Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie Review: Lincoln, or Let's Put All My Favourite Actors Together in a Historical Movie

Well, since Ritholtz has been shouting from the rooftops that everyone should see the movie Lincoln, and since Rotten Tomatoes has it down as one of the top 100 films of the year (most of the others are stupid documentaries and shit, so it's not as if the list is informative), I decided to check it out.

With me, it's not whether it's a historical document that's important - it's whether the actors can make me give a crap enough to sit through the whole two and a half hours. And there's one problem with a lot of stupid American movies about their own history: most of the time it's sappy shit meant to reinforce their cultural narrative. I'm not an American, so I end up watching most of their historical movies with a critical eye, pointing out "oh, here's where they create the myth that X, and here's where they try to make themselves feel good about Y, and here's the biting current social commentary about Z".

The other problem I have with historical movies more generally, at least the newer ones, is how they tend to get post-modern just to be clever. The Iron Lady was one example - it's all told in flashbacks, framed in a study of how Thatcher's now got the Alzheimer's and doesn't understand her husband is dead, so we should all feel sorry for her, as if the fascist bitch ever had any sympathy for my class. Fuck her.

But Lincoln didn't get all postmodern or clever, and so was fun to watch, and one reason was that I kept seeing all my favourite actors. I have no clue who Daniel Day-Lewis is - apparently he doesn't do movies very much. But still, Big Fat Old James Spader was there, as was Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who was in Inception); Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach from The Watchmen) had a decent part as the Confederate VP. Tommy Lee Jones has what turns out to be a pivotal role in the story. David Strathairn was bad guy Noah Vosun in the third Bourne movie, but was also good guy Eddie Cicotte in Eight Men Out. Even S. Epatha Merkerson from Law & Order shows up, as well as (apparently) about 30 other L&O actors who've played multiple minor parts, almost as if they cast this in New York or something.

I like seeing my favourite little-known actors when they show up in other movies, so that alone was fun for me.

As for the story, the movie's all about the horse trading that Abraham Lincoln had to do in January 1863 in order to pass the 13th Amendment, which apparently abolished slavery or something.

Spoiler: the Amendment passes and slavery gets abolished.

Now, by the way, about January 1863, when almost all off this movie takes place: it really fucking annoyed me how the last few minutes of the movie are all about him going off to the opera to get assassinated months later. If Spielberg didn't know that Lincoln's assassination happened in April of that year, two and a half months after everything else that goes on in the movie, then I'm sure someone told him - and was probably immediately fired. I guess since it's a fucking Spielberg movie you'd have to expect some rewriting of history in order to work in some sentimental ahistorical tearjerker bullshit. Cunt. Please god don't let that twat get a Golden Globe for this movie. The last 20 minutes didn't need to be filmed - it was all superfluous.

As you can see, Spielberg really annoys me.

But the rest of the movie was pretty good, and probably worth seeing. It's not as bad as most American historical movies, and the characterization is rich and deep. It's not as great as the American media makes it out to be, but you won't waste your time watching it.

Unless you want explosions and car chases and monsters and sex and stuff. It has none of those.

Valentine's humour in december

Weekend news

The Gold Report - Rohit Savant is part of the lizard-people conspiracy to keep gold down. Pretty good interview, the guy seems to have his head screwed on right. Read it.

Biiwii - goldbugs are bearish per Hulbert. If they're managing to lure Gary back into the gold stocks, then it might well be near a bottom.

NY Times - is the bond market done? There are some very interesting things in this article, including an important observation by James Grant. So, what happens if bonds are done? Do equities end their bear market, y'think?

Ritholtz - America's cars and appliances are getting old. Pent-up durables demand would be positive for the US economy - if only the plutocratic scum robbing the country blind could let the unwashed masses see an increase in wages for the first time in 30 years, the unwashed masses might start satisfying that pent-up demand.

Fark headline of the year contest

It's the Fark Headline of the Year contest, and I wanted to pass on what I think were the top ten.

Here you go:

Louis Farrakhan says "Jesus was a black man." Well, Jesus liked Gospel, called everyone "brother" and couldn't get a fair trial, so it may be true

"Police search for three armed men in home invasion." STANDARD HANDCUFFS WON'T WORK, PEOPLE

Arctic rivers add toxic mercury to the Arctic Ocean. This sounds like something that came from Hg wells

Massachusetts' largest white oak killed. Police are rounding up all the black oaks in the area

New research discovers difference in visual acuity between men and women: men have greater sensitivity to fine detail and rapid movements, and women can see everything you ever did wrong

Missing algebra teacher found dead -- investigators looking to solve for why, query ex

Mother-of-two disfigured by seven tumors on her face says, "Tumor would benign"

Cougar enters home through dog door. In related news, your mom started drinking again

Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" opens in theaters, despite the fact that Lincoln historically doesn't do well in theaters

Man enters zoo enclosure to feed the tigers, succeeds

Friday, December 28, 2012

Movie review: The Avengers

So I saw The Avengers this week, and I may as well give you a review.

Firstly, I'm not the type to go for superhero movies. I used to read comics back when I worked night shift at a convenience store, so I can't play the "superheroes are ghey" card; rather, I get annoyed at how so many of the movies are really retarded compared to the original comics.

For example, Daredevil was a really fantastic series, at least in the late 80s; the Inferno issues were especially stunning, the highlight to a story arc that I worried would jump the shark if it wasn't ended perfectly. But there's no way I'm watching a fucking movie where he's portrayed by Ben Affleck.

Similarly, a lot of the superhero movies were stupid filler: the Wolverine one was a fantastic example of a movie that didn't even have to be made.

So, why watch The Avengers? Especially considering I didn't like Iron Man, and never even saw Thor? (And apparently there was even a Hulk one too?)

Joss Whedon.

Yeah, I'm a Buffy nut. Also loved Firefly. Didn't really like Angel or Dollhouse, though. But Whedon can make something a hell of a lot of fun when he has the right material to work with, he's especially done well with superheroes (Buffy, essentially), and it would be neat to see him with a $200M budget and enough CGI to blow up the world convincingly.

And Whedon did a great job with this one.

So anyway, there's this bad guy Loki who's working with these evil aliens. So Nick Fury (who I don't remember being black, but Samuel L. Jackson does a mean and brooding enough job to play the part so what the hell) asks for help from Iron Man, Thor, Bruce Banner, Hawkeye, Captain America, and some chick. Then, there's lots of fight scenes and stuff gets blown up, and the good guys win.

Simple outline, easy enough to turn into a complete fucking waste of your time.

Instead, Whedon makes it fun.

The characters are fun, at least some of them. Thor and Captain America are basically a couple pretty boys good for nothing but muscle (basically Riley Finn with superpowers times two); that's the poor part of the character group. After that, Bruce Banner is the hyperintelligent supergenius who also often turns into a dangerous world-destroying force (basically Willow as a guy); Iron Man is sort of like a wise-cracking Buffy in a metal suit; Hawkeye is maybe Gunn, at least when he's not suffering the mind-control thing; Nick Fury is maybe Giles, but sort of evil and underhanded, maybe in an ultimately beneficent way, which Giles was at times anyway. And the chick is sort of Buffy too, at least insofar as all she can do is fire a couple handguns and do some close combat, while the guys around her are all various levels of indestructible. Kinda sucks to be her. Oh, she interrogates well too. Great.

Annoyed that I'm making this all about Buffy? Well, it gets worse: the transdimensional gate that gets opened up over Manhattan is like Buffy Episode 100, especially since it's opened up by an unbeatable god (Loki this time, Glorificus in Buffy). And the Avengers end up at each other's throats, due to the machinations of the bad guy, which was a recurring theme in the later seasons of Buffy (that season's bad guy tried to split the group up, but then they'd get back together before finally defeating the bad guy).

But still, those were the good things about Buffy, and if you haven't watched Buffy, you can watch the Avengers and experience all the fun bits of Buffy in 140 minutes. Buffy, Buffy, Buffy.

Seriously though....

It is a very witty movie, in a way that other superhero movies fail to be, and exactly the way you'd expect Whedon to be. Tony Stark gets loads of great lines, from the beginning of the movie to the end, and sometimes moves from one joke to the next so fast that he leaves you reeling on your feet. (Whedon doesn't treat audiences like idiots who have trouble following a conversation. Which is probably why he ultimately got driven out of TV.) But also, Barefoot Gwyneth Paltrow With The Nice Ass gets a few good lines in too, and the chick (I looked it up, it's Black Widow) also gets in some good lines. Samuel L. Jackson obviously gets a few good lines too, they're in his contract: "Well, let me know if 'Real Power' wants a magazine or something" was a good one.

There are even a couple surprising little directorial things that you just wouldn't expect in an action movie - little attentions to detail. Thor falls out of the sky and you actually get to see him skid through a field; nice touch, not action-movie-ish at all. I thought that was neat.

I'm kinda annoyed by the fact that several of the characters are pretty much indestructible: bullets bounce off Hulk, Hulk can punch Thor across the room, Thor's hammer can't be lifted by a mortal but Captain America's shield can stop it, Iron Man's suit can be put in a giant blender and not get damaged - oh and Loki, who's a god, ends up getting thrown around like a rag doll by Hulk (there's a spoiler for you).

It kinda defeats the whole point of superhero movies when they're just so darn super that they don't really have to use their heads to solve anything: when Buffy and the crew went toe-to-toe against Glorificus, they had to enlist the Buffybot, Olaf the Troll God's hammer, the Dagon Sphere, and a wrecking ball, and still she was only destroyed after reverting to human form. These Avenger guys can just punch gods to death.

But meanwhile, the chick Black Widow is basically Jason Bourne and Hawkeye is Legolas.


Anyway, all in all though, it was a great movie, worth seeing again, and I'd actually be happy to watch the sequel, as long as it's directed by Whedon too. 8/10, which for me is a good score.

Daniela wishes you a merry Christmas!

Today I saw a significant upsurge in the number of "is Daniela Cambone married?" searches coming to my blog, so I went over to Youtube, and lo and behold like clockwork there's another bunch of new Kitco interviews, all based around 2012 review and 2013 outlook.

Here she is interviewing Vince Lanci, who says we are in a central bank driven market.

Hey, Vince? We were in a central bank driven market. Things have changed in the past 2 months and if you'd been following my blog religiously you'd have known that.

And the next doooom won't come from Japan. It'll come from China. I'll bet you.

Seriously Vince, you seem a very reasonable fellow. If you simply turned off all the right-wing propaganda and concentrated on hard data for the next few months, you might see your head clear up quite a bit. Might even make some money.

And then here's Daniela with Erica Rannestad from CPM Group, on platinum and palladium:

Two notes: first, it was very enjoyable to listen to someone on Kitco who actually knows what the hell she's talking about. Because they do tend to interview a lot of boneheads.

Second, it's funny how she notes jewelry demand in China is a buffer for platinum prices.

Cos people don't seem to think that about gold.

Despite the Chinese government hoarding gold and suggesting its own citizens buy gold.

I'm only saying.

And finally, here's Daniela interviewing Jim Rogers, Overlord of Commodities, who is talking about gold, so therefore gold must be a commodity and not an asset class:

Jimboy only gives her 3 minutes of his time, and spends most of it chatting her up, and the rest of it complaining ignorantly about central bankers.

Nevertheless, he's still The One You Shut The Hell Up And Listen To when it comes to commodities, and as he says, "Ah don't know of any asset in historuh that has gone up twayulve yeahs in a row without a dahn yeah."

The common thread in all these interviews?

Daniela's wearing red. But three different shades and three different necklines. Cos she's more stylish than you.

Two newsbits

Only two bits of news worth passing on to you, but both seemed important.

Reuters - China factory profit growth quickens as economy recovers. So stop selling gold!

Caixin - Chinese miners going overseas to buy mines. So stop selling gold miners!

Some people, eh?

In other news, I've been checking out John Kaiser's site the past couple days, but still can't really say much about it just yet. I suppose I'll write a review of his subscription service soonish, but I really don't want to be a tard about it so I'll have to take my time.

Though long story short, from the little I've looked at so far, he's better than Cookie and cheaper.

Friday Videos - The Future and Drexciya

This week's Friday videos is all about the future, since the year has ended.

This is Martin Ware and Ian Marsh, The Future, before they wrecked everything by forming Human League.

I always liked how their drum machine sounded like the noise channel on my old Vic=20.

Years later, but still in the before-time, the long-long-ago, you go to Detroit and hear James Stinson (Drexciya) doing wack stuff like this:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

All Star Charts with Paul Tudor Jones

JC Parets had a post earlier this week on Paul Tudor Jones' rules for investing.

Those of you who mock technical analysis will dislike a lot of what PTJ has to say; my reply is "so where's your billions of dollars, cheese?"

I wanted to comment on a few of PTJ's points, so here we go with partially reproducing the article:

2. I see the younger generation hampered by the need to understand and rationalize why something should go up or down. Usually, by the time that becomes self-evident, the move is already over.

3. When I got into the business, there was so little information on fundamentals, and what little information one could get was largely imperfect. We learned just to go with the chart. Why work when Mr. Market can do it for you?

4. These days, there are many more deep intellectuals in the business, and that, coupled with the explosion of information on the Internet, creates an illusion that there is an explanation for everything and that the primary tast is simply to find that explanation.[...]

To me, these three points are really just the same thing stated three times. Basically, he's making the central arguments for TA:

(a) If you want to play by fundamentals, you better fucking well be at the front of the line for inside information; after all, if you're just some schmo reading the news at home, you're guaranteed to be the last to know what's going on.

(b) The price action in the chart, when it fails to confirm your fundamentals-based position, is a dead giveaway that there's some new news out there where, if you had it, you'd be either buying or dumping; but since you don't have it, you're stuck yelling at the screen about how the market's wrong and my god why aren't you going up and can't everyone see what a steal this stock is at 7 cents?

And those two are probably just the same thing stated twice.

So is it wrong to mock TA? No, I don't think so. I guess you could say PTJ is talking about empirical TA.

Example: Sabina Silver might say Hackett River is definitely going to be a mine, and their cash flow will be worth $350M, which they can then plow into Back River. You look at all the numbers and say "yup, based on $30 silver let's go with a price target of $7. Slam dunk." Well, if SBB's price collapses to below the NPV of the Hackett stream, with all of Back River now going for free, then Sabina must be wrong, and you're also wrong. If the price collapsed on the news Glencore is buying Xstrata, maybe that's your reason? Maybe Glencore management has come out and said (privately, not to some fucking peasant like you) that they'll slit their wrists before they ever move into northern Canada?

You might get all that from simply looking at the price action. Market participants can hide a lot of things; but one thing they can't hide particularly well is the relative supply and demand levels for a stock, and that shows up in the price.

You could maybe even use empirical TA to identify underlying problems in the market. JNK:LQD ratio, GLD:SLV, GDX:GLD, all those ratios seem to behave in certain ways in certain markets; really it's about the same as watching $TRIN or $BPSPX. Nothing to mock there.

So is it wrong to mock TA? Sure, sometimes. There's this other thing out there which I'll call predictive TA. It reminds me, more than anything else, of reading Tarot cards, or any other sort of divination you might learn from a wiccan ex-girlfriend.

Now, maybe some people can get it right, sometimes. I know for a fact you can get things spookily right in Tarot, at least once in a while; but that requires (at least subconsciously) developing skills like cold reading, subliminal perception, and intuition. Really all you're doing when you read Tarot (this is right out of a non-wiccan book on Tarot reading) is relaxing your mind, looking at the cards, and allowing them to prod your mind into making the associations and perceptions that allow you to construct a narrative that - wow! - magically predicts something just around the corner. Really it's just an intuition aid.

But a lot of the time all you get out of it is bullshit. Because it's very easy to look at a large pile of equivocal data and see an outcome that you want to see. Or, even better, see an outcome that frightens you. That's the problem with looking at the head & shoulders on the Venture, targeting -800.

Anyway, just wanted to make a few comments on PTJ.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Some boxing day reading, marked-down from its regular price

Let the place blank for a few days, being the holidays and all, so a lot of these news items are oldish. Even still, they're worth reading.

Economist - Hedge funds are overpaid scum. Nice when the Matt Taibbi/Josh Brown thesis makes its way to the pages of the Economist - does this mean we're ending the era of plutocratic corruption?

BI - The world's executives are optimistic about 2013. So there, no double-dip recession, find something new to scream about.

Bonddad - US household debt payments as % of income is at a 30-year low. This is the place from which you can take off on a 10-year bull market. The ducks are lining up for the US.

BI - Durable goods means US economy about to take off. Again, find something new to scream about. And I love it when I'm proven right....

JC Parets - John Murphy's ten laws of technical trading. Not the made-up woo of some blogger, this is the serious stuff.

BI - Banks fueling a corporate debt bubble? We'll see. For now I won't pay too much attention to it - just file it away for future consideration. But yes, there really is a debt bubble, ain't there?

Beyond Brics - Greece no longer sucks? Like I said, maybe now you can make a killing on investing in Greece? NBG, anyone?

BI - Jim Rogers on the gold selloff. I don't like Jim Rogers' politics, but as far as commodities he's the guy I'd listen to.

South China Morning Post - Chinese wealth management products have begun defaulting. Not a Lehman moment quite yet. But here's the point, in case you don't know what the problem is:

Critics worry about the products, many of which channel funds that are paying customers higher interest rates into loans to real estate developers and other projects that cannot access normal bank credits. Such lending can conceal a quagmire of high-risk products and overlapping debt obligations, they say.

That is the problem. The part in bold and underlined. It's a Ponzi (in the traditional sense of the term) which will collapse. Will the Chinese government manage to bail everyone out?