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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Kindness of Bloggers

I am always amazed at the quick generosity of people in the blogosphere.

Kate had a horrible accident and people like Doc move in to help.

Amazing. There are a lot of good people out there.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Our Savings Rate

There is much noise being made about the US savings rate hitting 0% in July, and I’m not sure how much of it is valid worry or how much of it is simply that the measure is a little behind the times. See, what precisely does that savings rate measure? The amount of money in savings accounts? If that’s the case, then the fact is that Americans have moved from storing their money in savings accounts and storing money in investments.

Where are most of your assets? Obviously, for many people, the home is one of the assets that they count on to hold value for them--acting as kind of a live-in piggy bank. But instead of money going into a savings account, how many of us put money into an IRA or a 401(k). That isn’t the same thing as a savings account--since that money isn’t as stable or as liquid as money that you leave in a bank--but it does count as a store of money that many Americans put away for future use.

How about mutual funds and stocks? No, the money isn’t guaranteed, but it is still easy to cash in and use in times of need. Americans realized that money in the bank earns a pretty small return, but money in the market (wisely invested and in a very general sense) will see better gains over time.

As for me, I’m in the middle of consolidating debt, building that six month buffer savings account, and building up my retirement account. As of this moment, though, the money that I have in my retirement account dwarfs the money I have in savings--but it doesn’t mean that I haven’t saved, it simply means that I saved in another direction.

The savings rate isn’t something that we should completely ignore and most of us would be better off with less debt and a touch more in the way of savings. But hysterics over an incomplete look at the financial health of Americans isn’t warranted, either.

Now, all that said, the fact is that I am not an economist. There may be very good reasons for me to be more worried about the rate of savings in America. There is a very good chance that I don’t even understand what I’m talking about.

Consider this an invitation to educate me.

March of the Penguins, A Dissident’s View

March of the Penguins. Heartwarming. Wonderful. Magical. Beautiful.

Or, you know, maybe not.

Every divergent emotion attributed to the waddling birds looked the same, like some Wild Kingdom parody of Zoolander. I saw this in a theater full of people who kept saying things like, “Look at how much like human beings they are!” Um, not exactly. There’s a reason why human beings run the world instead of penguins, and it’s on display in March of the Penguins.

You’ll find yourself wishing that there was more to Shawn’s mini-review. I know I did.

I find myself hoping that the next The Long Forgotten CD will have a hardcore opus dedicated to the plight of the penguins…

And On This Day in History (Because Jerry Told On Me)

Since Jerry told on me, I thought we should look at some of the important things that happened on this day in history (only one of which involves me):

  1. 1861: The first US income tax is passed. Darnit.
  2. 1876: “Wild Bill” Hickok is murdered. Shot in the head from behind while playing a game of cards, Hickok dies at age 39.
  3. 1933: Peter O’Toole is born. Alcoholics around the world drunkenly rejoice for reasons that they can’t quite remember in the morning.
  4. 1934: Hitler took the title of Führer. Surprisingly, despite rumors, Führer is not German for “insane, murderous asshole.”
  5. 1943: PT-109 Sinks. JFK doesn’t quite go down with the ship.
  6. 1970: Zombyboy was born. Girls swoon.
  7. 1980: Terrorist bomb a train station in Bologna, Italy. While the terrorists have new causes and new faces, unfortunately, their destruction still plagues us.
  8. 1990: Iraq invades Kuwait. Saddam Hussein makes a blundering error that ends up costing tens of thousands of lives and over a decade of difficulties for Western powers and the UN. The ripples from this action are still felt throughout the world.

Thanks, Jerry. It’s good to have some friends who remember the important world events.

(I kid. At least about the “important world events” part.)

PS- Thanks to Jay and Deb for their well wishes.

Wedding Crashers: The Not Quite Review

It makes me happy that a movie like Stealth is turning out to be such a flop while a movie like Wedding Crashers is raking in the dough.

Neither is particularly original, but, let’s be honest, movies generally aren’t so much about originality as they are about telling a familiar story in a new and entertaining way. Stealth just looks like a mutant mash-up of every Frankenstein-meets-military technology movie to come down the pike with a heavy dose of the Top Gun bravado thrown in for spice. And I’m willing to bet that people are staying away for one simple reason: we’re willing to accept the familiar (Armageddon wasn’t original, but it was damned sure fun) as long as it isn’t, brutally put, lame.

The first time I saw the trailer for Stealth, I found myself wondering why the military didn’t just wait for the damned, evil, rogue artificially intelligent machine to run out of gas. Sure enough, as soon as the thought started forming in my head, someone in the theater whispered the very same thing loudly enough for everyone to hear. There was much snickering.

Fact is, the movie might have invented some very good reasons for its conceits, but the premise is just lame. Might as well have thrown up a big sign saying, “It’s Big! It’s Dumb! But Summer Audiences are Too Stupid to Notice!”

For these reasons, I’m glad it’s failing.

Wedding Crashers, on the other hand, is a worthy success.

Through the first two-thirds of the movie, it is riotously funny, horribly crass, and even a little bit ridiculous. Even better, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have great screen chemistry for a buddy movie. It is quite possible that I will never see a funnier (or more realistic) non-drunken “I love you” scene between two guys in my life. And if that last third drags a little, ending as predictably as you could imagine, then at least we get to see Will Ferrell in a role that had to be played by Will Ferrell.

In Wedding Crashers, we get a movie that both revels in its badness and, yet, finds a way to steer itself toward reasonably moral ground--quite a trick. As for the Purple Heart controversy--well, suffice it to say that I didn’t see anything particularly offensive about it.

And, most importantly, Wedding Crashers brings back what used to be a staple of Summer Hollywood comedy fare: gratuitous nudity. It used to be that when a kid went to see raunchy comedies, they were damned near guaranteed at least one gratuitous glance of breasts. Airplane! had them. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (thank you, Lord) had them.

Recently, though, the comedy had grown raunchier and the gratuitous nudity had grown far less reliable. Wedding Crashers revives the tradition with gusto, and let’s hope that more movies follow suit.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Thanks…

Thanks to all of you who have commented or sent emails expressing your sorrow and your support. It’s greatly appreciated (although grandpa probably would’ve been awfully embarassed by the attention).

I’m taking today off to do what I can to prepare for a funeral later this week.

So, my silence isn’t me ignoring your kindness--it’s just me getting ready to see my parents for the first time in over a year, getting ready to say goodbye to grandpa, and getting a little needed rest.

Again, thank you.

And Some Happiness…

Matt’s gonna be a daddy.

We can only hope that the Big Hair (recessive? dominant?) genes have been successfully passed on to a new generation.

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