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Archive for August, 2007

Coming Comic ‘Spotlight’ September 2007

Posted by Adrian on August 30, 2007

“Thunderbolts” writer Warren Ellis, Art Mike Deodato

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Cool T-shirt

Posted by Adrian on August 27, 2007

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Some great designs coming out of the States at the moment, small low key companies putting out some really inetersting stuff.

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The complexities of Wall Street finance and the simplicity of the boom bust cycle.

Posted by Adrian on August 27, 2007

As the markets resume a degree of calm, the only metaphor I can equate this too is the quite in the eye of the storm. A quick retrospective, before things go south again. Is to look at the complexity of the buying and selling of debt, commercial paper and other complex derivatives from business and personal debt. As it’s been discussed numerous times on business websites and blog discussions, the complex aspect of collatrized debt obligations is now pure risk, or as the markets like to call them now – ‘toxic waste’. This contagious toxic waste has infected everything from banks to hedge funds to pension funds to Australian council’s (using rate payments to buy commercial paper debt or CDO’s). The main originator? Subprime mortgage debt, repackaged in an complex, yet frenzied way. Rated by credit rating agencies as ‘good’, and sold. But why didn’t the technical analysis of Wall Street see this coming? Yet they didn’t. For every sophisticated graph, or stochastic system they all failed to see the horrendous amount of risk in the mortgage market. Maybe the simplicity of greed won in the day. The lure of huge returns and ‘safe’ bet’s with these CDO’s, almost blindly overlooked the risk in the overbought and highly leveraged mortgage markets in the US.

So, with the reserve banks around the world injecting millions into the banking sector to keep it liquid. The lingering global credit crunch and liquidity crisis was and still is, a frighting prospect. To think that so many banks bought these CDO’s and other paper debt is staggering.

We can only watch the markets carefully, as the problems with the worldwide financial markets do not appear to be over.

Posted in Finance and Economics. Strategy and Society | 1 Comment »

World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Bird Flu (H5N1) and other pandemic Virus concerns (update 1)

Posted by Adrian on August 23, 2007

World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Bird Flu (H5N1) and other pandemic Virus concerns (update 1)

New bird flu death (H5N1) in Indonesia (Bali)
“Ayu Srinadi, 28, a chicken seller from Tabanan, died yesterday in Sanglah Hospital, Denpasar, a 29-year-old woman, from Jembrana died on August 12.”

The Age – New Bali bird flu death

WHO warns of global epidemic risk

“Since the 1970s, 39 new diseases have developed, and in the last five years alone, the WHO has identified more than 1,100 epidemics including cholera, polio and bird flu. ‘It would be extremely naive and complacent to assume that there will not be another disease like Aids, another Ebola, or another Sars, sooner or later,’ the report says. “

BBC News –

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World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Worldwide economic depression.(update 5)

Posted by Adrian on August 15, 2007

World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Worldwide economic depression.(update 5)

World markets are in dire trouble as the liquidity crisis widens. The worldwide banking sector is under increasing strain to avoid lending to other institutions, and/or the taking on of debt capital due to the US subprime mortgage collapse. Despite the main world banks – European Central Bank, Bank Of Japan, Reserve Bank of Australia and The US Federal Reserve injecting vast amounts of capital into the world banking sector over the last week. It appears to have not ‘calmed’ the fears of investors.

Asian markets have opened lower again on the concerns of a severe credit market crunch, two Japanese banks have been effected by it’s connection to the subprime mortgage market, more specifically the mortgage backed securities that included subprime loans that the bank held and sold, at a loss:

“Mitsubishi UFJ had unrealized losses of about 5 billion yen ($42.6 million) on investments related to U.S. subprime loans as of the end of July, the lender said. Sumitomo Mitsui said it recorded “several billion yen” of losses in the three months to June 30, after selling about 350 billion yen in U.S. mortgage- backed securities, including some backed by subprime loans”

Australian investment bank Macquarie Bank Ltd:

“Macquarie Bank Ltd., Australia’s biggest securities company, dropped 4.1 percent to A$67.39. Its shares have dropped 18 percent since its Macquarie Fortress Investments Ltd. unit, which had $873 million in two high-yielding funds, said on July 31 it was forced to sell assets to avoid breaching loan agreements.” Bloomberg

Now the broader Australian lender/broker mortgage market could be effected by the credit and liquidity crisis with stemmed from the US subprime market deterioration:

Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ralph Norris confirmed fears raised by Aussie Home Loans chief executive John Symond that the credit crisis ocurring in the US could force domestic interest rates higher. But Mr Norris said lending strategies differed between lenders and the methods used by non-banks to find money to lend put them at greater risk than larger, traditional banks. ‘There will at some stage be an increase in rates,’ Mr Norris said.”

Australian home loan lender (non bank) RAMS Home loans:

“Yesterday the Australian mortgage provider became the latest casualty in the far-reaching US credit crisis, sparked by defaults in low-end US mortgages. The stock, which had been wallowing, fell a further 19.4 per cent to $1.41 — down 45 per cent from the float offer price. Further evidence of contagion in the Australian market from the US subprime mortgage crisis spooked investors, sending the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index down 0.8 per cent despite the Reserve Bank pouring $2.61 billion into the financial system to keep it running smoothly. The amount was larger than the RBA’s daily average of about $1.9 billion but much smaller than last week’s one-off $4.95 billion injection.”

“Credit Suisse analyst Alex Chau said RAMS had been hard hit by the US credit market woes because its funding was subject to regular rollovers. ‘Normally when you securitise a mortgage away, its duration is four to five years, which more appropriately matches the duration of the asset,’ he said.

“This type of facility, however, is rolled over on a 30-day basis. So it’s … much more exposed to liquidity crunches.”

“Of that amount, $6.17 billion is funded with “extendable commercial paper” — short-to-medium-term funding from US debt capital markets.” Business Day – The Age

 

Info on “commercial paper” – Investpedia

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Dr Marc Faber on the current liquidity crisis in the world financial markets

Posted by Adrian on August 14, 2007

Dr Marc Faber is an objective, focused individual. A contrarian economist, who by his nature is able to absorb as much information regarding the financial markets as humanly possible. Process that information and make sound analysis, with some humour thrown in for good measure. He is also a long time critic of the Federal Reserve Bank of America (and current chairperson Ben Bernanke) and their inability to gauge the markets and their ability to lose control of the markets

Faber on the reserve banks flooding the markets with money and the credit boom: “commodities went up, real estate went up, stocks went up, art prices went up, even the prices of mistresses went up…”

Very good interview, to view go here

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World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Worldwide economic depression.(update 4)

Posted by Adrian on August 10, 2007

French bank BNP Paribas has suspended several Investment fund that backed subprime debt obligations. It appears that the subprime, or mortgage meltdown in America has now effected investment funds in Europe. The credit crunch looks closer to becoming a widespread problem worldwide.

The three funds BNP Paribas has suspended are Parvest Dynamic ABS, BNP Paribas ABS Euribor and BNP Paribas ABS Eonia. BNP Paribas said the valuation of the suspended funds would resume “as soon as liquidity returns to the market”.

This means the liquidity or value of the cash assets of the investment funds are shrinking rapidly. So the European Central Bank needs to pump money into the banking sector.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has pumped 95bn euros (£63bn) into the eurozone banking market to allay fears about a sub-prime credit crunch.”

Although a temporarily helpful measure especially with cash assets and liquidity decreasing. Inflationary conditions may occur because of the now extra cash being flooded into the banking sector.

‘ECB moves to help banking sector’ – BBC Business

Now the Bank of Japan, Reserve Bank Of Australia have done the same ,

“The Bank of Japan added 1 trillion yen ($8.5 billion) to the financial system and the Reserve Bank of Australia loaned A$4.95 billion ($4.2 billion), joining U.S. and European central banks in responding to a credit crunch.”

Both Japan and Australia have had spill over problems with the continued subprime mortgage disaster.

A Sydney, Australian hedge fund called Basis Yield,

“Basis Yield investors have been warned they could receive less than half their money, after its investments in risky collateralised debt obligations were affected by widespread re-pricing of sub-investment grade debts. Both funds have halted redemptions as they try to assess the value of their assets.”

Business Age

Japan Bank – Shinsei Bank Ltd now under stress

“Shinsei Bank Ltd. said earlier this week its losses on subprime loans reached $30 million. Nomura Holdings Inc. cited 31.2 billion yen in subprime loan losses in its first-quarter earnings report.”

‘Bank of Japan, RBA Boost Funds in System to Ease Credit Crunch’ – Bloomberg

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World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Nuclear War (update 3)

Posted by Adrian on August 10, 2007

A recent US scramble against two Tu – 95 long range Russian bombers. Prompts memories from the last cold war.

A spokesman for the Pentagon confirmed that the Tu-95s were spotted heading to Guam, adding that US fighter readied themselves to repel them.

“We prepared to intercept the bombers but they did not come close enough to a US Navy ship or to the island of Guam to warrant an air-to-air intercept,” the spokesman said.  During the Cold War, Soviet bombers regularly flew long-haul missions to areas patrolled by Nato and the US. The bombers have the capability of launching a nuclear strike with the missiles they carry.”

BBC News – Europe: Russia sparks Cold War scramble

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‘Blatant benevolence and conspicuous consumption’ – Evolutionary Psychology hit and miss theory. I think they missed with this one.

Posted by Adrian on August 9, 2007

Evolutionary psychology has kept a steady presence in popular culture, namely because Evolution psychology is designed to be popular culture science. It’s an easy science to understand, as far as the basics of human interaction, in which Evolution psychologists base their theories on early human evolution, which they believe answers a lot of our cultural and society complexities in the present time. To put it simply, evolutionary psychologists look at the brain as a modular set up, formed over million of years, each modular aspect of the brain is designed for specific tasks; conditions in the environment set off a ‘trigger’ or effect the part of the brain designed to react to that environmental challenge.

The pop culture basis, the most assessable and the most popular aspect of evolutionary psychology is the sexual desire mystery. That evolution psychologists proponents claim they have cracked or demystified the sexual attraction code. Of course this all goes back to evolution (survival of the fittest), we attract a certain mate that we feel will give us healthy children. Evolutionary psychologists make an educated guess with what happened in our ancestral past, they then reverse engineer that speculation so they can try to understand the complex mating rituals of our culture today.

But, the problem is the simplicity in their findings. If you had a Evolution Psychology handbook on how to date, pick up, get laid you would be disappointed every time. It’s a rigid science, smart at times albeit speculative and rarely or throughly tested.

Recently the economist.com printed an article Evolutionary Psychology: Blatant benevolence and conspicuous consumption, with the subheading, “Charity is just as “selfish” as self-indulgence”.

The gist of the article is the peacock tale scenario, in this case the brain. Where your reputation is enhanced or status improved by giving to charity, you don’t really care about some hungry kid in Africa. But you do it, so that the girl you are dating will think you are some altruism hotshot, a smaller version of the philanthropist Bill Gates. From the article,

“That is characteristic of the consequences of sexual selection. An individual shows he (or she) has resources to burn—whether those are biochemical reserves, time or, in the human instance, money—by using them to make costly signals. That demonstrates underlying fitness of the sort favoured by evolution. Viewed this way, both conspicuous consumption and what the researchers call “blatant benevolence” are costly signals. And since they are behaviours rather than structures, and thus controlled by the brain, they may be part of the mating mind.”

So in other words, my charitable non rewarding altruism, as far as no returned favour from the person receiving my charitable gift, is designed primarily for me to get laid. Because hopefully, my actions will be viewed by a female which will in turn flick a switch on in her mating mind?

It’s crazy logic, but apparently it has been tested with two test groups. One group was given pictures of ‘attractive’ members of the opposite sex, the other group pictures of buildings and they were required to write about the weather.
“The participants were then asked two things. The first was to imagine they had $5,000 in the bank. They could spend part or all of it on various luxury items such as a new car, a dinner party at a restaurant or a holiday in Europe. They were also asked what fraction of a hypothetical 60 hours of leisure time during the course of a month they would devote to volunteer work.

The results were just what the researchers hoped for. In the romantically primed group, the men went wild with the Monopoly money. Conversely, the women volunteered their lives away. Those women continued, however, to be skinflints, and the men remained callously indifferent to those less fortunate than themselves. Meanwhile, in the other group there was little inclination either to profligate spending or to good works. Based on this result, it looks as though the sexes do, indeed, have different strategies for showing off. Moreover, they do not waste their resources by behaving like that all the time. Only when it counts sexually are men profligate and women helpful.”

In it’s reasoning a silly experiment. First of all, of course if a spare $5,000.00 drops into your account you are going to either spend it, or invest it – depending on the individual. Ok, so the group (males) see their perspective dates. They spend, and not give a damn about the needy. But that is what money and purchasing does, whether there is a ‘hot date’ or not. The point is, the mating aspect or the ‘showing’ the ‘peacock tale’ in some ways doesn’t even matter. Why would it? Is the $5,000.00 guaranteed to impress your ‘hot date’? Hard to say, maybe, or maybe she is a little more wise to the game. Either way she may not want to carry your babies and DNA? The most reliable aspect a wealthy guy could do with his money and have guaranteed results is see a high class prostitute and she certainly won’t carry his children. Money generally gives you more leverage or power. Money, power and wealth don’t necessary mean you are overstimulating your ‘mating mind’. In some ways you are far more vulnerable, to extortion, con people (women and men). It would be extremely simplistic and flawed to assume that people with money that give to charity, or women that work in charity do this primely for the other sex to notice. Did Bill Gates donate huge amount of his profits to charity to have more admiring women want to bed him? Unlikely. If anything his altruism was to increase and represent the profile of his company Microsoft, to gain more recognition hence more sales – product or brand advertising.

The poor Joe Blow in the street shouldn’t bother competing with a poorly tested and controlled psychology experiment. Why should he feel anxious with his girlfriend and the guy behind him drops $5 into the busker’s guitar case, and Joe didn’t even muster up 10 cents. Did the ‘peacock’ mating mind shine for the $5 man?

Evolution psychologists sometimes tend to formulate experiments that will provide the results they want to see, in other words poorly tested. To force the hand of favorable results, for example in the experiment the other group didn’t spend any money and nor could be bothered with the needy. They were bored at looking at photos and thinking of the weather, they became borderline depressives probably; who wouldn’t staring at pictures of buildings and making notes about the weather – without any perspective social interaction whether male or female.

Not everything is connected to the proliferation of replicating our genes.

But poor women, get ready for this your self sacrifice and chartable behavior attracts your mate:

“These two studies support the idea, familiar from everyday life, that what women want in a partner is material support while men require self-sacrifice. Conspicuous consumption allows men to demonstrate the former. Blatant benevolence allows women to demonstrate the latter. There is, however, a confounding observation. The most blatant benevolence of all, that of billionaires giving away their fortunes and heroes giving away (or at least risking) their lives, is almost entirely a male phenomenon.”

So next time you see a woman volunteering at the homeless shelter, it’s not she cares for those stinking bums, only she is doing this to show you how maternal and nurturing she is, she is sending out a signal of good wife material.

And when we drop our hard earned pay (reluctantly) into some ‘needy’ fund, we don’t give a f*** about the cause – save the animals, or help some family dying in Africa. We (males) are only interested that women will notice our ‘good’ deed – by sending out a biological signal of fitness.

In conclusion a bizarre hypotheses, the Evolutionary Psychology theory of ‘Blatant benevolence and conspicuous consumption’ has been banged out without much thought.

article “Charity is just as “selfish” as self-indulgence” economist.com

Posted in Popular Culture/Culture | 1 Comment »

Natacha Merritt – Digital Girly

Posted by Adrian on August 7, 2007

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(image from Natacha Merrit Digital Diaries book out now on Taschen)

I think 99% porn out there in digital land is rubbish. It’s an overrated and overconsumption based industry. The 1% of porn or erotica isn’t too bad. The differences? The basic formula is there (sex), but the format changes, creativity and experimentation with design and image ensures that it separates it self from the bulk of the puerile.

As mainstream porn ascends further into the voyeuristic fantasy to feed a masochistic, sexually constrained society in the 21st century. The internet, cyberspace the virtual and digital world represent that easily assessable medium of repetitive imagery. So, what is good porn or good erotica in the digital age? As I said, design, aesthetics even a self reflection or commentary no matter how subtle, could just save the whole porn/erotica world from falling into the garbage heap of pointlessness.

Natacha Merritt is good at what she does. Good enough to have a book out on Taschen. Her images are of the voyeur oriented, but they are so good. She has skills in photography, capitalizing on the internet porn consumption. But it’s different, stylized. It’s a mixed medium of neon or sparse style lighting and a sexual future based on isolation.

There will be a full review of her book in the coming months.

Check out her website  http://www.digitalgirly.com/

Posted in Popular Culture/Culture | 2 Comments »