Monday, January 29, 2007

A sad day

In a single day, my hero is lambasted, my crush is reported to be romancing a former Citigroup exec, and a noble, inspring creature passes on.

As for Jim stock portfolio continues to languish, and I am tempted to believe some of the venomous spew about him in that article. But I'd caution anyone to fully swallow the bitter diatribe of one Henry Blodget, who in the tech decline of 2000 lost over $700k of his own money, while Cramer's hedge fund went up 38%. Cramer, after riding tech all the way up to Nasdaq 5000, made a bold call to 'lighten up' in tech shortly before the crash. I remember it vividly, because I did lighten up, just a little, and it saved me some serious money. I sorely wish I'd have listened even closer. Yes, it is true that Cramer incorrectly called the bottom in tech several times on the way down, but his relentlessly disciplined style of trading allowed him to be wrong without losing his shirt, as opposed to Mr. Blodgett. Cramer retired from the hedge fund racket at the end of 2000, giving his investors a 38% return in a year where the Nasdaq dropped 60%. Meanwhile, Henry Blodgett was being investigated by the SEC (he pleaded no contest to the charges, left his job at Merril, and accepted a lifetime ban from the securities industry.) While Jim makes plenty of mistakes, he's the only analyst I saw last year that recommended GOOG at $180, at $250, at $350, and at $450...and then called for a sell at $500 (GOOG topped out close to $600, then fell back to almost $400, and is now right around $500 again.) He's the only analyst who I saw recommend you sell AAPL at $40, before they reported terrible earnings and dropped to $30...then as they climbed back up to $40, he switched camps and recommended a buy. He said buy AAPL at $50, at $60, at $70, and at $80. He wants you to sell it now, and lock in that double from last year. I'm no Cramer apologist - my portfolio that is loosely based on his stock picks is suffering - but when I see a criminally bad stockpicker like Blodgett lampoon him, it's hard to stay quiet.

And Maria...sure, he may have a corporate jet and millions of dollars, but I have, uh...body hair. And a blog! Well, nevermind...I didn't really like you anyway.

As for Barbaro, thank Christ they finally put a bullet in his brain. He's a fucking horse. As a Philadelphia sports fan, I have been subjected to a constant stream of stories about his veternary care, his chances for survival, and how he inspired the people of a city with his...oh I can't even go on. He was a fucking horse. And now he's dog food, or glue, or something infinitely more useful than a limping-around-but-inspirational animal. If one more idiot writes a story about Barbaro, the only thing I'll be inspired to do is kick my cats out of frustration.

Silver lining

Despite the latest dire predictions about climate change, I'm squarely in the shrinking sane camp on the subject of global warming. Interestingly, however, this over-hyped myth may bring about an unintended benefit: the rebirth of nuclear power.

Longing for the limelight that his weapon-inspections days brought, Hans Blix called global warming more dangerous than nuclear weapons. I can't even begin to comment on the farcical irrationality of such a statement, but views like his have contributed to plans for the Tennessee Valley Authority to build the first new nuclear reactor in the U.S. since TMI. Meanwhile, socialist Germany is waking up to the fact that they can't simultaneously abide by the restrictive Kyoto Protocol while shutting down all their nuclear reactors.

Nuclear power is critical because we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. There aren't any other viable sources of energy that can cleanly and economically produce the amount of energy that the West requires now, let alone as those energy demands continue to expand in the future. Reducing this dependence has both immediate and long-range strategic consequences, as backwards (but oil rich) nations like Iran will no longer have the wealth to support both a tyrannical, buffoonish government and terrorist organizations like Hizbollah.

Ironic, but delightfully so, that the same precautionary principle that was responsible for the foolish restrictions on nuclear power in this country, will now lead us back in that direction, out of fear for an even greater imagined threat.

Of course, we're 30 years late, and tens of thousands of people have already died as we fight with the oil-rich nations of the Middle East. But at least we avoided any more disasters like TMI, and its staggering death toll of zero. That is the power of reactionary public policy and overreaching legislators - real people die every day to protect us from imagined dangers.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Movie Review: Curse of the Golden Flower

I appreciated the stunning visual imagery of Hero, and I went to this movie expecting something similar, although (based on the reviews) significantly less powerful.

I got pretty much what I expected. Curse of the Golden Flower has some scenes that look simply amazing; grandiose in both scope and color. It has tragedy aplenty (think Hamlet, only add on that he's bonking Ophelia without realizing she's his sister, while he's also having a reluctant affair with his mother) and this was almost enough to make it worthwhile. But in the end, it is too long, too impersonal, and too overdone. It's definitely no Crouching Tiger.

I had only a vague interest in the outcome of the battles, who would win the throne, and who would commit ritual suicide. Curse of the Golden Flower is pretty but ultimately empty, and as such it's difficult to recommend.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Movie review: Children of Men

If my connection to the server at work wasn't down, and the guy who fixes network stuff not due in for another two hours, I wouldn't even bother taking the time to write about this movie.

Here, let me spoil it completely for you:

He dies, she lives, she escapes.

True, you figured that stuff out thirty minutes into the movie. But wait, what about all the other questions that the movie raised? Let me spoil those also:

  • What is the Human Project? Unexplained.
  • Why did humans stop reproducing? Unexplained.
  • Why do animals have such an affinity for the main character? Unexplained.
  • Why are there piles of smoldering cow and pig corpses all over the country? Unexplained.
  • Why are they hiding the baby from the government? Why do the revolutionaries want a baby? Why is she having a baby? Why does she strip naked instead of simply telling people "I'm pregnant"? Unexplained.

So there you have it. I've saved you 120 minutes of your life by sharing the big secret with you: the author of this story doesn't have any fucking idea what's going on either. This is possibly a very poorly-developed Jesus allegory (read the Green Mile for a well-developed one) or the author was too lazy to answer his own questions.

There are a few interesting scenes and a scary future world that, while unoriginal, could serve as a backdrop for some fascinating characters and a gripping plot. I kept waiting for a hint of either to show up on the screen, but after about an hour, I realized that the only thing I had to look forward to was the closing credits.

If you're the type of person who enjoys unwrapping a present for two hours, only to find nothing inside, then Children of Men is for you. Otherwise, just stay home and watch Fight Club again.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It practically writes itself

Thanks to JC for both the title and the topic for today's entry.

Perhaps you've often wondered what the world was like when God created it 6000 years ago. You know, when dinosaurs and men roamed the earth together. (Even though dinosaurs aren't mentioned in the Bible, we know that God must have just forgot to pass on that little tidbit of info to his earthly vessels.)

What's not remarkable about this story is that such a museum, unfortunately, this sort of delusion is all too ordinary. What I find fascinating is the pseudo-intellectualism behind which these fanatics hide.

Faith must trample underfoot all sense, reason and understanding - Martin Luther.

There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence - John Calvin.

Despite the teaching of these Christian leaders, our fearless creationists have decided to use (giggle) reason to convince you that they are correct! Just listen to these amazing quotes: "I think it shows (nonbelievers) the other side of things", and "I don't think it's going to be forcing any viewpoint on them, but challenging them to think critically about their evolutionary views". Yes, that's right...proponents of a mystical all-knowing god are telling you to think critically! That logic will lead you to reject scientific evidence and accept a fairy tale! You too can go to the museum and learn how ancient fossils and the Grand Canyon were created just a few thousand years ago in a great flood, how dinosaurs fit on Noah's Ark, and how Cain married his sister to people the earth.

When a mystic offers you "logic", you should treat it with the same caution that you'd treat a meal served to you by an unwashed sewer worker.

In other news, I've actually decided to watch a TV show this season: 24. I have to admit, I'm pleasantly surprised, and I might even go on to say that I'm glad most of America is watching this show. It demonstrates just how close we are to civil rights violations on a massive scale. I've mentioned it before on this blog...all of the laws are in place, all we need is a terror attack or two on U.S. soil and we're suddenly hosting detention camps for suspicious Americans, using the prescribed "interrogation" techniques on citizens, and shrugging off the loss of civil rights as the "price of security." Sure, the tv show is a fantasy, but the writers are spot on about that much at least. I know I sound like a wacko, but mark my words: we are a couple explosions removed from a police state.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

End of the Line

The Eagles lost last night, ending their improbable 6-game winning streak and playoff run.

Before I dissect the loss and the problems it exposed, I want to start by saying that the Eagles deserve a lot of credit for responding the way they did to McNabb's injury. I did not even have a shred of hope that the team would rebound from a 5-6 record to win the NFC East and win a playoff game behind the backup QB. That they were able to accomplish this much is reflective of a lot of hard work and mental toughness from the players and the coaching staff.

But I'm not here to throw bouquets of praise at the Eagles. I need to vent about the frustration of the loss, and the flaws in this team.

  • Run defense? What run defense? You simply can't give up 200+ yards rushing in a game, especially in the playoffs. I wish I could narrow this down into one issue, but it seems like there are several. The DL seems unable to shed blocks and make a play at the line of scrimmage. The LBs rarely seem to be in the right spot, and when they are, they miss tackles. Brodrick Bunkley needs to get in shape, learn the defense, and get on the field. They badly need a run-stopping presence in the middle of that line. Additionally, the Eagles need possibly three new LBs. Gaither did a decent job at times this season, but last night had a poor game. I'm not sure if he's the answer in the future. Trotter's getting old, and Dhani Jones doesn't hold up well at the point of attack. Maybe Chris Gocong plays Sam next year, or maybe the Eagles need to revisit this area in free agency.
  • Poor third-down defense. On one TD drive alone, the Saints converted three third-and-seven (or longer) situations. Missed tackles were the biggest culprit, and it didn't help that the Saints completely anticipated the Eagles blizes and called the perfect plays to counteract them. Perhaps new LBs will help here as well - they seemed incapable of covering New Orleans' third-string TE all night.
  • Bad coaching decisions. A repeated theme, it seems. Andy Reid is a fantastic coach on the practice field and in the locker room. He is one of the very few coaches in the NFL who could have held this team together and turned them around this season. But he's a terrible game-day coach, and he cost his team the game last night. 3rd-and-1 from the 3, down by 6? Pass, loss of two yards, kicks the field goal. Obvious QB sneak situation, or hand it to Westbrook and let him go over the top again. Fourth-and-twelve from the Saints' 38? Andy punts. (The Saints march the ball 82 yards for a TD.) Fourth-and-fifteen with two minutes left, down by 3? Another punt. (The Eagles never got the ball back.) Also, you'll notice that in spite of the fact that the Saints were blitzing relentlessly, the Eagles consistently sent four and five receivers into the pattern and kept a minimum of players in to block.
  • Dropped passes. Don't understimate the importance of Westbrook's drop of a five-yard pass two plays before the infamous punt from the 38. If he catches that pass, at the very least Akers has a chance to kick a FG.

Overall, I'm proud to be an Eagles fan today. They did more than I could have hoped for after some really bad breaks. But I'm also frustrated to see an opportunity get away. You just never know if you'll be good (and lucky) enough to get back into this position, so you need to take advantage of the opportunities you have.

Oh well, back to Madden for me, where the three-time champion Eagles are looking for their 60th consecutive victory today.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Wow, I was actually right

Back before the NFL season started, I predicted that the Eagles would win the NFC East, the Cowboys and Giants would compete for the wildcard, and that the Redskins would be last by a mile.

I was also dead right about the Steelers, foreseeing both their 8-8 record and 3rd-place finish in the AFC North.

It's almost comical to take credit for these predictions, since I could never have imagined the bizarre road these teams travelled to reach these records. But as the saying goes in golf: it doesn't matter how, just how many.

If you told me that the Eagles would lose McNabb halfway through the season, that their rush defense would give up 200 yards/game for four straight games, and that none of their first five draft picks would contribute in any meaningful way, I would have figured their record to be 5-11, not 10-6.

But hell...for once, I was actually right! Forgive me while I do a little endzone celebration.