Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Rave reviews and the precedent of Get Out– which was truly something new under the sun and a great entertainment as well– gave me high hopes for Us. It's worth a watch, but kind of a letdown. Neither as scary nor as funny as expected, it's a pretty conventional horror movie dressed up with some undercooked "meta" themes. The acting is ho-hum, except for Lupita Nyong'o of course, who seems to be enjoying herself and eclipses everything and everyone else anytime she is in the frame.

I'd forgotten about Hands Across America. Good times. Jordan could have made more of that. I also learned that if I ever get a smart speaker ("Ophelia" in the movie, hee hee), it's important to enunciate. The consequence of failing to do so in the movie becomes a kind of a stupid joke, although also an opportunity to beef up the soundtrack and to remind us how good Ice Cube was back in the day.

The greatest mystery in the film is where you can find a waterfront house like that place within driving distance of Santa Cruz. Maybe Seattle? Long day trip.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Free college for all?

Kevin Drum brings a few facts to Elizabeth Warren's proposal to eliminate (public) tuition and most student debt. I think his sympathetic skepticism gets it just about right.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 86

My favorite Go-Betweens song. It reminisces experiences I had no part of, but I am nostalgic for them nonetheless.

Table Mountain viewed from the west

Google Maps' 3-D satellite image shows the inverted valley winding its way across the landscape...

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Table Mountain

There are a few different "Table Mountains" in California, but the one I visited for the first time yesterday is near Jamestown in Tuolumne County. It is a plateau formed by volcanic rock. The top features vernal pools that– at least after a nice wet winter like this one– generate a riot of wildflowers. The Wikipedia entry explains the fascinating geology:
Table Mountain is an inverted valley, an elevated landform which follows the former contours of a river valley above level of the surrounding topography, rather than below it. It was created by lava flows which filled an ancient river bed. The resulting igneous rock resisted erosion better than the materials around it, leaving behind a sinuous rock formation elevated above the surrounding landscape.
I was there for the flowers, but the views are spectacular too– to the west, New Melones reservoir, and to the east, in the distance Yosemite's still snowy peaks and directly below, somewhat less appealingly, the Chicken Ranch casino, the surrounding oaks and grassland glowing green.

The dominant flowers on top are lupines, butter-and-eggs, goldfield, and clover. A very special place this time of year.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Interview with Preston McAfee

Interesting throughout. He has served as chief economist at Yahoo and Microsoft. His views on antitrust as it relates to the big tech companies bear special attention as we consider calls by Elizabeth Warren and others to bust up FB, Google, etc. And this...
EF: What was the most surprising part of your transition from being an academic economist to being an economist in a high-tech corporate setting?
McAfee: There's a school of thought that government is inefficient because it can be, while firms, subject to markets, are forced to be efficient. The thing that shocked me the most was how inefficient large firms can be. Sure, there is government waste, but it is commensurate with size and clarity of mission. In one sense, I already knew that large firms could be inefficient — the failure of Kodak and Blockbuster are examples — but it is another thing to live through it.
Hat tip to Tim Taylor.

Sunday, April 7, 2019


I attended and gave a couple presentations at the American Association of Geographers meetings in DC the past few days. It's a huge conference with tremendous breadth of topics and methods. I was most inspired by the poster sessions, where you can wander around and engage a (usually) young scholar in conversation about their work. The undergrad researchers are particularly inspiring.

The cherry blossoms were at their peak, but I didn't find time to join the hoards at the Tidal Basin to gawk at them. Instead, I spent my free afternoon inside, at the National Gallery, with Jacopo Tintoretto. I have been to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, which is justifiably considered Tintoretto's Sistine Chapel. That was probably the greatest artistic experience of my life. The National Gallery exhibition is not the San Rocco, but it provides a broader view of Tintoretto's genius, including his sketches, his impressionistic brushwork, his radical evocation of depth, motion, and narrative, his empathy, and, in particular, his stunning portraits. Some snapshots...