The Plight of the Asian Male Actor.

Upon having a recent discussion with my brother-in-law, an aspiring actor in Calgary as one of his many hobbies, I have found he presents an interesting point when discussing the limited roles available for oriental males: they are typecast into roles of either the nerdy math geek or the chop-sockey hero or the evil Fu Man Chu villain; all of which never did get the girl in the end.  Sure, they get to kick some ass and save the world but none have yet to be cast as a lead making off into the sunset with Angelina Jolie.  In fact, there are few scenes in movies where Asian males are having an on-screen romance with someone of their own ethnic group! 

Arguments are that Hollywood typecasts Asian males in roles people are used to seeing Asian men in such as a waiter in a restaurant or a martial artist or a nerdy office clerk.  In real life though, is it irony that upon walking into any hospital in North America, most of the doctors and surgeons are comprised of Asian males; but, in Hollywood, Grey' Anatomy and ER, the top two most well-known hospital-themed television shows, there are no male Asian  doctors to be seen.  In the movie 21, based on the non-fiction novel Bringing Down the House, the main characters in the book, based upon the real-life MIT Blackjack Team were mostly Asian;  where in the film, only two were Asian in minor roles.  When is the last time anyone has saw a love scene involving Jackie Chan or John Cho or Chow Yun Fat or Masi Oka?  Its difficult enough to picture any of these guys in a role that doesn't involve beating people up or doing someone's taxes.

Granted, Hollywood has a problem with under-representing all minorities considering this day and age when minorities comprise of up to a third of the population in North America.  But, even Black actors have lead roles as doctors in Grey's Anatomy; and, there is much more variety in roles for African Americans than than the hip-hop pimp drug dealer; leadership from the likes of Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.  Even Asian women have better representation in Lucy Liu and Sandra Oh.  The Asian males that do succeed in the film industry are not even full Asian.  Case in point, Keanu Reeves, who looks racially ambiguous and easily passes off as whatever other race he is.

So what is it about the Asian male actor then?  Is the American market not ready for the Asian male lead? Is it Hollywood's fault?  Does Hollywood think western society is not ready for the Asian lead male?  Or is Hollywood waiting for the right guy to show up?

Jeff Adachi's documentary,  The Slanted Screen: Asian American Men in Film and Television, states a long history of Hollywood catering to America's xenophobia of Asian males as "Chinese men were villain-ized" and "racist images were often used to justify oppressive laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and incarceration of Japanese Americans in WWII."  Asian women has faired better due to the stereotypical image of the 'geisha' or submissive asian girl fantasy for dominant white males.  It is very hard for any of us to see Asian males playing the cowboy or the romantics they are still "outsiders" in Hollywood.  They have a long way to go in changing the image Hollywood has etched in western society's minds.  

My brother-in-law states it may have to do with our generation of Asian-born in North America have been so integrated and accepted into modern white society, we rarely see ourselves as not being part of the larger group much less seeing ourselves as Asian.  It's rare do we nod at other Asians we do not know walking by on the street or "support our boy" by going to every movie an Asian stars in, no matter how badly rated,  like our African-American/ Canadian counterparts often do.  Our generation doesn't feel a common purpose, a sense of solidarity due to past oppression because Asians have amalgamated so well into the system, into the professions, into business.  

I do agree with him, but, there's more to it than that or the Hollywood conspiracy of keeping Asian males off the radar because its just good business. 

I have found that Asians complain about the lack of representation in media but they rarely step forward and put up the resources, the time, or the money the film industry needs to change the image of the Asian male actor.  Asians don't invest in film-making or art schools; they invest in computers companies or oil businesses; Asians go to school to be doctors or lawyers or accountants, not actors or artists or film-makers.  They opt with the less risky career choices; the choice that makes lots of money: a practicality taught to us since we were little by our Chinese immigrated parents.  Only the select few rebellious types going against the wishes of our traditional parents do actually take the risk and venture out and become the actor or artist or the guy behind the camera.  

As a former artist who chose the easier road of job stability and a weekly pay cheque,  I should know. 


'tis the season for Apple Rumors...

Christmas is a wonderful time of year.  It gives us a chance to break away from the doom and gloom media coverage of the current global economic crisis and shut out the ongoing lies our Prime Minister has force-fed us with in the last month scrambling to save his ass from the inevitable no-confidence vote in the House of Commons.

It is also a time to get excited for what the new year will bring: especially what Apple has in store for its final appearance at Macworld.  It is no revelation that everyone loves Apple rumors; why should a simple recession hamper in our annual Christmas rituals?  In fact there are probably more blogs and websites dedicated to Apple rumors than there are rumors.  So far on the net this year,  some old reoccurring themes and some new ones...

Snow Leopard. A new OS X version Phil Sshiller is expected to showcase this year for his keynote speech.  It's supposed to included Grand Central and OpenCL.  This will increase graphics performance especially in new Macs with Nvidia chipsets; there is rumor that Apple will introduce a new 3D OS X user interface in Snow Leopard giving way to more real estate on screen that ever before.

New iMacs and Mac Mini's are expected to be unveiled with new Nvidia video chipsets.  Apple has already recently switched over to those video chipsets in their Macbook, Macbook Pro, and Macbook Air models.

A new Apple Netbook was rumored to be released but is highly doubtful.  This old ongoing rumor is supposedly be something along the lines between a iPhone and a Macbook Air, with touchscreen and 3G network capabilities. Netbooks' increasing popularity is something that Apple surely cannot ignore as desktops sales for all computer manufacturers have begun to take a sharp downturn.  A new Apple Netbook still won't be cheap, but, it is something people will buy regardless of the current economic crisis; and, Apple has opportunity to redefine the Netbook as it did the 'smartphone'. 

The iPhone and iPod Touch will get a boost in memory: 32GB iPhones and 64GB iPod Touches. A iPhone launch in China is also expected for 2009.

A iPhone Nano is rumored but also doubtful.  But, by targeting the cheaper pay-as-you-go market, a smaller and cheaper iPhone having the 'candy-bar' shape and engineered like that of the iPod Shuffle, may not be that far-fetched.  There would be more likely chance of a 4Gb iPhone will be released for its Wal-Mart customers for $99 and a smaller contract.

Rumor has it that Apple may be working on a new search engine.  Seems very unlikely with the market totally dominated by heavyweights Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, but consider what the competition it faced in the cellular phone market two years prior when iPhone rumors were floating about the internet.  Now would be a great time to cut a deal with Yahoo! as it finds ways to gain back its market share from Google; also, Apple may not be pleased with Google as of late for releasing more iPhone competition in Android.

Blu-Ray burners may be an option in the new 2009 iMacs and Macbook lines. Perhaps an external Blu-Ray drive by a third-party developer is more likely.  New Apple products will probably go the way of non- moving parts, introducing flash drives and media to its line-up instead. 

A EVDO iPhone for Verizon may be coming in 2009.  Adobe releasing flash software for iPhones is more likely to happen.

An Apple branded HDTV set with built in AppleTV.  Considering AppleTV's lack of success..it's worth a try.  At least they should bundle the AppleTV units with HDTVs made by other manufacturers.

DRM-free music on iTunes entire library.  Removing copy protection from its iTunes library would keep Apple ahead of its competitors who have already begun selling DRM-free downloads for quite awhile.

An Apple home video gaming console. Perhaps to revive the flailing AppleTV or take advantage of Apple's App Store capabilities and the iPod Touch and iPhone's success as gaming machines. But, remember the "Pippin"?  Does Apple really want to go there again?

And, lastly, yeah, this one again.. The Beatles' entire catalog on iTunes.  Along with it a special edition Beatles iPod launch.  And, an iTunes subscription service.



2009 Lookahead: Not a lot of Promise...

 Again is our precious oil industry is being hit by falling oil prices, soaring costs, and uncertainty in world markets.  Big Oil is putting on the brakes to strengthen their balance sheets and hang onto any cash to weather the economic crisis smothering the rest of the world presently.   

In Alberta, oil is king:  Its overall economic health is dependent on oil.  All Albertans' livelihoods, like it or not, whether you are in retail sales, accounting, home-building, or business, is inherently tied to the oil economy in some way.  And, with a barrel of oil below $34 US, the future doesn't look all that rosy lately. 

By observing what is happening on the jobs front in Oilsands projects construction for the next year or two, most people who live and work in Alberta can pretty much predict how their own year is going to be like financially.

Here are some of the major work being deferred or cancelled for Alberta Oilsands already announced as of Dec.18/ 2008:

Total Canada has just recently withdrew its application for its Northern Lights Project.

Petro-Canada cut its spending budget by a third even after deferring its $25 billion Fort Hills 
Downstream Upgrader Project indefinitely last month; its upstream Mine is under complete review and decision deferred for the latter haf of 2009.

Encana Corp. is cutting its 2009 spending by a quarter.

Suncor Energy is delaying its $20 billion Voyageur expansion.

Nexen/ Opti Canada has deferred its plans to twin its Long Lake Project.

BA Energy has cancelled its Heartland Upgrader Project.
North West Upgrader's plans for its Redwater Plant is on hold.

StatoilHydro's $12.6 billion Upgrader is cancelled.

CNRL has slashed its budget for 2009 in half for its phase 2 expansion of its Horizon Project.

Royal Dutch Shell has delayed its expansion plans for its Athabasca Oil Sands Project.

Husky Energy has cut its budget for 2009 by 28%.

On the brighter side, what will keep us employed in Alberta until we can ride this nasty crisis out:

Imperial Oil's Kearl Lake Mine on track for construction start in 2010.

Shell Scotford's Upgrader 2 Phase 1 expansion is underway and intending to ramp up for 2009.

Epcor/ TransAlta Keephills 3 power project construction is already underway; completion expected by Q1 2011.

Maintenance and Turnarounds for 2009 and 2010 are predicted to be big shutdown years as new projects recently commissioned are coming online.


Blame Walmart for Stevie J's No-show @ Macworld?

Apple fans world-wide are up in arms reacting to Apple pulling out of Macworld ; an example seen here, by Tonya Engst of TidBits, another Mac Blogsite...

Emotionally it is saddening as I will indeed miss the anticipation of the annual ritual of what Apple will release every January since 1985.  But, in retrospect, it may be a good thing as Apple products' releases won't be rushed just for the annual trade show immediately after the frenzy of the Christmas buying season. 

And, though CNBC's Jim Goldman has hinted why Steve Jobs is not speaking at Apple's final Macworld appearance is "more about politics than his pancreas".  I personally think it has more to do with Walmart than IDG/ Apple relations.  Walmart stores are slated to start selling iPhones after Christmas.  And, because of the sheer size of Walmart and its potential to boost iPhones sales despite a weak retail sector in an economic downturn,  Apple, in keeping a good a vendor rapport with the retail giant, may demand Steve Jobs to do an iPhone launch event with Walmart instead of doing his usual Macworld keynote.  This of course is speculation on my part though.  

Apple doing an CES event in Las Vegas this year and stealing the show away from every other competing electronic company this year would also appease most Apple fanboys' tastebuds.  A Steve Jobs "one more thing" appearance at CES would indeed knock the wind out of the likes of Sony, Microsoft,  and Nintendo upon a coinciding launch of a new Apple video gaming console.  Indeed, it would make things a lot more interesting than the usual 'oh, we tweaked the Mini  and revamped the AppleTV again' keynote in San Francisco.

'tis the season for Hoin' gadgets..

TripleHead2Go's  Digital Edition Graphics eXpansion module.. an external video card capable of hooking up 3 monitors..  $356.00 at MacMall online..
Now that's what I'm talking about baby.....  handy little gadget especially if you need dual monitors off a Macbook pro or iMac all in one where it only comes with one mini DVi out slot... this picture here is unnecessary as the Mac pro has options for 4 internal PCI video cards (8 monitors)...


Stevie J won't be giving the Keynote..Let the Rumors Fly...

Apple has announced today that Steve Jobs will not deliver the keynote speech at Macworld next month.  He has done so for the last 11 years.

Rumors have it that there is concern for Steve Jobs' health as he appear gaunt and thin at the last product announcement.  Also, there is speculation Apple has no 'knock ya on your ass' product announcements this year like the iPhone, etc.  

Apple states Macworld is an trade show event which the company will not be participating in after next month as it is a "minor" way it reaches its customers now.  

Weakened consumer spending and a global economy in disarray is more concern for Apple investors as many financial analysts have downgraded Apple, despite it has surprised the Street quarter over quarter, over expectations of the company to face tougher economic environment in the future.

Apple shares dropped $2.49 in after hours trading after the announcement.  

I feel that Apple, due to its success over the last 10 years, is finding it increasingly difficult to produce the 'Wow' factor Apple fans have come to expect in January immediately after a busy Christmas season.  Also, it may be too difficult to top its current lineup of products in time for the Macworld keynote; hence, by opting out of Macworld, the company can release its products within its own timeframe without the pressure of having to 'wow' those at Macworld.


Only 20 more days til Macworld 2009. Here's the latest rumors..

It's 10 days before Christmas and the rumors are out all over the net guessing what Stevie J is going to show us at Macworld 2009 in January...  Other than the revamped Mac mini, 32GB iPhone, and Snow Leopard rumors, here are some of the more interesting ones I have run into as seen in MacLife's latest issue...

The Apple "Tri-Book... multiple screen laptop ;  As Steve Jobs stated before: Apple won't release a cheap 'netbook' so I guess they'll go against the grain and go for the bigger more expensive laptop;  because 17" is just not enough..

The Apple "Gamedock"... the Wii killer or just another attempt to revamp the AppleTV .... 

A Lego Mac mini... why nobody knows.. maybe to cash into the Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones mania... my kids would die for one..

And finally, the "iCom"- a fancy alarm clock, digital picture frame and iPod Touch built into one... nobody definitely needs one of these....that's why it would sell.

I still like last year's rumors that never did appear at Macworld 2008... remember all the  Macbook Touch rumors floating around the net.. still, I would buy one tomorrow upon its announcement!!!

Mac OS X 10.5.6 update is released..

Includes OS fixes and stability and security enhancements... pretty minor..  what's new? click here


What Recession??

Braving minus 30 degrees centigrade temperatures with windchill of up to -41*C, I ran out to do some pre-Christmas errands today and noticed again the massive line ups at various stores and malls for perhaps the 3rd straight weekend.  I understand it is the Christmas season, but, in -30*C weather, news that Canada has fallen into recession,  and amid a global financial crisis, I am intrigued to why or how people are still spending money in Alberta; and lots of it. 

I suppose most Albertans' confidence is much greater than mine as of late; I have taken my licks in substantial losses in the value of my assets over the past year; the market meltdown would make anyone who has any money at all, whether it be in real estate, stocks, mutual funds, or just Canadian savings accounts, to be on edge and take on a negativity towards the markets and government inaction not seen since the tech meltdown.  I try to be very in tune with current events, politics, natural disasters, etc.,  as it has been very lucrative for me and my portfolio in the last 10 years I have been actively trading.  Except, scanning the headlines these days is enough to make most queasy as market leaders such as Merck, AT&T, Yahoo!, and Citibank all announce thousands of layoffs or are faced with the dire consequences that the Detroit 3 are facing currently.  The reason for my pessimism is thus justified:  as exemplified in my posts in the last while.

But, in retrospect, I have to admit that 2008 has been my best year ever in earnings career-wise as it has been for most Albertans;  I have taken more time off this year for holidays and days off by choice than any other year in my 20 years in the Steamfitter trade; I have no outstanding debt, credit card or mortgage; and have been able to pay cash for large purchases such as a Honda Odyssey and a Christmas vacation in Vegas this year.  Granted, I do not live in a large home and bought it pre-Oil Boom circa 1997; it was a used Honda I bought; we are only staying at the Planet Hollywood in Vegas for 5 nights; and, my losses in the market are only paper losses as I still figure I can afford to wait on my core assets, Apple and Potash, which comprise of 95% of my non-cash portfolio, to make a comeback in the next 25 years before I can retire.    
The Alberta jobs outlook is still very optimistic, though a slowdown is evident, but needed coming off the torrid pace of growth it had the last three years.  The Shell Scotford Expansion and Epcor's Keephills 3 power project west of Edmonton are already underway and predicts to ramp up in manpower significantly in 2009; as is various maintenance turnarounds at Imperial Oil and Petro-Canada are slated; which will keep our Building Trades workers at near full employment for the next 2 years.  Stores and restaurants and hotels are still in a hiring spree competing for any available staff this Christmas season.

Agreed that there will be a slowdown and a dip in employment for 2009 as Canada is only at the start of a recession that will last well into the year.  But, because consumer spending or consumption is such a vital part of in maintaining the health of any economy, this shopping orgy Albertans seem to be on, may actually help keep our economy purring along right through this recession.  

So long as Albertans are not getting out of hand with their credit cards; keep paying down their lines of credit; and not using their home equity as if it were an ATM, we will be fine and, I could be a little bit more optimistic in looking at Alberta's near economic future.  So, tell the Big 3 to bring their cars here, make us feel there's something called service around here still , make us feel we're getting somewhat of a good deal, and Albertans will buy just about anything.  But, if Albertans don't watch their debt levels creep up on them and follow in the same footsteps of our American neighbors, spending beyond their income levels can afford, hang on for a very steep fall.

How to buy a personal computer.. Apple's latest gadget.

Remember these bad boys?? The Apple ][  was my first computers circa 1981/82 Junior High School Grade 7 computer literacy.  We learned BASIC which was built into the Apple]['s ROM; played cool games like PONG on it on a B&W screen monitor.  Prices were $1298 USD for the model with 4K of RAM and CPU MOS 6502, 1.oMHz; 6 colors maximum; dual external 143K floppy drives.  
In Grade 8, the school upgraded to the Apple IIe's which came standard with 64kB of RAM, duodisk drives; we learnt Apple ProDOS, played even cooler games like Pac-Man, and Hard Hat Mac on the wickedly cool green screen monitors.


Could Steve Jobs Save Detroit?

In the 90's Apple shares were in the toilet; it had products sitting on stores' shelves collecting dust if any store would carry them at all; the company was losing hand over fist money; its marketshare was becoming quite obsolete; and  no other company would merge or even think about buying Apple outright.  Though it did have a small but loyal fanbase, a cult almost, which did believe in its products.

Sound familiar?  2008. General Motors.  The resemblance is astonishing.

The very idea of Apple being the largest music seller in America and the number 3 maker of smartphones was light years away in 1997; nevermind a cool $25 billion in cash and no debt; its marketshare is increasing everyday; and its savior CEO is paid $1 per year.

Here's an interesting article by Bob Cringely..  on what would happen if a visionary of the "New Economy",  aka Steve Jobs, took on a dinosaur of the"Old Economy" General Motors. 

Things would definitely be different with a plethora of new ideas and innovation; pricing would always be falling as is the nature of the tech business; depreciation would be typical as is  both industries today:  where new models once out of the salesroom floor would be worth significantly less but would mean lightspeed product cycles in the industry.. a new revamped GM 'iCar' every season?  And, with Jobs being the largest shareholder of Disney now because of the sale of Pixar, GM's future potential would be only limited to their imagination.

GM wouldn't need any bailout money at all anymore:  GM shares would skyrocket on the very announcement of Steve Jobs taking over as CEO.  GM probably could pay off the UAWs' pension debt with stock warrants and new issues alone.

The Invincible Canadian Economy??

A blog taken from renowned Canadian author and real estate guru Garth Turner's website..

He tells it like it is.. I tend to like that..

For most of this year, Canadians have been shielded from the truth about the economy. This should bother you. It should enrage you. It’s information you should have known.

We were told the banks were the strongest in the world, and yet Ottawa found it necessary to give them a $75 billion bailout. Also telling is the fact three of the Big Six – including our largest bank, RBC – are out flogging new stock right now to raise more money, despite a terrible environment on Bay Street.

We were told there’d be no deficit. But there is already. Now the prime minister calls red ink “essential,” and the Parliamentary Budget Officer says we could have a shortfall of up to $14 billion.

We were told there’d be no recession here. “This is not the United States,” Mr. Harper said pointedly during the election. But now there is, of course. The central bank made that official on Monday.

We were told the value of our homes would keep on rising, that the US real estate meltdown would pass us by. The Canadian Real Estate Association said this, and bank economists, Canada Mortgage and Housing and most urban real estate boards.

But real estate sales have fallen as much as 70% in major cities, and average prices have plunged up to $175,000 in Vancouver, $56,000 in Calgary and $45,000 in Toronto. Buyers are staying home as sellers flood the market, ensuring more price drops.

We were told the economy was strong and would stay in positive growth, boding well for jobs. And yet last month we lost more than 70,000 in a single four-week period. The central bank slashed interest rates to the lowest point since the 1950s in panicked reaction, and the car companies teetered on the brink of collapse.

We were told Canadians were safe, and our households were far less indebted than those to the south. And yet today the Bank of Canada is raising the awful spectre of widespread anguish, as more and more families face losing their homes. “With household balance sheets under pressure from weak equity markets, softening house prices, slowing income growth, and record high debt-to-income ratios, a severe economic downturn could result in a substantial increase in default rates on household debt,” the bank says. If this happens, it adds, so much for Canada’s ‘strong’ banks. “Should this scenario materialize, the banking sector would suffer significant losses from the rising vulnerability in the household sector.”

Could this be why the Royal, TD and Scotia have been selling stock in a bid to raise cash for the coming storm?

More importantly, why has this information been kept from Canadians for the past critical months? Wouldn’t a warning have helped us all give more attention to personal debt levels, to paying off mortgages or, especially, to avoid walking into new debt at absolutely the worst time?

Well, I may not be sympathetic to the current government for many reasons, but I’d say this fits a pattern:

* Bring in zero down payments and 40-year mortgages at the wrong time, turning a good housing market into an unsustainable bubble.
* Cut the GST, rather than income tax, in order to encourage consumer spending, despite rapidly rising debt and a national savings rate of nothing.
* Run a federal election campaign on purpose before the economy falters badly, then lie to voters about what to expect.
* Take $75 billion in ultra-safe government securities which were backing our currency and use that to buy high-ratio mortgages from the banks, without disclosing this to Parliament.
* Bring in an economic statement that cuts spending when every other government in the world is scrambling to try and prevent deflation and a collapse.
* Shut Parliament.

Cavalier, out-of-touch, uncaring, dishonest. It underscores one reality: You’re on your own.

This economy’s in very bad shape and there’s worse to come. Doing nothing is a choice you no longer have."

For More Garth visit GreaterFool.ca

How to Save America Chavez Style...

I'm not a Michael Moore fan.  Never have been:  I find his films too bias toward crowd pleasing; and many of his facts twisted and unfounded just to swerve opinion and create shock-value.  

But, in this Larry King episode, Michael actually says a lot of things I  have to agree with about the Detroit 3 bailout.  

In fact, I  have many a Twitter about this issue where, to rescue the automakers and America's economy,  Obama should take a page out of Hugo Chavez's free car for gas-guzzlers policy ; implementing programs similar to Roosevelt's "New Deal" or other Hooveran type 'statist' programs to take control of the auto industry and more importantly save the jobs of the working masses.   Moore's ideas of making mass transport and more fuel efficient cars is very appealing too.

In any basic economic model, one of the most fundamental concepts is the relationship of supply and demand.  Because of the global crisis, demand for American made cars has dropped off the face of the Earth.  Congress, the Detroit 3, the UAW all are trying to re-structure the 'supply' side of this equation; getting costs down, closing plants,etc.

I agree a re-structure of the supply side of the American automakers is necessary due to a lot of the same reasons Moore has indicated.  But, Roosevelt's public works programs and Chavez's socialism influences the demand side of this simple economic example.  The State shall artificially create the demand for Detroit's cars, make them efficient, and buy them like any other Government contract for planes, tanks, etc.  Then swap them for the gas-guzzlers, which anyone who has travelled through California alone knows, are plentiful.

The residual effects of creating a demand for these cars will be multifold: not only will this save the environment, the compounding effect of more jobs will be created via more demand for steel, tires, technology, etc. in the building of these cars.  In addition, more consumer spending as people have more jobs, and spend on other facets of the economy.


Ignatieff One on One..

CNN Censors Peter Schiff?

Ron Paul on the bailout..

How Bad Is It?

Economists are predicting Alberta is headed for a massive economic slowdown amid plummeting oil prices.  The province's vital energy sector is ratcheting down its exploration, drilling, and expansion as it faces sub $50US a barrel oil prices taking off from a record high of $147 less than 6 months earlier.  Billions of dollars in Oilsands Mega Projects are being scaled back or cancelled due to the sharp slide in commodity prices, compounded by the global credit crisis.
Today, oil closed at $47.11 NYMEX US; the Canadian dollar closed at an Interbank rate of $0.803.

Ten years ago today, oil fell to $9.93 bbl and the Cdn dollar was $0.649.  Economists today are predicting, as OPEC could not control rapidly falling oil prices then,  the possibility of oil reaching those 1998 lows is very real. 

Ironically, only 3 years ago, in 2005, Alberta's finance minister Shirley McClellan's budget predicted a $7 billion surplus and forecasted nothing but roses and sunny skies ahead based on oil averaging $50 US a barrel. The Canadian dollar was $0.863 US. 

Of course, the largest importer of Canadian Oil, the USA, though battered by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, was an entirely different beast in 2005. 

 Oil may be headed to $25 but will it stay there?  It took a global financial crisis with implications similar to the Great Depression to humble the energy bulls; not a 'bubble' of speculation bursting.  This commodity alone is not alone in its bottom breaking plunge; every asset available has suffered from the economic turmoil. 

If the global economy recovers, which it always does, energy will roar its way back simply because it requires energy to do anything.  You need energy and massive amounts of it to build the roads and bridges in Obama's great infrastructure plan; you need massive amounts if energy to build new greener alternative energy; you need energy to solve the global hunger issues. 

When will oil recover nobody knows: it could be by Q2 next year or it may take 10 years.  But, 4 of the top 7 oil producers (Russia, Mexico, China, and the United States) will run out of oil reserves within the next 10 years, I am sure oil will rebound sooner than later.


Technical Analysis of AAPL and GOOG



Ignatieff??? Who is this guy...??

CTV is deeming new Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff the "Great Grit Hope"

CBCnews.ca claims he may be the "New Trudeau"..

Today Ignatieff has made it clear that he has the balls to stand up to his own caucus and listen to Harper's budget first before making a decision to vote against it;  but publicly warned Harper that he "cannot run a minority Parliament with divisive, spiteful and unproductive policies we saw in that autumn statement."or Ignatieff will be ready to topple the Tories' minority government come January 26.  
 Already he is showing he is a much stronger leader than Dion ever  was.  


We are officially in a Recession..

Friday, it was announced that Canada had lost 70,600 jobs in November.  The most in any month since 1982.

Today, the Bank of Canada lowered its overnight target rate a staggering 3/4 of a percentage to 1.5 percent, its lowest in 50 years, openly acknowledging Canada is in a recession. 

Hang on to your homes people, it's slowing down whether you like it or not.  After the last major Alberta Oil Boom in 1982,  people defaulted on homes owing of around $70,000 after recording record years of permit issued in 1980 and 1981.  Average 1982 home prices were $74,174. 
Sound familiar?  Current 2008 average home prices in Alberta is $343,000 as of August.  After 2 years of record permits issued, we are seeing quite the drop off in home sales this year.  

How much real equity do people actually have, as Albertans have been using their homes in the last 3-5 years as an ATM to finance numerous renovations, buy flat-panel televisions, and SUVs?   A Boom almost never has a soft landing does it?

John Turner days update...

Today Toronto MP Bob Rae must have read my blog or the Liberal Party caucus duct taped his mouth and slapped him upside the back of the head.  Rae officially bowed out of the Liberal leadership campaign after comments yesterday he was upset on how the interim leader would be chosen.  Rae immediately resolved to offer his "full and unqualified" support to Michael Ignatieff.
In fact this move today, instigated a response from current PM Stephan Harper, offering to meet with the new Liberal leader to discuss cooperation and "to work together" on the issue of the economy.  
Smart political strategy on Harper's part knowing Ignatieff has always been 'on the fence' to the coalition deal Dion had put together. 

All 4 parties should take a page out of the campaign of Liberal Jean Charest's historical majority win in Quebec last night.  No Premier has won 3 consecutive mandates in Quebec since Maurice Duplessis circa 1950's.   Charest's message reminded people " the economic storm in front of us won't make any distinction between federalists, sovereigntists,  and any other Quebecers".   He's right.  It won't discriminate against the rest of Canada either.

Charest's ability to win over the Quebec masses impresses me.  Formerly a Tory MP turned Liberal Premier shows his political finesse; the tact to defend the Bloc Quebecois as a legitimate political party in Canada looking after the interests of Quebecers and diffusing issues of secession impresses me even more.  What he understands best is a united people will better shield itself from the economic turmoil that lies ahead.  
Times like now reflect those reminiscent of Bush versus Gore in the 2000 election; none of the candidates in the opinion of the people were leaders anyone want to run the country.
I do not know much about Ignatieff other than he is a left-wing centre scholar that once taught at Harvard; he actively defends human rights and democracy issues, feels Canada should reduce its dependance on American markets, and most importantly, he has no ties to the Chretien Era.  

Sounds better already.


Wisdom of a Immigrant Businessman: A Money Blog.

It's funny.. sometimes looking the eyes of an immigrant changes the entire perspective of all things....  especially money.

Last year my father, a Chinese immigrated, retired small businessman, went for a holiday tour of the country from which he was born.  Upon his return, I asked him if he ever wanted to move back there and spend the rest of his retirement years there. 

He replies in his broken English tone of voice as if I was being facetious:  

 " Are you crazy?? Too many people!! This is the land of money! There's money all over the place!  Why would I go back?  People have so much food here, they get so fat, waste so much! "  

"Money all over the place?!?" I ask, "Where?"  He replies "Right in front of you!"

So I'm thinking, here I am, working day in and out in the oil patch, eking out what I can to provide a standard of living above par for my family and my crazy dad is telling me there's money right in front of me!

He carries on:
  " That's the trouble with you Canadian-born.. All you Canadians do is close your eyes and smile and figure someone is going to give you all that money...  it's not that easy son...  All I see is the money is everywhere.. all you have to do is open your eyes and look for it! " 

Point taken.  Opportunity does exist even in these times of economic peril.

For the Love of John Turner...

 In the past, Canadian Opposition leaders Jack Layton, Stephane Dion, and Gilles Duceppe rarely agreed on any issue other than Stephan Harper is all their political enemy.  On the chance Harper was arrogant enough to govern like he had a majority government; omitting any one of the Opposition party Leaders from working together to pass anything in the House of Commons, the three Opposition Leaders would force a no-confidence vote to bring down their common enemy.  Such is commonplace in parliamentary politics when a minority government is in power.

  Within less than two months of a general federal election, the three caballeros got their opportunity; but being so close to the last election it was doubtful the end result would be different than the status quo.  Voila! the Coalition.. and the political mess we are witnessing today.  

  Instead on facing a no-confidence vote intended to be today, Harper opted to delay the calling of the House until the end of January in hopes the Coalition of Opposition parties may not even last that long to displace his tenure.  and, so far, 
the prorogation of Parliament by the Governor General on Harper's advice seems to be quite the astute strategy for his minority government to stay in power.

Today, Stephane Dion announced his plans to step aside as Liberal Party leader effective  immediately after a successor is chosen.   The Liberals hope to have a new leader before Parliament resumes in January;  a wise scheme by the Liberal party if the Tories do get toppled upon their new budget proposal and the Governor General opts for an election.  Rumors have it the Liberal Caucus is about to install leadership hopeful Michael Ignatieff as interim leader when leadership candidate Dominic Leblanc proclaimed he would drop out and throw his support behind Ignatieff.   "Still in the race" fellow candidate MP Bob Rae, joined by support from Gerard Kennedy,  sent email en mass to party members urging disapproval to allow caucus to select the Party leader as it would put an "unfair advantage" for the interim leader.

How is it possible for a coalition of Opponents and rivals expected to succeed and win over public support if members of one party, one caucus cannot even agree upon how its leader is to be chosen???   Surely this in-fighting among the Liberals will have its ramifications in the eyes of the public and in the polls.  

Harper is indeed quite the political tactician:  the Grits' internal struggles reminiscent of the John Turner days are back... and Harper knows it.  


Spending Habits of Blue-Eyed Sheiks

This weekend, my family and I went shopping for a few Christmas purchases and some necessities at Walmart, Best Buy, Toys R Us, and Costco.
 You would never think there was a global economic crisis occurring judging by the size of the line-ups at the cash registers.  I mean we're talking about people actually making big-ticket item purchases, such as big-screen plasma and LCD/ DLP TVs, pricey electronic devices such as XBoxes, Wii's, iPods and laptops,  home furnishings, and other home decor and renovation items; not just browsing around the stores.

  Yes, Albertans are coming off probably the greatest economic "Boom" in the history of the Province:  people are truly "money-ed up" around this part of the world.  The demand for workers was so incredible over the last five years, Albertans could literally quit their jobs and 

In fact, signs are still up advertising everywhere, looking
 for hired help:  McDonald's is paying $11.50 an hour starting wages, Tim Horton's up to $18 per hour to sling coffee, and 7-11 Convenience Stores are handing out hiring bonuses up to $2000!  And, Edmonton will surely be a ghost-town come this Christmas, as it seems most friends and family I have talked to plan on traveling abroad for the Yuletide holidays.


But I can't help thinking, with the collapse in commodity prices as of late, the financial turmoil transpiring down south, and Alberta being a primarily export Province, are we that 
rich we can be apathetic to current affairs?  Or, do we really feel that the Oil Boom will never end and that the crisis our neighbors to the south are enduring could never possibly happen here?
With the current Parliamentary crisis befalling upon us, slews of people all over Canada are in an uproar;  including Albertans, who have passionately shown concern or at least acknowledgement that there is an economic circumstance at hand; hence, pure ignorance to the situation is out of the question.  
 Consumer confidence is at an all-time high here in Alberta.  However, another Oilsands Project is being scrapped as of a Dec. 4/ 2008 press release: adding StatoilHydro's plans for a $12.6 billion upgrader to the long list, which includes Nexen Inc., Suncor Energy Inc., CNRL, Value Creation Group, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and Petro-Canada/ UTS/ Teck Cominco, that have backed off or slowed expansions or new projects.  Can Albertans be so presumptuous that their incomes will not be affected and the Boom will not go suddenly Bust?  And, with oil prices dropping a staggering 70%+  in just a few months, it is not difficult to see why these Oilsand Company heavies may opt to postpone their projects and expansions indefinitely.

Perhaps it is just me, locked-in to my puny Steamfitter Trade-Union contract, happy in my starter Bungalow home, and content driving a beater to work, that is oblivious to the fact salaries in Alberta have gone up that much and Albertans have profited that much from their homes and real estate ventures in the last 5 years, they can ride out any economic storm ahead. But as I witness friends, colleagues, and acquaintances buy up 3/4 million dollar homes, buy brand new SUVs, ATVs, and out of province vacation homes, I am left thinking they must make that kind of money; I don't even have that kind of credit!
  But consider this:  is saving a net amount of $1000 per week a lot of money?  That is, after all taxes, bills, and purchases is paid for;  an unencumbered amount of $1000 can be put away, I think, is substantial savings for just about anyone regardless of salary unless of course, you are Warren Buffett or Carlos Slim Helu.  But, in one year, that kind of savings only amounts to $50,000 given that you take a 2-week unpaid vacation each year.  And, it's not a whole lot of cash considering home buyers around here have been upping their antes for houses of $100,000 or more like it was nothing for the past two years and Albertans are buying new SUVs starting at $30,000 to pull their new $18,000 quads or sleds.
It has been suggested by many of my peers that most of these purchases have been bought on credit: whether it be on their Visas, Mastercards, or lines-of credit.  This is a very alarming notion considering the credit crisis of our American friends was started by those people who chose to live beyond their means via maxing out their easily obtained credit in the first place.  Yes, we made more money but we spent more too.  Research and studies have shown for every dollar an Albertan earns, he owes five: meaning, even with all those big wage increases we have seen in the last 5 years and the highest employment levels ever, we have only paid off our monthly minimum balance due on our Visas.  Americans, last year at this time, have been paying their Visas' minimum balance with their Mastercards.  

Surely then, to think the credit crunch will never happen to Albertans is indeed pure ignorance.  It is coming; be wary.  Even the slightest slowdown will have an impact on those who got a little too comfortable making those big overtime pay cheques; then figured they were getting ahead in life keeping up with the Jones'.  Going back to a normal 40 hours a week or even 37 and a half hours per week may prove to be a drowning experience for those with their credit max-ed out.

As for now, as exemplified by our Prime Minister Stephen Harper proroguing Parliament, we'll defer our minimum payment to the next month, go home and enjoy our Holidays with our loved ones, lavishing them with posh electronic gifts.  We'll deal with our finances and problems next month; and, hopefully by then, the credit card companies will forget what has transpired, or even disband as easily as Harper thinks the Coalition will.


Parliament in Crisis: Bandwagon hopping at its finest.

Okay here goes...  my first blog.  While I listen to Rod Phillips' play by play of the Oilers getting peppered by the San Jose Sharks, I'm setting up this blog but need to get a few things off my mind...

So where do I start?  Politics.  How about the current debacle in Ottawa:  what a sorry exhibition this is... there hasn't been this kind of passion in Canadian politics since Pierre Trudeau flipped us the 'bird' in the 80's!  

What in the fuck is going on up here? 

 The newly re-elected Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephan Harper has prorogued Parliament until January 26, 2009. Why? To postpone a no-confidence vote in the House which should've occurred Monday (Dec.8/ 2009); which would have ended the tenure of his minority government and replaced it with a coalition government consisting of Liberals and New Democrats that could govern with a majority with the already endorsed support of the Bloc Quebecois or force another election not two months later from the one we just had on Oct. 14th.  

Canadians are in an uproar; rallies are being held all over the country; melees are breaking out in bars and pubs, radio stations' phones are lit up all day over this whole fiasco.  Everyone here is running around like coke-addled baboons, fearing our democracy is being jeopardized as some degenerate illegitimate coup backed by the fucking separatist party is taking over Parliament. 

What baffles me about all this is:  not one month has passed since Albertans cried and openly cheered Barrack Obama's historic Presidential Election victory, and the same people manically defend the Harper government as if he and Obama were the same person.  

Talk about a conflict in fucking ideologies:  what both politicians stand for and the groups they represent are in polar opposite to each other.  Which makes me conclude The Edmonton Sun has either clouded their asshat judgement again or everyone is hopping on the fucking Bandwagon as they believe that's where everyone else is and don't want to look unintelligent for not knowing the issues  (Of course that is what they did when Obama won too but that is another Blog post for another day).  I just wish people would look for what Harper really stands for before forming an opinion.

The principle argument defending the Harper government is the coalition is undemocratic and illegitimate as the people of Canada never voted for it.  I rebut that it is legitimate as Canadians do not vote for the Prime Minister per se but for MPs, representatives of their ridings.  The coalition would actually be a better representation of what the people has voted for than the minority government itself.  Is the coalition undemocratic?  What's pathetic about the whole ordeal lies not within the actual issue of who should be in power but how many people are in a furor over this after an election that recorded the lowest voter turnout in the history of Confederation.   There was more attention given to those candidates  in the US Presidential race of whom we cannot even vote for.  There was more assiduity in the Biden-Palin debate in Canada than there was for any election debate since Meech Lake.  Of those of the 40% that showed up at the polls, watered down their vote among 5 competing political parties.   For shame on those complaining now about our current state of Parliamentary process: how democratic is it not to vote??? 

The second major assertion defending Harper's admin is the Coalition is in cahoots with Separatists.  Stephane Dion and Jack Layton sold out their parties to conspire with a party who's sole interest is to break apart the country in a coup d'etat.  Perhaps, but those who argue this have short term memory loss.  Have
 they forgotten Harper has twice used the support of the Bloc before in his attempts to dissolve Parliament? The first time Belinda Stronach crossed the floor to defeat Harper's no-confidence motion; the second Harper sided with the NDP and the Bloc to defeat Paul Martin's minority government. 

 What is ironic is Harper's scare tactics of Quebec Separatists is the same maneuver the Grit's used against Harper back then.  What is more shocking is that it's working: people are that ignorant to believe it over and over again. Talk about alienating a large group of the voting public!  I don't believe the hype: A Quebec separation is as real as an Alberta separation:  I have yet to meet a French Canadian who really wants to secede from Confederation.   Maybe I'm that naive but my Canada includes Quebec and French Canadians: they cheer for the same hockey team as I do when the Olympics come about.  And, I highly doubt they would be jumping ship even if France had a hockey team.  In addition, I am in disbelief that Quebecers are thinking more about separation than the economy these days having elected two straight Liberal Provincial governments; and, Charest is again the favorite to win this week's Provincial election with a majority government in Quebec.  Which means, the Bloc were voted in by French Canadians to look after their best interests; only by which Harper has re-evoked the issue of separation again  has it come into the minds of Quebecers.

After delving further , I discovered that Harper is responsible for  this political predicament occurring in the first place: Harper's so-called economic update he was trying to pass through the House included no economic stimulus plan for the global crisis already befalling within our borders. Even throughout his election campaign in October, Harper has regularly dismissed that the credit crisis had hit home yet.  But as a disciple of economics and money, I tend to believe if one has a store that sold 80% of his wares to one customer and that patron ran out of cash, it would not be long before the store will foreclose.   In addition to the economic update, Harper's preferred agenda also included a cut in political party financing ; basically cutting his all his oppositions' funding from underneath them.  These subsidies are based on the number of votes received during elections.  Cutting those subsidies was another surreptitious ploy of Harper's to eliminate his competition. 

The update also comprised of new impositions of wage control of unionized Public Employees, overturning existing freely negotiated collective agreements: promising to write the wage rate increase limits into the law while denying the right for future collective bargaining.  Unions also would become jointly responsible for pay equity settlements or awards in the proposed update.  Case in point,  if a woman won a case for equity pay under her right to non-discrimination in the workplace, the Union would be jointly liable if an employer refused to pay fair wages and would have to pay half of her compensation.  

I, for one, am going to support the coalition.  Yes, I was quite turned off by the very idea of another election when I first heard the Opposition parties were going to bring down the newly elected government.   We've had 3 elections that begat 3 minority governments in the last 4 years!  Add in an Alberta Provincial election with a leadership race, a civic election, and all the hoopla in the US Presidential campaigns, no one around here wants another election!  
But,  I am really more anti-Harper than I am pro- Dion.  Though I voted for the Liberals (actually the "ABC" party: Anything But Conservative) in the last election as a strategic vote (strong Grit riding; Anne McClelland's old riding) hopeful of a Liberal minority, I do believe Stephane Dion,  a smart enough man to realize all three Opposition parties by themselves could not possibly win an election against Harper even after a no-confidence vote, does not have the charisma to pull off being Prime Minister.   But, the very thought of a Harper majority government unsettles me more than a Coalition of  three guys who just don't like each other.  
  A Wiki of Harper will show he has remained true to his xenophobic, homophobic, and sexist Reform Party roots.  He has publicly opposed gay rights, stood against Unions and bilingualism, made cuts towards the funding of Arts and women's lobby groups, cut social programs such as tech development, youth employment and internship, Indian affairs, and Volunteerism Initiative, practiced inaction towards environmental concerns, advocated property rights over human rights, and supports the privatization of healthcare. 

Is this who the Canadian voter wants to give a majority government to? A majority pretty much will give Harper the authority to do anything he wants; hence why he desires it so. Harper dissolved Parliament and called an unpopular election a year early in contradiction to a fixed date law set by his own government because he could rush to the polls at a time where his party was ahead in popularity.  
I'd rather take my chances with the Coalition. Truth is,  I think we're stuck with the George W. of the North until someone more charismatic comes along or Ken Dryden changes his mind about the Liberal leadership or until Justin Trudeau is ready to follow in his old man's footsteps.