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Body of glass

Monday, 2 March, 2015 0 Comments

“Seemed like the real thing, only to find mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind.” That’s what Blondie sang in Heart of Glass back in 1978. At the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona last night, glass was front and behind when Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge phones. According to Gigaom, “Samsung has done away from the plastic cases that always characterized its phones and adopted Gorilla Glass front and back panels, which are then encased with a metal band.”

This is very good news for Corning, and it reminds us of the glass stats cited by Benedict Evans in his “Mobile is Eating the World” presentation last year.

Glass

Boris Nemtsov and the tyrant

Sunday, 1 March, 2015 0 Comments

In his final interview, hours before he was shot dead on Friday night, Boris Nemtsov said that he was a patriot, but one who regarded the Russian flag as a “symbol of freedom” from Soviet tyranny. Vladimir Putin has revived that tyranny by creating an atmosphere of hatred, driven by an hysterical propaganda offensive that portrays opponents as traitors. Boris Nemtsov, who “died in the streets”, just outside the Kremlin, is the latest victim of the evil that W. H. Auden so brilliantly depicted during a former age of tyranny. It is a tragedy that Russia is again ruled by such wickedness.

Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

W. H. Auden (1907 – 1973)

The Tyrant

La Frontera

Saturday, 28 February, 2015 0 Comments

The late Lhasa de Sela was an American-born singer-songwriter who was raised in the United States and Mexico, and then divided her adult life between Canada and France. She died of cancer aged 37 on 1 January 2010.

When she was five months old, her hippie parents were reading a book about Tibet and the word Lhasa “just grabbed” them as the right name for the baby girl. The first decade in the life of Lhasa de Sela was spent criss-crossing the US and Mexico in a converted school bus with her family and La Frontera is autobiographical to the core.

The future of journalism

Friday, 27 February, 2015 0 Comments

If you haven’t heard of The Dress meme yet, don’t worry. You soon will. It all began with a simple photo of a dress posted on Tumblr yesterday that some people see as black and blue while others see as white and gold. In a world threatened by the nihilism of ISIS and Putin, there are serious issues to discuss, but at one point this morning BuzzFeed said the dress was accounting for more than half of its traffic. Such is journalism.

The dress

The other key story yesterday featured a llama drama in Arizona. Honest. You can’t make this stuff up.

Life as a spectator sport

Thursday, 26 February, 2015 0 Comments

“To concede again in the last seconds was pathetic, stupid, exasperating and so typically Arsenal.” Another cynical comment by some jaded hack watching the Gunners being routed by Monaco last night? Not quite. It’s actually the Arseblogger himself commenting on the 3 – 1 Champions League result. While the ups and downs of the game are a challenge for the fans, they give everyday spectators endless material for expressing dismay/delight about how much players are paid compared to the price of a ticket or a pint. All of this drama is reflected in Spectators, a superb animated short film by the young Scottish director, Ross Hogg.

“Music always sort of sharpened me up”

Wednesday, 25 February, 2015 0 Comments

“I refuse no reasonable offer of work,” Anthony Burgess declared in 1978, “and very few unreasonable ones.” During a lifetime that began on this day in 1917, Burgess wrote more than 30 novels, dozens of film and television scripts, several symphonies, hundreds of newspaper articles, studies of language, music, Shakespeare and James Joyce, a pair of plays and books for children, a volume of poetry, a ballet, and a two-volume autobiography. His most famous creation, A Clockwork Orange, is a disturbing exploration of violence and evil. Filled with innovative language, the book questions the role of “culture” in society. Alex, the narrator, is a thug who loves classical music, but rather than temper his cruelty, it actually spurs it:

There was music playing, a very nice malenky string quartet, my brothers, by Claudius Birdman, one that I knew well. I had to have a smeck, though, thinking of what I’d viddied once in one of these like articles on Modern Youth, about how Modern Youth would be better off if A Lively Appreciation Of The Arts could be like encouraged. Great Music, it said, and Great Poetry would like quieten Modern Youth down and make Modern Youth more Civilized. Civilized my syphilised yarbles. Music always sort of sharpened me up, O my brothers, and made me feel like old Bog himself, ready to make with the old donner and blitzen and have vecks and ptitsas creeching away in my ha ha power.

The new energy vampires

Tuesday, 24 February, 2015 0 Comments

Most homes use a lot less energy to heat or cool indoor air than they did in the 1970s. “That’s the good news,” says Matt Power of Green Builder Media, “But the bad news is that during that time we’ve added electric gadget after gadget to our ‘normal’ household environment.” These are the new energy vampires that drain away power in standby mode and they’re abetted by the digital devices that are constantly running or charging. Around the corner is the Internet of Things that will draw down even more electricity to to churn out Big Data.

Today, it was announced that the technology giant IBM and the chip designer ARM are marketing a “starter kit” designed to speed up the invention of internet-connected things. They say that “it can take just five minutes to unbox the equipment and start sending readings to online apps.” Not a word about the energy needed to make all this happen, though.

Internet of Things

Practical grounds for love

Monday, 23 February, 2015 0 Comments

One year, 2012, actually, “What is love?” was the most searched phrase on Google. The answer remains elusive but it’s worth pondering this exchange from Pride and Prejudice, when Lizzy Bennet is questioned by her sister Jane:

“My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved him?”

“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”

Lyme Park

And the Oscar for best foreign-language film…

Sunday, 22 February, 2015 0 Comments

… goes to Leviathan. Well, that’s what we hope. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film exudes contempt for modern Russia. Its story of corruption and cruelty is an indictment of the entire system. A win for Leviathan tonight in Los Angeles will be a black eye for the Putin regime and a victory for creativity. How the characters in the film feel about their country’s perverted history in captured is one of the film’s best scenes: a picnic with some local policemen, lots of bottles of vodka, semi-automatic weapons and an array of Soviet-era portraits — Brezhnev, Lenin, Andropov… the entire gallery of thugs.

Vladimir Medinsky, the Russian Minister of Culture, has called for new guidelines to ban films like Leviathan, which “defile” Russia and her culture.” Leviathan is a glorious defiling; a film that reviles what it loves with grief-stricken rage.

I’ve got my freedom

Saturday, 21 February, 2015 1 Comment

On this day in 1933, the American singer-songwriter Nina Simone was born in North Carolina as Eunice Kathleen Waymon. In 1954, she adopted the stage name Nina Simone: “Nina” (from niña, meaning ‘little girl’ in Spanish) and “Simone” from the French actress Simone Signoret. Her music was a unique mix of jazz, classical, blues, gospel, folk, R&B and pop.

Nina Simone took part in the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches in 1965 but she advocated armed revolution rather than the non-violence favoured by Martin Luther King. His dream was of racial equality, achieved by protest and legislation; her dream was of a separate state for African Americans which, if necessary, would be established by force. Nina Simone moved to France in 1993 and died at her home in the sea-side resort of Carry-le-Rouet in 2003.

Greece as Zimbabwe or Argentina

Friday, 20 February, 2015 1 Comment

What will happen if Greece exits the eurozone? For starters, the banking sector will collapse as everyone tries to move their euros to German banks. Although word on the street is that most have done so already. Athens might consider reintroducing the drachma, but no one would want it, so people would just keep using the euro. This option is not without precedent. Back in 2009, Zimbabwe gave up the pretense of monetary sovereignty and the United States dollar is now the official currency for all government transactions. Just as Robert Mugabe has no influence over the Fed, Greece would no longer have a seat at the ECB but life goes on and there are reports that nightlife in Harare is picking up again.

Instead of going the way of Zimbabwe, Greece might become another Argentina and things won’t be as bad as the pessimists say. Given that what the Argentines call “viveza criolla” is very much at home in Greece, a tango-sirtaki morph may be on the cards. That being the case, here are some useful viveza criolla phrases:

Total, si no robo yo, robará otro.” (In the end, if I do not steal, another will steal.)
Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa.” (Made the law, made a loophole.)
El vivo vive del zonzo y el zonzo de su trabajo.” (The smart guy lives off the fool, and the fool lives off his job.)

Back on the 11th of this month, STRATFOR looked at the two countries in Greece and Argentina, Similar But Not the Same. Conclusion:

Even though Syriza used Argentina’s case as an example during the electoral campaign, and many Greeks are aware of the country’s history, Athens has considerably less room for action than Buenos Aires did. Many of Buenos Aires’ moves since 2001 have been ill conceived and poorly executed, but unlike Greece, Argentina was a fully sovereign country when it made them. Greeks elected Syriza to fix the country’s debt problem without leaving the eurozone and the European Union. Greece’s main problem is that it will be extremely hard for Athens to achieve both goals simultaneously.