Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 2nd, 2014

When Korean movies are good, they are really good

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Oldboy is an obvious example (I’m talking about the Korean original, not the Hollywood knockoff—and I wish they’d quit that), but check out The Berlin File. Lots of North Korean/South Korean stuff there, and also in the one I’m watching now which prompted the post, Suspect. Also The Man from Nowhere and Commitment and A Company Man. All on Netflix streaming. All via Netflix streaming.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2014 at 9:41 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Above the Tie announces its stainless-steel slant: Another humpback slant —- WRONG: it’s torqued

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Here it is, available for pre-order, solid guard or open-comb. It’s a humpback design, like the vintage Walbusch slant and the new iKon Shavecraft #102. The head of the ATT slant is $146; the head of the Shavecraft #102 is $48. That’s quite a difference, even though the ATT slant is stainless steel and the #102 is aluminum.

The humpback design does not twist the blade. The Merkur 37C/39C, the Stealth, and the iKon stainless slants use the twisted-blade design, but I believe that is purely for appearance, not performance: you have to twist the blade if the razor is going to be symmetric.

UPDATE: I was wrong. Once I got the razor, I realized that Above the Tie slants do indeed twist the blade. The iKon Shavecraft #102 is the only modern slant that does not twist the blade—and it is a superb slant, so the blade twist is clearly optional in terms of performance.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2014 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Shaving

Hyper-capitalism produces hyper-consumerism and distracts us from what is important

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Salon has an extract from what seems to be quite an interesting book by Mark Taylor, Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left:

Market capitalism has long been associated not only with rationality but also with the freedom of choice. By the latter half of the twentieth century, economic principles defined reason as much as reason characterized markets. Rationality came to be defined largely by what made economic sense, and what was not in a person’s, a company’s, or a country’s economic self-interest was considered irrational by definition. Choice, defined by economic logic, came to be widely considered an unquestionable good—the more choices, the better. Within this regime, freedom of choice is little more than the freedom to buy and consume. According to this logic, economic progress can be measured by the increasing number of choices that consumers have. Though rarely acknowledged, increasing the number of choices is really less about improving human well-being than it is about expanding the market.

Think of it: 48,800 items in the average American supermarket, 500 or more stations on satellite TV, 125 beverage options in a single Coke machine, 65 different styles with 140 color and fabric options—a total of 9,100 options from a single dress company, a new Nook with 700,000 Google apps. Does this endless proliferation of consumer products really give people more choices or just different variations of the same options? Is it really true that more choices are always better?

Modernization’s strategy of planned obsolescence, entrepreneurs’ insistence on incessant innovation, and modernism’s dedication to making it new intersect in the world of contemporary fashion to expose the irrationality and inefficiency of today’s markets. Modernism, we have seen, is defined by its thoroughgoing commitment to the new or, more precisely, to an endless process of renewal. Though rarely acknowledged, what artists promote as a stance of radical critique in the name of creative innovation turns out to reinforce the very economic forces many of them claim to resist. Since the new must always be renewed, something like planned obsolescence is intrinsic to modern art. While the avant garde endorses as an aesthetic ideal that which often seems utterly impractical, for industry and finance it is actually both practical and necessary for economic growth. If the market is to flourish, the excessive is indispensable, the frivolous essential, and the useless useful. This is not to suggest that the lines joining the avant-garde and expanding markets are clear or direct. To the contrary, much innovative modern art struggles to subvert market forces. Yet as we have seen in our consideration of hedge funds and private equity funds for art, the market has extraordinary recuperative powers that enable it to incorporate opposition and turn resistance to its own ends. When artistic resistance is transformed into economic promotion, high art is popularized and commodified and commodities are further aestheticized.

Nowhere are these dynamics more clearly on display than in today’s . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2014 at 1:34 pm

Running for money: Politics today

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Politics today is heavily distorted by the need to always find more money—no matter how big the war chest, it must be bigger!

This constant search for money means that our elected representatives, while meaning to do good things, must first secure more money—by begging on the phone for hours each day, by passing legislation that will bring in good campaign donations, by constantly keeping in the forefront of their mind, “How will what I’m now doing help me gain more campaign money?”

The answer is pretty simple: offer public funding for all elections and make those limits hold. Each candidate gets the same amount of money to spend, depending on the office sought. But we won’t do that, even though the constant search for money means that more and more legislation is done to benefit those who have money and are willing to contribute.

Matt Miller has a good article in Politico in which he talks about his own campaign and the overriding role play by money:

t’s a blazing hot Memorial Day weekend in Hermosa Beach, seven miles south of LAX, and the holiday festival has drawn thousands of people. It’s the kind of crowd a candidate craves in the closing days of a campaign. There are hands to shake, and the veteran pols have all told me the same thing: Every hand you shake is a likely vote. With nine days until the primary—and our new poll showing me just three points behind my most prominent Democratic rival—I’m trying to touch as many voters as I can. Trouble is, a lot of voters don’t seem to want to touch me.

“Hi, I’m Matt Miller, and I’m running for the congressional seat Henry Waxman is vacating,” I say as I close in, hand extended, on a middle-aged couple. “Do you live in the area?” They avert their eyes and scurry past.

“Hi, I’m Matt Miller, and I’m running for the congressional seat Henry Waxman is … ” Another couple waves me off.

“Hi, I’m Matt Miller and … ”

“I hate all you politicians,” snaps a man who hadn’t looked angry at all until I mentioned Congress.

This happens over and over. Some folks even speed up to avoid me once they hear what I’m after. I try not to take it personally, but the truth is people are responding as if I’d reached for them and said, “Hi, I’m Matt Miller and I have a highly contagious disease—do you mind if I approach more closely?”

“It’ll only take 30 seconds,” I take to pleading. “I promise—it’s painless.” Often it works. People might hate politicians, but they can still take pity on a fellow human being who’s trying to make a sale. Like Willy Loman, I’m way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine.

I deliver my pitch. Running for office for the first time. Host of a talk show on public radio, “Left, Right & Center.” Worked on the Clinton White House economic team. Endorsed by the Los Angeles Times. Can I give you a piece of propaganda on that? “It’s high-quality propaganda,” I always add, “not like the mediocre propaganda those other campaigns are peddling.” Winking smile. See how easy democracy can be?

A score! A man in a bright yellow tank top takes my flier as I tell him I’d be honored to have his vote on June 3. Even if my batting average isn’t high, I think, at least I’m getting somewhere.

Or not.

About 10 paces off, Tank Top Man tosses my handout on the ground. My smile fades as I make the decision; it feels like an affront to let it lie there. In my mind’s eye, the camera cranes upward, and from high above the rooftops we see a speck of a candidate down on one knee, in the midst of hordes of indifferent passersby, rescuing his glossy little placard. The pavement is hot. I feel the sweat on my face. I wipe some grit off the piece with my thumb. Still usable, I think.


My metamorphosis from normal civilian to retriever of discarded propaganda—a journey into the maddening, depressing, exhilarating, surreal and even occasionally inspiring world of a modern congressional campaign—had begun on a freezing day in Manhattan four months earlier. I was walking near Columbus Circle on January 30, when I felt my phone vibrate. It was a Politico Breaking News alert. The legendary Californian congressman Henry Waxman had announced he would not be running for reelection. I stopped in my tracks.

The bell had sounded.

I’d lived in Waxman’s district on the west side of Los Angeles for 18 years, and I always thought that when he stepped down, I would consider running for his seat. I had worked in the Clinton White House from 1993 to 1995, on the wonk side of things, and had flirted with the idea of jumping into electoral politics even back then. When we left the administration, my then-girlfriend, Jody, and I were about to get engaged. She worked for Clinton, too. She served as Clinton counselor David Gergen’s deputy and special assistant to the president when I was Alice Rivlin’s top aide in the budget office. We were a White House romance before White House romance got a bad name.

Back then, I had told Jody that I was thinking about going home to Connecticut and running for Congress.

“You can do that,” she had said. “Or you can marry me. You can’t do both.”So I didn’t. It was the right choice. We got hitched and moved to Los Angeles and built a life in a small enclave called Pacific Palisades. I grew comfortable with the idea that I could contribute to public life through books and journalism, and by hosting what eventually became a popular week-in-review program on public radio.

Still, the idea of elected office stayed in the back of my mind. It’s an occupational hazard, I suppose: When you spend years writing about national policy, you can’t help but wonder if you’d be able to nudge Washington in a better direction. But like everyone else in L.A., I had assumed right up until that January morning that Waxman wouldn’t retire for another five or six years.

Now it had happened. . .

Continue reading. It’s an interesting look from the inside of a campaign.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2014 at 10:09 am

World’s Scientists Warn: We Have ‘High Confidence’ In The ‘Irreversible Impacts’ Of Climate Inaction

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Joe Romm has an alarming post at

The world’s top scientists and governments have issued their bluntest plea yet to the world: Slash carbon pollution now (at a very low cost) or risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” Scientists have “high confidence” these devastating impacts occur “even with adaptation” — if we keep doing little or nothing.

On Sunday, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the“synthesis” report of their fifth full scientific climate assessment since 1990. More than 100 governments have signed off line by line on this review of more than 30,000 studies on climate science, impacts, and solutions.

Like every recent IPCC report, it is cautious to a fault — as you would expect from “its consensus structure, which tends to produce a lowest common denominator on which a large number of scientists can agree,” as one climatologist explained to the New York Times. And that “lowest common denominator” is brought to an even blander and lower level in the summary reports since they need to end up with language that satisfies every member government.

The authors clearly understand this is the last time they have a serious shot at influencing the world’s major governments while we still have a plausible chance of stabilizing at non-catastrophic levels. IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said this reportwill “provide the roadmap by which policymakers will hopefully find their way to a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change.” That global agreement is supposed to be achieved over the next year and finalized at the December 2015 international climate talks in Paris.

And yet, as conservative as the process is, this final synthesis is still incredibly alarming — while at the same time it is terrifically hopeful.

How hopeful? . . .

Continue reading. I’m not so hopeful as the report: the US has to be a leader, but the GOP is firmly committed to increasing the consumption of fossil fuels and claiming that all the science regarding global warming is a hoax. They are not going to change, and the GOP has enough power to prevent meaningful action. So I don’t see that the US will assist in any effort to combat climate change, whose very existence is denied by so many in power and by their supporters.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2014 at 9:19 am

Posted in Global warming

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