Thursday, July 2, 2015

Streaming Thoughts On Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid

John Quiggin, my second favorite liberal, recently published this critique... John Locke Against Freedom.  I'd like to reply to it.  But then I decided to check and see if Netflix had recently added anything interesting.  Guess what I discovered?

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid

Here's the description...

A team of scientists sets out to find a rare orchid, unaware the flower is protected by deadly anacondas made even stronger by the mysterious plant.  

On the one hand, it's only 1.6 stars (out of 5) and I really should share my feedback with Quiggin (x).  But on the other hand, I do love orchids (y)!!!  

The opportunity cost of y is x.  But, right here right now... y > x.  Figured that I might as well share some streaming thoughts while watching the movie.  

The movie starts off pretty nice.  The opening scene is a zoomed out shot of some hilly jungle.  I love jungle.   I love nature.  The world needs more nature.  The world has a shortage of nature.  

The camera zooms in and I spot a tree fern.  It looks a lot nicer than three of my tree ferns.  Who plants tree ferns in Southern California?  Not just me!  With the mandated twice a week watering schedule because of the drought... three of my most exposed tree ferns are... getting crispy.  They might not make it.  

Crouched under the tree fern are some mostly naked natives.  In the movie.  Not in my yard.  

The natives are stalking a tiger.  A tiger?!  Woah, a mystery!  Where in the world are we?  Tigers are native to Asia and anacondas are native to the Americas.  The natives look a bit Asian... but more so than some American natives?   Yeah... perhaps.  

Some startled parrots just flew over a pond.  Parrots are pantropical but the parrots in the movie sure looked like American parrots.  I'm hardly an expert though.  

A disgruntled black monkey appears in the next scene.  I'm not a monkey expert either.  But it is howling so I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it's a howler monkey.  Kinda like the ones that I heard while stationed in Panama a million years ago.  

The tiger jumps over a native... because... it was running from an anaconda!  Now the native is running... not as fast as I would be running though.  

Because the native isn't running fast enough... the snake manages to grab him and lift him up in the air.  The native uses his knife to persuade the snake to drop him.  After which he runs, again... not so fast... but fast enough where he fails to avoid falling off a cliff into some water.  As he's falling we get a glimpse of what appears to be red flowered orchids growing on the cliff.  The first orchid that comes to mind is Masdevallia... which are from the Americas.  Except the downpour of red flower petals falling on the water are definitely not from a Masdevallia.

Now we're in the city.  :(  I miss the jungle already.  There's crowds of people and cars and buildings.  And a pharmaceutical boardroom... with some African American actor I kinda vaguely recognize.  Also there's a wonderfully "mixed" (maybe Hispanic, maybe African American) lady who I do recognize!  She's from Eureka!  

For some reason I'm infinitely better than my gf at recognizing actors.  I'd love to know why that is.  A fun theory is because she's Korean.  Even though she was raised by white people... maybe something in her nature prevents her from identifying Caucasian (broadly speaking) faces as well as I do.  Heh.  One way to test this theory would be to have both of us look at pictures of different faces... and then see how many and which ones we remember seeing.  Perhaps she's better than I am at remembering Asian faces?  Or maybe I'm just better at remembering all types of faces?  Perhaps I just have a better memory?  I'm sure this topic has already been studied... right?  If you know of any interesting studies then let me know. 

In the boardroom a powerpoint slide of the orchid is displayed.  The orchid is the Blood Orchid... Perrinia immortalis.  It's definitely not a real orchid.  The flower looks more like a wacky red trillium than an orchid.  The slide offers some basic info and a description that is hard to read.  But according to the guy giving the presentation... the orchid is from Borneo!  Well... that solves the mystery of which jungle we were in.  But now there's the mystery of how an anaconda ended up in Borneo.  The presenter says the orchid lies dormant for 7 years and then blooms for "just" 6 months.  Errr.. it blooms for just 6 months?  Hah.

It turns out that the reason the pharmacorp is interested in the orchid is because it could potentially be the fountain of youth.  The orchid family contains the key to immortality?  Totally plausible.  Orchids are all kinds of wonderful for so many reasons.  It's a long list that's bound to get a lot longer.  

Eureka lady is... skeptical.  Evidently she doubts the business model.  Another white guy in a suit is a bit more open minded.  He says, "that would be bigger than Viagra!"  I think I recognize him from this music video.

The boss gives the order to get our asses to Borneo and voila!  We're back in the jungle!  Yes!  Did you miss it?  I sure did.  Although, admittedly... Borneo wouldn't be my jungle destination of choice.  I'd prefer Bolivia or Madagascar.  Given that I live in a desert... I'm more interested epiphytes from drier habitats.  But the boss is the boss!

It's raining a lot in Borneo.  And we don't have a boat to get up river.  So now we're in a Borneo gangsta bar... of sorts.  I don't recognize the Asian guy we're talking to about a boat.  His English is good though and he introduces us to the captain of the boat... some white guy I don't recognize.  He's wearing a black cap.  

Mr. Black Cap wants to charge us $50,000 to get up river!  He's exploiting the heck out of us because he knows that the only reason we're talking to him is because nobody else is willing to transport us.  See... this is exactly why the Borneo government needs to impose price ceilings.  Evidently Borneo has a shortage of Krugmans.  What a coincidence... we have a surplus of Krugmans!  Let's send our Krugman to Borneo.  

Unfortunately, Krugman doesn't arrive soon enough to rescue us from exploitation.  :(  

Looking at the boat, Eureka lady remarks that she's seen prettier subway cars.  To which Mr. Black Cap replies, "she may be ugly but she puts out".  Heh.  What?  Now I'm trying to imagine an ugly boat that doesn't put out.  Somebody's going to have to draw me a diagram.  

A red truck pulls up and a black guy gets out.  A different black guy.  It's the guy from Bones.  See how good I am at recognizing faces?  What if I was the best in the world?  Surely somebody has to be the best in the world at recognizing faces.  

Our little ugly ship of fools sets off.  We've got a week to get to our prize orchid.  

The question is... who's going to survive?  

I'm guessing Mr. Black Cap (the ship captain), his Asian henchman... and maybe Eureka lady.  And maybe Bones.  Definitely the monkey.  The monkey is choosing an overhanging fruit (x) rather than staying on the boat (y).  Errr... and is now being chased by the snake.  And eaten.  Heh.  Stupid monkey.

It's the morning after... monkey's nowhere to be found... and Eureka lady manages to fall off the boat.  She's attacked by the snake?  Nope, a crocodile.  The captain pulls a crocodile Dundee.  And the monkey is still alive!  That's probably going to be the best twist in the tale.    

The engine dies and the boat goes over a waterfall.  Ooops.  Pretty white lady narrowly avoids being eaten by the snake.  And now it's jungle trekking time!  Get out your machetes!  We're on our way to get another boat.  A minor obstacle is a swamp.  That has an anaconda.  On the plus side there are some trees laden with epiphytes.  Not a bad trade off.  I'd be fine because I'd be out of the water climbing the trees inspecting the epiphytes.  

Our doctor got eaten.  :(  

Mr. Black Cap explains that it's an anaconda.  Unfortunately, he doesn't explain how anacondas ended up in Borneo.  C'mon director guy.  It wouldn't have been that difficult for Bones or somebody to say, "but I thought anacondas were native to the Americas...??"  And then Mr. Black Cap would have replied, "They are, but they've naturalized because pet owners release them after they get too big.  The same thing happened in Florida."

Did you read that article?  Another naturalized large constrictor... the Burmese python... is kept in check by fire ants...
One Burmese python at Trail Lakes, captured in the wild and kept in a large outdoor enclosure, was swarmed by fire ants that tunneled up from beneath her while she guarded her eggs. By the end of the day she and her brood had been reduced to little more than scales and bones. Given the ubiquity of fire ants in the Everglades, it’s imaginable that the ants are limiting the population growth of the pythons.
It's "funny" because the fire ants aren't native either.  

Unlike the python... the anacondas are viviparous... which means they give birth to live young.  They can just slither away when attacked by fire ants.  Although I'm having a hard time imagining an unenclosed mother python sitting there with her eggs while being eaten alive by fire ants.  Maybe she didn't get the memo about pars pro toto (part for the whole).  Lizards that sacrifice their tails to save themselves got the memo.  

The main concern with naturalized species is that they reduce biodiversity.  But it can't always be the case that introduced species will reduce biodiversity.  Or else Hawaii wouldn't have any biodiversity.  

The main thrust of current conservation efforts is to protect biodiversity.  But I think that in the future there will be a shift from protecting to creating.  If less biodiversity is bad, then more biodiversity is good.  If robbing the future of species is bad, then gifting the future with species is good.  The general rule is more niches means more biodiversity.  So the trick will be to create/fill more niches.  

Jungles have a lot of biodiversity because they have a lot of niches.  Trees create niches for epiphytes and epiphytes create niches for all sorts of life.  The goal should be to develop and proliferate the widest variety of epiphytes that can thrive on trees in drier/colder habitats.  This will get the biodiversity ball rolling.  More rolling.  More faster.  

Ok, let's see who the snake is going to eat next.  

Some debating whether to continue with the mission.  My vote is to continue.  What's your vote?  

More trekking... some leaches and spiders.  Turns out that the drunk captain of the backup boat is the next victim.  And somehow the boat manages to explode.  Shucks.  

Now our new plan is to try and find a village... of ex-headhunters.  Non-practicing headhunters.  

Oh noes, Mr. Black Cap clarifies that it might be anaconda mating season.  

In the village we find a big dead snake.  With a couple legs hanging out of its sliced open belly.  The rest of the villagers had bravely ran, boated, away.  The new plan is to build a boat.

Another twist.  In the village there's a carving of a snake eating the orchid flower.  Ah ha!  The snakes are so large because they live/grow forever.  Although it's not much of a twist because Netflix spoiled it in the description.  C'mon Netflix!  

This discovery rekindles the debate about whether to continue the mission.  The orchid expert guy (Jack) makes the excellent point that the orchid might not be around in another seven years because it could be slashed/burned.  Although, there's this "minor" assumption that we can't just collect the orchid and bloom it in cultivation.  

Jack gets mutinied.  

Turns out Mr. Black Cap used to be in the special forces.  At least that's what he tells the pretty white lady while they are sitting together by the fire.  Nothing like some jungle romance.  As opposed to jungle fever?  

And then the black guy finds a phone, and is about to call for help, when Jack makes him go nigh nigh with a spider he collected earlier.  Mr. Nigh Nigh then gets eaten by the snake... and Jack steals their newly built boat.  Now the rest of the group is going through the jungle trying to cut Jack off at the pass.  They all fall into a cave.  Asian henchman is next on the snake's menu.  Shucks.  

They barely escape from the cave and pretty white lady manages to machete chop the snake's head off.  Bones is doing a celebration dance when a second snake grabs him and quickly slithers off.  Mr. Black Cap chases and kills the snake with a really nice knife throw.  Bones is happy to be saved.  

Meantime, Jack finds the orchid... the group finds his raft... and he finds them.  Jack pulls a gun on them and they have a bit of a moral debate.  Which ends with Jack shooting Mr. Black Cap in the arm.  

Jack forces pretty white lady to crawl on log... over pit of mating snakes... to get flowers.  Again, I'm like, "hey, why are you just grabbing the golden eggs instead of the goose that's laying them?!!"  Nobody listens to me though.  

The two white guys have a bit of a scuffle... Jack falls into pit, gets paralyzed by spider... and eaten.  Pretty white lady also falls into pit of snakes... but she shows off her mad vine climbing skills.  The group somehow manages to kill all the snakes.  It's possible they destroyed the orchid in the process.  :(  

My survival prediction wasn't bad.  Yup.  

The moral of the story?  Movies that people aren't willing to pay for compete resources away from movies that people are willing to pay for.  If Netflix allowed its members to allocate their monthly fees, then I definitely wouldn't have allocated any of my money to this movie.  Instead, I would allocate my fees to movies and shows that I value a lot more.  Everybody else would do the same and resources would shift accordingly.  This improved allocation would create more value.  

Quiggin's Implied Rule of Economics (QIRE) states that society's limited resources should be used to create more, rather than less, value for society.  But Quiggin's Stated Rule of Economics (QSRE) states that fiscal stimulus is desirable when resources, like people, are unemployed.  

Let's say that unemployment is high.  Quiggin will cite QSRE.  He will argue that the government should spend spend spend to put people to work.  But if you suggest that a war would put unemployed people to work... Quiggin will kinda cite QIRE. 

Imagine if Netflix had a movie monopoly.  And actor unemployment was especially high.  

Quiggin:  Netflix should tax everybody (or borrow or print) to make movies to employ all these actors!  (QSRE)
Xero:  Yeah, Netflix should make a bunch of really bad movies!
Quiggin:  Well... not really bad movies.  (QIRE)
Xero:  Kinda bad movies?  
Quiggin:  Good movies?  
Xero: Better movies?
Quiggin:  Best movies?  
Xero:  How do we go about ensuring that Netflix spends "its" money making the best movies?
Quiggin:  Let's talk about Locke.  
Xero:  Ok
Quiggin:  Locke was bad because he supported slavery.  And property rights.  
Xero:  Property rights don't come from nature?
Quiggin:  No, they come from government
Xero:  So the government can take all our property?
Quiggin:  Sure
Xero:  And the government can enslave us?
Quiggin:  Sure
Xero:  That sucks.  
Quiggin:  Yeah.  
Xero:  So you support slavery and theft as long as the government does it?
Quiggin:  No.  
Xero:  So we should be protected from government theft and slavery?
Quiggin:  Yes
Xero:  How?  
Quiggin:  Liberalism.  
Xero: Can you be more specific?  
Quiggin:  Kinda like J.S. Mill's liberalism... but better.  
Xero:  I love J.S. Mill
Quiggin:  Me too
Xero:  Did you know he supported weighted voting?
Quiggin:  Nobody's perfect
Xero:  That's true.  I'm a fan of weighted voting as well.  And vote selling.  And tax choice.  
Quiggin:  Nobody's perfect
Xero:  That's true.  

Nobody's ever made a movie about J.S. Mill.  How is that not market failure?  Why doesn't Quiggin write a blog entry suggesting that the government spend money to correct this fundamental failure?  Maybe he's under the impression that the demand isn't there?  Maybe he's under the impression that we're the only two people who would pay to see a movie about J.S. Mill?   

If there's no demand for a movie about J.S. Mill... but the government supplies one anyways... then it's an instance of government failure.  The government violated QIRE.  It did not put society's limited resources to more, rather than less, valuable uses.  

By virtue of this impeccable economic logic... given that we don't truly know the demand for anything supplied by the government... nobody can ever ever ever claim an instance of government success.  

The government put a man on the moon?  Ok, it successfully put a man on the moon.  But what was the demand to put a man on the moon?  You don't know?  Then you can't know whether or not it was an instance of government success.  

That's the kicker.  Liberals want the government to do a lot... and they want us to take their word for it that the demand is there.  Well... the precious few liberals who understand that supply should match demand.  Then again, it's not like there are very many market types who understand the importance of knowing the demand for war.  Sigh.  

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