MonthNovember 2009

Seven screenplays you should read

This is geared mostly to aspiring screenwriters, but I think other writers and appreciators of film would benefit from at least reading this article, if not the scripts as well.

My PDF Scripts: Mystery Man’s Seven Scripts You Gotta Read!

(via Jorn Barger)

America’s ’shadow economy’ is bigger than you think – and growing

Pinning down the informal economy is as tough as catching a fake Louis Vuitton vendor running from the police. But it’s huge in the United States – larger than the official output of all but the upper crust of nations across the globe. And, due to the recent recession, it’s growing.

Whether that’s good or not depends entirely on one’s point of view. The rise of the informal economy is either the flourishing of entrepreneurship among America’s poorest or a drag on legitimate businesses that play by the rules. Here, on Harlem’s Malcolm X Boulevard, you can find both.

Perhaps the biggest surprise about America’s shadow economy is its size. Long associated with colorful street hawkers in the developing world, the shadow economy makes up a larger portion of the economies of countries like Greece (25 percent) or Mozambique (more than 40 percent) than it does in the US. But because America’s economy is so much bigger, its shadow economy amounts to nearly 8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) – in the ballpark of $1 trillion, estimates Friedrich Schneider, an economics professor at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria. That’s bigger than the GDP of Turkey or Australia.

There’s nothing particularly ominous about the shadow economy – at least, not the one Professor Schneider measures. He doesn’t include illegal activities like drug trafficking or counterfeiting. The transactions he looks at involve the legal production of goods and services that are not taxed and may violate labor laws.

The article concludes:

Off-the-books work “is probably neutral to good,” says Alfonso Morales, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He argues that formal and informal economies are linked and cannot be neatly separated.

“People who make their money in unregulated businesses probably spend it in regulated ones,” he says.

Christian Science Monitor: America’s ’shadow economy’ is bigger than you think – and growing

(via John Robb)

Do blind people hallucinate on LSD?

I’ve just found a remarkable 1963 study [pdf] from the Archives of Opthalmology in which 24 blind participants took LSD to see if they could experience visual hallucinations.

It turns out, they can, although this seems largely to be the case in blind people who had several years of sight to begin with, but who later lost their vision.

Those blind from a very early age (younger than two years-old) did not report visual hallucinations, probably because they never had enough visual experience to shape a fully-functioning visual system when their brain was still developing.

Mind Hacks: Do blind people hallucinate on LSD?

(via Paul Bingman)

What do the hacked Climate Research Unit e-mails mean?

Recently, one or more of the University of East Anglia’s servers were hacked and a large number of private e-mails exchanges between researchers at Climate Research University were made public.

NASA climate scientist Gavin A. Schmidt writes on his non-NASA endorsed blog:

No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded “gotcha” phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

Jones is quoted in New York Times on the subject and confirms that that particular e-mail is real, but the university says they cannot confirm that all the material circulating on the Internet is authentic.

You can read a few quotes from the e-mails at the Telegraph.

James Delingpole at the Telegraph claims these e-mails prove there was a conspiracy to hoax the world about global warming, but in my opinion a reading of this material only proves the CRU researchers were earnest, passionate believers in their research.

(Thanks to Trevor for the Telegraph link)

Majority of Republicans polled believe ACORN stole the election for Obama

The poll asked this question: “Do you think that Barack Obama legitimately won the Presidential election last year, or do you think that ACORN stole it for him?” The overall top-line is legitimately won 62%, ACORN stole it 26%.

Among Republicans, however, only 27% say Obama actually won the race, with 52% — an outright majority — saying that ACORN stole it, and 21% are undecided. Among McCain voters, the breakdown is 31%-49%-20%. By comparison, independents weigh in at 72%-18%-10%, and Democrats are

TPM: Majority Of Republicans Think Obama Didn’t Actually Win 2008 Election — ACORN Stole It!

I’m curious if anyone has any polls indicating the percentage of Democrats who believe Bush stole one or more elections.

(For the record, I do think both of Bush’s elections were stolen)

(Thanks Bill!)

Space invaders from outer space

space invaders in afghanistan

More Images

(via Disinfo)

5 yrs of graffiti, animated in 3D

Serge Gainsbourg – animation des graffitis sur 5 ans du mur rue de Verneuil from Arnaud Jourdain on Vimeo.

(via Nice Produce via Pink Tentacle))

Web comic – everyone is weird

not funny again

Pretty good web comic.

Virus Comics: not an insult

(via Autumn)

Depression as Deadly as Smoking, Study Finds

A study by researchers at the University of Bergen, Norway, and the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London has found that depression is as much of a risk factor for mortality as smoking.

Utilising a unique link between a survey of over 60,000 people and a comprehensive mortality database, the researchers found that over the four years following the survey, the mortality risk was increased to a similar extent in people who were depressed as in people who were smokers.

Dr Robert Stewart, who led the research team at the IoP, explains the possible reasons that may underlie these surprising findings: ‘Unlike smoking, we don’t know how causal the association with depression is but it does suggest that more attention should be paid to this link because the association persisted after adjusting for many other factors.’

The study also shows that patients with depression face an overall increased risk of mortality, while a combination of depression and anxiety in patients lowers mortality compared with depression alone. Dr Stewart explains: ‘One of the main messages from this research is that ‘a little anxiety may be good for you’.

Science Daily: Depression as Deadly as Smoking, Study Finds

Neuromancer… with Porn Star Sasha Grey as Molly

It’s a play… no it’s a reading… no it’s… hard to tell. But on November 22, from noon to 6 pm, the New Museum in NYC is doing some sort of cool six hour Neuromancer thing that they describe thusly:

“An ambitious new work by Brody Condon, Case is a contemporary adaptation of the classic cyberpunk novel Neuromancer by William Gibson. Combining Gibson’s 1980s dystopian techno-fetishism with early twentieth-century abstraction, faux ‘virtual reality’ scenes will unfold via moving Bauhaus-inspired sculptural props accompanied by the Gamelan ensemble Dharma Swara.”

R.U. Sirius: Neuromancer… with Porn Star Sasha Grey as Molly

Update: That link is dead, but you can find out about the event at io9.

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