URLs du Jour

2008-07-22

  • There was a New York Times story a couple days ago in its "Debt Trap" series. Although they could have also entitled it "Desperately Seeking Scapegoats." After detailing the financial woes of Ms Diane McLeod of Philadelphia PA, and intimating that her sad story is shared by bazillions of Americans "standing at the financial precipice":
    While the circumstances surrounding these downfalls [yes, Americans are at a "precipice", but at the same time have experienced a "downfall"] vary, one element is identical: the lucrative lending practices of America’s merchants of debt have led millions of Americans — young and old, native and immigrant, affluent and poor — to the brink. More and more, Americans can identify with miners of old: in debt to the company store with little chance of paying up.
    For Thomas Sowell, the phrase "lucrative lending practices" is a fat slow pitch in the middle of the strike zone:
    It must take either a willful determination to believe whatever they want to believe or a cynical desire to propagandize their readers for the New York Times to call "lucrative" the lending practices that have caused many lenders to lose millions of dollars, some to lose billions and some to go bankrupt themselves.
    Kip Esquire is unsympathetic to Ms. McLeod: his article on the NYT piece is titled "New York Times Devotes 3,233 Words to Defending an Idiot". Ouch.

  • I saw a pointer in the new Wired to GraphJam, billed as "Pop Culture for People in Cubicles". I resemble that! Sample:

    song chart memes

    And from that very same movie:

    song chart memes

    Those are just examples, there are plenty of others. You have to have a certain mentality to find this amusing, but … you know who you are.

  • Speaking of Wired, I was also much impressed by this brief interview with NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson describing her harrowing Soyuz re-entry last April.

    Wired: Any landing you can crawl away from is a good one, I guess.

    Whitson: Obviously it wasn't totally nominal.

    NASA astronauts: still got the Right Stuff. Dr. Whitson has logged 377 days in space during her two International Space Station Missions, more than any other American. She's from Iowa, like all decent folk.


Last Modified 2008-09-12 1:14 PM EDT

The Bank Job

[Amazon Link] [3.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

'Tis a heist movie, it is. Like Ocean's 11, except that these guys are about ten times less glamorous and fifty times less competent than Danny Ocean and his pals.

It's set in 1971. Jason Statham plays the lead crook; he's roped into a scheme to knock over the safety deposit vault in the Baker Street branch of Lloyd's by an ex-girlfriend. (That's always a sign of upcoming trouble.) He recruits a bunch of his pals to help out. Unbeknownst to him, the real target is not the cash or jewels in the boxes, but a bunch of dirty pictures of Princess Margaret.

Part of the robbers' charm is that they are small-timers way over their heads. They station a lookout on a roof, with whom they communicate via walkie-talkie; it never occurs to them that anyone can listen in on their chatter. Pretty soon, not only the police are after them, but a number of shady characters who had important items in the vault; some of their pursuers have no compunctions about using violence in their retrieval efforts.

The movie based on an actual robbery back in 1971, which is still shrouded in mystery, due to the British government's efforts to hush things up. The filmmakers built a pretty good yarn on top of the sketchy facts available.

According to this story, the Baker Street robbers spraypainted "Let Sherlock Holmes try to solve this." before they exited the vault. It's nice to know that literate criminals of the era remembered that Sherlock lived just a few blocks down. Alas, this amusing detail didn't make it into the movie.


Last Modified 2012-10-11 3:57 PM EDT