The Ghosts of Markets Past

20 years on: uh-oh. October 18 might be a good day to take a long view (or some extremely good short options).

quickie the daily column

Red Star

Max Barry (of Jennifer Government and Company fame) put up a mini-comp to design a can for a promo for an upcoming movie of a book Max wrote (ain’t that a story all in itself) – and here’s my entry (may offend some; read Max’s post for details).

Y’know what, I’m inordinately proud. Where the hell did I come up with that? No idea, but I Likey.

Just, y’know, thought I’d mention, in case you see these around town some time =)



How come, in England, I can get 8mbit ADSL with unlimited downloads for £10 a month, but in Australia, I’d struggle to get anything close for $25?

Screw the bush, I want decent service where I can get it. Honestly, as much as I am all for equal opportunity, I think the fact that the phone companies here are required to provide the same (approximate) level of service to the bush is holding the city service back. When the difference really is that great, it should be acknowledged and the market allowed to vary.

quickie review

Movie Review – Quickie Edition II

A 19 hour flight is a spectacular time to catch up on movie watching…

Shrek the Third: proves everything I say about third sequels. Out of ideas, rehash, etc. ★★, with difficulty.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: Would you believe I’d never seen this until this flight? I’d caught bits of it, but I’d picked up most of the references from the all-pervasive cultural impact this movie had had. What can I say, I’m a little bit behind the times at times. Good fun. ★★★

Paris, je t’amie: 20 stories, each told by a different director, 2 minutes a story, each set in a different area of Paris, touching on life and love in some way. It’s an interesting concept, but I’m not sure that it works so well – the restriction does distil stories to their essence, but it also strips their ability to have an impact, and one after the other just adds to it, to the point where all the stories blur a little. Paris really is a gorgeous city.

Each short varies wildly. Anywhere from ★ (the Mime’s story) to ★★★★ (the first story), so call it an average of ★★☆.

The Last Kiss: Zach Braff is Michael, 29 years old, and on the cusp of the rest of his life with his girlfriend Jenna (Jacinta Barret) – they’re about to have a baby. The traditionally mid-life crisis appears as a third-of-life crisis with Kim (Rachel Bilson), a college student Michael meets at a wedding, and you can sorta tell where it goes from there.

Why am I giving you the plot synopsis? Because… that’s what sets this movie’s potential impact up. While the main story is Michael’s, there’s a range of characters to connect with in their varied situations, and the writing and acting are both excellent. Only problem for me is that I don’t connect with any of the situations, and so it’s a lot more abstract for me, which reduces the impact of the movie. ★★★ for technical merit, and a ☆ more for potential, because it’s definitely one to revisit. (plus Rachel Bilson is gorgeous)

Blades of Glory: I’m yet to see Will Farrel play a role that is (a) serious and (b) that he doesn’t totally own. ★★★☆, and only because it’s a little too camp.

Priceless (Hors de Prix): if all French women are like Audrey Tatou, sign me up for French lessons. ★★★★☆, and then some.

Children of Men: The year is 2027 – no child has been born since 2009, and society has steadily sunk into chaos. Theo (Clive Owen) is a man with a past, and the past comes a-knocking, as he is caught up in a desperate bid to get the first pregnant woman in 18 years to safety.

Clive Owen plays this to a tee – he’s just an ordinary man (well, relatively) caught up in things much bigger than he ever expected, and he’s scared. The tone of the film is bleak, with only a dim flicker of hope showing through, but it reflects the setting quite well. Probably a bit too post-apocalyptic for me to believe, the director none-the-less does well to carry the improbable premise. ★★★★


Holiday ahoy!

My first proper holiday – in the sense that I’m not going somewhere new and possibly exciting, I’m just going to take it easy and relax – is about to begin! With a 20 hour flight ;_; Man, Australia really is a ridiculously long way away from the rest of the world/action.

I’ll be in Melbourne from the morning of 3rd Sept to the evening of the 5th; all you people in Melbourne better have time for me some time in those 3 days because I’m coming a long way, dammit, and I don’t want to spend 3 days doing bugger all in Melbourne. I have better places to do bugger all.

Um. Better do this packing proper-like eh?


Movie Review: Lord of War and The Bourne Ultimatum

Lord of War

Nicholas Cage plays the good-bad-guy as an arms dealer. And, um, that seems to be about it.

Ok, so maybe that’s underplaying it a little, but this is fundamentally a bio-pic of a guy that doesn’t really exist (except for the fact that he’s a little like this guy). Cage is working with a story that’s been cobbled together, and bits of this film certainly feel like that.

Ah sure morality tale yadayadayada, action sprinkled in as appropriate, but at no point does this movie get tense. It’s got a cynical message to deliver that can play into whoever’s hands it is so desired, given the right spin (“Gun running is evil” or “We should control the gun running trade to ensure amatuers don’t cock it up for us.”, say). Deceptively complex (and not in a good way). ★★☆

The Bourne Ultimatum

Exactly unlike Lord of War, this movie doesn’t really ever let up. There’s hardly a moment to breathe easy or ponder implications as the action rushes from city to city, crossing Europe in a single bound before coming home to roost in New York.

Bourne is back, and this time, he’s really not happy. Ultimatum picks up exactly where Supremacy left off – Bourne is running from the Russian cops in Moscow, where Supremacy finished with a high-octane pursuit through the streets. The plot weaves its way back and forth between the action on the street (in various cities and continents) and the offices of the CIA in New York before culminating in New York, where it all comes to a head. Excellently driven, the script is minimalist and focused. Only tangentially related to the Robert Ludlum novels, but the times have moved on and it can be excused.


For a movie with this much of a budget, someone should’ve got a fricken steadycam. Yes, the handheld camera has its place, but for dialogue scenes, the bob of the hand is completely unnecessary and simply distracting. And while the characterisation is excellent for the most part, some are single-dimensional – Julia Stiles gets a bare handful of lines, half of which are on the phone in one scene; the “assets” don’t speak a word, making Bourne practically Shakespearean in comparison.

And what ever happened to the lost art of finishing a story off? It’s almost a mandatory requirement these days to leave some threads dangling for the next sequel. I dislike sequelism for the sake of sequelism, and this movie could have wrapped & tied the bow on Bourne. Greed got to the producers in the end, I believe.


thinking too loud

Theory of Smartness

I have a theory as to why it was the English, and the Europeans more generally, who came to dominate the world, instead of say some racial group from the tropics, say. Something set these guys apart – something made them go out to other places and take over, something made them the inventive people who worked so hard.

The reason? Cold. Miserable, wet, windy, cold weather you wouldn’t want to hang around in too long. Unfortunately enough for these people, that’s where they were destined to spend their whole lives if they didn’t go about changing things. So I say to you, an accident of geography and meteorology is more responsible for the European domination than anything else.

Think about it: when you’re cold, you do things to either take your mind off it, or alleviate your coldness. You invent things, like fire you can carry with you and control at will. On the other hand, if you’re hot, you sort of sit around in the shade, looking for a siesta maybe, until the heat of the day wears off. And then it’s time to go to sleep… and before you know it Europeans are marching around your town.

This theory plays itself out: The Romans dominated Mediterranean Europe/North Africa and a little bit further north, but ultimately the warmth of Rome and Constantinople meant they weren’t as motivated as the barbarians of the north. Some of the most exploratory people were the Vikings, who just wanted a patch of grass for their sheep to graze on. The Mongolians dominated vast expanses of Eurasia, but when they got bogged in Persia they ultimately fell to bits. The Chinese expanded south to Vietnam and Thailand, but couldn’t be bothered going further (seriously, it’s damnably humid down there).

More recently even – the French empire reached across Europe, to Moscow (where they hit people colder and thus more hard-headed than themselves), but reaching into Spain and northern Africa? That’s when they turned around and said, “bugger that, our south coast is warm enough.” The English on the other hand picked a place like Canada and northern America to expand first, and even then when they started to reach what would become the southern states, they let it go. When the USA got to Texas, and California, they took one look over the border to Mexico and said, “You know what? keep it.” The Russians – they hold vast expanses of basically arctic tundra, and they hold it well. The Germans – cold place that – romped across Europe twice before being beaten back from the warmer climes. The Japanese, even with their humid summers, made use of the cold winters to sharpen their skills and quickly brought most of Asia under their control, or at least until they got to Indonesia or the islands of the Pacific.

On the other hand, there was no armies marching out of Africa, the tropics or indeed anywhere where it is far more preferable to just genially lay on the beach. Nothing’s been invented in these places, either. Why do you think South Indians prefer to work white-collar jobs? Air-con! Who can be bothered working in a hot factory?

Call me crazy, but I don’t think I’m wrong here.

Note: Theory based entirely on thoughts plucked out of thin air.

asides tech


Keeping you abreast of the very latest on the net: Pibb is a new AJAXy browser-based IM/IRCesque messaging service. Sign in with an Open ID (e.g. Livejournal username or address) and message away. Get it while it’s hot.

quickie review

Movie Reviews – Quickie Edition I

Garden State: Totally do not get what the fuss was about. I think I fell asleep halfway through. ★★☆

The Last King of Scotland: somewhat like Blood Daimond, a struggle to get through purely because of the visceral depth of human drama on display – Africa really is a place that gets to you. Excellently acted, but surprisingly left me with little emotional impact. ★★★☆

Domino: Slick and well-paced, if a tad predictable, and the cinematography is so over the top you just want the juttering camera work to slow down and be normal for a bit. Keira kicks ass but has her default expression set to “angst”.★★★


Elementary Economic theory

A quick lesson in elementary economic theory, as it relates to the recent market instability: Gittins succinctly clears up what the central banks have been doing recently, which sounded an awful lot like they were throwing good money after bad.