The Wrestler / At the movies Jan 2009

Went to watch The Wrestler yesterday, Orange Wednesday and all that. It was going to be Slumdog Millionaire but it was too busy, and there was no way I was going to be able to take my McDonald’ses out of my jacket pockets and scoff them with so many people around.

The movie was engaging and different; it exceeded my expectations because I thought I knew the story and so it would drag on.

A brief synopsis of the plot:

The tale is set in Nazi Germany (as all good films with Oscar pretensions have to be). A much-decorated officer Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) in the Waffen-SS falls in love with Hanna Schmitz, a Dutch girl from a Jewish family (Kate Winslet), but he is sent by Wilhelm Keitel on an expedition to Bombay (Mumbai) in India to capture an elusive and endangered rare Mammoth Walrus nicknamed ‘The Wrestler’ (Mickey Rourke in an eye-watering performance. Literally.) Wandering through the slums of Bombay, Claus hears a fable from local quiz-show host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) and realises that the walrus is a very curious case indeed. It is aging backwards, and instead of getting older it is getting younger everyday. This of course is causing all sorts of problems in its relationship with its mate Daisy Fuller (Cate Blanchett as a very convincing female walrus).

Amongst the highlights of the film are the gory 3D effects when a defiant Tuvia (Daniel Craig) emerges from the East European forest hideout he shares with other Jewish war refugees and gets a pickaxe lobbed into his face.

Some or all of the above may be untrue.

Economics 101: I predict a recession

Having finished Neil Gaiman’s wonderful collection of twisting tales called “Fragile things” I picked up Stiglitz’s book that was lying on my coffee table. Joseph Stiglitz is an economist, amongst other things a Nobel Prize winner, former World Bank Chief Economist and ex-Chairman of Clinton’s Council of Economic advisors. His 2002 book is called Globalisation and its discontents, I think I’ve reviewed it earlier in these pages. As I flipped through the book again, Jeremy Paxman was chatting with Paul Mason, their economics editor on BBC’s Newsnight. (P.S. And as I later visit the Newsnight website I see that, coincidence of coincidences, Mr. Stiglitz is on the show tonight).

I decided to list some thoughts on aspects of global economics.

Beggar thy neighbour – Globalisation vs Nationalisation is something I have already mentioned in another arena (Sarkozy preventing Sovereign Wealth Funds of other nations from buying up French companies). Stiglitz brings this home very clearly in his examination of protectionist tendencies of so-called “free markets”. Countries that have failed to unite to introduce economic measures together will now do so with national interests put first, as is happening with the UK auto industry as we speak.

Borrowing – All economics is essentially housekeeping. Global economics is housekeeping on a larger scale. This means the same rules apply to both, such as “You can’t have outgo without income”.

Quis custodiet ipsos cutodiare? – Who watches the watchmen, or in this case who regulates the regulators?

Cui bono? – Who benefits? One of the two prime considerations in any good murder mystery is motive. The other is opportunity. Stiglitz says:

…Wall Street regards inflation as the worst thing in the world: it erodes the real value of what is owed to creditors, which leads to increases in interest rates, which in turn lead to declines in bond prices. To financiers, unemployment is far less of a concern.

The next bubble – The Essentials for any bubble are scarcity and demand. Both of these can be artificial. Look for precious resources like water being squeezed next. There’s also money to be made in “Going Green”.

Juggling – In any news feature or documentary, why does the word ‘Globalisation’ have to be accompanied by a clip of a hippie juggling? Watch out for it the next time.

I’ll end by paraphrasing a famous quote.

“Making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg. It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.”

It’s all in the fingers

Look at your hand. If you are male and your index (2nd) finger is longer than your ring (4th) finger, you are a testosterone-driven manimal, and likely to be a successful financial trader.

More info can be found on Tim Harford’s site.

Meanwhile, on the radio this morning I heard someone being described as “…a person whose father stays up all night going through his birth records looking for a loophole”.

Man, that’s gotta hurt!

Prog Rock

Last fm radio has dragged up for me names like

Porcupine Tree (Anesthetise)

Demians (Temple)

Coheed and Cambria (The Suffering)

Tera Melos (Melody 3)

Riverside (Out of Myself)

and of course, without which no prog rock list could be complete,

The Fall of Troy (Mouths like Sidewinder Missiles)

Listen up! There’s a whole world of prog rock out there!