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Dennis and Pamela People are affected by numbers

Tuesday, 31 March, 2015 0 Comments

Today’s numbers: One in ten 12-13 year-olds worried they are addicted to porn; Russia’s Gazprom Says Net Profit Plummeted 70% in 2014; Latest YouGov / The Sun poll results 30th March: Con 35%, Lab 35%, LD 8%, UKIP 12%, GRN 5%; Bayern finance chief: ‘We could spend 100 million on a player'; US federal agents stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoin during infamous ‘Silk Road’ probe.

Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror, looks at how television runs the numbers.

QUOTE: “If you only knew the magnificence of the 3, 6 and 9, then you would have a key to the universe.” Nikola Tesla

Ben Bernanke blogs

Monday, 30 March, 2015 0 Comments

Andrew’s Burnt Out? Blogs Are, Too” wrote Ana Marie Cox on 29 January, when it emerged that Andrew Sullivan was given up blogging. Sullivan’s Dish had persisted in various forms over 13 years and THE END was seen as the final blow to a self-centered, self-publishing activity encrusted with billions of unread words. But wait: “Blogging is very much alive – we just call it something else now,” responded Mathew Ingram of GigOm two days later. The irony of this is that GigOm itself expired on 9 March.

Actually, despite the headlines, blogging continues and a new name has been added to the blogroll: Ben Bernanke, who served two terms as chairman of the Federal Reserve, the US central bank. His first post is titled “Inaugurating a new blog” and it contains this piece of modest wisdom: “I hope to educate, and I hope to learn something as well.” That’s the blogging spirit, Ben. Question: Why are interest rates so low?

Ben Bernanke blog

UPDATE: Reuters informs us that blogging, in some parts of the world, is a deadly dangerous expression of freedom: “A blogger was hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Monday, the second attack in five weeks on a critic of religious extremism in the Muslim-majority South Asian nation.”

The blue sky’s engine-drone is deafening

Sunday, 29 March, 2015 0 Comments

The Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2011, died in Stockholm on Thursday at the age of 83. He had lost the power of speech after a stroke in 1990, but continued to write poetry, and to play the piano with his left hand. In light of this week’s aviation tragedy, Tranströmer’s Under Pressure has a certain topical relevance: “Alps tragedy exposes relentless pressures faced by commercial pilots“, declares The Observer today.

Under Pressure

The blue sky’s engine-drone is deafening.
We’re living here on a shuddering work-site
where the ocean depths can suddenly open up
shells and telephones hiss
You can see beauty only from the side, hastily
The dense grain on the field, many colours in a yellow stream.
The restless shadows in my head are drawn there.
They want to creep into the grain and turn to gold.
Darkness falls. At midnight I go to bed.
The smaller boat puts out from the larger boat.
You are alone on the water.
Society’s dark hull drifts further and further away.

Tomas Tranströmer (1931 – 2015)

Blue sky

The ruin of Marina Diamandis

Saturday, 28 March, 2015 0 Comments

It’s going to be loud at the Autódromo de Interlagos in São Paulo tonight, but instead of the usual revving of F1 engines, there’ll be music. Lollapalooza Brasil promises two days of great sounds with a lineup that includes Pharrell Williams, Skrillex, Jack White, Interpol and Marina and the Diamonds. The Welsh singer is promoting her third album, Froot, and from it here’s I’m a Ruin, which was directed by Marcus Lundqvist and filmed in January on the island of Lanzarote.

There might be a few too many echoes of Kate Bush, Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine and Madonna here for some of Marina’s core fans, though. Snippets from the YouTube comments:

Daniel Sanchez Davey: “I love Marina but this video is too similar to Madonna’s Frozen vídeo clip (not a Madonna fan) seriously the oriental black clothing, the desert, fast skies, the hands on the earth. I’m sorry but it looks almost like a copy, just take a look. What happened here Marina? You are always very original.”

Dania Osorio1: “Well, marinas a huge fan of Madonna so I think she hot inspired from that video. Yet you cant really judge on her for making an awesome video its similar but it was marinafied?.”

The Tragedy of Andreas Lubitz

Friday, 27 March, 2015 0 Comments

They buried Richard III in Leicester Cathedral yesterday. As the excavated remains of the blood-sodden English king were being laid to rest, the Bishop of Leicester said, “All our journeys lead to this place where reputation counts for nothing.” But what does this mean? That history does not distinguish between good and evil? That the passenger and the pilot are made equal when the plane crashes? Shakespeare begged to differ, and he had this to say in The Tragedy of Richard the Third, Act 5, Scene 3:

What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by.
Richard loves Richard; that is, I and I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am.
Then fly! What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! Alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself.
I am a villain. Yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well. Fool, do not flatter:
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.

Brice Robin, the chief prosecutor of Marseilles, listened to the recovered audio file, from start to finish, of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525. He concluded that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz knew his actions and his slow, steady breathing were being recorded.
“Is there a murderer here?”
Why did the lives of those 149 people mean absolutely nothing to him?
“Alas, I rather hate myself.”
We do not know what goes through the mind of a person who feels utter despair. We cannot comprehend the anguish the chronically depressed feel. We are unable to understand the actions of those who have lost all hope. But the Bishop of Leicester was wrong in claiming that all our journeys lead to a place where reputation counts for nothing. Those who write the rough drafts of history have examined the last moments of the co-pilot and his hostage passengers. Their Shakespearean verdict will stand:
“And every tale condemns me for a villain.”

A most excellent film

Thursday, 26 March, 2015 0 Comments

According to statistics, 1981 was the most dangerous year in the history of New York City. This, then, is the time and the place in which director J.C. Chandor stages A Most Violent Year. Crime is rampant, corruption is rife, danger lurks on the mean streets and the winter cold is pervasive. Despite these obstacles, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is determined to corner a share of the oil heating industry. His wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain), comes from Mafia stock and is the power behind the throne, but she has her Mrs Macbeth moments of doubt about her man. He lacks the native killer instinct needed to survive in America’s concrete jungle, she feels. Yes, he’s handsome, clever and ambitious, but he refuses to carry a gun. She is wrong, of course, and one of the great things about this film is that it shows how little we understand each other, no matter the intensity of our relationships.

Abel Morales: “You should know that I have always taken the path that is most right. The result is never in question for me. Just what path do you take to get there? There is always one that is most right. And that is what this is.”

fracklog

Wednesday, 25 March, 2015 0 Comments

n. Gas or oil that is ready to be fracked, but remains in the ground pending higher petroleum prices.”

The invaluable Word Spy is keeping our vocabulary fresh with updates  from The Financial Times, Barron’s and Bloomberg Business. And here’s another for the list:

“The backlog of wells waiting to be fracked — some are calling it fracklog — adds to the record above-ground inventories to restrain any significant price resurgence. Eventually, however, the economic fundamentals have to prevail, and we will settle down to a price around the true long-run marginal cost.” Source: Oilprice.com

If you like etymology, you’ll love Keywords for the Age of Austerity by John Patrick Leary, Assistant Professor of English at Wayne State University. This is good:

Less moralistic than “nimble” and less prophetic than “innovation,” the concept of “flexibility” still retains some of the esoteric pixie dust that surrounds the cult of the innovator. “Innovation” frames wealth as the natural product of market-driven, individualistic, visionary creativity. With “flexibility” and the right software, our bosses can even conquer time, and bend it, along with us, to their immediate requirements.

Germanwings flight 4U9525

Tuesday, 24 March, 2015 0 Comments

Over the years, the Rainy Day team has flown dozens of times to and from Barcelona, over the French Alps. Our thoughts today are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 who died there this morning.

Germanwings

Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things.
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights, where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings.

Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1937)

Lee Kuan Yew combined the Vatican with Confucius

Monday, 23 March, 2015 0 Comments

“He modelled Singapore’s democracy after what he saw in the Vatican, where only cardinals nominated by a Pope could elect the next Pope… As Prime Minister he bankrupted or imprisoned individuals in the political opposition… He spoke in disparaging and politically incorrect ways of women, the disadvantaged, and both the downtrodden and the powerful — but worked harder than anyone else in Southeast Asia to build a harmonious, peaceful state, where all races felt welcomed in an incorruptible, transparent meritocracy.” Danny Quah writing about Lee Kuan Yew, who died yesterday aged 91.

In his 31 years as Prime Minister, from 1959 to 1990, Lee transformed Singapore into a globalized economy and his template has brought vast wealth to Asia. But despite what Danny Quah implies, Lee was not a democrat. Rather, he was a Confucian leader and this is what made him a role model for the rulers of modern China. They, too, have seen their nation rise from rags to riches and they, too, are frightened that open debate will undermine the fragile stability that underpins the edifice.

“Supposing Catherine Lim was writing about me and not the prime minister… She would not dare, right? Because my posture, my response has been such that nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul de sac… Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern a Chinese society.” — Lee Kuan Yew

The Straits Times has a tribute blog about reaction to the death of the man who created the modern miracle of Singapore. It is also printing a special 24-page tabloid edition devoted to his life and work.

Singapore mourns

Sophie Hannah follows the Dalai Lama

Sunday, 22 March, 2015 0 Comments

Hercule Poirot is enjoying a quiet supper in London when a terrified young woman approaches and confides to him that she is about to be murdered. Oddly, she begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she says, justice will have been done. The Monogram Murders is the first new Hercule Poirot novel to be authorised by the Agatha Christie estate and it was published last year. The author is Sophie Hannah, one of Britain’s favourite poets, and her new collection of verse, which will be published in May, is titled Marrying the Ugly Millionaire. Here’s a topical snippet:

The Dalai Lama on Twitter

I am following the Dalai Lama on Twitter
But the Dalai Lama is not yet following me.
That’s fine. Things are as they are. I do not feel bitter.
Enlightenment is his thing. Reciprocity?
Not so much. He is a spiritual big-hitter
And I write detective novels. It’s easy to see
Why I’m following the Dalai Lama on Twitter
And the Dalai Lama is not yet following me.

Sophie Hannah

Note: The Dalai Lama has 10.6 million followers on Twitter, which makes him the 101st most-followed person on the network. Kathy Perry, in comparison, has 67.1 million followers and is the Queen of Twitter.

Johann Sebastian Bach is 330

Saturday, 21 March, 2015 0 Comments

Today is Bach in the Subways Day. In Leipzig, Los Angeles and Lviv, musicians are going underground to celebrate Johann Sebastian Bach’s 330th birthday and, given that Glenn Gould called Bach the greatest architect of sound, there’s a certain concord to their choosing of echoing spaces. Bach’s music is, in the words of the American musicologist Richard Taruskin, “a medium of truth, not beauty” and nowhere is this more evident than in his Mass in B minor. Initially, the Lutheran Bach took on the task of composing a Catholic Mass for very practical reasons — a job application. But what began as pragmatism turned into one of the benchmarks of Western civilization.