December 2011 Archives

» This entry is Part 3, cont'd from Part 2, which is posted here » Using Hitchcock's Notorious KEY Shot to Focus on Political Palms - Part 2. Broken up in order to adhere to principles of web site optimization.

And now, without further commercial interruption, we present the conclusion of today's entry .. beginning with a return of the master.

Behind the scenes with Alfred Hitchcock directing an actressHitchcock Returns

That's why I mentioned the Hitchcock shot at the beginning. I want to ZOOM IN on the growing inequality created by the » campaign contribution.

Cuz the average middle-class American has little hope long as corporation$ continue to ply our representatives with intoxicatingly generous checks.

It can only get worse. Just watch-n-see.

My intuition suggests that the players involved here dont really mind if you picket their front gate .. long as they can keep playing their rewarding back-room game.

Just keep your 99% grubby paws off the chauffer-driven limo as it exits the front gate (.. made of imported Italian wrought iron) ..

.. or the Overlords will call someone to come and pepper-spray your ass .. or maybe shoot you in the face with a teargas canister, then flash-bang your unconscious ass when a crowd gathers round to help.

Others have expressed these views more eloquently, but until we enact meaningful Campaign Finance Reform to level the playing field, we-the-people are merely *hoping* that our elected leaders wont sell us out.

It would be unrealistic for us (if not downright foolhardy) to believe our representatives will put our interests ahead of those who fatten their coffers.

Unholy Alliance (Revolving Door Syndrome)

As a result (.. dont take my word for it; do your own research and check the facts for yourself) » Corporations continue to grow increasingly powerful .. thanks to an unholy Alliance of reciprocal quid pro quo with Washington lawmakers.

Thomas Jefferson | Signatory Declaration of Independence who said 'The price of liberty is eternal vigilance'In this way the self-correcting system of checks and balances devised by our nation's revolutionary founders (.. because they knew too well about the corrupting influence of power) ..

.. is thwarted and compromised, allowing the rich and powerful (in concert with policy makers) to run roughshod over the rest of us.

Sure they talk a good game, because they employ people whose sole job in life .. is to figure out what words and phrases you'll react most favorably to.

But actions speak louder than words. And we see the results of their actions. We live with the results of their actions.

Does it not seem like they're playing good-cop / bad-cop with us? Cuz the good cop and the bad cop are really on the same side, the same team. Both sides are controlled by the same mechanism.

Right now, in the current dispensation of our System, our choices every election season are between one representative of Corporations and another (.. representative of Corporations). We do not even have an opportunity to elect a representative of the People. Much less for the people.

Now dont think campaign reform will solve all our woes. It wont. But without addressing this one issue, it seems we have little hope of making progress on any other. Because we have nothing but our votes and (experience has shown) those can be bought.

The » Point of Systemic Political Infection

2012 is an election year. In the coming months, check out the fabulous record-breaking figure$ that the candidates will be reporting that they are spending on their campaigns.

Famous scene from Hitchcock's film 'Notorious'Ask yourself, "Where is all that money coming from?"

Sure, they are called contributions. But mostly, everybody knows it's really an » investment.

Chalk it up to the cost of doing business. Pay to play. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Then remember Hitchcock's Notorious scene. Follow the money .. uh, I mean, the shot.

Watch where it goes. Might take a while to get there, but watch where it goes. That's right » straight to the PALM.

There lies the point of infection, of contamination, of corruption .. of our SY$TEM of government .. right there IN THE PALM. Therein also lies the KEY .. to setting our nation back on track.

[ Kinda apropos that the scene comes from a movie named Notorious. Cracks me up.

I highlighted the word arresting at the beginning cuz I want to arrest your attention .. for a little. ]

The framers of our Constitution basically said » "We have found/met the enemy. And he is us. So we need to protect against us. We need to devise and engineer safety interlocks and protective mechanisms in order to protect us from ourselves." [ Like honorable werewolves do. ]

But the ambitious Washington / Wall Street tag-team has figured out a way to take down the Constitution clan (.. seeing they're no longer here to defend themselves).

Am I saying anything that the whole country does not already know? Anyway, the good news is » we know they are not werewolves.

This is why I predict that whoever raises the most money in the upcoming election will be our next President.

Meanwhile, we (obviously) need to » modify the SY$TEM .. so that PEOPLE are more important than MONEY.

» The Problem

The problem however, is » neither party wants to stop. (Or perhaps I should've said » neither wants the party to stop.) Because both Corporations and Congress BENEFIT from the current cozy arrangement. Immen$ely.

Can you blame them? Would you be strong enough to give lobbyists the finger? Specially if it meant you'd likely lose re-election to a well-funded rival?

I dont like to admit it, but I feel you & I would do the same things .. if we found ourselves in the same situation. This is why I feel the problem lies more with the structure of the system itself .. than with the participants, than with the players.

Sure there are bad apples in every batch, but even if you put good apples in to a bad press (machine/system), you still get out bad juice. And we obvously got us bad juice. (Results.)

United States CapitolSure, corporations have our Representatives by the balls. But dont think they arent enjoying the massage. =)

"Excuse me, Sir. I'm here to deliver your war chest. Where would you like it? Just need your signature on the dotted-line here."

Too easy.

"Hey, that chest looks pretty cool. Love the shine. How soon can you order me another?"

The current 'arrangement' leads politicians to say one thing (candy-coated promises that tickle our ears) during election season, then change their minds afterwards .. after seeing the light. The glittery light. "My precious."

Have you yourself not found it to be the case that .. those who seek positions-of-authority as a means to compensate for deep-seated feelings of inadequacy .. tend to make terrible leaders?

Because their decisions often reinforce their authority rather than promote the wellbeing of the tribe. Have you not observed this tendency yourself? In the workplace, perhaps? Those with low self-esteem and emotional insecurities always seem to have something to prove.

Doesnt matter which system you subscribe to .. central planning or market forces. Either can be gamed by crafty fellows. (They both have been!) So you see .. we have bigger problems than some ancient calendar. Much bigger.

Seems to me that .. when the wealthy & the powerful both want the same thing (.. such as a mechanism for getting more wealth and more power) .. uh, such a mechanism shalt not be easily disabled.

[ And, or course, if the powers-that-be flat-out REFUSE to cede on this point, which would not be unusual, considering these are people, who, for one reason or another, seem to be strongly attracted to POWER and/or WEALTH .. then uh, does it not appear that AR2 would be our only remaining option?

Let's hope not. ]

It may prove beneficial/instructive at this point to quote a short passage from an article that lists the main reasons for the Fall of Rome (of the Western Roman Empire).

See if you notice the similarities between the Praetorian Guard (the emperor's's private army) and the Wealthy Guard here in the States (.. our politician's private financiers) .. where both groups benefit .. to the detriment of the 'empire'.

See if the 4th paragraph does not ring familiar today. It's listed under the heading » Politcal Corruption, where we read:

The choice [ of who to select as the new Emperor ] was always open to debate between the old emperor, the Senate, the Praetorian Guard (the emperor's private army), and the army.

Gradually, the Praetorian Guard gained complete authority to choose the new emperor, who rewarded the guard who then became more influential, PERPETUATING THE CYCLE.

Compare that paragraph to our "elections" .. where we pick a new "emperor" every 4 years. And how the Wealthy are able to "choose" the next emperor, and how they are then rewarded .. perpetuating the cycle.

I have a 1st grader, who I want to grow up in a country with a bright future. (I also have a good/cool story, btw, about his Xmas present. Remind me if I forget.)

» This entry is Part 2, cont'd from Part 1, which is posted here » Using Hitchcock's Notorious KEY Shot to Focus on Political Palms - Part 1. Broken up in order to adhere to principles of web site optimization.

And now, without further commercial interruption, we present Part 2 of » Using Hitchcock's Notorious KEY Shot to Focus on Political Palms.

Basically, one method = pain NOW, whilest the other = pain LATER. What was the name of that guy in the Fram Oil Filter commercial, who used to say, "You can pay me now .. or pay me later." ? =)

» Two Questions: Why Now? + How Tomorrow?

Clearly .. when the Economic System of the Wealthiest Nation on the Planet [ WNoP ] seizes up and melts down, this is a "sign" (uh, a warning sign) .. that something is wrong. Very wrong.

[ The only thing worse than seizing the engine of your CAR is .. crashing the thing .. and perhaps dying in the process. ]

So (question #1 ») WHY .. are we seeing such economically devastating problems now?

Some people say that the problem began when we "broke the link between gold and money." Others say that the problems began when we did away with Glass-Steagall.

Still others trace the root of the problem back to the confidential memo that Cigarette-Company-Lawyer Lewis Powell sent to the US Chamber of Commerce .. before he was appointed to the Supreme Court by Nixon. [ See t=19:20 » here. AKA the mobilization of busines that occurred in the mid-1970's ]

But others feel .. well, perhaps it would be better if I simply quote Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia for 22 years (.. from 1981 to 2003).

"It's obvious that when the Eastern bloc was still there, it was a bustle between Capitalism and Communism. Once Communism was defeated however, then Capitalism could expand and show its TRUE SELF.

It's no longer constrained by the need TO BE NICE, so that people will choose their so-called free-market system, as opposed to the centrally-planned system. Because of that, nowadays, there is NOTHING TO RESTRAIN capital, and capital is demanding that it should be able to go anywhere and do whatever it likes."

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad addressing the United Nations General AssemblyIt is clear in the video (at t=2:50) that English is not his primary language, but he's basically saying that Capitalism was free to become ugly-as-it-likes after the fall of the Soviet Union (1991) ..

.. because there was no longer any competing Political / Social / Economic system and therefore » no reason "to be nice."

If, for example, you happen to own the only movie theater in town, or the only service station for many miles, you dont have to be very nice to your customers .. because they have nowhere else to go. [ Can you say, "Monopoly" ? ]

[ Note that this interview was conducted July 2001, while he was still Prime Minister, and at a time when he had already been Prime Minister for some 20 years.

That gives the good doctor a far better perspective than you and I might have (.. sitting in front of our Corporate-owned, Corporate-sponsored, Corporate-financed News channels).

He was sitting at/in a position of political power that gave him an ideal (international) perspective .. before, during & after the fall of the Soviet Union. Ten years before the fall and 10 years after.

What I'm saying becomes more clear if you watch the rest of the video (.. length = 5 mins).

At the very end of this video, btw, comes one of the program's more eyebrow-raising comments (.. from Bill Crist, former head of CalPers, world's largest pension fund) .. which we are seeing more & more .. in places not expected a very short time ago. ]

Famous scene form Hitchcock's film 'Notorious'You glean some insights when you apply the timing of these off-shore perspectives to the timeline of events here in the States that led to our current economic woes.

It's no secret that the main complaint, the biggest gripe, the most vocal criticism people have about Capitalism ..

.. has always been » the INEQUALITY it tends to breed. That it engenders.

Long as Communism remained a viable alternative Political / Social / Economic system, the governments of Capitalistic societies took steps to thwart their #1 perceived weakness.

With Communism out of the way, and with a good, old-fashioned Capitalistic monopoly on viable Political / Social / Economic systems, EQUALITY was no longer a major concern for the governments of these Capitalistic societies.

[ Plot a graph of wealth disparity in Capitalistic societies as a function of time both before and after the fall of the Berlin wall. Watch it rise. ]

Who said this?

"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Now that there is no longer any RESTRAINT on Capitalism (.. which represents a form of political power) .. what does this bode for those of us who live under such a SYSTEM .. and for the rest of the world, which (it seems) sometimes finds itself subject to our (unrestrained) whims?

As you ponder that question, considered its implications in light of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which sought to set up a BALANCE of powers .. so that man does not end up destoying himself (.. given the corrupting influence of power).

Do you see a reason for concern?

» Alfred Hitchcock is considered a master filmmaker by master filmmakers.

Vertigo - directed by Alfred Hitchcock 1958Update - 02 Aug 2012 » What a coincidence! Looks like Alfred is now the Director of #1, most highly critically-acclaimed, top-rated film .. of all time. In any language. (Ever!)

Bumping off Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Wells in 1941 (.. the same year that Bob Dylan and Dick Cheney were born) ..

.. a movie which had held the highly-coveted TOP slot since 1962 (.. the year when the list was conceived).

In other words, Citizen Kane has set atop the Filmmaking world for 50 years. That's a long time.

Vertigo, the new throne-sitter, was released in 1958 (.. also before the year the list began).

Filmmaking is arguably the most creative art form .. able to transport us, quite effectively, as you know, to distant worlds .. of both reality & imagination.

While a novel [ Writing ] can convey far more narrative DETAIL and nuance, Filmmaking is certainly the most sophisticated art form .. employing a remarkable number of different crafts, witnessed every time the credits roll at the end.

Today's development can only make the remainder of this New Year's eve entry seem even more timely. Gives it an almost prophetic flavor .. cinematically speaking ..

.. especially when you consider HOW the term 'Vertigo' is defined. (Think fiscally.)

Funny how the Wikipedia entry, which has nothing to do with Hitchcock, (near the end of the second paragraph) talks about the "notorious symptoms of vertigo". You'll see what I mean shortly. </update>

Behind the scenes with Alfred Hitchcock directing an actressThe meticulous storyboard planning Alfred invested in each shot is famous for yielding a remarkable economy of narrative.

[ An effect I admire, cuz I constantly strive for economy-of-narrative myself, artistically as possible, in writing.

Writing for the Web is very much about economy (.. as is programming). Saying much with few words.

Tho unlike Alfred, I dont plan very much. Only today, for example, did I get the idea for today's entry. Trying to keep it organic. ]

Regulars might recall how, back when I was dating Wendy, the Film school student, I accompanied her to many graduate classes at USC (.. perhaps the world's finest Film school).

While I was there, Drew Casper held the Hitchcock chair. I sat in on some of his Hitchcock classes. High energy. Entertainingly confrontational. Big auditorium. Lots of students. I was impressed that he seemed to know all their names .. so early in the semester.

Drew was certainly stimulating, but none could match the cool-oozing Todd Boyd .. specially when he made his entrance strutting on stage to some hip, groovin' music ..

.. wearing a plush fur-coat and a gangster fedora .. pulled down low over his eyes. See this photo for a better idea. (I see him on TV every once in a while .. discussing cinema.)

He was teaching a course on culture and style in cinema .. so what better way to begin the class?

He was also at a Valentine's Day party I attended .. up in LA .. at the home of another Cinema professor (.. tho I forget her name .. the lady that helped Wendy get into the undergrad Cinema program there at USC. She seemed very young to me.).

Todd came late (.. to the party) .. but you can't miss him .. with that fur coat and hat. He pretty much takes up an entire room to himself. Professor Barry White. =)

I remember how stoked Wendy was the day she came home and told me how she'd MET Hitchcock's daughter (.. now in her 80's) who had visited Drew's class and presented all of his students with a wrist watch.

She was so excited. You might've thought she'd touched the hem of the garment of the master himself. (Nice watch, too. Not a cheapie.)

Anyway, one of Hitchcock's most famous scenes came during the filming of » Notorious. An excerpt from the Wikipedia entry (3rd paragraph) reads:

"The film is known for two scenes in particular. In one of his most famous shots, Hitchcock starts high and wide on a second floor balcony overlooking the great hall of a grand mansion.

Slowly he tracks down and in on Ingrid Bergman, finally ending with a tight close-up of a KEY tucked in her hand. So arresting is the shot that an outline of the KEY became a graphic element in the film's promotional material."

Famous scene from Hitchcock's film 'Notorious'Key word » arresting. The scene is posted » here (40 secs). You neednt be a film critic to understand this KEY will play a crucial part in the story.

» A Week of Holiday Pause

We'll return to Hitchcock and his famous shot later, but first, let's shift gears and let me wish you a happy & prosperous New Year.

The week between Christmas & New Years always feels like the world is on pause.

My favorite way to spend the holiday week is at » Two Bunch Palms .. relaxing, reading, soaking & sunning.

If you go, say Hi to Rick the waiter for me. He has the best stories! (Ask him about Anna Nicole.) Those are Rick's arms you see in The Player .. when he says, "Right away, Mr. B." =)

Have you noticed however, how much faster the other 51 weeks seem to be moving .. since the quantum leap in Connectivity (.. the advent of Web + Cellular)?

Next stop » 2012. That's right, dawg .. the year about which more modern movies have been made.

While it's fun to joke about 2012 as being the long-prophesied Apocalyptic year .. I suspect there's a hint of nervous laughter behind much of that kidding.

It's not like we need Hollywood or some ancient calendar to make us feel as tho the world is starting to come apart .. or like the wheels are starting to come off.

Cuz things do feel wobbly out there. And not just here in the States either, but the world over. Lots of new words are take-offs of 'Armageddon.'

I mean, if you were hired to write an article on the End of the World, with the sole condition that it absolutely must be plausible and believable .. you wouldnt have to work very hard .. or need very much imagination.

» Expect the Unexpected in 2012

No, I dont expect to see a tsunami come crashing over the mountains, but I will be keeping out a wary eye for the unexpected. Those who have expected the unexpected, specially these last few years, have not been disappointed.

So even without the Mayan calendar or the Hollywood dramatization there's an underlying sense of unease and apprehension about the coming new year.

Certainly a major source of this anxiety comes from » the economy. Europe seems to have some new crisis every other week while we here in the States are still trying to recover from the economic meltdown of 2008.

Many pundits claim that nothing structural has really changed, except that Too-Big-to-Fail banks are now even bigger and our national debt is exploding.

The housing market would dry up and blow away without government support. Meanwhile, Fannie & Freddie, now in government conservatorship, continue to require injections of billions of taxpayer $dollars on a predictably. Regular. Basis.

And every time the Fed tries to wean the economy off its regular doses of financial steroids, the markets start to tank.

Famous scene form Hitchcock's film 'Notorious'» Researching Economic Theory

I am no Economist. Tho I did have an Economics class in college (Macro).

But our nation's economic trajectory is so depressing that I tend to avoid the subject.

(Like most Americans, I already have plenty of distressing stuff to deal with.)

// Begin collegiate coincidence sidebar.

By pure chance (coincidence) I happened to take both Economics & Sociology during the same semester .. the only two courses I took that semester (.. while working full time).

And I learned that » the Economic system controls & defines the Social system. (« That last sentence is worth re-reading.) Communism, for example, is both an economic and a social system. Same goes for Capitalism.

The two are linked (politically) .. the economic and social systems .. in ways that were not readily apparent when I signed up for the classes. You cant separate one from the other. (Nor can you separate questions of Fairness & Justice from the subject of Society.)

Here in America, MONEY (capital), more than any other thing, defines our Social status, our class. You are your bank account, your net worth. It may not be very pretty, but everybody seems to accept it.

The more wealth a person possesses, the more highly our society esteems him. The fabulously rich are revered, almost worshipped. Rich crooks are esteemed more highly than poor saints. Quite a bit more.

This inherent, systemic exaltation of money as the principle thing in our Capitalistic culture speaks volumes about the values promoted by our society .. by our very culture .. implicitly suggesting that money is even more important than than things such as right & truth & honor.

And even more important than KIDS. But that's a discussion we'll save for another day.

Alan Greenspan | George W. BushMoney .. but at what cost?

The ends always justify the means. (Or maybe it just appears that way.)

Capitalism could just as easily be called Moneyism .. were that moniker not so obviously unflattering. "In God We Trust" .. we who?

In Societies where Capital is king, if you have nothing, you're a nobody.

Have you noticed how our culture has become more about "doing more with less" .. than it is about the Doer doing the doing?

It was also in this Economics class that our prof enthusiastically proclaimed (on numerous occasions and with a loud voice) » "Alan Greenspan is the most powerful man in America!" [ .. back when Alan was the groovy chairman of the Federal Reserve ].

It may seem obvious to you .. but it actually came as a revelation to me .. that the reason the SY$TEM is about the money .. is because » the people who RUN IT .. are about the money. Think about it.

I call 'bullshit' on the bullshit.

When you consider how the EU is primarily an Economic union, you can see how many different nations have voluntarily entered into a solemn, binding, and surprisingly dictatorial agreement (.. a 'covenant' of sorts) based primarily, and almost exclusively, upon » money.

Which reminds me of something Paul wrote to Timothy, where he called "corrupt" people who » "suppose that gain [$] is godliness" .. cuz that would probably include many of the Americans you know.

Anyway, this was all major food for thought while driving home from class each night (.. after first stopping by In-n-Out, a bastion of fast-food known for its delicious Capitalist burgers).

And yes, it would've been nice, very nice, if my folks could've paid my way thru college, like many of my friends' parents did for them. Or at least chipped in a little.

Then maybe I wouldnt've had to work my way thru college, and it wouldnt have taken me 10 years to complete a 4-year degree (BSc) .. by taking a course here and a course there. But hey, things dont always work out the way we would like. And friends say I'm a better man for it.

// End collegiate coincidence sidebar.

Nevertheless, on the eve of 2012, and in the shadow of its looming implications, I've done a little research .. to try-n-bring myself up to speed .. to attempt to wrap my head around the problems that our economy faces.

I'm talking » big picture stuff. Ballpark perspective. Tho it's funny, cuz it's precisely this ballpark perspective that has allowed me to to focus on [ pinpoint ] what I feel is the heart of the matter .. the crux of the issue.

John Maynard Keynes - British economist (1883 - 1946)» Keynes vs Hayek

I discovered that you dont get very far into Economic Theory without encountering the names of two prominent Economists » Keynes (British, 1883 - 1946) and Hayek (Austrian, 1899 - 1992).

There's actually an entertaining rap video (10 mins) that compares and contrasts their differing views/theories on the best ways to implement governmental policies in order to foster economic growth.

Break out the headphones. Plug 'em in and turn it up.

Even better tho, are the three videos (by Lawrence White) that EXPOUND on the Hayek side of the rap video:

[ That's right, dawg. Everything I know about Economics I learned from a rap video. =) ]

Keynes' most popular book is » The General Theory Of Employment Interest And Money (1936). Hayek's most popular book » The Road to Serfdom (1944) .. which is still selling like crazy. (« If you think about it, that's an encouraging sign.)

There's even a simplified cartoon version of the Road to Serfdom posted » here (5-min YouTube video).

Cracked Infected Tooth Pulled

» From the moment it started hurting, I knew that tooth wasnt going to get better on its own. Dont know how I knew, but I knew. A distinct calm knowing (intuition?) accompanied the initial pain.

Three Stooges pulling a toothDenial however, is a powerful thing. So I waited a week, enduring the "discomfort" (.. to put it mildly).

Hoping against hope, praying. Living on Advil & aspirin.

Havent been to a dentist in .. a long time. Very long. Daredevil long.

Top-right-back tooth. I think they called it "#2".

When I could stand it no longer, I broke out the yellow pages and employed my vindicated intuition to select a dentist.

"I got a tooth," I said, "that's been bothering me a week. Doesnt seem to be getting any better. I have a fever, too. So I think it's infected."

"You better come in," she said, "and let the doctor look at it. We only have one opening today. At noon."

"I dont have much money," I said, before confirming, trying to camouflage the embarrassment.

"Dont worry about that," she said. "Just come on in and we'll work something out."

Fortunately, the bad tooth had some gold in it (fancy inlay/outlay), so I figured, if worse came to worst, I could use that gold to help pay my bill.

I was slightly relieved and actually encouraged that, when he looked in my mouth, the dentist didnt jerk back and say, "Holy Jesus!" or "Mother of God!"

"He only does that with the meth addicts," said the dental assistant, when the doc stepped out for a minute. She was very nice and good at settling me down. I trusted her.

"Well, you have a few problems here," the Doc said. "But let's take care of this one that's bothering you right now. And we'll worry about the rest later."

Drill that toothThe Drill

Out came the drill. You know that lovely sound. That high-pitched whir that sounds like no other sound anywhere on god's green earth.

He novacained me up nicely and I felt no pain. But I could tell he was doing some serious drilling. I could even smell something burning .. which I guessed was my tooth.

During one of his breaks, my tongue probed the problem tooth and explored what seemed like a gigantic hole he was drilling.

They (the Doc & his Assistant) were making conversation between themselves, about very boring mundane stuff. But I was thankful for this, because it helped take my mind off that horrible drilling sound.

I even chuckled at some of their sillier comments. Not easy to chuckle with a drill and a suction tube sticking out of your mouth.

She tried to get him to do extra work on an adjacent tooth, but he said, "Let's just take care of this one right now, and worry about the other later."

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