McNamara’s War

“Beyond loyalty, McNamara persuaded himself — as did other internal skeptics such as Undersecretary of State George Ball — that he could better influence policy by staying put. Moreover, he wasn’t absolutely sure in his bleak diagnosis. Maybe, just maybe, things would turn out well after all, or at least stabilize sufficiently to be handed off to the next administration, preserving not only Johnson’s historical credibility but also his own. As Leslie H. Gelb, himself a veteran of McNamara’s Pentagon (and later a member of The Times editorial board), has written, “It is almost superhuman to expect one responsible for waging war” to fundamentally rethink its merits and then to act on the basis of that rethinking. “And so doubts simply float in the air without being translated into policy.””

From the NY Times.

Efficient Market Hypothesis

The efficient-market hypothesis (EMH) is a theory in financial economics that states that asset prices fully reflect all available information. A direct implication is that it is impossible to “beat the market” consistently on a risk-adjusted basis since market prices should only react to new information or changes in discount rates (the latter may be predictable or unpredictable).

The EMH was developed by Professor Eugene Fama who argued that stocks always trade at their fair value, making it impossible for investors to either purchase undervalued stocks or sell stocks for inflated prices. As such, it should be impossible to outperform the overall market through expert stock selection or market timing, and that the only way an investor can possibly obtain higher returns is by chance or by purchasing riskier investments.[1] His 2012 study with Kenneth French confirmed this view, showing that the distribution of abnormal returns of US mutual funds is very similar to what would be expected if no fund managers had any skill—a necessary condition for the EMH to hold.[2]

via Wikipedia

Facebook & Funny Or Die

Last month, in its second round of layoffs in as many years, comedy hub Funny or Die reportedly eliminated its entire editorial team following a trend of comedy websites scaling back, shutting down, or restructuring their business model away from original online content.
Hours after CEO Mike Farah delivered the news via an internal memo, Matt Klinman took to Twitter, writing, “Mark Zuckerberg just walked into Funny or Die and laid off all my friends.” It was a strong sentiment for the longtime comedy creator, who started out at UCB and The Onion before launching Pitch, the Funny or Die-incubated joke-writing app, in 2017.
But Klinman explained in a thread: “There is simply no money in making comedy online anymore. Facebook has completely destroyed independent digital comedy and we need to fucking talk about it.”

Article on Splitsider. (long)

Bee’s sense of location.

“A beehive can apparently be moved two inches each night without disorienting the bees the next morning. Surprisingly, if it is moved two miles, the bees also have no problem: They are forced by the total displacement of their environment to re-orient their sense of direction, which they can do easily enough. But if the hive is moved two yards, the bees will become fatally confused. The environment does not seem different to them, so they do not re-orient themselves, and as a result, they will not recognize their own hive when they return from foraging, hovering instead in the empty space where the hive used to be, while the hive itself sits just two yards away.”

– IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, A PERSPECTIVE ON FILM EDITING. Walter Murch.

We make our own Gods …

Consider how some people attempt to make what can only be imagined feel real. They do this by trying to create thought-forms, or imagined creatures, called tulpas. Their human creators are trying to imagine so vividly that the tulpas start to seem as if they can speak and act on their own. The term entered Western literature in 1929, through the explorer Alexandra David-Néel’s “Magic and Mystery in Tibet.” She wrote that Tibetan monks created tulpas as a spiritual discipline during intense meditation. The Internet has been a boon for tulpa practice, with dozens of sites with instructions on creating one.

Jack, a young man I interviewed, decided to make a tulpa when he was in college. He set aside an hour and a half each day for this. He’d spend the first 40 minutes or so relaxing and clearing his mind. Then he visualized a fox (he liked foxes). After four weeks, he started to feel the fox’s presence, and to have feelings he thought were the fox’s.
Finally, after a chemistry exam, he felt that she spoke to him. “I heard, clear as day, ‘Well, how did you do?’ ” he recalled. For a while he was intensely involved with her, and said it felt more wonderful than falling in love with a girl.
Then he stopped spending all that time meditating — and the fox went away. It turned out she was fragile. He says she comes back, sometimes unexpectedly, when he practices. She calms him down.

Fun read in the Times –
T. M. Luhrmann OCT. 14, 2013

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Saw this at the Mayan last Friday. I thought it was quite good. Avant-garde movie. Greek myth type story transposed to current day. The overall tone, and the style of acting, sort of deadpan, were reminiscent, in a good way, of Bresson. Specifically Au Hasard Balthazar. Perhaps Balthazar was in mind after it played at Chez Artiste earlier this year.

Strong thumbs up for those in the mood for some antidote to the current Super-Hero stuff.

Fun post script -> There was an obstreperous moviegoer who was asked to leave. After the movie another patron was overheard speaking to a Mayan Employee, “This was my first time here and this was the worst experience I’ve ever had in the theater.” I don’t know if it was the movie or the ejected noisemaker that was her problem.

It is – Say what?

It is -> it’s
It possesses that thing -> its

‘Its’ or ‘it’s’?
The word it’s is always short for ‘it is’ (as in it’s raining), or in informal speech, for ‘it has’ (as in it’s got six legs).
The word its means ‘belonging to it’ (as in hold its head still while I jump on its back). It is a possessive pronoun like his.

Don’t blame me. Seems like it should be the other way around.

The Aleph

Aleph

There are two observations that I would wish to add: one, with regard to the nature of the Aleph; the other, with respect to its name. Let me begin with the latter: “aleph”, as we all know, is the name of the first letter of the alphabet of the sacred language. Its application to the disk of my tale would not appear to be accidental. In the Kabbala, that letter signifies the En Soph, the pure and unlimited godhead; it has also been said that its shape is that of a man pointing to the sky and the earth, in order to show that the lower world is the map and mirror of the higher. For the Mengenlebre, the aleph is the symbol of the transfinite numbers, in which the whole is not greater than any of its parts. I would like to know: Did Carlos Argentino choose that name or did he read it, applied to another point at which all points converge, in one of the innumerable texts revealed to him by the Aleph in his house? Incredible as it may seem, I believe that there is (or was) another Aleph; I believe the Aleph of Calle Garay was a false Aleph.

– The Aleph, Borges.

Cool film podcast.


The Canon, with Amy Nicholson.
“What films should be included in the list of all-time greats? Film critic Amy Nicholson (MTV News) and a guest debate, discuss and sometimes harmoniously agree about whether a film should be Canon-ized. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Cast your vote in the Earwolf [aka FearWolf] forums, and decide the legacy of each movie forevermore. No pressure.”

I’ve been listening to this show for a while, but it’s really been on a roll lately. October is apparently Fear/Horror month. Good stuff.

School refusal

“It’s a struggle that many parents are familiar with — your child doesn’t want to go to school. But for some kids, this happens every day, leading to weeks and sometimes months of missing school. Mental health professionals say these students’ chronic absenteeism is part of a condition called “school refusal” that may be triggered by anxiety, depression, family crises and other traumatic life events.”

Interesting talk on Here and Now.

Telic and Atelic activities.

Philosophy Bites takes on:
The Meaning of Life; or, How to Avoid the Midlife Crisis

What’s the solution? Key, Setiya argues, is to distinguish between telic and atelic activities:

Telic: “Almost anything we call a ‘project’ will be telic: buying a house, starting a family, earning a promotion, getting a job. These are all things one can finish or complete”.

Atelic: “not all activities are like this. Some do not aim at a point of termination or exhaustion: a final state in which they have been achieved and there is nothing more to do. For instance,… you can go for a walk with no particular destination. Going for a walk is an ‘atelic’ activity. The same is true of hanging out with friends or family, of studying philosophy, of living a decent life. You can stop doing these things and you eventually will, but you cannot complete them in the relevant sense…. they do not have a telic character”. So, “If you are going for a walk, hanging out with friends, studying philosophy, or living a decent life, you are not on the way to achieving your end. You are already there”.

Springsteen Interview on Fresh Air

Interesting quote –

You write about how being on stage is almost like medicine for you? 
Sure!

Does it get you out of yourself? 
Oh, of course. You’re immediately pulled out of the inside of your head. I have been on stage on a few occasions where I felt I couldn’t escape the interior of my interior thoughts, but Peter Wolf once said,

“What’s the strangest thing you can do onstage? Think about what you’re doing.”

There’s just nothing weirder you can do.

Ramones – I Want To Live

I’ve been thinking it over
And I know just what to do
I’ve been thinking it over
And I know I just can’t trust myself
I’m a gypsy prince covered with diamonds and jewels
But then my lover exposes me
And I know I’m just a damn fool

I give what I’ve got to give
I give what I need to live
I give what I’ve got to give
It’s important if I want to live
I want to live
I want to live my life
I want to live
I want to live my life

As I load my pistol of fine German steel
I never thought I’d be so down and out having my last meal
But I know I can do it
It just took a few years
As I execute my killer the morning is near

I give what I’ve got to give
I give what I need to live
I give what I’ve got to give
It’s important if I want to live

From the album Halfway to Sanity. An underrated gem.

Happy – along the way

Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way. The enjoyments of life (such was now my theory) are sufficient to make it a pleasant thing, when they are taken en passant, without being made a principal object. Once make them so, and they are immediately felt to be insufficient. They will not bear a scrutinizing examination. Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. The only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the purpose of life. Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation, exhaust themselves on that; and if otherwise fortunately circumstanced you will inhale happiness with the air you breathe, without dwelling on it or thinking about it, without either forestalling it in imagination, or putting it to flight by fatal questioning.

– John Stuart Mill, Autobiography

Can Buddhist Practices Help Us Overcome The Biological Pull Of Dissatisfaction?

Are human beings hard-wired to be perpetually dissatisfied? Author Robert Wright, who teaches about the interface of evolutionary biology and religion, thinks so.

Wright points out that evolution rewards people for seeking out pleasure rather than pain, which helps ensure that human beings are frequently unsatisfied: “We are condemned to always want things to be a little different, always want a little more,” he says. “We’re not designed by natural selection to be happy.”

But all is not lost. In his new book, Why Buddhism is True, Wright makes the case that some Buddhist practices can help humans overcome the biological pull towards dissatisfaction. …

Good interview on Fresh Air.