Quantum of Solace

I rarely see movies in the theater and I rarely rent them until they are available for five days (so I can rent it on Friday and not return it until Monday). So most of the “movie reviews” I post will not be of much use to many readers.

But I do not see that as a reason to not post them!

I watched Quantum of Solace last night. I had rented Casino Royale a while back and I enjoyed it a lot. It was a bit long and felt like watching two movies back to back, but I thought it the best Bond film ever. I looked forward to sequels.

Quantum of Solace came out to such bad reviews that I was in no hurry to rent it. I believe I was misled. This was a fun movie to watch. It may not quite be up to the standard of Casino Royale, but it is close.

More importantly, plot wise it is the ending of Casino Royale. Both of these movies are too long and have plenty of excessive action that could be edited out with little damage (and maybe improvement!) to the films. Maybe it is my imagination, but it seems like some of the back and forth between M and Bond that was covered in the first film was done again in the second.

There are two good movies here with more editing. As it is, there are two movies worth watching which are certainly the best of the mostly dreadful Bond series.

Regulating the economy

To be honest, regulating the economy is mostly over my head. Or, maybe, just boring to me. Either way, whenever an article mentions derivatives two or more times, it is iffy that I will get to the end.

Still, it is an important topic. I’m sure some argue that the less regulation the better. And I can’t argue that. As long as there is enough, there shouldn’t be more.

I’m guessing that every time an economic regulation is written, there are parties that immediately set about finding a way around it. So, even though it is important for the present regulatory scheme to be adjusted to new realities, we should never assume that all contingencies are covered.

It seems like what we really need is someone who identifies problems and acts on them. Didn’t most of America understand there was a housing bubble? Wasn’t this clear a couple of years ago? Or earlier? Didn’t Fed Chairman Greenspan complain of irrational exuberance in the stock market in 1996, four years before that recession?

In both cases, everyone understood that economic growth was being driven by bubbles. But no one had the political courage to do something about it. Maybe ending a bubble inevitably leads to a recession (and who wants to be responsible for that?), but I’m betting ending the bubble sooner rather than later would lessen the recession.

Maybe the next round of economic growth will be powered by an increase in productivity instead of a bubble. You know, for a change.

Iran’s choices

I am copying the following poem from 3quarksdaily.

    Inscription

Mehdi Akhavan-Sales

The stone lay there like a mountain
and we sat here a weary bunch
women, men, young, old
all linked together
at the ankles, by a chain.

You could crawl to whomever your heart desired
as far as you could drag your chain.

We did not know, nor did we ask
was it a voice in our nightmare and weariness
or else, a herald from an unknown corner,
it spoke:

“The stone lying there holds a secret
inscribed on it by wise men of old.”
Thus spoke the voice over and again
and, as a wave recoiling on itself
retreated in the dark
and we said nothing
and for some time we said nothing.

Afterwards, only in our looks
many doubts and queries spoke out
then nothing but the ambush of weariness, oblivion
and silence, even in our looks
and the stone lying there.

One night, moonlight pouring damnation on us
and our swollen feet itching
one of us, whose chain was the heaviest
damned his ears and groaned: “I must go”
and we said, fatigued: “Damn our ears
damn our eyes, we must go.”
and we crawled up to where the stone lay.
One of us, whose chain was looser
climbed up and read:

“He shall know my secret
who turns me over!”

With a singular joy we repeated this dusty secret
under our breath as if it were a prayer
and the night was a glorious stream filled with moonlight.

One…two…three…heave-ho!
One…two…three…once more!
sweating sad, cursing, at times even crying
again…one…two…three…thus many times
hard was our task, sweet our victory
tired but happy, we felt a familiar joy
soaring with delight and ecstasy.

One of us, whose chain was lighter
saluted all, then climbed the stone
wiped the dirt-caked inscription and mouthed the words
(we were impatient)
wetted his lips (and we did the same)
and remained silent
cast a glance at us and remained silent
read again, his eyes fixed, his tongue dead
his gaze drifting over a far away unknown
we yelled to him”

“Read!” he was speechless
“Read it to us!” he stared at us in silence
after a time
he climbed down, his chain clanking
we held him up, lifeless as he was
we sat him down
he cursed our hands and his
“What did you read? huh?”
He swallowed and said faintly:
“The same was written:

“He shall know my secret
who turns me over!”

We sat
and
stared at the moon and the bright night
and the night was a sickly stream.

Translation: Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak

Even if Moussavi was somehow declared the winner, not that much would change for Iranians. It’s not like it would suddenly become a secular state with all the freedoms Americans take for granted.

The more things change…

About 410 years ago, Shakespeare wrote in The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth:

Like one that draws the model of a house

Beyond his power to build it; who, half through,

Gives o’er and leaves his part-created cost

A naked subject to the weeping clouds,

And waste for churlish winter’s tyranny.

I.iii.58..62

And a lovely addition to the landscape for the rest of us!

Unfinished house

Father of the Grad

I have been remiss, though I plead extenuating circumstances.  I have had some computer difficulties that have prevented me from manipulating pics.

My daughter graduated from Franklin College last month.  I am the proud Dad.

Father of the Grad
Father of the Grad

There’s not much more to say.  She’s smart, talented and a fine young woman.

Father’s Day

I grew up a Chicago Cubs fan.  I don’t know exactly when I became a Cubs fan, but by the time I was ten, I was a Cubs fan.  My best guess is that Ray Raynor, who did a morning show for kids on WGN TV in Chicago, was responsible for making me a Cubs fan.

Dad was a White Sox fan.  But I had no idea that Dad was a White Sox fan until I was well into adulthood.  One would think that I might have gotten a clue from the number of times I walked in on him watching the Sox game when the Cubs were also playing.  I would comment that the Cubs were on and he always changed the channel to the Cubs game.  I just figured he didn’t know.

Sometime in my twenties or thirties Dad told me the story of how he became a White Sox fan.  As a child, Dad was a Cubs fan.  In 1929, Dad was twelve years old.  The Chicago Cubs were in the World Series for the first time since 1918 (when Dad was 2 years old).

It was the fourth game of the series.  The Philadelphia A’s were up 2 games to 1.  But the Cubs were looking good to even the series at two games each with an eight run lead in the seventh inning.

But the A’s scored ten runs in that seventh inning, aided by Hack Wilson’s failure to catch two fly balls that he lost in the sun.  Twice in the same inning!!  Wilson was the star of the team, hitting 39 home runs and driving in 159 runs while batting .345 that year, so it was doubly painful that he contributed so much to the bad inning.

The A’s won the game and went on to win the series.  Dad couldn’t take it.  He abandoned the Cubs and became a White Sox fan.

As it turned out, he had made a good decision.  It took thirty years, but the White Sox won the World Series in 1959.

The Cubs looked good to get to the post season in 1969 and I was right there keeping a scrapbook since January.  Every word the Chicago Tribune printed on the Cubs was in my scrapbook.  The Cubs blew it in the end and the Mets beat them out.  I threw my scrapbook away in disgust, but I was still a Cubs fan.

Two weeks ago, the Cubs were mired in a slump and they were playing Minnesota.  The Twins had men at first and third with one out.  A fly ball was hit to medium deep right field.  Milton Bradley, a high profile acquisition prior to the season who hasn’t played well, caught the fly ball.  Then he tossed it into the stands.

At that moment, I had an understanding of what my Dad might have felt back in 1929.

I’m still a Cubs fan (and I’ve enjoyed the last few games!) but it got me to wondering.  If I had switched allegiance to the Sox after 1969, I would have only had to wait 36 years for a World Series win.  As it is, I’m still waiting.

Electronic cigarettes

Technology marches on.

The article in Slate is called Vapor War; Our irrational hostility toward electronic cigarettes by William Saletan.

The e-cigarette has no tobacco and delivers assorted flavors and optional doses of nicotine in a vapor.  No smoke.  No odor.

The question is:  should this product be regulated.

Saletan makes the case that it took decades of evidence to convince us to regulate cigarettes; that nearly all of the things that make smoking dangerous are missing in e-cigarettes; and, citing a 2007 study that found “that respiratory symptoms like cough, phlegm, and tightness in the chest increase with cigarette use and cannabis use, but are less severe among users of a vaporizer. … The odds ratio suggests that vaporizer users are only 40% as likely to report respiratory symptoms as users who do not vaporize.”

He concludes that “The engineering and re-engineering of drugs will only get more complicated as technology improves. We’d better start thinking rationally about it.”

And he’s right.  We should be thinking rationally about it.  The facts are that nicotine and THC are drugs and that the e-cigarette is a drug delivery system.   To allow either of these products to be sold without establishing whether they are safe or not and without appropriate regulation does not strike me as rational.  The one study in front of us says it is only 40% as dangerous to the respiratory system as cigarettes.  Sounds plenty unsafe to me.

In hindsight, did we go about cigarette regulation the correct way?  Wait until there are plenty of people making millions of dollars off millions of addicts who also vote?