tuesday | 16 april 2013

THE BOSTON MARATHON

BOSTON. FUCKING HORRIBLE

Patton Oswalt | Facebook

Boston. Fucking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

THE MARATHON

Charles Pierce | Grantland

It was what was left behind that wrung the heart as you walked through Copley Square in Boston while the sun fell at the end of a very bad day. Tables full of unopened bottled water. Piles of those strange silver thermal blankets that have become as much a part of the annual event as spaghetti suppers and lost Scandinavians trying to find their way to Fenways Park. Bags of street clothes, waiting in great lines along Berkeley Street for owners who were god knows where. The Common. The Public Garden. Locked down in a restaurant into which they might have wandered to use the facilities. One solitary fireman, slumped on the bumper of a truck, eyes to the sky, without the energy to reach down and pick up a bottle of water at his feet, and then the shadows lengthening down Boylston Street again, and sirens and sirens, and then silence, and sirens some more. This is the tableau that’s left when you take out the joy.

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GOLD

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EVERYONE SHOULD BE THRILLED BY THE GOLD CRASH

Joe Wiesenthal | Business Insider

The last few years have seen a major ideological battle take place.

On one hand you have established economists, who believe the government has tools at its disposal to address a crisis. These tools include deficit spending and a violent expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet.

Conversely you have critics who slam the arrogance of economists and central planners, and who have predicted that all of this economic acrobatics would result in an economic collapse, hyperinflation, and an explosion in the price of gold. Gold is important to their worldview, because it represents a quasi-money that’s not tied to any government or central bank.

WHY THE PRICE OF GOLD IS PLUMMETING: SIX THEORIES

John Cassidy | The New Yorker

If you’ve been thinking about pulling out your gold fillings, or melting down the gold wedding ring your ex-wife threw in your face, you’d better get on with it. The way gold is trading on the financial markets, it won’t be worth your while unless you act soon. In the past two days, the spot price of the precious metal has fallen by almost a hundred dollars, to one thousand three hundred and seventy-five dollars an ounce. It’s the biggest two-day fall in thirty years. Since November, the price is down about four hundred dollars—or about twenty per cent.

Why’s this happening? The proximate answer is because traders are selling. Beyond that, nobody knows for sure. Trying to explain what’s happening in a speculative market like gold is a bit like trying to say why lightning strikes one place but not another. We know the general principles involved, but beyond that it’s mostly guesswork. Still, here are six theories, which I’ve ordered by increasing plausibility.

THE 10 RULES OF GOLDBUGGERY

Barry Ritholtz | The Big Picture

Yesterday morning, I mentioned the extent of cognitive dissonance surrounding the Gold was surprising (What Are Gold’s Fundamentals?).

The reaction to Gold’s crash has produced some astonishing rationalizations. The refusal to acknowledge basic trading facts leads us to recognize that Gold bugs and traders have very specific rules that they MUST follow. These social conventions look less like a debate about asset classes and more like a religious cult.

The advocates for any sort of investing thesis have their rules, metrics, heuristics and biases. Here are the rules we teased out for the Gold Trade . . .

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ECONOMICS

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MISSING DEFLATION

Paul Krugman | The Conscience of a Liberal | The New York Times

One area where things haven’t worked out as expected [by Keynesians], however, is on the deflation front. Inflation has stayed very subdued; but coming in to the crisis I certainly thought that actual Japanese-style deflation was a real possibility. That hasn’t materialized (and for that matter, even Japan never had more than very gradual deflation). Why?

One possibility was that there wasn’t as much slack in the economy as we thought, that a lot of the problem was structural rather than cyclical.

Another possibility, however, which I at least noted fairly early on, was that downward nominal wage rigidity could explain why the fairly rapid falls in inflation seen in previous slumps weren’t happening this time; if wages are “reluctant” to actually fall, inflation becomes “sticky” at low levels even with a very depressed economy.

So now we have two new analyses, by Hobijn and Daly at a Boston Fed conference, and in the IMF’s new World Economic Outlook, both of which strongly suggest that the issue isn’t structural unemployment, it’s low responsiveness of inflation to unemployment when inflation is low to begin with.

1. This does say that there is little risk of accelerating inflation. Indeed, Hobijn and Daly suggest that there’s a “pent-up demand for wage cuts” that will probably push inflation lower even if the economy is recovering.

2. Central banks and other policy makers will be making a terrible mistake if they look at low, stable inflation and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Low, stable inflation, it turns out, is entirely consistent with catastrophic economic mismanagement.

THE RIDDLE OF EUROPE’S SINGLE CURRENCY WITH MANY VALUES


Wolfgang Münchau | The Financial Times

A European Central Bank survey shows that households in northern Europe have a much lower net wealth than those in southern Europe. Average German net assets per household are just under €200,000, while they are €300,000 in Spain and €670,000 in Cyprus. No, this not a typo.
German newspapers screamed that poor Germans are bailing out rich Cypriots. This interpretation is wrong but the truth behind these counter-intuitive findings is even more disturbing. What the survey shows is not wealth differentials but the de facto exchange rates between the eurozone economies. They are not measures of net wealth but of imbalances. And they are enormous.

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TAXES

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TAX CODE IS FAIRLY PROGRESSIVE – EXCEPT AT THE TOP

Matthew Yglesias | Slate

The federal income tax has a strongly progressive structure. State retail sales taxes are strongly regressive. Social Security taxes are moderately regressive. How does it all add up? Well, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has this chart, which they say shows the overall tax system is “only moderately progressive.”

I’d put it differently. The overall tax system is pretty progressive but seems to be built for a different era before the divergence of the 1 percent and the 0.01 percent from the 99 percent and the 99.99 percent. It rightly draws a large distinction between the bottom quintile and the fourth quintile but fails to draw a major distinction for gaps within the top quintile.

chart-taxprogressivity

WHAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT TAXES

Bruce Bartlett | Economix | The New York Times

A poll in April 2003 sponsored by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government found that 57 percent of people believed that high-income families paid less than their fair share. A December 2011 Pew poll found the same percentage saying so. By contrast, it found that only 11 percent of people found that the amount of federal taxes they themselves paid was what bothered them the most, with 28 percent naming the complexity of the tax system.

Possibly the greatest dissatisfaction with the tax system is not with taxes per se, but the widespread feeling that the money is simply wasted. The American Enterprise Institute compendium shows that the percentage of people who believe that the government wastes a lot of their money has risen over time. Recent polls put the percentage in the 70 percent to 80 percent range, almost twice what it was in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

When asked what percentage of all federal spending is wasted, a variety of polls routinely put the figure around half. People also believe that wasteful spending has risen over time and that they themselves get little if any value from the taxes they pay. Overwhelmingly, people say that how their taxes are spent bothers them more than the amount they pay.

HOW THE SUPER RICH AVOID PAYING TAXES

TopAccountingDegrees.Org | via The Big Picture
How The Super Rich Avoid Paying Taxes
Source: TopAccountingDegrees.org

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MASTERY | CREATIVITY

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THE HELINSKI BUS STATION THEORY

Oliver Burkeman | The Guardian | via Felix Salmon

First outlined in a 2004 graduation speech by Finnish-American photographer Arno Minkkinen, the theory claims, in short, that the secret to a creatively fulfilling career lies in understanding the operations of Helsinki’s main bus station. It has circulated among photographers for years, but it deserves (pardon the pun) greater exposure.

. . . There are two dozen platforms, Minkkinen explains, from each of which several different bus lines depart. Thereafter, for a kilometre or more, all the lines leaving from any one platform take the same route out of the city, making identical stops. “Each bus stop represents one year in the life of a photographer,” Minkkinen says. You pick a career direction – maybe you focus on making platinum prints of nudes – and set off. Three stops later, you’ve got a nascent body of work. “You take those three years of work on the nude to [a gallery], and the curator asks if you are familiar with the nudes of Irving Penn.” Penn’s bus, it turns out, was on the same route. Annoyed to have been following someone else’s path, “you hop off the bus, grab a cab… and head straight back to the bus station, looking for another platform”. Three years later, something similar happens. “This goes on all your creative life: always showing new work, always being compared to others.” What’s the answer? “It’s simple. Stay on the bus. Stay on the fucking bus.”

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FILM | SURFING

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HOW APOCOLYPSE NOW INSPIRED FILIPINO SURFERS

Kate McGeown | BBC News

When a scene from Apocalypse Now was shot on an obscure beach in the Philippines in the late 70s, little did the film-makers know they were giving birth to the country’s surfing culture.

“Charlie don’t surf,” says the reckless and irrepressible Colonel Kilgore, in one of the most memorable lines of the Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now.

. . . “When the filming finished, some of the crew left their surfboards behind, and my friend and I picked up the boards and taught ourselves how to surf,” he says. “We’ve been surfing ever since.”

At first, Nomoro and his friends found it difficult because there was no-one around to teach them. “But we studied it, and learned, and now – no-one can explain what it feels like. Only a surfer knows the feeling,” he says, smiling. Once they got the hang of it, the boys started teaching others, and as word spread, tourists began coming to the little town to learn to ride the waves at Charlie’s Point, as it became known.

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BIOGRAPHY

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WHAT LIBERACE REVEALS ABOUT THE MARCH OF GAY RIGHTS

Jon Kelly | BBC News

“But the gay stuff is only one context for understanding Liberace. It’s secondary to the fact he was a great performer, he was extremely fastidious about his presentation and he gave his audiences exactly what they wanted.” More importantly, his performance style was constructed to be as non-threatening as possible. While camp, it was shorn of any suggestion that he might ever want to actually have sex.

Kevin Kopelson, professor of English at the University of Iowa, who analysed the Liberace phenomenon in his book Beethoven’s Kiss, compares the pianist’s public persona to that of Michael Jackson. Both men, he says, portrayed themselves as childlike and innocent. “Liberace tried to come across as pre-sexual, non-sexual or asexual,” says Kopelson. “He presented himself as a girly boy, not a gay man.”

It was not enough to prevent rumours circulating, however, and Liberace felt obliged to take legal action against publications which suggested he might be gay.

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DESIGN | ARCHITECTURE

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ZENKAYA HOUSE

Despierta Y Mira

Zenyaka-house

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MUSIC

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KURT VILE: WAKIN ON A PRETTY DAZE

Michael Roffman | Consquence of Sound

Written on the road and recorded across America in upstate New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, the follow-up to 2011′s Smoke Ring for My Halo turns the Philadelphia songwriter into a seasoned explorer, conjuring up the rugged frontier magic that Young, Browne, Fleetwood, and Petty sharpened in the ’70s. This album’s alive and far removed from the claustrophobic confines of his last outing, whose dreary black and white cover offered a succinct portrait of that album’s introverted personality. Similarly, Wakin‘s cover correlates its implicit themes, capturing Vile on a perfect day, standing outside a building tagged with his name, the album’s title, and splotches of album-related street art. It’s a bold statement for an artist that spends most of his time behind a wall of hair, but it’s the right one to make for this indomitable album.


kurt-vile-wakin-on-a-pretty-daze-260x260

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