Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coraline and 3D come of age

Coraline was produced by Laika, a small stop-motion studio in Portland, OR. Stop-motion is that production process where each frame (think 24 frames per second) is painstakingly arranged and shot, on an average delivering two to three seconds of finished product per day. The crew must either have infinite patience, or suffer from a high rate of mental breakdown. It took eighty-five weeks to shoot this movie on more than fifty sets.

3D is just right for stop motion production, where the models and sets are constructed with microsurgical attention to detail. The 3D aspect draws you into those tiny sets and enhances the lifelikeness of Coraline, her family, and wacky neighbors. And when she stumbles into a parallel world, we tunnel there with her and sense the creepiness escalate as the texture of that world and its characters close in around us.

With Coraline, 3D has moved past the old geeky-spex, gimmicky tradition of the 1950s. Here the technology enhances the storytelling, deepens mood and character, and intensifies the sense of place.

3D is finally coming of age. Over forty 3D movies will be released over the next two years, none more anticipated than Avatar from James Cameron, who has spent years putting together his 3D sci-fi epic film. Previews are expected in cinemas soon. Until then, this tease on YouTube is all we get. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGs3_1qKl34.

But check out Coraline to see the future of movies, plus what to expect to see on your home TV within the next couple of years.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Robert Rubin, aka Gordon Gecko

"My great regret is that I and so many of us who have been involved in this industry for so long did not recognize the serious possibility of the extreme circumstances that the financial system faces today," Robert Rubin wrote in his January resignation letter from Citigroup. (In other words, "Hey. Everyone else got it wrong, too.")

This statement after earning $115 million over ten years on the Citi board of directors in the role of a senior adviser, and until August 2008 as head of the Executive Committee.

In this letter to CEO Vikram Pandit, Mr. Rubin added, "As you know, when we officially changed my title six months ago, my first choice had been also to reduce my advisory and client-oriented role. However, after you and I spoke, I decided to continue in those roles as you and your management team settled in and began to implement proactively your program of substantial and important changes at Citi. But now, as you and your team have made the tough decisions I mentioned earlier and established yourselves, the time has come for me to reshape the structure of my life." (In other words, "Things are getting a little hot around here, and, hey, I really don't need this aggravation any more. I made my nut.")

After ten years of providing expensive advice, Mr. Rubin bristled when criticized for his role as an adviser to the bank which he counseled to take on extreme levels of risk in the mortgage market, telling the Wall Street Journal in November that he could have "earned a lot more elsewhere."

Unfortunately an impairment calculation, whereby a company's assets are marked down on the corporate balance sheet to reflect current market rates, doesn't involve clawing back advisory fees paid to the knuckleheads who got you into the mess.

Mr. Rubin, who was also an economic adviser to Barack Obama's campaign, served his country with distinction as Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton, but since then he has taken on the characteristics of a twenty-first century Gordon Gecko by his "greed is good" self-enrichment at Citigroup, followed by his attempt to absolve himself of any responsibility in the bank's meltdown.

How many people do you know that after earning $115 million would dare to whine, "Don't blame me. I'm just an adviser, plus--hey--they were lucky to have me."?

Let's see: $115 million. That's roughly $1 million per month over ten years, with say, twenty work days per month, that makes $250,000 per week. Mr. Rubin withdrew from Citigroup the equivalent value of about one average foreclosure per week. Mr. Rubin could single-handedly help five-hundred foreclosed families remain in their homes, if he was so philanthropically inclined.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Daschle Made the Wrong Decision

Earlier today Tom Daschle withdrew from consideration for Secretary of Health and Human Services ostensibly for not paying taxes of $140,000 or so in a timely manner.

Mr. Daschle apparently asked his accountant to check his taxes for accuracy about six months ago and the matter was brought to his attention then, meaning he sat on this information until after it was brought to the attention of the Congress. Then he filed amended returns, and in an act of phony contrition, he publicly apologized for his--what did he call it?--his mistake.

He also drew down say $5 million since leaving Congress as a lobbyist (who was not technically registered as a lobbyist) with part of that work in the health industry.

According to our new president, "If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on, or in the agencies you lobbied during the previous two years."

Mr. Daschle made the right decision to withdraw, or perhaps it was The White House which made the right decision by asking Mr. Daschle to withdraw.

But knowing how he spent his time since leaving Congress, how he earned his income and how much he claimed on his tax return, and how much tax he paid, Mr. Daschle made the wrong decision at the very start of this sordid affair by letting himself be considered for the Cabinet post.

From the presdient who promised CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN, we have politics as usual. Coming on the heels of the free pass granted Bill Lynn (a defense lobbyist), as deputy defense secretary, we are watching the man who campaigned on a platform which belittled business as usual struggle within his first weeks to live up to his own standards.

Obama didn't blink over Lynn's waiver. And he said tonight on NBC that he still thought Daschle was the best man for the job. Methinks Obama don't get it. Daschle was wrong to put himself forward, and Obama was wrong to push him for the Cabinet role.

Has hubris already taken hold?