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Makes me think about my Economics professors…

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

After last year’s desultory reading log, I’m continuing to do much better this year, which makes me happy.

I’m about to finish reading The Predator State, by James K Galbraith, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in economics, trade, social policy, political economy, economic development or markets at all.  It’s the kind of paradigm-shifting social science work that I’ve always loved, with both a sweeping perspective across many decades and many countries and yet also a profoundly intimate concern with individuals and communities.

I will admit that I liked the book partly for the fact that Galbraith confirmed my existing intuitions about the world: that the arguments for “free markets” are riddled with theoretical work-arounds, real-world counter-evidence and also fundamentally philosophical and ethical implications that mean society should be far more thoughtful and downright wary of “market solutions”, “free trade” and Libertarianism (particularly for essential and social goods like healthcare, education, utilities, transportation, housing).  Moreover, “The Predator State” also explicitly calls out the problematic nature of big business (i.e., it’s too big and powerful, and being only concerned with short-term profits are almost inevitably predatory and criminal) contrasted against not-big-enough government.

What I especially liked was Galbraith’s insight into the forces that shape the economic world through time and space, like explaining what led to Japan and Germany’s economic strength in export-manufacturing through the 1970s and 1980s and what macroeconomic conditions precipitated the Internet/IT boom in the US through the 1990s.  In an oblique fashion, the sense that larger forces are behind the success of individual companies and countries matches the point of view of The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig (which I finished reading last month), where the “principles of success” of individual companies as studied by the popular business press are downplayed or debunked in light of larger forces including macroeconomic policies (i.e., the effect of “luck” or “right place at the right time” as opposed to effective management strategy).

Can’t wait to read more, and maybe re-read parts so I properly understand Galbriath’s argument against the obsession with US trade, current account and budget deficits.

It’s men’s fashion week in Milan! FW 10!!

Monday, January 18th, 2010
FW10 menswear looks are being shown in Milan… and the big news is many of the shows are streaming live from the runway!  Burberry Prorsum (looks ho-hum at first glance, but I do love a good military-inspired collection), Prada, Dolce & Gabbana  and others all have live (and on-demand) streams of their entire runway shows on their websites.  What a treat!  Instant gratification!!  Except we can’t try on or buy these clothes for about nine more months!!!
Prada FW 10 featured beautiful cropped knits like this...  (Source: and this!  (Source:

 I *heart* <3 the cropped sweaters at Prada – can’t wait to try them on in just nine months or so!

That is, if I can get over my annoyance at noticing that despite a massive cast of some 50 male and female models at the show, Prada didn’t seem to have cast a single non-white model.  Not one black or Asian model that I could see, and I did look.  Very disappointing, given all the attention the industry has given to diversity on the runway and the progress that seems to have been made (especially in editorial and campaign work, in my estimation). 

Doubly disappointing given that for years Prada has been notoriously lacking in diversity on the runway but after several years of increasingly bad press the house had very visibly cast a couple of black and Asian models these past few seasons.  This feels like a terrible regression. 

I can understand, accept and even welcome tokenism, so for a cast of 50 to not have a single non-white model is really difficult to accept, especially given that the show had no discernible theme that demanded an all-white cast (and in any case even the “we had to fit with the designer’s inspiration” argument has it’s limits, with the visually poignant counter-argument in John Galliano’s FW 09 show which was inspired by “frozen Ukrainian brides” yet featured not just icy-blonde and blue-eyed Eastern European-types who made up almost the entire cast of 31, but also Chanel Iman–half black and half Korean–looking stunning…  dressed as a frozen Ukrainian bride).  And never mind that Asian consumers in Japan, China and elsewhere are probably Prada’s largest and most profitable customer base.

I’m kind of peeved, but wish I could pick Miuccia Prada’s mind about this.

PS:  The Prada runway show probably could have benefited from more flattering lighting – as in the photos above, all the models looked harshly lit and kind of sickly.

Chanel Iman at John Galliano FW 09 (Source:

 In case the make-up, clothes and styling don’t seem particularly flattering on Chanel in the above picture, go see the pictures or YouTube videos of the full show and you’ll see that she looked just as good as the other models and fit right in.

What did I do today other than see “Children of Men”?

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Today was supposed to be my first day of productivity.  Whoops.  Maybe I can redeem myself a little tonight.

Don’t worry – no spoilers ahead.

I just saw Children of Men in Boston with Ryan.   Overall the film is worth seeing and is quite moving at times, though not necessarily very pleasant to watch.  I especially liked seeing London reimagined in this dystopic future on the brink of anarchy.  I *heart* London, particularly since my summer there, and not since 28 Days Later have I had the pleasure of seeing the city taken liberties with — London buses girded with protective mesh, electric cars and pedal-carts (a la Bangladesh!) on the street, the Tate Modern as a private residence (or was it a government building?).  And there’s a brilliantly executed set of extremely long-running sequences during a violent uprising in a refugee camp – it was difficult not to feel transported to and caught up in the worst sort of urban warfare as seen in Sarajevo, Beirut or Mogadishu at the height of their civil wars.  I marvelled at how carefully timed and meticulously executed those scenes were – if you see the film, remember to mentally applaud the cameraman (and perhaps other crew) who had to do all that running with a camera and keep it pointed in the right direction.  And what happens to Julianne Moore’s character is cleverly unexpected enough that it sounds an exceptionally jarring and tragic note to reinforce the sense that the world is now a place where there is no real future.

Enough praise – on to the picky bits.  The difficulties of translating a book into a screenplay were well in evidence in the inconsistent treatment of the plot which vacillated between being overly pedantic and being excessively oblique.  Scattered through the film were explanatory “conversations” where characters had awkward monologues to tell the audience things that everyone in the film sould already know and find patently obvious (the midwife’s rambling about the discovery of the mass infertility, for example).  Yet at the same time I got the clear sense that large chunks of information were being brushed aside or skimmed over because they were too unwieldy to delve into properly.  And maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I felt as if key explanatory details were lost in the blink-and-you-miss-it introductions to the more peripheral characters and events (and the mumbly accents didn’t help).  Overall pacing also suffered from plodding sections where nothing seems to happen, but without any compensatory cinematography, intimacy, mood-setting or revelation of information – the film could have lost about 20 minutes and been better for it, or spent that time developing the story more densely or more clearly.

Like many of the films I am drawn to watch for their premise (think Poseidon, Flightplan and The Stepford Wives), Children of Men is not bad, but doesn’t necessarily deliver it’s full potential in exploring the implications of the central premise.  Among the best parts of the movie were those which started to take the set-up through to its logical conclusions – such as the scene in the abandoned school, or the successful evocation of the baby’s significance as a momentous, world-changing miracle.  Most of the other parts of the film felt like a (skilful) rehash of scenes from other war or disaster films like The Pianist or Independence Day.

And to answer the question that’s the title of this post, I also bought a pair of sunglasses (to replace the brown aviators I dropped irretriveably into a latrine in Madagascar last Spring Break), and my very own domain name!  At $7.20 from, that’s the best impulse buy ever!  So now you’ll be able to have the pleasure of reading this blog after being redirected from – congratulations (to me)! 🙂

PS: I love this video on YouTube – as a very amateur violinist, this video makes me very happy.

Great TV; lousy film.

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

I finished all my final exams on Friday.  So it may be quite inexplicable that I pulled my first all-nighter of the year last night watching back to back episodes of ABC’s Ugly Betty on the ABC website.  With a title like that, it took two different friends’ votes of approval, and two Golden Globe wins for the new show (for best TV comedy) and lead actress America Ferrera (best actress in a TV comedy) for me to suddenly want to see every episode of the show to date.  It’s soooo good!  Seriously, I can go on and on, and I did today at lunch, for probably an hour.

As a preface, I must start with the fact that viewing Ugly Betty is a little bit like getting to watch a much longer remake of The Devil Wears Prada as a TV series, but with much more character development and denser inter-personal relationships.  And perhaps more importantly, compared to other ostensibly similar films and TV series (the long list includes High School Musical, the TV series Popular, and the The Princess Diaries)  Ugly Betty has a considerably meatier and more truthful core message (there’s none of the hypocrisy of trying to pass off Anne Hathaway as an unstylish, un-skinny glamazon – America Ferrera is in fact under 5’5″, has a BMI of more than 25 and doesn’t have the usually obligatory “but I’m really a Disney princess!” eyes).  Go check it out online, and I promise the plots get better and less ripped off from The Devil Wears Prada quite quickly.

And now, I will rant about Pan’s Labyrinth, which I had high hopes for, given the lavish critical praise and extremely positive reactions from friends.  I thought it was severely disappointing on many levels – story, plotting, characters, cinematography…  The post below contains my more extensive analysis of why I disliked the movie, but in the interest of hiding spoilers, I’ve password protected it.  To see the next entry, type “Pan” (no quotation marks) as the password.

It’s now way past my bedtime. 

I had so much fun with the Dins and Pitches tonight at Ricardo’s party!

Protected: Pan’s Labyrinth (spoilers galore)

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Today’s tally

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

Number of hours spent reviewing material for the microeconomic theory final exam on Thursday: 3.

Number of hours spent obsessively re-watching and re-re-watching, re-reading and re-re-reading The Age of Innocence (one of my favorite books and films) and marvelling at the attention to detail, the sly inclusion of so many famous works of art into the interiors and the mannered perfection: 10 and counting.

Number of hours spent reviewing material for my silent cinema final exam on Friday: 0.


Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

My sometimes-sluggish silent cinema class is focusing on silent comedies this week, and boy are they side-splittingly good.  I’m sitting here and laughing just reading the academic essays written about them (which have phrases like “truncated syllogism” and words like “semidiegetic”).  The four films that we saw today (starring Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Charley Chase) were so good that even small reminders in the secondary sources of the gags in films like His Wooden Wedding (1925) are making me laugh at my desk.  Bravo! 

It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen a film that made me want to make/produce/write movies myself.  I can’t even recall the last time that happened.  I definitely felt that way after Buster Keaton’s Sherlock, Jr (1924).

And then I came home and saw The Transporter 2 (2000).  I enjoyed it, but I think I’m going to put a couple of Harrold Lloyd and Buster Keaton films on my Netflix queue.

A Cold Front Arrives

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

I wore my chinchilla to my film class screening of Nanook of the North (1919) this afternoon and felt pleased with how apropos this was.

Thank God I wasn’t born an Inuit in Alaska in the early 20th century. Ugh.

I intensely disliked the second film we had to see. I had half a mind to boo (or cheer in relief) when it finally ended.

Just attended a very useful thesis-time-management workshop that left me with warm and fuzzy feelings. Yay.

The urge to sketch is becoming stronger. I really do want it to go away pesky thing.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Tuesday, August 16th, 2005

My annual wardrobe maintenance is now underway.  A year’s worth of fallen buttons, ripped seams and stained fabrics are being attended to, while another season’s worth of purchases await their turn to be altered, reconstructed or even made up from scratch to fit perfectly.  Meanwhile, I’m having to edit the contents of my luggage more and more mercilessly if I even hope to fit on the non-stop flight to Newark in less than a month’s time.

This is almost my favorite time of year.

I’ve been pretty lazy with editing and cataloging my pictures.  I just downloaded the hundreds of pictures on my digicam that cover Kew, the various London museums and so on.  Expect to see a couple of selected shots eventually.

In other news, I’ve decided not to go to Tokyo as planned.  It just seemed like too much trouble, and in the end I simply couldn’t think of very much I wanted to see or do in that city.  I’m essentially shopped-out and travelled-out for the summer.  Never thought you’d hear me say that, did you?  🙂

Edit: I know it can feel claustrophobic to some, but when you’re only back in town for a couple of weeks a year it’s wonderful to be able to bump into people everywhere you go.  While out to see Crash with Terence today at Marina (such an intense, well-edited, incredibly-scripted/acted film – go see it!), we were spotted by none other than Cyndi at Rice Table at Suntec City (Rijsttafel, mmmmn), and later Terence spotted Cailin in the Swissotel lobby on our way out.  It was really lovely to get to see each of these two (three if you include Terence) former classmates, and made for quite an eventful night.

Last day at the office

Thursday, August 4th, 2005

Wow.  It’s been ten weeks since I started my internship.  Tomorrow is the last day I’ll have to go to the office at Rivington Street.  Just like that, another chapter draws to a close.

There’re quite a few things I would have liked to have written about since my last entry, namely my visit to the National Gallery (for which I have nothing but praise) on Wednesday evening, viewing A Very Long Engagement (for which I also have nothing but praise) twice on Tuesday night, and attending the season’s opening performance of Turandot by the Kirov Opera (for which I have quite limited praise) at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden tonight.  I guess that’s all going to have to wait, or never get done.

So much Chanel tonight.  Europeans definitely dress better to attend the opera. 

There were a bunch of American tourists sitting behind me who made me flinch and/or cringe any number of times in just one act.  It’s always the American tourists, isn’t it?  Not Americans, per se, just the tourists – I certainly didn’t observe any Americans who thought it was acceptable to talk during the performance of Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera, and certainly not during Nessun dorma*!!  (The one person who dared to hum at the Met was shushed in no uncertain terms within the opening bars of the aria.)

*The initially quiet but eventually climactic aria for the lead tenor that is almost certainly the most famous music in Turandot.

Anyway, I’m making myself get to bed now, even though there’s just so much more I want to stay up and do.  That’s probably going to be characteristic of the rest of my time in London, as I try to make up for lost sight-seeing** and house-cleaning time.  And that’s not to forget packing my bags before Sunday.

**On my list (which is too long): Kew Gardens, The Natural History Museum, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, also the National Gallery again and maybe the London History Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum.  Ten weeks in this city, and I only started visiting museums in the final nine days.  Shameful.