photo by EfrankE

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Whatever Happened to the Little Rascals?

I watched reruns of the Little Rascals on our old black & white TV set on afternoons when I was in elementary school. My kids watched them on video release back in the 1980's. I think my parents, at least my mother, watched the original releases during their/her childhood.

There was something about the creativity and can-do attitude of the Our Gang group that, more than just their escapades and antics, appealed strongly to our young hearts.

The short black & white films placed the Little Rascals in their own inventive and engaging world, an adult-imitative but child-centered one, and one we could easily picture ourselves in, as well.

Following their young acting careers, life for the series' child stars became harder and, in many cases, ended tragically.

This link is to a web page summarizing the adult lives of many of those featured in the Our Gang films.

Canada Housing Market to Follow U.S./Hawai'i Experience?

Hawai'i, especially on the Big Island, has been experiencing steep deflation in the housing market. Construction jobs are at about 30% unemployment here now. The residential real estate market has been in the doldrums for a couple of years now.

Investment advisor, Mike "Mish" Shedlock, in commenting on the current condition of the real estate market in Vancouver and Calgary, Canada, identifies a post-peak pattern of housing market declines in the U.S. His pattern appears to be very close to what we observed in the Big Island housing drop. It is worth a look for future reference. Here it is:

Housing Collapse Cascade Pattern

- Volume drops precipitously
- Prices soften a bit
- Inventory levels rise slowly
- Higher-end home process remain relatively steady for a brief while longer
- The real estate industry tries to convince everyone it's "business as usual" and homes are affordable because rates are low
- Bubble denial kicks in with media articles everywhere touting the "fundamentals"
- Stubborn sellers hold out for last year's prices as volume continues to shrink
- Inventory levels reach new highs
- Builders start offering huge incentives to clear inventory
- Some sellers finally realize (too late) what is happening
- Price declines hit the high-end
- Increasingly desperate sellers get creative with incentives, offering new cars, below market interest rates, trips, etc.
- Gimmicks do not work
- Price declines escalate sharply at all price levels
- The Central Bank issues statements that housing is fundamentally sound
- Prices collapse, inventory skyrockets and builders holding inventory go bankrupt

Mish notes, "Some of those may happen simultaneously or in a different order, but the whole mess starts with a huge plunge in volume."

Click here for the entire article.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What Did They Know That We Must Never Forget?

Answer: That rights have been conferred upon men by God and that governments must be established to protect those rights. Rights cannot legitimately originate in politics by the whim and will of men of power.


"The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

-That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

-Such has been the patient sufferance of the Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Politicians Orate, and I Go, Huh?

I want to try to get to bed early tonight so I’m going to try to clear my mind here of a few statements by the political leadership of the country that jump the rails of the logic lines most of us are born with.

Today, the president again stated that it is impractical to enforce the country’s immigration laws, given that there are 11 million illegals in the United States and the manpower is just not there to do the job.

Huh? Given that there are about 138 million taxpayers in the country, using the same logic, why wouldn’t he declare that it is impractical to enforce income tax laws in the United States? Presumably, it would take more manpower to enforce these much more complex laws. Oh, right, I just remembered, the government is hiring 16,000 more IRS agents to enforce compliance with the new health care bill. Perhaps that’s why there isn’t the manpower available to enforce immigration laws and provide border security.

Still, that is not the greatest inconsistency in his argument. There are three others:

1.) He supports a system that holds undocumented immigrants “accountable” by having them pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English and become citizens. Huh? If we cannot hold them accountable to existing immigration laws, what logic is there in assuming they will find it desirable to be accountable to a list of requirements they can already ignore? Especially, if enforcement manpower is impractical?

2.) The president further stated regarding immigration reform, “I’m ready to move forward, the majority of Democrats are ready to move forward and I believe the majority of Americans are ready to move forward… Reform that brings accountability to our immigration system cannot pass without Republican votes. That is the political and mathematical reality.”

Huh? Actually, Mr. President your Democratic party holds the Executive branch of the government as well as both bodies of the Legislative branch. You passed a widely unpopular health care bill under the same conditions. How can you say you don’t have the votes? The Republicans have been little more than eyewash since your election.

3.) He asserts that we cannot remove illegal aliens because they have become woven into the fabric of the country. Huh? Couldn’t organized crime syndicates be excused using the same reasoning? Have a look at the movie, The Godfather.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi is seen here on video stating that unemployment checks are the fasted way to create jobs. Again I say, huh? Do the unemployed use the money to help capitalize new businesses and industries, or apply it through investment to the most market-efficient allocation? That’s how jobs are formed. Otherwise, taking money from A (whether a current earner or one yet unborn) and giving it to unemployed B doesn’t grow the economy one dollar or create new, at least in any sustainable sense, jobs.

I’ve gotten used to politicians lying blatantly. What really disgusts me is when they treat us like morons, which they do when they speak in ignorance, factual error and logically inane statements, and then attack us with ad hominem insults when we disagree with them or call them out on their unsupported assertions.

And by the way, a tax increase at this stage, without iron-clad budget and spending reductions is like tying the economy to an anvil before throwing it off the bridge.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Twilight Eclipses my Comprehension

So, it’s that time again. Twilight Fandemonium hit with last night’s, 4,000 North American Theaters’ 12 a.m. to 3 a.m showings generating more than $30 million.

I suppose I shouldn’t comment on the phenomenon, not having seen the picture, and my earlier post, Twi-night of the Living Dead laid out my questions regarding “The Saga”, but really, how could the “Twilight” movie characters possibly be more compelling than Gary Cooper in High Noon, or Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter?

There are no reports that people lined up, breathlessly anticipating the midnight showing of those two great films. Were audiences simply more sophisticated in the 1950’s, or what gives?

Eclipse audiences are reported to display the same giddy response that might result from Congress passing a balanced budget amendment with a term limit rider – or say, would accompany the announcement of the elusive, yet-to-be produced, truly effective, hair-re-growth product.

The most famous vampire personage, Count Dracula, based on the historical figure, Vlad the Impaler, was an intolerant, cruel tyrant who ran pointed poles about 3” in diameter through his victims with the entry point being "where the sun don’t shine". As the victims were raised on the skewer, the weight of their bodies sank them further down the pole, the top of which eventually emerged somewhere around the clavicle. Death was slow and excruciating.

It baffles me how the proponent of this process might inspire any sort of romantic entertainment without extensive artistic license and heavy editing. Granted, the lead actors are reputed to possess physical traits that most women admire, but let’s be frank, these guys are freaks and their bites carry the risk of rabies at best (via the werewolves) and could consign you to an eternally soulless journey to nowhere (via the vampires).

It’s all a good romp, of course, until you find you have to submit to a series of painful rabies shots to the abdomen or can no longer tell if you got the part in your hair straight because your image no longer reflects in a mirror. Logically, wouldn't movies be the logical vehicles for effectively communicating these important warnings to our young people? And we wonder why they end up as walking tattoo billboards and jewelry display cases.

Anyway, I’ll present the opportunity again. If anyone can explain what the appeal is of these vampire/werewolf story motifs I would be interested in hearing from you.

Apologies for re-using the graphic from a previous post, but Baby Daughter is working 9 hour days, 6 days a week now and can no longer serve as my Photoshop-savvy assistant.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Appliance-dependency Helplessness in Hawai’i

In today’s headlines, the U.S. President continues to tout the “Recovery Summer”, while the most publicly-visible and influential Keynesian economist, Paul Krugman, upon whose analysis and opinions help drive the president’s economic stimulus policy, states that we’re at the beginning of a Third Depression (either to be long or great).

Perhaps to emphasize the point, the Dow Jones industrial average has dropped 428 points (4.2 percent) in the last four days, currently down 14.5 percent from its 2010 high in April. Investors appear to be choosing liquidity over capital investment. This sort of trend generally is taken as not a positive development for architects,

However, this is not my most preoccupying concern. The most vexing problem lately has been getting the laundry done.

Some months ago, various of my progeny and their family members, together with us, their parents, moved into one house to help manage reduced incomes resulting from the contracting private sector economy.

There are eight of us here. Several of us play soccer, some surf, one is a triathlete, training sometimes twice a day, and there is a one year old, and we generate dirty clothes regularly and efficiently. We used to do 2 or 3 washer loads a day, until our 7 month-old Maytag washer broke down in a noisy, grinding and ultimately, irritating, though non-agitating (if you know what I mean), way. That was 6 weeks ago.

Four weeks ago, the repairman came out to fix the washer. He took off the top and front panel to reveal at least part of the damage. Concrete rings around the front and back of the drum, presumably functioning as counterweights or stabilizers, were cracked and chipped. The repairman said he would order the replacement parts and call me when with the date they were expected to arrive.

He never called. After repeated calls to his number, I was told the part would arrive a week ago last Sunday. I called on Monday last. No answer. The next day, his receptionist told me the part was on factory back order and wouldn’t arrive until July 16.

Skipping many uninteresting steps. I called the factory. They located a distributor with the part. It arrived yesterday. There were no stabilizer rings. I’ve called twice to the repairman to ask how to proceed with repairs. Neither call has been returned yet. Week seven begins.

We live on an Island, 3,000 miles from the nearest continent. Obtaining certain goods has always been a patience-building exercise. Usually, we just tally it up as part of the price of Paradise. I don’t know how many more weeks must yet pass before our warranty-covered repairs are completed. Patience-building time and Paradise price inflation are both growing.

In the meantime, the local laundromat is prospering in the down economy from the many bags of dirty clothes we wash and dry there every week at no small cost of time and money (Paradise premium rates).

If only architects provided a service that had to be obtained every week…

Monday, June 28, 2010

Swimming in the Sky

This seems an odd contrast to the state of the world economy right now, but it is spectacular.

Are those things up there trees growing out of a 55 story building?

Yes, they are.

The Marina Bay Sands development in Singapore with its infinity edge swimming pool raised 650 feet into the air was designed by Moshe Safdie, with the concept based on a a deck of cards.

A refreshing dip at the ol' swimming hole.

Safdie was the architect who designed Habitat '67, a prefab, modular building system of stacked cubicle-shaped units with openings between them to allow in light and air. The building was constructed for the 1967 Montreal Expo world's fair. As architecture students in the early 1970's,we studied this building as part of our design education.

Habitat '67, Montreal, Canada

Back to the Marina Bay Sands.

So much of our experience of the world now seems to have its origins in Walt Disney's imagineering approach to entertainment in the 1950's. Incongruity, illusion and gravity-defying effects that began in avant garde art in the early to mid-twentieth century have moved into the mainstream environs of daily life through technology.

From Circue du Soleil to CGI graphics in movies and television product ads, and now, more and more, the built environment physical reality is distorted, senses are confused and one's understanding of the place he occupies in the world is challenged.

As technology continues to overwhelm us with greater and greater levels of complexity and control over our lives, quality human relationships become that much more important to help anchor us in reality and serve as an affirming reminder of personal significance.

Click here for the Daily Mail source article and photos of other areas of the development.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ride the Wild Slick

Breaking wave at Orange Beach, Alabama, about 90 miles from the BP oil fountain and now a universe away from Surfers' Paradise.

Oil Slick Orange, the complementary color of Ultramarine Blue.

Sad times.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Advertising from My Formative Years

Back in the day, ads carried quite different viewpoints than those currently in fashion...

Influential or not, somehow, most of my compadres still turned out okay.

Click here for a sample gallery.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is This Really Necessary?

The U.S., currently fighting in two undeclared wars in the Middle East, now has about a dozen warships being positioned in the Persian Gulf against Iran, presumably to be employed militarily in yet another conflict politicians have neither the will nor strategy for winning.

Senator Alan Simpson has said, viewable on video at youtube.com, that within the last month or so, the Social Security system started paying out more than it is taking in.

The Gulf of Mexico is being destroyed by oil and chemicals jetting out of the ocean floor at pressures that defy current technology’s capabilities to resist.

Joblessness and underemployment continue to weaken the economy and harm families’ abilities to manage themselves, while government “borrowing” reaches forward to enslave yet additional future generations under burdensome debt.

After adding another $3.1 trillion to the deficit, the economy is still faltering. Banks are failing at twice the rate of a year ago and the FDIC has used up its reserve funds.

In the face of this and other national problems of crisis proportions, the U.S. president has pushed for legislation to do what?

Create more walking paths and biking lanes. $1.2 billion dollars worth.

Setting aside whether or not this type of activity necessarily falls under the purview of the federal government, is this really the wisest utilization of resources by a government teetering on the brink of bankruptcy? Will this "investment" contribute to commerce and lasting growth in employment?

Perhaps this strikes others differently, but when I read of fiascos like this, I have to wonder if certain of our leaders are in touch with reality at all. My daughters, serving as babysitters in their early teen years, executed their duties far more responsibly.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Canada Makes Kona Newspaper Banner Headline

Yesterday’s local newspaper, West Hawaii Today, featured the top headline: Oh, Canada! Nation’s Economy Suddenly the Envy of the World.

The story reports: “The 20 world leaders at an economic summit in Toronto next weekend will find themselves in a country that has avoided a banking crisis where others have floundered, and whose economy grew at 6.1 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year.”

The article particularly notes that, “there was no mortgage meltdown or subprime crisis in Canada. Banks don’t package mortgages and sell them to the private market so they need to be sure their borrowers can pay back the loans.”

Grrr! Lucky so-and-so’s, who could've ever thought of running banks like that?

“The banks are stable because, in part, they’re more regulated. As the U.S. and Europe loosened regulations on their financial industries over the last 15 years, Canada refused to do so.”

Well, yearh, if you're gonna cheat! How are U.S. banks supposed to compete with that?

“The banks also aren’t as leveraged as their U.S. or European peers.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and take a guess that Canadian banking system laws aren’t written by former Goldman Sachs executives now embedded in their nation's government.

“Our banks were better managed and we had better regulations,” says former Prime minister Paul Martin, the man credited with killing off a massive government deficit in the 1990’s when he was finance minister, leading to 12 straight years of budget surpluses.”

World leaders have noticed: President Barack Obama says the U.S. should take note of Canada’s banking system…”

Yeah, well, I wouldn’t recommend anyone holding his breath waiting for that to happen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day, Dad

From humble beginnings in Sioux Falls to living in Europe to our graduations and careers, you and Mom provided us with so many good opportunities, experiences and great family memories, the cost of which I could only really appreciate years later.

Sometimes it may have felt like the world was on your shoulders, but you took it all in stride and made things good for the family. Only after years of fatherhood, myself, did I come to appreciate how exhausting that was for you, at times.

I think I shot this photo when you were 15 years younger than I am now. I remember being somewhat concerned that you bought a gas-powered push - rather than self-driven - lawnmower when you were turning 40, because I expected to be leaving home in a couple of years and without me around to cut the grass, wasn't sure you'd be okay with that. Forty seemed so old to me back then. Guess my worries were way misplaced. Oh, to be 40 again now, myself!

Thanks for setting a great example for me of being a good father, Dad. I love you.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

When You Need to Rent (Soccer) Fans, Who Ya Gonna Call?

Why, the Chinese, of course.

One of the stranger FIFA World Cup news stories to appear (so far) regards North Korea enlisting around a thousand PRC Chinese to pose as their “fans” during their soccer matches in South Africa.

Funny thing is, most of the Chinese who comprised the “fans volunteer army” knew next to nothing about soccer or the World Cup.

Evidently, the problem for the DPRNK was finding enough butts to fill their allocated seats at their games, butts that, presumably, could be trusted to return home at the end of the World Cup games. They managed to provide only a “group of 300 [who] had been carefully chosen by the North Korean Government.”

Being that the Norks were only able to “carefully select” 300 of their own people, they arranged for supplemental Chinese nationals to don the same red fan uniforms as their own people with the objective of providing support for their players.

You know, it has to be said, it’s bad enough when teams surreptitiously bring in ringers to play for them but when you have to fly in artificial fans, well, that that sets a new standard for the pathetic.

The London Evening Standard subject article reports, “Although they [DPRNK fan group] sang their national anthem loudly, the group tended only to cheer when directed by a man who stood before them like an orchestra’s conductor.”

Still, the Chinese were reported to be enjoying the games, cheering conductor and all. Can’t find any fault there. Lemons into lemonade: Wear a red uni and score free seats to a world class quadrennial sports event.

In a further botched attempt to endear North Korea to the world, the team’s “manager Kim Jong Hun rebuked a journalist for not using his country’s full name – Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea,” the same article reported.

Democratic People’s Republic, Banking Reform Bill... since when does a name of something have anything to do with accuracy of terms, anyway, right?

The saddest thing is, the North Koreans played decent soccer in their opener while losing to perennially strong Brazil by only one goal, and their back four defenders played very well together. You’ve got to give respect to the players. Obviously they’ve trained hard and have developed their skills, and playing in the shadow of an oppressive regime can’t be easy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Beautiful Game with the Annoying Sound

If you've watched any of the FIFA World Cup games, you've had to listen to the constant background noise from the vuvuzela crowd competing with the commentators' description of the action.

The noise is relentless and is reported to be at 127 decibels (for comparison, a chainsaw in operation is about 100 decibels; a jet taking off is 130 if you were to be standing next to the engines).

For the uninitiated, here's a guide to proper use of the vuvuzela.

click on image to enlarge

Personally, I hate the blankety-blank things.


Monday, June 14, 2010

A Tie is as Good as a...Draw

This would have been more timely on Monday, but I just saw this today.

I guess it's a cultural thing...

click on image to englarge