Tuesday, March 31, 2009

5 Books Worth Reading

I could save you some time I spent by reading 50 books to come down to 5 that are really worthwhile (in no particular order):

1. Go Rin No Sho (Book of Five Rings): It's like the Koran, Bible etc. since there's nobody that really follows the way of the sword, you can't take the advice literally. What is totally invaluable though is the insight into the mentality of this champion among champions, and then treat every other little treatise like an individual thought exercise. It's better I think than getting spiritual guidance or (shudder) lessons from the bible because it's a treatise of PURE self reliance. Musashi never talks about using anyone else, networking etc. it's a great place to start for adopting the mindset of 'what can I do for myself' in a society pushed towards 'what can everyone do for me'.

2. The Effective Executive - Peter Drucker: The book on becoming a manager, you can take it literally. Furthermore it bridges the gap between 'self reliance' that Musashi teaches about to the 'what can i do for the organisation?' built along the foundation 'what can I do for myself' I evolved reading Drucker.

3. Good To Great - Jim Collins: recommended to me by someone I really respect, and probably is the best book on business. Though the regressive analyses technique is questionable, the things they uncovered are pearls of wisdom. crucial for building healthy organisations.

4. Maverick - Ricardo Semler: curiously for a company as 'crazy' as Semco there is not a single thing recommended by Drucker or Collins in 2&3 that directly contradicts anything Ricardo Semler instituted. Ricardo has built the most beautiful workplace in the world. If it was a choice of 2 instead of 5 I'd take this and 5 rings, 1 i'd take five rings, because if I'm in a situation where I can't take 2 books I probably don't need to worry about managing an organisation.

5. Female Chauvinist Pigs - Ariel Levy: I think I've read more women's movement books than your average 26 yo female (3) this is the best for the generation and the times for illustrating just how complex the womens movement is and the psychological landscape women in the 'free' world are living in.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Inspiration Shminspiration

I have long held the belief that people that point to the importance of holy texts and classics shut out too much of the rest of the world of inspiration.

So people who point to the role of the bible and it's cultural contributions are in fact making the world of culture poorer for it because it's a norming behaviour, the renaissance artists could have chosen from a whole world of themes, but were forced by the comissions going around to do work after work entitled 'the annunciations', 'the crucifiction' and 'john the baptist'.

So while this is cool:

so too is this, that draws on Marvel comic book mythology to spout the same amount of nonsensical but cool imagery:

Singing about some made up space lord, in my book is just as good as drawing inspiration from revelations, the Koran and a lot better than Tolkien.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Since dislocating my left shoulder, I have been confronted with how much my left hand plays in my identity. It is primarily responsible for:

1. Writing.
2. Drawing.
3. Cycling.
4. Basketball.

Take it out of the equation and suddenly I can do none of these things. Yet if you took the above list, any one of them more than anything I think or say is how I would identify myself - A writer, an artist, a cyclist, a basketball player.

Even cooking is fucking hard (the first right handed one-hand egg break, which sifted through my fingers was something that truly only I could eat.

I'll say this though, it's like being backed into a corner, and it forces you to reassess the fundamental assumptions that limit your movement. You have to look for a way over, under or through that corner.

I have to stop looking down on people so much, the amount of shit I still can do with my remaining, non preferred arm is immense - the learning curve of all knowledge in general is steep, but I'm a habitual underestimater of how quickly people can barrell up it when they need to.

All the thinking, anticipating and practice I do buys me very little advantage over the 'average' person in any given task.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The AFL assist

official AFL statistics have been revamped this year, they are much more substantial than previous years. In business an old adage is that companies measure what is important to them, stats can be seen as a weak level 'rules of the game' they certainly can be the rules of the contract.

I say this because it is my belief that play will always conform to the game. This is not so remarkable in AFL, NBA or Culing, but it is in business. It can be huge if your companies main reporting metric is 'unit sales' vs 'profitability' one will see sales managers running promotions and campaigns to push as much stock onto customers as possible, the other will see sales managers trying to cut down on inventory, advertising expenditure and closing down smalltime customer accounts.

So too it is curious to observe that the herald sun is reporting among other things 'the assist' - a stat very familiar in basketball. An assist is a pass that results in a shot being made by another player. it is hugely relevant in basketball because such passes are frequent and necessary for an effective offence.

Does it stack up in AFL though? I've gone off the assist in the NBA I used to think it was uncontestably far more valuable than points on a players stat line, but I'd been fooled by that old hidden cost, which I'd disregarded.

NBA - Kobe Bryant last years MVP averages around 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists.
Chris Paul last years runner up averages around 18 pts, 11 assists, 5 rebounds. (i just made these figures up)

Now in my old mindset this meant that if you looked at the offensive value of each player then you'd convert assists into points. since an assist is only counted if the pass results in a scoring shot being taken then you could arguably say that Kobe gets 25 points per game, plus 10 points (via assists) for his team = 35 point effort.
CP3 gets 18 pts plus 22 (via assists) for a whopping 40 pts per game, offensively Chris Paul is the more prolific scorer... oris he?

factoring in opportunity cost, say that Chris paul shot 55% from down town, (3 pointers) and 80% from the field (2 pts) so each shot he takes is statistically speaking worth about 1.6 pts. Without going into what free throws and 'and one' plays would weigh in, then we must accept that for each assist Paul dishes then the opportunity cost of Paul not shooting himself is 1.6 pts. (damn I wish I'd figured out easy numbers).

Kobe is the most lethal shooter in the league, so the opportunity cost is even worse in an assist.

but if we rerun the numbers factoring in opportunity cost its nowhere near as clear cut - Kobe is worth 25 pts per plus .2 (his higher opportunity cost) x 5 assists = 26 pts. CP3 gets 18 pts on his own and .4 x 11 in assists = 22 pts.

Furthermore due to the way assists are measured we only rack up an assist if it succeeds, we can tell immediately how many points result from assists if given the assist number, (except we don't know if they are worth 3pts or 2 something else I didn't factor in) We cannot do the reverse though, and say given Kobe's 25 points we can assume 12 assists, kobe created 12 assist opportunities, because Kobe could bring the ball down himself, score off a fast break, drive the lane etc.

Furthermore whilst kobe will have a stat line of say 8-10 (8 scores for 10 attempts at field goals) 2-3 3pt 3-4 ft telling us his accuracy at shooting under various scoring sub divisions, we don't get how accurate Chris Paul is at assists, you don't see 11-12 assists from 12 attempted assists, you do get turn overs but you don't know if Chris Paul makes 11-30 passes, that is 11 assists and 30 ordinary passes. Turn overs can arise from steals, fouls, travelling and bad passes, so they don't tell us how good someone is at dishing dimes. They simply tell us who dishes out the most. So Chris Paul may get 11 assists per night to lead the league, but perhaps Steve Nash gets 8 out of the only 8 passes he made? we can't see that in the stat line.

So it's interesting to see this in footy. In one sense it makes sense, it is the midfields job to deliver the ball to a full forward or other scoring option in the forward line. At the same time, the accuracy of any given full forward is touch and go. Footy gives you a point (and is perhaps the only sport that does) because they can see what a goal kicker was trying to do.

But marks can be contested and spoilt relatively easily. A full forward like Fevola that can make explosive breaks and convert marks into goals is going to make a midfielder look far more valuable, more so than a point guard that racks up assists because they have Kobe to pass to. VS Nathan Brown kicking to Mathew Richardson, one of the most reliable, least reliable kicks in the league. Nathan Brown might be one of the best kicks for delivering a ball NBA, no look off hand/foot style to a player that is wide open. But if that player is Mathew Richardson then you can kiss that assist goodbye.

More telling I feel is the old 'Forward 50' which measures how many times Midfielders can deliver into the 'danger zone' where your team has the opportunity to score. That means a midfielder can run it in, then boot the goal himself just as easily as kicking it to Fevola on the run.

Furthermore the question of any stat that play might conform to is 'does it improve the game'. Tim Duncan is this question embodied in the NBA, the 'Big Fundamental' plays flawlessly in accordance to the rules, he almost has perfected the pussy art of soccer simulations for the NBA too. And as such whilst Duncan's effectiveness can't be questioned, the rules can because Tim Duncan is the most boring 'superstar' in the league.

AFL has been pretty good at rule changes that cause the game to be faster, rougher and more entertaining, such as the shooting clock to speed up full forwards like Fev and Mathew Lloyd, and extending the mark distance from 10 to 15 meters to prevent boring possession maintaining chipping around for hours.

Stoppage time reduces in AFL it's big selling point over NBA (the last 3 minutes of which are painful set plays and endless time outs). So will the assist, should midfielder's contracts suddenly depend upon them 'help the game'

I don't know. It could see a return to the era of the 80s/90s of big full forwards kicking a tonne every game (Brerton, Ablett, Lockett etc.) It could also see midfielders making unnecessary kick or handball passes to other players trying to rack up assists (and increase the threat of a turnover) which are more valuable to them contract wise than kicking a goal themselves for the team.

Footy is not like NBA though, the teams are bigger, the physical requirements more democratic and roles less defined. In any team their are 4 midfielders where in NBA their function would be performed by the solitary point guard. Their are usually at least 2 big scoring options and other goal sneaks available in the forward line. You have defencive specialist taggers in the midfield and then you have more scoring options in the midfield. it is far less predictable with far more 'moments of truth' in any given possession, particularly since you can tackle wih impugnity (if it's legal) whereas fouls in bball are more like credits to be spent, so possession usually results in a scoring attempt rather than a turnover which is relatively rare in bball.

All that said the AFL assist, I predict will probably just dissappear because it isn't informative. The Brownlow probably won't go to the player we suddenly discover is better at delivering the ball (to a decent kick) than anyone else in the league because the marking and goal kicking are really far more deterministic of the score than the inbound pass.

The Other Game

It's hard to muster up the right word to describe last night. Somehow 'teabagging' springs to mind... yes, watching Carlton 'teabag' Richmond was just too delicious. The time for this groundhog to be scared of his own shadow is over.

It's time to be vulnerable, I'm going to actually support Carlton this year. Sport is the one domain where I feel I can safely support an ideology that has a defined 'in-group' and 'out-group' in what is a purely human construct.

Put simply, while I have extreme difficulty calling myself Australian and even offering the most meagre, symbolic support (like taking off Anzac day) I have no problem plling on an ill-fitting Carlton jumper and hating Collingwood with all my heart.

Except after taking savage beatings in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 & 2007 I had eventually learnt not to get involved emotionally. Dabbling only in the rare win against an old rival like Essendon.

But as such in the offerings of this blog it means I haven't used AFL for the rich analogy farm it should be and have opted for Basketball (also because on average something like 3 pro games are played per day and it's just a larger sample, though by no means as mature a sport as AFL) so embrace yourselves for more football as it relates to sport/philosophy/business/everything.

This year, I'm coming.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Concerning Cuteness, Hotness & Beauty. Girls & Women

Nagoya is full of eye candy. Train trips were always brief for me, even the long wait at the transfering Obu station because there was always something to look at. Young women in short skirts, designer boots, perfect (if often over the top) manicures, luxurious (i hope) faux fur coats, 6000 yen haircuts and low cut tops. Makeup is applied with what must be a trowel, it's all really over the top.

Yet amongst all this later on in nagoya whilst I was walking back to central station from maruzen bookstore one night, in the ebbing stream of pedestrians I found myself walking next to a striking woman in traditional kimono whose beauty overwhelmed me. I was in awe of her grace and dignity. I shut up, and was acutely conscious of her presence. I knew it was a special experience at the time.

If I had to come up with a gender reversal it was probably the equivalent of a young woman walking through a sea of pretty boys and suddenly coming across a war veteran walking through the streets, where on his bearing alone he gave the impression that all the pretty little boys were as nothing to him.

in a nation obsessed to the nth power with cuteness this woman was perhaps the single rarest and most precious experience I came across.

And like always there's nothing really special about japan. In fact Germaine Greer said this a fair while ago:

A grown woman should not have to masquerade as a girl in order to remain in the land of the living.

'radical' has it's own origins and meaning, but in the 80's cartoon era it became an in vogue substitute for 'cool' which is a seperate word with a distinctive definition.

I would hate to detail the definitial nuances that distinguish 'rad' from 'cool' but you can point it out in history - Johnny Cash for example is definitely 'cool' not 'rad' as is David Bowie, the Adelaide Skate Park might be alternatively be described as 'rad' but not 'cool'

I do think it is much easier to make all importsnt distinctions betwixt 'hot' 'cute' or 'beautiful'. In my detox process from misaki the differences have been striking me more and more as my eye becomes once again accustomed to the idea of sussing out a potential partner.

Let's start with 'cute' from personal preference I hate 'cuteness' as an aspect of beauty. It has physical connotations to me of 'youthfulness' but more so 'childishness' and 'infancy' as per Greer's quote above I think the global perception of feminine beauty (and with the rise of metrosexuals - masculine) has become increasingly infantile to it's detriment.
Seals are cute, Otters are cute, bunnies, puppies, babies, kittens and toddlers are cute. As such when a grown girl dresses and acts cute the overall effect on me is sadness. My friend that set me up with Misaki made a grave error (being japanese) by introducing her as 'cute'. As in 'This is my friend Misaki, isnt she cute' and as I recall I did something like tersely saying 'yes' and walking straight on past to the bar. I had actually noticed Misaki as soon as she arrived and had even thought 'who's that?' sat up straight etc. that had been because I'd actually found her strikingly beautiful and not 'cute' once my friend had introduced us all I could see was the 'cute' aspect.
Cute is in practice 'baby voices', pretty much any Japanese fashion, hats, long socks, pig tails, applying makeup so as too emphasize your eyes, acting childish etc. this turns some (probably most) guys on, myself begrudgingly included except that it clashes with the far more domineering part of my brain that can't abide idiots.

Hotness, is probably easily interchangible with Beauty, but for me I restrict it to a description of the purely physical domain. It is best illustrated in Bob C Cock's letter to Fox Television, where he complained about them letting the models on some swimsuit special actually speak, which put him off masturbating.
The images splashed across men's magazine covers like FHM, Maxim, Ralph, Zoo of various and questionable quality.
It is big tits, long legs, tan, symetrical facial features and smoking 'come hither' looks. But to me this perhaps beyond cuteness has dramatic implications if you allow it to eclipse the term 'beauty'
Because hotness to me is in the realm of the purely physical/visual It is devoid of personality. And I think the girls that shoot themselves in the foot pursuing hotness underestimate just how important personality is.

Whilst waiting in the 'doctors lobby' of Amrish's apartment I flicked through backissues of GQ amongst which I found an aricle entitled 'Do you want to date a super model' where they interviewed some brazillian model about the long list of demands they had of their prospective boyfriend. As such 'hotness' and 'high maintenance' are often terms that go hand in hand. It is too often a mercinarial approach to appearance with many a fantastical exchange rate imagined. As if to say if I look this good... someone should buy me flowers and jewellery every month, if I look that good someone should drive me everywhere I want to go and take me out to nightclubs, buy me drinks etc.

The 'someone' in these hypothetical meatmarkets are colloquially known as 'douchebags', 'arseholes' and even the misnomer 'nice guys' - in which case I don't refer to genuinly nice guys, but that breed of guy that percieves a sexual exchange rate for their very limited brand of generosity and helpfulness (to hot people, not say, refugees) and general fawning behaviour. The nice guy mentality is a whole other blog post, but basically if you think that being hot alone will get you everything you want you might want to reconsider.

Which brings us to the grand dame, the holy grail, someone who is actually beautiful. The definitions may vary on what specifically the attraction is, for me a woman has to be interesting for me to find her attractive. The definition that works generally is that beauty goes from the personality right out.
Personality can give someone's physical appearance a swing of 80%, probably more. Sex is fucking great, but we would have to be talking seriously motherfucking hot to put up with a boring person's presence for the other 21 hours a day not engaged in sex and foreplay.
It is hard for even the hottest person in the world to get into a low maintenance relationship with a doting boyfriend that demands nothing in return for servicing your every whim. Even a small portion of self respect should be enough for any man or woman to jump out of the car and hike back up that one way street.

Enough of what beauty isn't what does it look like. Well it may surprise you but I'll site a man using beautiful behaviour to illustrate.

Back in highschool a had an interest in a girl called G for reasons I can no longer fathom. At a party I went to I was planning on getting the courage to make a move like talking to G. Alas my friend J had actually capitalised and picked her up. Something I noticed with the keen eyes of a hawk. My friend Chris made a truly beautiful gesture by attempting clumsily to move into my path and block me from seeing that somene else had picked up G.

That's beauty, kindness, unfortunately Chris having like me, a dick, just isn't my type. It's kindness, vulnerability, trust, embarassment. It isn't necessarily graceful, but it's something you respect, that endears you, that you cherish. As distinct (but not exclusive) from hotness, the personality of someone beautiful anchors your attraction to them in expressions that even when they are old wrinkly and saggy trigger your memory right back to the first moments you saw them.

Ironically I'm glad terms like 'hotness' and 'cute' exist to qualify attraction, but that our concept of beauty shifts towards them I think is cause for worry.

Walking through Melbourne CBD is funny, if I were to assume girls were looking for someone like me (a big assumption I know) the amount of energy wasted on appearance actually pushes them father from my interest, if instead they spent 10% of the money and half the time just picking up the occasional book and working on being interesting thteir chances would skyrocket.

Give me beauty, not hotness. Give me women, not girls.

Things you can d while rehabbing a dislocated shoulder

Invent a new one-sided pair of shorts, with one super pocket and some device for pulling your pants up from the hip. (buttons are definitly out)



Practicing a one handed right hand (left hand) jumper.

Learning to draw with your right hand.

one handed recumbent cycling.

counterweighted skateboarding.

Write a novel.

...any other suggestions?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Stylistic Aspirations: Avoiding Manga like the Plague

It's part of the world we live in, it is unavoidable. But if you take a few sensible precautions you can avoid catching 'manga' style. Sure there's always a risk something you draw will look like it belongs in a manga.

Manga is aweful because it's prescriptive, manga is good because it is prescriptive.

Manga as distinct from western comics has lacked the 'deconstructionist' to revolutionise the industry. That's just in terms of writing, in artwork its even worse.

Tezuma, creator of astro boy copied the big-eyed, bean-head look from Walt Disney and adapted it to his characters. Advantage has a strong tendancy to accumulate in Japan, culturally almost every artform has lead to a school and schools mean standardisation and prescriptive techniques.

As such now manga is fettered with rules in both how they are written and how they are drawn. Rules like 'thou shalt draw cute girls with a small-small nose and as big a set of eyes as possible without distorting the head' and 'movement must be conveyed with the use of speed lines'.

When you pick up a manga you can feel pretty confident you will be reading a pretty standard light hearted romp with some titillation and soapy style romance back story and some violence.

Manga is probably the largest industry (outside of pornography) that goes to such pains to not be about anything.

I have never read an essay on what Dragonball taught us about life, ourselves, or even fighting. I don't know the point of Doraemon, Tezuma wrote about stuff and it is probably why he is a startling exception. It seems though that as a general rule, the more experimental a manga artist is the less likely they are to succeed.

The difference between popular titles 'Naruto' and 'One Piece' is essentially the difference between a sausage in bread with sauce and a sausage in bread with tomato sauce. In the satirical booklet 'How Not To Draw Manga' the various archetypes and cliches of manga are explored thoroughly. They point to how their are only 6 character in manga. They would describe the main characters of both One Piece and Naruto as 'Kid Spritely' a hungry young boy that wants to take over the world.

Then you simply have weekly build ups to a fight that culminate in about a monthly biff-o and that's it. Surely it isn't that simple?

The redeeming point in manga is that with such prescriptive barriers, the innovators like Eichiro Oda and Takehiko Inoue find subtle but powerful ways to distinguish themselves in a sea of 'me-too' manga. Namely Takehiko uses both superior pacing and storytelling along with zen painting techniques to create quite powerful compositions. Eichiro makes conflict interesting by making his characters increasingly silly and exagerated, so there is always distorted perspective in the action thanks to the protagonist being made out of rubber.

But it remains that as popular as manga is, it doesn't make it right, good, or valuable. In fact manga's popularity amplifies the problem, the prescriptions get reinforced.

Whereas western comics are experiencing a relative 'Golden Age' in the past two decades. Thanks to the pioneering work of deconstructionist writers like Alan Moore, whom puts the very traditions of western comic heroes like Superman and the JLA under the microscope in 'Miracleman' and 'Watchmen' respectively.

The equivalent would be reading a manga story where some bright young kid set out on an adventure only to have his life ruined by teen-pregnancy and the social stigmas surrounding it or become paraplegic through ambitiosly taking on a rival beyond him. It seems instead though the manga fan is doomed to repititious 'false tention' where just as your hero seems beat god pops out of the machine and saves the day.

There will be no Miracle Man solving the worlds problems only to find his alter ego suicidal, his wife despondent and himself increasingly detached and disillusioned by his own power. Nor Rorschach asking to be obliterated as his moral absolutism is pushed aside by the popularity of consequential-ism.

Manga serves a role, for sure, the same role that 'The Lord of The Rings' and 'The Lion King' and other family favorites serves. 'Escapism' is the answer. Think about how morally shallow a piece of literature like Lord of The Rings is, Sauron is bad because he just is. He lives in a desert wasteland called Mordor, where a race of beings called orcs and the Nazghul seem to sustain themselves despite the infertile status of Sauron's nature. Sauron gets defeated by the returning king, and then all is well! everyone's happy. It seems that who is king simply magically transforms the economic wellbeing of everyone. No need for policies or any of THE HARDEST PART. Children don't learn how the world can be right and good or how the world can be bad and toxic, they simply learn that there is good and bad and the author (or any other authority) will tell you out of the goodness of their own heart who is good and who is bad.

Thus most fantasy/escapist writing is simply a travelogue through which one can think of bubblegum mountains and candy floss trees. Obviously such patent escapist writing would be dismissed as childrens stuff, yet most Manga is not and enjoyed well into adulthood in it's home culture Japan.

JRR Tolkein is on record as saying that the purpose of fantasy (as a genre) must be purely escapist and thus would hate writers like China Mieville for trying to take a political angle in his fantasy writing. (like a socialist alternative meeting they almost all end in 'armed revolution') Micheal Moorcock wrote an essay refuting this position called 'Epic Pooh'. As such whilst people may remain with JRR or against JRR the fact is that the western world has benefited greatly from the schism.

But it hasn't made significant impact on manga yet. It remains purely escapist. Structures are useful for writing, they are useful for roughing out proportions in drawing too. But to progress you have to abandon such firm reassuring structures and break all the rules and you may, just maybe come up with something else that works.

As such I've been following Brett Whiteley's advice and taking what I see in front of me and distorting it. Not only is it tremendous fun, but it also allows me to learn a lot about form, I will certainly not be picking up one of the 27 books available under the title 'How To Draw Manga' not because manga is necessarily bad but because I can't really tell one artist apart from another in manga, not without looking really really hard. In much the same way Jim Lee is my least favorite western comic book simulator because he is the most manga-esque artist.

I can name at least 5 comic book artists that would have close to nothing in common - Ben Shepherd, Tim Sale, Greg Capullo, Frank Miller, David Mack etc...

If you asked me whether to take the secure predictable fun of manga over the sometimes shite, mosttimes average and rarely brilliant western comic I'd refuse profusely. I'd rather take a machine that churns out the rare pearl than one that fills truckload after truckload of sand.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Overheard Conversations

As much as 'the black swan' has convinced me that making predictions is generally a waste of time, yesterday I got to sit next to two Malay cliche's. One was a fat dude who was loud, the other was a thin dude who was quiet.

The had some group assignment they were working on, the fat dude had done about a paragraph and thus his loudness owed much to listing a whole bunch of excuses. As someone who is also guilty of bullshitting, and using the basic technique of speaking Authoritatively on subjects I know nothing about this guy was like that.

His mate was having none of it though, the guy tried slapping his hand down and speaking fast and loud and finishing every sentence with 'lah!' shifting the blame onto his partner.

You see it more in country towns where some meathead guy emotionally bullies their girlfriend eg. the couple turn up late to the party because the guy overslept. The guy thus attributes blame to his girlfriend for not waking him up early.

The guy was speaking too fast and saying lah too much, but it seemed like he was blaming his partner for not checking that he (the fat guy) had done the work earlier.

To his skinny mate's credit he said 'listen, I don't care just do the fucking work'.

The fat dude sat and fumed, then had another crack at saying the quiet guy never did anything but complain, always complaining, and if he was going to complain then he shouldn't complain now but in the past when he didn't complain and that it wasn't fair that he was complaining now since he didn't complain before. or some bullshit.

I really felt compelled to turn around point to the fat guy and say:

'You act like a know-all but you sound like a know-nothing, and you'll fail pretty quickly in life'

and turn to the thin guy and say:

'Keep your resolve and you'll go really far'

To be honest I wanted to swear more at the fat guy because he was not just a loser, he was a loser that was pissing me off by being a loud loser. Somethings wrong with social convention that nobody picks these dudes off sooner.

Such infantile tactics, like really, the sort of tactics parents are meant to arrest at age 5 at the latest. I might also predict the fat dude's dad is the same and has some how managed to employ his sense of entitlement to forge a heavily subsidized, globally non-competitive business, like Proton.

At any rate it is odd to come across a pair where one is as impressive as the other is unimpressive.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Silent Evidence and Musha Shugyo

Financial crisis got you worried? Downtrodden? Has the collapse of everything your parents sought to build undermined your belief in the world? Does your career path now look meaningless?

Why not pick up a sword and challange someone to mortal combat?

It seems ridiculous, but when I reread Takehiko's Vagabond recently along with Taleb Kweli's 'Black Swan' I am reconsidering.

I think the world may have lost something in the extinction of the Japanese tradition of Musha Shugyo.

Some qualifications, by tradition it was not like say 'walkabout' in the Australian Indegenous example or the 'vision quest' of Native American persuasion. It was not a passage into adulthood. It was simply an optional way of life.

The beauty of Takehiko is his ability to provide such a convincing narative in his fictionalised account of Musashi's life. For example the character of Ito Ittosai a mysterious figure in Japanese history and another aparantly invincible swordsman although there are no records to indicate any formal duels just anecdotes and oral traditions.

Anyway Inoue's Ito (are you following) demonstrated the weakness of groupism in Vagabond when he handed out scores to a group of 5 swordsmen wishing to challange him. He gave them numbers ranging between 1-9 based on his judgement of their ability, giving himself 10,000 points. Denshichiro the second heir of the Yoshioka school enquires what his score is, naming his famous father. Ito responds that he uses his father's name to intimidate opponents and also has 'a babysitter, that's why you get a zero score' pointing out the Denshichiro characters key weakness throughout the story - a lack of self esteem.

I raise Vagabond and 'The Black Swan' together because Vagabond is an obvious narative, a fictionalised account of a historical figure, based on another fictional account that suggests its own explanations for what made Musashi an invincible swordsman. The Black Swan is all about the narrative fallacy and limits of knowledge.

Even Musashi's treatise on his own success at cutting men down the 'Go Rin No Sho' is a narrative. Musashi certainly states that he wrote the work because he did not believe luck played a role in his success. For the record I don't believe luck played a significant role in his success.

The problem Black Swan raises is that of silent evidence. Silent evidence is the 30 second news bit on a lottery winner that causes people to grossly overestimate their odds of winning the lottery, more precisely, the silent evidence is the 9 and a half years of 30 second news bits on every single loser from a single weeks lottery we don't see to put the one winner in perspective.

Silent evidence is Donald Trumps somewhat fickle fortune that drives people to buy his books laying out the secrets of his success. The silent evidence being the hundreds of thousands of ambitious people like Donald Trump that bought his books and still aren't rich. (and if there's any justice in the world, aren't even modestly successful).

So too it is hard to know whether there were any swordsman in Musashi's time that were just as skilled at fighting as him that happened to lose. What is the balance between Musashi truly having an invincible system of fighting (pure skill) to Musashi being the probable equivalent of a coin flipped 60 times and coming up heads all 60 times (pure luck)?

Incidently Taleb himself raises a coin toss example in The Black Swan he calls the Ludic fallacy, he describes a nerd as thinking inside the box and thus accepting that the coin is fair, when told it has come up heads 99 times and what are the odds of the next toss being tails, under the assumption it is an easily identified gambler's fallacy. The odds don't change based on historical results.
The other example is the outside the box thinker that rejects the assumption and says based on the evidence the coin must be loaded. Not making the Ludic fallacy.
My understanding of the Ludic fallacy is that you can't translate mathematical games to real life situations, a mistake nerds make thinking inside the box when estimating risk.

Under the Ludic fallacy you would then assume that there was a special property to Musashi that meant the chances of any given samurai fighting against him and emerging victorious where going to be 'less than 1%'

I intend to thus in exploring Musha Shugyo practitioners demonstrate what a legitimate lifestyle choice the Musha Shugyo was. Perhaps more so than many of the options presented to us by career advisors.

I will discuss it in terms of what I've read about so far in 'the black swan' because I find it highly complementary reading to Vagabond.

1. Musha Shugyo is in the province of Extremistan

In Vagabond Inoue has one character observe that Musashi has chosen a lifestyle with 'less than 1/10,000 chance of succeeding' whether young men that chose to go on the warrior's pilgrimage were actually aware of the odds or not is unknowable.
It's plausible that they were overestimating the odds of success due to silent evidence, your average country samurai or farm boy entertaining delusions of grandeur as an invincible warrior based on all the stories they heard of legendary warriors that were triumphant (like Ito Ittosai in Musashi's case) and not hearing stories about the 10,000 warriors that went out into the world and failed almost immediately.
The other view is that Japan has a cultural heritage of celebrating 'honorable losers' as well. People who risked all and lost were often just as celebrated as those who risked all and one. It was a romantic notion.

Furthermore bringing it back to Taleb's terminology Mediocristan is where people assume little risk for constant small rewards. 'betting dollars to win pennies' was the phraseology I liked. As such for a Japanese kid choosing career paths, being a rice farmer was the way to go. You got fed and sheltered. You worked hard, but you were defenceless against improbable large scale events like Earthquakes, Fires and War. Being a farmer is what most people chose/had forced upon them.

Over in extremistan though there was the Musha Shugyo. Wandering around Japan with no guaruntee of shelter or food, pitting your life against strong opponents in order to walk away with (most desirably) a post as a sword instructor for a fuedal lord or else dying in the attempt. One strong swordsman would win, many others would lose. Even if you won 5 iterations of mortal combat, you may lose one of the ten teaching posts available to a swordsman who won 20 duels. Your life was not worth much, but the top of the tree won big. 'betting pennies to win dollars'. You more or less threw your life away for a remote chance at the good life.

Here then is the first absence felt in modern civilization (pitting your life may still be a reality in failed states, drug gangs spring to mind too), one cannot risk one's life as a way of life. Sure there is base jumping. but it isn't the same. One all other analogies were almost never legally sanctioned. There was duelling pistols in European Aristocracy, and fencing in Renaissance Italy, Germany and so fourth. But Duels were legally sanctioned in Japan. If a formal challange was issued, murder could not be charged. The two opponents formed a contract in which the winner ended the others life (with another possibility of both dying in the act).

The closest I can think of is Gunslingers in the old west. Fastest draw in the west and what not. These too are narratives, but a clear distinction between the Musha Shugyo and Gunfighting is that Musha Shugyo was a learning and developmental process. Gunfighting was accidental.

Famous gunfighters never fought each other, and went to pains to avoid eachother, it was not a test of skill. They were crimes born of necessity, accident or compulsion and usually involved Kid Curry shooting unsuspecting policemen, or Wild Bill shooting someone while hunting and so fourth. Infact the wikipedia description of gunfighting says the main tactic of the quick draw was not the tense standoff of reflexes but trying to distract your opponent in an underhanded 'psyche out' way and then shoot them (akin to a sucker punch).

Musha Shugyo was in many ways opposite, they provided a controlled environment (that you still wouldn't trust) and the more success you had the stronger the opponents you were expected to face.

As such, the mentality of someone adopting the lifestyle was that you would likely wind up killed sooner or later. As George Orwell opens 1984 with 'Once he knew he was dead it became of the utmost importance to stay alive as long as possible'. The narrative I put forward, and the one Vagabond captures well is that death in Musha Shugyo was not a matter of if, but rather a game of when. (but isn't it anyway).

2. Swordfighting is Know How.

Taleb makes the distinction between Know-how and know-what. The difference being that know-how involve disciplines like carpentry, surgery, chemistry, physics, engineering etc. Professions where you can do something, some specified task (say lift 20kgs) with precision and correctness. Definitive correctness. If you are cutting out a kidney, the evidence is easily tested, the kidney is cut out AND the patient is alive AND better for it. This means in know-what professions you can have experts.

Know-what professions are knowledge based and thus rely on prediction and understanding. Things like Economist, Marketing, Advertising, Social Commentator, Historian. I believe Taleb describes them as moving targets where the knowledge base is subject to change. These professions cannot have experts due to the unpredictability factor.

The case for Swordfighting (kendo) being a know-what is that the opponent is always going to be a variable, the technique used to cut down 59 previous opponents has no guaruntee of working the 60th time.

That said there is plenty of basis for know how - human anatomy does not vary enough to invalidate the practitioner from predicting how to kill someone. Bleeding to death is a know-how assumption, (assuming the opponent is human). Slicing the jugular, piercing a 'vital' organ or just plain cutting someone in half should always result in death.

If you know a range of weapons you might also be able to accumulate know-how in how to deal with defence. It's worth pointing out that being a General in fuedal Japan may have been a 'know-what' profession in practice, particularly those that went up against Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi who introduced rifles for the first time.

But their are reliable (as reliable as history gets, which is to say not very reliable) accounts of Musashi defeating wielders of Halbierds, Bow and Arrow, Sickle and Chain, Staff, Swords of Various lengths, Spears etc. He prescribes being familiar with a whole range of weapons in his school. A fundemental of being a bushi.

The Yagyu school also provide evidence of swordsmanship being a 'know-what' profession. Their ultimate technique was the 'No-sword' technique, a system the Yagyu masters employed to disarm opponents. They were willing to enter mortal combat against someone weilding a sword with bare hands.

Silent evidence though casts a cloud of doubt over whether an 'invincible technique' exists. One question of silent evidence being that Musashi never faced off with the Yagyu master - Yagyu Munenori who's 'Life Giving Sword' is probably the second big treatise on swordsmanship after the 'Go Rin No Sho'. Both swordsman's schools survive incidently, I get a feeling the transmission of technique has less vagueries in the Yagyu school.

If Musashi had lost to Yagyu Munenori or Munenori lost to Musashi would we have heard of the loser today? For sure if Musashi had been killed the Go Rin No Sho would not have been written, so the survivor gets to provide a narrative.

Here though is my surviving narrative - my justification for swordsmanship being 'know-what' though I will admit, luck is still going to play a part. Taleb points out that whilst 'true randomness' and 'chaotic determinism' have a mathematical distinction practically they are irrelevant, indistinguishable.

Mathematically I believe Musashi wins, practically Musashi's book trumps the Yagyu schools. Indeed, why not let their books fight the 'know-what' argument.

The Yagyu committed to paper the 'half-moon length' or something technique. I can't remember it's name, but in practice it meant that you controlled the battle by predicting accurately the reach of your opponents attack, then controlled this distance. A two dimensional game that relied on precision forecasting - an incredible eye. The Yagyu's must have been some painters being able to translate an upright stance into reach so confidently, that's an amazing sense of proportion. The equivalent of being as accurate as 3d modelling software.

Musashi's game as committed to paper was based around the inaccuracy of forecasting, something I would hope Taleb Kweli would approve of. The margin of error in Musashi's technique was far more relevant than his predictions. The 'middle stance' is what it is called and it is about the relative position of your opponents weapon.

it requires no real degree of accuracy, it is thrilling to read Musashi put down 'If he lifts his sword high, point yours at his eyes' so too if he goes to the left - you move left, if he goes low cut up at his hands.

Furthermore, Musashi makes a point that every single 'beat' should be an attack, if your opponent deflects your sword you attack on the rebound. Musashi plays an imprecise game which is exactly his mastery.

To paraphrase a business maxim I don't know where it came from 'to double your success rate, double your failure rate'. On offense Musashi tried to get in more hits than his opponent did, controlling the pace and play and opting for a stack of individually small odds accumulating a high probability of landing a fatal hit. Furthermore on defense he kept it as broad as possible, to capture as many offensive uncertainties as possible.

On top of this the true strength of having two swords (instead of one) meant that Musashi was twice as unpredictable himself. I have assumed that the Yagyu No-sword disarming technique is dependant on the assumption that your opponent carries one weapon in two hands and not two weapons in two hands.

Even then Musashi facing off someone else adept at staying alive in a profession that has the highest probability of death outside of suicide will attract a degree of uncertainty. Which is why it remains mathematical. But even in maths - Musashi's technique certainly trumps the Yagyu's. his approach is one adapted to unknowledge.

That said if Musashi fought with his preferred weapon - the wooden practice sword, all my mathematical modelling falls apart, that I couldn't be certain of. the only thing I'm fairly certain of is that no duel between them ever happened.

But a general 'know-how' rule I believe Musashi uncovered is that techniques that are based on precision are doomed to fail sooner rather than later. Techniques based on imprecision are bound to succeed.

3. The Turkey Problem

Bertrand Russell creates a problem that Taleb raises often in 'The Black Swan'. It is the problem of knowledge in general, 'how can we draw general knowledge from specific observations' - Bertrand uses a Chicken, and being not from North America I will stick with the Chicken.
A chicken might make the daily observation that a human feeds it. For 1000 days the chicken collects more evidence that the human has its best interests at heart and will protect it and feed it. On the 1001st day the chicken is cooked for Christmas dinner.
The point being that the Chicken is most convinced of its safety at the highest point of danger. This is the problem Kaleb extracts to point out that if an argument is conditional on the survivors ability to make it, it should be disregarded.

Examples in black swan being arguments about why Nuclear War will never occur (which could not be made if you were killed in a nuclear war), or why 'us' New Yorkers always bounces back (which could not be made if New Yorkers were suddenly to fall to the ground and stay there).

How then can a survivor like Musashi make the observation that he is invincible, when many other people at the time were also presently alive and yet did not make the same bold claim.

Well hopefully Musashi was smart enough to describe himself as an 'invincible swordsman'. Because its patently true that he died, from cancer. Also I'm sure his technique was never so fancy that he might claim to have been able to survive standing under the payload of 'fat boy' when it detonated over Hiroshima bay. (strangely enough the building it did detonate directly over is still standing [western architecture ironically]).

Notably, Musashi survived where his most famous opponent Sasaki Kojiro did not, Sasaki could no longer make the argument he was invincible from precisely the moment he died. Does this observation make Musashi's argument invalid?


But again it is a corner of history where narrative has to be used, without pretense to being real history. The know-what argument points to again a difference in technique.

Musashi knew something definitively that Sasaki did not. Sasaki's famed technique was 'The Swallow Cut' no diagrams or instructions remain but it was described as mimicking a swallow's tail in flight, so the general accepted hypothesis (see how much uncertainty is in history) is that it was a swift down motion, followed by a quick upstroke.

When in my minds eye I try to deglamorize sword play (think Kurosawa's ending duel in Sanjuru vs. Ang Lee's stylistic and choreographed dance piece fights of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) I imagine that Sasaki probably owed much of his success to this simple deception.

He used 'tactics of mistake' that were probably actually superior to the Yagyu's technique. He used a naginata (that much IS known) that was long and straight unlike the preferred katana. So like Musashi he was unusual, normal assumptions didn't work.

the assumption you would make was that his reach was greater than normal, so when this big guy stepped forward and thrust his sword down missing you be inches, you would naturally assume that it was safe to charge in and strike (you would have to step closer because if you'd been keeping a safe distance your katana would never have outreached his naginata to hit his body) Stepping in if Kojiro had suddenly and quickly attacked with an upward stroke you would have found your assumption that the attack was finished AND more crucially the assumption that he had missed was wrong. You would have ended up running onto the end of a sword perforating your bowels, stomach, heart, neck depending on how fast you moved.

It was a dirty, sucker punch, a 'tactic of mistake' where you lure someone into committing an error by appearing to do so your self.

Again that narrative I just made up. Musashi beat Sasaki's head in with an oar then ran away (assuming an ambush, a reasonable assumption that he 'didn't know if he was safe').

Whether Musashi jumped, or attacked on Sasaki's downstroke (thus thwarting a one-trick-pony) or dodged to the side or whatever is not really known. The thing that makes me believe Musashi developed 'invincible know-how' is two-fold.

At any rate it is irelevant, Musashi won the fight, but what did this fight represent? Unlike the chicken/turkey problem, the longer a Musha Shugyo vagabond survives the more danger he percieves to himself. He percieves his risk as greatest, because in essence you are A) required to essentially throw your life away as you enter each duel and B) you are actively encouraged towards stronger and stronger opponents.

it isn't a coin toss, in other words, Musashi probably one the duel because it took him so long to get there. A younger man with less fighting experience is more likely to overestimate his abilities because his own status as a fighter reflects on his opponent. In other words, a rookie vs a rookie will probably accurately assess their own level of danger, a rookie vs a 3 win opponent might assume that the experience difference is not so great if the swordsman is still fighting rookies.

A rookie will probably feel they are in danger no matter who they fight, but if a 5 win swordsman fights a 8 win swordsman, they probably won't assume the same level of danger as a rookie vs a 3 win opponent. The distortions are going to multiply the longer you are in the game 20 vs 30? 27 vs 50? I won't pretend to know it, but Darwinian natural selection probably means their is a 'magic threshold' were the survivors of x number of duels are the one's that make no assumptions beyond 'there's an unknowable chance i will get killed, be cautious for fucks sake.'

Musashi ends his book with the book of emptiness, like Taleb points out about Nietzsche's superman - Musashi's book of emptiness is something anyone interprets as they wish. Some projecting it as mystical, others that it was some specific mind emptying technique. Myself I choose to interpret it as 'abandoning assumptions' the Zen tradition hopefully corroborates this interpretation.

In other words Musashi as the Chicken would assess only the instant predicament, the present. The previous 1000 days of evidence account for nothing, so on the 1001st day Musashi watches the human feeder with skepticism judging his actions and intents as they come.

The second piece of evidence I feel is Musashi's most extraordinary claim, more so than being invincible. Musashi claimed that through mastery of the sword, he had mastered everything.

Not exactly everything, he did not become omniscient, but rather he could become a master of something with no instruction.

I have to cede some doubt to Japan's cultural context, mastery was prescriptive. Most pursuits were vary 'know-how' oriented, seperated into schools and meme's often rigorously reinforced when transferred from master to pupil. As such mastering sculpture or sumi-e without having a teacher was probably culturally unthinkable. Yet Musashi's works survive.

admittedly they could also be evidence that Musashi had very, very good hand eye coordination. Except their is an artfulness to sumi-e that is not about capturing reality, but instead painting using an absolute economy of strokes. Similarly carving wooden statues was proscriptive as well, so Musashi was an imitator at least.

I would not imagine that he became able to predict the future or necessarily a master of 'know-what' professions. At any rate there are no masters of 'know-what' with which to benchmark him against, nor any surviving evidence that he mastered commerce or what-not.

And that's where I will leave 'The Black Swan' comparisons behind. There are western basis of comparison with Musashi Miyamoto - Michelangelo who was a master of sculpture, painting and drawing, Leonardo who was a master artist as well as engineer and mathematician, and I lost the name but I think it is Frederico Ghisliero who applied Euclidean geometry to Italian rapier street fighting.

Michelangelo and Leonardo were called 'Renaissance men' nowadays known as 'Polymath' which should really be applied to Musashi Miyamoto as well. Taleb Kweli author of 'The Black Swan' is described as a polymath, and ironically is close in approach to Musashi, both of them acknowledging the significant role of the unknown in their application.

The Renaissance Man was originally a title that was meant to indicate someone who had obtained mastery of all known areas of knowledge (something that was considered far more obtainable in the Renaissance than is now, albeit much like the Achilles vs the Tortoise motion paradox, the frontiers of knowledge will perpetually expand faster than our ability to reach it). So it is ironic that it may be aplied to someone who embraces the fact that they don't know much, cannot predict, but as such doesn't take risks blindfolded.

But returning to my original feeling, that the world has lost something by losing the tradition of Musha Shugyo, I would simply point out - if people can become polymaths by surviving a series of duels to the death, or from painting ceilings for 7 years, or from cutting apart animals and drawing their insides it is just as legitimate a way to spend your life as being a doctor or lawyer.

Our society has become geared as such where a relatively meaningless profession such as being a Lawyer or Doctor is desirable, where a lifestyle of fighting mortal combat with other willing opponents is unthinkable.

I guess you need to have an existential crisis to appreciate it really, but if I was a commodoties trader betting on a growth area this year it would be existential crisis as millions watch their parents worldview and retirement plans wiped out by market corrections. A lot of young people just starting out in life (that's anyone betwixt 2-50) are having to face facts that a lot of crucial assumptions about how we interact with the universe and just what is a valuable expenditure of the crucial resource of time are wrong. Dead wrong.

There are traders posted in skyscrapers (the epitome of human security and superiority) that have blindly eradicated the homes of millions of people. To me the idea that someone disillusioned might learn something from a lifestyle of known extreme risk, that someone might want to push their challenge of their own existence to such an extreme as to ask someone to kill or be killed is not that controversial.

If you asked me 'would I (tohm) do it?' the answer is I honestly don't know. I would unquestionably find the experience of surviving mortal combat temptingly unique and distinct from say surviving some involuntary situation. At the same time, the unknown risk is insurmountable, thanks to my cultural programming. Furthermore I doubt I could take a life even of a willing participant. Strongly doubt it. I thus far think I'm cowardly enough to avoid even defending my own life with lethal force.

If I could contemplate it from the perspective of a Japanese farm boy, weighing up between a life of secure serfdom vs an almost certain prospect of an exciting death (the 'almost' is the tantilising part) I like to think I'd choose the latter.

I like to think that as far as modern contexts allow, that is the choice I'm currently making. (substitute 'financial and reputational ruin' with 'death' in the paragraph above)

Appendix 1: Sanjuro fight scene (blink and you'll miss it)

Appendix 2: Crouching Tiger blah blah blah scene (why I'd still back Japan over China)

Falling off the Wagon, and climbing back on

On Tuesday as I prepared to go to bed I realised two things.

As far as I could tell my knee was all better.

This is the precise moment my exercise regime falls apart and I go back to eating myself out of all physical fitness.

Last week my weight hit 78kg at one point. (back to 80 currently).

My metabolism is back on track making me eat two lunches per day just about. Unfortunately this puts me in a state whereby I start finding exercise a pain in the arse when all I want to do is eat, continuously, until 3 months later when I suddenly find my metabolism has slowed down so much I struggle to finish a happy meal.

That too and I didn't do a weekly post last week, because again I just couldn't be bothered. It is very hard to arrest yourself when you just don't notice that you subconsciously let all routine go.

Indeed, perhaps it is because I was going gangbusters, injury (even minor) was inevitable and the learning curve was going to taper off steeply. Getting up to 20km runs into week 3 of a training program is climbing everest in a half step.

Furthermore the benefit to running 800m is questionable. It has occured to me that whilst running 20km is physically taxing, particularly on my joints, it is not particularly mentally taxing. In fact I have concluded that counterintuitively I have taken to running longer and longer distances in my old age because they are much easier than running middle distance.

If you run 6 km then you have to worry about doing it in less than half an hour (5 min per k) to even look at yourself in the mirror. 3km you want to crack 14 min. But 10km maybe an hour is decent, and if you do it in an hour and 5 hey who's to say where you went wrong, head-wind, drink break, whatever.

I find running long distance I have generally stopped thinking about pace all together. It is alright to slow down to a shuffle-shimmy to tackle a headwind or an uphill because all you are worrying about is finishing the distance and anything that isn't a walk doesn't count as a failure.

Indeed, I now just plug in the ipod and simply switch off my brain, it only has to become active to say 'half way' and 'almost home' for those little pushes. Such that when I hit a wall on a long distance run my mind either wins straight away or gives up straight away.

On a middle distance run though (and this is what I need for the 800m) you start caring about pace and mentally you have a constant job. Only when I was really fit, and by that I appreciate now just how fucking fit I was, could I go into a trance and think about the chorus to Red Hot Chilli Peppers 'give it away now' ad infinutum, because my feet were turning over about as fast.

Right now at my current fitness, my mind has to say constantly:

You are a fucking pussy, come on you cunt, you fucking cunt, you are the biggest fucking cunt you are going to make it to that tree you fucking vagina, oh you made it to the tree congratu-fucking-lations you can't stop there you little faggot, you little bitch come on you are going to fuck this little corner like you fuck your mamma in your dreams, you run up there or I'll skull fuck you you fucking anal-cream-pie faced fucking fucktard, you fucking gimp, If you stop now I'll tattoo a vagina on your arse and post you to a mexican prison horhe, you cunt puncher fucking keep it up, COME ON go fucking faster, my fucking grandma runs faster than you, you taco munching bitch...

Etc. today's run was not yet about pace though, instead I kept reminding myself about posture.

I ran 4km today and it was just about doing it. This is what must be done when you fall of the wagon, namely... something. Something, anything must be done. And so I went through the ritual of getting changed and then making myself run, just to fucking run.

I vow hereby to run at least 3km per day for the next 20days, (next 19 including today) and that doesn't mean averaging it, or doing a 20km run and resting for 6 days. I may still do a long distance run, depending on how I am feeling, but this is simply aboot exercising consistently.

I will continue on my core exercises, and hey I may even gun for 100 consecutive pushups too if I'm going to hand John's ass to him in December. But the rest of the numbers can fuck themselves.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Hate Groupism, if Groupism had a heart I would stab at thee with Hell's Fury

I hate groupism for the same reason I hate 4x4 prams and bicycles with baskets on the front. Congestion.

Whilst I have a deep felt love of asian cuisine, xen philosophy, eastern design elements, asian architecture (traditional) etc. It is impossible for me to traverse Melbourne's CBD without getting flushes of pure unbridled rage at the Asian cultural imperative to do no task, no matter how trivial, without being in a group no smaller than 5.

Now I firmly believe that people are people, I don't believe there is any genetic trait that dictates someones partiality to groupism but instead it is a cultural meme. I know that pretty much the entire Japanese education system is dedicated to memetically reinforcing groupism, and this colossal waste of energy is why Japan currently has the worst economic outlook in the world (I'm sure others will catch up though). So groupism if I had to take a stab in the dark as to why it is so prevelant amongst asian cultures, I would guess it is a meme that survived because it keeps the general ublic weak and dependant on existing institutions.

But back to congestion, at my residential college we had tables in the dining hall of 8 places. 3 on the long sides and 2 seats at the head. This design floor had not taken into account the strong groupist tendancies of the students International House was committed to housing. Such that it was not an unusual sight to see three 'outsiders' (from the perspective of a given group) sitting at one practically empty table and 16 'groupies' sitting around a table of 8.

So too I witness a group of 5 people accompanying one person to borrow a library book. I see 6 people go into a store to buy one mobile phone. Most annoying of all though is the transit effect. Instead of just being able to meet in the QV food court, these groups seem to have to travel together, clogging up lane ways and escalators and so fourth.

Now everyone without exception bemoans the loss of community values in the modern age and the disconnectedness we have from our peers. I believe the true tragedy of this development particularly in city life in the western memetic sphere, has not given rise to self esteem.

The word, the mother fucking word is 'extrinsic' in the western memoplex living extrinsicly means aquiring status symbols under the dictates of taste. While consumerism is certainly rampant in the eastern memoplex, which I lengthily discussed earlier it doesn't have to operate under the confines of taste and refinement. That's because living extrinsically as far as I have read on the topic means drawing your esteem from the group.

I'm sure self esteem or living 'intrinsic' occurs in both cultural spheres because things like introversion and other personality factors that might lead to the development of self esteem must exist equally around the world. I do know that bullying is ingrained in both Japanese education, government and the work place to punish anyone who may want to go against the group.

The net effect though is that it makes me feel like a wolf amongst sheep. These groups I see everywhere don't strike me as a security convoy as such, being that there is generally no charismatic focus surrounded by a bunch of intimidating button men. Instead I just see 5 people that have the net worth of 1.

Now I must confess to failing the 'you cannot judge a man until you have walked 1,000 miles in their shoes' test, I have not even walked the 1,000 mile ordeal that is the time taken to even try to enter an established group. Nor could I call up my Balifornian buddies and said 'Hey guys do you want to get together and do... everything together?' as alas even though we were a 'group' back in highschool, we all each had our own very different lives.

I spent my weekends being introverted, had friends from the boarding house, from the public high school down the road, we didn't even have coordinated time tables.

The advantage we all gained from such loose affiliation is the power of choice, which groupism I feel crushes. It creates an artificial homogeniety. Japan being the extreme, because negative emotions are taboo and not to be expressed at any cost it is apparantly customary for everyone to order the same thing as the boss at the restaurant, unless you invoke the very real danger of 'order envy'.

So too must everyone dress the same, so too must everyone go see the same movie. I love my friends, but to be honest if I had to do everything with them, I would fucking kill myself.

Through my reading and development I have come to realise that in my lifelong quest of discovering universals, every effort I make to determine any makes them less likely to exist. I hate universals, and the artificial homogeniety of a group is firmly entrenched in universals.

Much of why fashion I believe is bullshit, consumerism a hollow pursuit, and anarchy the best political system all stems from my disbelief in universals. Whilst I believe if you have a moral code you should apply it universaly, I don't believe in a universal moral code.

(I infact think Dawkins discussion of Evolutionary Stable Strategies does a better job of explaining the coexistence of so many morale codes eg. Consequntialism vs Absolutism etc simultaneously than any philosophical offering, I believe people have a selection of morale codes that are applied context specifically.)

This is what I hate about groupism, in order for such an artificial identity to operate, the suprression of your own will and interests must be constant. If I may make an abusive analogy, it is the same as wind resistance - the larger the object, the more drag meaning the more important aerodynamics are. That is the more rigid the 'shape' has to be.

Again with Japan (sorry I actually observe more Malay and Chinese groups in Australia that spark my rage but Japan is the only culture where I have any insight) anything popular is 'universally popular' which is why when Ayumi Hamasaki brings out a new lipstick it's market penatration can be 100% within a week. 100% that literally means almost every teenage girl, every last one has the exact same shade of lipstick for however long the fad lasts. The sheer logistics, the gamble any other country would have to make on having such huge stocks make 100% market penatration impossible. The iPhone which might be seen as 2008's 'must have' accessory in Australia wouldn't even have 100% penetration.

Fucking facebook doesn't have 100% penetration. Mobile phones don't have 100% penetration in Australia. I would guess something becomes incredibly passe, guache or just plain faggy when it hits 30% penetration in Australia.

This is because for some reason in Australia once you have more than 2 people who are the same together (which can be explained by the phenomenon of 'twins' meaning you would extend the benefit of the doubt) it just becomes sad. Moreover you may also be understanding that in a small country town every guy and girl may literally go to the same hairdresser, and have to outfit at the same clothing store explaining country town trends, but my experience shows that even then country bumkins make efforts to do some shopping in 'the big smoke' once or twice a year.

That for me is the clincher. All I have to do to shake a groups resolve and have them questioning their security, is intrude. Walk between a group. Its like a 5 (or more) way baby snatching. The problem with motherfucking living extrinsicly is that it is unstable. Groupism is very different from 'team' a team is where you take individual strengths to compensate for individual weaknesses, much like a short speedy player can be complemented equally by a tall strong albeit slow player on a team. Groupism is repressing individual strengths to give an illusory sense of security that comes from reinforced weakness.

Perhaps the most poigniant example is that of relative language abilities. Not being able to speak english well is a weakness in the context of Melbourne, it is not particularly tourist friendly, with very little multi-language signage and few bilingual locals. In a group an ESL student can feel comfortable knowing that they have the support of several other bad english speakers, with whom they can converse fluently in not just their local language but often their local dialect. (My Chinese uni-pals are all from Wuhan in China and don't seem to associate with say Shanghai students).
The mutual weakness is reinforced rather than overcome, and it allows many international students to spend 3 years in a foreign country with little to no improvement in their English speaking ability.

As a case in point, Jerry was the only one of my Wuhan friends that was unable to get exempted from PSP (workplacement) semester at RMIT. While the rest of the Wuhan crew got to benefit of graduating with no work experience. Jerry was forced to endure alone at an outer suberb, very white, autowreckers business.

I was amazed that in 3 months Jerry's English took a quantum leap. He became 10 times better at public speaking and english conversation than his close friends, gaining confidence too. By forcing him to sink or swim on his own away from his group RMIT actually managed to further his education in one semester beyond what he had achieved in the previous 3 years.

It works in reverse as well. In my year 12 Japanese class I was the worst Japanese speaker out of 8. After a 3 month exchange where I had been painted into a corner where I needed to speak Japanese for myself I had improved dramatically, but one of my homestay buddies Brenton could speak Japanese at least 3 times better than I could and was miles ahead on day one.

Last year when I went to Japan, admittedly I had an advantage of having Japanese friends and a Japanese girlfriend in the interviening years since highschool, but Brenton who had been at that stage working in Tokyo for 6 months for an English speaking firm I was amazed to find could speak only shamefully poor Japanese, where whilst remaining illiterate, I could navigate the length of Japan with little or no assitance from english speakers. Having survived in the relative backwater of Takematsu where english speaking is a virtual non-event. (one of my favorite places in Japan as a result).

Self esteem is what is required to take the leap of faith out of your comfort zone and grow and develope. Groupism locks you firmly within a comfort zone as the world passes you by.

It is perhaps why every single eastern culture has only achieved their 'economic miracles' whilst playing catch-up and have universally (I know, I know) faltered at the very brink of becoming leaders like Japan in 1989 and China in 2008. COnversly Brazil seem to be the unspoken of hero's of development. They have a true functional democracy and I have read been developing steadily with none of the risk exposure that China, India and Russia have carried. They have even been trying to win on environmental fronts, as China and Russia race to claim oil reserves that are becoming accessable thanks to climate change melting of polar icecaps!

Brazil's democracy I kid you not shits all over Westminster and America, they have a president from a peasant background and actual choices on policy that Chomsky points out would be unthinkable in the west.

I just wish Universities would step up and institute 'group busting' activities, like primary schools used to change seating plans periodically (and even in highschool Brenton and I were forced to sit in chairs that placed us at the greatest diagonal distance possible in year 10 science) much as I wish lecturers would say 'Hey look kids, it's first year, it's a cakewalk. We just ask you to attend the classes and tutes, maybe a bit of studying the week before the exam, but other than that do us a favor and live your life'.

Monday, March 16, 2009

On the warpath in the library, Friedman and Gladwell

The 'GFC' is thus far more enjoyable than unenjoyable for me. I have no debt, and perhaps more crucially no real assets. I'm at the begnning of my work life which more crucially I still don't value very much.

Sweetest of all from my vantage point though is that the Global Financial Crisis reveals just what a total piece of shit Thomas Friedman's book 'The World Is Flat' really is. I still don't know if it is one hugely successful practical joke, like China Mieville's 'The Scar' where the characters all chase after the 'Magus Fin' as in 'maguffin' so too does a book called 'The World Is Flat' turn out to be as grosse a misreading of the times and environment as the early notion that the 'World is Flat'.

How is it that Friedman and I can look at the same thing and come to such startling polar opposite conclusions. Namely he looks at the overwhelming number of formally educated, hard working, maths/science/engineering/IT masters graduates being produced by India and China and percieve them as the greatest threat to Western Economic dominance while I on the other hand look at the overwhelming number of formally educated, hard working, maths/science/engineering/IT masters graduates being produced by India and China and conclude that they will most certainly almost never be a threat, ever.

Infact the most threatening things about the 'Big Emerging Markets' is the Small Established Markets dictating the rules of play to them. Western institutions namely the IMF, WTO, World Bank, Ivy League and a smattering of corporations run largely by morons ensure that these nations charge headlong into some universal dead end.

This struck me today in particular because I wanted to sit down for a while and do some drawing feeling footsore in the city. I went to the Business Library in RMIT. It is Tuesday (meaning University students might actually be in attendance) but it's also week 3 (which means the majority should be engaging in skipping classes by now) but alas, the Library! The fucking Library! was packed. Packed with international students hitting the books. Hitting the books in week 3!

I managed to graduate from Business school having never borrowed a book, nor ever, ever having gone to the library for any other reason to meet with a study group to decide who was the most trustworthy one person to do all the work.

How ironic then that I was pissed off that these international students were as I saw it wasting the schools resources (desk space) by engaging in the very activities that the school and library intended. Instead of allowing me (not currently studying) to draw (not a waste of time).

This struck me as laughably odd. Normally I am quite respectful of students. I use the lab computers for example only if it isn't busy and there are plenty of spares, and fuck off if it gets busy. I don't go in at all in the latter half of semester when all the assignments are due.
But today seeing students collapsed onto text books and note books in the library in week 3 of the semester, I just thought - what a complete waste of fucking energy.

Infact even looking at that statement, I'm actually sure if the students were to expend all that energy fucking, it would be energy better spent.

Because University isn't that hard, and it certainly isn't that rewarding.

I remember one of the first classes I decided to skip as often as was humanly possible was 'business computing' where we were taken through the features of 'the office suite' on Microsoft. For a student that completed high school on a laptop, this seemed like a slap in the face with distended testicles.

Having worked though now I can appreciate that a Uni has to have standards and one of those inevitably has to be - that their graduates are not confused and overwhelmed by Word, Excel Spreadsheets, Access Databases and emailing. Having actually had my career fasttracked at one point by rudimentary excel abilities I now realise that the average Business graduate when compared to say the average Nike Shoe is in fact a pretty shoddy and unreliable product.

For example most marketing courses still allow 80% of students to graduate without knowing a working definition of 'Brand Equity' the exact Big-Red-Button-that-You-Do-Not-Push of the whole profession.

So the idea that there is anything to be gained by studying textbooks picked out by lecturers that allow incompetent people to graduate and carry their brand on their resume as the run company after company into the ground is completely laughable.

I've mentioned it before but I'll raise it again because it demonstrates both the stupidity of University and of Economics and Thomas Friedman in general -

To an economist KFC is an incredibly stupid food to eat - not only is it expensive straight up, but the hidden cost of the health hit you take makes it even more expensive than it appears.

So why is it that at KFC the 'stupid' members of the public can form the super efficient 'Omni-queue' Where everyone forms one line and the person at the front goes to whichever of 4 registers opens first and yet RMIT students can't even figure out how to queue for the computers in the computer lab. They instead choose to wander around aimlessly hoping they walk past some random computer at the exact moment that someone decides to pack up and leave.

Education is low in my esteem because it fails to pass the basic test of empiricism. Namely it sets so much of its criteria around hard work, the exact same mistake that in my view Thomas Friedman makes in 'The World is Flat' despite almost no historical evidence that hard work gets you anywhere ever.

I used to have a lecture for 'Advanced Marketing' that I swear awarded grades based on the weight of the final submission. A HD group submitted I report that, I kid you not, was signed by each member in a fountain pen, wrapped in a ribbon and presented in a gift box, the report itself being as thick as a phonebook.

I'm telling you now, both as an employee and as a manager, I would rather see a report written on the back of an envelope than giftwrapped, hand signed and weighing a kilo. The only presentation I as a manager would want giftwrapped in a box, would be a severed finger by way of apology for being a douchebag employee/yakuza member.

And yet, this notion of hard work is a prevailing ideal of academics? How? Serfs in a field work hard. Enemies of Stalin work hard digging holes and filling them in on the siberian Tundra. Every winner in history has done the exact opposite of working hard, they played hard.

So too I would like to read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, simply because I refuse to believe that he honestly concludes that 10,000 hours is what it requires to master something. This by far is the dumbest path to success that has been put forward yet. I'd also like to see why it sells, since my experience of people in general want to always get to some lofty ideal without putting in any effort. Just observe the endless revenue stream that is diet pills, shakes, etc and their attempt to move towards the ideal of losing weight without having to sacrifice/change anything in your lifestyle at all. Or treadmills you 'can use in front of the TV!' or even Australia's dismal Climate Change response (fighting climate change whilst not wanting to lose any jobs, consumer comforts or change our energy policy).

How do these people like Friedman and Gladwell make all this free money from putting out easy to swallow 'science type stuff' books. Globalisation is great, it's simple! and '10,000 hours is the line between success and failure'.

I mean really? That was the regressive common denominator? I can sight Twix examples that would confound that theory... at least. Mozart wrote 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' when he was 5 and was composing from thereafter. If you deduct 2 years for shitting in diapers, learning to walk and talk, 10,000 doesn't stretch far.
The second is speeking, writing, running and so fourth - if I practiced sprinting for 10,000 hours I would still not be able to run it under 10 seconds. I have practiced speaking and writing for at least 10,000 hours and am by no means exceptional at it at all.

I presume again he deals with these objections of prodigies, polymaths and skill inflation in proposing the '10,000 hour' rule and maybe there are a bunch of quit pro quos that accompany it. It is also something that can easily be proven wrong, find someone who practiced something for 10,000 hours and is not very good at it, like say almost everyone who auditions for American Idol, So you think you can dance or most artists in the world.

Sure they may have technical ability, they just may have no imagination, no charisma no nothing.

For me the ideal remains the polymath, or more specifically Musashi Miyamoto's Heiho - the idea you can obtain a state of mind such that you need no instruction in anything and yet can master it.

All this said, I don't believe hard work is the answer, and I don't believe it ever posed a threat.

My old housemate Liam, said 'Hardwork is always admirable' a sentiment any George Orwell fan should be proud of. Alas is digging a trench, whilst qualifying as hard work really valuable? Is running around a track continuously really valuable? You can probably imagine situations where they might be. (you can hopefully imagine situations where they might be). Alas 'always' is the criterion for admirable. The truth is value is value. It's much more important than how hard you work to obtain it.

If there was one single piece of advice I wish I could give to every university graduate in the world it is this:

'Hard Work is disgraceful if it is work nobody values' in my brief career I have seen too many bright young things get mired down in the misery of unappreciated workaholia.

They are almost universal too. They work overtime at the bequest of nobody, based on an assumption that that's the way to get ahead and then get ticked off that this unsolicited effort isn't recognised with reward or even recognition. This allows exponential growth of the chip on their shoulder which sadly leads to often to redoubled efforts to work harder, like that fucking horse in Animal Farm.

Listen, the will and enthusiasm that is present in the young students of the Big Emerging Market is refreshing and admirable, they do arguably have an advantage in that they don't take their lifestyles for granted. They may also be making a mistake that US military policy also doesn't take resource supported lifestyles for granted.

What the Subcontinental and Asian cultures seem to take for granted though are bogus universals that simply don't exist.

People are people, so we are really talking about memes again that hold certain cultures/arguable civilizations back. But a manager that is certain to choke and die early vs a manager with a chance of survival have a clear cut rule which I call the 'Variability rule' of management.

Put simply, managers who don't realise that personalities can vary from person to person are doomed to failure. Managers that realise they do might succeed.

In the case of working with other people, being able to entertain the possibility that other people might think differently is a tremendous advantage. It is the old saying 'If the Map doesn't match the territory, the Map is wrong'.

Belief in universals, like hard work, the prestige of being a doctor, that wealth equates to happiness and most crucially that official status is more important than self esteem are 'Map over ground' thinking. No matter how insistent these memes are, if you walk around long enough insisting the Map is more correct than reality, sooner or later you are going to fall into a ravine.

Not having access to student academic records, I can't verify my suspicion, but I have seen enough articles to suggest it may be the case - many international students, despite all the efforts they put in above and beyond local lazy's obtain barely any advantage over local students. Many I understand simply fail.

I'm still waiting for China to invent something useful/helpful to the world at large, other than a massive market to hide the fact that our materialistic growth fetish is unsustainable and not improving anyone's life.

At any rate in the Global Financial Crisis my predictions are looking much better than Friedman's, and nobody reads my blog at all. (I guess under money making criterion, his predictions are still looking much, much better than mine).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Ooooo-woah-Fashion! (Spirit Fingers)"... is bullshit.

Whilst leafing through GQ while waiting for my friend man to finish shaving his back on friday night I came to the sudden and startling conclusion that fashion is inexcusable bullshit. Perhaps the most nauseating article (treating the 'So you want to date a supermodel' article where they interviewed a real super model on what she wants in a man as a nauseating-statistical outlier) was where they interviewed ten designers about how to make your style 'unique' with grabbing headlines like 'be a man where jewelery' and 'go short' (about wearing shorts with a blazer and tie to give you that casual feel... if you want an even more casual feel, some may be fascinated to experiment with the even more potent combination of shorts and a t-shirt).

Anyway let me take aim on fashion proper. What I particularly don't agree with is that 'you're clothes make a statement about who you are' or a notion that 'clothing is a form of communication'. Whilst paradoxically I would say at the basest level there is no argument to be had that fashion is a communication, I just don't think it's an important one that deserves to consume all the energy it does and prop up the massive industry it does.

For one thing, clothing is a poor communicative device because it's frequency is so poor. You change the message once daily, unless it conveys things that Sherlock Holmes would pick up, such as 'your shoes are pretty old' or 'you walked here in the rain' that may be different messages than the ones you put on in the morning.

But otherwise it's only really going to change daily, and probably the message rotates through quite predictably as you coordinate outfits and such. So the only messages you are stuck with are the ones you like to communicate constantly.

Now while the most obvious and popular communique is presumably 'status' namely a message that says 'my status is higher than yours' I think in practice it fails.

Time to pull a useful definition of communication out of Drucker's library: 'Communication is what the listener does' it has also been defined well by unspecified individuals as 'a shared understanding of meaning'

Without breaking down communication models too much, let's just say writing and reading are two different things, speaking and listening to are two different things. So too it seems is picking your outfits and seeing someone's outfit.

Whilst most people seem to set out to communicate 'my status is higher than yours' or perhaps more homogeneously 'I am important/valuable/meaningful/interesting' the message that is most commonly embodied by a humans clothes is this:

"I do as I'm told."

It simply has to be this way. Not too that even subcultures are not exempt. Perhaps the most illustrative example being 'punk culture' as a fashion. Because almost anyone in the world can recognise someone as a punk, unless you are a member of the original Sex Pistol's lineup, you aren't really rebelling. You are wearing a uniform.

And the guidance to wearing uniforms is incredibly complex. I'm not sure where the international date line for fashion is, but I have a feeling that if you were to segment the market into age groups you'd find the following brackets acceptable:

0-12 Los Angeles Time
13-25 Tokyo and New York time.
26-40 Milan, Paris time
41-65 Washington Time

Post 66 people become refreshingly utilitarian and are usually so set in their ways and alienated from society in general that they were an odd combination of what is cheap and what hasn't been devored by moths over the past 60 or so years. (Clint Eastwood in tracksuit pants in Gran Torino is one of the few 'Hollywood Styles' I can actually respect).

But at any rate the above is just an estimation from where societal uniform policy is handed down from.

But you see if you believe in ideas such as 'fashion' and 'in vogue' and 'seasons' then there really is no option for you but to do as you are told. And unfortunately with so many people barking at you there's no way you could ever actually be 'in vogue' or get it right.

And why? Why fucking bother. If clothes are truly a communication then why doesn't it apply to other mediums of communication?

Let's switcheroo two scenarios.

If speech (and hearing) were to swap and operate like fashion (vice versa in a minute) then we would buy a glossy magazine that would have a selection of double page spreads every month on which were printed opinions devised by old people in italy that tuck skivvies into their pants.

people would then take a small selection of these opinions such as 'true cost economics is too difficult to impliment' given that much editorial has revealed this opinion is in style. They would 'wear' this opinion on a tuesday, mothing it continuously to everyone they meet. Maybe in the evening they change their opinion into something a little sexier like 'burlesque is a sophisticated artform rather than a striptease' which they would have to hastily strip down and throw on another opinion for work again on Wednesday.

If in turn a costume truly worked towards the communication model of 'a shared understanding of meaning' then like words we would have the ability to ask questions and clarify.

So you would go to a job interview in cuff links and a shirt with a collar pin and silk italian tie and what not, and the interviewer looks at you and says 'So you are a plucky upstart with no real experience?' and the interviewee says 'oh no that's not what I meant, I meant to say this...' and takes off the cufflinks and tie pin and rolls up his sleeves, loosening the tie a bit and the interviewer says 'ah I see...' then takes off his own tie and the interviewee thinks 'touche!'

It just doesn't fucking happen. It's bullshit.

I intend to spend more time picking shit through fashion but to cap it off I'll just say this,

If communication is truly in the ears of the beholder (ironically 'beauty is in the eyes of the beholder' whilst succinctly summing up the fashion fallacy needs to be illustrated through comparisons with speech.)how then can there be supposed 'experts' on fashion?

I understand that you can be considered an expert communicator, but the key trick to expert communication is audience analysis - knowing exactly who your audience is and keeping your message as tight to their personal preferences as possible. This maximises your chance of achieving a 'shared understanding of meaning'

And yet the vast volumes of fashion magazines out there with the vast and often contradictory opinion on what will be the seasons 'big thing' comes under almost no scrutiny at all.

Fashion is worse than other 'expert' forecasts that we have all been learning in the economic downturn are not particularly useful. Each year there are a steady stream of big fashion shows where celebreties watch tens of thousands of ideas be visualised on a catwalk and of these tens of thousands of ideas only a few are whittled down to actual fashion items for the season and I would wager almost nobody predicts correctly what the seasons 'big thing' is going to be at the start of it.

Yet the industry almost allows Versace, Louis Vitton, Burberry etc to decree what the styles are going to be, even though these tyrants of fashion much like the CCP are ignored by almost everyone outside of the party itself.

I appreciate that the 'out-there' designs that hit the catwalk are exagerated semi abstract pieces designed to inspire the lower castes of fashion into devising something practical, but really in the end people go their own way.

Such that a brand like Versace or Gucci is in fact more likely to be late to the party in releasing (this season) a pair of stockings that are overpriced to win some of the young asian melbourne market that are currently sporting the stockings and skirt look (to highly variable degrees of success). Yet nobody seems to notice that in the stakes of the 'I do as I'm told' brand of clothing, the big house brand names generally also 'do as their told'.

Most prestige brands in practice are often so risk averse and thus consumed by risk averse people that they only adopt something new (for them) once it is proven and old (for teen fashion).

Much in the same way that being a punk, nearly 40 years after it was actually rebellious is now a very safe and certified way to feel rebellious and shocking, without the inconvenience of having to be rebellious and shocking.

I shall further my attacks! Onwards.