Thursday, October 16, 2008

The credit crisis and the end of the dinosaurs

I haven’t updated this blog in a week or so – mainly because I’m right in the middle of a piece of work that’s difficult, complicated, large, and has a tight deadline. What’s more it’s something I really want to do well, so it’s a bit exhausting.

Last week, some of the rest of the financial world collapsed – that is, the bits that were still up after the week before’s crisis are now tumbling.

People are using words like “blind panic” and “historic” – in fact, I’m quite concerned that the economy has a long way further to fall and everybody’s run out of hyperbole already. I’m expecting some new words to be invented to describe what happens next week.

“polytasrophic” and “plumultuous” are my predictions.

Gordon Brown seems to be having fun, though – going from “Lame Duck within weeks of being toppled” to “global saviour and hero” in the time it takes to nationalise the banking system. And it’s because he’s suddenly done something brave – rather than cautious. Who knows, he might have got a taste for it.

I must admit a little sympathy for him there though, I quite like a good crisis. After all, when everything’s going pear shaped, you can get away with doing just about anything and whatever you achieve, people will be delighted that you managed to do anything. It’s easier to be a hero in a burning building than in a library.

I also must admit to being quite fascinated by it all. Rarely do we get to see the raw workings of the system that supports us quite so exposed. It’s only in a real crisis that you get to see what really makes our world tick. Not just money – although that’s part of it, but also a desperate fear of the unknown, the banding together of the people that make up “the system”, and the suspension of disbelief which allows us all to assume that those with money and power are somehow brighter than the average guy in the street.

Actually, it’s fascinating in the same way as watching sharks in a feeding frenzy – along with the same thrill of knowing your shark cage isn’t really that secure.

The credit crisis and the end of the dinosaurs

People seem to describe the credit crisis in apocalyptic terms, but there have been apocalypses in the past – at least five of them – which have wiped out most of the planet.

And there are some similarities.

When the meteor which destroyed the dinosaurs hit the earth, it wasn’t the meteor itself which killed the dinosaurs. What happened was that the sun was blotted out for some months and the plants stopped growing.

In other words, the energy which fed the base of the food chain dried up. The grass itself didn’t suffer much – as soon as the sun came out again, the seeds could regenerate, but for a time, there were no plants – and that’s pretty much what’s happened in the financial crisis. It’s not that there’s no money – it’s just not moving around the food chain.

So what’s the anatomy of an extinction?

Well, the first thing that happens is the biggest creatures which feed directly on the plants are the first to be hit. it’s those that need lots and lots of grass, 24 hours a day that will fall first.

And in the credit crisis, that’s the banks.

So far, so metaphorical. The thing that palaeontologists tell me about global catastrophes though is that when times are good, the specialists do well – that is, those who have found a specific niche that nobody else is covering and exploited it. When there’s a catastrophe, the niches vanish very quickly and unpredictably and it’s the generalists – those who can turn their hand to anything – that do well.

They tell me something else too. Just after the catastrophe, there’s invarably a huge blossoming of scavengers. When there are a lot of dead bodies lying around, the rats, the flies and the carrion feeders come out.

That’s the period we’re in for most immediately if the palaentologists are to be believed.

Who are the scavengers? Well, there’s obvious ones – asset strippers, pawn shops, debt collectors…

If Al qaida has any power left, it must have realised that right now is its best chance of bringing down the west and the fact that they haven’t done anything suggests they don’t really exist in any meaningful way anymore. The war on terror was always a bit of a sham - and if they don’t act now, it will be very obvious they’re not the threat they’re made out to be.

but there are bigger scavengers lurking too – When the Soiviet Union collapsed, the scavengers did very well – to the extent that they now control Russia and many have enough money to pick up anything they want from the falling stock markets… When the dust settles, will the Russian billionaires own more than just our football teams? Will they want to pull the same trick on the Western authorities they did on their own government?

As for effects closer to home – well, my advertising site is currently suspended because I’ve got too much work, so I can’t tell you if there’s been a drop off in enquiries. In fact I don’t know if I’m going to put the site back on when my current work comes to an end at the end of November – It’s been a bit rushed over the last few weeks and I might just slow things down a bit and get to work on a couple of my own projects…

It looks like Claudia, Sam’s flatmate is going to loose her job (she works for a German bank in the Gherkin) so while I’m in Mexico showing off my trilobite animation, Sam, Lisa and a few others are going to eat at the Gherkin restaurant (and presumably nick anything valuable before the repo-men get there and gut the place).

I, on the other hand have done rather well initially – what the credit crisis has meant to me is that I’ve made a profit.

The trilobite animation pricing was agreed before all this, and it was agreed in dollars – and it’s been paid in instalments. Last month I got $5,000 – which translated as £2,600. This month, I got $5,000 more – and that’s come in as £2,900 – so, the less the pound is worth against the dollar, the better I do.

Also, for future work, as the pound goes down, Americans are more likely to employ me because to them, I’m cheaper!

This weekend was fairly relaxed. On Saturday we took George to the zoo for the first time. He loved it – particularly the butterflies and the coloured birds. He’s also got a bit of a thing for lions (even though the ones at the zoo do little other than sleep).

His cuddly lion is his favourite toy – so much so that while at the zoo, we found another identical one so we can swap them over to wash them.

Because we don’t want to buy him any more toys right now (he’s got as many as he needs) we decided that for his first birthday we’d sponsor a lion cub at Howlet’s zoo (<>


Work is frantic – trying to get the trilobite animation finished in time to take it to Mexico for the opening (I’m leaving on the 26th) is quite a job – mainly because I’m being very fussy about getting it right.

Well, actually it’s because it’s so long (10 minutes of animation) and complex (trilobites have many many animated legs!) and has to be scientifically accurate.

However, I’m getting there and I think it’s going to be really good.

I’ve had to down-size the rendering – even though I’ve now got 3 dual core pcs and 2 quad core machines working on the rendering. I’ve gone from HD to SD video – mainly because I know they’re not going to show it in HD and I was just doing HD to give them the option in the future.

SD feels very low resolution now, but it’s solved my rendering problems – what was going to take 20 days was done over a weekend!

I’m now at the stage of choosing music and writing the script – I’ve gone for the blue Danube which gives the whole thing a graceful, but unusual feel…

My Mum’s finally got a date for her hip operation. It’s while I’m away, but at least it’s getting done. I was beginning to worry that once winter set in, there’d be emergency operations to be done and Mum would end up at the back of the queue, but it sounds like it’s all going ahead.

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