Monday, September 30, 2013

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) **

Clunky melodrama that's way too long, with a great Bette Davis performance as an aging child star who has a relationship problem with her invalid sister. To say the least!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Insurance industry pricing climate risk as a dead certainty - Boing Boing

"Insurance underwriters generally operate in the real world, where science trumps ideology (that's why terrorism insurance is pretty darned cheap -- despite the politically successful posturing of our leaders, terrorism just isn't a very big threat). That's why climate change insurance costs big bucks -- insurers know that it's real, it's coming, and it's really, really bad news."

Looting Public Pensions: A New Study | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

"1) Many states and cities have been under-paying or non-paying their required contributions into public pension funds for years, causing massive shortfalls that are seldom reported upon by local outlets.

"2) As a solution to the fiscal crises, unions and voters are being told that a key solution is seeking higher yields or more diversity through "alternative investments," whose high fees cost nearly as much as the cuts being demanded of workers, making this a pretty straightforward wealth transfer. A series of other middlemen are also in on this game, siphoning off millions in fees from states that are publicly claiming to be broke.

"3) Many of the "alternative investments" these funds end up putting their money in are hedge funds or PE funds run by men and women who have lobbied politically against traditional union pension plans in the past, meaning union members have been giving away millions of their own retirement money essentially to fund political movements against them."

Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic' American media | Media |

"He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.

"Don't even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends 'so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would" – or the death of Osama bin Laden. 'Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true,' he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Woody Allen on Blue Jasmine: 'You see tantrums in adults all the time' | Film | The Guardian

"'Ninety-nine per cent of decisions are predicated on feelings – instinctive, emotional, fears, conflicts, unresolved childhood problems. They're our dominant motivating factor, not reason or rationality or common sense. And that's why the world is in a terrible, terrible state. Human relations are hard and brutal and painful, and the world is in a dreadful state politically. And that's because feelings govern almost everything in every sphere.'"

Phenomenology Never Goes Out Of date - 3:AM Magazine

"On the other hand, there is another side of the issue. If I look angry to you, it would be completely understandable if you ended up believing on the basis of how I look that I am angry. After all, believing your eyes is normally a reasonable thing to do. What else are you supposed to believe, if you have no contravening information? And so we have a philosophical problem. The challenge is to negotiate between the idea that perception is a rational guide to belief when you don’t have any explicit reason to doubt it, and the apparently absurd conclusion that your fear-induced or prejudice-induced experiences could rationally support the very fears and prejudices that give rise to them.

"Writ large, this problem is an instance case of a type of situation that pretty much everyone has encountered. If someone is repeatedly mean to you but has no idea he is acting that way, then does he have a reason to stop? Yes, because he’s being mean to you. But No, because he has no idea what he is doing.

"If Jack looks angry to Jill, but only because she fears he is mad at her, should she believe he’s angry? Yes, because that’s how he looks to her. But No, because his looking that way is not the form of perceptual openness to the world that it seems to be."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Undernews: Why are lobster prices so low. . .until you go to the restaurant

"Since most customers don’t know what’s been happening to the wholesale price of lobster, cutting the price could send the wrong signal: people might think your lobster is inferior to that of your competitors. A 1996 study found that restaurants wouldn’t place more orders with wholesalers even if lobster prices fell twenty-five per cent. As the study’s authors put it, 'A low price creates suspicion.' This helps explain one of the interesting strategies that restaurants have adopted to take advantage of the lower price for lobster: they keep the price of lobster entrees high, but add lower-priced items—lobster bisque, lobster mac-and-cheese, a lobster B.L.T—to the menu. That way, they can generate more business without endangering lobster’s exclusive image."

Another thing to keep in mind the next time you read/hear about how supply and demand and "free" markets work.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rosemary's Baby (1968) **

Roman Polanski tries hard but the material is quite flimsy and the big payoff is more risible than horrible. Well shot though.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) **

13yo Jodie Foster is great in a low budget weird little creep-fest. Excellent art direction and cinematography but not especially memorable.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) *

Even sillier than the original with one jump scare after another, 1 dimensional characters.

Woody Allen: ‘I’ve spent my whole life under a cloud’ - Telegraph

"This last is no minor consideration, considering that Allen – born Allen Stewart Konisberg in The Bronx – claims to have become aware of his own mortality and the existential abyss at the tender age of five. 'I remember the dark cloud descending then, and I've walked around under it my entire life,' he says matter-of-factly. 'There's a neuro-biological theory that these things are imprinted, hardwired – this guy's gloomy, this one's sunny – and there's nothing you can do about it. We're not born with a clean slate, as Sartre would have you think; rather, we have a little photograph on our negative and it's how you manage that in the developing fluid. Some manage that process better than others, but the imprint is always there. So I need to work to keep my gloom at bay.'”

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Think About Sugar - James Hamblin - The Atlantic

"... Charts like these paint a correlation that seems to be changing the world. Mexico, for example, is second in the world in adult obesity, first in type II diabetes (the leading cause of death in the country), and fourth in infant obesity. It's also second in added sugar consumption per person, and second in soft drinks consumed per person."

Can that soda consumption chart be correct? USA *averages* over 160 liters annually per capita?!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mud (2012) ***

It's different enough from the typical coming-of-age flicks and features some good actors doing good work especially a terrific performance by Tye Sheridan in the lead. It's too long though and overemphasizes its point with too many plot threads. Would have been a classic at 90 minutes with a straight story.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Insidious (2010) **

Fairly effective ghost story with lots of jump scares and plenty of references to other flicks.

DNA Double Take -

"But scientists are discovering that — to a surprising degree — we contain genetic multitudes. Not long ago, researchers had thought it was rare for the cells in a single healthy person to differ genetically in a significant way. But scientists are finding that it’s quite common for an individual to have multiple genomes. Some people, for example, have groups of cells with mutations that are not found in the rest of the body. Some have genomes that came from other people."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

It Captures Your Mind by Cass R. Sunstein | The New York Review of Books

"Because they lack money, poor people must focus intensely on the economic consequences of expenditures that wealthy people consider trivial and not worth worrying over. Those without a lot of time have to hoard their minutes, and they may have trouble planning for the long term. The cash-poor and the time-poor have much in common with lonely people, for whom relationships with others are scarce. When people struggle with scarcity, their minds are intensely occupied, even taken over, by what they lack."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chomsky: Instead of "Illegal" Threat to Syria, U.S. Should Back Chemical Weapons Ban in All Nations | Democracy Now!

"NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Noam Chomsky, supporters of the U.S. plan say that the only reason that Assad agreed to hand over, relinquish control over chemical weapons was because of the threat of military force, of U.S. military force. And what interest does the U.S. have in striking Syria militarily?

NOAM CHOMSKY: The first comment is correct. The threat and use of force can be effective. So, for example, Russia was able to control Eastern Europe for 50 years with the threat and occasional use of force. Hitler was able to take over Czechoslovakia with the threat of force. Yes, it often works, no doubt. That’s one of the reasons it’s banned under international—under international law.

The reason—the pretexts for imposing—for carrying out a forceful act have generally declined, to the point that even the British government hasn’t accepted them, and the Congress was apparently going to reject them, and the United States, the government, resorted to the—what is usually the last—the last resort, when everything else fails, saying our credibility is at stake. That’s correct. U.S. credibility is at stake. Obama issued an edict, and it has to be enforced. That’s a familiar doctrine. It’s one of the leading doctrines of world affairs. Credibility of powerful, violent states must be maintained. It’s—occasionally called it the Mafia doctrine. It’s essentially the doctrine by which the godfather rules his domains within the Mafia system. That’s one of the leading principles of world order: Credibility has to be maintained."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012) *

Muddled ghost story is big on atmospheric (though nonsensical) scenes that don't add up to much. Thankfully brief.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Greenberg (2010) ***

Sort of a West Coast male version of Frances Ha (with a MUCH less appealing title character), it is well acted, directed and written, however Ben Stiller doesn't seem to fit the lead role and it is distracting.

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Social Life of Genes: Shaping Your Molecular Composition

“You can’t change your genes. But if we’re even half right about all this, you can change the way your genes behave—which is almost the same thing. By adjusting your environment you can adjust your gene activity. That’s what we’re doing as we move through life. We’re constantly trying to hunt down that sweet spot between too much challenge and too little.
“That’s a really important part of this: To an extent that immunologists and psychologists rarely appreciate, we are architects of our own experience. Your subjective experience carries more power than your objective situation. If you feel like you’re alone even when you’re in a room filled with the people closest to you, you’re going to have problems. If you feel like you’re well supported even though there’s nobody else in sight; if you carry relationships in your head; if you come at the world with a sense that people care about you, that you’re valuable, that you’re okay; then your body is going to act as if you’re okay—even if you’re wrong about all that.”

But what is the "you" that creates it's own experience?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Rabbit Hole (2010) **

Well made, excellently acted film but watching very wealthy, attractive white people having a tough time dealing with grief is a little hard to take.

Monday, September 02, 2013

His Kind of Woman (1951) **

Poorly thought out noir with only interesting aspect being Vincent Price as a ham actor with a penchant for armaments. Robert Mitchum looks as confused as we are by the convoluted and nonsensical plot.