September 02, 2006

Okay, Sitemeter is telling me I'm getting a lot of hits from Zurich, Switzerland, and Lambeth, London. A kind e-mail explaining from my many adoring fans in those locales would be appreciated, if it's not too much too ask.

September 01, 2006

The man who coined the term, "blogofascism" has apparently joined Michael Hiltzik and Glenn Greenwald in the ranks of sockpuppeteers, and his blog has vanished down the memory hole. Kos has a classic example of his handiwork. No word yet as to whether "Steve Gilliard" was one of his nom de puppets.
Greece 101, U.S.A. 95: Setting off a national celebration, a Greek team with no current NBA players, and without its best player, Nikos Zisis, bested this most recent incarnation of the Dream Team, and advanced to the finals of the World Basketball Championships. Although Team U.S.A. will not have a "Miracle on Hardwood", the defeat was tempered by the knowledge that a scrappy team of red-white-and-blue overachievers led by Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James were able to push superstars like Vassilis Spanoulis, Sofoklis "Baby Shaq" Schortsianitis and Theodoros Papaloukas to the limit, and may have attracted the attention of top teams like Olimpiakos and Panathinaikos Athens. The U.S. can still win a bronze medal tomorrow against defending Olympic champion Argentina, who lost to Spain, 75-74.

The decline of American sports during the Bush Administration has become a national travesty.

August 31, 2006

Another Senate incumbent looks at the future, stares into the abyss.
DYK that this song was banned by the BBC because of the word "bum"? That's right, the "B-word."

The Wall Street Journal examines one of the bigger scams in the blogosphere, the use of substitute posters at a number of the uberblogs when one of the Kewl Kidz goes on "vacation." It perpetrates a fraud on the public, and defeats the whole purpose of this medium, which is to provide unmediated access to the mind of the individual creator. Advertising pings shouldn't be more important than our integrity.

August 30, 2006

Reductio ad Hitlerum: Is there a version of Godwin's Law that pertains to the use of the term "appeasement?" Charles Krauthammer is the most embarassing Pulitzer laureate since Walter Duranty.

August 29, 2006

Kos has a rundown of the polling for the California governor's race. Ahnold Ziffel has a comfortable lead; as is so typical throughout the country, there is a decided preference at the state level for the minority party to have control of the governor's mansion. In a state that is effectively a one-party contest in Presidential elections, the dominant power becomes corrupt and atrophied, and the Democratic majority in the state legislature is as entrenched as any Soviet-era Politburo. California's Democrats aren't that much different, in that regard, than Republicans in Kansas or Wyoming.

And besides, Schwarzenegger learned a hard lesson last year. He tried to push the state to the right via the initiative, and discovered, to his horror, that California is a progressive state. So he's using what appears to be a winning formula this year, that of an anti-tax liberal, and he's breezing ahead of his colorless opponent. Since 2010 is the important election in this state, and Mayor Villaraigosa, who's wielding the Golden Silence in this election, is the heir apparent (Ahnold is termlimited after this election), as well as the Republicans having such a thin bench, Democrats are just not going to be that vexed with the likely result. There are bigger fish to fry.
L.A.'s best, most fearless sportswriter (and arguably the Times' best columnist, now that Hiltzik was made to disappear), is profiled here. To wit, on witnessing a meeting between John Wooden and Mr. October:
It's the Yankees' turn after he leaves the Angels, but first the media grab him, Wooden surprising them with an unsolicited defense of A-Rod.

"It's unjustified criticism because of the money he's making," he tells reporters — many of them from New York.

Reggie Jackson interrupts the confab to let everyone know he's Reggie Jackson, while referring to Wooden as the "Wizard," a name Wooden detests. Jackson mentions something about young women and angels, somehow concluding "Wooden is our angel," and there's never a cameraman around when you'd like to freeze the look of horror on someone's face.
(link via Deadspin)
It's not Pat Boone introducing Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd to a bemused America (ie., the "Holy Grail" of 60's TV rock), but it will have to do:

There is one silver lining on this story: we're free to go back to accusing the parents again.

August 28, 2006

A man identifying himself as a HUD official announced that the Bush Administration would reverse its policies, and begin to focus on providing affordable housing and relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Alas, it was but a cruel hoax....
One of things I was wondering about when I was posting about "Jumpergate" (here and here, with a related post here) is why someone had never examined the issue of how important a "star" really is in determining the box office for a film. If one wanted to figure out the importance of casting a specific name for a movie, there are a lot of numbers in the public domain that can be examined to make an accurate determination, so why doesn't Hollywood have its own version of Bill James, or a studio have a top executive like Billy Beane? Since there's so much more cash floating around motion pictures than there is with Major League Baseball, you'd think that this sort of numbers-crunching would be absolutely de rigueur. To put it another way, how can studios justify not performing that sort of analysis to the shareholders of their corporate patrons?

Well, it turns out that someone has looked behind the numbers, according to the New York Times, and come to some conclusions that may be highly unsettling to Hollywood agents:
Anita Elberse, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School, tried to measure the average effect of a star by analyzing casting announcements on the price of stocks on the Hollywood Exchange, a simulated market where hundreds of thousands of users trade stocks in individual movies based on their expected box-office revenue. Prices on this exchange have been found to be fairly good predictors of a film’s box-office success.

Ms. Elberse found, for instance, that the announcement in 2002 that Mr. Cruise had dropped out of Cold Mountain — he had been expected to play the lead — reduced the movie’s expected gross by $10 million. The announcement that Mr. Cruise was in talks to play a leading role in The Last Samurai lifted the movie’s expected gross by $28 million.

Combing through 12,000 casting announcements between November of 2001 and December of 2004, related to 600 movie stars and 500 movies, Ms. Elberse found stars, on average, were worth $3 million in theatrical revenue.

Still, Ms. Elberse and other academics suspect that the box-office power of movie stars might be somewhat of a mirage. Ms. Elberse found that, even when casting announcements had an impact on the expected financial outcome of a given film, they had no discernible effect on the share price of the media companies that owned the movie studio — indicating that the participation of a star had no impact on the expected profitability of the studio.

Moreover, even if a star-studded movie does well, it does not necessarily mean that the stars are causing higher ticket sales. In fact, it seems to move the other way around: stars select what they believe are promising projects. And studios prefer to put stars in movies that they expect to be a success.

Movies with stars are successful not because of the star, but because the star chooses projects that people tend to like,” said Arthur S. De Vany, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of California, Irvine, who has written extensively about the economics of moviemaking. “It’s a movie that makes a star.”
(emphasis added)
Since the $3 million in added revenue is often less than what the star is actually paid, the impact of a Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts is usually a wash. A far less expensive performer, when cast in the same role, will turn out to be much more profitable. Sounds like Moneyball to me....