Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mail order polonium

This mail-order web-site for nuclear isotopes has caught the public attention.

Seagal is still fast-slapping the enemy

Just watched another straight to video beauty from Steven Seagal. The film is called 'Out For a Kill' and it was released in 2003, although the production magically makes it seem as if the film was made in the early 1980's. Out For a Kill scores a dismal 2.8 out of 10 on the imdb web-site, dragging down the average for Seagal films (the average is probably around 3 to 4). Even my local newspaper, which is normally quite neutral in it's tv guide commentary, describes it as a 'dim-witted adventure that doesn't even have decent action sequences, never mind a coherent plot and a capable cast.' Well, I wasn't disappointed and am happy to report that Seagal is sticking to what he does best: talking in a soft voice and use rapid slapping techniques to fend of the enemy.

Here is a tribute to SS from Youtube:

And what is this. The Seagal can also sing:

The review on Amazon gives this album 4.5/5 stars (!), with reviewers commenting:

'Take 'em down Stevie...take 'em down to Chinatown'

'I would have given 500 stars had it been an option'

'A roundhouse kick of musical genius'

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Return of the Farepak scrooge

Tiny Tim sings for his family at Christmas

Pickled Politics has a short comment about a new Farepak blog, concluding with the message 'Support Unfarepack, spread the word!'.

'Noooo!', I shout from the rooftops. Do not support them. In my earlier article on the issue (Farepak debacle : the view from a cold-hearted RM) , I explicitly said 'let them suffer' and I stand by my words. I have read the entries in the Unfarepak blog, and this only strengthens my cold, steely resolve. I don't mean for my words to sound hateful, but I am a rational economist at heart and it is my view that giving to the Farepak charity only fuels the fire of the original mis allocation of resources. It is quite possibly one of the worst charities I have come across. See my eariler post for the rationale.

To be fair, Claire's Unfarepak blog is not a plea for charity but is about how her family (husband and three kids) are going to try have a happy Christmas despite losing £650 in the debacle. She says 'Now to a lot of people maybe that's not a lot - but take it from me - to us, that's our Christmas.' £650? That is a hell of lot for Christmas or any calendar celebration in my books. I am also from a family of three kids and we had excellent Christmas's for a fraction of that. Purchases were made in the last days running up to Christmas, when many items on sale, quite often up to half price, including festive foods. Also, our parents would often buy second hand presents for us, wrapped up in paper that was bought in the Christmas sale the year before - as kids, the enjoyment wasn't really dependent on whether something was brand new or not; it was about playing with the present and having fun, and eventually getting bored with it and moving on to something else. Indeed, a lot of the fun came from games that we already had, or indeed were free (remember Charades?).

To summarise, I wish Claire well on her mission to have a happy christmas and think this can be quite easily achieved with a little inventiveness. And I do feel sorry for the Farepak victims, yet I think the charity is an abomination as the opportunity cost of giving to this cause is so steep.

And to conclude 'Bah Humbug!'

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Picklers debate 50 Cent

Pickled Politics has an interesting debate discussing 50 Cent's comments on the blatant double standards in the entertainment industry. The issue is that the new Bond film posters show Mr 007 brandishing a gun, but when the original Get Rich or Die Tryin' posters did the same thing there was a big furore and 50 had to re-do the poster sans the shooter.

The debate at PP has some good points but I'm with 50 on this. Either have a blanket ban or have nothing. It doesn't make sense to discriminate between films.

Now that's a gun.

Friday, November 24, 2006

2 video clips for the weekend

These clips are what acting is all about. Have an enjoyable weekend.

This is probably Alec Baldwin's best acting scene in his career. It's from a brilliant but little known film called Glengary Glen Ross. Enjoy.

Below is the intro to Full Metal Jacket. Be warned, the Sargent's language is a little coarse (cough).

and the same scene dubbed in Spanish, for comedy value:

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sunny Jim stokes the fires of debate

Sunny Hundal has been busy blitzing the media with an interesting debate about minority (mis) representation. His 'manifesto' is published in today's Guardian. More debate can be found at his comment is free site, and at Pickled Politics. Click here for a brief Radio 4 interview.

Keep shaking it up man.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Check out this guys impressions of DMX, Ja-Z, LL Cool J, and Snoop Dogg

Farepak debacle : the view from a cold-hearted RM

A charity for Farepak customers? I say the world has gone mad. I say let them suffer. Hear me out, before you try to track me down and lynch me for being a Scrooge.

Farepak was essentially a savings programme for those who recognised they were weak of will when it came to saving and spending money. It was a programme that forced members to act in their longer term interest - by committing some money every month to the Farepak programme, households were self-prevented from spending their savings on other things, and they were able to ensure happy times come Christmas.

Alas, the company has gone bankrupt. The BBC reports 'More than 150,000 people are thought to have lost about £35m when Swindon-based Farepak crashed last month.' Most of these 150,000 members are likely in low-income bracket, and their Farepak savings would have been made up a significant percentage of their total savings, so we can be sure many folk will not be having 'good times' come December 25th. The accountants say members can expect as little 4p in the pound. (Folks who paid into their accounts with credit or debt cards may be covered by insurance but again, this probably a small fraction of the total.)

Here's my beef. The media has gone in to overdrive with this story. A Farepak Response Fund charity has been set up, with donations of some £4.3 million so far, mostly coming from large corporates - only £78k is from individual donations. What are people doing? Stop giving! It's a bit cold of heart, but I think the main reason companies such as Tesco's gave money is because of the media attention they would receive. Other big contributors include Asda, Argos, M&S and Morrisons, all companies that could benefit nicely from some positive sentiment in the run up to Christmas. If you think about it, this charity is literally a fund to replenish people's Christmas hampers. Surely there are a million better causes to give to, where the marginal benefit of your donations will be so much greater. If people want to direct their money to a Christmas specific cause, why not give money to charities that give homeless people food and shelter over the holiday period. These people really have nothing, no friends and family to support them, which many Farepak members surely will have. Bascially, everywhere I look there are more better places to give money. This Farepak issue needs some perspective.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Milton Friedman passes away at 94

The economics legend is no longer with us.

Here is a video clip from his famous Friedman's 'Free to Choose' television series:

And here is praise from another economics devotee, the man of oak, Arnie:

Long live the free market.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Beat It - by Amy Winehouse and Charlotte Church

I watched this weirdly hypnotic performance a few months ago on the final episode of Charlotte Church's talk show. It's a 'Beat It' cover by Church and a very drunk Amy Winehouse. Look in to Charlotte Church's eyes - she is not happy! Surreal stuff. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cheap international calling with 0844 Calls

After much research I have found to be a super cheap and extremely simple solution for making international calls. Calls to Dubai (landline and mobile) are 8p a min, Bangladesh landlines are just 1p (2p for mobiles), and calls to Pakistan landlines and mobiles are just 2p per minute.

Okay, I'll admit we had some connection trouble to Dubai today, but other than that the service has been perfect, and its much cheaper than buying international calling cards. I'm not sure whether it only works with BT lines, but take a look at the web-site.

(I get no commission and accept no responsibility for any shortcomings!).

Borat's national anthem

Kazakhstan greatest country in the world.
All other countries are run by little girls.
Kazakhstan number one exporter of potassium.
Other countries have inferior potassium.

Borat funny clips from the archives

Bookmark this page and if you are ever in need of a laugh just click on a video clip.

Borat at the gym

Deleted scene from film: Borat goes to get a dog.
My favourite line is the opener.

A an all-time classic. Borat's guide to British sport.

okay, this one is really going to test your patience. If a horse is...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

HDTV or not HDTV, that is the question

From the Weekend FT 'Technopolis' section:

'HD's biggest problem, though has not been that people are disappointed by the picture, but the opposite - an odd phenomenon picked up by Sky's internal research. It's that people buying HD-ready TVs often believe what they are watching is HD even when they don't have a HD box. They are watching standard definition (SD) believing it's HD and either thinking it's nothing to get excited about or, conversely, are getting excited even though there's nothing to get excited about.'