Moneyball and Wallstreet

One of my favourite sporting movies is Moneyball.  Those outside of the US may not have watched it or even heard of this oscar nominated picture. It’s a movie about the adaption of innovative sabermetrics which changed how the game of baseball is managed by baseball heads, scouts and insiders.

But once you look deeper, Moneyball is not just about baseball, but the search for a new way to value people who were ordinarily undervalued based on misinformed pre-conceived ideas.

I believe that there is a championship team of twenty five people that we can afford. Because everyone else in baseball under values them. Like an island of misfit toys.

From wiki, ‘by re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field, the 2002 Athletics, with approximately US$44 million in salary, were competitive with larger market teams such as the New York Yankees, who spent over US$125 million in payroll that same season. Because of the team’s smaller revenues, Oakland is forced to find players undervalued by the market, and their system for finding value in undervalued players has proven itself thus far. This approach brought the A’s to the playoffs in 2002 and 2003′.

The Moneyball notion as it applies to baseball can be seen in this short video which  extracts the best parts of the notion from the movie:

Now, the writer Michael Lewis of Moneyball which inspired the movie based on the history of the sabermetric movement back to such people as Bill James, offers a brief but candid account of what Moneyball means in the bigger pitcure such as that on Wall Street or even towards our own intended or unintended biases. I found it illuminating despite its brevity. I hope you like it also:

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Posted in Movies and TV, Sport and Adventure

Two Astronomers discuss Alien Lifeforms, Science Fiction Movies and Astrophysics

From the end of the much acclaimed 1997 Sci Fi Thriller  ‘Contact’:

‘You are not real, none of this real…..
You are an interesting species…In all our searching all we found is each other.’

If you are a Sci Fi film buff or just any buff with an inclination to know what’s out there beyond our dangerously warming atmosphere, then you’ll chomp down on this post. It’s from an intriguing article on ABC news Australia, ‘If we finally find alien life, will it be anything like the movies’?

I have been taking a keener interest in all things science. I suspect my recent insatiable listening to Sam Harris’ podcasts has been the instigator for my wanting to learn more about truth, science and particularly cosmology.

Below are some of my favourite parts of the discussion between astronomers and science fiction film fans – Dr Amanda Bauer and Dr Alan Duffy:

Alan: Take Gravity, Interstellar and 2001: A Space Odyssey. They didn’t get absolutely everything right, but some of their most accurate scenes are also some of the most engaging. Wonderful cinematic moments and wonderful scientific demonstrations at the same time….

Amanda: Wait, am I allowed to talk about where Gravity got it WRONG now? They rendered the Hubble Space Telescope and the Soyuz Spacecraft beautifully — but the chance of the astronauts cruising between the two spacecraft, whose orbits above Earth differ by 140 kilometres in height, with nothing but jet-pack propulsion, and then just grabbing on?! Nope. Not possible…..

Alan: OK then, let’s talk Interstellar. The modelling they used to depict that black hole was so involved that a new effect was noticed: the halo-like warping of the glowing accretion disk around the black hole. It was written up in a scientific journal by the movie’s science advisor Professor Kip Thorne!


^The black hole in Interstellar was very carefully simulated.

If your already juiced up watch the The Science of Interstellar documentary.

Alan: And what about the ultimate masterpiece? 2001: A Space Odyssey. The rotating spacecraft that mimics Earth-like gravity because of its centripetal acceleration, or the wondrous silence punctuated by moments where air pressure (and hence sound) return; they all add to the film, while faithfully exploring scientific concepts in front of a huge audience.

Amanda: Love the music, love the ideas… But this film also creeped me out about artificial intelligence in a way that I’m still not completely comfortable with!

Anyway — let’s get this back to aliens. If you’re such an expert, what’s YOUR favourite move alien?

Alan: That’s tricky. Space is sometimes explored really well in the movies, but the fictional aliens that live there are usually much less convincing.

The common plot line, where aliens are so advanced as to travel hundreds of trillions of kilometres between the stars and then invade us, is just bizarre! Why harvest the resources on Earth when there is so much more available — and already in bite-sized chunks — lying in the asteroid belt?

Amanda: True. And you guys, in your enormous ships, flew right past all those asteroids to get here!

Alan: ….. The idea that the aliens can somehow use our bodies is incredibly unlikely.

Considering that we share most of our DNA with life on Earth, and yet are violently sick (at best) if we try to eat almost any of it — then how would an alien from space, which shares none of that DNA, possibly be able to eat us? Let alone, as in Aliens, go one step further and use us as a host, or even somehow take DNA characteristics from that host! Remember the dog-alien?

Amanda: But instead of meeting face-to-face, maybe we will communicate. Like in Contact — I love that movie. It’s a wonderful description of the way we might uncover such a signal, and it’s a great exploration of the range of responses from the public too.

Contact came out when I first started studying physics and I constantly got told, “You remind me of that lady in the movie with the headsets…” Jodie Foster? “YES!”

But by the time I started teaching, the students were too young to have seen that movie. Sad.

Alan: …..And we are certainly listening. Telescopes around the world, including the Parkes radio telescope in Australia, are looking for just this sort of signal as part of the Breakthrough Listen project. The science is finally catching up with the science fiction.

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Posted in News, Science

Keep On Sleeping With Ham Sarris #1 – Against Empathy (With Plaul Boom)

I am a big fan of Ham Sarris’ podcasts and this one in particular really got me thinking:

If you are after more insightful podcasts by Ham, tune into the follow up podcast with Peter Jordanson:

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Posted in News, Reflections

I think Neil deGrasse Tyson just invented Intellectual Porn

Watch from 3.44 on mute…

Warning the following You tube viewer comment may offend some readers:

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Posted in Movies and TV

The greatest cover up in history – The unheralded Robert Zimmerman

bob-dylan
Few Hollywood insiders know that Robert Zimmerman’s deftly nuanced acting performance in The Night We Called It a Day landed him a lot of movie scripts. If you have seen Robert in this; his manner holding the gun beside his lover, the sneer in his eyes – as menacing as we’re ever likely to see on screen. There remains contentious debate how Robert’s gritty and heart wrenching portrayal as an ageing rock-star in Masked and Anonymous didn’t earn him an Oscar nod. Not to mention his career defining performance in Don’t Look Back as Bob Dylan. You almost feel you are seeing the real, living, breathing Bob on-screen. His follow-up experimental portrayal as Bob Dylan in the epic 11 and a half hour Renaldo and Clara has since become the No 1 preferred alternative medicine prescribed by Health physicians for patients suffering insomnia. His accolades for songwriting such as the  Nobel Prize in Literature have neatly divert the world’s attention away from his true god-given talent – Acting.

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Posted in Movies and TV, Music

Did the RIO Olympics Deliver?

rio

Just finished reading this article on BBC about Rio Olympics 2016: Did the IOC’s gamble pay off or did Brazil fail to deliver?

What are your thoughts?

I personally feel the Olympics didn’t pay off. Sure there are always stellar moments on the screen, which you could still get if the events were located near the south pole, but how many witnessed the events first hand? For instance, the public crowd attendance at the Marathon was extremely poor. There seemed more junior guards perimiting the fences than there were actual spectators. The first day athletics sold just half the seating capacity.

The proximity of Rio to major air transport destinations is like 1000 miles. So the normal Olympic traveller may have found the costs too high to travel. And as for the the local support – the cost for the average Brazilian in Favela to attend an event is like half their weekly salary. At least, the football was well attended.
Imagine if the money that was injected into these Olympics was instead put into infrastructure and public housing in Brazil?

The booing against opposition was terrible to hear in Brazil, but that occurs in nearly total Latin American. The ESPN Latin American commentators were similarly bad-sports when viewing say a Weightlifter against a Latin opponent and chant – Please No, no no, no as he was going to lift. It’s no wonder multiculturalism, tolerance, and diversity hasn’t exactly thrived here in the sole Catholic continent, that which is South America. I thought the values of Religion brought goodness and decency to its followers :lol:

The poor behaviour of some athletes also left a sour taste, which I don’t need to expand on here since it has been done to death in the media. Don’t forget the green pool, but looking back that is probably the least of the problems seen at these Olympics.

So the IOC maintain the tournament was a huge success and encapsulated the vibrance and culture of the Brazilians. They wanted to bring the torch to a new continent, but had they considered any of the above might occur? Or did they just want to let a divided, developing nation who were up for it politically become even more disunited and entangled and left to the whim of the corruptive powers that be? Naivity and appearances aren’t what they are all cracked up to be.

Updated 23 Aug 2016:

Rio 2016: After the Olympic party, reality bites for the city’s poor – ABC NEWS AUSTRALIA

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Posted in Movies and TV, Sport and Adventure

Fallen Angels – Bob Dylan (a snappy review of Bob Dylan’s latest album)

fallen angels
Like its predecessor, the masterpiece Shadows in the Night ( my review here), this album is enticing a whole new audience to the Bob Dylan musical repertoire; the type of audience which lounged their music away and didn’t think twice, but that’s alright. Fallen Angels gives them another side to Dylan, like a saltier martini that makes the going down so much more pleasurable. He has again craftily demonstrated his whet appetite for romantic divulges, which is really his most enduring theme when you reflect back on his music. Some say Dylan is a folkie, hippster, poet, ‘song and dance man’, but what he really is just a smoothie and all he’s done is gone back to that lil’ ol thang that captivates him more than anything else – ‘Love’. This album is a more light-hearted extension of the heavy Shadows dose; an artistic expression of a 70 something year old’s innate desires to feel love. It’s that simple, yet so utterly convincing, unlike how young crooners cross their t’s and dot their i’s. How lucky are we?

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Posted in Music

Colombian Police Are Just Doing Their Job

Colombian police
I was stopped by Colombian police on the street today because I looked like a delinquent and was asked to show my ID. As they ogled my ID, I removed my sunnies from below my hoodie so they could match my eyes.
Most people would feel bitter about being stopped based on their appearance, but I wasn’t. On the contrary, it’s the only thing that has kept me safe on the streets after all these years and even better still, it’s reassuring the police can spot a hoodlum when they see one.

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Posted in Reflections

Hail, Caesar! – The Latest from the Coen Brothers

Caesar
I finally saw the Coen Bros latest Hail, Caesar! (click for IMDB overview). It’s very  playful, multilayered, satirical and witty as you would expect from the highly original Coen duo. At times, stylistically and comedically it reminded me of a Mel Brooks movie. The production design is to die for and there are some jaw-dropping choreography scenes reminiscent of the Gene Kelly movies. There is a gloriously funny scene between Ralph Fiennes character and Alden Ehrenreich and those who have seen it will know the one I’m referring to. George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansen and Alden Ehrenreich were captivating in every scene they appeared. The Francis McDormand editing room scene is another standout. There are so many references to the great films of the day that if you blink, you’ll miss a few.

Half way through, I was thinking this could end up being my favourite movie of the year, right up their with their unheralded screenwriting masterpiece Barton Fink (Click to see my review). My main criticism with the film and why it doesn’t attain the heights of Barton is that by the time we have seen its seemingly premature and inconsequential ending, it’s as though we just sat through an early draft Coen Bros movie script put to screen. It seems the movie was pushed out too early without the directors fully realising their own aims and by the end, the plot amounts to basically diddly-squat. Is it still worth seeing? Heck yeh!

Hail, Caesar!, like Barton might not be for everyone, which could be a good thing because it’s about how the Coens are celebrating the films we have perhaps idealized a bit too much. A second tier Coen Bros film is still a great movie and I’m looking forward to seeing it again real soon. I give it an eight out of ten.
Barton Fink, The Big Lebowsky, No Country For Old Men, Fargo and Llewyn Davis (click to read my review) remain my favourite Coen movies, but Hail, Caesar! coulda, shoulda been right up there if the script and character development had been fully realised. I still had a lot of fun with it and that’s the important thing.

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Posted in Movies and TV

Meanderng Thoughts about the Beatles Anthology

beatles
In Australia, my first recollection of hearing The Beatles was at the tender age of six.  In primary school we danced incessantly to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and Yellow Submarine. It seemed like a daily exercise ritual and I became increasingly disheartened and ininspired and nothing has really changed for me about the Beatles ever since. 36 years after the Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da drilling, I decided to watch the eight episode Anthology of the Beatles, to confirm if indeed I had missed something.

I enjoyed episodes 4 and 5 (the middle years) which had references to their influences including Dylan who two of them claimed was an idol. Easily the most thought-provoking episode is the final which deals with their inevitable divorce.  I was completely bored in episodes 6 and 7 except for their Indian vacation about Transcendentalism.

The Anthology overall, like my primary school had this incessant need to repeat songs, like She Loves You, as if repetition will sign and seal their enduring greatness. How many times do you have to hear Love Me Do or Help, or any of the other songs they repeated in their entirety in this series? I would have just preferred to hear the Beatles and co talk with song snippets in between, in a similar vain to how Scorsese directed Dylan’s ‘No Direction Home’.

My favourite part of the whole Beatles Anthology is presented in this the transcript below from episode 5 which really sums up, how I have always felt about the Beatles and why I always enjoyed their solo works much more. Excuse the format, but I copied it from an English subtitle text:

Then they got interested
and got to really listen and like us

Then this screaming thing started

They used us as an excuse to go mad

The world did, then blamed it on us

We were just in the middle, in a car
or hotel room. We couldn’t do much

We couldn’t go out,
we couldn’t do anything

For us it was a drag –
we knew they wouldn’t hear anything

because it’s just like a riot,
not like a show

It felt dangerous because
everybody was out of hand

Even the cops were
just caught up in the mania

It was like they were this big movie

We felt trapped in the middle
while everybody else was going mad

We were actually the sanest people
in the whole thing

The realisation was kicking in
that nobody was listening

That was OK in the beginning
is that we were playing so bad

We were now a big band. When we
went ‘Whooahh’ and shook our heads
everyone went mad

I don’t really think it was that bad

I was playing just shit
all I could do was…
hold down the off-beat

I couldn’t come off that, really
because if you went to do anything
on the toms, it was just nothing

There was no noise

I just felt that we were
playing really bad

I’d joined the Beatles because
they were the best band in Liverpool
I wanted to play with good players
and that’s what it was all about

First and foremost,
we were musicians

George Martin
Record Producer
Their musical creativity
showed no signs of flagging

On the contrary, they were becoming
more and more productive

The work they were giving me
was much more interesting

They were finding new frontiers
all the time
Our whole attitude was changing
We’d grown up a little

I think grass was really influential
in a lot of our changes

Especially with the writers

Because they were writing different
stuff, we were playing differently

We were all expanding
in all areas of our life
opening up to a lot
of different attitudes

The direction was changing away
from the Thank You Girl poppy stuff

the early stuff –
From Me to You, She Loves You

All the early stuff was directly
relating to your fans
kind of saying,
please buy this record

Thank You Girl, PS I Love You,
it was all very that
There came a point where we’d done
enough of that and branched out
into songs that are a bit more surreal,
more entertaining

Other people were arriving on the scene
who were a little bit influential
I don’t really know whether
we’d been influenced

Dylan was starting to influence us
quite heavily at that point

When it got sort of contemporary
as it were, a contemporary influence
I think Rubber Soul was about
when it started happening

It was just around that period

when we were all getting into
different kinds of music

George’s became Indian

We were all listening to classical music
and various types of music
other than our own
and our rock’n’roll roots

and George moved into the Indian thing

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