Monday, November 30, 2015

Glamourous Fashion Shoot Observed on Expo Line


So I am on the Expo line between Culver City and downtown Los Angeles when suddenly 5 people get on. We are about to all be part of a fashion shoot.

The subjects are two oriental, probably Japanese, young women in some sort of friendly but conservative sports wear. They sit together on one of the rows of the train across from me and engage in a pseudo conversation under the direction of the photographer.

The photographer is a young woman in perhaps her early 30s. She is dressed in full hipster scruffy and directs the fashion models and takes 99 percent of the pictures over the next 15 minutes. She has not one but two assistants, one of whom, the lead assistant, wins the award for full-scruffy regalia. I was not close enough to tell, but from appearances we would guess he had not shaved or bathed for a solid half week if not more. The other assistant was primarily a big fellow who watched over and carried the various tripods and backpacks filled with equipment that was not being used right that second.

The equipment in use seemed to be two bodies, one of them the high end Canon, and one of them a Sony, what I believe must have been a full-frame sensor mirrorless body with a Canon lens adapter on it. But it could have been any of the Sony full-frame bodies for all I could tell. There were two lenses in use, both of them Canon zooms, what I think was the 28-70 MM and the 70-200 MM zoom which was the lens most in use. Both bodies were used about equally, but with lens switches it was the 70-200 MM mostly in use.

From time to time the scruffy lead photographer, a very entertaining looking woman who shot the entire time with very dark sunglasses on (I dont actually understand how you do photography with very dark sunglasses the whole time, but thats just me) would give direction to the models, the jist of which was that they should pretend to chatter away like best friends saying absolutely nothing of consequence.

I would guess that about 1,000 photographs were taken in the 10 to 15 minutes they were on the train.

I would guess that the two zoom lenses were a matched set, in other words, between the two of them we had the full range of 28 mm to 200 mm, and that she needed that flexibility to compose the shots given that she could not easily change her position in the train.

At one point during this period, two very colorful men of color with disabilities, large and profane of speech, got on and I felt would be very entertaining backgrounds but I think she composed them out of the shoot because I did not notice anyone getting any kind of rights waiver.

After about 10 plus minutes of this, the whole crew got off on a stop and quite possibly got on the same train going the other direction. This you could repeat as long as you liked while the light was available, in other words for hours.

As always, it is entertaining to watch professionals at work. The thing that particularly stood out to me was that every time I have seen a professional of this type on location, there was at least one assistant and in this case two. Also, there was no toy equipment. Obviously everything was digital, there were no film changes but that is what we would expect. I was impressed and surprised to see the Sony body as the second body. I have heard that this was happening and obviously this is good for Sony. It perhaps makes them the third professional photography brand behind Canon and Nikon.

Earlier in the day, in Culver City, I had walked by a film shoot on location and I asked what project. The security guard said it was a commercial. So that suggests that on this Sunday we had not one but two professional commercial shoots going on in Culver City that I just happened to run into. This suggests to me that advertising production is healthy in Los Angeles, which is certainly good for the economy.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Evil Chinese Conspiracy to Cripple American Wine Appreciation


It is the nature of the rise and fall of civilizations that the elites of the rising civilization by their very nature impose their aesthetics on the world. And that the aesthetics of the elites of the fading power must accommodate themselves to their new and impoverished position. That is the way of the world.

Therefore it is not a surprise that China's influence in the world in a variety of different areas of culture becomes more manifest as the years go by. Independent of that, America's influence could be predicted to decline, at least as far as its former middle class goes. The American elite will still go forward buying their racecars and whores, but the former middle class, now impoverished, must scale back its ambitions to consume to fit its new role in the globalized economy.

I am aware of four specific examples of this rise in Chinese influence, but two of these I only heard about in the last week. The four are: the impact of Chinese purchases for investment on real estate prices in North America, the role of the Chinese in the final extinction of the various remaining species of elephant, and the two surprises are the role of the Chinese in certain bizarre changes in elite car design in Germany and the spectacular changes in the prices of certain genre of French wine, in particular certain name brands from Bordeaux.

To get the first three out of the way so we can concentrate on wine, the following seems to be true. First, that the purchase of real estate for investment purposes and for bragging rights is resulting in a sustained demand and increased prices for real estate in certain prestige areas such as Manhattan, already expensive, and results in properties owned by the Chinese but not lived in. Second, and most unfortunate, Chinese traditional medicine has always made use of the ground up body parts of various endangered species. One in particular, the elephant, is being targetted for its ivory and this is leading to a catastrophic decrease in the remaining populations. The Chinese will probably be responsible for the final extinction of this wonderful animal after centuries of abuse by other cultures. The third, and actually quite odd, example is that (of course) the demand for elite automobiles has exploded in the Worker's Paradise and Mercedes in particular has been catering to this demand by changing their formerly understated and discreet design and making it wildly tacky, ostentatious, and even stupid in order to pander to the nouveau riche of Communist China.

Two of these examples are trivial, but the extinction of the elephant is a tragedy.

The fourth example was also a surprise to me because I have not been able to indulge my taste in French wine for many years. But I was going to a friend's house on Thanksgiving and I thought that this would be an opportunity to do so. What a surprise! Oh my!

To digress, I am a wine snob. When living in NY, one of my roommates was a Flamenco guitarist, and since you can not make a living at that, he also worked in the wine trade. I had him teach a class in the wines of Europe, and while we ventured into Italy and Spain, we mostly concentrated on red wine from the Bordeaux area. Wines in this area are highly esteemed by many groups and have been for many hundreds of years. But in one year in particular, the French government worked with industry to bring order out of chaos in conjunction with the planning for the Exposition of 1855, and at the request of Napoleon III, and as a result created the famous Classification of 1855 which ranked French wine from the Bordeaux region into five classes: the so called first growth wines through the fifth growth.

This classification has been very stable over the years with very few changes since 1855 and has in a sense become a self-fulfilling prophecy. A first and second growth winery will by definition be worth more, get more investment, and therefore be able to afford to make the changes necessary to maintain or increase the quality of their product.

Among the wines of this classification are some of the most famous wines in the world, including the wines of Chateau Lafite Rothschid, Chateau Mouton, Chateau Margaux and so forth. These wines of course commanded a premium price.

But there were some good deals among these classified Bordeaux and not all the great wines of France were out of reach of even the most modest of middle class American as long as they did a little homework to understand which vintages were worth buying and could plan a bit in advance. The more willing one was to plan in advance and make a modest investment, the better one would do.

Well those days are over, at least for certain name Chateau, and it is all because the Chinese have gone a little nutty, so some say, over certain of these wines.

For example, a well known and esteemed wine was the third wine of the Chateau Lafite Rothchild. This wine, the Carraudes de Lafite, was deliberately styled to be a well balanced, very drinkable wine, ready to drink as soon as it was on the market. Made from the vines that were not yet ready to contribute to the great vines of the estate, this wine was a fabulous wine that did not have to be kept for decades to be drinkable, would never be the very best wine, but was better than nearly any other red wine at a reasonable price. In the absence of the availability of something that has been around 20 years and commanding a high price at the last minute, one could pick up this wine of nearly any vintage and be very happy and pay no more than $35.00 a bottle.

So I look this wine up on the Internet and find it listed for $350.00 or so. I am confused. I wonder, maybe this is for a case (12 bottles) and not a single bottle?

No, the Chinese have gone nutty for Lafite and several other name brands and prices have gone up a factor of 10 or 20 in just the last few years.  A better bottle of wine which formerly went for a few hundred dollars, still expensive by any measure, will now sell for over $1,000 or even $2,000 a bottle.

Not all wines have exploded this much in price, but in general the wines of the Bordeaux region are for the most part, out of reach.

I just want to thank the Chinese for this little exercise in free market economics in the service of the rich and hope that they find the opportunity to choke on their wine and die.

Thanks again guys for reminding me how little I count for in the world.

I appreciate it.


Classification of 1855

Chateau Lafite Rothschild

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Secret Cables of the Comintern

Those of you who aspire to be a faithful student of the cold war will be pleased to hear about a fabulous online resource, the Journal of Intelligence and Security, apparently published by Taylor Francis. The archive is online and I think that by jumping through hoops one can get a certain number of articles for free.

But even if you do not read the journal articles themselves, they make available their book reviews of the current literature and I have found that very useful as a guide or index into subjects.

In particular they review a new book that has resulted from the brief period when certain archives of the Comintern of the former USSR were public. One result of that openness is a collection of secret cables from this organization, the Communist International, sometimes also known as the Third International, which was the organization that worked for Communist revolution in the world.

Our reviewer has something amusing to say about revisionist history in the 1970s and 1980s when it was discovered to the horror of many in this country that the accusation of Soviet control of the American Communist Party and the work of various people such as Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs was not merely right wing paranoid conspiracy theories but were based in fact.

Here is an excerpt from that review.

You can read the full review here:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Sympathy App

What I need is an app that gives me sympathy when I am sick with the flu. My friends can not be counted on for that.  They are too busy managing their trust funds and flying to Europe or China first class.  They think that just because I was not tortured in the Congo that I should be grateful. Its good to know who your friends are.

I can feel sorry for myself better than anyone else I know.

When I get my new smartphone I plan to write an app that gives me (and others) sympathy. We all need a little sympathy now and then, even if we have not been tortured in Kinhasa.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Secret Intelligence Appreciation Day Part 1


Please join me in calling on our Government to declare “Secret Intelligence Appreciation Day”, a day on which we pay homage to our selfless public servants sneaking around on our behalf. On this special day we also work to educate our woefully ignorant masses about the nuances and aesthetics of secret intelligence.

More than any time since the late, lamented Cold War passed away, ordinary people are discussing a seemingly endless stream of revelations about secret intelligence, secret missions, and special operations. It has become a topic of hipster parties and a test of faith among people who are sensitive to the shifting trends of what opinions are required in polite society. “Did you hear?” they say, “Did you hear that America actually *spied* on someone and then they used drones! Oh my God!

I listen and read these discussions and shake my head with dismay at the primitive and je jeune aesthetics and misinformation with which the self-appointed elite respond to the latest breathless disclosures whether by a would-be whistle blower, or a superannuated Vietnam era counterrevolutionary, by Anonymous or someone pretending to be Anonymous, by Wikileaks or yes by everyone's favorite, Ed Snowden, the little spy who couldnt stop.

Instead of complaining they should be happy and feel blessed to live in an era where we are privileged to know such things because historically this is quite rare. And I have wondered if whether the expressions of outrage comes in part from a lack of aesthetic training in this area. People have to study to understand Mahler, perhaps they should have to expect to study to understand the Berlin Tunnel.

So here at Global Wahrman, I propose to lead a modest seminar from time to time in “special intelligence appreciation” so that you the reader can heighten your knowledge of these arcane matters and appreciate them for what they are and what they are not.

Unless of course you know all this stuff already, which many of you do.

First a note on sources and controversies. Many of you know that I hold rather eclectic opinions on some matters; opinions that are outside the mainstream. To the best of my knowledge that will not be the case here. The intent here is to go over some very uncontroversial general principles, that I hope, and with sincere good faith, are pretty much just true. There is always nuance of course, and “all generalizations are wrong” and we will try to point these out as we go along. On the other hand, when I say something like “in my humble opinion” or “it is my speculation” feel free to laugh because that is just me guessing.

I am no great scholar to know these things, I am just a layman who has an interest and who reads a lot. And if you are interested in these matters then you can know this stuff as well.

First we go over the boring principles, then we get to the more fun ones.

In the following, IC stands for Intelligence Community which is a blanket term used to refer to the 17 different independent agencies of the US Government responsible for intelligence matters. POTUS stands for President of the United States.  CONUS stands for Continental United States, which means the 48 states not including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, etc. 

1. Is it legal for the US Government to keep secrets from the American people?
2. Is it legal for the US Government to keep secrets from the US Congress?
3. Is it legal for the IC to break the law?
4. Why do we have so many different agencies?
5. Are all of these agencies a part of the Department of Defense / Pentagon?
6. Does the CIA / NSA go around killing people?
7. Why do we spy on our allies?
8. Why do we do spend all this money and do these sort of things? What about love?
9. How do we know about any of these things at all?

(and now a little more fun)

10. I hear that George Bush was warned about 911 and did nothing. 
11. What happens when a secret intelligence project is leaked.
12. I read that so and so is moving to Germany so that the NSA cant spy on them. 
13. When such-and-such project was leaked, the learker said it was illegal, was it?
14. Why is the government so intent on prosecuting Ed Snowden? 
15. Is it true that drones kill civilians?

(and even more)

16. How can I believe anything they say. How do I know the POTUS isnt lying about something?
17. Why dont the various agencies of the IC work together better?
18. Arent they really hiding a secret plot to kill Americans just like I see in the movies.
19.  Why doesnt Congress do something to stop these horrible activities?

(and finally, my opinions about ... )

20. Seymore Hirsch.
21. Glenn Greenwalt, Laura Poitras, Wikileaks.

So, here we go!

Continued in Part 2....

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Congo, The War in Africa, the Criminality of Corporations


With this post we are beginning a new feature on Global Wahrman, a multi-topic reading list of books that represent some deep background for my readers in areas that I think are at the very least interesting, and in a few cases maybe even important as a modern citizen of our crumbling civilization to know.

We start with the great title of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason Stearns

If you are like me, you are dimly aware that there is a country called the Congo in Africa and that bad things have happened there in the past as well as the present. But if you are like me, you know very little about what the current situation is and whether it is better, worse, indifferent, what the prospects for them are, how we can help, whether or not we should help and a host of other issues.

Jason Stearns lived in Congo for many years and interviewed many of the protagonists or antagonists of his book and so describes the history of from about 1996 on in a very engaging way. I simply was not aware of this war and its relationship to the genocide in Rwanda, not to mention the role of other countries in Africa, humanitarian organizations, rebel groups, ethnic groups, and history of all sorts.

It also brings up a very interesting problem which I was aware existed but not to the extent. Contrary to what many people believe, the problems in Congo do not come from Western lust for their great mineral wealth, says Stearns. But what is true is that the various wars are financed in large part by various countries and groups occupying a part of former Congo-infrastructure and making deals with Western companies to get the minerals out to the market. Thus Rwanda occupied a part of Congo with certain types of mines and made deals for the minerals there. In the process of occupying that part of Congo and arranging this financial deal, the Rwanda Army was guilty of various massacres in retribution for resistance activity in the area. We are talking about a thousand people murdered in cold blood and other incidents.

The point of mentioning this tiny detail on a much larger tragedy is that in general we have no sanctions against companies that make deals of this type and thus end up financing groups that are committing atrocities or grossly violated the human rights of their workers, e.g. when that labor is nothing more than abused slave labor. The point is that it is up to us to change the law so that companies are held liable in both criminal and civil courts for their support of groups that commit these crimes. I think it is OK for us to spend a little extra for our copper or our capacitors in return for not using slave labor.

Have I over simplified the situation? Yes, no doubt I have. So I encourage you to read this book which goes into the context of a small number of these situations and then go on from there to study the issue in more detail than Stearns can go into.

One thing I am sure of, none of these companies are innocent. They are very aware the circumstances under which these minerals are produced and, like so many other companies of our modern Globalized society, are perfectly happy to see people be slaughtered in cold blood and killed in labor gangs if it makes them a fast buck.

By failing to criminalize this behavior we tacitly support it and thus are also, in part, responsible.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Computer Sciences Corporation Makes A Fast Buck by Betraying Country


This story today about greed and stupidity features CSC, the Computer Sciences Corporation, a very well known and very large government contractor on important security projects. What you need to know going in is that there is zero possibility that CSC was unaware of what a gross violation not only of law but of trust that the government has, or had, in them by doing what they did.  What did they do?

CSC and another company was hired to engineer an important secure communications system at the Pentagon. A whistleblower revealed that the two companies had subcontracted out a significant part of that project to Russian programmers in Moscow which is not only a direct violation of the letter and spirit of their contract but incredibly stupid as well.

Of course they did this for the best reason that all companies, from Volkswagon to Exxon, violate the law: to make a fast buck at the expense of the people they claim to be working for.

And furthermore, the top executives will probably use the "Volkswagon Defense":, that is, if anyone asks them why they did it, they will no doubt say that they didn't know, and that "engineers" had done it.  That is why we pay these executives 10s of millions a year in salary, bonuses and termination packages, to come up with stupid shit like that.

In this case, it is known that there have been security breaches because of this immense stupidity, at least one virus inserted by the Russians, and who knows how many more, but are the companies punished?

Not really.

The two companies have not admitted to their flagrant violation of law, they have paid a trivial penalty that would not cover even a few pennies of the real costs, and it is now up to the craven and weak Department of Justice to file criminal charges if they dare. But the DOJ never files criminal charges against major US Companies, that would violate every principle that the DOJ stands for which is to protect and exalt the rich.

So one more time we have an example where the so-called free market, e.g. naked greed, violates any and every principle or morality that they claim to uphold.

Good going CSC.

This story is not being covered by the mainstream press as it uses too many big words and probably would not sell as many newspapers, or web clicks, but you can read about it here:

The US Government should immediately cancel all contracts with CSC and investigate to see in what other ways this criminal organization has violated the trust we had in them.

The Computer Sciences Corporation can be found here.  Their web page gives no indication of to what extent they are a defense contractor.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Never Mind the Whining

One side effect of the cavalier medical system available to the citizen with ADHD is that he or she will be required to go without medication for an unknown period of time on an irregular schedule. For those of you who know better and know that it must be the fault of the patient, you are very sincerely advised to get this problem and try to solve it without money. You are invited. I have been managing this for about 30 years and I assure you what I tell you is true. You will be expected to go without medication.

And when that happens, there will be or rather, there may be, a variety of transitory mood states.

I inflicted one of these states on my friends on Facebook and my blog in the last few days.  I am very sorry and I hope you will accept my apology.

When I go off medication, then various anxiety disorders that I normally manage (e.g. suppress) work there way out to the world.

I wish I could promise you that it will not happen in the future but I cant. I know that I will have to go without medication and I know that this will bring out the anxiety disorders. From there it is hit and miss whether I will bother my friends with it.

The alternative, of course, is what you already know, which is that I become a recluse in order to avoid bothering anyone.

I hope that my readers are filled with patience and understanding.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Relentless Universe, Immersive VR, This Sat and Sunday, Audri Phillips Performing

On Saturday and Sunday there will be a performance of Relentless Universe, a VR immersive event starring among other Audri Philips, whose blog is featured on Global Wahrman.

Read all about it here.

There must be something the matter with this blog that this is the first use of the tags "live performance" or "immersive VR".

Something must be done!

Go see Audri and make this genre of artform happen.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Relationship Between Sugar - Based Nutrition and Superhero Movies in America

As we all know, there have been recent, well-publicized attacks on American core values, on our culture and our civilization. These attacks strike at the very center of what it is to be an American and is nothing less than an attempt to destroy America from within.

I am of course referring to the disingenuous attempts to get Americans to stop eating sugar.

Americans instinctively know what is good for them and foods made out of high fructose corn syrup is as good for you as a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and grits. America was built by strong hands that were made strong through breakfasts of this type. Not to mention coffee with a lot of sugar. Maybe a muffin or two.

Lets look at the types of foods that these pretentious intellectuals would have us remove from our diet. Coffee with several heaping tea spoons of sugar, glazed donuts, ice cream sodas, waffles with syrup, Sugar Frosted Flakes, chocolate cake with ice cream, candy of all sorts.

The American diet is a healthy diet.

If America which is surely in its decline were to abandon its values and turn its back on the traditions that made this country great, were it to fall into this decadence and sin, then those that lead this attack against righteousness can be expected to attack another pillar of American strength, movies about comic-book superheroes.

They will say, these scum will accuse, these movies of being as empty of nutrition and cultural content as a box of Skittles or chocolate-covered raisins. These self-appointed keepers of nutrition and elite culture will try to tell us that we do not need another movie about the X People or the Avengers or even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The food of the God's encoded in chemical form ?

They are wrong, of course.  Not merely wrong, but anti-American.

Just as these wanna-be arbiters of our diet would point to a donut and claim it is nothing more than dough fried in grease with a lot of sugar, so they would point to another great movie about superheroes, for example, Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and claim that this movie has no worthwhile plot, characters, motivations, while it is filled with violence and stupid helicopter-like aircraft carriers.  Yes it is true that a donut is made of fried dough with sugar and, on the surface, A:AOU is empty of even the flimsiest justification for its fulsome budget, in reality it speaks to the greatness of the American filmmaking tradition just as the donut speaks to our fine and healthy American traditional cuisine.  This does not even need to be defended.  Even the most craven of anti-American sentiment can see this is true.

Besides look out in the world.  What else would we do with the money, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on such fine films?  Feed the starving in Sudan?  Please be serious.  Educate our poor and disenfranchised people? Why bother? They are poor and they deserve to be poor. Everyone knows that.

There is a link between the great nutrition inherent in sugar frosted flakes and the cultural content of another Bat movie. These are the elements that have made America strong.

Yet that is what the so-called experts are saying we should do. Turn our backs on this bountiful harvest that we have grown with our own two hands. This very nectar of the Gods. The calories, vitamins, minerals, proteins, steroids, and most of all, the sugar that has powered Americans through the abolition of slavery, war and oppression and enabled us to make superlative superhero movie after superhero movie.

Faithless people! To turn your back on the great cuisine of America, brought to this shores by the huddled masses yearning to be free, free to drink Coca Cola, get an ice cream soda after the drive-in movie, or to start the day with a dozen or so glazed donuts and coffee, waffles with butter, and breakfast food cereals.

I think that subconsciously Americans realize that this is wrong, and feeling guilt, yearn for a simpler time. A time when we ate chocolate cake with pride, and not disgusting boiled kale with sesame seeds. A time when a real man would smoke unfiltered Marlboros and get up on his horse and go punch cattle.

Stand firm, America! Do not let these so-called nutritionists badger you to abandon the foods and movies that have made America the land of the free and the home of the breakfast food cereal marketing a superhero movie. Stay true to your values. This too will pass.

As American as a slice of hot Apple Pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Health Threat of Sugar is Vastly Underestimated Study Claims