Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Blue Skies

He said: "Blue skies all in my head," and: "Blue skies up above." And she said: "Where there's no space, there's neither 'in' nor 'out' nor 'above' nor 'below'," and: "Don't let the clouds' judgment. Judgment clouds."

Clever Dick

"Have you heard of the Reynolds Number?" asked the uniformed detective. "It's a dimensionless number reflecting the ratio of inertia to viscosity from which you can calculate the relative contribution of those forces to any given liquid-type flow. By dimensionless, I mean, it does not have a physical unit of measurement and, therefore, cannot be derived from any supposed fist principles said to constitute a Grand Unifying Theory or GUT. In a sense, this explains the flow of my tears, but in another, it doesn't. That's my gut feeling. Play on my scaleless words. Rhythm, logic and blues. It's not science."

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Boris the Spider

Peter-Peter awoke suddenly one morning from a torrid night's sleep and, although the transformation was not immediately apparent to him, for it was in keeping with the nightmarish sequence of his nocturnal consciousness, he was now, forever, part of the Arachnida family. And also, perhaps, because he had fallen asleep in his Parker. In any case, he was now, to all intent and purpose, an arachnid. But let us not get ahead of ourselves, prior to taking partial cognisance of his situation, he had dreamed of waking up in a bedroom; though he was not familiar with the immediate environs – he didn't immediately recognise the room – there was a definite sense of familiarity. May be that was not so surprising, for it was a regular room; nothing special: a bed, a chair sat snugly underneath a desk, sparsely occupied book shelves and one, smallish, window. This meager catalogue brought no immediate anguish. It was then he began to consider how he came to be in said room. Was he renting? Staying over? Squatting? He tried to recall what it was that he did, that is between the hours of sleep? How did he fill his days? It was beginning to bug him. Did he have a job? Mission? Occupation? Trade? How did he travel about, feed, cloth himself? What sort of things was he interested in? Did he have a hobby? A pastime? A political leaning? A passion? Any passion? Acquaintances, companions, friends? The questions continued to come thick and fast and he found himself ever adrift in a sort of mental slurry that came to a sudden, stolid, stop. He remained frigid as a wooden spoon in broiled porridge. Summoning an unearthly will he managed to roll himself out of the bed. He was having difficulty standing up straight. His knees seemed to flex counter-intuitively to the demands of will. And his skin began to crawl as he felt stinging beads of sweat beetling across his skin as his began to climb the walls, whereupon, it was trapped by the canopy of ceiling. Left dangling in sickening suspense. From thereon he gazed down on the shapes, colours and textures that swilled to form dynamic compounds in Picasso-esque collages. For a moment, he saw new and novel ways in which objects and their relations interlaced in their journey though time and space.

Three Shakespearean wooden knocks sound in short succession.

The void swallowed him whole – he considered whether it was actual “a” void or whether all voids were essentially the same and so, quite correctly, one would refer to the THE VOID – only to spit him out to the sounds of a repetitive machine-gun like incantation:

Peter-Peter! Peter-Peter! Peter-Peter!

Followed again by another wood-rapping triplet and yet more scatter spray ...

Peter-Peter! Peter-Peter! Peter-Peter!

It was his grandmother. Not a particularly gregarious character, especially since her husband, Peter-Peter's grandfather had died and he had felt it his duty to become "the man of the household". Taking upon himself part-time jobs outside of his tuition, so that one day he would have a sufficient income to see that grandma spent her twilight days in comfort. But he was also feeling the strain, like being caught caught in web, anaesthetised by the venom of events beyond his control.

You can't come in grandma!

He couldn't vocalise the words. Sentiment.

Panic sinks in and he makes his escape, cope rope, via the bedroom window. Hours skulking in the dappled shade of alleys waiting for nightfall. Inspiration spins her magic. He breaks into a arts and crafts shop and purloins, in an act of pettifoggery, a handful of how-to knit and crochet guides.

Time passes like a train stuck waiting for traffic control to signal "go" before safely entering the station stop. He writes his autobiography, a leg-stitched bound compendium of carefully crated doily pages of acrylic text, working under the nom de plume, “Boris the Spider” to protect the dignity of his only living relative, his grandmother, from what he imagined would be the ensuing maelstrom of press intrusion, once it hit the New York Times best sellers listing.

Then came the fall.

And a slow, gravitised, death.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The old house

Rupert rounded the corner and saw the old stone house, still, quiet; a resolute edifice, baking in the midday sun. Seeing the house unchanged despite the years of environmental damage inflicted on the surrounding environment reassured him: the old man would still be here. He pushed open the old wooden gate and made his way up the path he had walked countless times in his childhood. It had been too many years to number since he had last footed this beaten track. He was still sore from the 50 mile journey on pack mule from the closest monorail stop. Since garbage had been made illegal, the Mr Fusion buses and taxis that used to frequent the area were no longer in existence.

Crunching his way up the dirt track bent under the weight of treasures he had brought from his journey, he felt the heat and the silence. No longer the sound of bees that used to decorate the sweet air. Just the intense dry heat. A vulture leered at him from the now dead cherry tree in the front garden.

He knocked at the door and it creaked open on its own accord. A cool stench crawled from the opening. Eyes adjusting slowly to the intense darkness, Rupert picked his way through the house. He found the cellar head and made his way down the wooden steps into the pitch black. He felt the old man's presence and spoke: "I have come from the equator to grant a dying man his last wish." He seated his bag on the ground and took out the Jackfruit, offering it to the darkness in front of him. The weight was taken from his hands and he heard the fruit being gently broken open and the flesh slowly devoured. After the first mouthful was finished, all was silent, when he heard his father's voice for the first time since the pod casts he had made almost 20 years ago for a leading New York online journal about the pending and certain annihilation of mankind. The voice was deep, strong and illustrious as ever, searing the dank atmosphere like a solar torch of years gone by: "It tastes.... like the sun."

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Friday, 25 June 2010

A sideways look

Lurid scenes of ill-fitting parcel-string-thin Day-Glo swimwear cleaving rubbed-raw radiation-red flesh.

Two eyes attached to two stalk-like protrusions emerged from the shallows and swivelled to survey the sordid Miami beach panorama. One might liken them to periscopes. And that summation would be correct for that's, exactly, what they were. If one could have seen, submerged below the surface, the crab-like creature to which these swivelling recording devices were attached, one might have mistaken it for a crab. But it was not a crab. Instead, it was a carefully constructed vehicle made to look, to casual and not-so casual observer, like a crab. It was, in fact, a highly sophisticated underwater observation craft, or submarine if you will, encased within a crustacean exoskeleton camouflage. Whatever the ancient hidden underwater intelligence operating said craft, it would be fair to assume that whatever report it relayed back to base – taking into account the beach occupants to be generally representative of the rest of the land dwellers – would not necessarily be favourable.

Decades later, the crab-like creature returned, calling itself “Sammy the Crab” and joined a pop group as lead singer.

"I just want to subvert people's expectations of what a crustacean represents" he would say in media interviews.

His fame spread like cancer.

He later died a shell of his former self.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Nothing to see here, move along

Alpha-Alpha, as was his wont when the mood struck him, strut across the apartment floor with the satisfying staccato accompaniment of his imported Cuban heals clacking egregiously against the gratifyingly and gratuitously expensive reclaimed timber panels. Leaning towards the sill and telescope perched securely upon its generous ledge, he carefully adjusted the focal calibration with a flourish that belied a certain calculating finesse, all the while peering down the tubular aperture of the dew shield at the street below. The polarised plexiglass window situated at the phallic apex of the luxury, down-town, multi-use complex, shielding him from his subjects' mutual subjugation.

Such was the overtly practised and ever-so deliberately delivered nature of this activity, that few dared challenge its purpose; to do so would be a provocation of sorts – a challenge that could only give rise to an apparently innocent question that would, on further reflection, simultaneously impugning its target's integrity, namely: why are you looking down the wrong end of a telescope stupid?

It's seems an innocent enough question on the face of it and, indeed, quite legitimate as far goes the normal run of affairs. But then you have to take into account the context: the conspicuously opulent surroundings; the wealth and power that they represented. Alpha-Alpha didn't inherent his fortune, he accumulated it by carefully diminishing others'. And that undisguised opulence was not the accidental design of flights of fancy clashing with whimsy, rather, a carefully orchestrated ensemble that could only be the outcome of a vast symposium of auctioneers, artists, critics and scholars, which, indeed, it was. A cumulative set of pecuniary talents that, over the years, Alpha-Alpha had accumulated for himself and that had made him the perfect arbiter at said auction-cum-symposium.

So why the wrong end of the telescope? No one had ever called him out on it. And wisely so. However, QT had a theory. You see, a reverse proportional effect was achieved by the wrong-ending of the ocular stick: the people in the street below appeared smaller – antsier – and, perhaps, that was how he actually saw them, their reality in relation to his and yet, somehow, his own visual apparatus had failed to relay that essential truth to his cortex. Hence.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The *-word

" ... and last, but by no means least, remember: don't be a ****."

I don't actually recall Jesus mentioning it in The Bible; however, I feel sure that he would have agreed with the sentiment.

The news is balls

Consider the conjunction of news and sport in one, manageable, bite-sized broadcast.

Usually, news is followed by sport and sometimes the sport makes the news, only to be followed by more sport.

I'm just asking you to consider it.

Why those two things together?

What does it say about us and them?

Who's team are you on anyway?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Magic of Money

I posted this on an old blog I used to run dealing with current affairs and finance. It's not entirely accurate and it's not even the whole story; however I repost for those who are interested in such things and will want to pursue in greater detail.

A Thumbnail Guide to Money & Banking

"'The Grip of Death' is a literal translation of 'mortgage', when the owner of a house pledges his or her house to another with a handshake...unto death."*

Supposedly, the basic business model of banking, is, they take in people's money as savings, upon which they pay interest (in effect, you, as a saver are loaning your money to the bank); they then loan out your money to other people, for which they charge them interest. The difference between the two rates of interest is the profit (minus overheads, etc.), i.e. the rate they pay on savings - the loans we make to them - is lower than the rate they charge on loans made to the rest of us. Let's take a more detailed look. When, for example, you take on board a debt such as a mortgage loan from a bank, the bank doesn't just simply loan - reallocate - money from other people's savings ... banks almost universally operate on the principle of Fractional Reserve Banking.

From Wikipedia: Fractional-reserve banking is the banking practice in which banks keep only a fraction of their deposits in reserve (as cash and other highly liquid assets) and lend out the remainder, while maintaining the simultaneous obligation to redeem all deposits immediately upon demand.

Well, that's how it works in theory. But back to the mortgage you were taking out; let's see what how the fractional reserve principle works in practice. The bank only loans you a tiny fraction of the money it holds, the rest (vast majority) - get this - is simply created out of thin air - the stroke of a computer key. Remember your parents telling you money doesn't grow on trees! No, it apparently floats around the ether in unlimited quantities which only bankers can access! So, not only is the vast majority of your mortgage made up of "magic" money, they're going to charge you interest on it!

However, here's the real bankers' trick, by giving you the loan made of this magic money, for which they are charging a hansom interest fee, they can convert this ersatz
(Ersatz is a German word literally meaning substitute or replacement) money into real money! How? The ugly truth for you, it would appear, isn't magical at all. Why? Because you have to work to earn it - make it real; with real sweat and tears!

Before I go on to say why this is not an entirely bad system
in principle (in practice is quite a different proposition) - and before you amass a lynch mob with a view to paying the bank a visit, I want to go back to the quote from Wikipedia, specifically the section, "while maintaining the simultaneous obligation to redeem all deposits immediately upon demand." This is a theoretic obligation. Why? Because banks, via the fractional reserve system, loan out more money than they have in reserve as savings and, crucially, they only loan a tiny fraction of the so-called real money (savings); it's mostly all ersatz. Now if, in the seemingly unlikely event, all those people with savings withdraw their money simultaneously, the bank will need to claw back some of that ersatz money they loaned out tout de suite and, if those debtors cannot pay for some reason or other with real money, there's a problem. And here's where we shall look at an actual scenario, i.e., a non-theoretic instance when something like the obligation to redeem all deposits immediately upon demand occur.This event is called a run on a bank - a bank run.

Wikipedia again: A bank run (also known as a run on the bank) occurs when a large number of bank customers withdraw their deposits because they believe the bank is, or might become, insolvent. As a bank run progresses, it generates its own momentum, in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy: as more people withdraw their deposits, the likelihood of default increases, and this encourages further withdrawals. This can destabilize the bank to the point where it faces bankruptcy.

Here's where it gets interesting - if you'll pardon the pun. Let's go back to your mortgage, now the money the bank loaned you is, presumably, to pay someone else back for the purchase of their property. What does this someone else do with the money "you've" paid them? Most likely, the sellers put some or all of it in their bank (which could be the same bank as yours or another). Let's suppose you are both in the same bank. How does the bank treat the money which it loaned to you, now it comes back to them as a deposit by the seller? As if it were all real money! That is, as if you (the person who bought the house) had made it real by paying it all off to the bank! Now, according to fractional reserve banking, the bank can count that deposit as part of its reserves upon which it can make other loans! Can you see the problem? There's a danger that banks can hollow themselves, their reserves, out. This becomes especially clear when you consider the net interaction of banks. If the economy is growing, them the country should be able to turn this ersatz money into real money because of increased productivity, etc. During an economic downturn, the ability to turn ersatz money into real money becomes problematic. Now, if you haven't overstretched as a country, i.e. allowed the creation of ersatz money to go unchecked and saved nothing for a rainy day, there's a danger that you could undergo a nationwide bank run - a run on the entire financial system. Like if you loose your job, can't find another soon enough, fail to make enough mortgage payments, you are in danger of losing "your" home (it's not legally yours until you have paid the loan principle and all interest charges thereupon).

Remember, civilisations, like individuals, flourish and die.

That's the downside, but what are the benefits of this fractional reserve system? With responsible oversight and planning, the benefits are potentially enormous (we've just seen the how the dangers are potentially enormous). Let's imagine you're an entrepreneur who has invested a device that can improve people's everyday lives (something like a washing machine before there were such things). This device could improve lives because its use will free up their time for other things - work, play, spending time with the family or even provide them with some much needed rest. Sounds all very good; so what's the snag? You can only produce ten of these items a week in your tiny workshop, but demand for them is several fold. Whilst you make a profit, it's not at a fast enough rate to reinvest back into production, more staff better machine tools, etc., that would be needed to meet demand. What you need is a factory fully-fitted for mass production.The sales are there to justify it, only you don't have the money upfront to pay for it. If only you could somehow capture the profits from those future sales in order to build it! Here enters the "miracle" time machine of fractional reserve banking! The bank will allow you to borrow against these future "earnings" by pretending the money already exists. You can see how useful such facility is, and can be, for the nation as a whole, which,
via the publically owned central bank, can and does the very same thing to build roads, hospitals, pay social security, and all the other social services and infrastructure; they do this because they believe the future tax revenues will be there to pay for it (due to these social improvements it is believe the nations productivity will increase and, therefore, the amount of tax that can be extracted. Conversely, in harsher economic times, when private banks are no longer making loans, the nation, via its central bank, can use the promise of future tax receipts, in better times, to act as "lender of last resort". So, in effect, the central bank - not the private banking sector - is the ultimate buck-stop with respect to: maintaining the simultaneous obligation to redeem all deposits immediately upon demand."Use of such a facility carries with it great social, as well as individual, responsibility. After all, "the lender of last" resort is also another name for the taxpayer and the planet's natural resources.

Now you are ready to enter the mystery school that is: "The Magic Of Compound Interest."

Rescue for the Few, Debt Slavery for the Many

What has ended is the idea that “the magic of compound interest” can make economies rich without having to work and without industry. I hope we have seen the end of derivatives formulae seeking to make money by playing in a zero-sum game. A debt overhang always ends either in foreclosure of the debtor’s property, or in a debt annulment to preserve the economy’s overall freedom and equity.

"The Grip of Death: a study of modern money, debt slavery and destructive economics" by Michael Rowbotham (Jon Carpenter Publishing, 1998)

Friday, 11 June 2010

Stuck at the top

There'll have to be some structural reintegration, horizontal adjustments and a new focus geared to the vertical deliverables.

Yes, but can you fix the elevator?

It'll cost.

Couldn't we sweat the assets a little by downsizing?

Are you talking a step-change?

Or ladder perhaps?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

If You Meet Buddha on the Road, Kill Him

"[I]t is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence--that which makes its truth, its meaning--its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream--alone."

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

There's a story attributed to Chung Tzu which goes something – and I emphasis the something - like this:

One morning a group of Chung Tzu's friends come across his sleeping body. Upon his awakening, Chang Tzu tells the small gathering of his dream: I dreamed that I was a butterfly, but now that I'm awake, I'm wondering whether, perhaps, it is not the case that a butterfly is dreaming that he is man?

Most likely apocryphal.

And seemingly absurd.

If, indeed, butterflies can be said to dream, they apparently do not have the conceptual acumen to rationalise such speculative fantasies and render them in linguistic form.

No disrespect to lepidoptera intended.

Some may take away from this story Descartes', “I think therefore I am”. Irrespective of who? (as in name) or what? (as in thing), we should focus on what is constant and unchanging, viz. the “I” for, verily, could not the Chang Tzu-butterfly complex be encompassed – an episode “within” – a further dream yet unwoken from (a "dream within a dream"), like waking up, getting out of bed and putting on your work clothes only to discover - when the alarm actually sounds - that you have done none of these things and are still in bed?

When you take everything away, "I" remains.

The common denominator.

True, in a way.

But this gets the cart before the horse.

By asserting "I am" are you not already?

Could you not be yourself?


Don't you think?

The very fact that you think presupposes that you exist: you don't have to preface every thought by asserting that “I think that ...” (Kant's point) nor do you have to bookend it with the observation “I thought that” to fix your thoughts as your own.

Although large quantities of psychoactive drugs may persuade you otherwise (though there's no talking with you when you get into such a state).

The more mundane truth is you assume your own existence and, perhaps, the less mundane truth is you frequently forget what is assumed because it is assumed.

You are your own realisation.

Realising that adds nothing, which is something, I grant.

Lao Tzu says, "[S]omething and nothing give birth to one another".

And if you meet yourself on the road, try looking where you're going.

Wittgenstein called this: "Immunity to error through misidentification".