Friday, September 23, 2011

Best movies of the last 10 years

About Schmidt (2002)
Adaptation (2002)
City of God (2002)
Gangs of New York (2002)
All the Real Girls (2003)
The Fog of War (2003)
Lost in Translation (2003)
Mystic River (2003)
Oldboy (2003)
Kill Bill (2003-4)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Sideways (2004)
Team America: World Police (2004)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Crash (2005)
Good Night and Good Luck (2005)
Jarhead (2005)
Lord of War (2005)
Sin City (2005)
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Syriana (2005)
Borat (2006)
The Departed (2006)
Half Nelson (2006)
Paris, Je T’aime (2006)
The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (2007)
The King of Kong (2007)
Michael Clayton (2007)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Superbad (2007)
Ratatouille (2007)
The Savages (2007)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
The Dark Knight (2008)
Doubt (2008)
Hunger (2008)
Man on Wire (2008)
Medicine for Melancholy (2008)
Milk (2008)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
The Hurt Locker (2009)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
The Vicious Kind (2009)
Blue Valentine (2010)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
Winter’s Bone (2010)
Drive (2011)
The Tree of Life (2011)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Conversation about pet insurance

Friend 1: You're playing with fire if you don't have pet insurance.

: When my dog Dignan was under my sole care, I carried an alternative version of pet insurance that was totally free.

It was the belief that he could either tough out his expensive injuries or risk being put to sleep.

It's called the "What Our Parents, Grandparents, and All Other Ancestors Did For Doggy Health Care" Plan.

[fast forward a couple months and topic of pet insurance comes up again]

Friend 2: After spending as much time as I have with my girlfriend and her her dog, I remember what dog ownership is like. I take back my statement about thinking Kendall's method of insurance was funny. I want to buy insurance for this dog already.

Me: It's not supposed to be funny.

Dignan has cost me (and now my sister) nothing but food and a couple shots since I got him almost four years ago. I love him dearly but am also aware that dogs are much better adapted to living with discomfort and pain. If something happened to him that made him uncomfortable, I would wait for the problem to clear up on its own. If it got worse, I would probably bite the bullet and take him to the vet. If it was an overly expensive problem to fix, I would have to weigh the costs v. the benefits of getting him fixed.

Basically, I wouldn't spend much money on making the dog merely less uncomfortable, nor would I spend a lot of money on extending the dog's life when a dog doesn't live very long to begin with. It may sound callous, but it seems ridiculous to me to spend a lot of money on a non-human. Call me an asshole, but I'd rather put the dog to sleep, be really, really sad for a few days and then just get a new dog, which is actually a really fun thing to do, than be milked monthly by an insurance company or dump money down the never-ending hole known as a dog with health problems.

Friend 3: You have no soul.

Friend 4: You have no soul for real.

Me: If I had no soul, I wouldn't be sad about doing it. Knowing when it's time to let go of your dog doesn't mean you loved it any less. To me, pet insurance is another example of the wussification of America, or perhaps more accurately an example of America's crippling fear of death.

I guess I'm just more comfortable with death and with a dog's place in the food chain. People these days seem to think that dogs are actual family members or something and that if they spend enough money on their dogs, they'll live forever. No matter how much money you spend on your dog, he or she will not live longer than 10 or maybe 15 years. If it makes you feel better to spend thousands on insurance and deductibles over the years to cover reconstructive surgery and physical therapy and whatever else, go for it. But don't attack me because I'm comfortable with getting a couple extra opportunities over the course of my lifetime to pick out new puppies that will not spend their lives in traction, casts, and those dumb neck cones.

Friend 4: I get what your saying, Kendall, but regardless, I'm willing to spend 20 bucks a month to potentially save me from one of those decisions.

Me: Even if you completely reject my argument that we have gone too far in humanizing our pets, why pay an insurance company who will charge you a deductible and potentially 10 to 20 percent of the costs and most likely do everything in their power to reject your claim? I would probably go ballistic the first time I heard the words "policy limit" or "pre-existing condition" at the vet's office. Why not put $20 per month in an interest-bearing account and then use that to pay for the dog's vet bills if and when they come up?


Check out this article on how pet names are becoming more human

Friday, July 30, 2010

My overly simplistic solution for solving unemployment and public health

30 Hour Work Weeks. Everyone works 3/4 time.

Instead of hiring six employees to work 240 hours per week, an employer could hire eight employees to work 240 hours per week. All those extra jobs will put a huge dent in unemployment.

Those eight employees have the equivalent of an extra day off and 30 extra minutes per day to exercise, cook dinner and spend time with family and friends, thereby making our society healthier and happier.


Edit: Forgot to mention that productivity generally rises as hours decrease.

I knew I wasn't the first one to think of this, but here's an article discussing it much more eloquently.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Am I wrong or was this guy a flaming douchebag?

So I was meeting Rachel at a corner in San Francisco the other evening and my phone died mid-conversation just as she was telling me how far away she was and how soon she would get there. This was in Hayes Valley, which is a pretty affluent and low-crime area.

I needed to call Rachel to confirm where she was to see if she needed a ride, so I asked the first person I saw walking on my side of the sidewalk if I could borrow a phone for 30 seconds because I was meeting someone and my phone had died mid-call. He looked to be in about his late 20s, was moderately chubby, dressed somewhat hipsterish, and had a Blackberry in his hand which he had clearly just finished using.

Our friend looked at me for a second and kind of threw back his head and said in what to me was an extremely whiny voice, "MAN.....are you serious?" Basically he implied that I had just asked for a piece of his liver, or definitely one of his kidneys.

Let me preface this by saying that I have let somebody on the street borrow my phone probably a dozen times. I normally have plenty of minutes, but even if I didn't, I consider it a matter of common courtesy to help somebody out when it costs me very little.

So anyway, taken aback because I thought I had made an imminently reasonable request, I simply said, "Well, yeah, but I guess you really don't have to if you don't want to."

He looked at me again, all huffy-puffy, an extremely put-out expression on his face, dropped the phone in his pocket, and said, "No, sorry. I really have to be someplace." Mind you, I was walking in the same direction as him, had my dead phone in my hand, and looked respectable because I had just come from work.

I was walking side-by-side with him for a while and he wouldn't even look in my direction to see the stunned look on my face. After a few seconds, I stopped and said, "Well, thanks. Thanks a lot, buddy. you really helped me out."

He acted like I hadn't said anything and didn't even flinch, so I yelled, "You know what? That was really shitty." Again no response, which served the dual purpose of pissing me off more and assuring me this guy was a giant pussy, so I added a final. "Yeah, that's right! Don't turn around! Thanks a lot for helping your fellow man! Dick!!"

I think it would have been pretty funny if he did turn around and try to fight me because that would have been an epic throwdown, the Ali-Frasier of chubby sissy-hipster slap fights, the pillow fight of the week as it were. But he didn't, so I guess I came out on top (if "coming out on top" means I had a crappy, dead cell phone in my hand and had just lowered myself to name-calling and half-threatening a weakling who was probably scared of my patchy beard and proto-mullet.

At this point, the interaction is merely an amusing anecdote and not really worthy of a blog post, but the next guy I asked who actually did let me borrow his iPhone told me one of the only reasons he let me borrow his phone was that he turned down the last guy who asked him to borrow his phone and the guy straight-up punched him in the face. Granted, he also said the reason he said refused the previous guy was because the guy had come off like an, in his words, asshole* when he asked to borrow it, but it still got me thinking.

What the hell is the big deal with lending someone a phone? Isn't that the most basic of common courtesies? Am I reaching when I say this is further proof that civility in this society is all but completed evaporated?

As usual, I will overreact and use this completely isolated incident to generalize about a whole group of people . What I'm going to take away from this is that the Me Generation has pretty much run amok in San Francisco, turning a charming destination for outlaws and immigrants into a yuppie wasteland.

Yep, I'm convinced. This would never happen in Oakland.


*Which was proof he didn't witness my altercation with the chubby hipster.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A few messages regarding The Riot That Wasn't

Holy shit. "The Riot" was as badly over-hyped as "The Decision."

1. To the protesters: Excellent job. You managed to keep your cool when the media, outside residents, and those who seek violent confrontation did everything in their power to turn the situation as ugly as possible.

2. To the police: Excellent job, which is something I never thought I would say. You said all the right things going into the day and you followed through on your promises. You allowed the passionate residents to say their piece and express their First Amendment rights. When things started to turn ugly when a bunch of the same shit-starters came in from out of town, you immediately responded and kept the city safe without escalating it.

3. To the media and especially KRON: God, you fucking suck. What ended up being less violent and disorderly than a sports championship celebration has been turned by you into the second coming of Rodney King.

You wanted there to be a riot so bad before the day even started. You kept adding fuel to the fire with your questions throughout the day. You started reporting there was a riot even when there wasn't one.

The one exception I saw was Yobie Benjamin, blogger for The Chronicle. He kept his cool and managed to keep everything in perspective. You can read his live blog from last night here.

Epilogue: Yes, there was violence and arrests but try to look at the good side. The cops exercised maximum restraint and 99% of the actual protesters were peaceful. There were maybe a dozen crazies in a group of 1,500 or so. Most arrested did so within principles of passive resistance - quiet yet defiant. Damage was minimal considering what could have been. I sympathize with the victims of vandalism.

If one asks me what I think? The protest was largely peaceful and was a legitimate exercise of the First Amendment. The cops performed very well under very difficult circumstances and the Oakland community was commendable.

No, it was not perfect but it is a picture of America today... divided and imperfect but still able to rise to tomorrow's challenges.

4. To the anarchists or trouble-makers or whoever come in from out of town to try to escalate this situation: Fuck you and your whole ethos. There are people trying to live down here. We're not your pawns in your little suburban angst game. You may want the world to look like a Cormac McCarthy novel but we don't.

5. To the residents and workers of Oakland who freaked the fuck out and started fleeing the city and preparing for World War III: You are stupid, fear mongers and thinly veiled racists. I know you think any time minorities gather en masse that violence, mayhem and white lynching are a foregone conclusion, but your thoughts and actions just contributed to an atmosphere of panic.

As someone far more eloquent than I wrote on twitter:

the dehumanization of oakland's citizens that assumes they will riot is the same dehumanization that leads cops to shoot them in the back.

6. To anyone--including a friend of mine--who endorsed or called for rioting, especially those who don't live in Oakland: What the hell is wrong with you? There are people living and working here. Why would you ever endorse or wish for our city and residents to be harmed?

7. To the family of Oscar Grant: You got jobbed. Should have been 2nd Degree Murder.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The World Cup stole my ability to blog

But since I'm in a feisty mood and there's a certain NBA star who needs to be called out, here are some rants and raves about tonight's impending disaster (replete with lots of dirty words). My apologies to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports* for "borrowing" some of his insights.

A. Lebron really has dropped in my book. For him, this period of free agency has been his defining moment. He, and I think more so than the media, has been playing up the hype leading up to this summer for years. Nobody in the media forced him to don New York hats and make little hints and innuendos. Nobody forced him to have an hour special. Kobe definitely could have handled this situation the same way as Lebron, but he chose to quietly renegotiate a monster deal and go ahead and win a title. I never, ever in a million years thought I would say this, but at this moment, I would actually say I prefer Kobe, who has traditionally been one of my most hated basketball players, to Lebron.

B. Just because Lebron isn't in front of the cameras discussing free agency doesn't mean his publicity team and agent and entourage aren't doing stuff behind the scenes to encourage this feeding frenzy. You can't throw chum in the water and then be surprised when the sharks show up. How many times does it have to be said that none of the other monster free agents refer to themselves as the King and do specials? Lebron controls his camp. Period. You'd have to be crazy to think he hasn't had a hand in this. Getting others to do your bidding while you look innocent is what having power is all about.

Anyway, taking Lebron's silence under the best of circumstances, here are some things he has done that are still shitty.

1. Agreeing to this ridiculous hour-long special. No other star is doing this. As Stan Van Gundy said, it takes 15 seconds to say where you're going, not a produced special.

2. If he does sign with the Cavs, he could have done so long ago and spared us all this agonizing orgy of idiocy. If he doesn't resign, he's having this ridiculous espn love fest to rub it in the face of the city who loves him.

3. He had his camp leak the news of Wade and Bosh to the media, so today would be all about him.

4. Referred on his OWN Web site to this ridiculous TV program as "The Decision." Unless I missed something and he's the reincarnation of Harry fucking Truman about to incinerate a couple major cities, I think he's overestimating and over-hyping this moment.

Trying to hide his ego under a cloak of charity is despicable and insulting to our collective intelligence. The guy is a hundred-millionaire. He could donate the same amount directly to the Boys and Girls Clubs whenever he wanted and not even notice it missing from his enormous pile of gold bars. He could have held a press conference, donated the money ... See Moreand told the Worldwide Leader to go fuck themselves. His personal appearance money is pennies compared to the ad revenue espn will generate and I haven't heard espn say they're giving the money to charity. Instead, he would rather have his ego erotically stroked for 60 minutes by the suits at the MTV of Sports. In an era where it's always about the money even when it's not about the money, this is either about the money or about the ego. Take your pick.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thought on Lew Perkins and the KU ticket scandal

1. I'm always really, really pissed off when tickets are distributed straight to scalpers*. It completely undermines the system because the whole idea of printing tickets with a value on them is to set their price. All tickets should be sold directly to the fans at face value, with a limited number being set aside some for players' families and other big friends of the department. Zero should be distributed to known scalpers. The athletic department's job is to make money but also to put fans in the seats and give them a good experience. Giving them to the Pump Brothers or anyone else who resells them is ripping off your fans. Period.

2. As for Lew's culpability, an AD should have some idea of where the tickets are going if he's making true fans pay out the ass for them in the form of donations. Maybe not Lew, but somebody Lew employs, should know who's sitting in the best seats and if he doesn't know who they are, he should know how they got their tickets. Maybe that was Rodney Jones, which would be the ultimate betrayal, but as somebody said previously. If big donors, or even medium donors, aren't getting good seats, that is something that should be looked into. I don't know if Lew should get fired for this because it's a decision outside my level of knowledge and expertise, but I think he should be giving the exact same length of rope as other employees fired by him.

3. The exercise equipment is probably not a big deal and he has already paid fair rental value, but I also think anyone who deals with NCAA compliance and ethical rules would absolutely know it's wrong to accept a gift like that. How can he negotiate the morass of ridiculous NCAA regulations and think it's totally fine to accept a high value gift for free?

4. I think one of the major problems we have here is that the Athletic Director has too many responsibilities. They're managing the athletics side which deals with hiring/firing coaches, addressing issues with players like fights and grades, NCAA compliance and making other decisions that affect players and fans. Then there are the business decisions like raising revenue and building new facilities. I honestly think they could be two different jobs just like with professional sports where you have both a general manager and a president of operations or whatever they call it. Maybe they already do divide the labor, and if they do, it should be more apparent to the fans and media who's in charge of what so we know whose head to call for (if
one needs calling for).

*This is especially true with TicketMaster and tickets for concerts. I know a person in the ticket industry who has kenfirmed to me that tickets that never go on sale to the public and are set aside for the secondary market aka scalpers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Food Democracy Now

Tell the DOJ to stand up for farmers today. End the fear and intimidation in rural America!

Dear Kendall,

Today family farmers face some of their toughest times since the Great Depression. In the last 48 hours we drove more than 900 miles across the country to be here in Normal, Alabama because we believe it's important to stand up for farmers in the face of unfair contracts and corporate abuse.

Right now, the Department of Justice and USDA are holding their second listening session on anti-competition issues in the food industry. Today Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder are listening to farmers talk about the abuses in the poultry industry that are forcing family farmers deeply into debt and out of business.

Unfortunately, because of how the poultry industry works, there’s a lot that they won’t hear. Despite widespread reports of price manipulation and corporate intimidation, the Department of Justice has had a hard time finding any poultry farmers willing to testify publicly about these abuses.

In the past few days we’ve heard directly from chicken growers who were warned by the company that they contract with that if they even show up at this hearing they will face retaliation, possibly losing their contracts. There’s no place in America for these types of threats to our nation’s farmers.

Click here to stand up for family farmers across the country who bear the brunt of agribusiness’s corporate abuses in the Heartland. Tell Attorney General Holder and Secretary Vilsack it’s time to put an end to this type of corruption.

Farmers are afraid to come forward because they know if they do they face the possibility of losing their jobs, their houses and their farms. This happens all the time in rural America. Last year America got a taste of what the chicken industry is all about when poultry grower Carole Morison, who starred in Food Inc., spoke out against the industry. After 23 years her company cut her contract! And the only way she could hold onto her farm was because both she and her husband had two off-farm jobs.

For decades, poultry growers have complained about the unfair contracts, price manipulation and loss of income due to corporate intimidation. Without competition, family farmers have no choice but to submit to company demands, however unreasonable.

Farmers no longer own the chickens, but raise them on contract, regularly going into debt more than $1 million to build highly specialized buildings, with only one or two companies to sell to under contract in their area. As a result, farmers have no competitive markets to sell to and companies like Tyson and Perdue dictate the terms of the contract, including costly modifications to their structures. Oftentimes these are demands that farmers are simply unable to sustain.

In these “take it or leave it” contracts, farmers live in constant fear of having their contracts canceled if they fail to comply with the demands of companies such as Tyson.

Now, as the Department of Justice is finally ready to investigate this deplorable situation, the Big Chicken companies have put the word out that they will retaliate if any grower testifies. On the way down to Alabama we spoke with one grower who actually said that farmers are afraid to even show up at the public hearing, lest they become “made an example of”.

This type of fear and intimidation has no place in America.

Here at Food Democracy Now! we believe that farmers should not have to live in fear of having their contracts pulled out from under them, forced into continuous debt and should be paid a fair wage for their labor.

Tell the Administration to stand up for family farmers like Carol Morison as they bravely share their stories and fight for justice. It’s time to Fight Big Food!

Thank you for participating in food democracy!

Dave, Lisa and The Food Democracy Now Team

We need to keep the pressure on! Please donate to Food Democracy Now today – whether it’s $5 or $50. We rely on folks like you to keep us going. Thank you!