Archive for August 6th, 2011
Have you ever wondered how Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam did his cut-out animations? In the following video, he shows exactly how he did his work, and the techniques he used were quite straight-forward. Gilliam’s results were nonetheless extraordinary thanks to the creative imagination he employed in his work:
Gilliam used thousands of pre-existing images. Watching this video made me wonder whether he was ever sued for copyright violation, given that he created an endless stream of derivative works (I’m assuming that he would invoke fair use).
Even since my workplace put a television screen in the lunch room, I’ve gotten a regular dose of the kinds of things that TV offers. I find it incredibly distressing to see that this is the sort of information America relies on.
Based on my re-acquaintance with live TV, I know that next week, while the financial markets roil (or not), we will have lots of Black Swan moments by all of the financial “experts.” Namely,
The Black Swan Theory or Theory of Black Swan Events is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept that The event is a surprise (to the observer) and has a major impact. After the fact, the event is rationalized by hindsight.
The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:
-The disproportionate role of high-impact, hard to predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance and technology
-The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities)
-The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs.
Truly, I don’t know if there’s any sort of “expert” that annoys me more than financial markets “experts,” especially highly credentialed well-coiffed economists who “explain” things only after they already know that those things have happened. When has any such expert ever had the courage to predict a major development in the market ahead of time? How many “experts” predicted that they market would lose 7% last week (or even predict that it woudl lose 2%?). I suspect that I (and I’m not a financial investment expert) could make up lots of “reasons” for anything the market does, as long as you tell me what happened before I need to give my reasons. If the market went up 1%, I’d say, “You see, the DOW is up 1% because Ben Bernancke stuttered in a press conference and China’s 3rd biggest computer factory is 17 days ahead of schedule. And, oh yeah, because a butterfly flapped its wings in Dayton.” I could get away with this kind of crap for many years, especially if I were a fast-talking TV “expert” whose pathetic record (i.e., whose lack of meaningful predictions) was (almost) never held up to ridicule.
We should make these jokers always videotape their analyses the day prior to the market-day they are analyzing. We should make them record their analyses in that same cock-sure tone of voice they use when they “explain” what has already happened. If we did that, 99% of them would look like idiots. They can’t predict short-term markets any more than a historian can predict what will be in tomorrow’s newspaper. They lack the honesty to say that they don’t know. Or maybe they are so arrogant and dense that Dunning-Kruger runs rampant.
Let the silliness begin on Monday.
Here’s what China says about the United States:
“The U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone,” Xinhua said.
It said the rating cut would be followed by more “devastating credit rating cuts” and global financial turbulence if the U.S. fails to learn to “live within its means.”
“China, the largest creditor of the world’s sole superpower, has every right now to demand the United States to address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China’s dollar assets,” it said.
Xinhua said the U.S. must slash its “gigantic military expenditure and bloated social welfare costs” and accept international supervision over U.S. dollar issues.
Officials at the Treasury Department fought the downgrade until virtually the last minute. Administration sources familiar with discussions said the S&P analysis was fundamentally flawed. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Here is a stunning fact, but by no means newly revealed information: The federal government is borrowing about 40 percent of what it spends.
If some other country were ruining its economy like this, we would scold them, much like China is now scolding us.
I’m feeling down in the dumps these days, and much of my mood is caused by following “the news.” When I do this, I see that on the national level we are represented by a people functioning as psychopathic ignoramuses, with very few exceptions. That’s what our political system does to virtually every person who goes to Washington. We’ve designed an electoral system almost guaranteed to repulse any honest and decent human being. I don’t like to think these thoughts, because letting these ideas soak into much will cause one to stop trying, and I truly despise the idea of not trying.
As I battle my own dark thoughts about America and its political “leaders,” I’m almost finished reading a 900-page collection of George Carlin’s writings titled An Orgy of George. I’m thinking that it might be healthier to let Carlin articulate my dark thoughts so that I can move on to more positive ideas (Carlin can also be upbeat and playful–If you’ve enjoyed his stand-up routines, you’ll enjoy much of this book). In other words, I have recently been engaging in a Carlin catharsis, and here are some of Carlin’s thoughts that seem the most sardonically vivid to me in these difficult times (the following passages, tiny passages from a huge book, are quotes):
If you want to know how fucked up the people in this country are, just look at television. Not the programs, not the news. The commercials. Just watch only the commercials for about a week, and you’ll see how fucked up the people in this country really are.
Think of how it all started: America was founded by slave owners who informed us, “All men are created equal.” All “men,” except Indians, niggers, and women. Remember, the Founders were a small group of unelected, white, male, land-holding slave owners who also, by the way, suggested their class be the only one allowed to vote. To my mind, that is what’s known as being stunningly–and embarrassingly–full of shit. And everybody bought it. All Americans bought it.
And those same Americans continue to show their ignorance with all this nonsense about wanting their politicians to be honest. What are these cretins thinking? Do they realize what they’re wishing for? If honesty were suddenly introduced into American life, everything would collapse. It would destroy this country, because our system is based on an intricate and delicately balanced system of lies.
When the United States is not invading some sovereign nation–or setting it on fire from the air, which is more fun for our simple-minded pilots-we’re usually busy “declaring war” on something here at home. Anything we don’t like about ourselves, we declare war on. We don’t do anything about it, we just declare war. “Declaring war” is our only public metaphor for problem solving. We have a war on crime, a war on poverty, a war on hate, a war on litter, a war on cancer, a war on violence, and Ronald Reagan’s ultimate joke, the war on drugs. More accurately, the war on the Constitution.
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