uncoy.com | la vie viennoise a winter in vienna. theatre, dance, poetry. and some politics. 2018-05-09T23:11:21Z https://uncoy.com/feed/atom WordPress https://cdn.uncoy.com/images/2017/07/cropped-uncoy-logo-nomargin-1-32x32.png alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Letter to a friend about the environment, leadership]]> https://uncoy.com/?p=2569 2018-05-09T23:11:21Z 2018-05-09T23:10:10Z Letter to a friend about the environment, leadership

Truly we are ruled by corrupt imbeciles, there can no longer be any doubt. *Why* is the more interesting question at this point.

Continue reading Letter to a friend about the environment, leadership at uncoy.com | la vie viennoise.

The funny thing about those people favouring fracking and who don’t care about the plastic pollution in the oceans or the disappearing potable water is that the environment affects us all. More and more people die from cancer from our toxic environment and food. If we don’t wake up as a species, we will literally destroy our own habitat. There will be very little worth fighting over.

And none of it has to be this way if we were to reshape capitalism to make preservation and improvement of the environment our highest goal. Nothing to prevent us making health care and education a secondary priority. Particularly the second is very environmentally friendly. Young people reading books and improving their minds has very little carbon effect.

The imaginative journey provides greater pleasure and insight than dozens of trips to Bali or Ibiza by airplane. Indeed, well-prepared travel yields much greater rewards when assiduously planned for and savoured as a special event. Recklessly we put more and more airplanes into the sky regardless of the cost to the atmosphere for mainly pointless trips. Heck many of the travellers themselves would rather not be travelling (on business trips which could be managed by conference call).

It’s astonishing that Western leadership, outside of Al Gore, has shown so little vision or foresight. Truly we are ruled by corrupt imbeciles, there can no longer be any doubt. Why is the more interesting question at this point.

Part of my mild enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin is that at least under his leadership, Russia has made huge progress economically, socially and materially. Even in terms of the environment, Putin has recognised Russia’s failings and put the environment on the Russian agenda. During Soviet times, Russians had the attitude that their backyard was so vast that minimal care needed to be taken of the land.

Even the Chinese have woken up to the environmental threat and are taking some (inadequate) measures to reduce the horrendous toxic cost of their rapid economic advancement.

alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[How Long would the American Navy Survive in a Shooting War in 2018]]> https://uncoy.com/?p=2563 2018-04-27T00:11:16Z 2018-04-27T00:09:41Z How Long would the American Navy Survive in a Shooting War in 2018

While a lot of Clinton's *bonhomerie* was empty glad-handing, he radically shrank the deficit. The USA had a chance of turning a profit.

Continue reading How Long would the American Navy Survive in a Shooting War in 2018 at uncoy.com | la vie viennoise.

Two years ago Marc Hopf asked the question: How Long would the American Navy Survive in a Shooting War?

The answer even then was not very long. The answer now is not at all. More interesting than the technical answer (a matter of hypersonic missiles and/or silent subs) were two comments by Sieravic. This post is really just to make sure these two deep comments don’t get lost.

In 2016, Sieravic had this to say:

I wasn’t talking about accidental nuke releases. It would be a pointless subject anyway.

What I was talking about is a deliberate nuclear first strike initiated by the U.S. in case they suffer a major conventional military defeat, even if they were the ones to initiate the conflict in the first place, as they typically do.

For an empire, especially for a rapidly decaying one such as the U.S., to be perceived as weak by the rest of the world would be a catastrophic event for the ruling class. They know it, and they are terrified of it. In order to maintain the appearance of strength in case of a major conventional military defeat the ruling class of a decaying empire will initiate a last desperate attempt to maintain the illusion of strength by using any remaining means at their disposal – in the current era this means nukes.

You have to remember that the ruling class of the U.S. empire are not normal people. Just look at some of the talking heads: Bush senior – sociopath, Bush junior – idiot, Madeleine Albright – sociopath and a mass murderer, Dick Cheney – sociopath and a mass murderer, Donald Rumsfeld – sociopath, master manipulator and mass murderer, Bill Clinton – sociopath, sexual predator and master manipulator, Hillary Clinton – sociopath, spineless chameleon and a complete lunatic. And the (super rich) people hidden behind them who actually pull the strings can only be described as barbarians.

Further evidence of the first nuclear strike possibility is the change of their military doctrine from nuclear deterrence to that of a first strike. I think they changed it during the idiot’s time in the oval office. The very fact they did this implies they have been actively planning for it.

And now they are doing their best to provoke either China or Russia. They are trying to get their Casus Belli – a cause to start a war. China and Russia have so far wisely declined the invitation.

I am convinced the best way out of this purposefully created mess is economics. The Eurasian integrations and economic development are going to continue while simultaneously blocking the U.S. empire’s attempts to create chaos until it wears itself down and collapses. The downside of this approach is that it takes time – many more people are going to die as a result of simmering conflicts created by the U.S. around the world. The upside of this approach is that it avoids the immediate extinction of all life on this planet.

Quite prescient. Returning to the question in 2018, Sieravic added:

I’m a Serb. Born in Serbia, grew up in Slovenia, spent most of my adult life in UK and Ireland.

I wrote this comment a few years ago, I guess RI re-publishing this article made some people read all those old comments again.

So, today, in April 2018, things regarding the imperial navies have somewhat changed – their life span in case of armed conflict would now be even shorter than before. I’m talking about the emergence of the operational hypersonic missiles of course. And again, my conclusion remains the same as few years ago, those fancy weapons will most likely never get used because if they do it is game over for the planet. Nuclear ashtray!

So, back to my current “perception of the real world”. The economic situation of the empire has further degraded. The current Trump’s trade war against east and west is in my opinion a signal of further weakness of the U.S. economy. I recently read [Jon Hellevig’s article on U.S. economy tanking](https://disq.us/url?url=https%3A%2F%2Frussia-insider.com%2Fen%2Fnew-study-us-economy-actually-about-sink%2Fri23147%3A4VZfk3xeB3W0GxWmPDPohqvikrQ&cuid=3167535). The numbers about debt growth versus GDP growth, and especially the projection about 1/4 of federal budget going to be spent on interest payments alone in next 5 to 10 years are revealing.

Further piece of information was provided by Max Keiser in one of his shows, specifically about 60% of U.S. GDP being financial speculation. So, of the current 19 to 20 trillion total GDP, only 7.5 trillion is NOT financial speculation, i.e. it is productive economy, goods, services, etc…

So, I made a quick calculation. According to Hellevig, the total U.S. public debt should be accounted at around 36 trillion (not 22 trillion as U.S. govt puppets would like the world to believe). The productive GDP (the remaining 40% that is actual production of goods and services) should be around 7.5 trillion. So, estimated debt to GDP ratio should really be about 480%. Nuts! And now that their navies and air forces (U.S., UK and French) will no longer be able operate with impunity due to new missile tech, their inability to continue with plundering of natural resources around the world at will is going to exacerbate their already dire economic situation.

Anyway, the original assertion stands: the rest of the world needs to continue with economic development and integration on a win-win basis for everyone while keeping the rabid U.S. regime at bay until it collapses. Once that happens, it will take the combined resources of several large countries around the world to stabilise the north american continent and provide the basic necessities of life for the ordinary citizens over there until they re-establish some kind of productive economy and become able to fend for themselves. The repeat of Russia’s situation during 1990-ies on north american continent is not in anyone’s advantage. Not in the long run.

The economic writing on the wall is writ large now. The USA is no longer solvent. Sure, there is cash flow but the trends are so negative that only a world war and an economic reset (reneging on their debts to China and Saudi Arabia to start and the rest of the world to finish, with perhaps an exception for the UK and Israel) will give them a hope of meeting any obligations.

The decision to go down this path was made when the election of 2000 was rigged in G.W. Bush’s favour and the PNAC (Project for the New American Century) warmongers came into power, such as Dick Cheney and John Bolton. While Bill Clinton is a bad who married an evil woman, he has largely lived on his charm. His United States (not his wife’s) was predicated on expanding trade and making friends. While a lot of Clinton’s bonhomerie was empty glad-handing and PR, during his stay in power the deficit radically shrank. The USA had a chance of turning its budget and financial situation around on people wanting to do business with the USA and doing so of their own free will.

While living on charm meant reducing military expense and cutting back on graft, the business and financial results were good. Al Gore would have continued the same carrot-driven policies, probably even more successfully as a true eco-warrior rather than carnival barker progressive Clinton. Instead, hidden powers in the US decided it was not to be and instead to spend US treasure on supporting a standing army to suppress the world and on foreign wars.

The republic fell with that election. It’s clear the PNAC policies are a dead end, yet the MIC (military industrial complex) rumbles on, with more generals in government than in any other US administration since the Civil War. Humans are strange creatures. We can be very philosophical. Think of how many clear-headed addresses have been made by brave men or women on the scaffold or by armies defending their homeland before a battle. Under certain circumstances we are willing to die rather than renounce our beliefs. The USA will be surprised when its military bluff is called. If the American government would rather unleash armageddon on the world than renounce its use of force, most of the world will perish with peace in our hearts (as the United States burns to the ground in the counter strike) that we did not die in vain but to rid the world of a financial and moral parasite at a scale not seen since the decadence of the late Roman Empire.

alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[What sacrifices should parents make for their children to be happy?]]> https://uncoy.com/?p=2558 2018-04-25T23:29:06Z 2018-04-25T23:26:48Z What sacrifices should parents make for their children to be happy?

How would living in a bigger house or owning more cars replace moments like these, learning to cook together, climbing mountains, bike trips?

Continue reading What sacrifices should parents make for their children to be happy? at uncoy.com | la vie viennoise.

The full question at Quora was:

Why did my dad think it was a good idea to get a lower-paying job and lower our standard of living just because he was stressed and tired? Isn’t it the parents’ job to make sacrifices for their children to be happy?

I meant to leave a two or three line answer. The process of answering the question made me think more deeply about the issue. Uncoy is generally about dance, politics, history or photography but if I’m prepared to take this question on Quora, why not here?

Others answered this question very well, with moving stories about uncles or fathers they have lost. The short and effective answer by someone who lost his father to stress: “You have your dad. Can we trade places?”

It’s really that simple. Work can kill an adult male very quickly. The stress is incredible and there are fewer and fewer outlets for sport or relaxing as you get older and have a family.

I make about one quarter of what I could make if I really pushed myself. Instead I picked my son up after school on Monday, Tuesday and today again. I spent a few hours with him on Monday and today. On Tuesday I had only an hour and a half with him due to work. Later my son will remember that I spent time with him and told him about the animals and showed him the forest and live wild boars for the first time.

If I went full out for economic success and pushed myself, I’d be dead within two years. Probably more likely six months. Your dad might be a similar case. I lost my favourite uncle very young, in large part due to pressure to perform in a high paying job with a very materially successful circle of friends and family.

How would living in a bigger house1 or owning more cars replace moments like these, learning to cook together, climbing mountains, bike trips together?

My photos, montage Dia Takácsova

How do I know or how does your dad know we are at risk? We listen to our bodies. We can feel when we’re driving too fast, just as you can feel when a car is over its safe driving speed.

Why would you ever ask your father to risk shortening his life by tens of years ? Would the insurance money make up for his absence (assuming he had life insurance)?

Yes, the question is strange. If the issue is one between food and housing and work, I could understand your ire/frustration. But if it’s just a difference in the car you drive and the shoes you wear, it seems you are risking a lot for very little.

  1. At one point, I figured out a very important point about houses and apartments. You can only ever physically be in one room at a time. So a thirty room house cannot improve your life in any tangible way. A house only needs one good room per person living there. ↩︎

alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Leica film reveals the fundamentals of street photography in 8 minutes]]> https://uncoy.com/?p=2527 2018-04-15T03:09:52Z 2018-04-15T02:32:06Z Leica film reveals the fundamentals of street photography in 8 minutes

For anyone who has ever shot street, Exploring Porto with the Leica M-D a straight shot of insight and inspiration.

Continue reading Leica film reveals the fundamentals of street photography in 8 minutes at uncoy.com | la vie viennoise.

When I first came across an article about Leica’s digital camera with no display screen, I first thought it was an April fool’s post. No, the post was published on April 30th not March 31st. In 2016, Leica indeed released a camera without any kind of a screen, the Leica M-D. Even my Canon 5D had a screen as did generations of PowerShot 30 and 45’s.

There’s a kind of brilliance in it. I remember the thrill of shooting my Pentax K1000 or Zenit cameras and not knowing what was waiting for me on the other side. I was never a full time professional image maker in the days of film but I did make many beautiful pictures (though some shoots did fall on their face). Photographers had to be really, really good then to work professionally as there could be hundreds of people dependent on your images.

For a big event, a wise brand would hire two or three photographers. I.e. the backup, behind-the-scenes guy would shoot some duplicates of what the main camera was shooting, just in case. We sometimes used those behind-the-scenes photos for the main print shots in an ad campaign.

What’s important here is that Leica made a film of three street photographers working with the Leica M-D. The three subjects were brought together in Porto and spent what looks like a week shooting together. The result is Exploring Porto with the Leica M-D

[This post contains video, click to play]

The most interesting of the three street photographers is the oldest, Rui Palha, from Portugal. When he shoots portraits in the city, he returns with beautiful black and white prints and gives them to his subjects.

It makes them feel important, and they are important.

Palha tells us.

New Yorker Daniel Arnold is even more verbal than visual. His running commentary on his stolen images (as he avoids talking with people or even letting them know he has a camera) is fluent and philosophical. He affirms his very existence via photography:

The excitement isn’t a wild photo….when it works it feels like you have super powers to distill this crazy unexpected thing from the whole mess of the world…Our existence however full it gets is lonely, short and meaningless. Being able to present your experience as something concrete, it’s like this is my story as I saw it. Witness me, validate my existence. Let me be more than this fleck of dust in the air.

As a photographer, Arnold mainly shoots real film. His technique unsurprisingly was not successful on his first time out with a digital camera.

The first story, lost millenial, Nicholas La who is struggling with moving from lifestyle and concert photography for travel photography has less depth but is equally genuine. In La’s words: “If you are taking photographs to impress people, you’ve lost sight of photography.”

Many younger photographers will identify with La’s struggle for direction. La’s hunger to abandon technology is something that most modern photographers understand.

I was shooting all different kinds of cameras. It was pretty much, point shoot, shoot, shoot, burst, whatever. It got really, really boring. My interest in photography started to die until I switched over to Leica, because everything with Leica felt genuine.

What’s nice about Leica and a few other camera on the market is that there are fewer features. Fujifilm has tried very hard to put all the controls on the exterior of the camera so that once you’ve set up your shooting preferences you should almost never have to look at a menu again. Olympus has played with the retro, all exterior controls as well. With my Sony NEX-5T, it’s very similar. There is a knob on the camera for shutter speed and a wheel on the back for aperture (which I can also use for ISO). Since I only shoot RAW, I don’t ever even look at white balance. Many photographers curse the Sony menus but I need mine so seldom they bother me hardly at all.

So a Leica is not necessary to get to this zen state. Many of Leica’s offerings including the Leica M-D or the SL are certainly a fast track to photographic zen if you can afford them. I’m very grateful that Leica exists to remind other camera makers that at the end of the day, it’s just light boxes and lenses. The lenses are so much more important.

Arnold sums up Leica’s technical minimalism well:

Uncomplicating a great camera does the photographer the great favour of letting them not think about it.

As far as the Leica M-D goes, La states the obvious:

It’s a visceral thrill. Just like film, you don’t know what youv’e got until later on.

Strangely the camera infuriated many hobby photographers. The last few minutes of the film are really boring. How nice to meet in Porto and discuss photography with photographers who are so different. It would be better if the film ended at 8 minutes precisely.

Despite the weak ending, Exploring Porto with the Leica M-D is a remarkably concise journey into the vision of three photographers. For anyone who has ever shot street or anyone who has ever wondered what drives a photographer to do what s/he does, it’s a straight shot of insight and inspiration.

Technical Info on the Film

Technically the film looks to be shot on a photographic camera (as opposed to a video camera). The cameraman played to the strength of the medium with wonderful handheld shots and odd angles but very little movement or pans. If you keep your camera still, rolling shutter and digital jitter are not an issue and there’s no need for IBIS. I’m wrong. It was an Alexa Mini with Leica Cine lenses. The Alexa Mini allows video capture in RAW (2880 x 2160) at up to 200fps with 14 stops of dynamic range. Leica doesn’t have a moving picture camera like this in their catalogue and bravo to them for choosing the right technology to capture the story. The video was a very good match to the high quality photographic images taken by the Leica M-D.

Even though the Alexa Mini is smaller than a traditional Alexa film camera, it still weighs 2.3 kg without a lens. Not something you’d want to take on your next vacation, even if you had an extra $36K (without the lens).

alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Why relying on focus peaking often results in blurry pictures on Sony A7, A7S, A7R]]> https://uncoy.com/?p=2514 2018-03-23T20:10:44Z 2018-03-22T10:57:02Z Why relying on focus peaking often results in blurry pictures on Sony A7, A7S, A7R

Poor quality focus peaking affects a lot of cameras like Sony A7, A7S, A7R or NEX 5T, NEX 6, NEX 7 or A5100, A6000, A6300, A6500.

Continue reading Why relying on focus peaking often results in blurry pictures on Sony A7, A7S, A7R at uncoy.com | la vie viennoise.

I’ve always liked vintage lenses. The metal, the smooth mechanical focus motion. It’s what taking pictures is really about. A precision mechanical instrument, not video game controls.

I have some nice Leica R (wide Leica R is much better on mirrorless than Leica M as it doesn’t distort around the edged), Nikon and even a drawer full of Pentax lenses. I tried every kind of special focus screen for my Canon 5D (the 5D Mk III doesn’t allow special focus screens) but none of them were accurate enough. Yes, those focus screens do get you into the ball park but if you want to be sure of a sharp picture at wide aperture you have to focus bracket with about four pictures. Not particularly good for catching special moments.

When focus peaking first appeared on the Sony A7, I thought my issues with focus on manual lenses were solved. I could never really get focus peaking to work well enough. I thought the issue was with the camera. It turns out not to be.

There’s a great image development application for photographers who shoot RAW called Fast Raw Viewer. FRW lets you view the nitty gritty of your images straight from the RAW file fast. With a fast drive (SSD), it’s almost like browsing jpegs. Among many great features, FRW lets you preview focus peaking on your existing images with both fine detail focus peaking and high contrast edges focus peaking.

Here’s an image which focus peaking, both fine detail and high contrast edges, says is sharp in the critical area and even into the background.

Fine detail:

High Contrast Edges:

Here’s a closer look at that image:

The image is very blurry.

The issue is not that Sony’s implementation of focus peaking is so broken (as I originally though).

Poor quality focus peaking affects a lot of cameras like Sony A7, A7S, A7R or NEX 5T, NEX 6, NEX 7 or A5100, A6000, A6300, A6500. It’s nice to know we can stop blaming Sony and accept the limits of focus peaking. There’s no camera on which focus peaking really works. On my Canon 5D Mark III with Magic Lantern firmware the image peaking also didn’t really work. Now I know why.

The only really useful focus tool is then image zoom. Image zoom for focus did work on the Sony A7 and on my Sony NEX 5T. What didn’t work is that image zoom had three steps:

  • no zoom
  • 5x zoom
  • 10x zoom

Having to cycle through three states made even image zoom useless for live action photography. What’s really necessary are two steps with the zoom level customisable. For instance:

  • no zoom
  • 7x zoom (this could be 3x, 5x, 8x, 10x)

I’m not sure if Sony has fixed this simple software issue. I’ll find out soon as I’ll have a Sony A7S and a Sony A6000 in to test soon.

Here’s to sharp images!

ISO 100, 1/800s, f4.5

These images are shot on the spectacular (for daytime work) Sony Zeiss FE 2.8/35mm on the Sony NEX 5T. Yes, I’m using an expensive full frame lens on an APS-C body. The advantage is absolutely no vignetting and edge to edge landscapes.

alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[All of the five richest people in the world are now Americans]]> https://uncoy.com/?p=2506 2018-03-12T13:23:52Z 2018-03-12T13:23:52Z All of the five richest people in the world are now Americans

The change among the richest people in the world show the Americans are winning in the game of tilting the financial table in their direction.

Continue reading All of the five richest people in the world are now Americans at uncoy.com | la vie viennoise.

None of the richest people in the world is a European. Forty per cent of the billionaires people in the world are Americans

And this at a time that their society is struggling with crumbling infrastructure, the highest rate of incarceration in the world, an opiate crisis, literally unpayable debts (USD 20 trillion and counting) and unfunded pensions.

Six of the top ten are American technology billionaires (1. Jeff Bezos, 2. Bill Gates, 4. Mark Zuckerberg, 8. Larry Ellison, 9. Larry Page, 10. Sergei Brin). There are no European tech billionaires. SAP co-founder Hasso Platner is the first European technology billionaire at place 101.

The change among the richest people in the world indicates that the Americans are winning in the game of tilting the financial table in their direction. Just like as Hollywood dominates the motion picture industry due to corruption and distribution (not quality) so do American companies dominate tech, due to financial game playing, IP laws and crooked lawyers. Again, quality is not the issue and indeed due to versions of the Patriot Act and an absence of any privacy, the USA is the last place either Asians or Europeans should be buying their software.

Effectively, by tilting the table, the Americans are stealing from all of us.

And fellow Americans too.

PS. The Chinese make a significant appearance in the top fifty billionaires in technology. Like the Americans, the Chinese don’t really play by the rules, or rather write their own rules around IP. Based on American IP privateering, who can blame the Chinese?

alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[2018 Oscar for Best Documentary Film: Things that Go Bump in the Night]]> https://uncoy.com/?p=2482 2018-03-05T14:07:12Z 2018-03-05T10:26:20Z 2018 Oscar for Best Documentary Film: Things that Go Bump in the Night

Weinstein and Palmer envision a prosperous world without childhood demons, without war, without Russians.

Continue reading 2018 Oscar for Best Documentary Film: Things that Go Bump in the Night at uncoy.com | la vie viennoise.

Things that Go Bump in the Night has just won the 91st Oscar for Best Documentary Film, following in the glorious tradition of Winter on Fire (2015) The White Helmets (2016) and Icarus (2017) of uncovering Russian crimes across the planet.

While doping, fomenting civil war and foreign intervention are serious human transgressions, they are only the symptoms of Russian rancour not the source of Russia’s malevolence. The producers of Things that Go Bump in the Night have gone further into the darkness of Russian depravity and uncovered its source.

Remember your first frights as a child? Imagine lying alone in bed at night. That terrible feeling that something dark lurks under your bed, just waiting to pounce when you put a foot in the ground. Some children still wake up in the middle of the night screaming from suffocating nightmares. No child should suffer these dark dreams.

It turns out that childhood fear has its roots in dark Slavic fairy tales which came out of the same Eastern Forests where ur-Russians hid from the Mongol hordes. Terrorized by their Asiatic overlords, Russian crones invoked dark demons who continue to spoil childhood across the planet.

When African children wake up screaming in the night, it’s not the hunger or disease, it’s Russian demons. When European children cannot sleep from fright, it’s not violent US police dramas and gunfire which keep them awake but Russian demons. On the surface, the ADD and obesity from which modern American children suffer seems driven by sweets and deep fried food and inadequate physical education. In reality the source of American children’s disorientation are the Russian demons Reagan, Thatcher and Kohl inadvertently let loose on worldwide childhood during Perestroika.

Producer Larry Weinstein (previous winner of more AVN awards than any producer in history) selflessly gave up two years of his creative life to create this compelling documentary. Early in his research, Weinstein was joined by the film’s director and editor, former CIA analyst turned anti-Russian activist Laura Palmer, also working pro-bono. Together they visited libraries and universities across the United States at their own expense to compile material about Russian demons.

[This post contains video, click to play]

Weinstein and Palmer spoke to over three hundred Slavic department, political science and psychology professors, all of whom unanimously exposed Russian demons as the blight they are. The few experts Palmer and Weinstein met who presented a balanced or pro-Russian viewpoint turned out to be deluded and dangerous. Such contagious delusions led to unemployment for most and prison for a few, their plight also captured in Weinstein and Palmer’s salutary documentary.

Weinstein and Palmer examine both the historic Baba Yaga fairy tales as well as more modern Russian art. Weinstein talks about cinema’s role in Russian mythology:

Tarkovsky was closer to his native demons than almost any filmmaker alive. No wonder he died young. It wasn’t the cancer who killed him but dark visions from childhood. His final film is even named The Sacrifice where his family home goes up in flames. He hoped by incinerating his home and symbolically Russia to make the world safe from Russian demons.

[This post contains video, click to play]

Things which Go Bump in the Night won its award not just for its theme but for technical mastery of the medium of film. Where there are no illustrations sufficiently monstrous, Palmer cleverly uses cutout animation to reveal hidden Russian wraiths, never before seen on film.

Weinstein and Palmer look forward to a future without Russian demons. Psychologist Ariel Brzezinski offers hope:

The native home of these demons is Russian children and Russian childhood. The most effective step to eliminating childhood demons would to eliminate Russian children. As a few might consider this solution monstrous, instead we propose to eliminate Russian childhood. There are so many over forty careerist couples and gay partners in America who cannot have children of their own. Why not rip all these unhappy demon-infested children away from their troubled Russian parents and give them happy American homes where they can grow up demon-free?

Weinstein and Palmer envision a prosperous world without childhood demons, without war, without Russians. Their bold vision captured the Jury’s imagination. Things that Go Bump in the Night was our only nomination for the Oscar for Best Documentary 2019 and won by unanimous acclaim.

Things that Go Bump in the Night Poster
alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Which NFL Teams Can Afford to Sign Kirk Cousins: Almost No One]]> https://uncoy.com/?p=2476 2018-02-27T12:28:37Z 2018-02-27T12:27:17Z Which NFL Teams Can Afford to Sign Kirk Cousins: Almost No One

This year Kirk Cousins is truly a free agent so it's up to him to choose: money or glory. Is Cousins just an accountant with a good throwing arm?

Continue reading Which NFL Teams Can Afford to Sign Kirk Cousins: Almost No One at uncoy.com | la vie viennoise.

Who can afford Kirk Cousins?

Almost no one. Someone at ProFootballRumors.com suggested Arizona would be a great landing spot for Cousins:

Cousins belongs in Arizona. He could be a big part of putting that team in a position to compete deep into the playoffs. Him, Fitz and David Johnson along with that defense would be tough. Cousins would make the other speedy receivers better. It’s a perfect fit.

Indeed Kirk Cousins would be a good football fit in Arizona with a ready made team who is strong defensively and who have been playing well despite dreadful quarterback play. There is not too much pressure on him as Arizona is used to not doing very well historically. Sadly Arizona does not have the cap space to pay Cousins. There’s only $22 million there and if you go over the roster, cutting some of the high cap players would actually result in increased cap charges. Some of the players who would have to go to sign Cousins, along with the cap savings by cutting them now:

  • Patrick Peterson CB $10m
  • Antoine Bethea S $3.5m
  • Tyrann Mathieu S $5m
  • Josh Mauro DE $2.8m
  • Deone Bucannon IL $8.7m

On offense you have:

  • Jared Veldheer RT $7m
  • Mike Lupati LG $6m

So to sign Cousins Arizona would either have to destroy its championship defence or cripple its offensive line. The only one of those players without millions in dead cap space if you cut them is Deone Bucannon. The only palatable choice on the table would be to start trading away those top players with contracts which match their performance for draft picks. Good luck getting value when the other GM’s know how desperate you are to unload high paid stars.

Having $6 million in dead cap to a departed quarterback (Carson Palmer) doesn’t help.

If Cousins were more interested in winning than being the highest paid player in NFL football (without the resumé to merit it), Arizona would be a more realistic option. Tyrod Taylor is a more realistic option and could do very well in Arizona.

Who can afford Kirk Cousins then

There are very few teams with a quarterback need and realistic free cap space to sign Cousins. I put the starting point north of $50m in free cap space, as teams have other needs than just quarterback including signing their own free agents. I count just six.

In available cap order:

  • Cleveland Browns: $101m. I’m far from convinced Cleveland’s number one need is quarterback as I respect Kizer even if GM Dorsey doesn’t. Cleveland is so far away from being a playoff team, spending this kind of money on a pocket passer seems silly. Cleveland still needs a mobile quarterback who can extend plays. With all those draft picks, Cleveland could just draft one and pick up a veteran to coach the young guys. I’m not sure who the best coaching backup quarterback in the NFL is now, but Cleveland should hire him. Veteran Kaepernick would be a nice temporary fit in Cleveland to coach the young quarterbacks but many of Cleveland’s blue collar fans might not agree with me.
  • Indianapolis Colts: $74m. QB Andrew Luck is coming off of a season away and a chronic shoulder injury. Replacement QB Jacoby Brissett rarely looked promising in 2017. If Andrew Luck won’t be healthy this year, Cousins offers a ready made big pocket passer to replace Luck. The two could substitute in and out interchangeably. Luck is already expensive though and having two of the top paid quarterbacks on the same roster would be very strange. The Colts know a lot more about Luck’s shoulder than we do though and they have the cap space. Perhaps another season of rest (which could include working as the number two quarterback) would be better for Luck, leaving the Colts to trade away either Luck or Cousins in a year.
  • New York Jets: $73m. Lots of money and a clear need. Still if the NYJ want to spend funny money on a quarterback ($30m) Drew Brees is on the market. The Jets are far from ready for a playoff run and could still draft a top QB at number 6. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson would be a much more exciting option than Kirk Cousins. If Jackson crumples under NFL tackling, the losses on an NFL rookie contract aren’t terribly high. On the other hand, a Cousins contract could cripple your wealthy franchise. There are so many better ways to spend all that money. Jets management has no plans to overspend on Cousins.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $78m. Tampa Bay might be able to get some decent trade value for starting QB Jameis Winston. Winston isn’t responsible for last year’s 5-11 but based on the last three seasons appears to be a small step down from Cousins. Bringing Cousins to Tampa Bay would reunite Cousins with DeSean Jackson. I see Cousins more as a southern QB so Tampa Bay would be a good fit. Winston is fighting ongoing shoulder issues and apparently doesn’t get on well with head coach Dirk Koetter. Like Luck, Jameis Winston could use a season of rest. Winston is relatively inexpensive still on his rookie contract at $8m so there would be room for Cousins’s payslip if Winston is prepared to rest a year. Winston is an alpha dog (“there’s not room on this team for the two of us” type guy) so a trade would be more likely. Buccaneer fans more attached to the former number one overall pick than Koetter so Tampa Bay would be a long shot. Cousins delights in showing up number one overall draft picks (RGIII) so he’d feel right at home in Tampa Bay.
  • Houston Texans: $64m. If Houston are still worried about Deshaun Watson’s ACL surgery, Cousins could be a great insurance policy. Cousins is a big step down from a healthy Deshaun Watson though and not the same kind of quarterback. Houston would be much better to hire Colin Kaepernick as their backup/occasional starter while Watson heals. Or alternatively look at pulling Tyrod Taylor away from the Buffalo Bills. Mobile QB’s like Kaepernick and Taylor would both substitute adequately in an offence built around Watson’s incredible skills to extend plays.
  • Chicago Bears: $51m. Number one draft pick Mitchell Trubisky hasn’t looked ready yet and would probably do better with two more years to hone his skills behind a true number one quarterback who is not Mike Glennon. The Bears could drop $10m of cap space by cutting Glennon. There’s no real upside for Cousins in coming to Chicago though. The team is still rebuilding and already has a future number one QB on the roster.
  • Minnesota Vikings: $49m. Minnesota has three starting quarterbacks on the roster, none of them healthy or in form outside of Case Keenum. While gifted when healthy, Sam Bradford is made of porcelain. Teddy Bridgewater has not played seriously in years and has not shown that he is or is not a first tier QB yet. They are all free agents. Either Keenum or Bridgewater would be a good expensive backup. Having two starter quality QB on the roster paid big dividends for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017 when league MVP quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a knee injury and former pro bowler Nick Foles could step in and perform as Super Bowl MVP.

Neither Denver nor Jacksonville can afford Kirk Cousins

No one else, including the Jacksonville Jaguars or Cincinatti Bengals, can afford Kirk Cousins. They either have very expensive quarterbacks on guaranteed contracts (Bortles, Dalton respectively) or just don’t have enough cap space. Denver Broncos could just swing Cousins if they get rid of Aqib Talib (CB $11m) and Demaryius Thomas (WR $7.5m) or Chris Harris (CB $6.5m), Menelik Watson (RT $5m). In the Broncos favour, they don’t have any high priced QB’s riding their bench (tip of the hat to the Texans). The Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins also fall into the category of teams who couldn’t afford to pick up a Kirk Cousins contract even if they wanted to.

What does Cousins say?

Kirk Cousins is interested in going to Denver. Cousins would like to go to a winning team with a strong defence and win some playoff games. Cousins has a rap to beat as a loser QB with garbage time stats. Of course that’s what Kirk Cousins says. Cousins is also certain he should be the highest paid QB in the league. As Scottie would tell Captain Kirk:

Take your pick, Captain… The engines can’t take it any more, either go to warp speed and accept less money or turn on your phasers and prepare to defend your ship.

I.e. more money with less pass protection and a weaker defence.

An Accountant with a Good Throwing Arm

So far Kirk Cousins’ approach to team play suggest he’s an accountant with an excellent throwing arm and not a team leader. It’s the intangibles which matter at the highest level in the NFL and so far Kirk Cousins hasn’t shown those.

Given that the only sure winner in the Cousins’ approach to date is his bank account, we can expect to see Cousins in Minnesota. Minnesota is the only place to both win and get paid. Cousins better hope that Case Keenum is very difficult in salary negotiations.

If Minnesota decides Keenum and Bridgewater suit them better, the only big payday out there for Cousins are the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns. Neither of those destinations include much winning at least in the short term. If Cousins is really serious about winning and finding a place he fits, he has to scale down his salary demands and go to Denver.

Ironically enough, one talented team with enough cap space (about $50m) who would have made this until they traded for veteran Alex Smith and signed him to a long term contract is the Washington Redskins. Cousins fit into the Jay Gruden’s Washington Redskins offence as well as anywhere in the league, had he chosen to lead his team instead of holding a grudge.

This year Kirk Cousins is truly a free agent so it’s up to him to choose: money or glory. My bet is Cousins chooses money. I’d be delighted to see him surprise us.

Kirk Cousins previewed as New York Jet. Photo credit Matt Radick/The State News

alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Retirement Strategy for Millennials: Should Savings go to Stock Market, Cryptocurrency or Real Estate?]]> https://uncoy.com/?p=2462 2018-02-28T14:20:54Z 2018-02-26T12:09:59Z Retirement Strategy for Millennials: Should Savings go to Stock Market, Cryptocurrency or Real Estate?

The millenials better come up with a better economic system than plutocratic war capitalism or the world they hand on will be unrecognisable.

Continue reading Retirement Strategy for Millennials: Should Savings go to Stock Market, Cryptocurrency or Real Estate? at uncoy.com | la vie viennoise.

Cash in safety deposit boxes vs the Stock Market

An investment retirement guru is convinced that millennials don’t know how to invest and are missing the opportunity of a lifetime to invest their money in a stock market.1 which has never been more overpriced (ridiculous multiples) since 1929.

I have been stunned recently by some of the discussions I have had with some of my own children’s friends and relatives about finances and investing towards a more secure financial future….in talking to my own son, he states that his friends (ages 25-40) are afraid of the markets…. Some are even putting cash in a safety deposit box! If there is ONE thing I can never mention enough is that if you want to have a secure financial future, YOU need to save as much as you can, as soon as you can for as long as you can. Along with that, is to spend LESS than you have coming in, forever. Even if you do not invest a dime in the markets, you will do better than nearly 70% of our population!

I can agree with the Dickensian final sentence.

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

While the stock market beats keep your money in cash in safety deposit boxes, I would not agree that the stock market is the way to secure your retirement. Strategic real estate investment would be a more prudent strategy.2

Investing in Real Estate instead

The retirement guru’s suggestion about compound interest suffers from poor data. Assuming 8% returns is wildly optimistic. The United States has just come back from a huge real estate scare in 2008 where prices dropped by as much as half. Otherwise alternative retirement advice to the young would be to buy a first property in which to live as soon as possible. When you’ve paid off most of that, buy an investment property. When you’ve paid off that it will be time to upgrade your principal residence and later time to buy another investment property.

You would hit retirement with between three and ten properties, an income and the ability to trade down your principal residence. And your money will never have been in the hands of someone else.

Millennials’ Hatred of Wealth

In the ensuing discussion, a woman called Qfactor blames the inability of millennials to save on their hatred for wealth. An economic version of “they hate us for our freedoms”.

Sadly, there is a cultural component to the Millennial generation that makes them think having money is a bad thing. If you’re rich, you’re evil. Corporations are evil, conservative politicians are evil, etc. Happily, these kids will probably inherit more from their parents than any previous generation, and once they find themselves rolling in wealth, they’ll realize that they want to preserve it for their own children. At least that’s what I hope for my daughter’s sake…
No toys for me, but my partner bought a plane last year. I do love to travel, but I have an annual budget for that already and it’s built into my retirement income projection. I’m just stunned sometimes at my daughter and her friends, though. They seem to think that there is moral superiority to being a burden on society because at least you’re not a horrible rich person hoarding money from others. It’s a complete misunderstanding of the American principle of independence and self-sustaining income.

Qfactor’s comments are exceptionally amusing and unintentionally self-mocking. Qfactor’s daughter has a vision of a better world where wealth is distributed more equally and power is taken from corporations. According to Qfactor, this is wrong. Qfactor is a modest woman. Her modest love is travel. She owns a private plane but it’s okay as it belongs to her partner. Based on Qfactor’s capacity for self-delusion, it looks like America has finally reached the end of the line.

Roman Empire and America

The tales from Rome were accurate. Rome had entered into a cycle of opulence, decadence and corruption, from which it would never recover. Something like the United States now. The good news for Americans is that it took hundreds of years to bring about the fall of Rome. The bad news for Americans is that human development is travelling about eight times faster in the last fifty years so the last forty years count as 320 years.

Qfactor’s daughter is largely right. North America consumes more than a quarter of the physical energy and the wealth generated by the world just to continue to exist. The United States has the least efficient health care system among first world nations. The United States has both the most prisoners in the world in sheer numbers and leads even by percentage of the population incarcerated (ahead of Russia, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba – what does that say about human rights). The ocean is literally drowning in plastic and slowly being poisoned. The ocean!

Qfactor loves her travel, buys airplanes and blames her daughter (she shouldn’t take it personally, Qfactor is the symptom and not the cause – just the concrete example). It’s not the millennials who are at fault – it’s those of us who knew better and chose not to do it or fight for it. The previous generation get a partial pass as they were fighting Hitler and did much to even the social system after the second world war – giving most of our parents the chance to do succeed. Success that we are busying trying to restrict again to only the children of the privileged.

Roman Slaves vs the H-1B and Service Jobs

Mick challenged my characterisation of the modern United States with Ancient Rome:

You are repeating a myth, promoted by conservative Roman thinkers, such as Cicero, or Augustus, for their own political purposes (purposes which are too complex to explain here shortly). Later on this same myth was kept alive by Christian thinkers in an attempt to justify their own anti-pagan campaigns.

It seems to me his characterisation of the Roman situation applies just as well to the United States of today as to Ancient Rome:

What is true in the myth is that because Romans imported so much slaves, many free farmers went bankrupt and this created a class of unemployed people who flocked into the capital, living dependent of donations from the rich people and the state.
What created this unemployed mass in the capital was ever increasing wealth disparity and the institution of slavery, not some mythical moral failure. The people who had money, bought slaves, and since the slaves worked for free, the free farmers could not compete against their work and went out of work. Then their lands were bought by the rich who sent slaves to farm them. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer. (A nice predecessor for automation, btw).”

Mick notes the process is similar to automation. It’s also similar to outsourcing and to the H-1B exemption visas (which undercut American born programmers and devalue the not inconsiderable expense of a first rate technical education). Effectively Rome’s free farmers are today’s small businessmen and the “deplorables” living in flyover country. The same problems with Senate, Congress and the Presidency exist. Since unlimited corporate donation was permitted in 2014, effectively the United States live in a plutocracy of the multinational.

Anyone working a low-end service job today is effectively a slave. If the parents (or a rich aunt) have money, they can buy a modern slave out of slavery by giving him or her an education and opening some doors. Slaves were occasionally freed in Ancient Rome as well.

Noblesse Oblige or Revolution

What the elite of the United States seems to have forgotten (or never to have understood) is the concept of noblesse oblige. Those of us who are fortunate are ethically obliged to try to improve the lot of those less fortunate. That’s the core social contract of a healthy society.

Fairness can be implemented through either private (Henry Ford, the fair wage) or public means (European socialism) – the important element is the attempt to equal the playing field and the understanding of the rich that when they take too much they cripple society and cultivate revolution. Disparity is just too damn expensive in both material terms (crime, prisons, court systems) and quality of life (violent crime, no-go zones, police state).

The really rich think they are exempt from these quality of life issues thanks to high fences and private security. Ask John Paul Getty, sr, jr and III how that turned out. They would give you an earful. Or Roman Polanski when his pregnant wife Sharon Tate was taken from him. There are no fences high enough or security tight enough to ensure quality of life in a society wracked by disparity.

Retirement: we’re worried about our retirement (and for good reason), while other (working) people cannot feed their families tonight. It remains that land/property title will be the last of the investment categories to fail (apart from physical gold, although good luck with safe storage on that one). Hence even if you are a pessimist about the direction of modern society, rather than owning a large stock portfolio, it would be more prudent to slowly amass real estate through your working life.

None of this rules out speculative investment (bitcoin) or strategic investment (big medium term investments in sectors you know well for professional reasons).

Really Long Term Investment

Millennials like Qfactor’s daughter who believes that the current plutocratic and corrupt political structure needs reform and that we must de-fetishise consumption are the only ones fighting the good fight. Until we rebuilt our economic system on ecologically sound principles we are fighting each other over a shrinking prize. The amount of potable fresh water accessible to the cities of the world has fallen by about 30% in my lifetime, thanks to industry, transport and in North America, most of all fracking.

United States politicians are falling over each other to defang and destaff the EPA (it started long before Trump). Apparently Americans don’t need clean water. The US solution for the looming pension shortfall: kill everyone over fifty with cancer via water mains or via pesticides in your food. Killing and disposing of tens of millions of near retirement citizens is an enormous logistical challenge. What better way to do so than via the water mains and grocery shelves.

The millennials better come up with a better economic system than plutocratic war capitalism or the world they hand on to their children will be unrecognisable.

  1. Article is behind SeekingAlpha.com registration wall if you want to see comments. In case article become inaccessible here is a png version. ↩︎

  2. Bitcoin: counting on bitcoin and other speculative assets is insanity not an investment strategy. Those who jumped on bitcoin at right time and got out of bitcoin at the right time (and for most, right now is a second right time) are very fortunate. Right place at the right time. Sometimes luck looks like wisdom in retrospect. ↩︎

alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Family Friendly Nudist Events: Reality vs Middle America]]> https://uncoy.com/?p=2441 2018-01-22T16:57:30Z 2018-01-20T14:30:39Z Family Friendly Nudist Events: Reality vs Middle America

Based on their reaction to nudity, it appears unsafe to let Americans out of the United States.

Continue reading Family Friendly Nudist Events: Reality vs Middle America at uncoy.com | la vie viennoise.

Family Friendly Nudist Events: Nudism Reality vs Middle America

Americans are very worked up about a family friendly nudist swimming event in the Canadian city of Calgary.

An American, Frank (who for some reason feels the need to keep his comments private) equated the event to a "kiddie porn palace".

" the Calgary Nude Recreation group released a statement saying: “There are no nude beaches anywhere near Calgary". WOW! THAT took some real rocket science to figure out. I doubt there are many kiddie porn palaces in Calgary either. So, is the solution to create one, open to the public? I doubt there are many kiddie porn palaces in Calgary either. So, is the solution unto create one, open to the pubic?

It's a private event held by committed nudists. Nudists approach is to de-sexualise the human body via familiarity. It works. Nudist beaches run pretty well throughout most of Northern Europe and as pointed out in Vancouver. Most are family friendly.

Wreck Beach Vancouver, a three decade old family friendly nudist beach
Wreck Beach Vancouver

Uncomfortable with nudism?

The only people who would have real reason to be uncomfortable in a nudist environment are pubescent girls (they are very uncomfortable with their bodies at that age due to change, with or without clothes it's just part of nature) or stunningly beautiful women. A really beautiful woman will often attract excessive attention in a traditional nudist environment. All that attention is less of a problem with the clothes on (a beautiful woman either gets used to it or has to sit at home) but can be a bit disturbing without any clothes. Even with the clothes on, many beautiful women deliberately underdress, wear almost no makeup and hide their long hair to try to get away from the attention. Radiant pulchritude is not just a nudism issue.

Can you believe this is Anne Hathaway? I can't
Can you believe this is Anne Hathaway? I can't

Everyone else gets along just fine (i.e. about 85% of adults, teenagers and children) with no clothes on, as if normal. Adolescent girls are probably better to avoid nudist events and stunning beauties generally have better things to do. Nude or thong swimming off of expensive yachts or on Costa Brava, the Côte d'Azur, the Italian Riviera, Croatia, Greece or the Caribbean. Auditions or acting classes. Theatre rehearsals. Modelling gigs. University libraries and parties.

Young Brigitte Bardot on the Riviera
Young Brigitte Bardot on the Riviera

Young and Beautiful Nudists Don't Really Exist

When you are young and beautiful there are a lot of places to be and family friendly nudist events are not high on the list. In time, our hypothetical young beauty will be able to enjoy these events again (as a mature woman/mother).

A real pervert couldn't go to a naturist event anyway as he'd be showing wood all the time and have trouble controlling him/herself. A nudist event is the last place most perverts would want to show up.

As Michael Petch of 2/35Infantry correctly notes the cancelled swimming event is far from the most significant nudist manifestation in Canada:

Canada has the longest public all age family friendly nudist beach in North America coming in at around 45 miles in length. That is Wreck Beach in BC. Thousands of people in the buff with their children are all along the beach.

We seem to be able to handle it just fine. If there's a weirdo around, he's warned off. If a group of weirdos turn up, they'll be sent packing by a larger group of nudist males. If that's not enough, nudists in Canada are free to call the cops. Unlike in the US, the Canadian cops in large cities are not going to come in guns blazing, randomly shooting nudists and weirdos. Enough cops will turn up to make the weirdos move on and warn them off for the future.

This is the great thing about the rule of law, the absence of legal handguns (turning up with a firearm on either side would be a crime) and a working police force. In Canada we struggle to keep our police honest and sober, as the example south of the border is so totally out of control. By and large we succeed, though sometimes we fail.

Some of these misinformed Americans made the argument that people are born to wear clothing. A kind of immaculate clothed conception.

There is a reason people wear clothing. It's to protect against the elements. It's to protect against predators. These stupid people must live in a bizarre make believe world where everyone is innocent and pure. It boggles my mind. It's like every day I read something where it further challenges the question, how stupid can people be?

Anti-Nudism Often Has A Religious Angle: Nordic Nudism

When challenged by Michael Petch that opposition to nudity is more a religious issue than a health one, Crash suggested that in northern Europe (apparently some kind of gold standard for appropriate human behaviour) people must go clothed.

LOL. Yea okay. You're telling me that people from Nordic countries used to wander around in the cold without clothing?

Strangely enough the Nordic countries (along with Germany and Austria) are probably the centre of family friendly nudity. Moreover this part of the world has warm summers with very long days (white nights).

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, In the Sauna, 1889, Oil on canvas, 120 x 81 cm, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki
Akseli Gallen-Kallela, In the Sauna, 1889, Oil on canvas, 120 x 81 cm, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki

In particular Finland has a huge tradition of nudism, including family friendly naturism. You can see it even in their art work in the national gallery in Helsinki. Not sure about Sweden (pre-Muslim invasion, i.e. Ingmar Bergman heyday – fifties to eighties) but think the culture is similar there. Keep in mind Finns are a separate language group and culture from the rest of the Scandinavians so what's true of one is not true of another.

Based on their reaction to nudity, it appears unsafe to let Americans out of the United States.