Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Commodity investors made a fortune. Gold rose more than 15% per year and oil prices, though extremely volatile, proved to be a brilliant bet.
SHOOT: In my opinion commodities are the only stocks that are going to improve. Asthey have done. Why? Because resources are only getting scarcer, while consumers continue to swarm and multiply like there's no tomorrow. All other sectors will fail; commodities will become increasingly vital. And no tomorrow might just come sooner than we think.
-- Households are trimming debt. Total household debt, including mortgages, credit cards, autos and other consumer loans, stood at $13.6 trillion in the third quarter of this year, according to the Fed. That's down from $13.7 trillion in the second quarter. Debt reduction is healthy for personal finances but not for economic growth: Consumers pare debt with money they might otherwise spend.
-- Most Americans -- 80 percent -- plan to use cash for all their holiday purchases, according to an Associated Press-Gfk poll. Using cash is a way to stick to budgets and avoid impulse purchases. It suggests consumers are wary of spending freely -- whether for gifts or other purchases.
While holiday sales aren't vital to economic growth, consumer spending as a whole is: It accounts for about 70 percent of it.
-- Unemployment has hit double digits and is expected to remain near or above 10 percent well into next year, far above a "normal" rate of 5 or 6 percent.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
What does one TRILLION dollars look like?
A billion dollars...
A hundred billion dollars.....
One TRILLION dollars...
What does that look like? I mean, these various numbers are tossed around like so many doggie treats, so I thought I'd take Google Sketchup out for a test drive and try to get a sense of what exactly a trillion dollars looks like.
We'll start with a $100 dollar bill. Currently the largest U.S. denomination in general circulation. Most everyone has seen them, slighty fewer have owned them. Guaranteed to make friends wherever they go.
A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2" thick and contains $10,000. Fits in your pocket easily and is more than enough for week or two of shamefully decadent fun.
Believe it or not, this next little pile is $1 million dollars (100 packets of $10,000). You could stuff that into a grocery bag and walk around with it.
While a measly $1 million looked a little unimpressive, $100 million is a little more respectable. It fits neatly on a standard pallet...
And $1 BILLION dollars... now we're really getting somewhere...
Next we'll look at ONE TRILLION dollars. This is that number we've been hearing about so much. What is a trillion dollars?
Well, it's a million million. It's a thousand billion. It's a one followed by 12 zeros.
You ready for this?
It's pretty surprising.
Scroll down... ... I give you $1 trillion dollars...
(And notice those pallets are double stacked.)
So the next time you hear someone toss around the phrase "trillion dollars"... that's what they're talking about
SHOOT: Excellent commentary once again from Jim.
More to the point, the depiction of our national character through the whole course of the film was of a thuggish, cruel, cynical, stupid, detestable, and totally corrupt people bent on the complete destruction of nature. Nice
I'm not shedding any tears for Tiger. Even if all his endorsements dry up and his ex-wife takes him to the cleaners for a hundred million or so, he'll still be left with enough cash to pay for porn stars and lobster tails until the end of time, especially if he keeps his tipping policy at its current level
Cameron talks about AVATAR: says two sequels are possible, it's not anti-human, it's about aspiring to be better than we are
SHOOT: Looking forward to more.
The big issue was the scale of it.
Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs, of East Windsor, N.J., is a mother of two and grandparent of ten. She and her husband identify themselves as Conservative Jews, though Mrs. Dinerstein-Kurs says she’s a bit less observant than her husband, Steven. Their son is raising his three children as Reform Jews, while their daughter and her seven children are Orthodox. As Dinerstein-Kurs told the website grandparents.com last year, her daughter’s strict beliefs mean restricted contact with her grandchildren:
Dinerstein-Kurs’s daughter’s children attend single-sex, strictly-segregated Orthodox private schools, so she can only attend events at the girls’ school; her husband can only attend events at the boys’ school. And while the Dinerstein-Kurs, who are Conservative Jews, do follow kosher dietary rules, her daughter and son-in-law will not come to their home for the Jewish holidays. (Many Orthodox Jews do not travel during major holidays, and many will only eat in other homes that follow a particularly strict interpretation of kosher dietary laws.)
“You sit around the table on a holiday and she’s not there,” she says. “It’s almost like a death.”
Further, the couple will not allow the children to go to their grandparents’ home for a sleepover, in part because the grandparents aren’t equipped to say all of the daily blessings an Orthodox family would normally say. “While I do my best to connect with them, there’s something to be said for having them one-on-one. I can’t take them out for the day alone; no overnights, no baby-sitting, and no vacations. There’s so much I can’t do with and for the kids.”
Read the full article here.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Since that's a stretch, let's have a look at what money can buy.
Then there's something I really want to put my face into...
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Of course, things mean very little if you don't have someone to love, someone to share the fining things in life with, like Bar Israeli. Now really, are any of these too much to ask? Hello?
Crime in Johannesburg: We have a huge problem with security guards being involved in business and house robberies in the Mamelodi area
The guard was charged as an accomplice.
SHOOT: Treat your guards with respect, but also circumspection.
SHOOT: Rather safe than sorry.
The warnings would recommend that users, especially children and pregnant women, keep the devices away from their head and body.
Boland said Maine's roughly 950,000 cell phone users among its 1.3 million residents "do not know what the risks are."
Barry Ronge's Review of AVATAR: It is one of the most beautifully imagined and created movies we have seen in years.
“Avatar” is a thundering, adjective-defying, marvel of a film, so visually rich and acutely topical that you really have to see it twice. The 3D imagery is so natural and so seamlessly woven into the story, that you hardly notice it, which shows you just how well this special effect has been integrated into the narrative. The story is based on a shrewd and provocative inversion of a traditional science-fiction template - the “alien invasion”. It has been a staple of science-fiction movies for the last sixty years but in “Avatar”, Cameron turns that idea on its head.
That is not only an interesting inversion of a classic sci-fi format, it is also highly topical. It’s no accident that this film was released at the same time as the 2008 Copenhagen Climate Change conference was still in session. The themes of “Avatar” resonate powerfully and specifically with the goals and aspirations of those environmentalists, who are trying to set a new ecological time-table for planet Earth.
Audiences seem to have swallowed Fox’s message that this is a film that should be seen in 3-D. Imax theaters — 179 in North America and 58 overseas — broke sales records, with every theater selling out. One signal of how “Avatar” could perform going forward: One Imax theater in London has already sold $1 million worth of tickets, $800,000 of which is for the weeks ahead.
SHOOT: I'll be watching AVATAR for the 3rd time this week. That puts it on a par or better than Dark Knight.
People wanted to believe what they wanted to believe - by Nick van der Leek
Last year around this time I was working through the festive season, and there was the customary exodus of colleagues going on holiday, and leaving with a cheery: 'Merry Christmas and Happy New Year'. One of them, a fella called Dave, made this contemporary advocation. I stopped and contradicted him. I said, 'Given what we know so far, we ought to expect 2009 to be a very tough year.' He shot back that I was being 'negative' and 'pessimistic'. To be fair, I get that a lot. But Dave had just gotten married, so expecting a good 2009 had probably formed part and parcel of his marital vows. But my response to being criticised for reminding folks of reality is this:
When you're tough on yourself, life is going to be infinitely easier on you.- Zig Ziglar
In my opinion we are not particularly tough on ourselves or each other. The world is slack, overweight, lazy. We're still in a sort've party mode. Our entertainments, on a daily basis, fuel this feel-good-fiesta. The press-button-lifestyle and easy-motoring culture reinforces that concept that to live like kings, nay gods, is normal. It may have some guise or normality, but to believe that this can continue for much longer is either moronic or suicidal, or both.
Of course, the contemporary mindset is something between these themes of lunacy and insanity. You have the US President visiting Copenhagen and blathering about actions speaking louder than words, only to return with no commitments, other than some sort of non-legally binding poetry. I wonder whether the president felt something writhe, like Cameron's alien, in his belly, as he flew home to another one of those freakish winter storms. As his plane was buffeted, did he feel a sense of irony - and let's be clear, dread?
At the time of writing Eurostar, which transports 25 000 passengers daily by rail has been put on ice - indefinitely. The problem, as cited by the New York Times, is, well, unusually cold weather:
The unusual temperatures on the French side of the tunnel were part of wintry weather that stretched across Europe, killing 15 people in Poland and leading to cancellations at airports in several countries, The Associated Press reported.
The Telegraph expands on the problem:
A Eurostar spokesman said screens and shields fitted to the trains to stop snow getting into the electrics had failed and needed to be improved after the “acute” wintry conditions in northern France caused snow to build up underneath the trains.
One of the things we can expect in 2010, for the next decade in fact, is an acceleration in troubles relating to our attempts to do business as usual while the environment - climate being one aspect - deteriorates, or simply changes, often with unexpected consequences.
The number one problem facing us - human beings - in 2010 isn't a financial crisis, or climate change, or an exotic flu pandemic, or an energy conundrum. The problem is us. We're deep in denial. Two icons provide us ample evidence of this. One is Michael Jackson. Michael evolved over many years into a creepy, freakish mutant version of his former self. But what Michael and Tiger have in common is the scale and scope of their dishonesty - to themselves and to us. And here's the rub. Everyone fell for it. The news media, corporate interests, and the fanbase.
Writing for the New York Times, in an article describing Tiger Woods as The Person of the Year, Frank Rich posits: We’ve rarely questioned our assumption that 9/11, “the day that changed everything,” was the decade’s defining event. But in retrospect it may not have been. A con like Tiger’s may be more typical of our time than a one-off domestic terrorist attack, however devastating...What’s striking instead is the exceptional, Enron-sized gap between this golfer’s public image as a paragon of businesslike discipline and focus and the maniacally reckless life we now know he led. What’s equally striking, if not shocking, is that the American establishment and news media — all of it, not just golf writers or celebrity tabloids — fell for the Woods myth as hard as any fan and actively helped sustain and enhance it.
The theme of the Woods parable is a chronic addiction to falsehood. It is myself-uber-alles. It is telling the press 'family is the most important thing' and exuberantly living out the opposite. Woods capacity for lying to himself and deceiving others is shared by the mainstream media, who haven't sniffed out a real story for some time. They haven't seen the financial shitstorm coming [instead they deny we're in trouble even some time after the wave hits, with a resistance to using the R-is-for-Recession that borders on obsessed. Of course, every excuse is used to write R-is-for-Recovery. Why? Because believing something, it seems, can make it happen. Believing and being positive can make us rich. And getting others to buy into our bullshit reinforces this cycle of delusional - and temporary wealth].
The news media weren't able to call Bush's WMD hyped invasion of Iraq exactly what it was - a misstep.
Right now, the news media are still mixed up about our energy prospects. In fact I find the media to be very schizophrenic in their coverage. The South African media have knocked the virtuous INVICTUS for being too Hollywood. Really? A story about strong, and moral leadership, is described by Carlos Amato as a plodding, patronising affair - a clumsy Hollywood knock-on, excruciatingly unconvincing. It beggars belief that our own reviewers are this cynical. Three Oscar Winning big hitters have bothered to tell a South African story to an American audience, and all Amato can do is bitch about whether the accents were good enough for him?
Then there are comments about AVATAR being about white guilt. These responses to two very altruistic cinema experiences demonstrate a sickened human system that can never be satisfied.
The Pet Shop Boys have a song with these lyrics:
Too much of anything
Is never enough
Too much of everything
Is never enough
You need more
Than the Gerhard Richter hangin’ on your wall
A chauffeur-driven limousine on call
There's a little more insight into climate change, but it's come very late, and arguably, if it had come sooner, in a sustained pattern, world leaders would have been mandated by expectation to deliver. How long ago were we reading reports in the mainstream media calling climate change a theory? Mere months ago. By lying to ourselves that climate isn't happening, we don't have to do anything about it, and we can continue having our party.
Of course, any dishonest pattern eventually unravels. Nature it is said, abhors a vacuum, and reality speaks better than any man. Reality has started clearing it's throat. You can complain that reality is negative, or pessimistic, if you want to make yourself look and sound stupid.
As I've said, the problem, fundamentally, isn't climate change, or pandemic disease, or energy. It's us. We have to exceed our own expectations for ourselves. We have to be something more, nay, something other than consumers.
I'd suggest: conservers. Our prospects can only begin to improve when we acknowledge reality. When it is culturally acceptable to hold ourselves accountable to news and views that don't enhance our salaries. Sometimes it's in someones interests to claim that smoking doesn't cause cancer. Sometimes we can't prove these things beyond a shadow of a doubt. The same is true right now with cellphones causing tumors.
This is where common sense comes in, and part of common sense is making the choice to be honest with ourselves. When we are, we begin to do things that enhance not only our lives, but the prospects of our companions. This is the message of AVATAR. That we reconnect ourselves to the world. The real world. In 2010 those reconnections will be painful, like the first labour pains. Whether we choose to resist the New Life that is in store, or to accept it, know this: the contractions have already started.
Q. What is Clint Eastwood like as a director?
Q. What was your offscreen relationship with Matt Damon like?
Look, I was quite shy.
We'd chat about the culture and he had a lot of questions about rugby. I didn’t want to invade anyone's space so when I was done for the day I would get out of the way. But I wanted to absorb as much as I could so sometimes I'd stay on set, hide out in a corner somewhere, to watch everyone work.
Q. It must've been nerve-wrangling to shoot your romantic scene with him.