Friday, February 26, 2010

Wall Street Journal Goes Behind Locked Doors

Wow. My beloved Friday Peggy Noonan column over at the Wall Street Journal goes behind lock and key. Gotta subscribe if I wanna read it. I thought this business model had been tried and proven a failure already. Odd how the WSJ wants to go this way.

Well, somehow I'll get along without it. The question is, can the WSJ get along without me, and thousands of others like me?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough, the Hapless Sue Someone Else

Once again, thanks to my friend Michael Hasenstab, an update on the Koss embezzlement:
Koss Corp. has sued American Express alleging that the credit card company knew that Koss money was being used to pay for shopping sprees by a Koss executive since 2008, but did nothing to stop the fraud.

Koss has said it lost $31 million since 2004 to embezzlement by its former vice president of finance, Sue Sachdeva.

Sachdeva has been indicted in federal court on six counts of wire fraud in connection with the allegations.

So forget the CEO and CFO of Koss, forget the company's accountants and auditors. $31 million goes missing because American Express didn't tell the company about what are now clearly unauthorized purchases. Because, you know, when Koss authorized payment of the American Express bills for clothing and furs, how could they have possibly known those purchases weren't for company business? Employees always wear furs when manufacturing/selling Koss speakers. It reduces static shocks or something. American Express, that's who should've known and put a stop to it. Yes. That's right. American Express. Time to file a lawsuit.

There. Problem solved, stockholders. Have faith in our company once again.

NYU Business School Professor Has Mastered The Art Of Email Flaming

Professor Scott Galloway responds to a student's e-mail. My favorite part:
In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow's business leaders.

As Instapundit says, from which this came, read the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Houston Has Direct Flights To Branson, Missouri!

My smart alecky buddy Bryan posted this smart alecky article on his Facebook page. So like a good blogger, I'm stealing it and posting it here:
In case you've been experiencing the typical Houstonian's self-doubt about whether or not we're really a sophisticated metropolis, you can relax.

Houston is now one of only five American cities with direct flights to Branson, Missouri. On real planes, too!

Ha ha.

But the real story isn't that Houston and other cities have direct flights to Branson. The real story is that Branson continues to grow enough despite hard economic times to make these flights worthwhile. And I didn't even know that Branson had an airport!

(Um, not that that I know that much about Branson. Okay, I do know a lot about Branson. We've been going there for years though we haven't been recently. I guess that makes us as sophisticated as Houstonites.)

Thanks, Bryan. You made me laugh.

Werner Herzog is Breaking Out All Over

Hey, wasn't I talking about Werner Herzog just the other day? I was! Now everyone's talking about him. Well, at least two other people are.

First up is Leo Grin, over at Big Hollywood, who discusses Herzog's conservative tendencies:
The life of Werner Herzog is filled with such stories — tales of deep spiritualism that continually invite a resolutely non-dogmatic but nevertheless palpably Christian interpretation. The Left habitually ignores this, preferring to revel in their shallow image of Herzog as a reckless, half-mad darling of the godless art-house circuit, a sort of Colonel Kurtz with a camera. The truth is that he’s more akin to a Bavarian Flannery O’Connor, deeply devout and honest even while telling stories featuring characters who are anything but. Like the monks and prophets of old, Herzog is that rare man who implicitly trusts his own soul-stirring religious impulses and allows them to take him where they may. Viewed with this in mind, his fascination with stories of chaos and darkness — stories like Grizzly Man — become not celebrations of madness, but a sane and noble search for God in a fallen world.

This is part 2 in a series; I can't wait for more.

Next is The Wall Street Journal's A.J. Goldmann who talks movies with Herzog at the Berlin Film Festival:
At 67 years old, the enfant terrible of New German Cinema, best known for "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo," has become a grand old man of film, his hair (or whatever is left of it) a distinguished gray. For a director whose work so often deals with destructive obsession and the eternal struggle between man and nature, Mr. Herzog was unexpectedly soft-spoken and deliberate.

His movies continue to exert a strong influence on younger generations of filmmakers, from Francis Ford Coppola to Larry Clark, and many of his works, including his six collaborations with the actor Klaus Kinski, have gained cult followings. But one could hardly call him an obsessive film buff. "I love to watch films, but I've never been a compulsive moviegoer," he told me.

Fascinating stuff. I've seen only Grizzly Man and liked it but after reading these two articles, I'll have to see what else of his I can find. (Though his recent Bad Lieutenant doesn't really appeal to me.)

In a world of over-the-top, special effects laden blockbuster movies, it's refreshing to know there's someone out there still fiercely pursuing his singular vision about things that really matter to the human heart.

Moore Dinner Theater Well-Kept Secret |

Whenever I'm hauling Emily and her friends around on Friday night and I pass this place, the parking lot is always jammed. What's going on?
Nostalgia is thick at the Yellow Rose, from the retro marquee out front and the period travel posters in the lobby to the palm trees and sequined curtains inside the state’s only full-time dinner theater. Whether it’s a Motown musical review, drama, Western, gangster play or redneck wedding comedy, the Yellow Rose is focused squarely on times past, said Chris Colley, associate director and an actor.

Good for them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Did The Austin Pilot Have a Valid Tax Beef About 1706?

I say no over at TaxProf Blog. I was the first to post a comment and while a flame war hasn't exactly broken out, the subsequent commenters are certainly zealous about their points of view. Fair enough. But rather than take up Professor Caron's valuable time and energy rooting through possible responses to my response, I'll post mine here. I welcome the commenters to post their responses here, too, and let's have at it.

The point of my response was that anyone who resorts to property destruction and murder loses whatever legitimacy they may have possessed in their conflict with someone, or some other institution, especially when other, peaceful means exist to resolve that conflict. Joseph Stack III, the Austin Pilot, could have easily taken his battle with the IRS to tax or district court. The IRS often loses there but should Stack have failed there, he could have taken his cause to the Supreme Court. Continued failure? There's the legislative process, which is the very source of his alleged misery, not the IRS. I likened Stack to Timothy McVeigh and I stated that I doubted anyone would claim that McVeigh had a legitimate beef with how the government handled the Branch Davidian affair, his motivation for the Oklahoma City Murrah Building bombing. I should have been more clear with that statement and should have instead said that I doubt that anyone, after witnessing the destruction and murder McVeigh rained down on innocent men, women, and children, would claim McVeigh had a legitimate beef. Something things are so horrendous that trivial motivation goes out the window. It's like saying Charles Manson had a few good ideas, and so did Hitler and Stalin and Bin Laden and whoever else you'd like to bring in to the argument. But from the enthusiasm of the subsequent commenters, I doubt my clarified sentence would have made much difference. Some will cling to their anti-government views no matter the cost. To Mr. Chaney and others, I invite them to visit the Murrah bombing site; a tour of the museum will be my treat. Let them hold those views after witnessing first hand the results of McVeigh's "legitimate beef."

Mr. Betts was worried about my soul. He'll be glad to know mine is still intact and that I hope his is as well but his concern should be with some of his other fellow commenters.

Mr. Guy uses an obvious alias so his comments aren't worth responding to. The courage of his convictions is breathtaking.

Mr. Pelto has some fun with my cautious words about Stack's status as an illegal tax protester but I was being careful because neither Mr. Pelto nor I know everything about Mr. Stack's case with the IRS. My experience tells me Mr. Stack was an illegal tax protester, someone who uses frivolous schemes not to reduce his taxes but to avoid paying any taxes; Mr. Pelto believes, even after witnessing the smoldering wreckage and, I'll presume, knowing of the innocent life Mr. Stack took, after reading Mr. Stack's ravings, that Mr. Stack has a point. In light of Mr. Pelto's, and others', statements, my caution was mis-placed. Let me state plainly then: Mr. Stack was an illegal tax protester. He was not interested in reducing his taxes legitimately and paying his fair share; he wasn't interested in paying any taxes at all. I doubt Mr. Stack would have been any more of a fan of Mr. Pelto's favored flat tax system that he was of the current system.

Jonathan mis-reads my statement. I didn't say the Branch Davidian affair was handled correctly; I said that McVeigh's actions made whatever beef he may have had about it illegitimate. If Jonathan believes McVeigh had a point, I invite him to the tour the Murrah bombing site as mentioned above.

IRS Sux, I refer you to Mr. Betts about the status of your soul.

Mr. Rogers' Latin is intact; my last name does indeed translate as New Earth. (Or New Land, whichever you prefer.) But Mr. Stack's behavior has everything to do with his complaint. And there's no failure to engage the rational mind; Mr. Stack's behavior proves his mind wasn't rational at all.

Joe, Big D, Shannon Love (despite some errors, which he admirably corrects later) Jim Maule, da Hawk, and Jim Wilson all make some good points and even defend 1706. For the record, I think everyone who can meet the criteria of a contract employee ought to be able to work as a contract employee but 1706 says otherwise. Sounds like a change needs to be made; contact your local congressman.

Chris zings me for poor sentence structure. Good on ya', Mr. Chris. I'll be more careful next time.

I apologize for leaving some commenters out but I'm beginning to repeat myself. Mr. Stack was nothing but a terrorist, intent on circumventing the law. When he couldn't have his way, he resorted to violence rather than other peaceful remedies. His actions negate whatever problems he claims to have had with 1706 but the size, and good condition, of his home before be burned it, and the fact he owned an airplane tells me he had little trouble overcoming whatever restrictions 1706 put on his ability to earn.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shutter Island - Movie Review

I was looking forward to Scorsese's latest, Shutter Island - I'd read the book some years ago when it came out and remembered it as being suspenseful with a nice twist - and it didn't disappoint. Made with the usual obsessive attention to detail that you've come to expect from Scorsese, the movie oozes atmosphere and unease and foreboding. Some of the scenes may play as puzzling and histrionic and, thus, hint at what's really going on, but I think they serve the movie's plot well. I found no reason to like DiCaprio - he's still the little kid he was when he started years ago only now he's got some wispy face stubble and just seems like he's trying to play a grownup and not doing a very good job of it. But Mark Ruffalo takes up the supporting role and it fits him well. The rest of the cast is good, too. It all makes sense by the end and there's a certain satisfaction to be had that you've just been on quite a roller coaster ride and delivered safely at the end. Great fun.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Unhappy Tasters

Though I don't like going there, you won't find me slagging on Wal-Mart. What they manage to accomplish every day is nothing short of a miracle. But that's not the only reason why this is so satisfying:
Kummer buys two batches of nearly identical groceries at Wal-Mart and Whole Foods. He has them prepared in a restaurant kitchen and invites taste testers to make a blind side-by-side comparison. The Whole Food grocery set cost $50 more, $20 of which is spent on top of the line chicken breasts (Wal-Mart didn't really offer equivalently high-end meat.)

The taste testers preferred the Wal-Mart veggies overwhelmingly, with complaints about the meat and dairy. "The tasters were surprised," he writes, "when the results were unblinded at the end of the meal and they learned that in a number of instances they had adamantly preferred Walmart produce. And they weren’t entirely happy."

No, it's not enough that Wal-Mart can deliver food that's just as good, and in some cases, better, than you can get at a high-end place like Whole Foods. When snooty food tasters find out they prefer they cheaper stuff, do they slap their foreheads in hapless amusement? Do they smile and shrug their shoulders and maybe let out a little laugh at their own folly? Do they come away from the experience, a little wiser about the nature of food and how it gets to their table? No. They get angry.

Geez Louise.

Don't get me wrong. I've been to Whole Foods exactly once and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It'd be great if we could get one around here. But as much as I dislike going to Wal-Mart, I find myself going there time and time again because they have what I need at a good price. It's the free-market system at its finest.

Curse those people at Wal-Mart.

U.N. Climate Chief to Step Down in July and Join. . . An Accounting Firm

Amid the tom-foolery of Climategate, the U.N.s climate chief is stepping down to join an accounting firm:
De Boer will leave on July 1 to join KPMG, the Secretariat for the U.N. framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) said in a statement. He had led the agency since 2006 and his contract was expected to be extended in September.

"It was a difficult decision to make, but I believe the time is ripe for me to take on a new challenge, working on climate and sustainability with the private sector and academia," de Boer said in the statement.

Riiight. As if being the scandalized U.N. agency isn't enough, De Boer feels compelled to share his expertise and recipe for success with the private sector.

Can't wait.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More on Ebert

Here's more on the sad story of Roger Ebert:
Roger Ebert can’t remember the last thing he ate. He can't remember the last thing he drank, either, or the last thing he said. Of course, those things existed; those lasts happened. They just didn't happen with enough warning for him to have bothered committing them to memory — it wasn't as though he sat down, knowingly, to his last supper or last cup of coffee or to whisper a last word into Chaz's ear. The doctors told him they were going to give him back his ability to eat, drink, and talk. But the doctors were wrong, weren't they? On some morning or afternoon or evening, sometime in 2006, Ebert took his last bite and sip, and he spoke his last word.

It's a fawning piece on Ebert and I don't have any objection to that. But like a good fawning piece, the article overlooks Ebert's mean and hateful streak that comes through in his personal columns and tweets. Odd since the article deals in depth about how Ebert now communicates after his unfortunate health situation.

No matter. It's the latest on Ebert and may shed some light on his current state of mind. I don't hold with those who think he's changed because of his health battles; I believe he's always been this way and that it's now only coming out because he has so many other ways to communicate.

The Geithner Effect on Taxpayer Attitudes

I'm not sure that common occurrence equals causaction - I think most people would be hard-pressed to know who Tim Geithner is and why his fumbling of his own personal taxes is such a big deal - but it could be the reason behind the results of the IRS Oversight Board's 2009 Taxpayer Attitude Survey:
* How much, if any, do you think is an acceptable amount to cheat on your income taxes? A little here and there, 9% (highest in 6 years)

* How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS does each of the following to ensure that all taxpayers honestly pay what they owe -- Ensures high-income taxpayers are reporting and paying their taxes honestly? Very important, 83% (all-time high)

* How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS does each of the following to ensure that all taxpayers honestly pay what they owe -- Ensures small businesses are reporting and paying their taxes honestly? Very important, 76% (all-time high)

* How much influence does each of the following factors have on whether you report and pay your taxes honestly -- Fear of an audit? Great deal of influence, 39% (all-time high)

* How much influence does each of the following factors have on whether you report and pay your taxes honestly -- Belief that your neighbors are reporting and paying honestly? Great deal of influence, 17% (all-time low)

Count on the IRS to forget about how the behavior of their leadership shapes the public's attitude and focus on how the fear of an audit does.

One thing the Taxpayer Attitude Survey tells us: taxpayer's attitudes need adjusting. So adjust your attitude before the IRS does it for you, misters and missies. And wipe that smirk off your faces. And go clean your rooms, too.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wine Glut Prompts Changes in Napa Valley

Because I'm making wine - I'm tellin' ya', it's just like Napa Valley around here - this caught my eye:
For generations, Napa Valley has cultivated its image as carefully as its grapes:

It is America's premiere wine region, known for its boutique operations turning out small quantities of some of the most sought-after wines in the world.

But the utilitarian winery in Healdsburg where James Stewart produces his Slingshot Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc throws a bucket of cold water on that romantic idea. It's a prefab warehouse in one of the valley's industrial parks, indistinguishable from countless other rent-a-fermenter facilities dotting California's wine belt. Amid rows of massive steel tanks and the woozy aroma of fermenting grape juice, Stewart is talking about turning the place into a gold mine.

About as romantic as our bathtub where I stash the fermenter while it bubbles away.

Wine knows only juice. Well, that and other ingredients. But not location. It only needs a dark, cool place to ferment and it does its thing. Sure, I'd like to visit Napa Valley some day - landscape sure makes for purty pictures, from what I've seen. But it sounds like the pre-fab warehouses, thanks to the economy, is where the real action is.

Going Rogue at Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School

Laszlo Brauning, a wannabe film director, steals a page from Werner Herzog and forges credentials to get into Herzog's film seminar. Brilliant:
Next came the challenging part. Although I had gotten in, I soon learned that this would not be the twelve-student atelier that I had envisioned, but rather a fifty-person lecture. The weekend seminar would cost a whopping $1,450 that I didn’t have, and after raising money for my feature I had no stomach to roll out another campaign.

At this point I asked myself: What would Werner Herzog do?

Well, not only does the Rogue Film School’s syllabus include forging shooting permits, but I also heard Herzog once say he stole a 35mm camera from the Munich Film School because he “had a natural right to take it.” It seemed like he was telling me to forge my way into his film school.

Brauning's caught, but not until near the end of the seminar. Herzog may not respect the property rights of others but you'd better respect his.

Snow Won't Stop the IRS

In case you were worried:
The IRS says its ability to process tax returns and pay refunds in a timely manner will not be hampered by back-to-back snowstorms that crippled Washington and much of the U.S. Northeast this week.

Federal agencies including the IRS were in their third day of weather-related closure as blizzard conditions swept through Washington Wednesday. That came at an inconvenient time for the tax agency, with the 2010 filing season coming into full swing. But with all individual return processing now performed outside of the northeast at centers in places like Fresno, Calif., Atlanta, and Kansas City, taxpayers need not fear that refund checks or answers to questions through IRS toll-free services will be delayed, said IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge.

Yes, the relentless machinery of the IRS grinds on. To paraphrase some dialogue from a certain movie 25 years ago:
Listen, and understand. Th(e) (IRS) is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are (taxed).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Avatar - Movie Review

Okay, okay, so we finally saw Avatar and you know what? I didn't hate it. Yeah, it's kinda sorta about what its critics say - it's do-gooder, nature-worshiping, military-hating, re-telling of the Pocahontas story claptrap but it's visually stunning claptrap and if you're interested in state-of-the-art digital effects and animation, then you can't pass this up. (Oh, wait. It's box-office numbers tell me you didn't pass this up. It seems we're the last ones in the world to finally see this movie.) Story-wise? Meh. For about two-thirds of the movie, I forgot all about the critics and was mesmerized by all the purty colors state-of-the-art digital effects and animation and purty colors but the final third, while undoubtedly thrilling, completely unravels everything that came before it. Sorry, I'm just not gonna root for the utter destruction of well-intentioned characters.

We would've preferred a plain ol' regular 2D experience over the 3D - really, the 3D effects didn't add much to the presentation and the glasses were more distracting than anything. Yep, the fantastic aspects of the fictional world were limp. Essentially, Pandora and its creatures are like Earth's only bigger and of different hues. And you can just about hear the metaphorical wheels creaking underneath as the plot turns.

Will it win Best Picture? I hope not; Up would be far more deserving. Though I'd be the first to argue that a film's box office can't be ignored when it comes to best picture, that's not the sole factor - Star Wars never won Best Picture and Avatar shouldn't either. Though it's dazzling, it lacks a soul.

(Looking for a compelling sci-fi movie? Try Moon. )

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Twitter's Impact on a Life

Sure, Twitter's a waste of time, but it's my time and I'll waste it if I want. But Wil Wheaton doesn't think Twitter's a waste of time. (I've blogged here before about Wil Wheaton .)
I've always believed that when you work hard and are kind to people, wonderful things will happen, and some of those wonderful things will happen to you. (It was awesome to hear something similar from Conan O'Brien recently; that made me feel like I've been on the right track.) I've always hoped that the work would just speak for itself, but in all aspects of the entertainment industry, just being good at what you do or just being good to work with aren't enough. Just being an entertaining author or filmmaker or performer isn't enough; you need to get your work in front of an audience, especially if you hope to make a living from your art. There is a whole lot of reality at the root of the old cliché about who you know and networking. I didn't expect it, and it's not even my primary reason for using it, but Twitter has ended up filling that gap in my professional life, and the results have been nothing short of astounding.

While Wheaton's emphasis is on the marketing advantages of Twitter - most of my followers seem to be marketers who are interested in letting me know of their awesome marketing skills - he does manage to touch on the personal benefits. Twitter is just a plain ol' good way of keeping in touch with a lot of people. That seems to be more of why I'm on Twitter; I find it simply amusing and some of the people I've made connections with are quite wonderful. I wouldn't call that a waste of time at all.

Limitations - Book Review

I picked up Scott Turow's Limitations at the Waldenbooks closing at Crossroads Mall. Marked down to three bucks, it was further discounted another 60%. Heck, I couldn't afford not to buy the book.

I was like everyone else in the 80s and read and enjoyed immensely Turow's books but he didn't write very many, it seemed, and I drifted away from him. I'm glad the cheap price of his book brought me back though I'm not sure I found a reason to stick around again. Commissioned and published by The New York Times Magazine, Limitations is only 200 pages long and doesn't amount to much of a legal, or any other kind of, thriller. It's just a rumination on justice, with a minor mystery at its heart of who's threatening a judge who is hearing a controversial case. Of course, the judge has a personal stake in the case - not a direct one, mind you, which would disqualify him, but something far in his past that comes to the forefront because of this case. Which, when you think about it, might be reason enough to recuse yourself or provide a plaintiff further grounds for appeal if the knowledge became known. But I'm no lawyer so what do I know?

The pace is slow and seems padded even with its short length, intended to fulfill a contract rather than some other organic sense of plot. The legal question is resolved satisfactorily and the source of the threat is discovered and all ends well. There was a spark or two of the Turow I remembered but it's not enough to want to read his new one coming out in a few months or even go back and pick up the ones I missed. Looks like both he and I have been getting along quite all right without each other and, with this book, there's no reason to change things.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

White Stripes: Air Forces Reserve Ad Stole Song

I couldn't get to the ad to listen to the song myself but I'll take The White Stripes' word for it:
The White Stripes say the Air Force Reserve used one of their songs without permission in a Super Bowl ad, and that they are insulted their song was used to encourage recruitment during a war they don't support.

The two-member band, which is originally from Detroit, said the ad made unauthorized use of their song "Fell in Love With a Girl."

"The White Stripes support this nation's military. ... We simply don't want to be a cog in the wheel of the current conflict," the band said in a statement posted to its Web site.

"The White Stripes take strong insult and objection to the Air Force Reserve presenting this advertisement with the implication that we licensed one of our songs to encourage recruitment during a war that we do not support." They did not specify which war.

(Emphasis mine.)

So it looks like Obama's lost The White Stripes' support. His war effort is doomed.

Look, I like The White Stripes raucous stripped down sound and if The Air Force truly did steal their song - the Air Force says they contracted an ad agency for the spot and had nothing to do with the music - then the group should be duly compensated. But, heck, if the group really supports the troops, why not donate the song? You don't have to support the war effort to support an institution that provides for the security of the country - and your right to create raucous, stripped down rock - as well as a pretty good career choice for thousands of people. You can still take your anti-war stance and keep your bona fides among your fellow hip rockers.

(If The White Stripes' truly support the troops, I've found no evidence on the web other than their own self-serving statement. Maybe the group has gone overseas to entertain the troops and its escaped the web's notice. But I suspect, like with most people who say they oppose war but support the troops, it's a lot easier to say you do than actually do it. Yeah, I know, no surprise.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Roger Ebert Trashes His Own Fans (and Palin) on Twitter

I provided some links to movie critic Roger Ebert in my twitter stream as a favor to someone who hadn't realized Ebert had finally lost it so I won't dig 'em up again. Instead, Pam Meister does much of the heavy lifting for me:
If you follow a movie critic on Twitter, chances are you follow him because you admire his ability to critique the many offerings of Hollywood. Unfortunately, if you follow Roger Ebert, you also get endless tirades on greedy corporate fatcats, ”nutjob Teabaggers,” and how dumb Sarah Palin is.

But that's only recently. Ebert managed to also trash Rush Limbaugh during Limbaugh's heart attack scare over the holiday while Limbaugh was still in the hospital. (Momentarily coming to his senses, Ebert later apologized.) He lost it, too, during the election and joined the bandwagon of Palin bashers, stooping so low as to mock her physical appearance. All of this from a man who had unfortunate and serious health problems, leaving him unable to eat and drink without a tube and unable to speak at all. I'm not saying his health problems have caused Ebert's bitterness - his essays about his troubles have been fairly straight-forward and make for compelling reading. No, I suspect he's harbored this bitterness all along and now that he has new methods of communicating - in addition to his reviews, he blogs and tweets as well - and it's through these outlets his bile pours most freely.

After the Rush incident, I can no longer read his reviews. I see my last link to one of his columns was way back in June but just five days before that, I'd noted how he lost it over Bill O'Reilly.

There are plenty of movie critics out there to read - I've been a fan of Stephen Hunter for a long time but he took a buyout from The Washington Post and I'm not sure how regular his gig is over at Commentary so his reviews are hard to find. I'll manage somehow to learn about the movies we intend to see; it's sad that I just won't be able to rely on Roger Ebert anymore.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Beer! It's Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

No, it's for your brittle bones, too:
A beer a day could keep brittle bones at bay. That's because beer is rich in silicon, an element that has been linked to bone health. But what type of beer should you drink?

Previous studies have shown that silicon can aid bone growth, and that moderate beer drinking is linked to increased bone density. Now Charles Bamforth and Troy Casey at the University of California, Davis, have discovered how much silicon each type of beer contains.

They analysed 100 beers from around the world and found that the brews contained between 6.4 and 56 milligrams of silicon per litre, with an average of 29 milligrams per litre. Looking at the silicon levels in beer's ingredients, they found that most of it comes from the husks of malted barley.

The pair found that lighter-coloured beers made from pale malted barley and hops, such as pale ales, are richest in silicon, while low-alcohol beers contain the least, along with stouts, porters and wheat beers.

See, my beer brewing hobby is more about staying healthy than it is about, uh, drinking beer. I'm battling osteoporosis. Yeah, that's what I'm doing.

I call that great news.

(Via Instapundit.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Crazy Heart - Movie Review

Jeff Bridges is up for an academy award for his performance in Crazy Heart and it's a well-deserved nomination. He inhabits the role of a burned out country and western singer/songwriter, whose best days are far behind him in his rearview mirror. He's a shambling wreck from the beginning but gradually finds redemption and his performance alone could tell the story. There's a sort-of-a-surprising cameo by an uncredited actor that was a pleasant surprise and Robert Duvall is always a pleasure. But Maggie Gyllenhaal? Meh. Don't see the appeal myself and her role is a weak spot for the movie. Her character has to be there for Bridges' character to fall for but does she have to be so much younger than he? With a child that will later play a crucial part in the plot? And, come on Hollywood, she's a journalist for a small paper in Santa Fe. Let the CPA think this through for you: How do you think she can afford such a cute home decorated so southwestern fabulously, afford daycare for her son, and then take 4 days off and fly two people roundtrip to Houston? Yeah, I know, it's a movie, but I kept getting tripped up on this point. I'm just saying a little more realism in this role would have helped.

A good movie with some good country-and-western music, managed by T Bone Burnett. Enjoy Bridges and watch a master at work. I haven't seen all of the actors nominated for an Oscar yet but he looks like a sure thing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hotel Fire

I thought I had my the iPod on my iPhone set on shuffle but the string of songs with titles beginning with the letter "H" tells me it somehow slipped out of that mode. Ominous. (Also, my iPhone seems to continually be checking for e-mails; either something's wrong or it's taking after the habits of its owner.)

But that's okay, I'm just letting it ride and listening to whatever comes up, except for when something comes up I don't want to listen to. I'll skip over until I find something because, well, I'm in charge, man. You can be sure, though, that when anything by Hem pops up in the window, I'll stop and play it on through. Every track of theirs is just absolutely lovely and it's a bright, restful spot in an otherwise hectic time of year for a CPA.

All of this is to say I came across their Hotel Fire and I was terribly moved. I don't know how to embed the track in a blog post so, like I've done before, I'll just have to be happy with publishing the lyrics for you:

Hotel Fire

Ten dollars for the room
Torn blankets smell like old perfume
Then love checks in, trips a wire,
Skips the bill, sets a fire
And leaves the wreck that's left behind
With one desire, one desire

Don't worry 'bout the key
Lock's busted, and the chain is free
Light comes up, the sun goes down
A rented room, a borrowed town
That burns the memories to the ground
With one more round, one more round
One more round

Ten miles 'til the dawn
A sign lights up and it pulls you on
So strip the bed, slash the tire
A broken home, a hotel fire
You ask yourself again, am I
Your one desire, one desire

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tax Season = Light Blogging

The Good Lord created Time so everything wouldn't happen at once. Clearly He never owned and operated a tax and accounting practice because, well, everything is happening at once. Not that we're surprised or complaining; to quote Hyman Roth in The Godfather Part 2, This is the life we chose.

Happy to be busy and we'll get everything done. Count on it. But tax season does make for some scant blogging so sorry for the lack of posts. I'll work on correcting that soon.

Former Koss Executive to Reveal Storage Locations

Once again, from the mighty Michael Hasentab, an update to this story:
Former Koss Corp. finance executive Sujata Sachdeva has until Wednesday to tell federal prosecutors where all of the items she is accused of buying with Koss money are stored, under an agreement filed in federal court Monday.

Smart move. The time to start atoning for your trespasses is now.

But why do I get the feeling that the storage space that houses $31 million of ill-gotten gains is gonna look a little like the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark?

That's a lot of shoes.