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Monday, November 24, 2014

The Approach To The Mount Loretto Girls Orphanage

photo: Shaun O'Boyle

Tales From The Drought

There's a yarn hereabouts that the infernal drought has got so bad in Californie that even the sea coast is beginnin' ta dry up!

pix:   stefanparis: changing world

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Extremely Close And...

I watched Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close again.

Of course, I liked it again. I give it just over 92% in my Rotten Tomatoes rating system, and sucks to the critics and the audiences who poo-pooed it.
I paid close attention this time......

(By now, if you have read this blog long enough, you must sense that I have a bit of a problem paying attention to things which are not my real focus at the moment. I mean, in the film we are talking about, I could have been paying too much attention to the fact that Viola Davis cracks open the door and does not want Thomas Horn's character to enter and looked exactly the same as she did in Solaris when she did not want George Clooney's character to enter her cabin.
I coulda been doin' that.)

... and I understood the grandfather storyline.

Now I suppose that the critics say that the reunion of the grandfather (Max von Sydow, who incharacter was to have witnessed the death of his parents in Dresden... probably the Fire Storms) with the family after the death of his son (Tom Hanks) in the World Trade Center, and particularly his new relationship with his grandson (Thomas Horn) is rather unbelievable and saccharine.

However, when I followed it along - resisting diversions, which were plenty, I can assure you, such as taking tambourines along and shaking them to keep one's cool! - I realized that the story was no sugary nonsense, but it immediately reminded me of the play Copenhagen, in which the characters of Werner Heisenberg, the German atomic scientist, and Niels Bohr, the Danish genius behind Quantum Theory, had so achingly much to say to each other.
They had so much that they met in the midst of World War II, but discovered that they could not really open up and talk like Buber's "Ich und Du" - I and Thou. They discovered they had to wait until after death until they could speak in Copenhagen.
(To my mind, that almost defeats "I and Thou".)

That is no small thing.
So there had to be a Death intervention before the grandfather could come back to his family. Good. There had been enough Death, so why begrudge an ending with Life?

I suppose if everyone had died in Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close that the critics would have been somewhat more positive.

Life should be all sugar, honey.


Old Doc Landon

My old sawbones sent this along, saying that he used it to scare me back in the day.


Scrimmage At The Institute Of Arts

Ms. Gabriela Montaño de Bolivia

Ms. Montaño, who lives in Bolivia, is my ideal political-type-person.
I do not know where to start, so I won't.

However, when I attended a lecture by Edouard Duval-Carrié on the Arts of Haiti at the Detroit Institute of Arts (The DIA) , and the lecture was plagued with electronic problems, and I asked whether it was because we were in Danto Hall (playing on the closeness of "Danto" with Elizi "Dantor", which is often spelled Dantò anyway.... so I thought "Close enough."

So Elizi Dantor is a lwa or power of Haiti with which one should not get on the bad side of. In fact, one should never mess with any of the powers of Haiti, or of anywhere else, for that matter. 

Of course, my suggestion implied that M. Duval-Carrié had in some undefined way "messed" with the aforementioned Elizi Dantò (using the variant spelling), so he took offense, upset enough already by the shambles of his lecture.

I was sitting three seats away from a lady who looked exactly like Ms. Gabriela Montaño, so I was in heaven.

If you know anything about Elizi Dantor, it will be clear that she had picked me to be on her team for that day! We were "Skins", the others were "Shirts".

 Edouard Duval-Carrié


Getting In Shape For Thanksgiving

Even though this cartoon is for Christmas ( Natal ) rather than Thanksgiving, the thoughts remain the same.

Loose translation:

Lady on Treadmill:  You really have to lose weight for Christmas.

Turkey on Treadmill:    Even if it kills me...

Everything I know about Portuguese, I learned on the Net. I think it is a totally wizard and shaman way to learn a new lingo. Next I shall attempt English.

reprint from past Thanksgivings

Acceptable Statistics Of The Heart Rending Kind

After a great deal of study and soul-searching (!?), it has been determined that the following story is an Acceptable Statistic - and thus receives a big "thumbs up!" - of a Modern Weaponized Society:

Boy With Toy Gun Shot By Cleveland Police Dies At Hospital

Mark Hanrahan, International Business Times
UPDATE 11:14 a.m.: The 12-year-old Cleveland boy shot by police has died, a representative from the Cleveland police union confirmed to the Cleveland Plain Dealer....
 A police officer in Cleveland shot a 12-year-old boy who pulled a realistic-looking toy gun from his waistband Saturday. The boy, who was shot in the stomach, was in “serious condition” and undergoing surgery...
The officers responding to the report saw a group of people sitting outside the rec center and a black gun on a table in front of them. The boy picked up the gun and put it in his waistband. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer description of the incident, one officer told the boy who had picked up the gun to raise his hands, after which the boy grabbed the gun from his waistband. An officer then fired two shots, one of which hit the boy in the stomach.

WOIO-TV, Cleveland, reported the weapon was subsequently determined to be an “airsoft”-type replica, and an orange safety indicator clip that normally would be around the muzzle had been removed.

Another thing we did not hear about in the last election. Heck, things are tough everywhere.


Misperceptions Of Celebrity

I always thought that celebrities merely had to snap their fingers from the back of the limo, and heaps of willing guys and dolls would respond to be their playmates. I did, really. I thought that celebrity had an aura about it that made hooking up the simplest of the day's tedious chores.

Apparently not.
Bill Cosby was a celebrity going back to the 60s, and he was popular for a long time, yet he required drugs to ensnare someone into having sex with him. The running total today - on the totalizator bar running in Time Square - has 12 drugged, 1 attempted drugging, and 3 otherwise misled or overpowered.
And these cases are old, back in the times when he was actually good looking, not at all like the fuzzy, mottled, keratin-blistered antiquity of today.

Everything about this situation is disgusting, including my interest.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Yet Another War

Do you have any idea how  cool  is a right wing war on science?
That would be a true global game changer!

The Battle Of Iraq

There are some of soft heart and weaker mind that say that President Obama pulled the troops from Iraq too early. We should have left them there for another ten years or so, or just until everything was hunky-dory.

A nation and a people have to fight their own battles.
The USA did in the American Revolution. We had help from the French, but the most critical help was the fleet at Yorktown, not troops on the ground.

We can help, but everyone has to fight their own battles. Otherwise, they will never be free.


Duchess Of Alba

She-who-must-be-obeyed was perusing the NY Times...

(I call it the Nī Tī - I mention that even though you could care less. I refer to the Xinhua of China as Xin Xin, and nobody cares, either.
Le Figaro of France is il Barbieri, and Al Jazeera is  D'j'a read uh?, as in "Did you read it?" , which is supposed to be a joke - not one person has laughed yet - based on the Arabic word for "newspaper" Jareeda.)

and she mentioned that the Duchess of Alba had passed.

I said that I had seen a photo of her earlier, and she looked like a crazed Ruth Gordon. I hesitated briefly before adding that when I said "crazed Ruth Gordon", I was not being redundant.


The Meeting Of The Film Society 1

I am watching Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds again on Turner Classic Movies (Huzzah for TCM!), and for the first time I am appreciating it for how well executed it is. I am also enjoying seeing Tippi Hedren as an actress, instead of a Hitchcock protegée.

(Of course, it is not as quite as perfect as School Of Rock with Jack Black, which was perfect in all regards, from writing to acting to directing to wardrobe to editing to sound to Foley artistry, etc.,etc., etc.
School Of Rock had the extra added gold star of ignoring the question of what immediately happened in the aftermath of the story. There were scenes at the end showing how things were in the near future, but it totally - and correctly! - ignores the ridiculous business of trying to square a fantasy with reality; i.e., how the kids and their fast-tracking parents were immediately reconciled to having lost a semester of studies.
One does not reconcile fantasy with reality within the context of the film. School Of Rock did a slight return to the normal world by adding those scenes at the ending credits, which did not detract from the main story in the slightest.)

I find myself liking The Birds a good deal. Of course, there is the lovely Veronica Cartwright, whom I would not see again until Alien some fourteen years later, and a mesmerizing Jessica Tandy who floats like a butterfly and stares like a cobra.

I think it a shame Tippi Hedren did not have a more robust career as an actress. Unfortunately, with a first name such as "Tippi", I suppose most of us expected her to be associated intimately with "Longstockings", or something along those lines.


The Dizzy Distaff Side Of Commentary

 Politician, Commentator, Author, and Quitter

Sarah Palin apparently said - in reaction to President Obama's speech on immigration - that we should round up (or did she say Round Up™  !?) all the Mexicans and put them into boats and send them back across the ocean to Mexico.

Perhaps she had them mixed up with the Vietnamese with whom we actually do share a common border.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

中國戲曲... ... 好消息

I do not know if that is exactly correct, but "Chinese Opera"! Yay! Huzzah!

There is another coming to the area, and I'll be able to attend.

The first Chinese Opera I went to in Ann Arbor, I moaned and groaned for the first ten minutes. Then, suddenly, I became totally enchanted by the beauty of all the arts upon the stage.


Old Man River 2

If the certitude of death is like falling into the dark ocean and finding the bottom just 2 feet down, then the absolute of the Holy is like having a hand reach out and grab you to end your fall.

Such certainty transcends the need for knowledge.


Mad Max's Oil Futures

"GDP Rose Again For The 6th Straight Month..."

At CBS MoneyWatch

there is an eye-opening and rather alarming article for those believers in a constant march upwards of Progress and Gross Domestic Product.
Succinctly, there is work suggesting that after a recession, the economy does not return to long term trend of GDP, ratherthe trend line itself tends to lower a bit and make it look like the GDP has returned to the trend line.

The economy doesn't return to trend so much as the trend is revised downward to reflect weaker economic output.


The conclusion is that demand shocks may have a permanent impact on a country's GDP. In short, the shocks are not fully reversed over time as economists have long believed. What does that mean in practice? In the job market, it could mean that the long-term unemployed never find work.
If the Fed researchers are correct, that has enormous implications for what might be necessary to help the U.S. economy get back on track. Government policies to maintain employment -- by modernizing the country's aging roads, bridges and other infrastructure, for example -- may avoid some of the permanent effects of the cataclysm that followed the 2008 financial crisis.

What does this mean?

Well, I find it rather astounding, as it flies in the face of our quaint faith in progress.

It is the Science Fiction of Dystopian Futures made Mathematical and Real.


It's In The Blood

Two Palestinians entered a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood and carried out a terrible terrorist attack with butcher knives and a gun, killing a number of them. The attackers were killed by security forces.

The right wing government of Israel then attacked upon their mediaeval belief that terrorism is in the DNA, and thus ordered that the houses of the families of the terrorists be destroyed, driving their families into homelessness.
It is not enough that the terrorist be killed.
It is a good thing to see that terrorism is a racial characteristic of Palestinians, and all relatives of terrorists must be dealt with harshly.
“Do not discriminate between blood and blood,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday night, calling for international condemnation of a murderous attack inside a synagogue that morning. Moments later, he announced the steps he plans to take in response to the senseless bloodletting.

“This evening I ordered the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the massacre and the hastening of the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the earlier attacks,” Netanyahu told the nation, asking it to allow the state to settle scores on its behalf.

Five months earlier, Netanyahu made a similar statement after the horrific murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. “We don’t distinguish between [Palestinian] terror and [Jewish] terror, and will deal severely with both,” the prime minister said, vowing to bring the full force of the law down upon the murderers, who he said, “have no place in Israeli society.”

Of course, Netanyahu — like his predecessors — does discriminate between blood and blood, and he does distinguish between Jewish terror and Palestinian terror.

The prime minister did not order the police or army to demolish family homes of the suspects in the Abu Khdeir murder. Then again, they, and their families who live in said homes, are Jewish....

and from CNN:
Local media reports said one of the attackers worked at a store in the area. Freshly plastered signs on one wall read, "Jews Employ Jews."

A sign on a storefront that reads "Jews Employs Jews"... or Juden beschäftigen Juden...
What does that remind me of?

 Where else have I seen storefronts emblazoned with slogans that begin with the word "Jews"... or Juden?

Racism is still a prime weapon in the arsenal of violence. It is the proverbial two-edged sword which injures he who wields it as well as he who is struck by it.

Yet in the arena of our blood lust, who has time to contemplate such wisdom?
Ashkelon mayor Itamar Shimoni raised the ire of leftists on Wednesday after he ordered to temporarily stop the employment of Arab construction workers who are tasked with building protected spaces in educational institutions in the city...
As if the important point were the "ire of leftists".
The mayor did what he did for what he considered good reasons. Fine. I do not disagree, for there are always good reasons.
We are still dealing with good people here, so there are always good reason when we are dealing with good people. It is a tough call, isn't it? Add to it that everyone has a "belief system" in which the God of the universe agrees with them and them alone.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Odd Comments

 A Number Of Seamen

I have a couple of comments from the honorable Mr. Semen Rendi.

He touts cars and boats. He has an odd name.

He reminds me of the odd joke about the overweight person who says, "I'm on a sea food diet; if I see food, I eat it."

Mr. Rendi sells boats. Perhaps he is on a seamen diet.


Old Man River

Tomorrow my elder brother has the first of his 4 (minimum) operations to replace hips and knees. The ops themselves are not that much anymore, but there is general anesthesia, secondary infections, recovery, re-hab, and pre-existing conditions that may complicate things.

Earlier I was listening to the film Show Boat, and zeroed in on the song Old Man River, and I thought how interesting that sequence of arts is - a sequence being the novel and its history, the play and its history, the films, and the revivals.

I thought of Paul Robeson, and the mystic of the music that tells the story of oppression below the surface of white consciousness, slipping like water through an old earthen dam in that would collapse one day.

To be tired of living and to be scared of dying was sharp-pointed: was it uniquely American in its truly anti-Zorba spirit of abject acquiescence of a vicious status quo between the poles of life and death?

Later, upon waking from my nap, I saw my younger brother, who had passed just over a month ago. We took a ride over the ontology falls of the dream Zambezi, and things went really quite fast.
However, he said that Death is absolute certitude.
I asked whether he meant something like,
"The only sure things are death and taxes."

It was sort of like it.
We went to the dark sea where I had fallen once through the icy depths of despair, and it was a black, black sea with a wind not too strong blowing over the face of it. It was a dark, endless abyssal ocean without horizon of hope.
We jumped in, and it was about 2 feet deep!
So we walked about a bit.
And he indicated that was certitude: no abyss, no descent, just sure and steady sea floor beneath us.

What need is there of all the human tricks of knowledge in Death? In absolute certitude, there is no need of cunning, intelligence, curiosity, or fear.

Certitude never changes.

(By contrast, the final scene in the film Take Shelter discovers to us the bottom of the sea, where we did not step in, but the ocean was ripped from us, where the inconstant water has pulled far away, preparing to sweep in and change Everything.
Here the bottom of the ocean requires flight, cunning, fear, hope, technology of escape... as if we can gaze upon it, but only stand firm for a fleeting second.)


Monday, November 17, 2014

New Words: Slum-Rise

A combination of "slum" and "high-rise" is "slum-rise", as in
"We have just rented a fab slum-rise near the favela."


The Rosetta Probe: Oh, Alexandria!

 Rashid (Rosetta) on the Nile

Having written about the European Space Agency Rosetta probe the other day, I recalled something.

In 1879, Sir Richard Burton wrote in his Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madina and Meccah:

Alexandria, moreover, is an interesting place to Moslems, on account of the prophecy that it will succeed to the honours of Meccah, when the holy city falls into the hands of the indidel. In its turn, Alexandria will be followed by Kairawan (in the Regency of Tunis); and this by Rashid or Rosetta, which last shall endure to the end of time.


"Pallywood" !?

 Palestinian Extras Cutting Prop "Barbed Wire" 
During the Filming of Intifada: The Prequel

This sort of jumped out at me since I had just seen the film Interstellar and had my attention riveted by the fact that its depiction of the future had our elementary schools teaching Science wherein the Apollo moon landings were said to be staged film productions.
By Larry Derfner
|Published November 15, 2014 

‘Pallywood’: A particularly ugly ethnic slur

And a very popular one among right-wing Israelis and Diaspora Jews.

I’ve been writing for years against the “Pallywood” theory – the right-wing notion that videos showing Palestinians getting killed by Israelis are really elaborate fakes meant to blacken Israel’s name. Yet it’s only this morning I realized that the term “Pallywood,” which was coined by Boston University Prof. Richard Landes (see below note A), is an ethnic slur, and a particularly ugly one.

It not only mangles the name of an entire people, it does so in the most contemptuous context – it links the name Palestinian with the telling of lies, and not just any lies, but lies about Palestinian deaths at the hands of their conquerors.

Pallywood. Compared to that, referring to New York as “Hymietown” is mild stuff.

What a bigoted term Landes invented, and what a popular one it is in the Israeli/right-wing Jewish political lexicon. A Google search for “Pallywood” this morning turned up 406,000 entries. There’s a Wikipedia page for it, too.

And I didn’t even notice how vicious an insult it was until now, which says a lot about how living in Israel makes you numb to abuses of Palestinian, or Arab, or Muslim dignity: In Israel, we Jews say things about them that they could never get away with saying about us.

Note A
Richard Allen Landes (born June 26, 1949) is an American historian and author, specializing in Millennialism. He coined the racist term "Pallywood" for what he considers the practice of "staged filming" of "evidence" against Israel for the benefit of the Palestinians. He currently serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Boston University. Landes was the director of the now quiescent Center for Millennial Studies.

Landes is notable for views on the use of film footage related to conflicts in Israel, in particular his use of the term Pallywood (Palestinian Hollywood), which is described by Ruthie Blum, writing in the Jerusalem Post, as a term coined by Landes to refer to "productions staged by the Palestinians, in front of (and often with cooperation from) Western camera crews, for the purpose of promoting anti-Israel propaganda by disguising it as news." Landes himself describes Pallywood as "a term I coined... to describe staged material disguised as news." Landes cites the film of the shooting of Muhammad al-Durrah, the Gaza beach blast and Hamas's alleged exploitation of electricity shortages during the 2007–2008 Israel-Gaza conflict, as incidents of Pallywood...

The algorithms of big lies.


גולאג פרטית משלי

My Own Private Gulag...

soon in our neighborhoods... sooner than one thinks.

In 972mag
By Noam Sheizaf
|Published June 1, 2014

Israel renews restrictions on nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu

Despite serving 18 years in prison, including 11 in solitary confinement, Vanunu is forbidden from traveling and speaking to the media. Recently, he was denied a permit to speak before the British Parliament, following an invitation by 54 MPs.

The Israeli interior minister and the IDF Central Command have decided to extend restrictions on nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu’s freedom of movement and speech. Vanunu’s attorney, Avigdor Feldman, has been notified on the decision and told +972 Magazine he will once again petition the High Court of Justice on Vanunu’s case.

Since his release from prison in 2004, Vanunu hasn’t been allowed to leave Israel, enter a foreign consulate or embassy, come within 500 meters of an international border, port or airport or enter the West Bank. He is forbidden from speaking to journalists, and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) monitors all foreign nationals with whom he meets. The Shin Bet must also approve Vanunu’s meetings with a foreign national who the Israeli media says is his partner.

Last month, Vanunu’s request to travel to London for a three-day visit was denied. He had been invited to speak before the British Parliament (his invitation was signed by 54 MPs) as well as to attend an Amnesty International event. Feldman also petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice against that decision...

Mr. Vanunu's photo is on the right upper column.

Some people on the West Bank have communal prisons that are located within the archipelago of settlements of doubtful legality...  other than the legality of conquest.... which, to put not too fine a point on it, Macht geht vor Recht.
Mr. Vanunu has his own private gulag, and it is in a Siberia of contradictions.


The World As Thing

Siefried Kracauer

Reading Siegfried Kracauer's great book From Caligari To Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film published in 1947 In the present section, he is writing of the German films in the early years of The Great Depression, and has just finished discussing UFA's production of Mensch Ohne Namen (Man Without A Name) made in 1932 and starring Werner Krauss.
The next paragraph begins:
Times were indeed so bad that even qualified specialists could not count on re-employment once they had been dismissed.
Indeed!We have gone through such times.

Kracauer picks up the thread with a discussion of Die Gräfin von Monte Christo (The Countess of Monte Cristo) of 1932, another UFA film. Brigitte Helm is cast as a film extra cast as a leading lady. While shooting at night, she drives her luxury car used in the film to a real de luxe hotel, where she is treated royally because of her impressive luggage emblazoned with "Countess of Monte Cristo".
Things happen, and eventually she is found out. With a flair for publicity, the film company soothes over things with the hotel and turns the escapade into a great front-page story which is good for everyone involved: the film is on everyone's lips and she gets a good contract.
So ends that story,
...proving conclusively what all these screens opiates tended to demonstrate: that everyday life itself is a fairy tale.

It sounds so much like Reality TV, which itself is crudely and cheaply scripted, and is so remote from "reality" that when a member of the cast commits suicide, all references to such unpleasantness have to be removed from the film already shot... all this in order to maintain the diseased  fairy tale illusion of our modern lives.

We allow illusions, because we treat the world as an "it", an object which we manipulate.
When we pray to God for something, we are treating the Holy as an object to be cajoled and manipulated into giving us miracles.

Only the film companies can work miracles!



I often feel subject to the following criticism:


US Equity Markets

 Norway's Flag

We have an unfortunate tendency to be uninformed and desirous of remaining so. It is reflected in our political choices. The most recent elections here contained no mention whatsoever of the US deficit, a topic which was all the rage a few years ago.

If the topic is important, the ignoring of it in a hotly contested election needs explanation.

The explanation is that even the greatest issues are poorly understood, and this ignorance is the breeding grounds of the illiterate frenzy which we are whipped into by politicians and our media. I mean, why should any public figure or media company try to supply real information when ideology is so much more lucrative?

Anyway, the deficit is decreasing. After having sky-rocketed during the years of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and a Republican House of Representatives that never saw a spending bill they did not like  (remember Dennis Hastert's time as leader of the House?), the deficit is down to about where it was in the middle of the Reagan years.

So.... success.
A success that electorally seems to mean nothing.
I mean, you would think that that very fact of deficit reduction would be meaningful to the people who were so obsessed by it just 2 years ago; you would think it would be entered under the "feathers in our cap" column, instead of under "black eyes"...  or "Baghdadi beheadings".

The point of this post is our understanding of US equity and bond markets. I will wager that most of us think they are rather massive and monolithic and overly regulated.
Not quite.

In Bloomberg we read:

Norway Wealth Fund Outsmarts Flash Boys as Algorithms Abandoned
By Saleha Mohsin Nov 16, 2014 6:01 PM ET

Oeyvind Schanke, head of asset strategies at Norway’s $860 billion sovereign wealth fund, has worked out how to dodge traders in the U.S. trying to profit on his orders by leaving no pattern for them to track.

Investors who want to pre-empt trades by the world’s biggest sovereign-wealth fund and act on that information to make a profit -- a practice known as front running -- won’t have much success, he said.

“We’ve done a lot to try and avoid leaving those patterns,” Schanke said in a Nov. 14 interview at the Oslo headquarters of the fund. “We’re trading less using algorithmic trading now than we did some years ago and are doing much more trading in large block sizes to avoid pattern-reading.”

Norges Bank Investment Management, which runs the wealth fund as part of the central bank, held about $150 billion in U.S. stocks at the end of September, according to its latest quarterly report. It holds $500 billion in stocks globally and is Europe’s biggest investor. Schanke, who started at the fund as a trader in 2001, oversees which companies and instruments it invests in from NBIM’s London office.


The investor’s biggest challenge in the U.S. is the fragmented market structure, which has driven up costs across as many as 52 trading venues, introducing a “latency overcharge,” Schanke said.

The market as he sees it “isn’t good enough for raising investor confidence,” which has been an issue in the U.S. since the financial crisis and was deepened by the flash crash of May 2010. While the solution isn’t necessarily public ownership of exchanges, he said a closer look at the existing regulation could help make markets less complicated.

“Some of the things that an exchange does are in a way a utility function,” Schanke said.

The fund in June said it supported Brad Katsuyama’s IEX Group Inc. exchange because it allows “all players to participate on the same terms.” ...

I should think a fragmented market structure is a considerable impediment to our economic dream world "perfect" markets with "perfect" information available to all investors.
And I remember the Flash Crash, and I remember that subsequently people on the Street spoke of almost daily occurrences of computer-induced volatility.

At least the deficit is coming down, even though no one noticed.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Real Decoy

The New York Times crossword had an unusual word today. The clue was "feints" and the answer was "dekes".

"Dekes"?!  As in "he dekes me out." ??

I thought they had gone to a dialect dictionary of Yorkshire to find that, but it turns out to be a Canadianism.
Having spent many years at school in Canada, my wrath was throttled somewhat. I rarely spill vitriol all over the Great White North, but upon reading further, I let loose with a condemnation of the land of Steven Harper.

It turns out "deke" derives from "decoy". It was used in hockey for the short-of-breath to refer to a feint, or a move intended to deceive the opponent. "To deke" is "to decoy" or "to misled by a quick movement". Or, as we say in basketball, "to fake someone out".

However, since the Canadians were on to a good thing, they could not leave well enough alone.
There is another usage which means "to make a side trip"; a real side trip, not a phoney side trip intended to deceive.
For example,
"Before we get home, I'm going to deke down the Danforth  (or "down the Mortimer" or "down the Dawes" or "down the Victoria Park" or whatever definite articulate road we may be near!)  and pop into the jug milk store!"
Jug milk store.
There's Canada-speak for ya: jug milk.
Personally, I calls it the Maxie Milk Store at the sign of the Kerry dancing Cat. People in Canada think I'm really Canadian then; a bit provincial, but definitely from the right side of the Love Canal.

My favorite Canuck store is, of course, St. Hubert chicken:

Anyway, so there it is; "to deke" means both "to deceive with a phoney side step" and "to make a real side trip".  It is ever cool to have such a blanket concept to cover both the true and the false. Such things could revolutionize philosophy and belief systems.

We in the States. alas, have no wit to conjure up such things.
The only coupling of concepts that I can think of that comes close to the Canadian "Deke (fake and real)" is the well worn pair:



The Real McCoy.

Some may say I have taken liberties here, but !!!!!!.....................

I have "deked" you !   (In both senses).


He Who Lives By The Sword... Yadda-Yadda-Yadda

Interesting turn of events in Solnechnogorsky district, Russian Federation.
The entire story is at:

Two men who reportedly fought with the Russian-backed separatists in southeastern Ukraine have been charged with murder of two traffic policemen in Moscow Region, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

Denis Konstantinov, 26, a native of Gorlovka in Ukraine, and Denis Zhukov, 28 a native of Lisichansk in Ukraine have been charged with the shooting deaths of two traffic policemen in Solnechnogorsky District of Moscow Region.

The two policemen on patrol were found dead the night of November 2 on the highway in Perepechino, a suburb of Moscow. Their colleagues noticed they had stopped responding to radio calls and went to look for them.
The cops were in the middle of writing up a ticket on the operators of the vehicle for driving while intoxicated when they were shot; one  policeman was found dead still clutching the ticket. The other was found to have a bullet missing from his gun, and may have tried to shoot back.

A third suspect, Mikhail Konstantinov of Krasnogorsky District in Moscow Region, 35, is wanted by police. According to investigators, Denis Konstantinov and Zhukov came to visit Mikhail Konstantinov. They are still trying to determine why they went to the nearby Solnechnogorsky District and whether they were involved in the murder of the traffic policemen.
According to one witness, the men may have been drinking and decided to visit prostitutes, as they had indicated such plans the previous day.

A fourth man in the car with them, a native of Ukraine, was wounded in the shoot-out with police and has been hospitalized. Police have ruled out a connection between this case and another incident in which two bodies were found in a burn-out car in Solnechnogorsky District.

Photos on the popular Russian social media site VKontakte show Denis Konstantinov posing by an armored vehicle in camouflage.


The same news story appeared on Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP), but seems to have been deleted...
 ... They call that blowback: Russian 'volunteers' on leave from Ukraine suspected in cop killing outside Moscow...


Society By Committee

 The Aged Crone Sophie as Depicted by Miyazaki

Western culture doesn’t tend to find the crone all that interesting, barely ever one tall enough to stretch out of a trope.

Society is continuous action and interaction and negotiations and palaver between the many people which make it up. This process raises the valleys, lower the hills, smooths the rough edges, and calibrates as much as is needed for the people involved to be able to form a community.

That is why Western Media culture is lacking in meaning and depth: it is overly homogenized, not only being put into a blender for all the various groups that make up society, but also for the overwhelming demands of the corporate Media to have "stuff" to pander 24 and 7.

That is why Ms. Borders needs to resurrect the symbol of the Crone.


A Hair Of The Genius That Bit Him

Howl's Amateurish Moving Castle

Again in Medium, we read about writing by Ben Dolnick.

and come across a wee nip of the creature-genius that inhabits each of us, but needs to be coaxed out with a bit of cake or effort:

...While I was writing my song, I wasn’t worrying about whether I was a songwriter, or whether what I was doing was any good, or whether songwriting, as an art-form, had seen its best days come and go. My mind was too busy with a series of logistical puzzles: How could this part be made to fit with that one? What would happen if I took this chord and flipped it on its head? Could this line be made better? Amateurism, for once, seemed not a specter to be feared but a gift to be treasured. And it’s a gift I intend to smuggle back with me into the realm of fiction-writing.

“A writer,” Donald Barthelme said, “is one who, embarking upon a task, does not know what to do.”
This line, which had always struck me as terrifying, a Beckettian howl of wind across a wasted landscape, looked now, in the wake of my attempt at songwriting, like a curious kind of reassurance, even an inspiration. The fear, the self-doubt, the befuddlement: Yes, exactly! You’re on the right track! In novel-writing, no less than in songwriting, the freedom from strictures need not merely be a problem: it can also be the point. A license that was never truly granted can, after all, never truly be revoked.

Seen this way, how lucky I am, really, to spend each day participating in the never-ending apprenticeship that is writing. How silly to imagine that an endeavor as mysterious as creation — whether of a song or a novel — could, or should, ever be approached routinely. We see the pit, we nod hello to it — and we take a step.

I rush to point out that this holds true with most of our human endeavors, including that of experiences of the Holy.

If you cling to dogma, you will experience dogma. But if you take the leap into the unknown - the quest into the desert, the night journey, the ascent of Sinai, the concourse with the suffering of the world - you will nod hello to Holy.


From The Small To The Great

This is not an exoplanet somewhere in the universe, awaiting our Interstellar quest of the near or far future. This is a soap bubble.

The article is in Medium, which seems to be a good little place to read.

I wanted to ramble on about Julia sets and Mandelbrot and objects which reproduce seemingly random events on the small scale all the way up to the large...
but I decline.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Extremely Deja Vu And Incredibly Magnifique!

Have you seen the film Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close ?

I think it is one of my favorite films now. It has gotten only 46% approval from Rotten Tomatoes approved critics and a 62% from Rotten Tomatoes audiences. I like that better than anything: to disagree with everyone about it.

I will be brief about my criticism of the criticism.
On Rotten Tomatoes:
Critics Consensus:
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has a story worth telling, but it deserves better than the treacly and pretentious treatment director Stephen Daldry gives it.

I have written briefly about my daughter, who lived in New York at the time.

The memories still move me to tears, and there are places in the film where the young Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell hears his father's messages from the World Trade Center that I have to fast forward through even now.
Perhaps what critics deem "treacly" and "pretentious" is a manner of story telling that allows those who still feel the pain to be able to deal with the story. The only thing I fault in the film is the story of the grandfather, played by Max von Sydow, but this seems to be one of those truncated things that ended up on the editing room floor.
There seems to be no real resolution to that part of the story, but maybe I missed it. I'm watching it again, so I'll pay close attention.

Anyway, in case you noticed, Viola Davis as Abbey Black first meeting Oskar Schell opens her front door just a crack and resists his attempts to enter her house...

...which just throws me back to Viola Davis as Captain Gordon, the person in charge of the Solaris space station in the 2002 Solaris. She opens her cabin door just a crack, and resists George Clooney's attempts to enter.

Sometimes I wish I had a tambourine to keep me calm and cool.


Mitt Liv Som Vampyr

(My Life as a Vampire)

“…the inadequacy of our plans,our contingencies, every missed train, the failed picnics, every lie to a child.”

John Malkovich as F.W.Murnau in The Shadow of the Vampire.

On Mothers’ Day we couldn’t go to my mother’s because of her dogs and my daughter’s allergy. Ditto Fathers’ Day.

We used to have picnics with our dearest friends on Fathers’ Day. The fathers would play tennis. The mothers minded the children and laid out the picnic.

We don’t do that anymore.

The failed picnics…and our contingencies...the shadows of the vampire.


Dysney Dystopia


Friday, November 14, 2014

Die Leiden des jungen Montags (The Sorrows of Young Montag)

My daughter and her husband were traveling through Georgia like a film reel of Sherman's March To The Sea run backwards, going from Savannah back to Atlanta, and according to the glowing praises of the Georgian cooking, foraging like royalty off the rich produce of the land.

They visited the National Center For Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. They found that it wonderfully fulfilled its mission, as described on its website:
The mission of The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is to empower people to take the protection of every human's rights personally. Through sharing stories of courage and struggle around the world, The Center encourages visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the role they play in helping to protect the rights of all people.
My daughter sent me the photograph above, which is in a display at the Center.

She-who-must-be-obeyed wondered over it for a bit, not quite divining why our daughter had sent it to me. When I looked at it, it was quite obvious: it looked like young me and a young picture of gramps on my mother's side.

Of course, we did not know what context the photo appeared in. This caused me some premonitory whim-whams, knowing my daughter as I do. I thought there was a 70-30 chance the context in which the photo appeared would not be to my liking.

It looked vaguely Eastern Europe with German troops at some unpleasant time, perhaps...

In other words, I thought that there was only a 30% likelihood that the photo appears in the National Center For Civil And Human Rights with a caption resembling:
"Handsome Bloke Stands Up For Justice!"

Again, there was only a 30% chance that I was Mr. August in a  calendar of hunky guys from the shtetls.

Appositely and oppositely, there was a sneaking suspicion that there was a 70% prob. that this was a young man standing outside the local SS office, waiting to sign up.

I was seriously conflicted. I take my diverse heritage seriously.
I also take it in a medley of dyslexia.
For example, my mother loves Werther's Original Caramel candies, those butterscotch colored, melt in your mouth lozenges of joy. For me, however, they are ganz verboten mainly because they (1) make me sad, and (2) are considered a bad omen.

I know the reason why this is so is very obvious, but I shall be tedious and explain it all again:
Goethe wrote a novel titled  Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, or The Sorrows Of Young Werther.
Young Werther ends up (Spoiler Alert !!!) a suicide, so the combination of "sorrows" and "suicide" makes an acronymic "ss" and that's too many "s" for me.
So I do not eat Werther's Candy... mostly out of a sense of support for his family in their ongoing battle to receive royalties for the use of Werther's name.

That's diverse dyslexia.

So it turns out that the photo was that of a young lad, one of the gay blades of German-occupied Poland, who was watching an involuntary beard-trimming of old Jewish men. It was the fashion at the time.
So there was grandfather - or even uncle! -  Stanislaw Augustus (named after the king!) hooting at anti-Semitic hijinks.

I guess I always knew it.


What's Up With 2017?

The next Prez election is 2016.

There. I have the concept of the year 2016 in my head, sort of fuzzy, but it's there. I also have a faint glimmer of 2015 and 2016; 2016 is the year during which money will flow into politics like Orcs into the mines of Moria.
2016 is in my head pretty good.
I have 2012 and 2013 in there, too. Those were the years of taking care of my father and the efflorescence of funerary rites: 4 important people and my mother's cat... whom, truth be told, she probably misses more than anyone else.

2014 is well ensconced in the old noggin. It a year of Big Sucks, but no one can deny that it is in the cranium, doing its dirty work. I hear a whimper from 2018 and a sluggish stumble from 2019.

2017 is not there, however.

This rather surprised me last night, because I could "sense" all the other years, but there was nothing for 2017.

What I mean by this is the following:
If you remember my post "Detroit Tigers Win The Central Division !"  when the Detroit Tigers were playing the Minnesaota Twins towards the end of the baseball season, (
you may recall that my friend and I made a bet on the outcome of that baseball game. We thought thought the Tigers would win, so we bet on the number of runs by which they would win.

He - poor schlemiel! - sort of ran over the entire baseball season in his head, tried to remember how Detroit did against the Minnesota Twins during the year so far, juggled probabilities and made Bayesian allowances for things like spirit, enthusiasm, and made a show of rationality at its best.

I, on the other hand, imaged numbers. There were the numbers 1,2,3, 4, and 5.

The numbers 1 and 2 immediately went blank, suggesting there was no way these were the numerals I sought. 4 and 5 remained visible, but immediately began to waver and get fuzzy, and sort of fade out. 3 glowed like a champ and filled the CRT screen of me mind's eye, and I held up three fingers of the left hand to him, saying the Tigers would win by three runs.

Of course, they did.
Lucky guess. All I care about is being right, not the wager money, nor how I got the right answer.

If there is anything to this nonsense of visualizing numbers and prescience, however, I sense something amiss in 2017.

In my total contempt for politicians of all stripes, I think that the Republicans will spend the next two years creating chaos; for example, the Health Care field may be subject to a burnt earth policy against the ACA, leaving a goodly number of guys, dolls, and corporate legal entities scratching their heads.

It is a time to evaluate political risk in one's investments. If you view the VIX index, two of the three periods of greatest volatility subsequent to 2008 occurred directly due to Republican shenanigans, and I think the general direction of events is downhill, regardless of who is calling the shots.

So 2017 is a black hole in my mental calendar.
Well, that black hole could be something as prosaic and humdrum as an actual black hole, a roguish interstellar interloper. (I guess a black hole is hardly prosaic. I just meant the interpretation of "black hole" would be prosaic, the sequence of letters - for the denotation of "black hole" as a massive object with a bristly beard of Hawking radiation is hardly what one would usually call "humdrum".)

The missing 2017 could be a new neurologic disorder that will soon be termed "Montag's By Proxy", wherein regular blokes have ontological gaps awaiting them in the near future.

It could be the imaginings of a fevered mind.

It could be a lapsus mentis.
(Sorry. When I say or write lapsus mentis- a slip of the mind - I always think of Marcel DuChamp, Rrose Selavy, and French rabbits, or more clearly "lapins"... and lapins makes me think of chauds lapins, and we are no longer in Kansas.)

I find it all a bit ominous of the bad kind. I used to be frightened by such things, but catastrophes, near-catastrophes, rumors of pandemics, and wars have become so commonplace and so - dare we echo Hannah Arendt ?! - banal, that I hardly care.

25 months is enough time to get ready.


Thursday, November 13, 2014


As Dorothy Parker once famously wrote:

I'd rather flunk my Turing Test,
than read a poem by Edgar Guest.

I am of conflicted loyalties, since it seems my paternal ancestors were full of praise for Mr. Guest, once poet laureate of The Detroit Free Press. I have some editions of his work that came from them. Of course, they are not exactly well thumbed, dog-eared, and marked by the flotsam and jetsam of being assiduously read while eating and drinking... but I think Mr. Guest was esteemed.

His poetry was all the rage back when a plate of eggs cost a quarter or five bees.

More to the point, I find myself more and more flunking those Turing-Test-Thingies in the comment section of blogs, where one is asked to enter what one see in order to prove that one is most definitely not a robot.
Not a robot, not half-blood-robot, not quarter-servo-robot... not even an octaroon-robot.
Which raises the distinctly unsettling notion that maybe I do have some Robot blood in my history.

This is not a far-fetched possibility. Recall that Hero of Alexandria devised such busybody gizmos back 2,000 years ago, and Homer sings to us of mechanical maidens of gold and self-proplled tripods buzzing through the hallways of Hephaestus, bringing tea pots under Mycenaean cozies to all and sundry.
And then there's the story of dewy eyed Pasiphaea, which is not exactly a robo-cow-story, but is a much more interesting story than is my post.
(I almost wrote "postern" instead of "post", sort of being all overcome by that cows and bulls and gates leading to the meadows business...  very much a georgic nature have I in the worst Virgilian sense.)

Anyway, I write that I see bricks, lumber, post boards, posters admonishing the populace that loose lips doing something awful to ships, and adverts for Victory Gin. What they seem to actually want is some fuzzy and obscure sequence of numbers attached to the stoop of an unfamiliar house.

In some uncanny sense in this day of identity theft and widespread computer hacking, this blurry sequence of numbers has become a mezuzah upon the door which leads to the admittance of  your comment.
(Maybe I should have a a scholar and scribe write the Shema on a shtikl paper and create a mezuzah for my computer?!...
By the way, within the past few months I have been accused of studying Yiddish for the jokes. As if my life were a Seinfeld episode!
Did I tell you I was having some Mandelbaum's Gym T-Shirts made up?)

Where's the sense in that test? Any robot can recite a sequence of numbers.


Krusty ?!!

I have stopped reading most news, other than that of the sciences. I still peek at the BBC and Bloomberg... and the AhlulBayt News Agency ( which provides me with what's going on in the world of Shi'a Islam (mostly they are being shot by Sunnis and ISIS... and persecuted by our allies the Saudi royal family. ) I support the underdog.
Exempli gratia today:
6 Shias shot martyred in Pakistan
November 13, 2014 _ 10:01 AM

PAKISTAN - Six Shia Muslims have been shot martyred by pro-ISIS Takfiri terrorists of Sipah-e-Sahaba in Quetta, Charsadha and Shikarpur.

Nifty, eh? They usually have uncensored pix, too.

I read about China still, and Japan. Also India. Ditto Europe. Have to keep up on what's going on in Space.
And Russia and the Ukraine, although the news can be distressing, but I like the Slavic peoples, so one has to take a few whacks with one's morning cup of coffee.

I told a friend to tell his wife that Il Barbieri di Seviglia was going to be live broadcast from the MET on November 22.
I said I would have told her myself, but that would force me to use the telephone, and I hate telephones... except for the GPS on iPhones and such. But this whole business of being disturbed by some clamorous and repetitive ring or song or sound effect into a ridiculous charade of trading syllables back and forth like some horrible and unhygienic promiscuous miscegenation of the vocal cords... well, that will not happen!

Remember that my mother had sold her house. I actually had to talk to a realtor frequently on the phone. Both myself and the buyers agreed that the realtors were a few apples short of the proverbial bushel.
What amazes me is that such people seem to be able to play golf - a fairly complex endeavor - with skill and ease! They can barely tell you who is responsible for the Water escrow account, but they can drive and putt with the best!

Of course, we did not have the top flight realtors, like Tammi Iafrate - the Tamminator !!! - as she is locally known. She is more like a super-heroine than a realtor anyway.

Getting back to my story about telephones, the friend to whom I gave this message about The Barber of Seville said that I was getting to be like Krusty the Clown.

I think he must have meant Monty Burns. Herschel Krustowsky is a mensch who does not waste his time kvetching about telephones.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rosetta Lands !

The Rosetta Lander of the ESA, European Space Agency, has landed successfully upon its comet of choice.

I fills me with memory of the Mediterranean:  Rosetta, now Rashid, on the Nile delta; Philae, an island in the Nile near Aswan; PTOLEMY,
The scientific goal of using Ptolemy is to understand the geochemistry of light elements, such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, by determining their nature, distribution and stable isotopic compositions. The picture on the right shows the lander instrument, Ptolemy, which was designed and developed in conjunction with the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The size of a shoebox and weighing just 4.5 kg, Ptolemy will use gas chromatography / mass spectrometry (GCMS) techniques to investigate the comet surface and subsurface;
and OSIRIS, an acronym for Optical, Spectroscopic, and InfraRed Remote Imaging System.

I also saw the film Interstellar today. It was great. One of the best parts was in the beginning where an elementary school teacher complains that Matthew McConaughey's daughter is causing trouble in class by showing pictures of the Apollo missions to the Moon, thus disagreeing with the official curriculum that the Apollo landings were phoney political ploys designed to cause the USSR to overspend on rockets and such.

Wonderfully done.