promise. Certainly the fact that this technology is available at the consumer level is impressive and encouraging. But the fact that the Kinect has already been hacked opens it up to some interesting applications:

I recently purchased my own Kinect and I've been having lots of fun with it, although I'll be curious to see if more games come out that take full advantage of it. One thing's for sure, though: whenever I'm using my Kinect, I feel like I'm living in the future.

Group of Friends Wins $129 Million After Buying Lottery Ticket at Porn Shop

CNN reports that a group of friends got lucky when they purchased a winning lottery ticket worth $129 million at a Detroit porn store. A man named Mike Greer claimed the ticket for a group of friends:

At a press conference in Lansing, Michigan, Greer wouldn't answer questions as to who purchased the ticket at Uptown Book Store in Highland Park, or why they were at the store in the first place. "Nobody cares," said Greer.

Good to know that Greer is already making the most of his "fuck you" money in his answers to reporters. Then again, winning $129 million means never having to say "I'm sorry (that I was visiting a porn shop with some work buddies and exchanging cash for goods/services)."

[Side note: I'm really curious about the circumstances behind the purchase of this lottery ticket. Who goes to a porn shop to engage in lottery ticket group-buying? They had to know that it would be one awkward prize to claim.]

Entertainment Tonight Is Not The Ideal Venue To Premiere Movie Footage

Entertainment Tonight has posted a teaser for a teaser of some Green Lantern footage (the full length of which will debut next week):

Over at /Film, the response is not kind. Here's a typical comment:

The film may be months away but why release images that are not great looking? They obviously think this looks cool enough to put out there for all of us geeks, but it's like throwing raw meat to wolves. This looks like another boring-ass CGI crapfest. 

On a more extreme note, another commenter chimes in:

This looks horrible. What were they thinking? I really wanted to like this, but the initial suit pics had me worried already. CGI everything, too fake, terrible looking costume, no sense of realism at any point, Ryan Reynolds speaking....Now i get why they put Blake Lively in the movie. It was the only way they could get people to watch it.

There's just no way to fix this mess in six months. I'll be watching more trailers in the coming months, but they're going to need a miracle to get this crap together. This might be one of those comic book properties that may be pretty much unfilmable due to the limited nature of current technology.

Scott Mendelson makes a good observation: Why do movie studios keep premiering footage at Entertainment Tonight? I understand they want the audience that ET provides, but ET often chops it to pieces, overlays a grating voiceover, and focuses on the aspects of the film that are more audience-friendly for the US Weekly/People magazine crowd. Release a trailer to Apple. Hell, choose a site like /Film to premiere the footage unvarnished. But letting ET's editors get to it first is tantamount to poisoning the well for a film that could really use some fanboy support (check out my conversation with Devin for an elaboration on this topic).

Study: 25% of Men, 50% of Women Have Faked an Orgasm

A new study by the University of Kansas asked 281 college men and women about their sexual histories. They found that about a quarter of young men and a half of the women they surveyed had acted out an orgasm. The biggest reason? Wanting to end sex without hurting the other person's feelings.

At least this younger generation is sexually magnanimous. But reflecting on this study, Tracy Clark-Flory points out how absurd our culture has become:

It's funny to think that sometimes it ends up that the girl fakes it just so the guy can fake it. What a perfect representation of performative sex. Both partners are so strictly adhering to an expected script that they become outside observers to their own sexual encounter. Or, sometimes, it's less an issue of performance and more an attempt to avoid one's own, or one's partner's, embarrassment. Let's remember, the survey focused on college-age dudes and dames, as most surveys do. If faking it to some degree isn't a defining trait of youthful sex lives, then I don't know what is.

The Great Train Movies

As Tony Scott's Unstoppable hits theaters this week, film writers around the internet are reminiscing about train movies. Time magazine has a nice list of their Top 10 Train Movies, but film critic Matt Zoller Seitz has a slideshow over at Salon that I think really gets at why rail travel can be such a fascinating film subject. From his description of Malick's Days of Heaven:

Director Terrence Malick is a master at assembling music, dialogue, sound effects and images through editing so that the specifics of time and place that normally define movies are subsumed into a perpetual present, an endless moment that the viewer doesn't so much watch as ride, the way a kite rides a breeze. The train sequence near the beginning of "Days of Heaven," 103 seconds of bliss scored to banjo wizard Leo Kottke's "The Train and the Gate," is a great example. It describes a finite journey from one U.S. state to another, but it's not about what's happening or where it's happening; it's about the thoughts and feelings that tumble through the narrator's head as she remembers it all.

Skyline Is Pretty Bad


The Strause' Brothers new film Skyline is out in theaters today, but I was already pretty trepidacious, seeing as how Rogue Pictures wasn't screening it for critics. I was hoping the film would be so-bad-it's-good, but unfortunately, it fell into the so-bad-it's-mind-numbingly-boring category. While I didn't enjoy it very much, I was impressed by about 10 minutes worth of the visual effects in the 90-minute film. And if the budget really is around $1 million, then it really is an achievement on the scale of District 9, just without the thrills, inventiveness, script, or great acting in that film. 

I think Devin Faraci's review is pretty spot on:

Skyline is impressive if unimaginative, and there are lots and lots of bright daylight scenes of giant monsters and fighter planes and alien space craft and weird alien squid beasts. They look great, and I would totally hire Hydraulx to do my FX work if I had FX worked that needed doing.

But the rest of it. Oh, the rest of it! It’s terrible. Actually, many of the FX scenes are terrible as well – the FX looks great, but everything happening on screen around the FX is bone headed or moronic or poorly shot. And that’s pretty much the film in a nutshell: bone headed, moronic and poorly shot. And terribly acted as well, just for good measure. There’s not a single believable moment in Skyline, and I don’t mean that I couldn’t believe in an alien invasion. I mean that not one human being in the film comes across like a human being of any sort, that none of the dialog rings true or is delivered well and that some of the actors can’t even exit an airplane convincingly.

Test Prep Company Finds More Ways To Screw You Over

Tamar Lewin has a thorough exposé on Kaplan's deplorable business practices. Kaplan has discovered that test prep isn't where the money is at these days; instead, it's acquired small colleges and has started using them to screw people out of money:

Carlos Urquilla-Diaz, a former Kaplan instructor and administrator who is one of the Miami whistle-blowers, recalled a PowerPoint presentation showing African-American women who were raising two children by themselves as the company’s primary target. Such women, Mr. Urquilla-Diaz said, were considered most likely to drop out before completing the program, leaving Kaplan with the aid money and no need to provide more services.“The idea was, we’ll take anybody, and I mean anybody,” he said.

The Voice of the Sexually Abused

I was browsing Gizmodo the other day and I came upon Joel Johnson's withering rant about stupid internet commenters. The whole thing is worth reading in its entirety, and it's basically the exact same philosophy I subscribe to for /Film: "Despite what you may have heard, the internet website you read does not belong to you. You should treat it like a person's living room and you are a guest." (hat-tip to CHUD for that last part). The average netizen does not seem to grasp this fundamental rule of etiquette.

While reading Joel's article, one passage caught my eye:

So I was raped when I was a kid by a parent and I wrote about it. In case you're wondering: It fucking sucked, but I'm much better, thank you. But when I got into a scuffle with some commenters last week they decided to take something I'd written about that experience and use it to suggest to Brian Lam that I have anger issues. They were concerned for me, you see. They suggested therapy for my unresolved issues. I do have anger issues, you dumb, cruel,, entitled, tunneled vision shit eaters. My anger issues are with you, because you are so foul, so unable to use the internet as a thoroughfare for human compassion or—Christ—even just a civil conversation. It's so far beyond your comprehension that perhaps you are rude or simply wrong that you'd dredge up something that has absolutely no bearing on—wait for it—arguments about gadgets.

It's reprehensible that people would use Joel's past of sexual abuse against him on a blog about consumer electronics, but unfortunately, it's unsurprising. Nonetheless, I was impressed with Joel's forthcoming nature. Anytime someone speaks about a history of sexual abuse and puts it out there for the world to see, it is an undeniable act of courage.

I sought out Joel's original post found it on his blog. It took my breath away with its frank account of abuse, and the panoply of emotions that result from it. Joel's prose feels effortless and has a momentum to it that makes it impossible to stop reading.

I was particularly troubled by the ways in which religion is used as a weapon of the abuser. Truly a horrifying perversion of Christianity.

Once Glen came barging into my room, furious. “You’re messing with me,” he said. I had no idea what he was talking about. “You’re leaving cum in the toilet for me to find. Why are you messing with me? This is hard enough for me without you trying to make it worse.” In fact, I’d stopped masturbating for weeks at a time, trying to keep any thoughts of women out of my mind entirely, as we were taught over and again by pastors that even thinking about sex was as bad as actually having it. And masturbating? It might be okay, I once heard a pastor opine, if one could do it without thinking any sexual thoughts. But we were told: why take the risk? Instead I would hold out for as long as I could until, usually in the shower, I’d be unable to stop myself. Before the orgasm had even left my body I would begin to pray: I’m sorry, Jesus. I’m so sorry. This is the last time. Never again.

It is one of the most powerful things I've read this week. Hell, this month. Bravo to Joel for putting it out there and for giving voice to those who have no one to speak for them. Read the whole thing here.

How to Completely Bastardize An Effective Documentary

It's been over a month, but I finally got around to watching the 20/20 documentary for Catfish. I thought the film was really powerful and an effective look at the implications of inter-personal relationships in an online age (more thoughts here). The 20/20 episode basically gives away the entire plot of the film, a lot of whose value is predicated on the minute discoveries that one encounters while going through the protagonist's journey.

I'm not sure what the circumstances were behind the creation of this episode. Did the 20/20 people pitch the filmmakers? Or vice versa? Whatever the case, the filmmakers undoubtedly agreed in order to give much-needed publicity to their small, low-budget, limited release movie. But at what cost does this publicity come? By giving away all the story beats in a 44-minute 20/20 episode, complete with ultra-generic newsdoc voiceover narration, aren't you cutting off your nose to spite your face? Aren't you obviating the need to see the movie? Perhaps, but maybe some people will see it and think, "Hey, I should buy a ticket for that!" I doubt it will be that many, though.

Spoilers for Catfish follow:

The 20/20 documentary does have some value in that it features interviews with Angela, as well as the "Real" Megan Faccio. These offer insights into the post-Catfish reaction of these characters, insights that the film obviously can't give.

In addition, the entire 20/20 episode makes for an interesting comparison. If you watch both the movie and this episode, you're basically seeing the same story told in two different ways. Which one is more effective, and why? (My vote is definitely for Catfish).

The Sisters Who Could Read Each Other's Minds

From Macleans comes the heartwarming story of two conjoined twins who are craniopagus, meaning they share a skull. They might also share thoughts:

 Adding to the conundrum, of course, are their linked brains, and the mysterious hints of what passes between them. The family regularly sees evidence of it. The way their heads are joined, they have markedly different fields of view. One child will look at a toy or a cup. The other can reach across and grab it, even though her own eyes couldn’t possibly see its location. “They share thoughts, too,” says Louise. “Nobody will be saying anything,” adds Simms, “and Tati will just pipe up and say, ‘Stop that!’ And she’ll smack her sister.” While their verbal development is delayed, it continues to get better. Their sentences are two or three words at most so far, and their enunciation is at first difficult to understand. Both the family, and researchers, anxiously await the children’s explanation for what they are experiencing.

In addition to the fascinating philosophical questions this brings up (e.g. Are they technically two people? Or should they count as one?), I'm heartened by how the family has come together to help give these twins a fruitful existence. In a profession (Education) where you constantly see children's futures totally discarded because their parents can't be bothered to care, it's nice sometimes to see the total opposite.

The Mystery of the Tainted Cocaine

Over at The Stranger, Brendan Kiley has a fascinating look at why so much of the seized cocaine in the U.S. has been tainted with levamisole, a potentially deadly substance. I love this article's puzzle-like structure, but this bit in particular gave me flashbacks to The Wire:

One thing that can be done: develop an inexpensive field-test kit to try to detect levamisole. Dr. Clark has invented such a kit and—in association with The Stranger, a few folks in the local harm-reduction community, and the People's Harm Reduction Alliance (PHRA), which runs the U-District needle exchange—hopes to begin distributing kits in a few weeks. Unfortunately, kits are technically drug paraphernalia under Washington State law, not only because the kits will contain cocaine residue, but because it is illegal for any person to possess something used to "process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance." It's a perfect example of how drug prohibition laws make drugs more dangerous—an unregulated market for cocaine, with no quality control, has encouraged the use of levamisole as a cutting agent. And U.S. drug laws make it illegal for users to test their cocaine for poison—if users could, they might stop buying from dealers who sell tainted cocaine, putting economic pressure on the market to be less dangerous. It's a classically self-defeating chain of policies, but some antidrug warriors defend it on the grounds that since drugs are illegal, users get what they deserve. And if cocaine is perceived as more dangerous, perhaps fewer people will use it.

This, of course, is a cruel, stupid, and expensive way to deal with the problem. As Dr. Clark put it: "The idea of letting addicts die to make drugs scarier is reprehensible."

Why Can't You Find Tron DVDs Anywhere?

Tron Legacy will soon be upon us, but don't try to brush up on your Tron knowledge by obtaining the original. Used copies go for as much as $75 on Amazon, and it's completely unavailable on Netflix. According to Hero Complex, director Steven Lisberger recently remastered the film for a Blu-Ray release. Lisberger commented:

They’re trying to figure out when the best time is to release it. I don’t think there’s anything intentional going on to deprive ‘Tron’ fans of the new edition.

I call complete bullshit on this. Disney would only withhold copies of Tron (AKA completely avoid flooding the entire market with Tron DVDs) if they believed it to be financially advantageous. And with graphics and plotting that are incredibly dated, waiting until after Tron Legacy has made its millions before re-releasing Tron is probably the best move.

Did These Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels Come from The Onion?

From the NYTimes comes these actual proposed graphics for cigarette packages:

Designed to cover half of a pack’s surface area, the new labels are intended to spur smokers to quit by providing graphic reminders of tobacco’s dangers. The labels are required under a law passed last year that gave the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products for the first time.

Despite the serious nature of the ads, I can't help but think of The Onion.

"We basically invented blogging."

Nick Summers on why Slate isn't doing so hot these days. According to Slate founder, Jacob Weisberg:

We basically invented blogging. And sort of the whole tone of the Web, which to me comes out of email more than anything else, a much more colloquial, personal form of diction. I think Slate was the publication that really, more than anyone else, developed that voice, which in some ways has now infiltrated back into print.

With that delusional attitude, I wonder why Slate has anything to worry about.

Gawker Shows Self-Restraint

Looks like the company that published an anonymous smear piece against Christine O'Donnell has demonstrated its capacity to pull itself back from the brink. A couple weeks ago, a 21-year old man was stabbed to death in Manhattan. Gawker ran a graphic photo of his corpse in its story. But after a huge outcry from friends, family and the internet, the blog giant actually decided to remove the photo.

This raised many questions. When is it okay to publish sensationalistic, graphic photos? And why would Gawker, of all places, respond to user outrage meaningfully? Ryan Kearney has a detailed breakdown of the situation:

That the photo was later taken down — and only after tens of thousands of people, including Jusko's stepsister, had already seen it — says more about Gawker's journalistic integrity, or lack thereof, than any statement Denton et al. could whip up. They might be too proud of their perceived mercilessness to admit they made a mistake, but the photo's retraction is itself an admission — if not of a mistake, then at least that even Gawker, sometimes, can go too far.

Woman Solves Wheel of Fortune Puzzle With ONE LETTER


There are a lot of remarkable things about this video, but most of them don't have to do with its main subject. Note specifically: 1) The look on the other contestants' faces as they get completely owned, and 2) CNN reporter Jeanne Moos' being completely STUNNED at this woman's skill. I love "Wheel of Fortune" but guessing an entire phrase based on their word lengths is not exactly the greatest thing that mankind has ever accomplished. Where is a Ken Jennings human interest story when you need one?

Because The World Needs Another TRON LEGACY Trailer

Today, Disney released the third trailer for their upcoming film, Tron Legacy.

We're less than two months from the release of this film and Disney is really cranking the marketing machine into overdrive. They have a lot on the line with this film and they are going to make sure everyone and their mother (literally) are ready to head to the local IMAX come Christmas this year.

That being said, I can't help but feel like the relentless advertising effort reeks of desperation. Right about now, I can see the Disney executives who greenlit this film thinking to themselves, "Wow, we're sinking $300 million into a movie that's a sequel to a little-seen cult classic, whose primary audience was confined to the ultra-nerd crowd. This thing better do gangbusters or my head will be on someone's plate come New Year's!" There's been a non-stop onslaught of posters, stills, trailers, soundtrack news, etc. etc. etc., all of them seemingly trying to will the interest for this film into existence.

[Contrast this with the marketing effort for James Cameron's Avatar, which was muted by comparison. The film went on to box office glory and box office history despite the marketing effort and not because of it.]

Hollywood is obsessed with remakes and film's based on existing properties, even when those properties will do nothing to help sell tickets. The idea is that the existing name/fanbase will make it easier to sell the film, but this theory hasn't exactly been vindicated. Example: Who on Earth thought that the Jonah Hex fan club was going to turn out in large enough numbers to make that film a success? Ditto Scott Pilgrim. MAYBE ditto Tron Legacy in a couple months (although I doubt it). Over at Filmschoolrejects, Cole Abaius wrote about how challenging it was for the directors of Skyline to get their film made. Said one of the directors:

There’s this phenomenon that people have been cynical about in the last couple of years that I happen to agree with – that if a property isn’t based on something pre-existing, a video game, a comic book, graphic novel, [producers] won’t be interested. There’s a real aversion to original properties, but if you’ve got a graphic novel that sold 500 copies, they’ll say, ‘Look! It’s based off a graphic novel! It must be cool!’

Is there such a thing as "too much" advertising for one movie? Only insofar as it annoys people like me. But when you've already sunk hundreds of millions into a visually rich, sci-fi film, you're going to want to pump as much money as you can in the service of getting butts into seats.

With each new poster image though, I can't help but smell fear...the fear that maybe basing your film's success on a moribund, decades-old property that your computer engineer dad kinda liked when it was in theaters and on VHS might not be the best way to do business anymore.

Can Tony Scott Be Stopped?

From Drew McWeeny's review of Unstoppable:

But here's the problem… you've got this cast that's doing everything right, and you've got this script that strikes just the right tone, and you've got the action staged just right… and then you shoot it all like you're embarrassed by it, like you're determined to hide it all and make it impossible to see. Because that's what Tony Scott's visual signature has devolved to at this point, and I mean devolved. It's been a sliding scale of incoherence for a while now, and Hollywood continues to fall over itself to reward him for it. It's almost like a wicked joke that the name of the film that finally broke me in regards to Tony Scott is called "Unstoppable," because he certainly is. If the film was just a bad film, it wouldn't matter as much, but it's a good film that is buried in a visual style that can best be described as "evasive."

I agree that Scott's style is fairly insufferable, but I think Unstoppable is his most "general audience-friendly" film in years. Compared to films like The Taking of Pelham 123, Deja Vu, and Man on Fire, Unstoppable is a model of self-restraint. That being said, Scott's re-use of the same damn shots over and over and over again in Unstoppable is hilarious and should make for good MST3K fodder down the line.

[It's actually hard to describe until you see the film; why would a director employ the same exact swooping camera move around the train "cockpit" a dozen times over the course of a film? Baffling.]

"I have a jar of jellybeans on my desk..."

Andrew Alexander, Washington Post ombudsman, has an insightful post about covering crowd estimates at large rallies:

Crowd counts, inexact and exploitable, are a no-win problem for the media. Event organizers tout their own estimates to promote their cause. If a news organization's estimate is lower, it gets accused of bias. If it's seen as too high, the charge is favoritism.

 But while the Post avoided making its own estimates, it prompted users to do so in a user poll. Sure, no one takes those things seriously anyway, but put a little effort into it, will ya Washington Post?

Unscientific user polls, more entertaining than enlightening, are intended to engage online readers. But some found this one silly because it encouraged participation by those who had no clue of how to estimate crowd size and may not have even attended the rally. Ann Chih Lin, an associate professor at the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy, objected: "It's akin to sending out a message on the Internet saying, 'I have a jar of jellybeans on my desk. You don't know the size of the jar or the size of the jellybeans. Guess how many are in the jar.'"

Living on a Space Station

The Guardian has a description of what it's like to live on a space station. For me, it'd be the little things I'd miss. Like fresh fruit. Or the ability to wash my hair normally:

Hair-washing is trickier. Men tend to get military buzz cuts before a mission. Even Sunita Williams, who spent 195 consecutive days on the space station – a female record – had her long dark hair chopped to shoulder length but still had problems. "Washing took time. I'd squirt a little water under my hair, pat it down with my hand so it wasn't splashing everywhere, then put some shampoo in my hand and moosh it around. Then I'd wet a towel and try and soak it up. I usually did it on a weekend when we didn't have a whole lot of other things to do," she says

Interviewing Geniuses

This week over at /Film, I posted up two interviews with directors I deeply admire: Danny Boyle and Chris Morris.

As I like to say about certain directors, Boyle "gives great interview," and even if he's giving the same answers for the 500th time on his press tour, he still manages to imbue them with a profound enthusiasm. I always love films and the process of making them MORE after I speak with him. Boyle's new film, 127 Hours, is unlike anything I've ever seen before and takes the guy-trapped-in-one-place genre to a whole new level. LISTEN.

Morris, on the other hand, has a whole different kind of energy. I'm familiar with his TV work from the past and there's an undercurrent of "Fuck the establishment...and your expectations!" running through all of it that's as infectious as the work of Monty Python was decades ago. I think his first film, Four Lions, is bold and challenging, but also very, very funny. LISTEN.

Incidentally, these were my first interviews recorded using the Zoom H4n in conjunction with external mics. I'm extremely pleased with the results, sound-quality wise.

Growing Up with H.I.V.

The NYTimes has video interviews with four young adults describing what it's like to grow up with H.I.V. The advent of antiretroviral therapy has allowed people to survive far longer than was previously possibly. It's also had profound sociological effects, as these videos will attest to.

"It will not continue the way it's going right now..."

Drew McWeeny, on the future of online film journalism:

Things have changed in the last 14 years or so, since I first logged onto a computer looking for movie talk and/or movie news, and while some things about that evolution are great, there are many others that are starting to make me despise the state of the business. I have a feeling this is a conversation that is just warming up, and I hope to play a part in redefining my own feelings about how things should work both here on the site and on the Internet at large. One thing's certain… it will not continue the way it's going right now, and the sites that survive this next evolution are the ones that bring genuine knowledge and a voice and a perspective to the table, and ones that are willing to not simply serve as marketing arms to the studios.

Well-said, as with most things that Drew writes. I agree with him on this specific point, although most likely I disagree with him on others. Specifically, I'd add that balancing fairly serious business needs with brand/integrity will be a crucial part of the "survival" that Drew refers to.

[Drew also links to Pajiba's great piece on the subject, which is well worth a read]

Where Six Flags Go To Die

From the video description: "Six Flags New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It has been abandoned ever since. This film was made in October 2010. The park is scheduled to be demolished in January 2011."

It's like that scene from 28 Days Later (or The Walking Dead) where a man wakes up and realizes all the trappings of civilization have been robbed of any sign of humanity. Only this isn't a fictional movie.

Update: The creator of this video has removed it "for reasons [he] would not rather have made public."

Letter to a Whiny Young Democrat

Mark Morford is always hilarious. Writing to lazy young democrats in the aftermath of the mid-term elections:

See what happens when you wallow in hollow disappointment, trudging all over your liberal arts campus and refusing to vote in a rather important mid-term election, all because your pet issues and nubile ego weren't immediately serviced by a mesmerizing guy named Barack Obama just after he sucked you into his web of fuzzyhappy promises a mere two years ago, back when you were knee-high to a shiny liberal ideology? Well, now you know. This is what happens: The U.S. House of Representatives, the most insufferable gaggle of political mongrels this side of, well, the rest of Congress, reverts to GOP control like a brain tumor reverts to a more aggressive form of cancer, and everything gets bleaker and sadder and, frankly, a whole lot nastier.

The CIA Used Modern Art As a Cultural Weapon Against the Soviets

For everyone who's ever had their eyes/brain manhandled and condescended to by the likes of Pollock and Motherwell, know this: the CIA was using that art as a weapon against the Soviets during the Cold War. According to a former CIA case officer:

"Regarding Abstract Expressionism, I'd love to be able to say that the CIA invented it just to see what happens in New York and downtown SoHo tomorrow!" he joked. "But I think that what we did really was to recognise the difference. It was recognised that Abstract Expression- ism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions. In a way our understanding was helped because Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. And so one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy- handedly was worth support one way or another."

Why the Entire Internet Attacked a Small Western New England Food Publication

Awhile back, Monica Gaudio wrote a cute story/recipe over at Gode Cookery entitled "A Tale of Two Tarts." However, last week, Gaudio was informed by a friend that her piece had showed up in Cooks Source magazine, an interesting development seeing as how Gaudio had never provided permission for them to publish it. When Monica e-mailed the editor of Cooks Source (I feel like there should be an apostrophe in there somewhere?) asking for an apology and a $130 donation to the Columbia Journalism School, she got this reply from editor Judith Griggs:

Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was "my bad" indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things. But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!

Ballsy and reprehensible. So Monica posted the story on her livejournal and the entire thing spread around the internet because it made for great tweet-material. "Writer gets story jacked, then thief asks HER for money!" and so on.

Now Cooks Source Facebook page is getting inundated with derogatory messages from all across the internet. I've screencapped a few of them, seeing as how I anticipate the page will be taken down by the end of the day.

I confess there's something gratifying about seeing this completely unknown magazine burned in metaphorical effigy for their incompetence. People are threatening to make phone calls and e-mails to the magazine's advertisers, and undoubtedly, some already have. There will likely be real-life consequences for the magazine and for Griggs, and they will be well-deserved.

Still, I can't help but wonder how easy it is to rile up the mob these days. I have every bit of faith in Monica's integrity, but nonetheless, all it takes is for someone to claim that you said some crazy sh*t in some e-mail to turn the collective might of the internet against you.

Update: Looks like the good folks at Reddit are investigating other instances of plagiarism in the magazine. In addition, Facebook users are determining where recipes from the current issue originated from (via onlinejournalismblog).

Update 2: In the time since this post was written, this story has gotten even bigger. Time has an interview with Monica and the LATimes has a good breakdown of events.

Duquesne Law School Students Can No Longer Afford Clothes

From Abovethelaw (via Lafsky) comes a flyer about a "professional clothing drive" for law school students:

The Duquesne University School of Law is holding a Professional Clothing Drive for Law Students.

We are accepting gently worn professional clothing* for 1st Year Law Students preparing for the Oral Argument Program in the spring and all Law Students preparing for job and internship interviews.

Clothing can be dropped off at the Main Office of the Law School between the hours of 8:30 am and 8:00 pm (Monday through Friday) and 9:00 am to 12:00 pm (On select Saturdays please call for dates). A receipt will be provided for your tax-deductible donation.

* We are accepting business suits for women and men as well as shoes, ties, belts and accessories.

As Elie Mystal at Abovethelaw puts it:

It’s the footnote that kills me. Ties, belts and accessories. You’ve got to be kidding me. I mean, are there really law students running around in desperate need of a freaking interview-appropriate handbag? Are there guys who got through four years of college and into a law school without owning a basically acceptable tie? My ties suck, I don’t really want to spend the money on a really nice one, at least not in a world where I need to update all of my Rock Band peripherals. But I go on television with my crap-ass ties. Call it an overdeveloped sense of pride, but I’d be horrified to accept a tie upgrade in a clothing drive.

While I think Mystal's response is hilarious and worth reading, I have a little bit more sympathy. If you're already sinking in $150,000 into a law school education, you might not have enough money to spend on nice clothes. I've been in a variety of professional settings in my life and I don't exactly have a dazzling array of suits in my closet. Still, I do agree that the ad raises the question: What the hell were these students doing (in life) until now?

Despite the financial horror that this flyer portends, I'd still like to attend law school some day, but given the current economic climate, I think I chose my current Masters program wisely.

Update: I'm reminded of this conversation I had with Jesse Thorn from Sundance this year:


Researcher Creates Twitter bot to Respond to Spurious Global Warming Arguments

Some software developer got so tired of repeating the same old arguments to climate change skeptics that he created a Twitter bot to do it for him:

Every five minutes, it searches twitter for several hundred set phrases that tend to correspond to any of the usual tired arguments about how global warming isn't happening or humans aren't responsible for it. It then spits back at the twitterer who made that argument a canned response culled from a database of hundreds. The responses are matched to the argument in question -- tweets about how Neptune is warming just like the earth, for example, are met with the appropriate links to scientific sources explaining why that hardly constitutes evidence that the source of global warming on earth is a warming sun.

You can actually follow this bot on Twitter and test it out if you're so inclined (via Jeff).

Moving My Twitter Content To My Blog: The Results (1 Week Later)


One week ago, I announced that I'd be moving all my Twitter content to my blog. There were many reasons for this, but the biggest one was that I wanted to permanently own all the content that I created, rather than surrender it to a third-party (Twitter). In order to drive traffic to my blog, I used TwitterFeed to auto-post a link to every blog post onto my Twitter account. I plan on doing this until my blog gets enough organic traffic where I no longer feel this is necessary (That could take awhile...).

Now that I've been doing this for about a week, I have some interesting results to report from my experiment. Here are my main findings:

Fewer posts - Blog posts, even extremely rudimentary ones, take a LOT more time than tweets to produce. Moreover, it's virtually impossible to create a blog post on the go, whereas with my iPhone, I could easily find an article on the go and send it out to Twitter. As time goes on, I will have to find a balance between which articles require a quick tweet, and which articles deserve the fuller attention of a blog post.

Fewer retweets - Because many of my tweets no longer link directly to the source material, the number of retweets that my tweets receive has plummeted. On any given week, I'd usually have at least one tweet that got a few dozen retweets; not so anymore. I'm not sure if there's anything that can be done about this, but on a personal level, I'd rather have a few retweets to my own content than a ton of retweets to someone else's content. Anecdotally, I believe that retweets have very limited ability to drive more follows to my Twitter account, so I don't know that I'll miss the retweets too much, but who knows what other consequences losing retweets may have.

Better analytics - Because I have Google Analytics and Site Meter, I can see what people are clicking on, and what content attracts people more. There's also a much greater capacity for discovery, in that people can click around, check out older posts, etc. This is much less likely on Twitter.

MUCH better comments and responses - People's comments on my blog posts have been great so far! And when people are not limited to 140 characters, you can really have meaningful interaction and discussion in a way that's impossible on Twitter. When you have to put a good 5 minutes of thought into what you're writing, I think the discourse improves.

Miscellaneous - It's a lot easier to link to blog posts than to tweets, so I'm getting a lot more inbound links via my blog than via Twitter. Moreover, I suspect people think it's more meaningful when you praise their work in a permanent blog post rather than an ephemeral tweet, so it's been gratifying to see that in action.

I feel better about myself as a person and a writer - Impossible to quantify, but still true.