Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in NYC didn't seem prepared, and there's some accusations of budget cuts having left the city that way. Thank God for Twitter, relief for people stuck on tarmacs.
Meanwhile in New Jersey, not only did battlin' Gov. Chris Christie spend his blizzard in Florida with Mickey Mouse, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno took vacation in Mexico at the same time and didn't bother returning. Useless, I guess.
It's been all to the benefit of NJ State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat acting as Governor by law in lieu of the two Republicans. He's handled himself well and it may give him more power against Christie in the new year.
But the best PR has been self-generated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker who used Twitter with great effectiveness to help target snow relief in his town. Per Sean Gregory at Time:
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
On a Blackberry, email is king. Email and calls. On the iPhone 4, they're just another form of media. Still pretty easy to use, if with a less tactile keyboard and missing some arrow keys for highlighting and moving through text, but not the worst trade-off in the world. But the most notably thing is that the iPhone, often called a hand-held computer, is actually the greatest hand-held media machine I've ever seen.
The iPad, in it's current incarnation, is nothing but a media consumption device. At least the iPhone manages contacts and makes calls. But what's striking is how everything on it is media. You can do Facetime videochat over Wi-Fi, take a picture of it, go into your Camera Roll and send it, post it, whatever. Take it into another app and edit it. You can take a picture anywhere and tweak it into Instagram, which you can immediately share on Facebook and Twitter etc etc with just a few checkboxes.
Email is treated not as "email" but each one as just another piece of media, with other media sent inside of it that can be played, click-linked to, taken out and resent elsewhere.
If it's been said that we're all just data, then data is the molecules and media are the differentiated cells. They all function in the same system, the same body, but they have different purposes, generally built around the speed of apprehension. Video is perhaps the highest form of media, an instantly playable YouTube video as a result of a Shazam music search, or the deepest point in a museum app exhibition module. Now you can shoot your own video and edit it in the iMovie app, then download to your Mac for the full iMovie menu of commands, finish and send back to your phone, other phones, etc.
Now the camera does more than just shoot video. It's a search tool as well -- for the first time in planetary history. The Google app contains a camera icon for "Google Goggles," where you take a picture of a label or object or book cover or whatever piece of commercial or trademarkable product or iconography and Google does an image match that results, after just a few seconds, with links to learning more and, of course, buying.
It's got camera's front and back (front for video chat, back for higher resolution) and HDR for still photography, providing two options with each snap, different lighting values. Unlike with my Blackberry, I can actually blog from it.
I'm sure Blackberry is catching up with an improved browser experience (I hope for their sake) and larger screen, and I'll be Android sweeps the world next year with Microsoft possibly elbowing to #3. But the iPhone leads the way by making it all easy-peasy media accessing and sending off.
Into the social media ether.
Monday, December 27, 2010
They're bringing on health insurance industry lobbyists to take down the recently enacted healthcare reform act our nation so desperately needs.
They're even changing the House rules to make it easier to slash spending and give tax cuts to the rich.
Get ready for all their nasty stuff - hello 2011!
Sunday, December 26, 2010
The vibrant visuals, the glory of the orange-hued Utah landscape, the easy and convivial presence of Mr. Franco, and the remarkable spiritual journey of this man is what blows you away, with an incredibly uplifting ending, a real-life triumph of the human spirit, it's all very inspiring. Boyle keeps things moving even when Franco is trapped, via visions and flashbacks that follow his thought throughout the ordeal. I particularly enjoyed the sense of youthful freedom, in an early sequence where he runs into two lost female hikers as well as a later flashback to a winter scene.
Most of all, from the very first minute, it is the first movie I've ever seen that has the visual agility of a new iPhone 4, that is to say, it moves it's imagery with speed, accuracy and grace.
The other great movie experience was the Coen Bros' True Grit (also 8.5 on IMDB). Regular readers know I've been anticipating this one, and I took my equally excited 11 year-old son. Call it a father-son bonding experience. The upshot was another movie with the audience applauding at the end, a terrific remake with much more darkness than the Henry Hathaway original, and a much better cast Maddie Ross, an actual 14 year-old actress rather than Kim Darby at age 20.
Audiences are starving for simple stories made up of great solid characters, well-told, and ours loved this one. This is easily the most accessible Coen Bros movie, but the love of literary detail is still there, along with just enough of their patented detachment to make the emotional closing scenes feel earned rather than maudlin.
Aside from the big screen-filling beauty of the production (Roger Deakins should be favored for the Cinematography awards), it's the interplay between newcomer Hailie Steinfeld who proves herself early in some negotiation scenes, Jeff Bridges submerged in a non-Wayne interpretation of Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon as Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (originally the Glen Campbell breakout role) that makes the movie a pleasure. They're out on the range, long before Facebook, a credible recreation of the historical Western setting straight out of John Ford, with several shot quotes (My Darling Clementine, The Searchers) for good measure.
There you go, two positive recommendations. It seems that there's some real movies out, finally, saved for end of the year as in times past, but maybe a little edgier than usual.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
As I've said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about. At this point, what I've said is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think that's the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough. And I think this is something we're gonna continue to debate, and I personally am gonna continue to wrestle with going forward.
I'll take that as a yes. For the record, here's a list of some of his biggest accomplishments in just two years, with the latest being DADT repeal, START missile treaty ratification and the 9/11 responders bill passage (two of those much thanks to the also underestimated Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) who just got a nice NY Times piece on her accomplishments).
Here's our President and VP Biden with the emotional audience at the DADT repeal signing:
And, as a final treat, this incredibly moving video of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) both when he received Lt. Dan Choi's West Point ring in July and today, after passing the bill, he gave it back:
God bless America.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Credit where credit is due. I don't expect Joe to be on my side for a lot else, but this could be enough to earn him reelection. It makes for good politics but he certainly didn't seem to be playing politics, at least none of the posturing of the other side, including his buddy, John McC.
Meanwhile, could Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) be more cruel and political on the 9/11 Responders bill?
Beware the Winter Cannibals.
Monday, December 20, 2010
And he's getting some his judicial nominees passed, finally, even if a few good ones have to fall as bargaining chips?
I know many of my friends on the Left are unhappy with Obama compromises, but he's not looking very Jimmy Carterish this week. Not at all.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Here's our cool President:
Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.Here's the guy who elevated Sarah Palin from nowhere to his Vice Presidential nominee, with another reason why he should never have been President:
As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.
I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.
Sad, indeed, Sen. McCain.
"I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage," said the four-term incumbent before the vote, according to ABC News. "Today is a very sad day."
As he has from the start, Andrew Sullivan gets Obama, "The Tory President":
Now, there's little doubt that in contrast to recent decades, Obama has nudged the direction leftward - re-regulating Wall Street after the catastrophe, setting up universal health insurance through the private sector, recalibrating America's role in the world from preachy bully to hegemonic facilitator. But throughout he has tried, as his partisan critics have complained, not to be a partisan president, to recall, as he put it in that recent press conference, that this is a diverse country, that is is time we had a president who does not repel or disparage or ignore those who voted against him or those who have grown to despise him.I'm betting that voters will want to give him more time to get things done from 2012-2016.
This is particularly important since so many of his opponents are white and disproportionately affected by this long recession. Trying to get them to see him accurately through the haze of Fox propaganda and cultural panic is not easy. But he seems to understand that persistence and steadiness are better tools in this than grand statements, sudden moves or grandstanding attempts to please his own base. He really is trying to be what he promised: president of the red states as well as the blue states. And a president who gets shit done.
The results after two years: universal health insurance, the rescue of Detroit, the avoidance of a Second Great Depression, big gains in private sector growth and productivity, three stimulus packages (if you count QE2), big public investments in transport and green infrastructure, the near-complete isolation of Iran, the very public exposure of Israeli intransigence and extremism, a reset with Russia (plus a new START), big drops in illegal immigration and major gains in enforcement, a South Korea free trade pact, the end of torture, and a debt commission that has put fiscal reform squarely back on the national agenda. Oh, and of yesterday, the signature civil rights achievement of ending the military's ban on openly gay servicemembers.
Friday, December 17, 2010
So maybe we took some hits on the rich getting richer (again), a Republican concept. I'm glad it's chalked up as a bipartisan victory for our guy.
New narrative for the silly MSM.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
"Which country is suffering from too much freedom of speech? Name it, is there one?”
Here's his statement upon making bail, thanks to Michael Moore among others:
Freedom of speech or undermining of world governments?
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Wow. And he reportedly has yet another film in the can, and wants to make a Jerry Lee Lewis movie with Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman.
Talk about second acts.
This guy, fortunately, is still alive, a $6 billion dollar man, Swiss philanthropist Hansjorg Wyss, who is spending his money in amazing ways:
Good guys there are. Nothing better, nice when it's some powerful ones.
In recent years the publicity-shy billionaire has quietly donated tens of millions of dollars to the preservation of pristine areas of Idaho, Nevada, Utah and other states.
Now, what appears to be his most ambitious project to date has come to fruition as conservation groups this month closed a deal to purchase vast tracts of Plum Creek Timber Co. land in western Montana. Backers say the deal – which included $35 million in donations from Wyss – could shield an estimated one million acres from future development.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Wyss, 75, said he first became enamored of the Rockies as a college student who toured the region in 1958. And he defended his actions against those who chafe at the prospect of an outsider buying up land that in some cases has been logged, ranched or farmed for generations.
"Look, these are beautiful landscapes," Wyss said. "There was controversy when Yellowstone (National Park) was created and when they declared the Grand Canyon as a National Monument. But there are areas in the United States that must be protected."
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
But wait. There's something about Judge Henry E. Hudson that might, just might, have bearing on his decision:
Federal judge Henry E. Hudson's ownership of a stake worth between $15,000 and $50,000 in a GOP political consulting firm that worked against health care reform -- the very law against which he ruled today -- raises some ethics questions for some of the nation's top judicial ethics experts. It isn't that Hudson's decision would have necessarily been influenced by his ownership in the company, given his established track record as a judicial conservative. But his ownership stake does create, at the very least, a perception problem for Hudson that could affect the case.Murky it is.
The rules are pretty straightforward: if a judge is invested in a company that is a litigant in a case, he or she can't be involved. But in cases where a company owned by a judge has an interest in the outcome of a case but is not a direct litigant, the lines get much more murky.
A.k.a. the fix is in.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
To begin with, your profile photo, which appears in the upper left corner, is now bigger. And information such as where you live, where you work, your hometown, where you went to college and your birthdate are now directly under your name near the top of the screen. Speaking of friends, if you click on a friend's name you can view your relationship with that person including all of your interactions on Facebook going back to the time you became Facebook friends.Yes, per Facebook Founder & CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, privacy is a thing of the past. Or maybe you just need to update your settings. I haven't figured out yet how to pick the pictures it shows, because they may not be the ones you want. As for what Zuckerberg said on 60 Minutes about the new look:
Facebook is also featuring your friends and family. Family members are now listed in the left column along with some of your friends. And, if you decide you want to feature some special friends, you can create a list and feature that list directly in the left column your profile.
Facebook is quick to point out that nothing has changed when it comes to privacy settings and that's true. Any limits you've put on who can see information will be respected on the new profile page. But what has changed is that information that was once somewhat obscure now jumps out at anyone who visits your page.
"It gives you this amazing connection with that person in a way that the current version of the profile that we have today just doesn't do."Old:
Current Facebook profiles list personal information such as birthday, relationship status and city of residence in a left-rail column underneath the user's single profile photo. The new design moves that information up higher, in a more conversational format -- offering a quicker, more readable mini-portrait of a person.
In Sunday's interview, Zuckerberg called the change an effort to put the most important details about a user front-and-center for new friends or friends looking to catch up.
"I work at Facebook, and I spend all of my time there, right?" he said. "I mean, here are my friends. I grew up in New York, and now I live in California, right. Those really kind of basic, important things."
Dave Knox posts what he thinks is the real reason for the changes, and it's not (mainly) to improve user experience:
One of the major reasons Facebook is emerging as such as an intriguing advertising platform is the targeting capability that it gives brands. An advertiser is able to specifically target a person through the information that is available in their Facebook profile. This information goes far beyond simple age / sex / location and includes everything from music tastes to political views.
But the problem is that very few people spend the time to update their profiles on a regular basis. As a result, much of the information that marketers are using to target is either out of date or not as reflective of the person as it could be.
I personally think that the new profiles are an attempt to change that. By elevating and enhancing the way information is displayed in the profile, Facebook is hoping to trigger people to update their profiles. Obviously Facebook would like people to keep the profiles updated, but this release at minimum provides a trigger to get people to make the change this one time. And with that update, people will be providing more valuable data to Facebook and its advertisers.
Whichever it is, it is unavoidable. Perhaps you may want to do this to change your profile picture yourself -- use a cartoon image from your childhood (yes, a form of piracy) to indicate your support for awareness against child abuse.Which might help cause targeters find you as well.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Back in 2008 Democrats won voters who reported that their personal economic situation was worse by a margin of 40 percent. In 2010 Democrats lost that same cohort of voters by 29 percent. From the standpoint of swing voters, the election was all about one thing: the voter's feelings that their own personal economic outlook was bleak.But the outcome of the election had also made the prospects that the new Congress would pass new economic stimulus remote. The Republicans who would control the House had no interest whatsoever in providing more economic stimulus. That's not mainly because they have a different economic philosophy. It's primarily because they have no political interest in near term economic recovery. It's just fine with them if the economy continues a slow slog, and the jobless rate is 8 percent or 9 percent in November 2012. After all, no president has been reelected in the last century when the unemployment rate was above 7.2 percent. Reagan was reelected in 1984 with a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, but at the time of the election, unemployment appeared to be -- and was -- in sharp decline.
...The tax deal addresses each of these two core interests. It gives the Republicans tax breaks for the rich. And It gives the president and Democrats a major shot of economic stimulus that they -- and average Americans really need. All told the package costs $900 billion over two years. About 60 percent to 75 percent of that could be considered real stimulus, since the balance goes to the rich and has very little stimulative effect. But the money for $70 billion or so of unemployment compensation, the $120 billion for a payroll tax holiday, and the extension of middle class tax cuts -- including the refundable tax cuts from in the original Obama stimulus program -- actually do have increase aggregate economic demand.
Now with the exception of unemployment compensation -- which most economists think generates two dollars of GDP growth for every dollar of spending -- many of the other provisions are not as stimulative as infrastructure construction, a direct federal jobs program, etc. But they definitely increase growth. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress (CAP), the package may generate or save up to 2.2 million jobs. And most importantly, these measures are far better than no stimulus at all.
The Republicans have basically held the rest of the country -- and economic growth -- hostage to their demand for two years worth of tax breaks for the super-rich, it's that simple. That has infuriated progressives -- and it should.
But that is the basis for the tax deal. It meets to the core, overriding self interests of each of the two protagonists.
The unsung story is that Obama stopped America's economic slide. Period. It's natural to argue that it could have been done better this way or that, but since he succeeded, that's all just Monday morning quarterbacking and sour grapes.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Lennon put himself on the line for peace during one that most volatile of eras, the 1960's, and as it all tails out with the end of the 1970's he's assassinated by the kind of madness he fought so vocally against. He'd be 70 now. What a different world it would be with him still there all these years, a generational voice of authority. People always wanted to know what John Lennon thought about political issues, and he was always able to write a hit. Maybe even a duet with Elvis Costello.
Mark David Chapman was out John Wilkes Booth. The fatal shot that came after the end of the Civil War.
What a huge rip-off for his family and what a huge rip-off for us.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Annette Bening has rank here, but all smart smart actors, better exchange than the men on balance. Helena Bonham Carter seems like she'd be a blast to hang out with and Nicole Kidman has more depth than I expected:
One of the pleasures of awards season: the roundtables.
Monday, December 06, 2010
That said, it sure would feel better if he stood on principle and fought, instead of giving the GOP another victory.
Yep, he may have consigned himself today as a one-term President. Or he may have a Democratic revolt that kills his compromise. There's few who stand on principle like one (outgoing) Republican Senator, however, George Voinovich of Ohio.
One thing I will say is that I do not believe that Hillary Clinton would have somehow had the more perfect Presidency. She folded on the Iraq War vote and ran a chaotic, hubristic and wastefully spending campaign.
But we just want our champion to fight and maybe, just maybe, she'd be fighting harder.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Here's what I'm wondering: What the hell is his reason? A list of possibilities:
- Political: He's so nervous about alienating the dominant rightwing votership in Arizona - because in six years he'll have to run again?
- Personal: He's homophobic, like a lot of older dudes.
- Misinformed: He has a complete misapprehension of how service people who are gay and those that know they are gay interact with each other professionally?
- Egomaniac: He's a grump who just wants to thwart something and act like he's the military expert?
I always thought that soldiers were supposed to follow their orders without question. But maybe that's only the order John McCain personally approves of. Yep, that last reason is looking more and more likely every day.
Enjoy your legacy, Sen. McCain.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
It's a pleasure to learn about the guy, his method, his training, his doubts. This one is my fave answer:
When you are young and single, there really isnt anything to worry about.
Will you starve? Not likely. I worried that I didnt have enough gumption to get work. That I wouldn't know how to network or something. But at a young age several people, some professors and directors, told me I had talent, and that it was mine to husband if I was willing to work. Those kind words sustained me, many times.
I mostly just said yes to any opportunity to get on stage. Pay or no pay. Equity, amateur, comedy, avant garde, and improv especially. Chicago has a great improv community, and I could get up on stage a lot after I got to know the other members of the community. I called it getting in trouble. You say yes to something, then you are in trouble. You have to deliver. Each mini-crisis I forced myself into made me work hard.
As for true doubt, it got under my skin deeply only once. I was newly-married and I was offered a part I would have loved, but no pay. I had worked for six years doing anything, but had made a deal with myself that if I ever was to have family I could support, I would have to insist on pay. A small rule, right? But hard for a young actor to keep. Mostly you don't really get paid.
I said no to the part and immediately (I mean within minutes) went into a spiral of panic that lasted for months. I was sure I had made the wrong decision (I hadn't) and would never get a part like it again. But the worst feeling was that I knew I truly wanted to be an actor and there was no turning back now. I was too old to do anything else. This was a feeling I wouldn't wish on anyone.
Yep, Stephen Colbert once again proving himself a man of his word -- and a man of the people.