Railstands At the Foreclosure!

Out in California, which has been pummeled by the meltdown in the housing market, skateboarders from far and wide are draining pools in foreclosed houses so they can rip a few half-pipes. The skaters are literally traveling in packs, with pool draining tools to empty the pools so they can have their skating parties:

In these boom times for skaters, Mr. Peacock travels with a gas-powered pump, five-gallon buckets, shovels and a push broom, risking trespassing charges in the pursuit of emptying forlorn pools and turning them into de facto skate parks…Skaters are coming to places like Fresno from as far as Germany and Australia. Mr. Peacock said his floor and couch were covered by sleeping bags of visiting skateboarders each weekend.

What’s most impressive is that the skaters are using sites like realtor.com and realquest.com to find foreclosed houses with pools.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Rating: R
Released: November 26, 2008
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji Henson, Tilda Swinton, Julia Ormond, Elias Koteas
Trailer / Official Site

I was a little underwhelmed with this movie. It was excruciatingly long. I think they could have easily cut an half hour off the movie. The story itself was interesting (based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story of the same name) and I did find the challenges of Button’s situation (getting younger as the years went on) one that you could have a ton of fun with. But through out the movie, I consistently felt that they were trying to make this an updated version of Forrest Gump, and it just never came close.

Update (1/19/09): Appears my observation about Forrest Gump was right on the money after all.

Milk

Rating: R
Released: November 26, 2008
Starring:Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna
Trailer / Official Site

I’ll come clean here. Before this movie, I’d never heard of Harvey Milk. I had no idea of his impact and importance in American Civil Rights, Politics or GLBT rights. But I know who he is now. The movie and story is one of passion, triumph, and sadness. This movie is brilliantly acted and directed and it did a great job of enveloping you in the San Francisco Gay scene of the mid 1970’s. After watching this movie, I did some research on Harvey Milk, which included listening to an audio clip of him speaking. Doing that reinforced what an amazing job Sean Penn did in depicting Harvey Milk. His acting was spot on. Just an amazing performance! Kudos also to Josh Brolin for a nice performance as Milk’s main enemy. This is definitely one of the better movies of the year.

Frost/Nixon

Rating: R
Released: December 5, 2008
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon
Trailer / Official Site

Watergate has always been a fascinating piece of American history. Watching Frost/Nixon was a great treat as these interviews were viewed by many as Nixon’s confession, even though he never fully grasped it or stated such. There were several interesting elements to the movie: the background that it provided about how Frost and his team scored the interview and their prep work before and during the interviews; the way Nixon was depicted, and how he turned “on” during the interviews and turned “off” when they were done revealed a great deal about Nixon himself; and most of all, the way Nixon was firmly convinced this was “his world” with “his rules” and we were just living in it. Langella’s overall performance as Nixon was fantastic and is definitely Oscar worthy. If you are a Watergate junkie, this is required viewing.

Random Thoughts

Wouldn’t it be funny if Bernard Madoff’s surname was as much a scam as his company – get it – he “made off” with billions…There would be no greater pleasure than for the Jets to miss the playoffs…2008 can’t end soon enough, but I fear 2009…Thank you, Mark Felt, for helping to expose the truth…I love watching football on my HDTV…America looks forward to January 20th…There is a big void with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on vacation…I’m still enjoying the Vampire Weekend album…I *really* want an iPhone but don’t want AT&T – maybe an iPod Touch will do…A Windsor knot, Jennifer?…Was 2008 a down year in movies or what?…Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger or Robert Downey, Jr?…Is Harry Potter over yet?

Google Flips Off Net Neutrality

Google wants its own HOV lane on the information superhighway so they can avoid doing more evil.

Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers.

The contentious issue has wide ramifications for the Internet as a platform for new businesses. If companies like Google succeed in negotiating preferential treatment, the Internet could become a place where wealthy companies get faster and easier access to the Web than less affluent ones, according to advocates of network neutrality. That could choke off competition, they say.

The above quote is the critical one here. Providing preferential treatment to specific companies on the Internet completely flies in the face of the principles in which the Internet was created. The internet is a series of tubes…no, sorry…was created on the principle of open standards for communications. It’s the great equalizer. After all the opportunity that the Internet has created, and is still yet to create, giving preference to bigger organizations would be a monumental step backwards. Come on folks, let’s not screw this up.

An Apple Without Jobs?

Article from the Wall Street Journal speculating about how Apple will evolve in the post Steve Jobs era:

For every design project in the pipeline, Mr. Jobs will hold meetings of two or three hours every week or two with key members of the product team. At those meetings, Mr. Jobs will critique the work in progress and also suggest adding or cutting features. Glenn Reid, a software developer during Apple’s early years who had another stint at the company that ended in 2003, recalls one such meeting just days before a photo-editing program was to go into production. Mr. Jobs decided at the last minute that an index feature on the software made the system unnecessarily complex, and decided to eliminate it, even though documentation for the product had already been printed. It was frustrating to Mr. Reid and his software team, “but it made the product better,” Mr. Reid says.

Mr. Jobs’s unwillingness to accept compromises “and the unquestioned authority that lets him issue last-minute edicts” have become a key to Apple’s success in developing new products, Mr. Reid says. George Crow, an Apple engineer in the 1980s and again from 1998 to 2005, noted that the company struggled during the years when Mr. Jobs was not running Apple.

On the other hand, certain of Mr. Jobs’s uncompromising principles with computers, such as wanting “to make the inside beautiful”, ran counter to more practical impulses. On the original Macintosh PC, Mr. Crow says, Mr. Jobs wanted the internal wiring to be in the colors of Apple’s early rainbow logo (Mr. Crow says he eventually convinced Mr. Jobs it was an unnecessary expense). On another machine that Mr. Crow worked on for NeXT, the computer maker Mr. Jobs founded between Apple stints, he says Mr. Jobs insisted that the internal power supply be nickel plated, an expensive ornamentation that was eventually discontinued.

His most recent run at Apple has been nothing short of spectacular. He is going to be a tough act to follow, but they are going to have to face reality soon.

2008

If 2008 was a marathon, then I’m crawling at about mile 25.9.

This has just been a long year on a multitude of fronts.

I am so looking forward to taking some time off for the holidays to enjoy some rest and look into 2009 with a positive and enthusiastic perspective. Even though many are saying it’s going to be a harder year than 2008.

The Pink Panther Heists

The venerable Harry Winston’s in Paris was robbed earlier this month. The robbers are said to be part of a worldwide network, nicknamed The Pink Panthers in honor of the movie and character of the same name:

As the second hand ticked, four men “three disguised as women with long blond tresses, sunglasses and winter scarves” stood in front of an intercom and demurely requested to enter the fabled Harry Winston jewelry store on Avenue Montaigne. It was just before closing time on a chilly evening along this golden triangle of boutiques that includes Dior, Chanel and Gucci, the ornate facades and trees resplendent with Christmas lights.

Buzzed in, the men rolled a small valise on wheels into the hushed inner refuge. Then they pulled out a hand grenade and a .357 Magnum. As Parisians strolled unawares past the store’s wrought-iron gates, the robbers smashed display cases and barked out orders and the names of some of the Harry Winston employees. They spoke French with strong Slavic accents.

There was no time for the police from a nearby station in the luxury district to rush over. In less than 15 minutes the diamond thieves were gone, roaring away in a waiting car through the 5:30 p.m. twilight on Dec. 4 with sacks of emeralds, rubies and chunky diamonds the size of tiny bird eggs valued at more than 80 million euros, or $105 million.

The robbers may not have been as suave as celluloid jewels thieves with the charm of David Niven (a k a the debonair phantom bandit, Sir Charles Litton) but the meticulous planning, swift execution and creative style raised suspicion that the Harry Winston heist was the handiwork of a loose global network of battle-hardened, ex-soldiers and their relatives from the former Yugoslavia.

Investigators, marveling at the gang’s ingenuity, have dubbed this unlikely network the Pink Panthers. The parallels between film and reality are perhaps best summed up in zee accent and words of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, himself from the original 1963 “The Pink Panther”.

Its stories like these that just fascinate me…real life events that parallel scenes from the big screen. The planning, ingenuity, and innovation that these crooks demonstrate is nothing short of impressive.

The Supermarket

Great shot of a supermarket from 1964. What amazes me is how little the experience has changed in the past 44 years. With the exception of more food choices and larger end caps, the fundamental experience of going shopping down aisles in supermarkets has really not changed at all.

via Shorpy

Behind The Lens In Mumbai

An interview with Sebastian D’Souza, the photographer in Mumbai who took the photos of the terrorists that took over the city:

The gunmen were terrifyingly professional, making sure at least one of them was able to fire their rifle while the other reloaded. By the time he managed to capture the killer on camera, Mr D’Souza had already seen two gunmen calmly stroll across the station concourse shooting both civilians and policemen, many of whom, he said, were armed but did not fire back. “I first saw the gunmen outside the station,” Mr D’Souza said. “With their rucksacks and Western clothes they looked like backpackers, not terrorists, but they were very heavily armed and clearly knew how to use their rifles.

Star Wars In The Right Order

Star Wars Wallpapers
Star Wars Wallpapers

Today was one of those great parenting days, Yes, today, my kids watched Star Wars for the first time.

Earlier this year, I took my son to see the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie (not one of the finer products out of LucasFilms), and ever since, he’s been completely obsessed with the franchise.

After picking up the multi-disc set from the Library, doing a little prep work (“There are no animations. There are real people in these movies.”), we sat down this morning in our post-Thanksgiving sloth to enjoy the show. While tempted to have a 14 hour Star Wars marathon, we held back and just watched the first one.

And here is where the debate begins…which one is really the first one? There has been much animated discourse on which order do you show your kids these movies – theatrical release order (Episodes 4,5,6,1,2,3) or numerical order?

I decided that he should view the series in the theatrical release order since the original three movies are easily the best of the bunch (even though Jedi introduced us to Ewoks) and I felt that seeing them in the theatrical order is how Lucas intended us to experience the story – getting thrown right into the middle of the story via Star Wars: A New Hope (IV).

One day, I may take the time to watch them in numerical order to see if it changes my perspective on the series. That way, at least I’d be able to get Jar Jar Binks out of the way early.

A Spongebob View of the Economy

My son is a big fan of Spongebob Squarepants and all his cronies from the Krusty Krab (OK, Daddy watches it here and there too :). So a couple of weeks ago he was watching the “Who Bob, What Pants” episode, in which Spongebob suffers amnesia and somehow finds his way to a town unknown to him called New Kelp City. In his visit to New Kelp City, he is referred to as a “jobless deadbeat”.

So with this context, I take you to my son’s Kindergarten class. His teacher is talking to the class about the poor Economy and specifically discusses how people are losing their jobs and are unemployed. So as any good teacher would do, she reviews the discussion with the class to see who was paying attention. And during this review, she asks the class “So class, what is the word for people who are not working?”. And without missing a beat, my son raises his hand and blurts out “Jobless deadbeats!”.

I would have paid money to have seen his teacher’s face when he said this. Ah, the wonderful world of Spongebob!

PS – I am in no way making light of the economic situation or those who have been impacted. I’ve been on the other side of that sort of decision and it’s no fun.

Flip The Switch

Received today from a friend. I just laughed. With all the miserable news these days, someetimes I do feel this way:

DUE TO RECENT BUDGET CUTS,
AND THE RISING COST OF ELECTRICITY, GAS AND OIL,
THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL HAS BEEN TURNED OFF.
WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE

Sincerely,
Your US Government

The Internet Killed the Radio Star

MTV has released an online video site that houses all the videos that have ever run on the network (we won’t talk about its name – MTV Music or Music Television Music – or the fact that these days MTV is anything but Music Television).

Check out the very first video ever played on MTV, The Buggles’ Video Killed The Radio Star or this Internet classic or Devo’s Whip It or one of my favorites, the Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl”.

The Most Popular area, which as of today looks like a retro 1980’s top video list with video “classics” like Dire Straits Money for Nothing, aHa’s Take on Me, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, or – wait for it – Toto’s Africa.

Big hair is back, kids.

Buddy, Can You Spare A Room?

Great article about how the Tampa Bay Rays had to scramble to find hotel rooms because the World Series has been put on hold due to the terrible weather in the Philadelphia area

The puddles did it. As soon as Jeff Ziegler, the director of team travel for the Tampa Bay Rays, saw water covering the infield at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night, he realized Game 5 of the World Series might be suspended. Instantaneously, Ziegler also realized he needed to locate hotel rooms for 170 waterlogged people.

Ziegler called hotels near downtown Philadelphia, but he had as much success as someone selling $600 doorknobs. Not only did he discover that finding the 87 rooms the Rays needed was impossible, but hotel manager after hotel manager also said there was barely a spare cot. The puddles were growing bigger.

Know Your Credit Default Swaps

If you are a little befuddled about what caused this economic mess we are currently in and will continue to be in for at least the next 18-24 months, take a few hours and listen to This American Life’s Giant Pool of Money and Another Frightening Show About the Economy. They are two amazingly clear and informative podcasts about what caused this mess and how the “geniuses” on Wall Street brought the modern economic system to its knees.