Monday, March 30, 2009

Today in International Economy we watched parts of a film called The Corporation. It's basically a documentary about how evil and trecherous big companies are and how they go about destroying everything that the average human knows and loves but also needs to survive. This film is possibly the most biased bit of television that I have ever seen. And of course they asked for donations.

First and foremost, the film included Michael Moore, which by default makes it highly biased. However, I will give credit where it is due and point out that Mr. Moore never once mentioned George W Bush, making this the least biased film that he has ever been in. Michael complained that most corporations are run by "white rich men" and that they are "out of touch with what the majority of the world is", seeing as the majority consists of females of color, along with "the poor and working poor". Well gee, Michael, I guess you are right. Maybe it really would be better if someone poor and "in touch" with the majority was rich and running a corporation, which, by definition, would make him/her "out of touch", seeing as they would no longer be poor. Great idea, Michael! Let's replace someone who is capable of starting and supporting a large company with someone who is not!

Michael then moved on to interview Phil Knight - founder and CEO of Nike. Moore was very generous during his visit and brought with him two first class tickets to Indonesia so that Knight and himself could go over there to visit a Nike factory. Although it was never stated in the film, I think it's safe to assume that Moore wanted to show Knight the working conditions in the factory. For some bizarre reason Phil refused the offer. All day I've been trying to figure out why the CEO of one of the world's largest companies didn't simply drop everything he was doing and fly half way across the world at the invitation of some annoying fat guy. Hmm... Moore did not stop there, however. Phil Knight admitted that he has never been to Indonesia. Michael simply could not believe that "the guy [who] is the head of the company has never walked through his own factories". At this point I had to respectfully disagree with Mr. Moore's reaction. Do you really expect the head of a multi-billion dollar global corporation to travel all over the world and inspect his factories? First of all, he has people in charge of each and every one of them, and second of all, why on Earth would he go to a factory? Would he be able to single-handedly improve the production process? Is he an engineer? Architect? Accountant, even?

One of the things they condemned was the way modern advertising works and corporate images displayed through said advertisement. As the first example, they used Disney. They mentioned how this corporation has created, upholds, and highly values it's image as a company for families that stands for happiness and enjoyment. However, when the executives decided to get into the business of making adult movies (not pornograhic but simply unsuitable for childred), they did so under the name Touchstone Pictures. Well, what exactly is your point? Kids love Disney and everything associated with it, so why on Earth would you want to have rated-R movies marketed under a label that appeals to children? Is there really something terribly wrong about Disney creating a subsidiary for business unsuitable for and unrelated to the younger population?

Then there was a gentleman who boasted of creating "undercover messages". The idea is that as you walk or drive around you see product labels and that makes you want to buy the product. I'm not so sure about that one. See, I keep seeing commercials for Viagra and I have to give them credit, they are creative - "Viva Viagra!" is a pretty amusing slogan. However, I have never purchased any. See, I have this personality quirk, perhaps an unusual one, where I don't waste my money on things that I do not need. Viagra might be a great product for those that need it but their advertisement and endless commercials do little for me because I, personally, have no use for it. I don't know, maybe I'm just weird. I did hear a story recently about a gentleman mountain skier who bought cross-country skis sized for a seven-footer simply because they were on sale. Yep, he is about 5'8" and hates cross-country, but hey! it was a great deal! Yep, I must be a strange fella, since I question his actions.

The film then moved on to talk about General Electric and a certain professor that helped them develop a bacteria that could eat up oil. The idea is that these little bacteria could suck up massive oil spills and prevent serious damage to the environment. The gentleman and the company attempted to patent their invention but the US Patent Office declared that they are unable to issue patents for living organisms. This case kept going back and forth from appeal to appeal but the point that The Corporation was trying to make was that allowing the patent to go through would mean the ability of corporations to "own the blueprints of life". Let me get this straight. Some people worked the behinds off to create a microscopic organism that is able to prevent massive damage to the environment and you are insisting that they cannot have the sole right to it? Really? You don't think that a rival company will just come along and steal this technology that someone else worked on so hard?

Then The Corporation moved on to a water crisis in Bolivia. Apparently some researchers believe that humans will be out of fresh water by 2025. In Bolivia fresh water supply was privatized and citizens were forced to pay for drinking water. As horrible as this sounds, let's take a look at the other side of this situation, the side that wasn't mentioned in the film. We are on the brink of extinguishing a natural resourse that is essential to our survival. We cannot allow fresh water to be wasted, which means that a) someone has to take control of the situation and distribution, and b) wasteful consumption must be prevented. One of the ways (probably not the only one and not necessarily the most efficient way possible) of doing this is to put a price on water. Makes sense, doesn't it?

It is pretty amazing how people with very little knowledge of certain subjects make themselves out to be experts. Michael Moore and company: please stop manipulating facts to prove your highly biased points, stop misrepresenting people and companies, and please stop spreading your highly biased and misinformed left-wing bullshit.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A touch of the artistic

I decided to build a lightbox a little while back and finally got around to it today. Me and my roomate, Neil, were downtown and I decided to drop by the package (liquor) store to see if they had any boxes they didn't need. On the way there we stopped by CVS. I randomly decided to ask them about boxes and the manager lead me to the backroom where they had hundreds of empty cardboard boxes of all sizes. I picked out a fairly large box that used to have paper towels in it. I brought it back to my dormroom and cut holes in two of the sides and the top - paper would go over them and the lights would shine through there. By the time I got around to looking for more supplies, everything around campus was closed so I couldn't get tracing paper or anything similar. However, I stopped by the library to see if I can score some sheets and they pointed me to a pile of scrap paper where I found a bunch of 17"x11" (swice the size of regular computer paper) sheets. These were the perfect fit for the sides and top, but not nearly big enough to provide a smooth backdrop. Not a big deal though - tonight has been just a trial; I need better lights, a new backdrop, and possibly tracing paper (although those large computer sheets worked fairly well). Setting everything up was a major pain in the neck. I wanted to use my fluorescent desk light but it is attached to the shelf over my desk so I had to move the whole shelf around. The room was a disaster but I think it was worth it. Here are some trial shots:

First, the setup. You can see the shelf with the fluorescent light suspended between our desks, above the lightbox.
I posted this on a forum that I'm on and this was one of the comments: "A motorsports shirt, a messy dorm with a light box, and a major that involves a Ti-83...boy you must be getting all the ladies!"

I was using three light sources - two table lamps and the fluorescent light, so the lighting inside the box was definately on the yellow side :| This is straight from the camera:

This is with some saturation changes and a touch of brightness and contrast:

Straight from the camera:

Edited the saturation a bit (it's not perfect, I know - the buttons are yellow and I didn't want to screw with those):

Saturation-only edit:

Saturation-only edit:

That's all I have right now. This was a pretty fun little project and so far it has cost me $0, although that will change soon (better paper and new lights). I feel like I accomplished something today, even though I got no homework done as a result. Stay put for a dormroom darkroom.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Adam Smith would be spinning in his grave.

It has come to my attention that a certain instructor (who shall remain nameless) of mine is a socialist. It started rather innocently. One day in class the man started telling his students about the financial crisis that the United States is currently undergoing. He mentioned that people consume less and less as the economy declines and then complained that most Americans are not self-sufficient, that is they depend on others and on the economy to make a living, as opposed to a few hundred years ago when people simply farmed.
He then went on to provide some statistics. Only 10% of Americans are self-sufficient (ie run their own business) and that the means of production are concentrated in the hands of just a handful (the corporate sector. One third of the world's population survives on less than $2 a day; their combined income is less than the total wealth of the world's 250 richest people. In the US, the top 0.5% earn more than the bottom 50% and the richest 5% own more than twice as much wealth as the lower 95%. The instructor went on to tell us about the admittedly high unemployment rate and about how hard it is to find work in the United States. The self-employed (the man has a tendency to jump from topic to topic) are being driven out of business by evil corporations. Such large companies have massive amounts of money and yet they are unwilling to share their fortunes with the government. If only they decided to help out a bit, "we would be out of this recession in a day". He then switched back to the unemployed and told the class that in a certain part of Florida 25% of households require food assistance. Between one third and one half of the American households are struggling (whatever that means).
Now let's move on to some direct quotes and some of the more outrageous ideas presented by my teacher. "Before the 1930s there was no UMass." I think he meant that the school did not get as much financial support from the government. "If people at the bottom got paid more, they would be able to spend more money at Wal-Mart", as opposed to the Dollar Store. He also proposed a "millionaire tax" and suggested that the government simply print more money to get out of the financial crisis - even though this would cause inflation (which "has a bad reputation"), it would "reduce the burden of debt". But in the end "economics is kind of confused" anyways.

Dear instructor, although some inequality of opportunity exists in this country, everyone, more or less, has the chance to succeed. The rich became rich because they or their predecessors worked for the money. William Gates came up with a revolutionary idea; Hewlett and Packard ran their company out of a garage; Sergey Brin is an immigrant who created the largest internet company in history. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Joe Smith who has not had or even looked for employment in the last decade or so and lives off of his welfare checks. In the US, the harder you work and the smarted you are/become, the more money you earn, for the most part. I will readily admit that sheer luck plays a role in it, but if you don't even try to succeed, then no amount of luck in the world (save for winning the lottery perhaps) will get you to the top, in terms of wealth. This is why some people run multi-billion dollar corporations, while others work for them. True, not everyone can make it to the Fortune 500, but it really isn't that difficult to earn yourself a fairly comfortable living. Bearing all that in mind, why should the "wealthy" give away what they have earned to help the government fix their mistakes? I'm all for charity and philanthrophy but the whole Freddie/Fannie/sub-prime loan debacle was one big mess-up and I fail to see why the private sector has to pay for it.

(note: most of the above is a rant after a fairly long day. Some things may not make perfect sense and I'm sure that there are some instances where I did not express myself in the best possible manner. Feel free to get in touch with me to clear any points of confusion or argue the other side of things.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Psychedelic... music??

Last semester a few friends and I went to a local EDM (electronic dance music) event, also known as a rave. While some of us had a great time, two of my friends stood around rather awkwardly, unsure of what to do. When asked if everything was alright, they replied with a question, "How do you dance to techno?".
To be honest, I can't really describe it or write a how-to. There isn't really any set way to dance to electronic music that you can learn. What you can do is simply let the music take control of your mind and your body. Let loose and allow your body to move any way it wants to the beat. Remember - it's virtually impossible to look stupid dancing at a rave (looking at you, V-guy).
The reason people enjoy "techno" (I won't get into the technical (no pun intented) definition of the word/genre) so much is that it appeals on a very primitive level. It allows your mind to disconnect from the everyday and float away to a funky psychedelic land where your limbs can go free and be one with the music. Swing your arms, shake your head, stomp your feet - whatever each part of your body feels like doing.
Now, go download some trance, throw on your headphones, and let it all go.


Monday, February 9, 2009


First things first. My name is Lev. I was born and raised in Moscow but have lived in Massachusetts since mid-2000. I currently attend UMass Amherst and it was actually my roomate here, Neil, that inspired me to make a blog (although I doubt he realizes it). I love photography (one of the many reasons for this blog - I'm hoping that it will encourage me to take even more pictures), cars, racing, skiing, and a little bit of tennis when the weather is nice. I listen to all kinds of music - hardcore/metal, electronic, punk, classical, jazz, a little bit of hip-hop and rap here and there. I seriously doubt that anyone is ever going to read anything I write on here... except for Neil maybe. That's ok though, I'm doing this for myself. More to come, hopefully.