Thursday, April 30, 2009

Greed apparently not always good

Oliver Stone is looking to make a Wall Street sequel.

As long as we're going with bad ideas, why not follow in the footsteps of the ultimate bad-idea man, George Lucas, and have an entire awful trilogy to crap all over the magnificent creation of your youth?

Wall Street: The Phantom Prosperity
Wall Street: Attack of the CDO's
Wall Street: Revenge of the Socialists

Best part? Shia Labeouf is up for it. You know, I'm a nice guy. I don't wish harm on anyone. But it's really hard not to wish at least some harm on Shia.

And I say this as one who enjoyed the odd Even Stevens episode as a guilty pleasure.

His good movie to bad movie ratio is skewed way to the dark side. This isn't, in and of itself, a reason to wish him harm, of course. There are lots of people who don't make good movies and never have that bother me little to not at all. But his failures tend to involve the steaming wreckage of beloved childhood memories of mine. Yes, Transformers was okay. But the last Indy film was an abomination. (fn1)

Wall Street is a good movie. It encapsulated its time well. I agree that the current financial mess could serve as a good backdrop for a movie. But, Oliver, please. Let some young auteur with a fresh take and feel for the times take a crack at it. Don't try to wedge Gekko into it. Don't ruin what we had with some half-baked cash-in staring that sack of overwhelmed youngster that is Shia.

I leave you with a link to Talking Heads This must be the place, the song playing as Charlie Sheen outfits his new apartment in Wall Street. Good tune, I always smile when it comes up on my iPod.

fn1: South Park had a memorable episode in which the kids are traumatized from having seen Indy getting raped. The rape being, of course, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Which I still haven't seen. And probably won't because while it was fun to watch the Nazis' faces melt when they looked in the Ark in Raiders, I fear that something similar would happen to me upon witnessing Crystal Skull.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Warning: Slow Traffic Ahead

I've got some work-related stuff that'll be keeping me pretty occupied for the next month or so, just to explain the slow posting of late and to come.

Of course, if I have any more run-ins with prostitutes, you kind people will be the first to know.

Also, to my anonymous debate partner in the AIG-bonus post, I've seen your latest and will respond but, sadly, that will be slow as well.

Prostitutes Redux OR Stories from the Recession

I was awoken at 3:00 this morning by a loud fight taking place outside my building. Now, living in midtown Manhattan I do not expect pastoral silence for my slumbers. Pretty regularly, we get boisterous revellers (read: drunken bar-goers) caterwauling their way down the block but this did not sound like the type of noise typical of my neighborhood.

What I heard was what sounded like one woman loudly screaming at someone to "get out of the car!" Along with plenty of cursing and the like.

Much as Father does in the celebrated poem Twas the Night Before Christmas, I sprang from the bed, flew to the window in a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash(fn1) to see what was the matter...

Instead of a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, however, what appeared to my wondering eye was two African American prostitutes and a drunken white businessman.(fn2) They were having quite the argument in and around an SUV parked directly across the street from my apartment.

How nice.

From what I could gather of the fight, the two hookers must have picked up the john to do their business in the SUV and at some point (impossible to tell when during the proceedings it might have happened) the man refused to pay. This had understandably upset the prostitutes terribly and they were demanding that he get out of the car so they could leave. It was hard to make out what the man was saying, as unlike the ladies he wasn't screaming at the top of his lungs, so I'm not quite sure what his argument was, except perhaps "I'm a drunken idiot who wants to have an argument."

How can I be sure they were prostitutes? Because at one point, after they had apparently drawn the man's ire by asking him loudly, "If you're a millionaire, where is your money? Where are your friends? How come you're walking down the street at night alone??" To which he responded (audibly, for the first time), "I'm going to take down your license plate number!" Whereupon one prostitute replied, displaying admirable logic, "Go ahead! I'm a prostitute! What you gonna do with a license plate number??"(fn3)

There were also a number of asides to the ladies by what I can only assume was one or the other's daughter in the vein of "Let it go, Mom, let's just leave!" Sensible advice but predictably slow to be heeded by prostitutes who would take their daughter with them to turn tricks.(fn4)

At any rate, eventually the prostitutes tired of haranguing the drunken lout and managed to extricate their car enough from his inebriated grasp to peel out and away.

The disheveled, suited man then took a moment to survey the surrounding buildings and, as my head was perched in front of my still mostly-closed blinds, caught sight of me. He looked dead straight at me and then slowly extended to me a middle-finger salute -- a gesture I would have though more appropriate coming from me whom he had awoken. I shook my head slowly and then withdrew for a moment. He began to stagger off down the street and back to bed I went.

It took me an hour to fall asleep again. I wish I'd called the cops (there's a station two blocks away) when I first heard the noise. It would have given me great joy to have had that man thrown in jail, though that probably wouldn't have happened.

So prostitutes again. In my neighborhood again. I was a bit groggy and at a much further distance this time, but I have to say this pair was much less appealing in both appearance and -- most certainly -- demeanor than the one who propositioned me from an SUV some months back.

I can't help but think the increasing prevalence and apparent rising disregard for stealth is somewhat related to desperation brought on by the worsening economic conditions. But maybe I've just been reading too many sob-stories in the Times.

fn1: Well, drew the Venetian blinds, things have changed since Victorian times...

fn2: My sig. other informs me that the man was British. I do not recollect this but, if true, it would lend an additional sad air to the fall of that once great people. She also says there was a significant part of the fight during which one of the women was yelling about being pregnant. I also do not remember that. Ah, how interesting to see how people's recollection of an event can differ! This is why eye-witness testimony is not the gold-standard that you might think it would be and why circumstantial evidence, though it sounds much inferior, can actually be sig. more persuasive.

fn3: This exchange immediately followed an amusing comment by one of the prostitutes to the effect of "I"m a real New Yorker! You must be from Jersey or somewhere!" Ah yes, a status fight between a prostitute and her john. I'm reminded of the tag line from the first (which lamentably was not also the last) Alien vs. Predator movie: "Whoever wins... we lose."

fn4: Perhaps they had confused this with the child-friendly version of "trick-or-treat" or perhaps the daughter was deemed to be of age to start an apprenticeship, who knows.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mythbusters Cranks the Awesome up to 11

Video of the Mythbusters team smashing a steel plate into a car at 700 miles per hour.

Just in case the probably-faked Italian meter-maid humping video from earlier didn't do it for you.

Healthcare Link

Interesting post on health care over at The Atlantic's business section.

It's pretty much where I was heading with my posts but the ambitious folk who are actually paid to blog for a living have got there before I did.

Rest assured, the rest of my promised healthcare musings will be forthcoming regardless. The Atlantic, for the most part, doesn't have my insouciant way with words, so I can add that, at the very least...

Video of the day

Sorry for the slow posting of late. Know that I am noodling some long posts on various topics. Mostly I'm trying to tone down the invective in them so I don't scare the horses.(fn1)

Also, due to circumstances out of my control, I will be in Anguilla for a wedding for most of this week. I will not be thinking about the internet while I am there so you will have to suffer without my wise guidance.

As a small attempt to make amends, I give you this video of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi taking the time out of his busy day to pretend-hump a meter-maid on his way to the car.

The guy's an amateur. Bill Clinton would have avoided the cameras and would not have gone the 'pretend' route, but rather the full monty.

fn1: In this usage horses = my liberal readers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Boxing Day

I work, as some readers know, for a large corporation. (We're trying to keep this thing at least nominally anonymous so, please, those of you who know which one, don't go shouting out the answer -- or even any hints. Thx.) I work in the corporate headquarters building. As corporate headquarters are wont to have, it has corporate security. They are perfectly nice fellows, so far as I have interacted with them, but they are most definitely carrying out fairly specific rules that have been given to them. I ran into one of these rules in a rather amusing way the other day.

A few weeks back I ordered some t-shirts online. They were too small but the store has free exchanges: you print out a packing slip, rebox it and drop it at the post office. Since there is a post office that is very convenient to my office, I took the boxed t-shirts to work to drop off during a spare moment.

Now, this box. It was a brown cardboard box just the right size to hold the 4 or 5 t-shirts it contained. So, a small box. Too small to put, say, a ream of paper in. Just about the right size to put one desk phone in, maybe.

So about 3:00 I decided to pop out to the post office with my box. As I walked through the turnstiles at the main entrance, a security guy stopped me and asked about the box.

"Where are you taking that?"
"To the post office."
"The mailroom or the post office?"(fn1)
"The Post Office."
"Are you bringing it back?"
"No, I'm mailing it."
"Do you have a form for that?"

A form? What? I was befuddled. He directed me to the security desk. I got over there and the nice security man there asked me about the box. It's my box, I said, with some shirts that I'm returning. He explained that no one may remove "anything" from the office without filling out a form saying what it is, why you are removing it, who approved the removal, and your supervisor's name. He gave me the form and told me to put my name down as "removing" and also as "authorizing" and whatever.

I asked him, "If I remove 'anything'? Because I brought this box in this morning, what if I brought in a gym bag, would I need a form to take it back out?"
"Yes, anything."

So as I finished filling out the form, as luck would have it, a lady was leaving the office and had come through the turnstiles behind us. She was carrying a large purse-like bag and also a large Duane Reade bag. And was, of course, just walking out, hassle free. Each of the two bags could hold maybe 3 boxes of my box's size. So I pointed her out and asked the guy, "See her? Why doesn't she have to fill out a form to remove those bags?"

"Those are her personal bags."
"So, to be clear, if I had put this box into a Duane Reade bag I would not have to fill out a form and we would not be having this conversation?"
"We don't search personal bags, you have a box."
"It's my personal box."
"It's not a bag."
"Again, I just want to understand, if I put this in a bag, you don't care. It's only because it's in a box."

The guy was confused so his supervisor who had returned to the desk as we were talking came over to see what was what. I asked him about the box-bag distinction.

"That's right," he said,"it sounds stupid, I know, but that's the rule."
"I think it sounds stupid because it is stupid," I said, "But now I know: take things out in bags, not boxes. Good to know."

fn1: Our headquarters is large enough to have its own mail system but we are not supposed to use it for anything but official correspondence and I am nothing if not a fastidious follower of corporate rule-making.


Some interesting links:

- Sports Illustrated on pro-players going broke

Eye-opening stats from the first page:

• By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
• Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.

- Former IMF'er writes on the U.S. as suffering from a classic "emerging market" financial disaster.

Best part? Due to our "advantages" we're less likely to actually take the hard steps to quickly confront the problems and more likely to pussyfoot around and let things get worse and worse.

Quick Question

Does anyone ever actually use the "Overwrite" feature in Windows where typing overwrites the text ahead of your cursor instead of inserting it or is it just there to annoy me whenever I accidentally brush the "Insert" key when reaching for its next-door-neighbor the "Home" key?