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Optimism in DC

I'm glad Grunfeld and Jordan are optimistic about the Wizards, but I don't really see why "the return of Jarvis Hayes, who appeared in only 21 games last season" would play a role in that. I don't recall a single moment during the playoffs this year when I thought to myself "If only Jarvis Hayes was healthy..." and got that misty look in my eyes. Seeing as how the starting lineup already includes three (Jamison, Butler, Jeffries) small forwards, they don't really need a backup. I guess it looks different if someone decides they want to throw a lucrative offer to Jeffries.

June 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (17)

The Great New Wonderful

If you read the movie's underlying concept, "The Great New Wonderful weaves five stories against the backdrop of an anxious and uncertain post-9-11 New York City" you'll probably think to yourself "damn that sounds stupid." And, indeed, it doesn't work at all. At all. It's terrible.

But the movie is actually pretty good. The five stories are all kind of awesome, and even though the "weaving" doesn't work or make sense, it doesn't really undercut the enjoyability of watching it. The acting is all solid, the dialogue is funny, the pacing is good, and generally it's worth your time and cash. I do have some fear that it might be "too New York" and that people who haven't lived there might be down on it. The director, Danny Leiner, is the veteran of such classics as Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and Dude, Where's My Car?, two of the better inane comedies of the 21st century. Were he to develop a more artistically ambitious concept than those that didn't happen to involve obviously bad idea of tossing around nonsensical 9/11 references, I think it'd be really, really good.

June 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Draft, Draft!

Hmmm...I feel like I should be expressing opinions on this draft, but I don't have any real sources of information about it apart from what I've read on the usual spots. So folks should comment away, maybe someone has something more interesting to say. I will note that the Wizards already drafted two tall dudes -- Peter John Ramos, Andray Blatche -- considered to be in need of development who they proceeded to not play at all. Now they've added two more such dudes -- Pecherov and Veremeenko -- and I wonder if any of them are going to get playing time at all. Now, obviously, you don't want to put guys on the floor who can't contribute. But if you're not going to put the guys on the floor, how are they supposed to develop? I dunno. It might make sense to keep at least one white dude on the roster just as a good luck charm or something.

June 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (31)

Superman Returns

Saw it last night with some people including Sanchez, whose remarks I largely endorse. First off, I should say that I had simply assumed that, as with Batman Begins, they were just going to reboot the franchise. Instead, plot-wise this is a sequel to the previous Superman II but, as Julian says, it often feels like an adaptation or remake of the Superman movie rather than an adaptation of the comic book. Filmicly it has a lot of good qualities, along with some pacing problems (it's very long) and, I think, a rather elementary plot hole. Further stuff below the fold.

Plot-wise, the key thing involves Lex Luthor growing a giant kryptonite island off the East Coast of the United States. The thing about this is that while it's a very large challenge for Superman, there's no reason at all to think that the United States Navy couldn't just send some boats to the vicinity and blow Luthor and the gang up. The movie even contained some expository dialogue explaining that this wouldn't work because Lex would be in possession of advanced Kryptonian technology, but then they forgot to ever give him advanced Kryptonian technology.

At any rate, I would have been much happier with a reboot. The vast bulk of the interesting Superman storylines deal with the ethical/political implications of that kind of vast power. The comic books tapped into this well by reconceptualizing Lex Luthor not as an evil mad scientist, but as a kind of evil corporate titan and then later politician. That provides a real reason that the villain might pose a challenge to Superman. No matter how invulnerable to bullets or how strong you are, it's extremely hard to combat a foe who enjoys public legitimacy so you can't legally stop him just by kicking ass. This winds up tying in to the core issue. It's fine for, say, Batman to evade the law in pursuit of higher ethical aims precisely because Batman isn't especially powerful. A Superman unconstrained by law and answering only to his own conscience would be a massive threat.

All this stuff has been regularly treated by the comics in a variety of forms -- stories about Batman trying to develop hedges against Superman's massive power, stories about Superman considering whether he shouldn't try to resolve systemic social/political powers, alternate reality storylines where Superman sets himself up as a dictator, etc. At the end of the day, it's not the very deepest ethical question out there, but it's an okay one and could certainly stand a cinematic treatment.

Even more frustratingly, Superman Returns sort of hints it's going to go there. We keep hearing about Lois Lane's famous editorial "Why The World Doesn't Need Superman" but we never learn what the content of that essay was.

June 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (11)

The Ways of Gilbertology

Arenas says he'd be willing to take a pay cut if that would let the Wizards sign an impact free agent:

We can't step back. We can't have another situation where we let Larry Hughes get away. If we have to go get a free agent, let's go. I'll take a pay cut. I was a second-round pick so I didn't expect to be where I am anyway. I'm not greedy but I do want to win a championship and I want to do it here, with the Wizards. That's why you play.
I was going to say I don't find it especially credible to think that having Larry Hughes would have made last year's team much better, but of course some of the losses to to Cleveland were so close that even tiny changes could easily have put the Wiz in the second round. Looking to the future, were it actually possible to bring Ben Wallace back to DC one could imagine that dramatically improving the team. That said, Gilbert's prone to saying crazy stuff and my guess is that his agent will have a thing or two to say about this scheme.

June 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (17)

All Alone

Sebastian Mallaby says Americans are lonelier than ever:

The question about loneliness is: Why do people do this to themselves? Why do Americans, who reported an average of nearly three close friends in 1985, now report an average of just over two? And why does one in four have nobody with whom to discuss personal issues? This is the age of Oprah and MySpace, of public emoting on television and the Web. Apparently people watch "Friends" but don't actually have many.
I'd be interested in seeing a demographic breakdown -- is this just an artificat of population aging? I feel like I have lots of friends (thankfully) and that technology and so forth have done a lot to facilitate that.

UPDATE: Here's the underlying paper where, being highly trained professional sociologists, they turn out to have done the appropriate demographic corrections and so forth.

June 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (17)

Social Hedonists

I took the Environics Research survey and turn out to be somewhere between a social hedonist and an autonomous post-materialist. I've actually gone fairly thick into the weeds of this particular survey, and one noteworthy thing about it is that all the Gen X groups sound really unappealing to me. Along with those two there are the "security-seeking aescetics," the "aimless dependents," the "thrill seeking materialists," and the "new aquarians." That all sounds like crap. Pre-boomers get much better possibilities like "rational traditionalist" or "cosmopolitan modernist."

What's more, I think it's a real stretch to call me part of Generation X anyway, but they don't seem to have considered the possibility that anyone from mighty Gen Y would be taking their test. So screw the whole thing.

June 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (15)

Aaron Spelling, R.I.P.

I had no idea he worked on Moesha. Remember Moesha? Obviously, 90210 changed my life. I also recall that the dubbing on episodes of Dallas being broadcast on Russian television circa 1998 was so poorly done that you could hear almost all of the underlying English dialogue making it one of the few shows I watched the summer I was over there. Never got the Melrose Place bug somehow.

June 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (16)

Save Butterstick!

An important cause. Tai Shan is an American panda, born free on American soil and should under no circumstances be sent back to live under the PRC's repression.

June 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (9)


Okay, more basketblogging. The thing about Isiah Thomas taking over the Knicks is that the odds overhwelmingly favor the team slightly improving next season. It's a kind of "nowhere left to go but up" sort of situation -- last year's squad was very near the theoretically maximum level of badness. All Thomas really needs to do is avoid totally alienating his players, and the team will do a bit better. Nothing will, of course, actually get solved this way, but that's how it'll roll.

Basically, the team's only hope is for people holding pricey season tickets to start dropping their packages. Then you might get serious change. Plus, my dad would get the chance to move into better seats. It's hard to imagine from the outside, but the team has actually suffered shockingly few consequences as a business from its lamentable performance over the past several years. Since the team is, at the end of the day, a business, that's what counts.

June 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (52)