Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tim Kaine Notes

First of all, Tim Kaine is not from Virginia, he is from Missouri by way of Harvard. This is good and bad but no one from Virginia would for a moment think he was from Virginia, so you should know that. Second, he is not old-school Southern Democrat. That is good. Third, he is not a racist. Most of my ignorant west coast friends think all Southerners are racists. Fourth, he has been elected to political offices on a regular basis in a state that is heavily gerrymandered, has a large African-American vote, but which is a very conservative state, in the classic sense of the word.

Kaine is not in any way a radical, a progressive, or anything else along those lines. He will reinforce the Hillary Clinton approach to things, which is to say, a Rockefeller Republican approach. He may help to trivially increase education benefits. He may understand how hopeless the poor and the minority population is in this country, but he is not likely to stick his neck out too much unless Hillary tells him to, which I doubt. When it comes to foreign policy, he will be a solid American representative and will not embarrass us.

I can not emphasize the following too much. Kaine is a representative of the Harvard/Washington elite. If you have been happy with that elite's governance of America, then vote for him. If not, dont vote for him. He is not unlike John Kerry, if you will.

I dont think that voters in this country have any choice in who they will have to vote for in November. And I am not at all happy about this. Do not think that these people represent a big chunk of America just because they win in November. We had a gun to our head, and you know what I am talking about here.

I will update this post with new information about Kaine as it comes in.

Autobiographical note.

For what it is worth, I was born and grew up in Virginia (and California). A Californian friend of mine recently told me that Virginia was the Deep South. Another friend was angry that they had to have votes from the Southern states, e.g. that the South had votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate. I didn't have the heart to tell her that this was not the fault of the South, they did not want to be part of the Union either. There was a war about that, recall? It is my impression that most of my friends out here don't know much about the South but are completely certain that they do, a classic example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Most Excellent Career Advice from Friends

There was a time, years ago, when one's friends and professional colleagues were an important part of one's career path. There are a variety of trendy-and-sometimes-stupid terms to describe this phenomenon, but back then the world was not seen as a zero-sum game where if you win I lose and vice versa.

In my years of wandering through the wilderness, I have been given some good advice and some very bad advice. Sadly, I have learned the hard lesson more than once that no one can figure out what I should do but myself and that the process of trying to achieve whatever this new goal / plan / whatever is likely to annoy people, friends and colleagues, and be achieved over their dead body or at least without their knowledge and consent.

Like everyone else, I have successful friends and I have very smart friends. Some of the smart friends are successful, and some less so, but nevertheless I know a lot of talented people. These people are pretty much all very busy with their own problems, families, issues and so forth. They are not in any way obligated or should be obligated to help me or advise me or anything else. When they do, it is a gift, they are certainly not getting paid for it. They are just trying to help.

Obviously I am a victim of first-world underemployment and globalization and like so many others I am at a loss for what to do to make a living. Lets be honest here, I have also made some mistakes in the past. For example, I failed to get a trust fund. What was I thinking? Furthermore, it was I who chose to go into computer animation.  Me bad. And so I have reached out to friends to see if they have any ideas about how to best make use of the rest of my life, if you call this living.

For a moment we are going to ignore such fabulous advice as "do good work and dont worry about money". Although this is no doubt a good sentiment, I think it needs a little more elaboration before it can be implemented.

But of those ideas that have been suggested that are specific enough to consider, these are my three favorite: 

1. A NY filmmaker and pioneer of computer animation also had a line of original pornography in the BDSM genre.  He suggested that I might be able to help him market this creative work to various distributors. I have no trouble if consenting adults want to enjoy themselves by tying each other up and whacking each other but I dont really know too much about this subgenre of human behavior and would not be able to contribute much in the way of aesthetics or guidance, so I declined.

2. A good friend who has used computers and done computer animation for the last 30 years knows zero about computers and regularly would self destruct and lose all her work.  I would spend a lot of time helping her and trying to recover her data because I am a "nice guy".  She noticed how helpful I was at this and suggested that I make a career of selling my services as a PC repairman door to door. What a great idea.

3. A very successful friend of mine who has the burden of managing a giant research facility in the field of entertainment related technologies, suggests that trying to get a job in my field was too ambitious.  He recommends that I sell my programming services on the Internet through an anonymous jobbing service. Some sort of lowest-common-denominator programming exchange. He figures I might be able to make $6.00 an hour and that it is "easy money". 

I want to thank all my friends for thinking of me.

They really do mean well.

But what is really, really scary is that these are my friends.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Globalization and its Discontents Part 2/1

We will start the long-delayed second part of the “Globalization Review” here on Global Wahrman. These posts will dribble out over the next month or two.  I am not in a hurry and you should not be either. The whole issue is so far over my head (and presumably your head) that it isn't funny.

The point of these posts is to bring to your attention what a layperson can figure out about our government's globalization policies, what the results have been, what the future holds. Unfortunately there is a lot to these different issues of trade policy, taxation, employment, retraining, economic security and so forth. I will make every effort to be brief and to make suggestions for partial solutions or remedies. I think it will become very clear very quickly that our government has not done even a minimally acceptable job on these issues and is at best incompetent but probably worse.

I have no credibility in this area. There is no reason why anyone should listen to a word I say about this. I am not an economist, my degree in Economics is undergraduate and from UCLA. The world of international finance and trade policy is very, very complex. Anything I come up with is likely to be as silly as a layman trying to tell a physicist where really to look for dark matter. It will become clear that I think that there are some politically plausible, sometimes expensive, remedies which will alleviate some of the misery that many Americans are experiencing. But of course it is extremely doubtful that anyone who matters will care what I think, or what you think for that matter.

So why bother? Is this a good use of our time? Your time and my time? If it is, it is only because we are expected in a democracy to be informed citizens.Furthermore, the economic policies of this country have apparently caused a lot of misery and it is incumbent on us to understand where this misery came from, whether it was avoidable or at least predictable, and what might be done about it. In a sense, this is a form of what we used to call "civics".

I have another motivation here as well. There is every reason to think that the American visual effects community was mostly destroyed by foreign subsidies and that our Government did nothing. Is this story true, is it partially true? What was the role of the studios, the production companies, our representatives in Washington, our State Department?

When I started this investigation, I had not been paying much attention to this country's trade policy, or its tax policy, or the issues of labor organization, or to unemployment, or to so many of the issues that I have had to educate myself on.  I knew that unemployment existed and that I was a victim of it, in some sense of that word 'victim', but I did not believe that this was because of structural reasons that our government had put in place, either accidentally or deliberately.  The process of learning about the situation has changed my mind.

There is nothing subtle about what I am going to review for you. It was also a surprise to me how little of it was even new as most of these issues were discussed in great detail in the 19th century. These policies have winners and losers and the results of these types of policies are very well known.

Furthermore, it will be clear that there are straightforward remedies that could certainly alleviate some of the misery experienced in this country. Now, I admit, these remedies will probably not solve all the issues of wealth and other inequality, or restore the lives destroyed by our government's incompetence or greed (whichever you think it is), but these suggestions would certainly make things better. There are those who think that a remedy has to solve all problems or not be tried. I dont agree. I think we can chip away at problems and make a difference now. Realistically of course there is no chance for these suggestions to be implemented, nor am I convinced that these are the best ideas out there, they are merely intended to be examples of the kind of remedies that do exist.

At one point, I had a list of topics that I was going to discuss, but the list was too long and too dreary. I did not want to scare you off.  I wish I could make this more fun. All I can do is make it as brief as possible, and even that wont be easy.

I do have one request. I am a little sensitive because of my station in life and I do not like to be called stupid. If I say something here that you disagree with, fine. Feel free to make a comment that lets me know why you disagree and give me a counterexample. Or just stop reading. That is just fine with me, nobody gives a fuck what I think anyway.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Why People Should Not Worry So Much about Donald Trump

Many Americans are experiencing panic attacks about the possibility that Donald Trump might become president. Some of them are literally spinning in place and spraying obscenities in all directions. Its embarrassing and I hope they will calm down. I think they have very little to worry about, at least, that is, about Donald Trump.

I think that when we look at what is required for a candidate to win the general election and then look at the specifics that we have in play in this election, that it will become clear that Trump has very little chance of winning. Yes, the Democrats could throw it away, but they would really have to work at it. I cant imagine that too many people would care what I think about this, but in the off chance that this might reassure some of my very worried friends, here is what I think is going on.

In the following I am necessarily going to paint a picture in broad strokes and of course I realize that people are not stereotypes. There is no single position for Hispanics in this country, for example, or women, or African-Americans, but even so there are some things that we know about how different interest groups in this country will see the upcoming general election.

In general, for the Republicans to win a national election, they have to do three things. They have to get a strong voter turnout from their core. They have to attract a certain number of those voters unaffiliated with any party, the so-called Independent voter. And the Democrats have to be ambivalent about their candidate or for one reason or another not be able to get a strong turnout on election day. The Democrats have what seems to be an easier task but in practice it has not always been so easy. They need a good turnout of those who say they are Democrats on election day and they also need a certain number of the unaffiliated voters to vote Democrat, or at least not vote Republican.

There is also a famous joke about who wins presidential elections that goes something like “the candidate that makes the fewest mistakes wins”. There are lots of ways to shoot yourself in the foot, or the head, on the way to the White House. One or two really stupid mistakes or unfortunate events can lose the election.

Now lets review some issues specific to this election.

1. Donald Trump has worked very hard to make the Hispanic Americans hate him. It is possible to win an election without the Hispanic American vote, or at least some of the Hispanic vote, but it makes things much harder.

2. The core African-American wing of the Democratic coalition has been remarkably loyal and supportive of the Clinton campaign. There is every reason to think they will continue to do so into the election.

3. Contrary to what you have read or may believe, not all women unreservedly support Hillary Clinton for president. But no doubt a great majority either do support Clinton or dislike Trump or both. We have every reason to think that many unaffiliated women voters will vote for Clinton.

4. Although many people who run businesses in this country have traditionally been Republicans that is not always true. In general, such people are interested in such things as stability and “free trade”. Hillary Clinton is the closest thing to a Rockefeller Republican we have seen in this country for a long time. On the other hand, no one knows what Trump might do if he became president. I think it is extremely likely that Clinton will therefore get a certain number of these "business" votes that would otherwise have gone to the Republican candidate in a more typical year.

5. Many Democrats are enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, but certainly not all are. But even those who are at best ambivalent about Clinton, such as Bernie supporters like myself, will freely acknowledge that Clinton is far superior to Trump. There is a pretty good chance that “fear of Trump” will result in a solid Democratic turnout.

6. Ask yourself the following question “Who is more likely to say something stupid in public, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?” I think it is pretty clear that it is the Donald who is likely to say something that will really piss off certain elements of the American voter. One of the criticisms I have about Clinton is that if anything she is too careful, too calculating, too concerned about not annoying someone. This is not a totally fair criticism, but it is certainly at least partially true.

I could go on, but I think this is enough to be convincing. Some pretty dramatic things would have to happen between now and November which elevates Donald Trump and gives him respectablity that he does not currently have, and Clinton would have to make a fair number of stupid mistakes for her to lose this election.

Famous last words, I know.

But really, as these things go, I think that there is very little to worry about.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Hollywood and Natalie Portman Demonstrate Commitment to Fundamental Values

Whenever we see a threatened community in this chaotic world stand fast and united in support of fundamental values I think it is important to celebrate the event. So many of our friends and institutions have thrown away everything that they used to stand for in order to make a fast buck.

Hollywood is not normally considered a shining pillar of integrity but I believe that is a misunderstanding on the part of outsiders.  Hollywood as a loosely-defined creative community has always had and continues to have a set of core values that are shared across the community and evolves with time.  These values have survived mergers and acquisitions,  new distribution technologies, government antitrust lawsuits, drought, war and pestilence. One of these core values is that there is always money to be made by the cheesy exploitation of women. Let us review a particularly creative use of this principle.

A few years ago, a well-known author of "weird fiction", Jeff VanderMeer, published three novels in a series called the "Southern Reach".  The first of those books, Annihilationwas optioned by Scott Rudin to turn into a movie. He hired the director of Ex Machina (2015), Alex Garland, to write the adaptation and direct the film. The book (and presumably the film) is unusual in many ways and one way that is important to us is that all the protagonists are women. The movie is the story of an expedition of scientists to an area where a strange event occurred many years ago that has cut this area off from the rest of the country.  There have been previous expeditions and they did not end well. So what we have here is a film where the four main characters are all strong and interesting women. The movie stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tessa Thompson. The book is told from the point of view of one of the members of the expedition, the Biologist, played by Natalie Portman.

Nice posture, Natalie! 

As you know, Hollywood has often been accused of perpetuating demeaning stereotypes of women, and failing to provide serious roles for actresses who want to get their next academy award nomination.  So this movie provides an excellent opportunity to refute this sadly somewhat valid criticism of Hollywood.

This film, Annihilation (2017), has finished principal photography and still has a long way to go before it is released but Hollywood realizes it is never too early to start marketing a film. One time-honored way to do this is with interviews by various news media of the star(s) of the film.  And since the film is about four intelligent and adventurous women, it would make sense if that marketing also communicated some of these ideas.

And so an article/interview was created and placed in the New York Times Style Magazine.  It is an interview by email (that social media hook!)  with Natalie Portman by a writer in which they discuss the first short film that Natalie has directed.  They discuss many topics including Natalie's upbringing in Israel, the work of various eclectic authors of fiction, and so forth..

Now we get to the heartwarming, even inspirational, part of our story.  Ms. Portman discusses her movie and her childhood in very intelligent ways, certainly combating the stereotype of women in Hollywood. But I had not realized how financially challenged Ms. Portman was. You see, not everyone in Hollywood makes those multi-million dollar salaries.  Apparently, Ms Portman was or is so poor that she did not own any pants. Nevertheless they bravely went ahead and photographed this wonderful and talented person practically bare-assed naked.  Fortunately, Ms. Portman was able to hold up her part as these pictures clearly show.

It would have been easy for Hollywood to turn its back on a core value and portray Ms. Portman as a politically correct, bisexual, blue jean lesbian styled modern feminist and be acclaimed by one and all, but our producers and the studio are made of sterner stuff. The cheap exploitation of women and sex to sell a film is like "Motherhood and Apple Pie" to the rest of us. It is important. Hollywood did not let us down.

See this fabulous article here.

Are you going to just lounge around all day in your underwear?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

With Cthulhu in Antarctica

How could it be that the ancient horror is revealed in plain sight and yet the world is not capable of recognizing their peril, capable of realizing that even now the Elder Things stir in the frigid black wastes and that Cthulhu must laugh at the endless stupidity of the biped mammals.

The people of the world are so gullible. They are told that one or possibly two scientists have gotten suddenly deathly ill in the remote wastes of Antarctica, but we are not told what has happened to them. We only know that two men must be withdrawn from the icy wastes at great risk. Only one kind of airplane can make the hazardous journey to Antarctica in this season, the Twin Otter. Two of them have been sent, one for backup, and one to make the complete journey.

They have arrived, and the men will be withdrawn.

But what evil have the experienced? What are they not telling us? I remind all who have the willingness to brave this knowledge to reread those paragraphs from near the end of At the Mountains of Madness:

I have said that Danforth refused to tell me what final horror made him scream out so insanely—a horror which, I feel sadly sure, is mainly responsible for his present breakdown. We had snatches of shouted conversation above the wind’s piping and the engine’s buzzing as we reached the safe side of the range and swooped slowly down toward the camp, but that had mostly to do with the pledges of secrecy we had made as we prepared to leave the nightmare city. Certain things, we had agreed, were not for people to know and discuss lightly—and I would not speak of them now but for the need of heading off that Starkweather-Moore Expedition, and others, at any cost. It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.

All that Danforth has ever hinted is that the final horror was a mirage. It was not, he declares, anything connected with the cubes and caves of echoing, vaporous, wormily honeycombed mountains of madness which we crossed; but a single fantastic, daemoniac glimpse, among the churning zenith-clouds, of what lay back of those other violet westward mountains which the Old Ones had shunned and feared. It is very probable that the thing was a sheer delusion born of the previous stresses we had passed through, and of the actual though unrecognised mirage of the dead transmontane city experienced near Lake’s camp the day before; but it was so real to Danforth that he suffers from it still.

He has on rare occasions whispered disjointed and irresponsible things about “the black pit”, “the carven rim”, “the proto-shoggoths”, “the windowless solids with five dimensions”, “the nameless cylinder”, “the elder pharos”, “Yog-Sothoth”, “the primal white jelly”, “the colour out of space”, “the wings”, “the eyes in darkness”, “the moon-ladder”, “the original, the eternal, the undying”, and other bizarre conceptions; but when he is fully himself he repudiates all this and attributes it to his curious and macabre reading of earlier years. Danforth, indeed, is known to be among the few who have ever dared go completely through that worm-riddled copy of the Necronomicon kept under lock and key in the college library.

At the Mountains of Madness

Washington Post Article About Rescue

Friday, July 8, 2016

Posts of Ultimate Futility

This post is to describe the immediate future of posts on Global Wahrman so that my regular readers will not be too surprised or disappointed.

This blog has many topics including but not limited to discussion of the aesthetic and ethical failures of computer animation, the importance of comic book superheroes to our civilization, the role of the esoteric knowledge and forgotten wisdom as applied to stupid user interface design on the Internet, the aesthetics of modern espionage, and other related and critical topics.

But certain events have preempted these important discussions and replaced them (or failed to replace them as the case may be) with essays in progress on a number of political and economic topics. These topics have accumulated and are trying to work their way into print and are doing so with agonizing slowness. In the four years of writing this blog, I have never had such a backlog of mostly written posts that are not yet published. The problem, or rather, one of the problems, is that I am more than a little aware of how completely, insanely futile it is for me to have opinions on any of these topics.

I am well aware that no one, not even my best friends or family, could give a “hoot” what I think about these topics in economics, civic governance, international trade and so forth. If the Bureau of Labor Statistics fails to report on unemployment in a way that could be seen as even minimally accurate that is not for me to say or others to care. No one in government, or in politics, or on the right or on the left could possibly think that I have anything to contribute to the ongoing debates about whether this country is doing enough to impoverish Americans and disenfranchise the poor just to name two of the important initiatives.

Sure we have been successful at destroying opportunity for the poor, but are we doing enough to see that our society is completely corrupt and disingenuous?

So if you do me the incredibly courtesy of actually reading my notes on Globalization and the overt corruption and failures of our government and institutions, please be patient with me as I am quite aware what a complete waste of time this all is.

If there is any value at all in this exercise is that it lets me blow off a little steam and may help others form their own opinions on some of these topics.

We will return to our regularly scheduled programming soon.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Need for Reciprocity When Insulting Someone With Social Media

One of the great aspects of Social Media is the ability to offend people at a deeper level and with more oomph than mere email or online forums. In the past, using receding media technology, such as writing on paper or the printed word, one needed a little time for the insult to become clear. But now with the bold new technology of Social Media and the power of the Internet we can mortally offend someone with the click of a mouse.

And we do, we do insult people, we insult people all the time with Facebook.

But since this is a totally new approach, some mechanisms may need refinement until it settles down into a truly democratic method of punching someone in the ego.

Such refinement is probably necessary in the case of the Facebook method of blocking and unblocking. As it stands now, one can block someone without their knowledge, but also unblock them without their knowledge as well. Blocking keeps either party from seeing anything about each other, even to know that the other person exists on Facebook. So far so good.

But there are issues.  The first problem is that the blocked individual has to find out on their own nickle that they have been blocked, which is always a demeaning thing to have to do. One wonders what happened to the other person, one searches, one does not find, then one discovers that one has been blocked. I have noticed that by the time this happens that the feeling is usually, but not always, mutual. In my case, the two times I have been blocked it is because I tried to build bridges to someone who I have damaged relationships with. In both cases their blocking me is a rebuff.

But you see, having been rebuffed in my effort to open communications, that is pretty much the end of the matter from my point of view. But Facebook does not give me the ability to implement that. The other party can unblock me and see what I am doing whenever they want, and I don't want that. I want any unblocking to be mutual, they have to ask, and I have to agree.

Because, frankly, I really don't want to see or hear from them again.