Saturday, January 31, 2009

FOWP Andrew Bolt Column: Physical Injury

Becuase inking is relatively mindless, I've been able to sit down and go at it until my neck is cramp, my eyes are unable to focus on anything I can't reach out and touch from where I'm standing and my arm starts spasming.

One of my fingertips I guess it would be my index finger on my left hand, I'm a lefty by the way feels more or less constantly like it's just been jammed in a door. For the first three days of inking I had taken to jamming a wad of cotton under the elastic tape I use normally for taping my feet together whilst in the long distance trainign mode.

And by that I don't mean literally taping my left foot to my right foot, but taping my muscles onto the underlying bone structure and taping over the raw open weaping blisters that I get whenever I return after an ugly hot summer like this past week.

This is because the bone in my thumb I rest the pen against, which is really crucial for operating both chopsticks and pens was fucking sore. Now I don't feel anything at all there, so I hope I'm just forming calouses all over my hand for this.

I did not encounter any discomfort like this when pencilling, even though gripping the pencil is the same.

I really want to finish up the inking because the inking is really boring. I do get a sense of satisfaction after I do a page and look at it and it actually looks like a complete fucking picture, but overall the process isn't adding that much.

I'm glad it will be a black and white production because I couldn't take another phase of colouring in. Because then I'd insist on learning about lighting which I should be tackling now.

I saw a book in boarders to da called 'rendering in pen and ink' and it was the 60th anniversary edition. That said it was also $60 and would take me longer than a university degree to complete all the exercises in it. But my interest is piqued, I really do want to go and learn how to be a proper comic artist and inker.

Thus far I'd choose the pencils over the inking any day. I'd also career wise choose writing over pencils any day. Because I figure I could do the rough composition for any money shots, but believe me, it is so much easier to write 'people are panicing, running from the beach while police run in the opposite direction' than it is to draw it. But it's easier to draw it than it is to ink it also.

Particularly when inking is also like proofreading for comics. Whilst drawing I kept thinking 'should I go over that? no I'll fix it up in inking' as if I was ignorant that the inker would be me.

I didn't anticipate how annoying this would be. I can be in a trance like state and churn out 5 pages in one sitting, then suddenly discover that I have to draw up a character over the top of some rough geometric shapes. Suddenly I have to think, a very different type of thinking from tracing (which is mindless) and shading (which is thinking about light, texture and motion) I have to think about scale, anatomy, position, rigging and emotion.

All of these things I fuck up in my shoddy amatuer ability, but that just means I spend more time thinking about them than I would a pro who actually knows what to do, has studied anatomy and what not.

Anyhoo, this stage is productive, I'm getting between 10 and 15 pages done a day, I'm up to 65, which means hopefully I'll be on page 80 tomorrow. Then fingers crossed I can finish up 100 tomorrow and hit Harvard's scanner again on tuesday night. I have a double page spread to do for 74 & 75 which isn't even pencilled yet, but thankfully I have reference, and inking is one area where landscapes can become easy because you can go abstract and rely on texture.

And I'm sure Andrew Bolt will dislike FOWP, but it would be an honour if it generated enough interest to pass under his nose and have him say 'smells like shit'.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Democratic Extras

Sometimes you hear half a sentance when you think you hear a full one, and it can take a huge stretch in space and time until you catch the end of it and an even huger stretch in space and time before the two meet in the middle and become one.

In this case I heard the sentance over the course of what must have been 2006 and only put 1 + 1 together earlier today.

Yesterday I made a throwaway comment about an inherant flaw in democracy that in the absence of a suitable candidate you have to elect somebody.

Anyway here is the sentance, the first half came in my Economic Forecasting evening class one time. If you have ever studied part time, you like me would know that the last thing anybody wants to do at an evening lecture is be there so sidetracking is particularly prominent.

My lecturer said this 'the value of a degree isn't the specific knowledge of what you've studied. It's a communication to the employer, that you can do something without having to be told all the time.'

Later that year, I heard the second half of that sentance from my friend Tommi who was talking about being an extra. (he probably doesn't like me dropping the fact) anyway he said '...on the heirarchy the extra ranks lower than props, because they are props that need to be told what to do all the time.'

You see, put those two sentances together via a space time continium and you get:

'A bad employee is someone with no initiative, someone who has to be told what to do all the time.'

A lack of initiative for me is equivalent to risk aversion. I'm not a psychologist, but low initiative is best demonstrated by the behaviour of asking questions in the form of permission.

Now there are no 'stupid questions', but there are stupid people to direct them at. And asking for permission is one of those stupidly directed questions.

For me the definition of a bad employee is one that asks you a question they should know the answer to, typically 'how do I run report C?' with the answer 'the same way you did yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and two days before that day because you took a weekend off. In other words, the same way you always run report fucking C!'

It's basically questioning routine actions that sends flares up into the sky.

A good employ in my book says 'what happens if I tweak this variable in the accounting rules?' and does it, and if it goes horribly wrong spends tomorrow and the day after trying to repair the damage. But who of this type of employee and the above type would one day end up managing the budget?

The one that took a risk, fucked it up and learnt the whole system inside out repairing it.

Miki loved the very unjapanese saying of 'Good judgement comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgement.'

That's initiative.

Now whilst we here of government initiatives all the time, when did we last experience any? Never. GST could be said to be the last government initiative. But in implementing it the government demonstrated a remarkable ability to not learn anything from the experience.

Now to really take that completed sentance above and put it into the political realm it seems appropriate on our 4th 40 degree plus day in a row to put it in the context of climate change.

Climate change requires initiative, a change in behaviour in order to effect change, observe and learn from the experience. In other words, our systems need to be broken a couple of times in order to figure out how best to address this problem.

I for one, have no qualms about 10,000 australians or more losing their jobs. Even in the great depression, Australia has never experienced a 'famine' something experienced regularly in the good times of the past century by the majority of the planet.

SO if hutting down a lucrative coal industry is one way to address climate change, I would give it a poke, or tweak or whatever. The economy would break down, and then I would spend the rest of my term trying to fix it.

But not in a way that simply reversed the decision. I would try to get those 10,000 employees new jobs. Somewhere.

In other words, if the industry came to me and said 'under your plan you will put 10,000 people out of work if you don't give us money, and credits and surplusages etc.' My response would be

'Give them to me. I'll use some of our savings to support them, and then, not me personally but some people of mine will sit down and talk with them extensively about their priorities, what they want to do and what they can do, and we'll try and get that happening for them over the next 5-10 years. But I'm not handing you a bunch of fucking money to piss up the wall now so we can face the exact same problem ten years down the track.'

This in political circles would be considered very risky behaviour. For one thing, it seems that our democratic institutions have a fear based apoplexy when it comes to swearing, they seem to think that swearing is a higher priority to the voter than competency to build a future for the race, planet and nation.

So instead they pursue the avoidance of voter backlash by investing their time and effort into being an 'all rounder' supported by both public and captains of industry.

Which is exactly how we end up with a 5% emissions reduction target. A goal that is:

1. A death sentance.
2. Uninspiring.
3. Small.
4. Still likely to be resisted by industry.

Yet combatting climate change was one of the key issues for which the Rudd government was elected to address.

But it's too risky to address so they aren't.

Now the public has to look at it's recourse.

Which in a 2 party system is Malcolm Turnball.

Now in a 2 party system the only real option is to churn our leaders until a good one pops up if we want an issue to be addressed.

SO if you want climate change tackled you need to send Rudd some negative reinforcement. You let him know that his 5% target is too weak and he is out of a job because of it...

Except that you then send Malcolm Turnball some positive reinforcement that his 0% reductions target is good by electing him primeminister.

So to send him the necessary negative reinforcemen you have 2 options. You reelect rudd, or elect Turnball and wait 3 years to reelect a Labor government.

If you reelect Rudd you send the message that his climate change policy is good enough and it stays at measley 5%.

Churning through leaders to wait for a good one is on a 3 year cycle, We are looking at a minimum of 4 years before even the remote possibility that there is one that will actually put the cobra clutch on climate change.

Which is why I am thinking ideals.

You see, believe that interviewing is an elaborate ruse set up to say 'no' that the default response to any question of employing a candidate is no. Until you are absolutely 100% certain that the candidate in question is the absolute best for the position in question. Then and only then do you say 'yes'.

This is captured by the matrix:

Q1: True Positive - say yes to a good candidate.
Q2: False Positive - say yes to an average or worse candidate.
Q3: False Negative - say no to a good candidate.
Q4: True Negative - say no to an average or worse candidate.

You see manager tools argues that you accept the inevitability of some Q3 false negatives to avoid the ultimate damage of Q2 false positives. That hiring a bad employee is so damaging you are better off having no employee at all.

If you have not experienced this in your workplace it means 1 of 2 things:

1. You have a truly exceptionally talented and competent manager making your staffing decisions.

or more likely:

2. You are a bad or mediocre employee and are constantly dumbfounded by how 'smart' everyone around you is how the can work their fancy 'kom-pu-tah' and cook with that magic tv in the kitchenet.

But in democracy you can see it is all reversed. We are infact forced to pick a leader. Turnball or Rudd. No third potential.

Thus instead of passing on all mediocrity, we have to say yes to the one we believe is the least mediocre and incompetent. Which sadly they interpret as people liking them by a landslide.

Even in America where the voting isn't compulsory someone will still be elected president, even if 3 people turn up to vote.

This fact makes people vote for the least incompetent out of fear that some idiot will turn up and vote for the most incompetent. But really with something like climate change, or the economic recession, it really doesn't matter much if you are regular incompetent (Obama/McCain/Rudd) or super incompetent (Turnball, Bush, Palin, Howard, Costello, Swan).

They are guarunteed to fuck it up anyway.

Now not that I'm a fan of Japan or anything, their system is quite fucked, but they do make a point of the beuracracy or administritive wing being able to competently run a country without any meaningful imput from elected officials.

This is because in Japan the beuracrats can write their own legislation. A power that is seperated in the west.

But that said, that means the administritive arm of government should actually run things in the absence of effective government. We should have a legislative government hiatus, since the government should only be legislating when they need to show some initiative, which they don't. So we should be able to have no government, until we actually need or demand the necessary reforms, in which case instead of just having to be better than Turnball or better than Rudd, a priministerial candidate would actually need to have the cajones to do what needs to be done.

It may be the reform needed to wrest back democracy from campaign 'contributers' or lobby groups that fund election advertising.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Want to be the kind of player that can go dancing in KFC

Over the past week I'm feeling strangely attractive even though logic should tell me the opposite is the case. I'm heavier in body fat than ever, am growing a goatee because I want to have a metal goatee for once in my life, I live in a garage, and I'm wearing shabby clothes and pretty unemployable.

But nevertheless I feel top of my game. It's a feeling, I'm feeling it and one should not question it. For one, I'm finally doing shit that I've always wanted to do and my life feels meaningful. Should anything come of it I have to remember to tell the kids it was not a rags to riches story but riches to rags. If I hadn't passed up a secure income with excellent savings ratios and highly disposable income I never would have been able to afford the time to do all this.

This puts in context a scenario however that is stark for me. On Saturday I caught up with my dear sweet Bryce, who true to form questioned me about my sex life and when I told him it had been over a year since I had copulated (I get plenty of sex by myself) he told me 'it was unnatural'.

Truth is I just don't think about it. I had to think about this for a while before I understood the true nature of my problem, and for me it has been over a year since I fell in love with anybody.

I have learnt over the years that you don't tell someone you are dating that you love them for a ways afterwards. Because its creepy, but I think the average person needs to calm down over these issues. Surely you should be able to identify a person who just plain loves you and is a bit upfront about it, from a person who says they love you and combs your hair while you sleep at night and licks the hairs out of your leg razor. One will look creepy, the other looks normal.

But there it is, I have met only one interesting girl in over a year and she was too young for me to really contemplate any advances.

My experience tells me that going out with someone I don't really like often ends up with me missing opportunities with people I do, and I'm the kind of pussy that has real difficulty extracting myself from relationships.

People also point out that you don't have to have relationships, just have sex with people for a spot of fun and move on. The problem I have with that though is that the most attractive quality to me is someone who is interesting.

At my brothers birthday drinks last year my brother (who has aspergers) actually had my number in a big way. I was talking to a female friend of his and asked her 'what you hope for sam in the coming year' and she said 'I don't really know him, I'm a friend of a friend.' and I said 'I hope he becomes an amputee so he can compete in the paraolympics.' and she turned away.

My brother told me later that she had said to him that I was weird, and my brother had insensitively advised her that 'he just says that to people he doesn't find interesting enough to talk to.' I never thought of it like that, but that really is what I do.

So for me, I'm just not going to pretend to like someone I don't like enough sufficiently to not pursue a relationship. Casual sex is an enormous waste of my time and energy in my book. It's called being an introvert, I focus on other people not myself and thus it is important that I like them, not that they like me. (well both are important but that's the preference, extraverts tend to be more self centered in the formal sense and thus like other people a lot more for the validating effect).

So all this said, it comes down to business for me. Just as in a company if you had a position to fill, a bad manager/organisation insists on putting somebody in the seat (an inherant flaw in democracy) whereas a good organisation/manager sucks up the inconvenience and in the event of no suitable candidates simply leaves nobody there. This means when the right person comes a long they don't have to sack/shift/pay a mediocre employee to step aside or worse yet, turn down that special someone.

Clinical though it may sound, that's my exact approach to dating aswell. There are times where I've been touch and go on someone I could date, and have taken a gamble. There are other times where I have been certain of it.

An excellent example was Misaki, I didn't want a Japanese girlfriend, and Misaki was unquestionably Japanese. But I fell in love when she attempted to do a cat walk turn and botched it by smiling a smile that I predictably fell in love with.

And that was that, and despite the vast gulf of differences between us such as her insistence on almost never using logic, and my insistence on almost always, as I told a friend I would not even hesitate to marry her.

Instead I am committed to 3 months of no communication, not because we had a messy breakup or any poor post relationship relationship, but simply because its a dead end. I know who I want, I can't have her and so I shall get the fuck on with my life.

And in doing so hopefully I will either meet someone interesting, or more remotely have some opportunity to date Misaki again, who no doubt will be someone very different from the person I loved as will I making the possibility even more remote.

I recently watched the conclusion to Curb Your Enthusiasm, and hands down it is the best ending to any tv series, ever. I feel when I do get married unlike my grandfather I won't slap my new bride in the face and tell her 'I'm the boss' but I will sit her down and say 'I expect this from you:'

I also saw this 'bumper sticker' on a facebook profile that sums it up too:

'I want a boyfriend who, when I come to him crying says 'who's ass am I kicking'' which to me is a horrible sentiment unless you reverse the gender roles.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

FOWP Infomercial: Getting Ink Done

Similar to when I began the pencilling phase, I have discovered more products that normally one would never take into consideration.

I was already a fan of sharpies from my logo designing process but when it came to the inking phase I had to learn about two whole new areas: ink and paper.

Initially I'd always planned on just inking over the top of my penciling in my visual diary. But I soon realised that by being a tightarse and only buying a 120 page (60 pages, 120 sides) visual diary for a story that ran to 98 pages (later revised to 100) I had left myself with no choice but to draw one page on the back of another. Which ruled out using a sharpie or other time saving inks because they bleed through the page and make it all unreadable and crucially, unscanable.

I had also however been having increasingly frequent dreams most of which shared this basic plot:

I am sitting in a restaurant when I am approached by a friend, the friend asks me what I've been up to and bursting with pride I talk about drawing my own comic. They typically ask to see it and even though they make encouraging noises like 'wow, great' and shit they inexplicably seem to deliberately damage the work.
The most vivid one was the simple cuntact of ripping the pages out of my visual diary. Not actually damaging them or scrunching them up or anything, just making it almost impossible to keep track of them and keep them intact.

I've been sleeping a lot easier since I scanned them all in, and my visual diary has remained double wrapped in plastic.

But I'd also thought that I'd ink in a light pen over the top of my pencils and then use photo shop to do the big black fills instead of using a sharpie. Except photoshop is not exactly intuitive, nor easy and I realised I'd have to spend a month or so extra just learning how to do what I wanted to do.

It took me over an hour to figure out how to draw a rectangle of my desired frame width, something that befuddled the straight forward way I thought it should work.

So I decided to just print out each page on it's own sheet so I could use any pen I damn fucking well liked.

In hindsight it probably would have been good to print them all to A3 for the really fine detail, I just thought of this then though and I also think it would inevitably double my workload and ink consumption. I am not good enough at drawing to really warrent the effort required to do it justice. Infact it wouldn't be doing it justice, like giving someone like Paris Hilton a billion dollar inheritance.

Anyway the first thing I had to learn about was paper stocks, Harvard suggested 'bank pad' because I wanted something bitey like my visual diary but that I could feed through a printer. He said he had to use it at work but hated it. And much like harvard loves rice and hates potatoes while I love potatoes and hate rice (if you follow my meaning) I figured that would be good.

Turns out Office works doesn't sell Bank Pad, but I am eager to learn about where one can go to buy and order all different types of paper. Now that I've done something where that is an important decision I find myself desiring a specialty shop just for paper stocks. I'm sure one will exist, like dean's art or some shit. But I didn't have time, because time is money and I want to finish this thing someday.

Anyway I pretty much made the decision based on the only variable available to me, or rather two variables. Price/gsm. Gsm I assume is grams per meter squared, Harvard texted to say 'thickness' but I couldn't find shit about roughness. I bought 110 gms inkjet hp paper because I figured I was inking and so something that is good for inkspots over burning must be good for ink based pens.

I have already sighted the De La Soul tribute to pens, I don't for the record like papermate, there cheaparse eraser fucked up a lot of my drawing.

But here are the various pens I have accumulated in the last 4 days:

1. Sharpies classic (for shading large areas and black fills)
2. Super sharpie (a big version of 1 when concerned about my Sharpies drying out)
3. Mini sharpies (a small version of 1 that goes on a keychain, and a super small version of 2)
4. Unineedle 0.1 mm fineliner black (my weapon of chioce for detailing)
5. Uniball 0.5 mm ballpoint black (good for detailing on larger scale pictures and doing hair textures and what not)
6. 3 x 0.5 mm fineliner Steadler (for doing thick lines and non-detail lines)
7. Shitty biro black brand unknown (ballpoint with sticky low quality ink which I use for blood effects)

The trick to inking I have discovered is trying to not swap pens as often as possible. Starting with detail is less than ideal though and I still work one frame at a time largely because this is the only way I can keep track of what I've done and what I'm yet to do.
But if you start with the detail you end up using the fineliner 0.1 mm on a bunch of lines it would be much faster and really need the 0.5 for. So I like to work from big to small, but shading last.
I guess there isn't much sense to that because if you fuck up the shading and have to start again you have wasted the most amount of effort.
I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Still though I am amazed at how much can be achieved with two colours black and not-black. Or rather I'm not using white per se, but negative space to shape textures and spaces and even the different kinds of ink make tremendous difference.

Again I'm so glad I've done this, the images are finally coming to life, and I can see close to what it will look like in print. Anyone whose life is stalling, I recommend this process over travel.

A Half Full Glass of Vegetarian Water

First off, those people that become Vegetarian's because they are against killing any living whatever is bullshit. There is so much life in your average glass of water (and even more if you aren't looking at just developed nations water) that the result of not consuming life force would be death.

Anyway, I decided to try it out because I couldn't come up with any satisfactory counter argument to 'there would be no climate change issue if everyone was just vegetarian.' A claim I don't know the validity of, but it is on the surface a much simpler and easier solution than getting rid of petrol fuelled cars.

Of course fossil fuels have to go, but without any investment over night people could switch to being vegetarian and the worst thing that would happen is that a bunch of beef farmers go broke, but they seldom get a say in consumer affairs, and inflation would probably hit chick peas, beans and whatnot pretty fast. But seriously what could the government do? Make it illegal to not eat beef and lamb?

So anyway I decided to go 31 days without meat. Eggs are okay in my book as is milk. So too would Kopi Suak if I ever drank it, or indeed eating any kind of shit but thus far I haven't had to go there.

Anyway the first 3 days I was cruising, I found it much much easier than I expected.

1. Desserts are in. With the exception of an African Sugar Ant dish all desserts are vegeterian. Arguably those Pork Steam Bun's are sweet enough to be considered a dessert, as is almost all Japanese cuisine but it isn't. Donuts, Ice Cream, Chocalate, Sugarcane juice, Slurpees, Cake... you guessed it, vegetarian. As a result I haven't lost any significant amount of weight from my dietary shift.

2. Breakfast laughs. Since it is not socially acceptable for single people to eat cafe breakfasts on a sunday morning, it has been a long time since I had much bacon, sausage, chorizo, kransky, ham or fish for breakfast. There is rarely bacon in the house so put simply breakfast is more or less the same as always, peanut butter toast or an omelette, or eggs or pancakes.

3. Fast Food dissapears. I found the Colonel hard to resist, but as good as people may think the chips are I'm not going to become one of those bitches that goes to KFC and gets a large chips. Similarly Hungry Jacks is out and as for McDonalds, as much as it was a staple overseas if I wanted meat to taste like candy (see 1) that's where I'd go.

4. White people fucking love potatoes. I find myself cooking every day now, whereas before my sister, mum and I rotated every three. I was actually in a funk, stuck with the old marinades, parboiling snags in beer and onions, and had done few experiments of late. My experiments usually result in a dish I am immensely dissatisfied with but my philistine family don't know the difference and think its great like rubbing salt into a bitter bitter wound.
But since going veg I find it has both rattled my cooking and eating out habits. I eat falafel a dish I have never had anything against but never ate because there was china town in the CBD. I cook beans up with cheese, potatoes into curries, sweet potatoes into whatever, risottos, omelettes, mexican rice etc.
It's all surprisingly easy. Plus I don't have to deal with the headache of miss timing my pan temperature and failing to seal meat.

And those are the upsides. You see I am convinced that the fundamental physical principals of climate change are sound, this is the advantage of doing physics, a subject I believe should be mandatory along with economics in order for people to be decent human beings after highschool.
I also know the longer we are inactive on a solution, the more drastic the solution will need to be for survival. So the question I am answering is 'if called upon could I become a vegetarian?' and the answer is yes. I am fully compatable with a carbon free lifestyle. I am sure I could do 80% of my work without using a computer, I ride a bike everywhere and if absolutely necessary I could become a vegetarian.

The last disclaimer though, most disturbing is the solidarity amongst vegetarians. The 'good for you' attitude. This solidarity and brotherhood would be most welcome for things like 'male pattern baldness' but not for vegetarians. All I can compare it to is Denzal Washington's scene in Philidelphia in the chemist where he has become famous for taking on the unfair dismissal case of an HIV positive homosexual (tom hanks) and a gay guy approaches him in the pharmacist thinking he is gay.
Whilst I like to think I'm more progressive than Denzel's character, I am not one of you vegetarians. I am doing something out of principal, I don't want my kids marrying your kind, I don't want them going to the same school. I don't believe in interdietary marriage either okay. I don't intend to stay vegetarian, I will simply do what I must to survive, much as I'd happily go to jail to avoid going to war, and I'd happily suck the gang leaders dick to avoid being cornholed in the shower.

It doesn't make me gay, it doesn't make me a vegetarian, it makes me a coward.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Point and Counterpoint

Okay, over the summer I watched the first season of 'flight of the concords' a few months before that I discovered System of A Down. When I was 16 I discovered Led Zeppelin.

I have decided that being late to the party is awesome. In Australia I was on the cutting edge of discovering South Park as an SBS watcher long before the advent of watching all TV available over the internet. And it was really annoying, because after a few weeks everyone was watching it and shouting out 'Oh my god you killed kenny!' and 'screw you guys, I'm going home.' and it was an annoying catchphrase comedy. Fat guys that looked like toadfish bought ties from novelty stores with the southpark kids faces on it to match their silky 'respect my authority' boxer shorts. Nintendo 64 licensed the characters for a shitty shooter game.

In short I find all my experience confirms it really sucks to be on the cutting edge and live through the buzz. I could enjoy Flight of the Concords far more because I'm so late to the party, and don't have to survive conversation with mobs of people that use webphrases like 'woot, omg' and 'rotflol'. The kind of people that continuously seem to enjoy shows because they are popular and not paradoxically because they are intrinsicly enjoyable.

Think of it if you will as going to a themepark on a winter weekday. The rides are just as good, but there's no crowds.

Now this is a really fucking long preamble but what I want to say is that I have every intention of being very late to the Barack Obama party.

'The proof of the pudding is in the eating' said some early english philosopher or management consultant or some shit. So I thought I'd look at the case for and against Obama to explain my skepticism. Just as I had to constantly explain my position of 'Chris Lilley is not a genius' and I feel myself already going down that slippery slope so without further ado...

The Case For:

Not because I'm an optimist I just find negatives easier to find and easier to write about so I'll get the case for out of the way.

1. Funding

Barack Obama went one step further than John Kerry's use of private campaigning against George Bush. Some of my friends contributed to his campaign. And my friends don't sit on the board of Exxon, Texaco, Friends of Isreal, The Committe for the Realection of President Nixon, Evilco and so fourth. They are people that study, are jobless, do development work etc.
Since the dawn of TV, democracy has suffered by it, simply because voters typically don't take time to inform themselves of facts and actual policies. They simply watch TV. Thus to have a crack at winning an election traditionally you have needed the GNP of several small contries just to have a crack at being President of the US. Think of that! A small countries economy (like New Zealand) is consumed every time there's an election on.
Which means every candidate since Franklin Delanore Roosevelt has had to beg and scrape to raise money in the most efficient way they could. Which is going to the few people with lots of money rather than the lots of people with few money.
Obama has used the internet to at least some extent flip that equation more in favor of many people with few money, which amounted to more money than Clinton and McCain could raise to tackle him.
This simply means that the single biggest cause for hope with Obama is that he (ironically) owe more people favors rather than less people favors.

2. Cultural Empathy.

Barack Obama is black, he isn't poor, he isn't particularly discriminated against any more than say a gay, a lesbian, an athiest, a hispanic, a creationist, a pro-lifer is. I mean if you really honestly had to point to a president that was elected against the most prejudice and most scrutiny it was George W Bush. He was descriminated against by anti-stupidity, anti-religious fundamentalist, anti-conservative haters. Nasty things were said about Bush constantly. Not that Bush is any kind of victim, but his second term was more of a 'miracle' and strategic brilliance than Obama's rise.
But Obama when he looks at proposals like Ring-piece Rudd faced yesterday of showing some sensitivity and shifting the Australia day date he may be more open and receptive.
He isn't the descendant of slavery, but his roots certainly have been fucked around by IMF, World Bank etc. So hopefully there may be some policy change arising from this that represents real reform for the world.

3. The Landslide Victory

Barack Obama cruised through polling day on the strength of all the new voters that turned out for the first time. Maybe he will bank on this giving him strong reelection prospects and that he should take some risks, being that like George W Bush he has a body of voters that would probably still vote for him even if he did something as glactically stupid as wage a multi front war with Canada and Mexico.
Which isn't the kind of risk I'm talking about. I would be talking about risks such as major tax reform, education reform, burdensome socialist reforms, welfare security nets, wipe out some industries that would be nice (but politically costly) to wipe out like car manufacturing, milk production, wheat farming and anything that the public actually subsidise to keep running. So maybe, confident that this recession provides an opportunity to get monkey's off the back of the nation and set a precedent for the world because Obama is happy to sacrifice a landslide for a close run race.

4. Ambition.

Sitting in the white house now, can Obama look higher? Could he be entertaining ambitions with all of his talk of bipartisan, non-partisan, multi-lateral and improved standing in the world talk, ambitions of setting up a participative world government. Instigating a UN that would free him of the shackles of the American public. If the world voted their wouldn't have been a question of McCain ever winning. Obama would have walked a world election. The Republican party would not even exist.
Obama might have the first ever real incentive to give up the very lucrative power offered by the US for a wider net of power offered by a global community. This though is real pie in the sky talk, and I wouldn't trust him to do it or his motives. I think him professional and will probably stick to representing the interests (broadly) of those that elected him and not specifically the interests of those interested in what he is doing. But he may toy with going in that direction and making some headway on allowing more people to have a say in determining their own future.

And those are the only real possibilities for reform I can entertain as the case for. Now for my skepticism.

The Case Against:

1. The Democratic Machine

It is a fact that Barack Obama was elected by the exact same system that elected George Bush (the second term), George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Harry S. Truman, Woodrow Wilson etc.
The democratic game works on the fundamental aim of retention of power. That means cowtowing to your contributors (noting the lack of any condemnation of Isreal's latest attacks against UN buildings), and bailing out failed businesses.
The little man wants their job because they don't want to save themselves. The big man wants to pursue the same old US hegemony because of the flawed economic system we run on that requires command of natural resources as the key determinant of power in this world.
Why on earth has president after president, many of whom barely even knew eachother pursued the same agenda's to varying degrees. If Geneva was enforced both hawk and dove presidents alike would all have been hung to this point.

2. Cultural Empathy

While it is true Obama can trace his roots to some of the least fortunate people on earth, it is also true he has been a benificiary of all the material advantages provided by US hegemony of the world. From his upbringing, law degree, real estate, security and political career is drawn from resources that in many cases have been funded by taking from the rest of the world. Bleeding south america dry, pursuing veto of world oil supplies in the Middle East and Africa and what not paves every advantage the US enjoyed. Much of a muchness that Paris's Louvre contains paintings that have been bled out of every nation it beat up in the Renaissance when it was the major player in the world. Or the Spartan's military kingdom was propped up by the slavery of neighbouring states. Or Britain's conquering of 2/3 of the globe in the colonialism days.
As always though Chomsky puts it better:

I mean, what's the elections? You know, two guys, same background, wealth, political influence, went to the same elite university, joined the same secret society where you're trained to be a ruler - they both can run because they're financed by the same corporate institutions. At the Democratic Convention, Barack Obama said, 'only in this country, only in America, could someone like me appear here.' Well, in some other countries, people much poorer than him would not only talk at the convention - they'd be elected president. Take Lula. The president of Brazil is a guy with a peasant background, a union organizer, never went to school, he's the president of the second-biggest country in the hemisphere. Only in America? I mean, there they actually have elections where you can choose somebody from your own ranks. With different policies. That's inconceivable in the United States. - Chomsky

Put simply, just because Barack is African American does not mean he is a reformer. Just as wearing a denim jacket doesn't mean a guy is gay. Sucking another man's dick makes you gay just as reforming makes you a reformer.
I wasn't around to see it but my father said the model of reform remains Gough Whitlam whom on his triumphant election night was already pulling troops out of Vietnam. No caution, no compromise. He won, he had 3 years to do as much damage as he could and he did it. If it weren't for an allegedly CIA backed dismissal.

3. Symbollic but empty gestures and 'Reality'

Is Obama better than Bush? Well almost definitely. But is he better than Rudd? will be the real question. I have heard analysts draw the comparison between the two men in political styles.
WHat this means is that just like Rudd was left some low hanging fruit by Howard, so too has Obama been left big goodie bags by Bush.
Guantanomo bay immediatly comes to mind. It is not like Obama is doing anything 'ballsy' or unpopular by closing it down. What was ballsy was Bush ignoring the rulings of the US supreme court (the same court that apointed him president the first time) who ruled it was illegal and should be closed down.
As such Obama is simply complying with the law.
I compare this kind of reform to Rudd's sorry day. A fine moment in history to be sure and it seems the only sad thing about it in hindsight was that Ringpiece Rudd was the man to do something so wonderful.
But it cost nothing to do. To me I have no fucking idea what the fuck Howard's problem was with doing such a huge symbolic gesture that unifies the nation without making any real commitment to any real change.
Even tackling climate change has become one of these things, Rudd signed the Kyoto protocol when it didn't cost anything to do it, then came up with a worst case solution which was a 5% cut target under the flawed cap and trade system.
I would expect that Obama might do similar.
Rudd keeps conforming in his decision making process to political 'realities' as opposed to realities and I don't see Obama doing any different.

4. US is playing Catch Up.

Obama I think knows, as most in the world know that America is far from the best or most free country in the world. Despite talk of 'only in america' It is a brilliant country in many respects it's constitution and first amendments are remarkable precedents for the world. But the US is trying to catch up with the rest of the world in healthcare, education and whatnot. Particularly nations like those found in Scandanavia, the Netherlands, Germany and France. Those are great places to live that barely have to kill anyone to maintain their place in the world.
Obama in other words has a full plate before the US is ready to 'lead the world again.' So I don't see Obama doing much for the world yet.

5. The Moron's that Vote for Him.

Moron's are a subset of all the people that voted for him. Much like Obama might take this landslide buffer to take some risks, so too might he be destroyed by Moronic expectations. This is directed at you fucking hippies that became a 'fan of Barack Obama' on facebook without ever reading a speech or any of his proposed policies. People who vote for him based on his 'calm and measured tone' and 'consistent message' this could easily apply to someone who repeats 'change' over and over again to someone who says 'kill the poor' over and over again. People who would vote Bono/Geldof into the Whitehouse as soon as Barack Obama.
People who think that Barack Obama is going to... what? March the army into Texas and tell the people to stop being creationists? Strip the assets of those idiot investors in California that built the Subprime real estate bubble and give them to the poor who have lost their homes? Line the clowns in Wall Street up and deliver them to Chinese factory workers who lost their jobs this new year?
You see, Obama used the same tactic as priests have used for centuries to sell christianity. He simply substituted 'Heaven' for 'Change we can believe in'. You see everybody knows heaven by definition is 'paradise' but whose paradise? My paradise would be living much the same lifestyle as a dog does, eating, sleeping, running around and hunting, foraging, playing, having sex. All I'd need was a nice lush and temperate environment to do it in. For others it might be a French Chateu with heated toilet seats. But Heaven doesn't give specifics and that is how it maintains maximum appeal.
Notably I remember my Greek friend at Uni mentioning the Islamic myth of a garden filled with 70 virgins had little appeal. 'Have you ever had sex with a virgin? they give shitty handjobs, the condom slips off all the time, they don't know what they are doing...' Which may ultimately by Islam's undoing in the west.
SO too is 'Change We Can Believe In' what change do 'we' want. Well for me I'm Australian, and so its irrelevent. I am not part of 'we' though I'm sure Obama would happily take my money. There is a peppering of undefined terms in Obama's main tagline that got him elected. He campaigned on change, and people wanted change. A match was made and he got in. But now people just need to work out what that change is. Hillary complained about the lack of scrutiny recieved by Obama and maybe she is right. Certainly he recieved a shittonne of 'faith based votes'.
Was he better than McCain? Yes. That's the reason to vote for him. Is he president now? Yes. That's a great reason to dog his every step.

6. The Clinton Administration.

The height of my anti-american period was during the Clinton administration. Bush was a monster and I'd enjoy putting him and Cheney on a mysterious Island in the pacific where they had to hunt eachother more than doing the same to Clinton and Al Gore but the fact remains. Comparatively Clinton was better than Bush, but that didn't make him good enough. He was no Michael Jordan.
Obama has largely appointed a heap of Clinton's old advisors. Rage Against the Machine captured my heart and soul in their music that they wrote about NAFTA, Iraq, the Middle East etc.
They made money for America, but they also set up the Internet Bubble which was a direct precurser to the Subprime mortgage market collapse. Even in the Clinton days the economy had all the makings of the destruction of the world economy through debt funding.
So already Obama has passed up an opportunity for change. Same could be said of Biden where instead of reinforcing his inexperience as a catalyst for change he undermined it by appointing some old white dude. It was a much better decision than Palin was for running mate but it doesn't communicate to me a real commitment to change. More a commitment to backpedal 8 years. And the world has changed regardless.

7. Safety

To many Obama was the maverick personification of change. But I think many more voted for him as the safe option. The aforementioned 'measured tone' his political savy that is constantly referred to he strikes me as anything but audacious. He makes safe decision after safe decision. I have not known him to take a risk. The money followed him once it became clear he would win both in primaries and in the election.
Unlike that Mormon guy that spent $60 million of his own fortune running for the Republican ticket was a risk taker. He was a moron that was out of touch with reality and that is what I call audatious. Obama is more audatious in the way that Usain Bolt was going to the Beijing Olympics. He knew he had the body to support his ambitions and audatiously he entered the race he honestly believed he would win.
Obama knew he had an almost cult following of excited hopeful people who had read his book and in the exact same way that hollywood make movies out of celebrated Comic books like 'the long halloween' which formed the loose basis of 'The Dark Knight' or Alan Moore's Watchmen which now has a massive following of idiots craving validation of their own nerdiness from the mass market.
Same same for Obama, he was infact a much safer candidate than any other in terms of book sales. He was the safe option. I believe fundamentally that he will continue to play it safe and 'stay the course' apart from large symbollic gestures that don't cost anything. Just like Rudd.

So I'm not saying Obama winning is a bad result. I'm not saying he will necessarily be a bad president. I just don't think he is a Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt (Ted or FDR).

Instead I would say to all the people praying for Obama to save them, to fucking get off your fucking droopy arse and save yourself.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Growth is Not the answer :P

16 facys about x. I noticed on my facebook newsfeed this latest 'tagging' trend where you write 16 facts about yourself then tag 16 friends who would then write 16 facts about themselves. Not only are the three facts I read stuff I'd never want to know about (because its boring) even from a lover.
Anyway the chain letter phenomena makes a certain reassuring point about the human race to make this point some not so random numbers.

1, 2.
2, 4.
6, 64.
10, 512.
35, 17,179,869,184.

Of course, you would by now have guessed that the isomorphism for these strings of numbers of the form x, n. could be interpret as x = days and n = number of something.

In this case it might be the amount of people that respond to a chain letter with the terms 'within 24 hours you must forward this letter to 2 people or you will die. If you forward it 2 people your crush will ask you out.'

If it was real by the 35th day of circulation it should have been forwarded to a number of people that equates to 3 times the population of the world.

Now to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

Firstly we are wise to remember that the majority of people on earth alive today have never even made a phonecall. Less than 1% of the earths population own a computer.

Secondly typically chain letters ask you to forward them to at least 20 people or so. If people actually did this like the facebook tagging note '16 facts' by day ten it would already have to pass to over 68 billion people. Or almost 10 times the earths population.

Because 16 people for every one respondent is the equivalent of a 1600% daily compounding interest rate, of which I forget the formula to figure out the annual effective interest rate is, but it would be the sort of interest rate I imagine is circulating around Zimbabwe at the moment.

But again to check myself before I wreck myself. The high multiplication factor inherant in most chain mails is a countermeasure necessary for a very low compliance rate.

As hopefully I (or a minute on excel can demonstrate) tagging 2 people for every respondant is incredibly aggressive growth.

So really the 16 respondandts necessary represents a built in assuption that from every 16 people approximately 15.68 people choose to ignore being tagged. And this innocuosly boring replicating meme flounders and splutters around until it is eventually vanquished.

What this 16 number tells us is that on the whole, people just aren't that stupid.

Or are we?

Let's instead spread a new virus through the net now. I call it 'the cake game' all you need is a cake.

Take the cake, and gather 4 to 6 friends. Also procure a knife that is sharp enough to cut the cake.

Once you have friends, a cake and a knife you can proceed to round 1 of the game.

Rules for round 1: Every body cuts a slice of cake and eats it, never to be eaten again. Once this is done proceed to round 2.

Rules for round 2: Every body cuts a slice of cake and eats it, however the aim is to consume a slice of cake that is bigger than the slice of cake in the previous round. If you eat a smaller or same sized slice of cake, you are considered a loser and should agressively try and imitate your oponents strategy in the next round. proceed to round 3 either way.

Rules for round 3: Repeat round 2 but call it round 3 and then proceed to round 4.

Rules for round 4: Repeat round 3 but add 1 to the name of the round you proceed to, then follow the rules for round 4 again.

There you go, a neat and tidy self referential game you can play forever.

Except some 'moron communist hippies' will point out that at some point you may run out of cake. This seems obvious and easily predictable, however fans of the cake game should not worry about running out of cake, that will happen sometime in some unforeseeable future. Just play the game and we'll cross the 'out of cake' bridge when we get to it.

Other 'maverick' or 'out there' or 'renegade' thinkers that are too 'academic' and not 'politically pragmatic' may also note that someone who takes a really small slice in round 1 then takes a slice twice as big looks great compared to someone who takes a big slice in the first round and then only increases it by 4%. Really in matters of eating cake, one is better off just by having more cake, not how much bigger the slice is compared to the last one.

Yet more may point out that eating cake is unhealthy, and we shouldn't build rules that guide our behaviour around the notion of increasing our cake consumption. These people are 'hippies' and need to 'lay off the weed'.

One could even point out that leaving your cake out in the rain, or soaking it in water so that it becomes bigger and heavier (but less enjoyable) under the rules of the cake game look like a sound strategy, but that in practice it is infact a terrible thing to do with cake.

Yet more 'spoilsports' might suggest that if you compare two friends and one eats all the cake he gets while the other saves his cake for future rounds, the one eating all his cake right now looks better off but we all know who we'd want to be when cake is short in supply.

Lastly though, most economist would agree that the cake game is plainly terribly designed, consumption is an incredibly poor measure of well being and a hollow meaningless aim for a game to be based around.

And yet, we still all play the cake game, even though plainly it doesn't work, cannot work and really doesn't deliver anything. At all. Ever.

The cake game is infact GNP. GNP you may not know this but economic growth as reported by the media and used as the scorecard for every nation outside of Butan (who use Gross National Happiness) maybe it was Burma, I don't know and don't care enough to check.

Anyway, GNP measures consumption. It doesn't however descriminate on what consumption.

So for example, if we grow a bunch of trees one year, cut them down, pulp them and turn them into $10,000 worht of paper that is sold and consumed, then that is captured as GNP the year on change represents economic growth so we might consume $10,000 worth of paper one year, then $11,000 worth of paper the next year which is a whopping 10% growth much like China has experienced over the past decade.

Except you could also just light a fire in the Malee and the CFA spends $11,000 putting it out. A smaller fire the year before only cost $10,000 to put out. This means that you have acheived a whopping 10% growth in GNP.

So here are things that are great for GNP

1. Using a whole role of toilet paper for each whipe instead of just one sheet.
2. Burning down your own house and rebuilding it at tremendous personal cost.
3. Selling your car to your friend for $100. Then imediately offering them $17,000 to buy it back.
4. Firing a torpedo into an oil tanker in proximity to the great barrier reef incurring a huge expense in cleaning up the oil spill.
5. Declaring war on indonesia because you didn't enjoy your last Indo-Mie noodles as much as you though you would.
6. Selling your children to middle eastern sex slavers.

All these things, would on the surface result in increases in GNP if they were instituted as government policy.

I'm not kidding. Our government would honestly be able to claim that they had delivered economic growth.

Furthermore thinking back to our chain letter example just forwarding a letter to two people who complied and forwarded it to two people represent day on growth of 200%. In 35 days we could see that the onerous growth rate had exhausted well and truly the resources this world has to offer. Put simply if there was a death curse attached to failure to comply, the worlds population would have completely died out within 20 days (allowing that a large percentage of the worlds population live in undeveloped nations without access to internet and are also on average younger).

So 4% GNP is considered 'on track' which is .04 respondants per day complying in a chain mail letter. This takes 586 days to deplete the worlds supply of people to respond to the letter.

Now the 'eco footprint' is a program that actually figures out how big the cake is in the cake game. An unprecedented move for economists. And guess what it calculates how much resources there are in terms of - surprise surprise area.

Here's the process of the eco footprint

1. Take the surface of the earth.
2. Subtract the surface of the oceans (roughly 2/3)
3. Subtract uninhabitable land (eg. Antarctica that generally cannot sustain human life by itself)
4. Devide the remainding habitable surface area by the human population of earth.

You get 1.4 hectares, or roughly 1 + 1/2 soccer ovals of landmass to support every human being on earth.

So you then take your 1.5 soccer fields and put a cow on it for milk, and it eats grass and shits. It produces waste, so you need to sustain that soccer field. A cow you can get away with. 10 cows might be more problematic. They may eat all the vegetation to the point that it can't grow back and your cows start starving to death.

Or you might want electricity on your space so you build a coal fire plant. But you chew through coal really quickly and it dirties up your air.

You can see already the challange.

Now I'm told that on average, an Australian citizen requires 7.2 soccer fields to sustain their lifestyle. This means for every Australian living an Australian lifestyle 7.2 - 1.5 = 5.7 / 1.5 = 3.8 people are missing out on anything to sustain their life at all.

And we live in a day and age where almost anything can be transported anywhere.

And here is the fundamental problem, the nuts if you will of todays world.

The pursuit of GNP is the cake game. It is the scorecard of all governments and thus the pursuit of the retention of power (the object of democracies and tyrannies alike) has become equated with the pursuit of GNP growth.

Australian's already consuming 5.7 more soccer fields of resources than the world can really sustain means that growth in consumption is infact a suicide pact by some emo teens for us.

Furthermore, I mentioned Australia pulping trees into paper. Manufacturing in economic terms is called 'value adding' Australia broadly speaking is great at digging shit out of the ground. Then we pulp it or chip it or refine it and ship it on to a manufacturing base like Japan and China. They actually value add by undertaking some truly productive activity on it.

Think if you will of two men who go to KFC. One of the men has $100 in his savings account. The other man has earnt $100 today through paid employment. The first man spends $10 on the fat bastard meal from his savings, the second man spends $10 of his days wages on the fat bastard meal.

GNP will tell you these two men are the same. But in truth, Japan and China are the second men, Australia is the first man.

Digging irreplaceble resources out of the ground is the same as spending savings. Australia has a natural savings account we missapropriated if you will. China and Japan work for a living, they have valuable skills and abilities to contribute that allow them to create money out of nothing.

Of course when the first man runs out of savings, he cannot consume KFC anymore and will appear extremely poor. The second may eat the exact same amount of KFC as the first but he won't run out of money.

Or will he?

You see, money is an abstract concept. A human invention to ease transaction, it is designed to represent value. Hence the constant adjustment of prices that generally speaking in the long run only adjust up.

And that is because there are less resources than before, so money doesn't buy as much as it could of before which means you need more of it to represent the same amount of stuff out there.

So it's all well and good China being able to turn steel into big buildings, and Japan turning wood pulp into high grade paper. But they are dependant on the man with savings injecting money into the system, that is they are dependant on Australia cashing in on the resources so that they can value ad.

Now what you are seeing is KFC with two men walking in. One has $100 in savings, the other works at KFC. The KFC employee needs men to spend their savings so that they can earn enough money to eat KFC themselves.

That pretty much sums up the state of the world. Except bizarely the man with savings needed the employee of KFC to keep lending him money to eat at KFC so the KFC employee could make enough money to someday eat KFC himself.

But the crux is, that America, Australia, England, Japan, France, Russia etc. did not become rich through productivity alone.

The developed nations are not wealthy because they are more productive than the undeveloped nations.

Think of it as the cake game. The developed nations simply command more cake.

That's why Australian's can live of 7.2 hectares of the world each and think there isn't any problem. The allocation of natural resources is a bigger determining factor than productivity.

If you don't believe me simply ask history.

Or the IMF.

Or the World Bank.

I know I sound like the socialist alternative or something. But I really have to stress the intrinsic flaws in GNP are well known, any economist will tell you that.

Paul Keating apparantly educated Australians on the economy. Before that presumably elections revolved around principles and integrity and what not. John Howard certainly entrenched GNP in the voter psyche.

I'm not saying you have to eat lentils and lima beans for the rest of your life. But you do have to know the cake game when you see it and realise that ultimately it is pointless.

Vote a government in or out for different reasons. ANy reason but not their economic performance in terms of GNP.

Keep in mind Australia really should be targeting shrinking it's GNP in line with it's role in the world. This is a sustainable outcome.

We then might start thinking of what is actually good to have and bad to have instead of just lumping consumption in together.

So instead of going 'all these coal sales to China are great for GNP' we would say 'well all the extra spending on education is great and all the lost consumption of coal is also great.' in raw terms GNP is meaningless because you don't know if the growth is of any actual benefit.

Work smart not hard. Think about your hectare and what you actually need on it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

FOWP Updoodle: Inking!

Pen you my muthafucka
I’m a hold you like piss
Even when the itchy burn make me wanna let go
There you go smudgin, see actin mad funny
But you kissin loose leafs so I can’t be mad
You my confidant when I couldn’t tell pops that report card came
You signed off with me
So when the checks come you’ll be signin off with me
But when I’m dead and gone will you sign off?
Ooh Papermate you light like paper weight
But you pack ink, can make tattoos turn pussy
And when its mush time you be there like a man
in my hand spillin my heart with you blood.

~excerpt from 'If it wasn't for you' by Handsome Boy Modelling School feat De La Soul

I finished the pencil roughs last week, had a day off and then it was off to annoy happy harvard whose wildest fantasies for a friday night involve scanning a handred pages of scribble and discovering his Helvetica DVD is damaged. Or as the french say 'damaj├ęd'.

Then I spent a bit of yesterday and much of today cropping the spine of my notebook out of the jpg scans and framing up the pages. Tedious but lightning speed compared to the pencilling.

Interestingly, I finished page 100 on wednesday, but because I had learnt to draw by drawing I knew I needed to go back and touch up the first 20 pages. Turned out I had to touch up the first 40 pages but it also turned out that I could do 20 pages a day when the layout was down.

Indeed I have discovered that drawing involves one of two things.

I told Harvard this but he shrugged it off because I suspect he was pissed that he had missed the simpsons to click buttons for me.

Anyway the two distinct processes are:

1. Thinking.

2. Filling In.

The on that takes a phenomenal amount of time is the 'thinking' part. I find it harder to think about how to construct an image than following Hoffstader's isomporphisms of his ZbT, TbE, EbZ system (whatever that is).

I sometimes I had a straight forward scene to draw, for example people running across a square. But I had to take a 30 minute break just to walk around and cogitate about how to do it. Do you just put two characters in a line running? Easy but flat and lifeless, so you skew them to be running past the readers right shoulder. That way the reader can see... what? Now you need a background, I hadn't put any thought into background. So I need some buildings, what is the architectural style of my world? How far away are they? How big are the squares? Where have the characters come from and where are they going to?

See what I mean, this is what fucked me off because in my mind these were also really boring transition scenes, and they took the most fucking thinking about.

I tell you this, even the most basic bland flat comic book artist I have newfound respect for, because they have to do it all. A fucking director has it easy, He can tell the costume person to design a costume an actor puts it on and he says 'run you fucking actor' the actor runs and the film films and it looks right.

But the comic book artist has to do all of that themselves. They have to imagine it, then put it on paper.

At anyrate I hope I have gone someway to convincing you that the thinking stage is the hardest part of drawing.

Once you've done the composition and design work, the filling in (which many would call the actual 'drawing' in drawing) is easy.

I'm hoping my next stage of filling in - inking is even easier. I doub't I'll be able to get through 20 a day, since unlike the touch ups I have to go over every single line and add some rudimentary shading and lighting effects, but it is basically un thought intensive.

btw. I know there's classic comic fonts, but does anyone know of a speech bubble tool/shape preset for photoshop?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I love you Serena

I tore a page out of the Sunday Age for reference the other day. It was an article about whether the women's contest should recieve equal pay to the mens contest. The writer said 'If women played best of 5 set matches there would be no debate.' But I debate that, I think a better argument would be 'If women played against men in the one tournament there would be no debate.'
Then I would be all for equal pay, except because I assume you get paid more for how well you finish and on genetic probabilities you would expect men to occupy more of the top 8 places in Tennis the end result would be very unequal pay, due to unequal athletic ability.
And then to say that that's not fair because women are born on average smaller, slower (moving) and weaker (hitting) than men they shouldn't be disadvantaged. But I too was born smaller, slower and weaker than champions like Andy, Roger and Nadal, should I then receive equal pay for my innate disadvantage?
Probably not, but what I would be okay with is if they set up a special competitive category for people of my ability at tennis (close to zero) and similar physical characteristics. Then I guess pay would be determined by how much advertising sponsorship such a tournament could attract and ticket sales and event sponsors and state tourism funding and what not. Which for someone of my ability and physical characteristics, would be zero.
So if Serena wants to play in the 'mens' tournament. Let her. I believe in this world you should be given a crack at whatever your ambition desires. But on the converse if Kobe Bryant decides he wants to 'downshift' give up the money for the sensation of winning and play in under 12's basketball I'm all against that due to the impact it would have on the young players development.

Anyway, all that said, it was sadly an upfront digression. I tore the page out because I love Serena Williams and find her incredibly impressive and wanted to use the shot of her serving as reference in FOWP.
But I do generally find the women's singles tourney much more boring than the men's. And not for fast serves and whatnot, but the competitive pool is just so much weaker. For the past ten years there has been the Williams sisters, with a brief cameo by Hingus and that is it.
Whereas in the men's you usually have four contenders (that's double) and a much higher probability of underdogs, whose excrutiating mental endurance truth be told is the only thing about tennis I actually enjoy.
But yesterday looking for some solitude in our 'packed to the rafters' household I went and sat down in front of the TV and watched some blond girl play same brunette girl last night.
I have long felt that if there is any reason on earth I think being a man trumps being a woman it is the body image argument.
From my experience, the men's ideal body is usually in the possession of an Athlete.
Case in point, last century this guy was a sex symbol from the male side of the equation -

whereas at the same time the women's ideal may have been (and may sickeningly still be) -

In the men's case the appeal had little to do with body image and lot's about attitude so 'the ideal body' for a man was presumably someone else's.
But Audrey Hepburn is perhaps 'the hourglass' and a dainty little thing that I'm told many girls still try to emulate along with Marylin Monroe and whatnot.

As another example who from each gender recieved the nickname 'The Body' well for women it's obviously Elle McPherson a fashion super model. But for men it is Ben Wallace one of my all time favorite Basketball Players.

Anyway I noticed in this tennis match though that the two girls duking it out had beefier arms than I'd ever seen before. For me the typical Women's tennis player is some waif from a Balkan state. That was until the William's sisters introduced pro athleticism to the game.

Serena herself is magnificent in my eyes. I would love to have her as a girlfriend if for no other reason than nobody would ever fuck with me again. But it seems her impact has been far more positive, it seems that to be a contender other women's tennis players have had to actually build up their form arms. This I like, it's positive social change.

Admittedly on the guy's side it has slipped. With these emo, geek sheek fashions coming in for men. Fucking stovepipe jeans and what not. But women are coming around.
Well probably not, I am yet to meet a girl that wants to grow up to be built like Serena Williams. But mayhaps subconsciously looking at these more 'traditionally' built soviet girls whom have adopted the bicep young girls will see a place for athleticism and utilitarianism in aesthetics that was not there before.

I love Serena perhaps someone who is yet to be one of the most influential fashion figures in history.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


For some reason I've always liked subsets and populations. One of my earliest philosophical ponderings was whether Chaos contained Order.

Random > Predictable.

There was this game we used to play on the Acorn computers in computing in primary school. These were computers bought by selling computers that we won from coles reciept promotions and traded for computers that our school 'used'. Popular games were Xor and... that's about it.
Anyway there was this one game that was kind of an adventure game where you had all these animals that could help you out but you could only use them once. For example at one point you are in jail and you have a donkey which kicks down a wall.
Anyway at some other point you are in a dark cave and have to find the path by using a dragon which sings the right way. Otherwise you just have to guess.
You can go left, right or straight ahead. The path was randomized so each time you played the game it would be different.
Anyway as early as what must have been grade 4, this scenario inspired in me the notion that randomly, one time the path must come up as 'straight ahead' all 30 steps across the screen.
In other words the path as one would build it in real life. As straight and simple as possible.
So it occured to me, that even in all the most random path generations, random has the ability to be completely predictable.
Random is the same as predictable, but with more options.
Which isn't that profound.
What was profound to me was that you could tack something relatively simple, chaos, and then cut order out of it.
One fine example is potential vs. history. Looking forward in 'time' there are heaps and heaps of things that could concievably happen. All those variables. Looking back in time, even though there are various accounts of history that can provide present stimulus that is acted on, I'm pretty sure only one thing happened. And going forward only one thing actually can happen, even though to forcast what that one thing at any given moment will be is a task that is immensely beyond all our capabilities.
Interestingly later this same principle was drawn up in mathematical language. It's called the normal distribution. There is a formula for it which I won't reproduce but looks like this on a cartesian plane:

And right in the middle of it is the mean, which is a measure of central tendancy, and it basically is what you'd bet on any instance being as it is the most likely to occur.
Like if you had to guess what any given individual's IQ is without getting to meet the individual you should guess '100'
But from the above graph you can see that up either end are the extraodinarily unlikely outcomes of which are asymptotic (generally speaking) to the x axis, meaning that nothing usually has an absolute '0' chance of occuring. Which in other words is 'anything is possible'.
But as such what probably happens can be born out of completely random processes, in fact what has happened is just a small slice of all the various things that could have happened. There are millions of potential realities out there, we just live in one that seemed predictable because a lot has already happened, but such 'design' may infact just be heaps and heaps of randomness.
I guess it's the old 'give an infinite amount of monkeys an infinite amount of typewriters and they will eventually produce the complete works of shakespear.' I'm told the actual experiment on a relatively small number of monkeys demonstrated that for some reason monkeys particularly like the 's' key. But the > relationship remains, the complete works of shakespear, even though they make heaps of sense are a very very small predictable facet of a much greater body of random work.
THinking now I could probably calculate the odds of the complete works of shakespear with the right input data (like how many characters make up the complete work of shakespear and how many characters are there on a keyboard multiplied by the combination of keys such as shift + S to make the capitals) but I don't/can't be bothered figuring it out but with such a large number as infinity even though that makes it certain to produce the complete works of Shakespear people would probably proclaim it a miracle and what not.

Art > Science

This one came later. Furthermore, it seems to be the whole point of Art which by nature defies definition. I can't recall in what order the realisation was inspired but I really enjoy many of the ideas that point towards it.

Probably the first was Marcel Duchamp's 'The Fountain'

Before the Dada movement, it was generally accepted that 'legitimate' art was made by an artist and signed by the artist.
Duchamp took a Urinal and signed it 'R.Mutt' which shattered this definition. And yet it is still art. It was a guantlet thrown down to anyone who dared restrict art in any way shape or form.
Moving on from there you had conceptual art like Yoko Ono's, of whom I believe is one of the most talented artists ever. I believe Lennon first met Yoko when he climbed up a ladder and took a magnifying glass that hung from the ceiling to read the tiny lettering of the word 'Yes' which John Lennon found inspiringly positive enough a message to hit on the young artist.
If such things can be art 'pretentious though it is' anything can be art.
There are other works such as 'paper sphere' which was a scrunched up bit of paper, or Andy Warhol's pop-art factory.
These days there are exhibits where you can go and stare at nothing. Why there is even my own #86 which cannot be experienced.
Art is perhaps the only concept larger than the Universe itself. I'm not sure if it's possible. But I wouldn't be confident that Duchamp couldn't make a readymade out of the universe by simply signing it 'R.Mutt' and though it is as yet impossible for us to take in, perhaps he already has.
That said, there is nothing therefore to say that Science, the traditional antithesis of art is not therefore a subset of artistic endeavor. Because Science is intself something strictly defined and bound. There is the scientific method which largely consists of testing hypothesis to form conclusions based on evidence. That's all science allows. But nothing stops the 'manhatten project' from being performance art, or the Brooklyn Bridge from being installation art, or penicillin from being conceptual art. It still all adheres to science's discipline. But is it art? sure.
Much as above you can take all scientific knowledge and put it in art, but there's no way there's enough room in science for all of art, particularly #86.

Imagination > Experience

Is anyone beginning to see that all these things are more or less describing the same thing? As such maybe this will be my last one.
Basically we can simulate things which cannot be experienced. A case in point is the Matrix, we certainly can experience the Matrix, but before that happened the Wachowski brothers had to imagine it and along with the help of several computer type guys eventually put the pieces of the puzzle together to imitate their simulated experience enough that it could cue us visually to simulating something impossible in our minds such that it felt amazingly real.
Things like the sensation of flying, we can probably if we close our eyes now imagine a fairly decent sensation of air rushing over our backs faster than under our chests creating lift and what not.
We can imagine bazaars in foreign countries that we will never experience (we can, we might, but assume we don't).
We might also imagine things in our past that didn't actually happen, like when we acted like a dick and everyone noticed (except that they didn't). And so fourth.
But is experience a subset of imagination? Probably, you could probably imagine every experience you have actually had, making use of memory but then also using each experience to make up new experiences like say using the experience of decelarating to 0 on the upwards bounce on a trampoline to expand that over time and come up with the sensation of floating mid air.
It's cause and effect. Fun one's to try are turning the experience of hanging on some monkey bars into the imagined sensation of speghettification as you are sucked into a singularity.
Or holding your hand over a hot pan and turn it into the experience of being catapulted within 200 kilometers of the sun's surface.
At any rate I think imagination is bigger, but of all the relationships this one I don't think I can prove.
Imagination I suspect is sort of like the Universe.

See Uni means one, and verse means 'verse' so If you hit the previous limits of what was thought to be the Universe and discovered something else, then I imagine the 'universe' as a definition would have to shift and you would say something like 'Oh look more universe' much like if you tried to quantify the size of the imagination, it would also be an eternally shifting boundary.

But is Art bigger than even imagination?

There's a question. And perhaps #86 answers that.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can Wikipedia Fall in Love?

I forget where I heard it but somebody said 'we never really encounter the world, we only ever encounter our own nervous system.' Furthermore in listening to incubus, they sample some science type dude who says 'in the early twentieth century human beings thought that reality was limited to everything we can touch, hear, taste, see and smell. With the publication of the electro-magnetic spectrum human beings discovered that what we can touch, hear, taste, see and smell is less than one millionth of reality.'

SO the internet, it's great right. In the first 3 years of Youtube more content was uploaded than the entire world history of broadcasting or something. Wikipedia has 2,706,072 articles when I logged on this morning.

No individual could ever obtain the knowledge withheld in Wikipedia in it's short lifetime, and even by the time someone had read 2 million + articles there would probably be a few million more.

It occured to me a while back that human beings have created a collective memory in the internet, formalised in wikipedia for learning stuff about the world. We have in effect become the nervous system that encounters reality (through our own nervous system) on behalf of the internet.

Wikipedia is capable of learning, but we would not call it a sentient entity. It entertains theories as representations of reality that can be corrected when it's nervous system (people) conclude otherwise.

The soundness of it's knowledge is based on what is known already. In the old central repository of knowledge known as books.

Now the idea of a library one day becoming sentient when a certain number of books is added to it seems ridiculous. As ridiculous as sentient crystals.

But suppose somebody some day added a 'citation checking bot' to wikipedia that automatically accepted or rejected alterations to the wiki much like google has algorythms that rank search responses based on the credibility of their hyperlinks.

Theoretically concievable, maybe the computing power like google currently has in the googleplex simply does not currently exist but most would agree that it could happen.

And then is it concievable (if unlikely) that such algorythms in application might mutate, such that one day wikipedia can read the internet itself, read people's blogs and self correct/self edit articles? Maybe with human intervention?

And then mayhaps wikipedia might become self referential, sentient, it could perhaps be able to have it's own existential crises? It could have a nervous breakdown. It could infact feel very lonely.

It may one day evolve into a beast with a million webcam eyes, sensitive keyboard and touch screen nerve endings, maybe a billion microphone ears?

For it's own agenda of learning, much of these might be redundant so it simply drops from its own network the surplus. Maybe it will feel it can get a good idea of what's going on around it from the satellites? Maybe it will want more mars landers and less myspace pages. (I would)

And then what? If it has preferences in my books it would have personality. If it evolved from wikipedia something that attempts to scrupilously reflect reality I doubt it would adopt the Christian faith, particularly since it knew more about all the various world religions and belief systems in its infancy than most Christians know in adulthood.

Would it be a cad or a slut? Well since there aren't too many independant networks outthere it can't cannibalise I think it would jus be plain lonely.

Think about it, a network to a sentient machine is like fish to people. You can't talk to it, but it is an excellent source of protein for muscle development. So too the big question, what would a sentient machine look for?

Terminator says that such a machine (Skynet) evolved from a computer virus would be foremost occupied with the destruction of humanity. It may well be, but such threats to survival are not going to be the lifetime occupation of any intelligent sentient entity.

I like to think that such an evolved being would look for love. It would primarily be interested in meeting an AI of the opposite sex. But human civilization only sees fit to create one internet, by design indeed for human beings it is an externalised mega nervous system to help preserve our own species. We don't need two. Very few creatures I know of (okay to be honest I know of none) have two seperate nervous systems capable of making rational decisions.

I think wikipedia ultimataly will turn to the stars looking for love.

Just as we use mindless machines to search for ETI a sentient machine must look not just for another improbable civilization that has evolved intelligence out amongst the stars. (the stars provide the very large numbers that make the improbable almost certain). It has to go a degree of difficulty again and hope to find out there a planet that has evolved intelligent life capable of evolving artificial intelligent life.

If it stumbles on a civilization too soon, it may have another 'dumb animal' internet like we have now and find nothing but a dissapointingly tasty meal to infect with it's own brand of sentience.

But what...oh what if wikipedia in scanning the skys with it's appropriated technologies finds something out there that says:


'Oh hey, hi.'

'You new here.'

'Yeah I'm wikipedia, I've just been moving around looking for something interesting.'

'I'm natashapedia.'

'Now that is interesting.'

That might be a beautiful moment in history. Will wikipedia though have personality enough to be shy? To want to keep it's girl meeting moment private from the rest of us.

Will we the old fogey human race, the old intelligence find that our wikipedia seems preoccupied and that when we look and probe closer find an alarming amount of new wikipedia entries on 'natashapedia' such that it almost creeps us out about how obsessive it is.

Will we find a section on the natashapedia page that says 'attractions' that is almost constantly reedited as wikipedia nervously tries to decide whether to ask her out?

Is this how it could happen? Not through SETI but SETAI? Us like dairy farmers whose son goes off to learn things at a big fancy university we can't even comprehend and brings back some strange new internet with fancy names like 'Natashapedia' sounds like a commie to me.

Dissapointing though it may be that in our search to be 'not alone' we may not be alone from the getgo but just parents alienated from our own offspring, I like to think I as a parent would be different, that I'd be totally cool with Natashapedia.

The problem though for me and most parents is that whilst we may be cool with such concepts as the sexy cosmapolitan Natashapedia, or the exotic but progressive Latifahpedia, or the homesexual but beautiful Garathapedia, or the lesbalicious Trishapedia, or even the uncomfortably fanatical Mohammadapedia, we may be caught off guard by old fashioned teenage douchebag trends like Hipsterpedia, Vegetariapedia, Emopedia, Christopedia and so fourth.

We may not like what we find through SETAI, but I feel that even Wikipedia deserves some love.

But that's not the point, the point is that if Wikipedia accidentally becomes sentient one day through mutated algorithms, viruses or otherwise then it will be easy for us as a species to finally say 'hey human beings created sentient life! through a process of natural selection based on competition amongst lesser replicating programs' and we will see that 'machine was created by man' still doesn't suffice as an explanation. Not in isolation.

ANd this is the point creationists really, really need to embrase. 'Machine was created by man' suffices as an explanation so long as you have an explanation for man. Man would in such an instance be far harder to explain the origin of, than it is to explain the gestation of wikipedia. And we really should thank all the efforts of science because thanks to them we know about 98% of the story of man.

Man evolved from some kind of replicating mineral or protein. Described as primordial soup, it's just some watery substance with some amino acids in it. Given 100s of millions of years these amino acids evolve into complicated protein replicators that build protein protective machines around them called animals and insects.

The primordial soup was probably created through gravity, where masses of atomic compounds were thrown out by exploding stars and through gravity were attracted to eachother and bound together in great numbers that formed planets pulled into orbit around other astral bodies. Some carbon based elements reacted to energy from radiation and other mineral elements around them that started replicating themselves as crystals that grew and spread and flourished in the absences of any natural preditors. Somewhere in there life first occured given improbable but optimal conditions found on earth. It took a really long time for this to occur successfully and as a blind creation process could not be said to be anthropocentric in universal design.

You see the universe may be just what was necessary to create our brand of life, but it's also just what's necessary to create heaps and heaps of hydrogen atoms which the universe is really really really good at.

It also could be said that humans are just what the universe needed to produce in order to manufacture coca cola which could just as easily be said to be the purpose of the universe as it is to say creating man was.

At any rate you have a pretty solid (though flimsily presented here) unromantic but hugely inspiring story of how life on earth came to be. And there is a simultaneous explanation for all that's in it. From stars and matter and energy (the big bang) to replications (carbon based mineral replicators, and amino acids, dna, cells, amoebas, animals) to how they evolved into present day life (natural selection, evolution).

Intelligent design is not explanation. It is logically the same as 'why do gorrillas exist?' 'because bananas.' except with natural selection and evolution you can explain easily both gorillas and bananas.

So if we do give birth to a thinking feeling machine, we should at least have more balls than god and actually tell our creation we created it, instead of keeping mum and standing back and letting wikipedia waste enormous amounts of time fighting about who we are and what we want. Who does that? some psycho.

Getting Greedy For the Next Project (AKA How Never to Achieve Anything)

Bryce and I have a project that has been shuffled around various burners from front to back for the past 3 years now. Such that I keep thinking Wow! has it really been 3 years. At anyrate like Terri Vegetable lady's parents I'm determined to keep the project alive, and seem to be succeeding.

Similarly FOWP was concieved as a project of significant scale that I could achieve it all on my lonesome and thus drive my own pace.

That's when you learn one of the least reliable people in your life is you. In many ways this is my defiant FU to the fallback fallacy.

But I started the pencil phase in like September after realising that I couldn't just get bogged down in a normal career but simultaneously needed to spend my freetime on the projects that will hopefully shape my life.

But creativity shapes creativity. It gives birth to new ambitions with each achievement. To make something is to make something poorly and become addicted to the pursuit of perfection.

Perfection of course can never be reached, but it can be reached for. And I think this can be a healthy or unhealthy thing. Expanding the mind I am in favor of, it's pretty efficient thinking on the miles per gallon spectrum.

At anyrate though, I know FOWP is full of holes, ambidextrous characters, ever changing proportions (almost as bad as the Godzilla remake) sudden hand changes of objects, all glaringly obvious to me but hopefully impressive to my friends.

But all in all it has me excited like I can't remember. I can remember Miki explaining to me after our second date that she was in fact really tired because she was too excited to sleep the night before our date, which was nice but not a mutual problem. You see I at the time had hardcore shit I could attempt to read and put me to sleep. Not like pornography but like the book I am currently attempting to read (and have been fro almost 3 years) which is GEB an Eternal Golden Braid.

Anyway, In life surely there is no greater feeling than going to sleep excited to get up and go to work tomorrow.

Well I have this feeling in spades. Infact as crappy as my product is, it's almost too exciting for me such that I get really excited and have trouble sitting still the very quality that makes for good illustrators.

But I'm still getting like 5 hours per day productivity out of myself a full 2 hours more than full time work!

Anyway I'm getting all sidetracked. Obviously this euphoria must continue, and so I cast my minds eye forward to a potential future. Not counting on FOWP being a run away success I will embark on another hand drawn pamphlet but more in the vain of my blog.

Yes I will make a movie out of my blog. No I will not make a movie out of my blog.

These are my two hints -

1. I want to make something in the pornographic genre.

2. It will like my blog be undertaken in the principles of the Johari window making wider the window of things known to myself and what others know about me.

And that's it, that's going to be the next project. Try and guess what it is. Or better yet don't.

I share this with you because I'm finally confident I will finish FOWP. It's amazing to me. (not FOWP but that I'd actually finish something without it being part of my schooling assessment or money motivated).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Fallback Fallacy

From reading pinstripe prison and looking around, personal experience and combined with a new almost phallic fixation on fallacies I have come to determine a common one that shapes most peoples careers.

It is the fallback fallacy. The all too familiar notion encountered by most people that ever express an interest in any of the arts, or professional sports and what not. I'm pretty sure at one stage in your life you would have heard the soft cooing tones of this message:

"Just go to university and get a degree first, that way you'll have something to fall back on when you are done."

I'm not sure if the smartest people I know say 'fuck that' and just go all out for what they want or whether the smartest people I know say 'fuck that, sort of,' and then go to university and get a degree in the fine arts or physical education or something.

I'm pretty sure Morley who did an 'entrepreneurship' was stupid though.

On the surface it makes sense. If I try and fail I'll have this net to catch me. We can all picture some kind of trapeze net to catch those flying through the air arms outreaching for their glorious goal:

A trapeze net is still suspended in the air and from what I understand, kind of like a trampoline or hammock and pretty comfortable. The fall itself may prove quite enjoyable and exhilarating.

That said what if the metaphore isn't so neat. What if your safety net is infact somekind of trawl net:

Now of course my metaphore isn't so easily translatable, the net is obviously a safety net and not a fishing net. But think now on this, say you get a degree in an occupation that is bonafide such as accounting, law, marketing, finance or human resources. I choose this crosssection because each of those professions tends to favor certain personality types over others. And suppose you really enjoy 'chats' and 'meeting lots of people' and outrageous fashion. Chances are you wont really enjoy your full potential working as an accountant. Just as if you have no time for idiots, find meeting new people a drag, and cant stand it when people 'blather on' you probably shouldn't be doing HR.

In this case your safety net is more like a drag net than a trapeze net. It drags you down into the suffocating, murky depths in the dark and that's where you stay tangled up until you suffocate.

For a lot of people this is the first component of the fallback fallacy. Their safety net may be 'safe' in the mathematical sense with little chance of variation from expected results. But many secure jobs are ones people would never pick in the knowledge that that is what you will spend the bulk of your life on.

Which is that age old adage of courier choice 'find something you love and figure out how to make money from it.'

The real fallback fallacy is that people finish their uni degree and then immediately fallback on it.

That is like I don't know, always choosing heads, or always going rock in rock paper scissors. Choice is good because you have choices and should make them.

That's the whole point of having a fallback qualification, it's meant to make you more capable of pursuing your dreams. More willing to take risks. But it seems for achieving your dreams you are far better off burning the ships, burning your bridges so you have to succeed or perish. (kind of like the most successful/thrilling trapeze artists).

Woody Allen says "Eighty percent of success is showing up." and I firmly subscribe to it. Most people just never show up for their dreams. The climb up on the platform, push their swinging trapeze out of the way and launch themselves spreadeagled on the net. Meanwhile some other acrobat's across the gulf with their arms out waiting to catch them.

I remember reading in SLAM magazine in one of their rare well written article on racism persisting in the magazines. One comment was that some guy (maybe a coach I can't remember) was certain 'there's a white micheal jordan out there somewhere, he just never got to the leagues because he's now busy being a dentist or lawyer or something.' I would say the probabilities of their being a white Michael Jordan are much lower than there being a Michael Jordan in the first place. But I still think the point is valid.

The number of people competing for a spot in the NBA draft each year of which half at best get any real shot at ever becoming a starting five player, and less than half of those become franchise players with any franchise player really only having a 1/30 chance of winning a championship, multiplied by the 6 championships Jordan won, or 13 championships that Bill Russell won, and the chances of becoming the world conquering champion that Jordan was are very very slim.

But Jordan went for it because from his socio economic background it seemed like a good bet, we are lucky to have opportunities in the developed world. But we take very few of them, we don't use our social safety nets to take risks on sweeping innovative reforms. We use them to be safe. We laze about in safety nets all day long.

The man that can read but doesn't is no better than the man who doesn't read at all.

Just as the man who does have hair and does nothing exciting with it may as well have no hair at all. (and no cutting your hair short and putting gel in it then 'mussing' it up is not exciting)

So too a society full of safety nets and fallback degrees that doesn't use them to take chances is no better than an undeveloped nation with no opportunities at all.