Friday, July 31, 2009

Shatner reading Palin

tee hee hee

Here is William Shatner, reading word for word Palin's farewell speech. I have to say, it is kind of beautiful that way. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the Matt Taibi article you have probably heard about

..can be found here or here. If you haven't heard about it, you should have. And you should definitely read it. I nearly failed economics in high school, and almost nothing about the market makes any sense to me, but this is important. In very brief and inadequate summary, Goldman Sachs has been intimately involved in:

1) The Great Stock Market Crash by setting up "investments trusts". "The first effort was the Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation; the bank issued a million shares at $100 apiece, bought all those shares with its own money and then sold 90 percent of them to the hungry public at $104. The trading corporation then relentlessly bought shares in itself, bidding the price up further and further. Eventually it dumped part of its holdings and sponsored a new trust, the Shenandoah Corporation, issuing millions more in shares in that fund — which in turn sponsored yet another trust called the Blue Ridge Corporation."

2) Creating the Internet Bubble by laddering. "Say you're Goldman Sachs, and comes to you and asks you to take their company public. You agree on the usual terms: You'll price the stock, determine how many shares should be released and take the CEO on a "road show" to schmooze investors, all in exchange for a substantial fee (typically six to seven percent of the amount raised). You then promise your best clients the right to buy big chunks of the IPO at the low offering price — let's say's starting share price is $15 — in exchange for a promise that they will buy more shares later on the open market. That seemingly simple demand gives you inside knowledge of the IPO's future, knowledge that wasn't disclosed to the daytrader schmucks who only had the prospectus to go by: You know that certain of your clients who bought X amount of shares at $15 are also going to buy Y more shares at $20 or $25, virtually guaranteeing that the price is going to go to $25 and beyond."

3) Creating the Housing Bubble: "Goldman used two methods to hide the mess they were selling. First, they bundled hundreds of different mortgages into instruments called Collateralized Debt Obligations. Then they sold investors on the idea that, because a bunch of those mortgages would turn out to be OK." But there were regulations to protect against such things so "In 2000, on its last day in session, Congress passed the now-notorious Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which had been inserted into an 11,000-page spending bill at the last minute, with almost no debate on the floor of the Senate. Banks were now free to trade default swaps with impunity."

4) The $4 per gallon gas last year was not supply/demand, but speculation. "Goldman did it by persuading pension funds and other large institutional investors to invest in oil futures — agreeing to buy oil at a certain price on a fixed date." And why were they allowed to do this? The Commodity Futures Trading Commission "issued the bank a free pass, called the "Bona Fide Hedging" exemption, allowing Goldman's subsidiary to call itself a physical hedger and escape virtually all limits placed on speculators. In the years that followed, the commission would quietly issue 14 similar exemptions to other companies."

5) The Bail Out - Goldman gets money from tax payers (13 billion through AIG alone) and "pays back it's debt", a mere 14 million dollars, to the American people. Why so little? "According to Goldman's annual report, the low taxes are due in large part to changes in the bank's "geographic earnings mix." In other words, the bank moved its money around so that most of its earnings took place in foreign countries with low tax rates."

6) Future bubble yet to come - cap and trade, making money off carbon credits.

Obviously this does not read like much in my post, it's just a copy paste of the article, and you should really just go read the thing for yourself. I really hope you do...

Crazy Birther Lady

she and her lot have some serious issues....

Is it OK to paint from photographs?

Conundrum. Please advise. Is it ok? Or is it lame? I know that plenty of really shitty work comes from painting from photos (example here and here and here), but what if it turns out ok, like I think this one did? Do others do it? How can you tell? If not, how on Earth do they manage?

Stumbled upon a beautiful artist today (thanks to Life Spatula and Sadie Jernigan Valeri). Megan Roodenrys from Australia does primarily portraits. This one in particular, entitled "Theresa" caught my eye. I can't stop looking at it. But, did she just paint from the model? Or did she take photos? What do you think???

Update: a spirited discussion happens at the bottom of this page in the comments section. Note "
photograph plagiarizing hobbyists" comments and others.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Harry Potter is So Lame

I mean in the movies, of course! I am a huge, ridiculously so, fan of the Harry Potter novels. It's fair to say that I've read each book at least ten times. And last night I went to see the latest movie, "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince". I think I am with most fans in that I liked the more faithful approach of the first two films (directed by Chris Columbus, screen play by Steve Kloves), I was befuddled by the darkness of the third film (directed by Alfonso Cuaron) and hated (and still do) the ridiculous portrayal of Dumbledore by Michael Gambon, who was brash, unpleasant, and spoke primarily in cheesy fortune cookie one-liners. I made my piece with the darker directing in "The Goblet of Fire" because let's face it, the books were getting darker too. Gambon was in rare form when he began snapping at students and even lunged at Harry at one point, shaking him violently while asking him a simple question. The fifth one and now this latest installment have been directed by a David Yates. I don't even remember much from "The Order of the Phoenix", though I am sure it bugged me in some way or another. But while the latest film is so fresh in my mind I shall make some points about it, all SPOILERS, so if you haven't read the books (and why on Earth not???) or haven't see the film yet, I would suggest you don't read ahead.

First and foremost Daniel Radcliff is a remarkably shitty actor. Sure he isn't very attractive, but that shouldn't be held against a person. He is just plain dull. Think Keanu Reeves and that cow in the headlights out to lunch blank stare. This brings me nicely to the part of the movie that irked me the most - the Harry-Ginny relationship, or rather lack thereof. Harry is supposedly pining for Ginny, and though I knew he was supposed to be (having read the book), I saw no hint of it in the movie until Hermione asks Harry how it feels to be wanting Ginny and not being able to have her. And then (!!!) Ginny kneels down and ties Harry's shoelaces. What!?! Who thought that was a good idea, unless it's supposed to be some kind of "while you are down there" reference. The two do finally share a little peck of a kiss in the Room of Requirements, initiated by Ginny, Harry standing there entirely unresponsive.

On the plot side, they entirely skipped over the speculation about Horcruxes being objects of importance to Riddle, without which I have no idea how Harry and the rest will figure out what objects to search for (the cup, the diadem, etc).

Minor pet peeves also include Harry not being bound by a spell while Dumbledore gets killed, but hiding out of sight (way out of character), and the random attack on and destruction of the Burrow.

Still, weirdly, I thought the movie was overall ok. They managed to cram most of the book in (unlike "Order of the Phoenix", which if I recall correctly was butchered mercilessly). And Ron and Hermione were brilliant, in all respects, including their more developed romance.

P.S. This was such a cute picture of the two of them I had to include it, even though it seems to be from the fourth movie, and I don't recall that scene at all. Perhaps it's photoshopped? Any ideas?

Update: The picture above was created by this person using a scene from "The Prince and Me". Good job!

Incidentally, why are there suddenly over a 1000 views on this post? Is it linked somewhere?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Awesome artist profile - Chris Jordan

I decided to start a new recurring series on this blog, profiling cool artists I stumble across. Today's awesome artist is Chris Jordan. His series "Running with Numbers I and II" bring statistics into perspective. For instance, did you know that two million plastic bottles are used the United States every five minutes? It is an astronomical number, impossible to fathom. And here they are:

Partial zoom:

And fully zoomed in, what you would see if you were looking at it in person (yes, this pictures is this huge, 60x120") :

Here is another one called "Prison Uniforms". It's measures 10 x 23 feet and depicts 2.3 million folded prison uniforms, equal to the number of American incarcerated in 2005.

Full zoom:

"Cans Seurat", 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds.

Full zoom:

His 2009 work, "Gyre", is an 8x11 foot print that shows 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world's oceans every hour.

I encourage you to go to his website, and check out more of Jordan's work. Technically impressive, it is both awe inspiring and completely terrifying. I dare you to look at his plastic bag piece and not switch to reusable bags immediately (if you haven't already. And if you haven't, why on earth not????)