Netflix’s next move

A few years ago, Netflix had said that by 2015, they would stop their DVD subscription, and have almost everything streaming instead. 2015 came and left, and we’re not only still have DVD subscriptions on Netflix, but their streaming service has become weaker, with fewer noted titles. At the same time, Netflix is being battled by the establishment, be it Hollywood studios, or internet and cableTV carriers.

Sure, I’d love to have Hollywood’s latest offers streaming for me via Netflix, but this is obviously never going to happen. Not for $10 per month anyway. If people could pay $25 (or even $50) per month, a more full Hollywood catalog could be offered, but that’s not going to gather a lot of subscribers because the price is too high. Creating tiers of subscribers (e.g. $10, $25 etc with different catalogs for each), will anger customers too. So what could Netflix do?

I personally see only one way out of this mess, and it’s two fold:

1. Adopt an iTunes & Amazon model, where most Hollywood movies and TV shows are offered for a rent price (e.g. $3 for a movie, $1 for a TV episode).

2. Produce in-house about 250 productions per year (instead of the current 50 or so — episodes are counted separately here).

Let’s run some numbers on a back of an envelope:
There are 30 million Netflix subscribers in the US today. Each pays $10 per month. This means it has gross sales of $3.6 billion per year. Taxes and operational costs aside, should leave the company with $2 billion to invest in its own productions.

What this means is that on average, each production can cost up to $8 million. Which is plenty of money to shoot amazing movies *if you employ the right talent*. Consider the recent and well regarded sci-fi movies “Another Earth”, and “I, Origins”, by the same director. The first one was shot for just $70k, and the second one for $1 million.

Also, considering that some TV episodes don’t necessarily have to cost more than $2 mil (at least for dramas), it means that some more expensive than the average $8mil movie productions can take place too. I certainly don’t see why the first season of “House of Cards” cost $100 million…

So anyway, every other day a new episode or a new movie can debut on Netflix, that no other service has access to. I’m personally in favor of smaller TV seasons of 6 to 8 episodes (instead of the current 10-13), with the 3 first episodes streaming immediately together, and the rest every few days. Overtime, all these new productions will accumulate, building a strong catalog.

The first couple of years might be rough, while the catalog is building, but I think it can be done successfully, since a lot of their current streaming deals will also be active for a while before they go offline from the subscriber version of Netflix (these can still re-appear on their renting side). Plus, some of these productions (e.g. documentaries) are cheap enough to license anyway, so they can still remain at the streaming side of things.

How to lay smooth gouache and watercolor paint

For the kind of illustration I’m interested in, the style requires some very smooth, matte, single-color backgrounds. Traditionally with watercolor people would do large washes of 2 to 3 colors (e.g. for a sky), but for the kind of illustration I do, which has a lot of details, traditional washes are not a way to go. I could not find a single article or youtube video that shows how to do large, non-square areas of matte, smooth painting, so after a lot of tries, I found this technique:

– Get some paint on a plastic palette. About the size of a raisin for a small area.
– On a separate palette hole, add thrice as much water as the raisin size of paint above.
– Use a size 8 “pointed-round” soft brush (Kolinsky sounds good).
– Mix the paint with some Titanium White.
– With the tip of the brush, get some paint (just a little bit, maybe about 1/6th of it), and mix it well with the water. It will create a very pale color, but it will still have a color.
– Strain away as much water as possible from the brush. It should not be full of water when you lay it on paper.
– Start laying the pale color on your paper. Use as large brush strokes as possible, and move the pools of paint towards a single direction.
– Let it dry for a minute or so.
– Add 2/6ths of the paint (basically, double as much as before), on a bit more water than before (maybe about 1.5 times as much as before).
– Mix well, strain the brush, and paint over, the same way as before.
– Let it dry for 3 minutes or so.
– Add the rest of the paint to about 2x more water as in the beginning, strain the brush, paint over again. The consistency should be that of a melted ice cream.
– Let it dry for 5 minutes before you decide if you need yet another hand on top, or add details on it.

That’s it. Basically, you need multiple layers to get a smooth, matte finish.

My illustration “Divorce Papers”

Another way to do it with gouache, is to lay gesso+medium in the paper before painting, just as if you were using acrylics. The 2-3 gesso hands would then serve the same way as the multiple hands of paint. Personally, I prefer the first method.

Cultural bias when judging art

I’m almost shocked by the Pitchfork review on Yeasayer’s new album, “Amen & Goodbye”. To me, over the years, it was baffling why originally Pitchfork endorsed Yeasayer in 2007, but they killed them in their subsequent albums (which in my opinion were more interesting). This was answered in the first paragraph of their latest album review. Basically, Pitchfork hated the fact that Yeasayer weren’t writing lyrics about things they truly believe in, that they were in fact, trend-hoppers.

Wait a second, so did Pitchfork truly believed back in 2007 that a bunch of kids from Brooklyn would ever want to leave the city and become “handsome farmers”, as their lyrics claimed? Are their writers that gullible? Or do they live in a fantasy world that the first Yeasayer album reinforced in their heads, only to be deflated by the clearly urban sound of the albums that followed?

Why blame Yeasayer for it? Why blame a bunch of musicians who want to make it in the industry? Why would anyone think that art is only about what the artist believes and not what the masses want to see/hear? Because let me tell you, if you’re a professional artist, by definition you have to make art that people want to see or hear. Only a part of it could coincide with what the artist actually truly likes/believes. Why? Because that’s what “professional” means. It’s not about “selling out”, it’s about literally being able to sell.

The artists who create only what THEY want to create, they’re by definition either not professionals, or they can’t live off their craft (and need a second job). It is EXTREMELY RARE that an artist creates only what they want to, and have commercial success at the same time. And even when that happens, it also means that they will be out of favor within 3-5 years, as trends naturally change. Tough luck after that time passes.

I know a lot of people would like to make art sound special, but art today is no different than anything else. It’s democratized immensely, and that also means that it’s been commoditized. And anything that is a commodity, is bound to trends. Even trendsetters have to build on top of existing trends, nothing happens in a vaccuum. Everything is connected.

So yeah, going back to that Pitchfork review, I have trouble understanding how they can call Yeasayer “trend hoppers” but also at the same time “out-of-step with current trends”, and judge their music on their character or how they do business, and not on the music itself. In fact, a lot of Pitchfork reviews are like that: they judge the people themselves, not their work. A lot of bands have been destroyed just because Pitchfork didn’t think they were hipster enough, or for being hipsters in disguise.

In my opinion, the album itself is rather “blah” (not as interesting as their 2010 “Odd Blood”), but I try to judge the music itself as music and what it does to my synesthetic brain. Does it turn it On, does it transport me to another dimension? Does it make me feel something, or makes me see something that wasn’t there, as true psychedelics do? If yes, it gets more points, if not, it gets fewer. I care not about lyrics, because I almost never care about what others think about stuff. To me, especially as a non-native English speaker, it’s only about the music.

But I won’t judge music or art in general based on the creator’s character, or what my own beliefs expect that creator’s character to be. This raises the philosophical question: “is the art separate from the artist?”. And the answer to this depends on your point of view, how you consume art. From the point of view of the artist, the art and the artist are not separate. But for all third parties, it depends: if you can only understand art by understanding the artist, then yes, judging the artist himself, might make sense. But if you make the art your own by separating it from the artist (as I usually do), then I don’t need to know about the artist’s convictions. Because at that point, his/her art and me, are one. And by proxy, that makes myself and the artist one. So it’s a synergistic/symbiotic way of consuming art, rather than a conditional one (e.g. “I might like that art if its artist is in agreement with my beliefs”.)

My score for their new album: 5/10 (lower than Pitchfork’s score in fact, but without a cultural bias attached to it)

The evolution of things

Libertarians want a small government, where corporations have almost unlimited powers to do their business. Business and economic growth is the name of the game, and in fact, the only game in town. Unfortunately, along with that, they support reducing personal freedoms: the right to marry the same sex, abortion, privacy, surveillance etc.

On the other hand, the liberal lefties believe the opposite: they want more personal freedoms, and fewer corporate freedom.

Which one is the more “correct” or “best”?

Well, here’s the thing. Not one size fits all. It all depends on the level of consciousness found in the society at the moment. If this was still the old days, where people needed to build a new world and escape the medieval times, then libertarian conservatism makes more sense.

Think about it like this, as in an example: You just freed a Siberian village of some random mining slaves (ie the peasants of the medieval times). Do you just give them unlimited personal freedoms but not enough business-growth freedoms, or do you let them grow out of their slavery, in a way that they can prove to themselves that they can be free citizens that can contribute to the whole? In this case, the latter is a better option when taking into account the intellectual growth of these people *in the long term*. Newly freed people still need something to lean to in order to properly function until they grow out of it. This is the role of religion and nationalism that has played, and why restricted personal freedoms are still best for undeveloped intellects (and I’m metaphorically talking about the whole human race here).

In other words, the human race required this type of capitalistic right-leaning individualistic growth in the past, in order to prove to itself that it is a creator race that can stand on its own legs.

So there comes a time, where continuous business growth has its negative effects, to both society (e.g. shallow consumerism), and the environment. At the same time, the strictness of character found among conservatives, would need to be challenged in order to optimize and heal what we already built (and destroyed) in the last 200 years. Coming out of that phase is a sort of graduating.

That’s when social-democratic leftism (that is not communism or pure socialism, but rather left-leaning capitalism) can help.

The newly gained personal freedoms that liberalism/progressiveness calls for will create a new kind of more responsible citizen. One that does not require to “belong” in order to have an identity (as in the case of religion, or nationalism). While this personal transformation towards more personal freedom takes place, corporations would have to be restricted of absolute power simply because the humans that run them haven’t developed that sense of responsibility yet (they need to work for it first on personal level).

After another 200 years of leftism, and when personal responsibility has been tackled, a new kind of philosophy would be born yet again, to replace this type of social democracy. One with a smaller government, freer citizens AND freer corporations (that at the time might evolve themselves into “projects”, rather than plain business). Interestingly, that new order of things would be closer to left anarchism, than right wing libertanianism.

Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that everything evolves, and at each level of evolution, we have a set capacity of collective consciousness that reflects our economic and political system. So what I described above is simply one of the possible natural ways of society evolving away.

Change is inevitable. Flow with it, and you’ll be alright. Fear not fear.

My weekly Pegan regiment

No1 point for health is sunshine, not food. You can eat all the shit in the world, but if you get a lot of UV, you can still be healthy as a horse, up to a certain age. For those of us who don’t, we need to be more selective. Here’s a rundown of my Pegan diet: a diet resembling a lot of both raw vegan but also a Paleo version with emphasis on some wild fish, rather than land meat.

– Regarding fats: it’s a medium to low fat diet. You can’t have it both ways (both high fat and high carb) without compromising health. I chose moderate-to-high carbs over moderate-to-low fat.
– If you live near the equator, get more vegan. If you live close to the Arctic, eat more fats, fish and less carbs. For us in the middle geographically, ratios are somewhere in the middle too.
– Beans and nuts/seeds are soaked before consumed. Brown rice is sprouted, otherwise white rice is used (once a week). Dairy must be fermented and preferably raw. Beans are eaten twice a week.
– Every breakfast is a smoothie of fruits, greens, kefir, and super-food powders.
– Every lunch (except Sunday’s) is a raw salad with a raw dressing. Monday’s salad also includes a boiled, pastured egg.
– Dinners are mentioned below. Dinners also include some salad, cheese, fruit, and additional veggies (depending on the recipe).
– There’s wild, low-mercury seafood 3 times a week, and pastured bone broth in soups, occasionally. Offal once a month, if labs show inadequacy in B12.
– Vitamins (unfortunately, our soils are depleted, so some supplementation is required). To be taken with a fatty meal: K2-Mk4 once a week, CoQ10 Ubiquinol twice a week, Magnesium thrice a week before sleep, Methyl-based B-complex once a week, D3 5000 IU twice a week in winter time only. DHA too, if not enough fatty fish is consumed.
– 75% of the whole diet is raw. Over 90% of it is vegan.

MONDAY (dinner)
beans (mostly lentils)

TUESDAY (dinner)
wild fish (mostly sardines) + veggies

WEDNESDAY (dinner)
Baked white potatoes + cheese + 2 boiled eggs

THURSDAY (dinner)
beans (any kind)

FRIDAY (dinner)
shellfish (mostly canned oysters) + sweet potatoes + veggies

veggies + 2 eggs (lunch)
rice + Indian veggie curry (dinner)

Fish: Alaskan wild salmon + veggies (lunch)
white potatoes + veggies (dinner)

Epi-Paleo Manifesto

These are the principles that I have built my diet around. Only changes I’ve made is that I do eat beans (as per my Mediterranean ancestry), and I don’t go too low on carbs (due to thyroid issues). Lots of veggies instead, and seafood. Working on getting closer on the lifestyle points too.


Jack Kruse vs the Paleo Establishment

Something very interesting is happening right now in the Paleo turf. The Paleo poster boy, Robb Wolf, got into an online shout match with Dr Jack Kruse, the “quantum epigenetics” poster boy. Robb calls Jack a quasi-mystical fraud, while Jack simply asks Robb to look at the evidence and research before he opens his mouth.

Robb is the big guy here, followed by many thousands, and having written the Paleo “bible”. Often, the 4-5 well known Paleo gurus would go in an all-out attack against the medical establishment, arguing how closed minded that establishment is for not agreeing with their points of view (e.g. that grains & pseudograins are all very bad for you, vegetable seed oils are bad, legumes are bad, dairy is bad etc). They basically call them out for not looking too hard at the evidence, that long-term health “starts with food”.

However, as with any system, after a while, it gets cemented. Same with the Paleo system. While it has somewhat evolved in the last 3 years, to not be as hard-core against fermented dairy, or against white rice, it still holds its basic truths cemented, and no one seem to want to research further. The various gurus have a reputation to protect, and products to sell now, so they need to stay true to what they originally preached.

So, when someone like Dr Jack Kruse comes along to shake their castle, by claiming that “it starts with light”, they themselves become the same as the closed minded medical establishment they hate. They react extremely violently against Kruse, without bothering to read his evidence or even just trying to understand his logic. They try to prevent the carpet pulling (that is probably inevitable as science moves on).

It’s funny, really. They fell under the same trap as the medical establishment has.

As for Dr Kruse, he has some blame for the situation too: the guy can’t write properly. The reason why Paleo gurus are “gurus”, is because they know how to communicate. They can write in a very understandable, friendly way, so the people fall behind them easily. Jack on the other hand, feels like he has a super-computer brain that is connected to the outside world only via a 56k modem instead. It also doesn’t help that he’s arrogant, and just not very likable as a person.

But that doesn’t mean that what he argues is wrong. It is my feeling that he’s the one who’s on the right path towards a deeper truth, but he has this extreme difficulty getting the information out properly.

Basically, what Dr Kruse is claiming is that we’re quantum machines. For that machine to work, we need a lot of natural UVB light (in the AM) and no blue light at night. Basically, he’s arguing that proper circadian rhythms, and being a lot outdoors, can have a bigger effect to long term health than “simply cutting down grains”. In terms of food, he argues that the biggest change one should make, is to add more seafood in their diet, because the iodine/DHA help with transporting energy in the mitochondria.

This could explain why Okinawans used to live to be over 120 years old, even if they ate a few grains, and lots of soy (both an anathema to the Paleo doctrine). It’s because they would also eat ungodly amounts of seafood (especially seaweed), and they would work outdoors in their gardens all the time.

Another thing he argues is that depending on location, and time of the year, your diet should vary. For example, most people in the Western world, should eat enough carbs in the summer, but be near-ketogenic in the winter. That’s how we evolved anyway. Also, people who live in the equator, can eat as many carbs as they like and not get fat (e.g. exotic fruits), because they expose themselves into a lot of UVB, and that balances things out in the “machine”. People in the North (or very South) though, need to practice cold thermogenesis, and they need to cut down on the carbs, and eat more seafood in order to be healthy in these harsh environments (which are locations we migrated to out of Africa, we are not fully evolved to live there, therefore, some food and lifestyle changes are required to be healthy in the North)

I can see what he says can sound like mumbo-jumbo, however, I think that what he’s arguing makes sense to me, and he does have basis on facts. Just not Western facts. A lot of the research he cites on his blog, are from Russian research papers. Some of that research has been done by UK and US scientists, but not everything. He has gone into great lengths to get access to these papers, and to have them translated.

So, he’s definitely controversial. But I really think he’s on to something.

Paleo-pesco-vegetarianism (or, Pegan)

I’m full on in my mostly-vegetarian (“Pegan”) diet now. I believe that all popular diets have something to teach, otherwise, their followers wouldn’t swear for their efficacy. It’s just that not a single diet has all its facts right. So, after years of researching the matter, I have finally found what works for me the best. This is how I have dissected each diet and what I get from each:

– Paleo agreement: no grains (except a bit of white rice), no sugar, no seed oils, no processed foods.
– Where Paleo falters: Not allowing beans, dairy, and having too much emphasis on meat. I now allow beans (except soy), fermented dairy, and mostly fish rather than meat (I eat wild seafood 3 times a week, and land meat only every Sunday — just as my own Greek ancestors did).

– Veg*n agreement: Veggies are good for you. Out of my 21 meals in the week, 17 are vegetarian and/or vegan.
– Where Veg*n falters: The right fish/meat can also be good for you, as long as you don’t over-indulge in it.

– Raw vegan agreement: Raw foods are really good for you.
– Where raw vegan falters: Raw foods ALL the time is not that good for you. We owe our big brains to cooked food, in part. I’d say 50% raw is a good balance.

Please note that my choices have nothing to do with animal ethics. For me, the choice of diet is only about MY health. I don’t see this as selfish, because I’ve been too sick over the years to have to give priority to others (humans, or animals). Having said that, I do choose pastured/wild animals only, while I mostly try to consume parts of the animal that are highly nutritious and are the parts that the animals were NOT killed for (e.g. bones, liver, heart — the parts that Americans throw away).

I find all these a good compromise in my mind.

Recipe: Gluten Free Bread

As I’m moving towards a Pegan diet (Paleo minus too much red meat, plus beans), I feel that some occasional bread (e.g. once a week) could have a place in my diet. This is a recipe with the least bad ingredients in it: no grains except rice, and no gums.

Gluten Free Bread

Ingredients (makes a 1.5 lbs loaf)
* 1 egg
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 cup warm water (or more, as needed)
* 1 tspoon brown sugar
* 1 tspoon salt
* 1 tspoon baking soda
* 2 cups rice flour (white or brown)
* 1/2 cup tapioca flour
* 1/2 cup potato starch (not flour)
* 3 tspoons gluten-free active dry yeast
* 2 tspoons psyllium husk (optional, used for binding)
* 1 tspoon nutritional yeast (optional)

1. Turn on your oven at 400 F, and let it get warm, for 1-2 minutes. Turn it off.
2. Mix all the ingredients with clean hands, or a hand mixer, and knead/beat them. The dough must be very loose, almost like a batter. Add more warm water if needed.
3. Place the batter/dough in a baking pan, and in the slightly warm oven. Let it rise for 1 hour.
4. Turn on the oven at 375 F (290 C), and bake until the bread is browned (depending on the oven, it will take anywhere between 30 to 50 minutes).
5. When done, remove from pan, and use a cooling rack.

1. The psyllium husk is used as a substitute to various gums (like xanthan gum, which is known to create health problems). Psyllium husk adds fiber into the bread.

2. The nutritional yeast will add B1 vitamin to the bread, a vitamin that most gluten free dieters easily get deficient on (wheat flours come enriched with B1).

3. Eating the bread cold, will help you get more “resistant starch” (that comes primarily from the potato starch). That type of starch isn’t digestible (so it doesn’t make you gain weight), and it’s food only for the good gut bacteria. That starch is only “resistant” when it’s cold.

Why “Dieting” will make you sicker

There are two types of dieting for weight loss: the one is plain calorie restriction, and the other one is cutting down specific parts of the normal human diet (e.g. carbs for low carb diets, or fats for low-fat vegan diets). Research has shown that the second way is a better way to lose weight and keep it off too. Many have gone either keto or vegan and have lost weight and seen health changes (at least for a while, because after a few months, it backfires due to lack of specific nutrients — these diets shouldn’t be followed for more than 3 months IMHO).

Speaking for me, while I’m Paleo for life (since it has fixed most of my health ailments), one thing hasn’t worked: weight loss. Men do lose weight faster on Paleo, without effort. They can eat what they want, as long as it’s on the approved list. For women, who are genetically designed to keep on their fat for evolutionary/birth reasons, it’s a hit or miss thing. For some women it works, for others, especially those with metabolic disorder, it fixes the rest of their health in general, but it doesn’t make them lose weight (in other words, it doesn’t clear the metabolic disorder completely). Even worse, 2/3 of women who go keto, end up with thyroid problems (like I have).

The only diet that works for weight loss for these women, is again, calorie restriction. Which of course, in the long run, also doesn’t work. Research now and again has shown that people on a calorie restricted diet end up getting all their weight back within a few months, plus an additional 10%.

So after a quick test with a low calorie Paleo diet (1200 calories per day, I’m very short), it soon became clear that it was unsustainable, since it made you think of food 24/7. Keto fucked up my thyroid, and plain Paleo simply doesn’t make me lose weight.

However, the real problem of low calorie diets exists elsewhere. The real danger is in malnutrition. When you go down to 1200 calories from 1800-2000 calories per day, it’s not just calories you minimize. It’s nutrients. IF the kind of food we had today was as nutrient-dense as it was in the ancient times, then going down to low calorie would not be a problem. In fact, many praise the traditional Japanese diets for being small-portioned. But the point these people are missing is that even if they were eating small quantities, they were getting A LOT of nutrients. They didn’t NEED to eat more!

Today, with modern, selected varieties, this is simply not possible. And the sad part is, that if you don’t OVER-EAT, you will NOT get enough nutrients. 2000 calories a day are bare minimum to acquire the right nutrients! And that’s an amount that doesn’t help with weight loss at all. In fact, in some research paper recently, they found that tribal diets are up to 15 times more nutrient-dense than western diets, and up to 10 times more nutrient dense than the Paleo diet. So basically, going Paleo helps your health, but since we don’t have access to ancient varieties anymore, even Paleo won’t ultimately save you.

This situation has given me quite some depression to be honest: Eat little, get malnutritioned. Eat more, get fat, and still remain malnutritioned. There’s no winning in the West.

These aren’t good times for food and health. The only thing that could work is to buy a farm (somewhere where the water is still clean), find ancient heirloom varieties for your garden, and non-selected breeds of animals, and take the matter 100% on to your own hands. Simply buying organic broccoli or kale at the farmer’s market will only get you so far. Father than the standard western diet, but not as far as some people must go to battle their medical issues.