Onward into 2009

There's this shot in The Wrestler, a steadicam shot behind Mickey Rourke as he walks through the back offices of a grocery store out to the deli counter. It echoes many other shots in the movie, from better times for Randy "The Ram" Robinson, and the visual reference is unmistakeable and poignant.

But just in case you're oblivious, the sound designer slowly mixes in the sounds of a raucous wrestling crowd chanting his name, just as he hears it when he prepares to walk out through the curtains at a wrestling event. It rises to a crescendo just as he's about to walk through the hanging plastic flaps out to the deli counter.

I wish they'd had the restraint to leave the shot as is and leave out the audio clue. What was an understated and lyrical moment is transformed into something overly sentimental, and I felt that way about many instances of the score in the movie which is otherwise shot in an unfussy, documentary style.

Besides that, though, it's a very moving film. You don't just feel for Randy "The Ram" Robinson but for Mickey Rourke who is nearly unrecognizable, at least to me. This is the guy from Diner and 9 1/2 Weeks?


The Israel Consulate is using Twitter to manage their message during this military campaign against Hamas. It's a challenge, trying to communicate complex messages with a 140 character limit, as many organizations are learning while trying to use Twitter for unmediated communication with users. Lots of URL shorteners and common online abbreviations are used, lending an oddly casual air to what are serious messages.

Two perhaps adventitious consequences of this medium: the character limit forces a concise and often more forceful statement of a message, and users who write you are forced to adhere to the character limit also, so it's a level playing ground.


Jay-Z crossed with Radiohead = Jaydiohead (from DJ Minty Fresh Beats)


A movie trailer that is just one scene, perhaps not truncated or edited down from what appears in the movie itself? Effective.


Given NYC's economic dependence on the finance industry, you'd expect Manhattan real estate to have taken a disproportionate beating in this recession.

In fact, New York's real estate market is proving more resilient in this downturn than that of other U.S. cities.

Today’s Case-Shiller housing price figures indicate that New York City’s prices dropped 7.5 percent in the last year, while prices in Los Angeles declined 27.9 percent. Nationwide prices dropped 18 percent. New York is the only major metropolitan area with prices that are still 90 percent above prices in January 2000. According to National Association of Realtors data, New York is the only city in the continental United States, outside of San Francisco Bay, where median sales prices remain north of $500,000.

Despite Wall Street’s suffering, the New York area’s unemployment rate, 5.6 percent in the latest figures, is lower than that in many other major cities. The comparable unemployment rate for Los Angeles is 8.2 percent. The comparable number for Chicago is 6.4 percent.

What's going on? Economist Edward Glaeser attributes it to faith in the city's talented citizens and concentration of said people.

New York still has an amazing concentration of talent. That talent is more effective because all those smart people are connected because of the city’s extreme population density levels. Historically, human capital — the education and skills of a work force — predicts which cities are able to reinvent themselves and which ones are not. Those people who are continuing to pay high prices for Manhattan real estate are implicitly betting that New York’s human capital will continue to come up with new ways of reinventing the city.


The first album of 2009 that's gathering critical buzz and mp3 blog lust: Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion


The statistics behind the B.C.S. are not just inscrutable but fundamentally flawed.

Statistically, the system is such an abomination that at least one expert — Hal S. Stern, a professor of statistics at the University of California, Irvine — advocated that no self-respecting statistician should have anything to do with it. In an article published in The Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports two years ago, he wrote that the B.C.S. computer rankings serve as little more than a confirmation of the results of the two opinion polls the system also uses to create its rankings. The people who run the computer rankings, he noted, have never been given any clear objective criteria to design their programs, and they are not allowed to use the score or site of a game in their calculations. Stern urged a boycott, a refusal by the community of statisticians to lend credibility to a system he regards as scientifically bankrupt.

In the end, it comes down to money.

“The six big conferences don’t want to share money with the smaller conferences,