Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Archive for January, 2012

Punk Economics

Tuesday, 31 January, 2012

Irish economist, David McWilliams, explains the euro crisis using “punk economics“, which he describes as “a new way looking at the economy based on the central idea that what is important is not complicated and what is complicated is never important.”

Snippet: “The German solution will only cause a recession, or more recessions, in the periphery. This will cause money to flow into Germany, not out of Germany, because the risk of default in the periphery increases and in time much of Europe will begin to look like Greece, teetering on the edge. As money flows into Germany, German bond yields fall, Greece will default, and this will give the others permission to do likewise because a default in Greece sets off a domino effect all over Europe because Europeans will say, ‘Well, if the Greeks can do it, why can’t we?’ Is it any wonder right now that the price of gold is firm, that the yield on German bonds is falling and that the euro is weakening against the dollar?” He’s onto something.

Seseña and the ruin of Spain

Monday, 30 January, 2012
Seseña and the ruin of Spain

Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal in a five-set epic Australian Open final; passengers are stranded at Spanish airports after Spanair abruptly goes bust, cancelling all its flights with a half an hour’s notice, and the country’s unemployment rate reaches 22.8 percent, leaving almost 5.3 million Spaniards out of work. When it rains, it pours and […]

Continue Reading »

Egon Schiele in red with snow

Sunday, 29 January, 2012

“When they came to his studio to place him under arrest, the police seized more than a hundred drawings which they considered pornographic. Schiele was imprisoned while awaiting his trial. When his case was brought before a judge, the charges of seduction and abduction were dropped, but the artist was found guilty of exhibiting erotic […]

Continue Reading »

Lana Del Rey: from acclaim to backlash in 15 minutes

Saturday, 28 January, 2012

Her pout has been described as “a model for the entire plastic surgery industry of greater Los Angeles”. And that’s only one example of the kind of hate that’s now unloading on poor, rich, talented, lovely Lana Del Rey since she released her brand new album yesterday. What particularly upsets the Occupy class is that Lana is as privileged financially as she is genetically. You see, dad’s a millionaire whose money comes from one of the modern wonders of capitalism: web domain investing. Worst of all, though, for our puritanical champions of purity and authenticity, Lana’s real name is Lizzy Grant. This “revelation” is available to all on Wikipedia.

We’ve got to talk about Hollywood

Friday, 27 January, 2012

Backgrounder: “What Happens At Y Combinator” is a lengthy and informative post written by Paul Graham in September 2010. Snippet: “The overall goal of YC [Y Combinator] is to help startups really take off. They arrive at YC at all different stages. Some haven’t even started working yet, and others have been launched for a year or more. But whatever stage a startup is at when they arrive, our goal is to help them to be in dramatically better shape 3 months later.”

And this segues nicely into the recently issued Y Combinator RFS, where “RFS” stands for “Requests For Startups”. It was the title wot done it: “RFS 9: Kill Hollywood“. Typical of the tenor of the piece: “How do you kill the movie and TV industries? Or more precisely (since at this level, technological progress is probably predetermined) what is going to kill them? Mostly not what they like to believe is killing them, filesharing. What’s going to kill movies and TV is what’s already killing them: better ways to entertain people. So the best way to approach this problem is to ask yourself: what are people going to do for fun in 20 years instead of what they do now?”

This is pretty incendiary stuff and, sure enough, is has generated some heated responses. The entrepreneur and blogger Jason Calacanis has just kicked back with, “We Need to Empower Hollywood–Not Kill Hollywood“. As always, Calacanis is entertaining: “What if YC’s screed winds up on the desk of some angry or delusional CEO or studio head’s desk with a list of stolen files in Dropbox folders and says, ‘These guys are trying to kill us, let’s unleash a trillion dollar lawsuit on them and harass them to death!’ That’s what Hollywood does — it harasses startups to death and YC’s post is EXACTLY what those lawyers are looking for: the smoking gun that internet people want to kill them.”
Y Combinator is right in demanding a creative response to the increasingly legalistic, stultifying, predictable, biased Hollywood output, but Calacanis is on the money when he points out that no amount of Angry Birds can match the magic of Hollywood when the result is something like Drive.

Global cities of the future

Thursday, 26 January, 2012

Over the next 15 years, 600 cities will account for more than 60 percent of global GDP growth. Which of them will contribute the largest number of children or elderly to the world’s population? Which will see the fastest expansion of new entrants to the consuming middle classes? How will regional patterns of growth differ? Those are some of the questions posed and answered in “Urban world: Mapping the economic power of cities” by the McKinsey Global Institute. The interactive inforgraphics turn the mapping and the exploring into a rewarding journey through our urban future.

Note: “Half of global GDP in 2007 came from 380 cities in developed-regions, with more than 20 percent of global GDP coming from 190 North American cities alone. The 220 largest cities in developing-regions contributed another 10 percent. But by 2025, one-third of these developed-market cities will no longer make the top 600; and one out of every 20 cities in emerging-markets is likely to see its rank drop out of the top 600. By 2025, 136 new cities are expected to enter the top 600, all of them from the developing world and overwhelmingly — 100 new cities —from China.”

600 cities

Facebook as a platform for lies as statistics

Wednesday, 25 January, 2012
Facebook as a platform for lies as statistics

The reality concerning Democrat and Republican administrations and the increase in US debt as a percentage of GDP is as follows: President Reagan plus 14.9%. President GHW Bush plus 7.1%. President Clinton minus 13.4%. President George W. Bush plus 5.6% and, the heavyweight champion of debt, President Obama plus 24.6%. Spread the word! Because there’s a a meme in the form of an infographic doing the rounds of Facebook in which President Obama is portrayed a hero and President Reagan and an ogre, at least in the matter of the US debt.

For the gullible, the key statement that got them adding it to their Timelines was this: “Who Increased the Debt? President Reagan 189%. President GHW Bush 55%. President Clinton 37%. President GW Bush 115%. President Obama 16%.” That was enough to get the credulous adding the propaganda to their Timelines.

In its admirable takedown of this Goebbelsian Big Lie, the Washington Post declares: “If MoveOn.org or Pelosi’s office had any sense of shame, they would have quietly removed the links to this chart from their websites when PolitiFact gave it a ‘pants on fire’ rating four months ago. The fact that an outdated version is still floating around — and that people are still deluded into thinking it to be correct — is doubly shameful.”

Here now, for your amusement, is the bogus chart that has proved so popular with so many credulous people on Facebook.
Debt presidents

Dickensian London and the author’s inner child

Tuesday, 24 January, 2012

Dickens’s Victorian London is a collection of 19th-century photographs that has been published by the Museum of London to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth. This picture shows London Bridge, teeming with vehicles and pedestrians in 1875.

The London of Dickens

The book accompanies the Museum’s current exhibition on the writer’s life. One remarkable image, a Fox Talbot picture from 1841, is thought to be the earliest existing photograph of the Thames. It provides a view of Westminster, with no Houses of Parliament and no Big Ben. When we do see the river, it appears with not a single duck, cormorant or coot in sight because the water was simply too filthy. Dickens’s Victorian London was an industrious, dynamic place, but it was also a dirty, dangerous city, where children were as likely to die as survive. It was the city of Oliver Twist. But it was not all grim as the late, great Christopher Hitchens explained in his final essay, “Charles Dickens’s Inner Child“. Snippet:

“It is all there to emphasize the one central and polar and critical point that Dickens wishes to enjoin on us all: WHATEVER YOU DO — HANG ON TO YOUR CHILDHOOD! He was true to this in his fashion, both in ways that delight me and in ways that do not. He loved the idea of a birthday celebration, being lavish about it, reminding people that they were once unborn and are now launched.”

Three stars for those Michelin apps

Monday, 23 January, 2012

Chapeau! Last year, a total of 1.4 million Groupe Michelin applications were downloaded from Apple’s App Store and three of them were among the 2011 bestsellers. ViaMichelin Mobile in the navigation category for iPhone, Restaurants in the France – The Michelin Guide Restaurants 2011 in the lifestyle category for iPhone and the MichelinFrance map in the navigation category for iPad.

Michelin Guide Although Michelin is not exactly a startup (it was incorporated in 1888), the company has always been at the cutting edge of innovation. After all, its core product, tires, are complex things with an evolving role in the safety and comfort of the driving experience. Talking of driving, those who find themselves in the centre of France this year should visit L’Aventure Michelin, which recounts the company’s historic journey from Clermont-Ferrand to the App Store. The secret of its success is that Edouard and André Michelin weren’t just great innovators, they were marketing geniuses and superb businessmen. Their big insight was that if people took more trips, Michelin would sell more tires. To encourage motorists to hit the road, they got into the content business and Michelin became famous for its roadmaps, for its Red Guides that grade hotels and restaurants, its Green Guides on regions and countries and the literary Guides Bleus, which offered cultural interpretation of destinations. And when smartphones came along, Michelin was well positioned to port its award-winning content onto the new platforms.

Now, it seems a more radical shift is in the works. According to a report that appeared in Le Monde on 14 January, “Michelin dans la tourmente” (Michelin in turmoil), the days of the Guide Michelin are numbered… in paper form, at least. The company is contemplating making it available digitally only. Why? The venerable Guide sold 107,000 copies in France in 2010, which is a drop of of 22 percent compared to a decade ago when sales topped 400,000.

Stone-faced in Italy

Sunday, 22 January, 2012
Stone-faced in Italy

“Among the commonly available stones only marble has a surface translucency that is comparable to that of human skin. It is this translucency that gives a marble sculpture a visual depth beyond its surface and this evokes a certain realism when used for figurative works. Marble also has the advantage that when first quarried it […]

Continue Reading »

Hauschka

Saturday, 21 January, 2012

German composer Volker Bertelmann makes prepared piano music that takes the listener on a journey into a very different realm of the imagination.