Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Bridge - Review

In 2004, 24 people jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and killed themselves. These filmmakers had cameras on the bridge the whole time, and they have video of these people jumping to their deaths.

Death porn. Yes it is. You're watching people die. Without that footage this movie never exists. Some people have tried to defend this movie by saying it's more than that, that the footage is beautiful and carries more meaning. No. It's people dying and that's why we watch it, otherwise it becomes a lecture on suicide and the families that have gone through it.

The movie discusses schizophrenia and depression, and that part is interesting. But, again, the draw here is that footage.

The most interesting part of the movie is the guy who was bipolar, jumped, and survived. Very rare. Never happens. He tells the story and as soon as he lets go of the barrier it hits him, "I don't want to die." He calls it "very scary" and "wild." No shit! He got to commit suicide, fly, go through an experience like that, and then he got a mulligan. Crazy.

Another guy they follow was just waiting for his mother to die so he could commit suicide. Everyone knew it. With a lot of these jumpers, that's the most incredible thing: their friends and family have gotten to that point where they've given up on trying to save them. Hard as that sounds to believe, that was their reality. So this one guy finally jumps—his was the most dramatic. Others jumped like they were jumping into a swimming pool, like there were going to live. This guy stood up on the railing facing away from the water and just let himself fall backwards. Never flailed. He had been depressed his whole life. Now it was a lack of a job that had him (his mother had eventually died of cancer), although he clearly had psychological issues his whole life. On the answering machine, that very day, there was a message telling him he had gotten the job he had wanted so bad. His friend: "If he would have waited just one more day . . ."

Mindy did not like this movie. It's depressing. It shows real people ending their lives. It's disturbing. But it makes you think. Exposes you to the reality that people are living every day with mental illness. I'm tempted to quote a writer who once said of why he wrote, "To comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted," but it's really not appropriate. This will disturb everyone equally, and not in an instructive, growth-inducing way.

The movie is part Faces of Death, part suicide lecture, part loving tribute to those who have passed.

Joba is to Mariano what Mariano was to Wetteland

It's a pretty easy comparison, I'm sure I won't be the only one to see it.

I don't know if the Yankees have long-term plans to eventually have Joba Chamberlain go back to starting, but seeing him set up for Mariano Rivera is very reminiscent of the tail end of John Wetteland's career.

Rivera's first season as a full time setup man was ridiculous: 107IP, 130Ks, 2.09ERA, and a 0.99WHIP.

That was the last season Wetteland closed for the Yankees. It's Rivera ever since.

It's probably too early to make this comparison since Chamberlain was in college last season and in this his first season of pro ball he's been very very good as a starter in the minors. But is he does really well in this role he may prove too valuable to move back into the rotation, especially with Hughes and Wang already entrenched as "youngsters." The Yankees like having big name veterans in their rotation.

And with Rivera having his worst season since he was a rookie in many statistical categories (BAA, ERA, and his second-worst WHIP), the Yankees will want a someone that the fans can get behind.

A lot of this will be resolved in the off season. If Rivera continues to show his postseason form, then he will close again next season and Chamberlain will start or set up again. If he looks bad and costs the Yankees a game or two, or a series, then you can start to picture Chamberlain as the closer and say goodbye to the greatest closer of all time. And the greatest pitch of all time.

My Baseball Bet: Yadier Molina

During the playoffs in 2006 there was one player that really surprised me in terms of his season numbers and how they contrasted with the way he played in the playoffs.

Check out Yadier Molina's career numbers, they also show how he did during those playoffs. What strikes me is that throughout his career he's always had pretty good BB/K ratios. Even if his walk total isn't very high, he usually strikes out only a little more than he walks.

He was sped through the minor-league system because his defense was so good, so his bat never really had the time to evolve, to adjust to the better levels.

He hit .216 last season but hit .358 during the postseason with 6 walks and 5 strikeouts. I remember his at bats too, they were quality every single time. I was shocked that this guy had played a whole major-league season and only hit .216.

Well, look at his numbers this season:

He's hitting .276 with a .349 OBP. His BB/K ratio is very good at 29/36. His slugging is low, but his numbers across the board are way better than his career averages.

As far as I'm concerned, he's finally getting the hand of hitting major league pitchers, he's only 25, and he's still one of the best catchers in baseball.

The best part? He's only making half a million dollars this season.


At the start of this season I predicted Miguel Cabrera would have a Pujols-esque season. Well, I was close. He's having his very first 1.000+ OPS season, which is a Pujols staple. But I predicted he would finally walk more times than he would strike out, basing my assumption on how his walks had climbed and his strikeouts gone down.

Alas, I was wrong. It seems last year was an anomaly (86BB/108Ks). He's having a year like all his others in terms of strikeouts, even though he will walk around 80 times this year. So his walks are staying high, which is good, but his strikeouts are high again, the way they were before last year.

Not that this is all bad, he's an incredible player and is still getting better. It just isn't a Pujols season (77BB, 51Ks).

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mad Men

So I finally checked out the new ad show called Mad Men. I had meant to watch it a while ago and just never got around to it. It wasn't what I expected. Part of the show was just regular sitcom bullshit that I don't enjoy very much.
But the main character is interesting and has moments of depth, of mystery. Kind of like Jack from Lost. The creative process is also kind of given a mystical quality, which I like and was surprised to see on a television show. This isn't meant to just appeal to as many people as possible, although it may.

Mad Men, check it out.

Microsoft Surface

This computer is the future. Forget about that hologram computer in Minority Report, this is the new new thing.

Check out the demo where the camera is placed on the table and its contents are read. And then the credit card . . . this is awesome!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Michael Lewis

He became famous thanks to Moneyball, and it's also how I first heard of him. After reading and enjoying that book so much, I looked up what else he had written. Turns out he had a few technology books and some investment-related books too. I was intrigued since three years ago those same topics suddenly became interesting to me. So I kept telling myself to read Liar's Poker. As it happens so often, I never did.

Then about a year ago I saw he had come out with a new book called The Blind Side. It was about football but it still sounded interesting. I read it and loved it, again reminding myself that I should read one of his investment-related books.

Finally, this year, I met someone who was a big Michael Lewis fan. He lent me Liar's Poker. Shocker: I thought it was great too.

Then we found a whole host of articles he's written for the New York Times, which you can see here. Most of those articles can be found for free on the internet if you search for the title names. Read a few. Yeah they are long but damn if they aren't incredibly interesting. The most recent one I read, this one, is about a college coach that has seemingly found a brand new way to run an offense. I'm not a college football fan, but Lewis has again found a story that will appeal to anyone.

How he manages to find and infiltrate so many great stories is beyond me, but now I'm reading The New New Thing, and it's more of the same: interesting stories that entertain.

After 50 pages of The New New Thing I want to write a biography on Michael Lewis because he may be one of the most interesting people out there. He knows and loves sports, but he was also a financial services guy. He's brilliant. He writes well.

Did I mention I want to be him?


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Credit Cards and such

There is so much out there on how terrible credit-card companies are, how they are basically scamming people out of so much money by creating fees and penalties that are suspect, sneaky, and downright tricky.

OK, I get it. I'm sick of it. People can keep bitching and complaining about how unfair it is. Or they can do something about it.

In this article about how credit-card companies refuse to change their ways (without fees, penalties, and obviously interest there would be no profit), there was a bit of sanity thrown in there:

"The costs people are concerned about, whether it's higher interest rates or fees for late payments, are within the control of the consumer," says Clayton of the bankers association. "They can avoid these fees and avoid interest rate increases. One of the challenges we have is getting across to people that this is a loan. If you pay it back, it doesn't cost you a cent."

Granted, that's a corporate-interest response, but it's still valid.

It is a loan. If you pay it back, it doesn't cost you a cent.

It always gets me thinking about the issue of taxes and Republicans—how so many people fear Big Government, how the government should stay out of "our" business as much as possible. Here is the thing: sometimes we need someone to save us from ourselves.

But people are stubborn and don't want to hear, and this kind of stuff will keep happening. If people only took the time to actually vote for leaders they can trust, then they could allow those same people to protect them from these kinds of problems. Things commonly filed under "saving us from ourselves."

OK that started in one place and ended up in a totally different one.

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