Natalie Portman is not a Black Swan …

… Even though she plays the lead in “Black Swan,” which opens in Memphis today at Malco’s Ridgeway 4.

“Black swan” also is a label economists use to describe a rare, hard-to-predict but high-impact event.

A good example is the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

What’s interesting about such events is that even though black swans are so rare, economists will frequently argue they can be used to explain and understand almost everything important about the development of the world.

The Internet. The personal computer. The mortgage meltdown. September 11.

All of them were black swans, but despite the way they seemed to come from out of nowhere, all of them have transformed the world in far bigger ways than things that are easier to understand and more predictable.

A local example: I would argue the election of Willie Herenton in 1991 by a razor-thin margin was a black swan event. The forecasters would have told you no way was it going to happen, but it did, and it had a profound effect on the future of Memphis.

What Cargo Thieves Are Stealing This Holiday Season

Thieves are doing their own shopping this Christmas season. And instead of breaking into a store and stealing handfuls of TVs, they are hitting up truck loads and getting hundreds.

Here are the top five commodities that are seeing the biggest hit, according to FreightWatch International’s 2010 Holiday Cargo Theft Report:

  • Food/drinks: 23 percent
  • Electronics: 18 percent
  • Clothing/shoes: 10 percent
  • Pharmaceuticals: 8 percent
  • Consumer care products: 7 percent

Kevin L. Perkins, assistant director of FBI’s criminal investigation division, said cargo theft presents a much less risk than other forms of criminal activity.

“Prison sentences typically are much shorter than they would be for other potentially very lucrative crimes,” Perkins said.

Memphis Motorsports MVP

For my Memphis Motorsports Park story in Wednesday’s edition of The Daily News, I interviewed Elaine Cartwright, a member of the park’s 14-full-time staff for 22 years.

Cartwright has seen the park’s transformation before her eyes. She was there when a group of local investors started it in 1987, when Long Beach bought it in 1996, and when she was finally let go in October 2009 as Dover waved the checkered flag on the park.

Cartwright wore many different hats at Memphis Motorsports Park. She was mainly the receptionist, but also sold tickets, worked in the concession and took care of merchandise.

“In the beginning, there were only two of us girls that sold tickets and answered the telephone and everything, and after we got larger, we had a lot more people to help us.”

In our entire conversation, not once did Cartwright mention how the park’s closing affected her, but yet how it affected the community.

“I just hate to see it shut down, because it hurts the economy,” Cartwright said. “It brought so many different celebrities in town that people didn’t realize – people from Africa, Europe, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Argentina.”

We need it opened back up. We need it locally, for the local racers that are having to drive anywhere from an hour to two hours to race somewhere now. And it kept the kids off the street – that’s how it got started.”

Cartwright attended the auction on Tuesday to bid on the picnic table she sat at every day on her lunch break, but unfortunately was outbid.

“It’s just a memory that I have with all the great people I met there,” Cartwright said. “We had a lot of good people, we had a lot of fun.”

Electrolux Virtual Kitchen

As you may have seen by now, Electrolux is building a major plant in Memphis. The company is investing $190 million to build a 700,000-square-foot plant that will manufacture ovens and other products in Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park.

Electrolux has a cool virtual kitchen set up on their Website that lets you play around with it.

Click the image below.

Habitat Serves More Than 400,000 Families

Despite a troubled economy, Habitat for Humanity is celebrating a milestone this year, serving more than 400,000 families with affordable housing in a little less than 35 years.

“We are very grateful to all those who helped Habitat for Humanity serve almost 75,000 families worldwide last year—almost triple the number of five years ago,” CEO Jonathan Reckford said in Habitat’s fiscal year 2010 annual report, “What We Build.”

Habitat’s goal is 100,000 families served a year by 2013.

Click here to get a glimpse of the nonprofit’s involvement in grassroots communities in 85 countries and territories.