Friday, October 31, 2008

More cool stuff

George Best was like the fifth Beatle. The guy had tremendous footwork and could score goals from just about any angle.

Another great scene from the wire...

By the end of five seasons, each one of these "pawns" is dead.

The Economist: It's time (Endorses Obama)

The Economist says America should take a chance and make Barack Obama the next leader of the free world. A strongly written and reasonable endorsement that makes the case, while slapping how McCain ran this year..

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

A few of my favorite things

Everybody knows how I like to preach the gospel about The Wire. Here's some other stuff that I like: Listening Post and Future Perfect Radio

How can you hate Robert Duvall's performance here. It's inspired lunacy. "You either surf or fight...If I say it's safe to surf this beach, it's safe to surf this beach." Apocalypse Now Redux (a longer version) has more footage about him pursuing Capt. Willard and Lance for stealing his surfboard.

Does God really protect the stupid? Watch this video:

Some people go out of their way to prove Darwin right.

Yeah, I'm voting for Obama. I want us out of Iraq. I tend to agree more with the Libertarians. Take a look at its platform here. Zimmer and Lautenberg are not getting my vote for Senate -- Jason Scheurer is.

I like news shows that take the piss out of Bush. See Keith Olbermann's Countdown.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More cool stuff about the wire

Omar testifies in court against Bird, who is accused of killing a court witness in a murder trial, and manages to upstage Bird's lawyer. More about Omar here. My favorite characters are Det. Lester Freamon, Bunny Colvin, and Stringer Bell.

Cool stuff

One of the many reasons why "The Wire" is better than the "Sopranos" or "Mad Men."

Financial crisis heralds era of ''new seriousness''

A down market and people start eschewing all the status symbols and bling ... This article points out slowing sales for Porsches and how some execs think it would be bad form to flaunt status in the current marketplace. Remember, this is what people were saying after 9-11. I'll give this trend a year and then we'll resume our conspicuous consumption again.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Joining a first aid squad

When I was younger, I had a very weak stomach. Many of my car trips were spent with my head out the window splashing what I ate for breakfast down the side of my parents' orange '72 Chevy Nova as we drove from Point Pleasant to Red Bank. Seasickness was an element of every fishing trip when I was 8 or 9. My breakfasts often served as chum for the fish. After emptying my stomach, I would have to rest inside the party boat's cabin. Even into early adulthood, changing diapers sometimes would test my stomach. When I joined Metuchen EMS, my family was stunned. They weren't stunned by my willingness to volunteer for an organization or that I wanted to help sick people. They were stunned that I was willing to test a weak stomach in such a fashion.

I wanted to do something involving health care. I like the intellectual challenge, but I didn't have the grades for medical school. I did better in my English classes than my science classes, however, and started a career in journalism, eventually becoming a health care reporter. I also worked as a copy editor at the Daily Record. As the slot editor, I had to edit the obituary page. You can take stock of one's life and commitments when they try to boil it down to a few paragraphs. When it comes time to write mine after I'm in my 80s, I don't want it only to say "Bill thought South Park really kicked ass." I also don't want it to serve as some simple regurgitation of my resume. When the kids get older, you need to do other stuff to keep you busy. Those commitments outside the job may as well be worthwhile -- whether it's community service or just doing stuff that makes you happy.

This is ultimately about karma. Give and expect nothing in return except the feeling that you helped someone at their moment of greatest need. I'm not independently wealthy where I could do this full time, since EMTs make less per hour than an average Costco worker. I'm not one of those starry-eyed idealists who think they can save the world and cure hunger, fight disease and right all of the world's wrongs. I'm too old for that idealism and I have to cut the grass. However, I can get off the couch one night a week and the occasional weekend to ride on an ambulance. Metuchen is not as busy as some of the Edison squads, but there are still calls in the middle of the night.

I've been taking EMT classes since early September. Every weekend I spend 8 hours learning about how to respond to diabetes emergencies, cardiac, and respiratory emergencies. We take exams every few weeks. In a few weeks, I'll be doing clinical time at an emergency room in Perth Amboy on a Friday and again on a Saturday. It should be a real test and a definite change of pace from Metuchen.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Gawker's proto-feminist take on Mad Men finale

Gawker notes a maturation of the women characters in Mad Men's Season 2 finale. The show is a character-driven examination of life at an advertising agency in the 1960s that serves as much as a time capsule of that era in terms of appearance and mores. Season one examined who is Don Draper, the head creative executive at Sterling & Cooper, with only moderate attention devoted to other characters on the show. Gawker noted how the power of the show shifted to women in the second season finale, which was set against the Cuban Missile Crisis as the backdrop. Betty Draper, Don's wife who was child-like in the first season, went through a painful adolescence/early adulthood this year as she separated from her husband. Peggy, the young, talented copywriter, has started to assert herself more in the workplace with her own office, winning the Popsicle account, and dropping the bomb on Peter about their child. The only real extension of season 1's storyline about Don Draper's identity, which was stolen from another man during the Korean War, into season 2 came during a trip to California. His trip to California was to attract defense clients, but he met with the widow of the man whose identity he stole. The show overall is paced more like a novel than most other shows and admittedly lagged during the first five episodes during the second season, but the characters are drawn with fine lines and are very much human and a reflection of that era. I'm looking forward to season three.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Fortune calls Medco Health one of the most innovative companies

Yep -- Medco's a client, but it's pretty cool to see some of your efforts recognized. It also helps when a company is looking at advancing a science and having an eye on what will happen in the world in five years. Too many companies manage quarter-to-quarter and they end up getting slammed (as our banking system proves).

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Greenspan ''shocked'' at credit system breakdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress on Thursday he is ''shocked'' at the breakdown in U.S. credit markets and said he was ''partially'' wrong to resist regulation of some...The House is trying to pin blame. It's politically convenient to lay the blame on Greenspan, but his primary responsibilities as Fed Chairman were price stability and money supply. The rate at which the fed sets interest rates is only a tool to exercise its role. Shouldn't the banks that used crappy underwriting standards and rewarded short term commissions (paying mortage brokers fat commissions on toxic loans) bear most of the blame?

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So, how do you know if you're a socialist?

Gee, didn't a Republican administration approve direct government investment of billions in our banking system? Government ownership of industries is socialism and the Republicans foist it upon us. McCain has the nerve to call Obama a socialist after that stunt??!!

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Entertainment Weekly rates 15 great moments of The Wire

Entertainment Weekly captured a lot of the essence of the greatest show on TV. It was too smart for networks and they're best seen in order. It's like a novel transferred to video. The characters are complex, the setting is gritty and the writing is crisp. These 15 highlights capture a lot about the show.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Laid Off By Lehman: One Broker's Story

What does a Lehman Brothers' broker do with his days now? Untucked Films found out. Directed by Chuck Divak and Jonathan Emmerling. Hilarious and captures Wall Street's clueless arrogance in brilliant fashion.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain-Obama debate -- McCain overplays his hand

Debate 3 Observations...
-- Sen. McCain gave his best performance and actually won the first half hour of the debate.
-- Sen. Obama remained cool. A CNN commentator said Obama's performance reminded him of a boxer who was ahead on points in the 15th round. He didn't allow himself to take many risks, because he knows he's ahead. He went in low key and stayed Presidential.
-- Sen. McCain is not terribly convincing when he tries to go negative. My college roommate, a Pat Buchanan fan, is more convincing and cutting the way he criticizes Obama. Attack ads are a Bush strategy and reflect the Bush-Rove-Atwater way of doing things. McCain built a career fighting politics as usual. Unfortunately, he wedded himself to them during this campaign. He's a lousy actor when he tries to use them. I wish the McCain of eight years ago was running against Obama. He went negative and played stuff that resonated with the Fox News and talk radio crowd, but Obama's connections with Acorn and Ayers were adroitly deflected as non-issues.
-- Joe the Plumber fell flat. Sen. McCain tried to play that card and it didn't resonate with regular folks. It created a bit of a media stir, but there's not a lot to it. I'm not surprised by a plumber making $250K a year, because there's plenty of work there. However, someone making that much money is not going to generate a lot of sympathy. Obama is addressing health insurance, the economy, and the financial crisis as his issues. McCain tried to pull the Reaganesque approach to connect with folks by personalizing an issue to justify reducing taxes. However, reducing taxes is not necessarily the solution to our nation's financial problems.
-- Sen. McCain was way too callous when he dismissed the "health" of women as a factor in the abortion debate. He probably alienated a lot of independent women voters with his air quotes gesture. He's playing to his base, but that's not going to win him this election.
-- Bob Schieffer did a great job with the questions asked and threw in enough tough ones to keep me happy. He had the sense to ask about the growth of deficits under both candidates' plans. CNN posted the actual question that was asked to show when the candidates were drifting off topic.

That's all for now. My favorite candidate was Ron Paul, but it's a shame he's not running. He would have generated a real debate on the issues and the role of government and taxes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

Tabloids had field day reporting how Maureen McCormick (aka Marcia Brady) traded sex for drugs. My favorite reader response of this news appeared on the New York Post's page:

Uncle Louie wrote:
I wonder what I could get for a 6-pack of Old Bohemian and bottle of Boones Farm.
10/14/2008 8:17 AM EDT

Maureen is promoting a tell-all book. She must have felt a need to one-up her older TV brother, Barry Williams, who wrote his tell all more than a decade ago. I'm waiting for one of the siblings to come out with a tell-all the Brady bestiality tale to trump all of the TV clan's tell all books. Bobby! Cindy! Tiger! The world is waiting!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

'I have had a million pages of crap written about me.'

Joe Kinnear's first Newcastle United interview. Insults fly!!! This is the greatest press conference in history. I wish I was the one covering it. He makes Parcells look humble and congenial to reporters.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Treasury says it can buy bank shares

Welcome to France. The government will be able to buy interests in banks, essentially rigging who wins and who loses in the marketplace. Republicans are now proving themselves worse than Democrats when it comes to free enterprise. By Glenn Somerville WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Wednesday a recently approved financial bailout bill gives him wide authority to inject capital into the banking system and would not rule out having Treasury...

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Market nervously eyes return of short sellers

YAY!! Time to unleash the sharks. Short sellers keep the market honest! You have to be skeptical of a market full of cheerleaders...By Rachelle Younglai and Kristina Cooke - Analysis WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - At midnight on Wednesday, U.S. regulators will restore investors' rights to make bearish bets on financial stocks but few expect it to put an end to wild swings in...

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Fed Cuts Rates

Econ 502:
If the Fed starts buying treasury bonds to put even more downward pressure on interest rates, we might work our way through this. Also, less cash will be in the fed's hands and more will be in the hands of investors. I'm still expecting a recession, but at least its severity can be kept in check.
The banks still have to work their way through some crappy mortgages on their books and the appetite for risk is probably not there in the near term. With lower interest rates, at least more sound projects and investments (or even home mortgages that make sense) will get bank funding.

By Keith Weir and Daniel Trotta
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Central banks around the world cut interest rates in unison on Wednesday in a joint response to the global financial crisis, giving a boost to battered stock markets.

The Fed said it was cutting its key federal funds rate by 50 basis points to 1.5 percent. China, the European Central Bank (ECB) and central banks in Britain, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland also cut rates in the coordinated response which analysts had been demanding.

U.S. stock index futures leapt on the news and world stock markets trimmed their losses.
Before the rate cut, stock markets across the world had continued their downward spiral amid the worst financial crisis in nearly 80 years and fears of a global recession.

"The fact that we have got them coming across the board suggests that this is the end game," said Peter Dixon, an economist at Commerzbank in London. "Will it help the markets? Questionable in the short term."

The cuts followed days of calls for concerted action by economists and world leaders after repeated attempts by central banks to inject liquidity into world markets failed to halt a crisis of confidence.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Future Grandmother, Gov. Sarah Palin

Originally posted Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Gov. Sarah Palin is bound to get bruised in this process of running for national office, since every move will be scrutinized. The issue with her daughter's pregnancy is the news du jour. Another 48 hours it will be another issue. It's unfortunate Sarah's daughter and the dad-to-be got dragged into the spotlight.
The boy in this matter was not smart enough to realize that parents, who are lifetime members of the NRA, take the notion of shotgun marriages to a literal meaning. He might be fortunate that one of them is running for national office. I wish those two good luck — they'll need it as teenage parents.
The right -- including Gov. Palin -- is blind to a lot of realities. One of them is that young people have sex and unplanned pregnancy is one of the consequences. That might account for the tone from many commentators, which has ranged from smug moral superiority ("my child would never get knocked up") to shrill accusations of hypocrisy ("a lot of good that abstinence teaching did ya"). Those commentators fail to recognize that families don't always fit neatly into ideological beliefs and those who are too critical are just being cheap shot artists.
I wish no ill will toward the Palins and the young man. I only hope the Palins remain in Alaska and Sen. McCain enjoys a dignified retirement. I disagree with many of Gov. Palin's ideas and those in her party. However, the Palins don't deserve any scorn. They're very much a typical American family.

Wall Street's Arrogance is Confounding

Originally published: Sunday, March 09, 2008

As I walked through Fortunoff's in the Woodbridge Mall today, I was amazed that the department store chain was bankrupt. It had great looking merchandise and customers. By those standards alone, any retailer would be successful. Yet the company is reorganizing under Chapter 11. This is not really surprising when you consider that a private equity firm bought control of it from the founding family.
Many of the people on Wall Street think they are smarter than people who work in other industries. This is despite the fact that these Wall Street gurus never really operated anything and their real world business experiences constitutes looking at a spreadsheet. In a perfect world for private equity firms, they buy a company from pooling together a portion of the purchase price from institutional investors (pension funds, hedge funds, investment banks) and borrowing the rest to seal a deal. They collect a fee from completing a deal. The private equity firm and its partners own the business, but plan to cash out at some point for more money when they list the company on a stock exchange.
However, the business world is rarely that smooth. Risk is sometimes mispriced; consumer tastes change; companies borrow too much; and sometimes the wrong people are left in charge. Eddie Lampert took over Sears and brought Kmart out of bankruptcy. Now he's finding out how hard it is to compete against Wal-Mart. He might end up tarnishing his legendary status on Wall Street because of the struggles at the retailer. Will Sears go bankrupt? I doubt it, but their Sears Essentials store in my area looks like its having a tougher time than Fortunoff. It's surrounded by a Target, a Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Home Depot and a Macy's. I'm sure South Plainfield is not that much different than the rest of America's retailing climate. Trimaran Capital Partners and the Kier Group bought a majority stake in Fortunoff from the founding family in 2004. The Fortunoffs hoped that the firm would turn them into a national department store and still held a stake. Published reports listed Fortunoff's debts exceeding $300 million in November and assets of $268 million. This indicates risky capital structure that is vulnerable to downturns in consumer demand. A bankruptcy court and a new owner could give the company a chance to create a better capital structure. Trimaran and Kier Group's troubles with Fortunoff are not that unique in retailing. Levitz filed for bankruptcy again. Catalog retailer Lillian Vernon and gadget seller Sharper Image recently filed.
Wall Street firms have a pretty good history of mismanaging retailers. Macy's was taken private in a leveraged buyout in the late 1980s and that led to a bankruptcy. You might be impressed with some of the big salaries these private equity types collect. If they start prowling around your company, be very afraid. The pedigree of a Harvard MBA associated with these Wall Street gurus is not a guarantee that they know how to keep retail customers happy or the shelves of these stores well stocked.

Potter Author Buys Buckingham Palace, Evicts Tenants

Originally published Jan. 15, 2007

LONDON -- Billionaire Harry Potter author, J. K. Rowling, acquired Buckingham Palace and evicted the royal family, calling them "ungrateful tenants who were defiling the neighborhood."
"They're hillbillies with money," Rowling said of the royals. "If they didn't have the family jewels, they'd be watching 'Big Brother' on the telly and cheering on Milwall with the other racist football hooligans. Instead, they go hunting and play polo."
Rowling accidentally acquired the property from an obscure bank trust that had owned the palace instead of the royals.A legal scholar had found that the Royals had mortgaged the property to finance the Napoleonic Wars, the loan was never repaid to the mortgage holder.
Rowling discovered the defaulted mortgage by accident and immediately foreclosed on the property.
"We're talking about 200 years of uncollected interest those swine owe my bank," Rowling said. "They're a bunch of ungrateful tenants who were defiling the neighborhood with their tawdry affairs and surly fights. In any other neighborhood, they would have been locked up.
"They even had the nerve to try to take the jewels with them," said Rowling, who built a billion-sterling media empire of movies, films and merchandise on the tales of a boy wizard. "I'll probably melt down some of the gaudier stuff."
A shaking Queen Elizabeth II was seen at the curb of the property crying.When asked for comment, she replied, "F--- off! You wanker."

Big Plans for 'Potterland'
Rowling plans to bulldoze the palace to build a real life Hogwarts theme park, called Potterland.
"If Walt Disney can build a theme park with the flimsy premise of an animated mouse, I could turn most of London into my own playland," Rowling said. "I really just need to keep up with the Oprahs."
Rowling's accidental acquisition came after she was nervous about big banks being stuck with bad debts. This would have left her deposits vulnerable, she said.
Also, big banks were unable to meet some of her specific needs."My bank has a swimming pool filled with my money, so I could take a dip whenever I feel a little blue," Rowling said.
-- 30 --

The NFL Blows and Call Me when the Election's Over

Originally posted Nov. 30, 2007

The NFL blows and call me when the election is over... Current mood: tired Category: News and Politics

I'm tired of the 2008 election and it's not even 2008 yet. I like Ron Paul the most of the bunch, but nobody takes him seriously and I won't join the Republican party to vote for him in the primary. After that, I'd vote for either Obama or Edwards. Yeah, there isn't much in common between Paul or the two democrats. But I tend to side with libertarians on social issues and the democrats are the lesser of two evils when it comes to the major parties on social issues.

... The McGreeveys deserve each other. I think the family court judge should find away to confine our former governor and his estranged wife to a cell together. I can't believe our former Gov. took up court time over a kid's birthday party. We wonder why our legal system is so screwed up, but it's because we get the government we deserve. In this case, we go to court over the slimmest disagreements or when we face the slightest hardships. The judge should also sanction the attorneys involved for allowing it to degenerate to this point. If you have courts in a better position to threaten attorneys for frivolous cases, attorneys will find themselves to be in a better position to say "You're wasting your time, your money and the court's time" to a client. At least the judge was sensible enough to ridicule the parents.

...The NFL in its infinite wisdom took one of the best games of the year and reserved it for their own TV network despite the billions they get from their TV partners at ESPN, Fox, NBC and CBS. The NFL is overplaying its hand. It's bad enough that they stretch 1 hour of playing time into three and a half hours of TV time filled with commercials. Now the NFL is actually hoping to aggravate its fans into complaining to their cable operators so the public will pay for their channel. Screw the NFL. They're as bad as the Yankees. The masters at the NFL should learn the lessons from boxing. A sport that once showed title fights on Wide World of Sports on Saturdays took more and more of their fights to pay-per-view -- effectively narrowing their audience to the highest bidder. Now nobody cares about boxing. I can't name one title holder. The coverage is relegated to inside the sports section -- somewhere after high school sports and before equestrian events. The NFL should watch its step here, because their long term interest should be focused on the product on the field -- not the pipeline of delivery to the fan's home ...

Now that the Mets traded Lastings Milledge, what's the over/under in the number of seasons it takes for him to become an All-Star? I'm figuring the 2010 season. The Mets inevitably find a way to do this.

That's all for now. Just some rambling before I call it a night...

Random Thoughts on a Saturday night

Originally Posted Sept. 1, 2007:

I'm just hanging around on a Saturday night. I haven't written a blog in months and I don't feel like writing the book that's been in my head for years. My brain comes up with a lot of random useless ideas, but it's nice to share. Here they are:

I miss the Uncle Floyd show. It used to be on NJ Network in the 1980s and it was way ahead of its time. It influenced Howard Stern's channel 9 show with its low budget production values and crew members cracking up off stage. It's an iconoclast among tv variety shows with its great piano playing, campy skits, satire -- making it unlike any network comedy/variety shows.

This month and next month baseball will be on the brain. God, please get the Mets into the post season! Why can't Chipper Jones go 0-for-12 in a four game series against the Mets? He's dashed the hopes of Met fans for over a decade with clutch hitting. God likes to test the faith of Met fans. Yankee fans don't get tested this way because God doesn't care about them.

Does anybody really care about politics? I don't like anybody running for president in 2008. Does anybody know what we're voting on in November? Maybe it's a good thing the campaign this year is limited to after Labor Day.

Is there a more annoying song than "Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats?

Van Halen and Bruce are on the road again... Both are on tour. Van Halen is looking for a payday by bringing back David Lee Roth with tix selling for $50-$150 (Washington DC show). Bruce tix are going on sale for different spots starting September 8. I've always been less satisfied with big arena shows than catching a band in a club like the Stone Pony, the long gone Green Parrot in Neptune, and last but not least City Gardens in Trenton.

Arena shows with big bands are predictable, right down to the encores. I get more satisfaction watching the Stone Pony cutting the electric on Graham Parker after he played two encores at 2:45 a.m. That was pretty cool for $10 at the door for a spot 15 feet from the stage. How can the energy from the stage diving at a Fishbone show(performers included) be replicated by anything Bruce, Van Halen, or U2 in a big arena? What about the Vans Warped Tour with its 5 stages and 50 bands for less than $30. The musicians will even meet the crowd at their booths after their performance. When's the last time Mick Jagger spent time with fans? I'll probably pick up Bruce's new album (the first single reminded me of something The Smithereenswould do).

Good nite for now... Feel free to post equally random thoughts.