Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Excerpts from the Wishful Thinking Version of the Goldman Sachs Hearings

THE SENATE: The idea that Wall Street came out of this thing just fine, thank you, is just something that just grates on people.
GOLDMAN: Wow. You just said “just” three times in nine words.
THE SENATE: People think you didn’t just come out fine because it was luck. They think you guys just really gamed the system real well. You played both ends against the middle and made a boatload of money. How do you explain that?
GOLDMAN: You show a surprising ignorance about the purpose of investment banking.
THE SENATE: Do you think it’s morally right?
GOLDMAN: Moral, schmoral--it’s legal.
THE SENATE: That doesn’t make it morally right.
GOLDMAN: If you don’t like it, pass a law against it.
THE SENATE: You show a surprising ignorance about the job of a US Senator.

THE SENATE: What would you change in the regulatory system?
GOLDMAN: Clearly some things need to be changed
THE SENATE: Give me an example.
GOLDMAN: Governmental oversight.

THE SENATE: I’m going to mention the little guys out there on Main Street for about twenty minutes, so if you need to use the bathroom, now’s the time.

THE SENATE: People feel like you are betting with other people’s money and other people’s future. Instead of Wall Street, it looks like Las Vegas.
GOLDMAN: I resent that comparison! We are not a casino! In a casino, the customer occasionally wins!

THE SENATE: I’m trying to home in on why I have so many unemployed people in my state--people who lost money in their pensions.
GOLDMAN: That’s what you get for making stupid investments.

BYSTANDER: How do you live with yourself?
GOLDMAN: I have my administrative assistants do that for me.

THE SENATE: How did you feel when you learned that Goldman employees used the word “shit” to describe the quality of certain Goldman deals?
GOLDMAN: I’m appalled.
THE SENATE: You are appalled that they called them shit?
GOLDMAN: I am appalled that they put it in an e-mail. And doubly appalled that our IT Department didn’t automatically delete them.

THE SENATE: Did you know the housing market was doomed?
GOLDMAN: I think we’re not that smart.
THE SENATE: How smart are you?
GOLDMAN: Your shoe lace is untied.
THE SENATE: Really? [Looks down at shoes.]
GOLDMAN: [snapping The Senate’s nose] Nyah nyah.

THE SENATE: Don’t you think your customers should know what your employees think about the deals they are selling?
GOLDMAN: Don’t you think your constituents should know what their Senator thinks about the bills he is passing?
THE SENATE: Well, when you put it that way, . . .

My other hand just stole your wallet.

THE SENATE: Don’t you feel regret for what you did?
GOLDMAN: Regret to me means something that you feel that you did wrong. Since when should you feel wrong for making money in a capitalist society?

THE SENATE: Do you think that your clients know that what they think is gold, you think is crap?
GOLDMAN: Hove you ever known anyone in sales who didn’t think his product was crap?
THE SENATE: You are making money by selling things and then making money hand over fist by betting that those products will fail!
GOLDMAN: I keep telling you--it’s not betting when you know what the outcome will be. And everything is doomed to fail. Except capitalism.

Just hearing the word "derivatives" puts John McCain to sleep.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If the US Senate Used Truth Serum . . .

. . . we'd probably see a lot more headlines like this:

Guide to Guys: See what you made me do?

In case you missed it, yesterday was Boobquake 2010 -- a totally scientific experiment initiated by blogger Jen McCreight designed to verify the statements made in this article:

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

And what was that experiment? Quoting from Jen's blog:

Sedighi claims that not dressing modestly causes earthquakes. If so, we should be able to test this claim scientifically. [ . . .]

Time for a Boobquake.

On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that's your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. . .

Well, we're all still here (or at least I am; did the earth move for you?), and outside of an earthquake near Taiwan, I can't see any other evidence of tit-based tectonic movement in the last 24 hours. Which either means that God has really got it in for Chinese mammaries, or, y'know, there might actually be a rational explanation for the unpredictability of earthquakes. (Sidebar topic: why is is that God is always the cause of the unpredictable? Or the disaster? Why isn't it Satan, for instance? Why is it always God's punishment for something, instead of evidence of Satan's ever-increasing power over this sinful vale of tears? Or can Tom Waits be right? Is Satan really just God when he's drunk?)

Personally? If there were any earthquakes yesterday, they were all caused by guys face-planting trees and lamp-posts while staring at hectares of unclothed female flesh. A situation which would occur during MiniSkirtQuake or TankTopQuake or even OhMyGodShe'sLickingHerLipsQuake. And why is this true? Oh dear--didn’t you know? Because men can’t control themselves. They just can’t. You show a guy a knee--a knee, okay?--the ugliest outpost of the female frontier--you can scratch a match off a knee, for Chrissakes--and ten seconds later he’s attacking you like the Greeks attacked Troy. If not physically, then in his head. It's like showing a loophole to an investment banker.

One thing that needs to be clear, though. Guys like that Iranian cleric and (if he was heterosexual) the Pope are not saying that women are the devil. They are saying that women bring out the devil in men. (And God too, if He causes earthquakes over nipple slips.) This is why, in certain areas of the world, the phrase "It's her fault, she was wearing a skirt," is a valid legal defense for just about anything a man can be accused of. Hell--I firmly expect some guy from Goldman Sachs to use that excuse when testifying in front of Congress today.

CONGRESS: So tell us again why you took advantage of your customers?
GOLDMAN: Because they were asking for it.
CONGRESS: Oh well in that case.
GOLDMAN'S CLIENTS: Hey wait a minute!
CONGRESS: Sorry. That's what you get for traipsing around in the financial equivalent of a see-through blouse.
GOLDMAN'S CLIENTS: So wait--it's our fault for making them take advantage of us?
CONGRESS: Yup. You're the girl; they're the guy. Case dismissed, after a slap on the wrist.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Late Night Thoughts on Shakespeare's Birthday

The town of Stratford taxed you for every elm tree you had on your property. Oaks? Plant as many as you like. Willows? We're givin' 'em away. Elms? Sorry, that's gonna cost ya. Specifically between one and two shillings per elm. Since a shilling (an average day’s wages for a craftsman) is generally calculated to be between $25 and $30 US dollars, a house with, say, 10 elms on it would be taxed an additional $300 a year, or about two weeks worth of wages.

In Elizabethan England, TH was pronounced T. Anthony? Pronounced like it was Antony. Othello? Otello. (Yeah, I know, just like an Ithalian opera.) Death? Pronounced like it was debt. (Major lost laughs here.) Nothing? Pronounced like it was noting. As in: Much Ado about Noting, which kind of tells you right there that the play is all about misunderstandings. And kind of makes “O, tat tis too too solid flesh would melt” the Elizabethan equivalent of an Elmer Fudd speech.

Hamlet was 33 years old and weighed 220 pounds. Which describes Richard Burbage when he first played the part in 1601.

The importance of stage directions. Claudius is never once called by name in Hamlet. If it wasn't for the fact that he's name-checked in an entrance, you could add another 25,000 books to the Folger library speculating on whether or not he was called Feng.

The unimportance of stage directions. And then there's Innogen in Much Ado About Nothing: mentioned in the opening stage direction, and forgotten for the next two hours.

Funny ha-ha. Of the 12 characters called "Clown" in the stage directions of Shakespeare's plays, six are found in the Tragedies, six are in the Comedies, and the balance are in the Histories.

And Romeo and Juliet would have met on FaceBook. Cleopatra plays billiards, a clock strikes in ancient Rome, spectacles are worn in ancient Britain, and Prince Hector has read Aristotle. If there had been cellphones in 1607, Antony and Cleopatra would have texted each other.

There are no unqualified verbs in a Shakespeare biography. In Chapter 6 of René Weis’ Shakespeare Unbound, “Bound for London,” the following qualifications appear within the space of twelve pages: "perhaps" (7 times), "must have been" (twice), "must have felt," "if" (we have a winner--9 times), "must have hoped," "must have wondered," "would have" (3 times), "would have been," "there can be no doubt that," "probably" (4 times), "would have acquired," "it is inconceivable that," "would not have," "may," "may be" (twice), "may have" (twice), "may not have," "one cannot rule out," "undoubtedly," "we have no way of knowing whether," "it is more likely that," "seems to have been," "it appears," "we can form a fairly accurate idea," "we cannot be sure," "it is not impossible," "we should not rule out" and "just wait till I get to the Sonnets if you want to see Wall Street levels of speculation." (Just kidding about the last one. He never mentions Wall Street.) This is why I can't read most Shakespeare biographies without thinking, "This is a novel, dammit!" And also why, if you removed anything that means “possibly,” “probably,” and “perhaps” from the English language, the average Shakespeare biography would be shorter than this blog entry.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

100 Proof: How to get picked up at a bar by an ex-cop

Do NOT take out your notebook and write in it. This proves you are semi-normal, instead of abby-normal, like all writers.

Don’t talk to anyone but the bartender. This makes you look available.

Don’t talk to yourself. This makes you look creepy.

Don’t whistle. Not even once. Seriously. Who fucking whistles any more?

Instead of looking at the ex-cop, stare at the TV screen over her head. Bonus points if the TV is playing a soccer game. Double plus bonus points if one of the teams is Manchester United.

Glance now and then at her and her two companions. While glancing, try to figure out which one is the friend and which one is the mother of the girl who looks like Jennifer Connelly. Remember to look back at the TV once you notice the honking big diamond on the third finger of this girl’s left hand.

Pay no attention to the ex-cop as she gestures your way. Concentrate on the game. This is like wearing a sign that says I AM SUCH A SPORTS-LOVING GUY.

Only look up when the ex-cop asks the bartender to get your attention. This is like wearing a sign that says I AM AN OBLIVIOUS MALE. Which, when translated into Female English, reads OH C'MON--YOU'VE KNOWN HOW TO DEAL WITH GUYS LIKE ME SINCE HIGH SCHOOL.

Stare politely at the ex-cop as she applies a layer of lipstick at you. Whatever you do, do NOT do a double-take at the exaggerated way she’s smacking her lips, and on no account allow your face to reflect the WTF-is-she-doing thought that is now filling your head.

Listen politely to the ex-cop as she calls out: “So what does it take? So what does it take to get your attention?” Repeat above.

Introduce yourself as the ex-cop comes over to sit beside you. Listen attentively as she explains how she and her best friend and her best friend's daughter were wondering why you were looking at the TV instead of them. Do not under any circumstances defend yourself by telling her that the Penile Hive Mind is always more attracted to images of people than it is to real people. Explaining the male fascination with porn is always a turn-off.

Watch the ex-cop return to her original seat. Glance briefly at the game again, but do not linger. Spend more time watching the ex-cop. This is the equivalent of wearing a sign that says I AM A MALE WHO LISTENS.

Make sure there are no other women at the bar. Wearing a sign that says I AM A MAN WHO LISTENS is the dating equivalent of a prospector holding up a gold nugget and yelling “Look what I just found!” and actually expecting not to get trampled in the ensuing stampede.

Wave to the other two women as the ex-cop introduces you across the bar. And stop staring at the Jennifer Connelly lookalike. She's married, asshole.

Shout "Nice to meet you!" across the bar, then say to yourself, “What the hell” and bring your beer over to where they’re sitting. And while you're at it, kiss your ass goodbye.

Ignore the bartender’s evil little grin. Because she knows you, she will be able to predict what is going to happen during the next twenty minutes. Because she knows you well, she knows it is useless to tell you what is going to happen. And because she knows you very well, she is texting a friend to bring a video camera so she can record this for posterity.

Engage in small talk. This includes explaining (1) where you work at your day job (but not mentioning the writing), (2) why you’re at this particular bar (but not how often you come here), and (3) why you are single.

Do NOT go into details about your past. The more details you supply about an ex-girlfriend, the more you look like someone who is picking at a wound, instead of allowing it to heal. And while there is not a woman in the world who won’t fall like a ton of bricks through greased air for a wounded man, she will only do it if the wound isn’t autographed.

Show an interest. When the ex-cop mentions her son, ask her how old he is. When she tells you, calculate her age and wait for the inevitable next question.

Be charitable. When the ex-cop asks you how old you think she is, subtract five years from your initial calculation. Then sip your beer and subtract three more. Then tell her the final adjusted number.

Express surprise. Fifty-five? Really? Come on--that's a speed limit, not an age.

Lie. When she asks you your age, shave five years off the truth. Do not under any circumstances answer this question by adding, "But I'll always be nineteen inside," or, "But emotionally I'm twelve," no matter how true this is.

Find a common ground. When the Jennifer Connelly clone mentions that she just moved back from London, ask her where she lived in the city. When she mentions that it was right next to a section of the Old Roman Wall, tell her about the day-long walking tour of the Roman Wall you and your ex-girlfriend did that Sunday years ago.

Know the value of the conditional tense. When the ex-cop hears this and says, “See? I could do that with you. We could both do that one day in London,” nod and say, “Yes, we certainly could.”

Know the value of silence. Then say nothing, trusting that after a moment's pause the ex-cop will immediately bring the conversation back to how dumb you were to watch British soccer players instead of three women across the bar.

Ignore the female friend who just sat down at the end of the bar. You can glance at her, but Jennifer Connelly will see it, so do not wave or make your presence known until you walk past her on the way to the men’s room. Then and only then can you give her a quick hug and say hello, knowing that Jennifer Connelly is watching your every move.

Point out the regulars. When you return from the men’s room, make it a point to nod at a couple of regulars at the bar. Then point them out to everyone, making sure to include your female friend and adding as casually as possible, “Huh. Her boyfriend must be working tonight.”

Be upbeat. When Jennifer Connelly’s mother asks whether your girlfriend is working tonight, laugh and say, “I’ll tell you when I’ve met her.” Then reflect on how much of a sucker you are for the clever one with the sharp wit. And the daughter who looks like Jennifer Connelly.

Stand your ground. When Jennifer and her mother go to the Ladies together, and the ex-cop starts leaning against you while she’s talking, do NOT back away. Backing away is rude. And since there is an occupied bar stool behind you, it is also physically impossible. The best you can do is not push back, but let yourself be pushed, as if the two of you are squaring off in a social judo match.

Blame the alcohol. When everyone is ready to leave, and the ex-cop wants to know if you’d like to come with them to the next bar, tell her when you have to be at work the next morning. When she says she gets up thirty minutes earlier than you do, blame the alcohol. When she points out that she’s been drinking vodka and you’ve been drinking beer, explain to her that Guinness is different. And slur your words a little, okay?

Pat yourself on the back. Because at no point in the conversation did you bring up the fact that the ex-cop had food stains all over her blouse.

Take her cell number. You never know, right?

Tell her you’ll call her. Because it’s only polite.

Don’t call her. Don’t even think about it. I mean, what are you, nuts? She has food stains all over her blouse.

After they leave, look at the bartender and say: “What just happened?” Try not to kick her when she says: “And I got it all on video.”

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Gods Must Be Assholes

Typical guy--all he wants from you is head.

There is a wonderful line from Spice World which pretty much sums up all the market-research-driven script-by-committee crap that's been coming out of Hollywood lately:

"That was absolutely perfect without really being any good at all."

This line could serve as a review for any number of recent releases (Alice In Wonderland anybody? Green Zone? Lovely Bones?), but is particularly applicable to the current re-make of Clash Of The Titans because what you see on the screen is so deliberately NOT the original movie (except for the fact that it repeats almost every single monster motif in state-of-the-art CGI instead of stop-motion) that you can only assume that what you are seeing is precisely the movie which the producers and director and screenwriters wanted to create. And you couldn't care less.

Message: I care.

I say this as someone who recognizes that the original COTG was cheesy enough to pour over macaroni. Alas, there is barely a flake of parmigiana in this version. (Sorry; not quite true--there is a moment when the cheesiest part of the original makes a cameo appearance, only to be tossed aside with the words "Not needed. Leave it.")

Hint, hint.

Other things not needed in this version, apparently: romance, characters, and logic. The original was about Perseus trying to save Andromeda because he's in love with her; this version is about Perseus doing the whole I-Refuse-To-Accept-My-Destiny thing that Hollywood thinks of as The Supreme Character Beat these days, and saving Andromeda because she's just another battle to win in his war against the gods. This means Andromeda is a potential victim, pure and simple; and as if to make amends for this blatant echo of the original myth (in which Andromeda is a potential victim pure and simple) Perseus is given a female sidekick called Io--who, in a typical example of Hollywood screenwriter logic, explains that she is ageless because she once refused the carnal advances of a god.

GREEK GOD: How dare you not want to screw me! As punishment, you will remain young and beautiful and never die!
IO: Oh no! Youth and immortality! A fate worse than death!
GREEK GOD: [an evil cackle] Mm-hm-hm-hm-hm-mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
IO: Damn! I should have asked for money too!
GREEK GOD: Hah! And endless wealth! Take that!

Sam Worthington takes a meeting with the credited screenwriters.

Also defying logic: the plot. Instead of being a personal quest, it's a war movie--it's like the mythological version of Spartacus, with the Gods standing in for Rome and the mortals playing the slaves. Because really, if there were actual Gods and humanity was rebelling against them or even ignoring them? The one thing the Gods would not do is say: "I'm going to destroy your city in ten days, which gives you pathetic mortals more than enough time to find a way to stop me." This is the mythological equivalent of a Batman villain trapping our hero in an inescapable Rube Goldberg death trap and then leaving the room so he can escape. Instead of just, y'know, popping him twice in the chest and once in the head. Or instead of, in Greek God terms, saying: "You wanna rebel? Really? Fine. I just killed your king, destroyed your city, plowed the earth it used to lie on, and planted salt in the furrows. Tell me again how you don't like me and I'll really get angry." At least in the original there were gods with actual lines. In this one, they dress Danny Huston up as Poseidon, give him exactly one sentence to speak, and ignore everybody else except Zeus and Hades, who come off like a low-rent version of Yahweh and Satan.

"Hast thou considered my servant Job--wait--no--I mean Perseus."

Bottom line: Don't bother. And if you are going to bother, then don't do the 3-D version. And I say that as a man who would happily pay twenty bucks to watch Gemma Arterton model beer barrels for two hours.

An animated gif of this picture would be ten times more animated than all the acting combined.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

Tuesday's weather-related thought for the day:

I almost always get profane
When I walk to work in sideways rain.

Wednesday's weather-related thought for the morning:

I love getting spit on.
It's like I'm a six-year-old girl trying to play with the boys.

Wednesday's weather-related thought for the afternoon:

Oh, now you're just teasing me.

Today's weather-related thought for the weekend:

Hello Sunshine - Barlowgirl