terms in circulation in their natural habitat. recognize that in the complexity of our time, connotations, being associative, cannot be easily compressed down to dictionary entries.
culture. this entrance is strictly prohibited / to untidy and smelly people, smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts, blind, deaf, mute or disabled people, people with down syndrome or mental paralysis, people undergoing treatment for mental illnesses, sick people, people with infectious diseases, people with leprosy, parasites, pregnant women, woment with children, underaged people, senior citizens, students, people without elementary education, illiterates, people without knowledge of the english language, non english speakers, people without computer skills, non credit card holders, people without a bank account, housewives, employees, people in uniform, unemployed, gamblers, beggars, homeless, prostitutes, immigrants, people without official documents, green card holders, green card applicants, refugees, asylum seekers, non u.s. citizens, non e.u. citizens, people with a criminal history, people with pending causes in the u.s., people with pending causes the e.u., people willing to attempt action against u.s. interests, people willing to attempt action against the interests of the e.u., people carrying dangerous arms, people carrying chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, terrorists, people related to criminal and terrorist organizations, people with defamation intentions, forgers, liars, jokers and cynics. santiago sierra / "door plate" 2006
music. there are two orthogonal criteria of musical performance: technical proficiency, where computers have long surpassed humans, and expressivity, an elusive dimension that gives music its feeling. rhythm can be characterized by 1) metric structure, 2) tempo variation, and 3) deviations. deviations are most important for the expressivity of percussive and non-western music. when we listen to or perform music we often perceive a high-frequency pulse, a subdivision of tactus - ie. typically the main quarter beat - called tatum, named after art tatum whose tatum was faster than all others. when i asked barry vercoe if this concept had a name he replied "not until now. call it temporal atom, or tatom." tatus is not always explicitly stated in a piece and does not imply a conscious ticking in the mind, like a clock. it is more like an unconscious and intuitive high-frequency pulse that can be brought to the foreground when nedeed. the concept of being off the beat suggests that there is deviation from some tempo. we developed an algorithm which is given the time signature, number of tatums per beat, beats per measure, and location of the beginning of the measure, and the time series of audio attacks. this algorithm can extract the tempo variation and deviations, producing the expressive timing of an instrument relative to a reference instrument. we applied it to the voicings of selected drums from a performance by munequitos de matanzas, a cuban drum ensemble. the performance was resynthesized using by triggering samples via a variety of quantization methods. most people who listen to these examples say that quantization with the per-tatum deviations added sounds most like the original, containing the feel of the original performance, whereas resynthesis with quantization using random gaussian deviations of the same mean and variance as the deviation series, or even quantization with random gaussian, per-tatum deviation sound "sloppy" and "random." resynthesis using constant tempo parameters, i.e. ignoring the deviations, sounds mechanical and cold. jeff bilmes / "techniques to foster drum machine expressivity" proc int computer music conference, 1993
filmmaking & new media. movie companies rely on their libraries for about 1/3 of their $36b annual revenues according to global media intelligence, a media research service. having figured out that really big money comes from reselling old films - on broadcast tv, cable, dvds and so on - companies like warner and paramount for decades have been tucking their 35mm masters and associated source material into archives, often in salt and limestone mines. it was a file-and-forget system that didn't cost much by an industry that discarded its earliest works or allowed films on old flammable stock to degrade. only half the feature films shot before 1950 survive. but then came digital. last month, the academy of motion picture arts and sciences released the results of a yearlong study of digital archiving in the movie business. the startling bottom line: to store a digital master record of a movie costs about $12k a year, versus the $1k it cost to keep a conventional film master. worse, to keep the swarm of data produced when a picture is born digital - that is, produced using all-electronic processes rather than relying partially on film - pushes the preservation cost to over $200k a year. regardless of how hey are shot, most pictures are edited digitally, then a digital master is tranferred to film, which can degrade the quality over a pure film process. milton shefter, a longtime film preservationist who helped prepare the report, said this problem, if not addressed, could point the industry "back to the early days, when they showed a picture for a week or two, and it was thrown away." shefter and his associates see trends that could point many movies toward digital extinction over a span of years, unless something changes. over the next couple of decades, the conversion of theaters to digital projection will sharply reduce demand for film, eventually making it a sunset market for kodak, fujifilm and agfa. at that point, pure digital storage will become the norm, bringing with it a set of problems that never troubled film. for example, if not operated occasionally, a hard drive will freeze up in as little as two years. similarly, dvds tend to degrade with a half-life of about 15 years. compounding these difficulties is the constant change in technology. as one generation of digital magic replaces the next, archived materials must be repeatedly "migrated" to the new format or risk becoming unreadable. thus, nasa found in 1999 that they were unable to read digital data saved from a viking probe in 1975; the format had long been obsolete. all of that makes digital archiving dynamic rather than static process. nyt 12.23.07 "the afterlife is expensive for digital movies"
advertisting & new media. xerox introduced the most sweeping transformation of its corporate identity since it dropped "haloid" from its name in 1961, by retiring the capital x that has dominated its logo for 40 years in favor of what richard wergan, vp for advertising, calls "a brand identity that reflects the xerox of today," given that services like managing digital document flow are a fast-growing part of its product mix. the new logo "is one of the most significant changes we could make to disrupt the mental model of our being a copier brand." xerox and interbrand, a unit of omnicom group, spend more than 18 months interviewing 5k people worldwide about their associations with the xerox name. then they set about figuring how they could best retain the perception of dependability and stability, jettison the formal, stodgy associations and add attributes: modern, innovative and flexible. "the internet, sponsorships, 3-d icons - none of that existed when xerox adopted its old logo," said maryann j stump, senior director of brand strategy for interbrand. "you can do animation with a symbol that you just can't do with a word-mark." xerox has budgeted for a double-digit percentage increase in its spending on interactive and online media at the expense of traditional media like television and print. they chose the ball, which is designed to be animated in multimedia formats, to suggest forward movement and "a holistic company," ms. stump said. nyt 1.8.08 "a big red x no longer marks the spot"
gastronomy. like wine, the best nori has a sense of place, its flavor and texture affected by water temperature, current and mineral content. even first-harvest ariake nori requires fastidious processing as it is rinsed, minced, pressed, dried and toasted. while low-quality nori from china and korea still constitute the majority of nori imported to the u.s., chefs like naomichi yasuda of sushi yasuda and masayoshi takayama of masa pay more than 15x that for delicate first-harvest shin-nori cultivated in ariake bay, off kyushu island. for those who have had only the tough, harsh stuff that many restaurants serve, tasting high-grade nori is like discovering valrhona after a lifetime of hersheys. takayama, who orchestrates $400-a-head meals, even toasts it himself, by grazing the translucent, brownish-red sheets over the surface of a steel disk set on a burner until they turn the familiar dark green. kent kirshenbaum, professor of chemistry at new york university and a fellow member of the experimental cuisine collective, a group that meets to discuss the chemistry of cooking, said that nori contains a high concentration of glutamic acid and inosinate, two molecules that create umami flavor. since together these compounds can produce a synergistic effect, cheese and trufles, which are often good sources themselves, may not be such odd partners for nori after all. nyt 1.9.08 "nori steps away from the sushi"
sociology. "the older professions are great, they're wonderful," said richard florida, author of "rise of the creative class." "but they've lost their allure, their status. and it isn't about money." something is missing, say many doctors, lawyers and career experts: the old sense of purpose, of respect, of living at the center of american society and embodying its definition of "success." some doctors and laywers feel they have slipped a notch in social status, drifting toward the safe-and-staid realm of dentists and accountants. 40% of laywers recently surveyed by the american bar assn said they would not recommend the profession to a young person. "we'd all seen the visions, watching l.a. law, ali mcbeal" said catehrine kersh, 32, a former litigator at a large l.a. firm. "it did seem glamorous." reality was different. ms. kersh recalled a two-week stretch in which she and a team of associates were holed up in a conference room with 50 boxes of documents. every day, for 12 hours, they fastered post-it notes to legal briefs. "why did we go to law-school?" said ms. kersh, who now works at a nonprofit. yul ejnes, 47, a general internist in cranston, r.i., said he was forced by medicare to fill out requisition forms for a wheelchair-bound patient who needed to replace tires. "i'm a doctor, not mr. goodwrench." "what irritates me most is the use of the term provider," said brian a. meltzer, an internist who now practices pro-bono but works full time for johnson & johnson's venture capital division. "we didn't go to provider school." florida argued there has been broad shift in definitions of success, a realignment of the pillars. especially among young people, professional status is now linked to ideas of flexibility and creativity, concepts alien to seemingly everyone but art students even a generation ago. "there used to be this idea of having a separate work self and home self," he said. "now they just want to be themselves. it's almost as if they're interviewing places to see if they fit them." trudy steinfeld, the executive direct of the wasserman center for career devp at new york univ said students are focusing on starring in their own creations, their own start-up businesses like facebook and myspace. "you might be working like a maniac, but it's going to pay off in status. you're going to be providing something people are going to know and use all over the world." nyt 1.6.08 "the falling-down professions"
the experience economy & advertising. "how do you bring the pages of a magazine to life?" asked paul jowdy, publisher of bon appetit. "i wanted an experience that is not just a branding opportunity, but to create an environment for our advertising partners to speak to an affluent and sophisticated crowd in a unique setting. renting out a restaurant and hosting a dinner would not be the same. people have been to enough cocktail parties." so bon appetit hired david rockwell, principal of the rockwell group, which has designed big-budget restaurants like nobu 57, to transform the former site of a hard rock cafe in manhattan into a temporary restaurant scheduled to last only 2 weeks. parties will be held there at night and a daytime cafe will be open to the public. "the idea is to put the focus on this as a one-time experience," said rockwell. as people are bombarded with marketing and advertising, real-life interactino with products and brands has become increasingly valuable, according to time mapes, marketing vp at delta air lines, which hhas its own pop-up space nearby the bon appetit venture in midtown. "if you measure foot traffic coming in, to customer email addresses collected and enrollments to skymiles, those metrics are all good, mapes said. ultimately, it is the more ephemeral aspects of marketing and branding that are the point of pop-ups, according to rockwell. "to create an 'event' that is only going to last for two weeks, we though to fit as a theater space. in theather you're always looking for the story. we're creating a story for bon appetit." nyt 10.24.07 "for a lasting impact, a fleeting experience"
finance & complexity. james simon's renaissance technologies, which has earned an average of 30% a year since its founding in 1988 is ferociously secretive about their proprietary trading algorithms. the press often refers to simons as the world's leading quant. a world-class mathematician with a phd from berkeley who made significant contributions to differential geometry and the topology of quantum fields, simons earned compensation of $1.7b in 2006. "it was in bad taste for two consenting adults to talk math or unix or c in the company of traders, salespeople and bankers" wrote emanuel derman, the theoretical physicist who made his mark at goldman sachs, in his memoir "my life as a quant." now quants are becoming ubiquitious. "they're going everywhere, to pension funds, insurance companies, and companies that aren't financial companies at all," said andrew lo, director of mit's lab for financial engineering. a quant sees the financial world through a mathematical lens. this does not necessarily describe the average wall street trader, whose success is often based as much on intuition and connections and charisma as on any understanding of stochastic calculus. to give an idea of how far the quant mind is from that of the typical financier, stochastic calculus - a branch of mathematics dealing with randomness - is derided by quants as folk math. with the increasing power of computers, they have developed more processing-intensive methods such as tools to value derivatives - a $415t market in 2006 according to the bank for international settlements - than the classic black-scholes models. monte-carlo simulations, for example, model the performance of an asset millions of times and then average the results, without assuming constant volatitlity as classical black-scholes equations do. more complicated models track even macroeconomic factors in addition to the asset's price. riskmetrics, a firm that provides models tools and data to the majority of important banks, brokerages, and hedge funds, tries to predict how a derivative might respond to weakening exchange rates or incresed interest rates. reuters recently announced its newsscope archive service, which tags reuters-issued articles with digital id's so that an article can be analyzed for useful information and acted on automatically by computers suitably programmed to perform such event-processing. unfortunately, the life span of an algorithm is getting shorter. gregg berman of riskmetrics, says that in the mid-1990s, a good algorithm might trade successfully for 3 or 4 years. berman thinks 2 or 3 months might be the limit now, and he expects it to drop. richard brookstaber, a quant who has managed funds and risk for salomon brothers and morgan stanley, frets about complexity and what he calls tight coupling, an engineer's term borrowed from the nuclear power plant sector to describe systems in which small errors can compound quickly. "we have gotten to the point where even professionals may not understand the instruments. nobody knew that what happened in the subprime market could affect what was going on in the quant equity funds. there's too much complexity, too much derivative innovation. if it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone. no one could have predicted the linkage." berman agreed: "the products are getting an order of magnitude more complex. things change slightly and get correlated where they weren't correlated before. you can't make it without understanding it. but you can buy it." the efficacy of finance is very different than physics says derman "in physics you can do things to 10 significant figures and get the right answers. in finance, you're lucky if you can tell up from down." mit technology review 11-12.2007 "the blow up"
music. it was financial backing from mel cheren that helped his business partner michael brody create the paradise garage, a focal point of the downtown manhattan disco scene in the 1970s and 80s, out of what was once a parking garage at 84 king street in soho. in its heyday, patrons crowded the club's 25k sq-ft floor as they danced under the sway of the inventive dj larry levan and the club's powerful sound system. in the 1960s cheren served in the army in germany. on his return in 1970 he worked for scepter records and urged the company to release a new sort of dance music he had been hearing. at cheren he came up with the idea of instrumental b-sides for dance singles. with the record label he cofounded in 1976, west end, cheren helped create the vinyl 12" single which gained its greatest popularity in the discos. the disc permitted longer playing time than the standard 7" record and provided a cleaner sound. nyt 12.21.07 "mel cheren, 73, an enterpreneur of disco" * *
art. jenny holzer has delivered a knockout punch at the massachusetts museum of contemporary art. her first indoor light projection piece in the united states, part of an exhibition which also features politically-charged paintings, starts with a spectacular light show of projected poems. in the huge darkened hall of the museum's building 5, ms. holzer has set up two powerful machines to project lines of text spelled out in stark white block letters. placed at opposite ends of the room, the projectors send verses scrolling across the floor, up the walls and back over the ceiling. distributed around the floor of the room are beanbag chairs 10 feet across; they look like boulders sunk into the ground or a school of beached whales. the silvery and shadowy light creates a dreamy, lunar effect. the words, which become enlarged gigantically as they crawl up the farthermost walls, seem to shout at the viewer even as an ominous silence prevails. with the poetry ms. holzer has solved a big problem. since her succinct truisms of the late 1970s, the poems she has composed and displayed by means various - from l.e.d. signs to carved stone benches - have been turgid and morally hectoring. now she is using poems by other, better poets. ms. holzer's light show is grandly public. the unlikely marriage of opposites gives the poems an urgency and fills the big hall with infectious energy. nyt 12.26.07 "jenny holzer makes light of poems and beats swords into paintings"
design. despite two decades of lectures by northwestern university cognitive scientist donald norman, on the virtue of user-centered design and the danger of featuritis, gadgets of the future will be even harder to command because we and our machines are about to go thorugh a transition as they get smarter and take over more tasks. as dr. norman says in his new book, "the design of future things," what we have here is a failure to communicate. "it would be fine if we had intelligent devices that work well without human intervention, like my clothes dryer, which figures out when clothes are dry and stops. but if machines require human supervision and correction, that is where the danger lies - machines that fight with us over how to do things." dialogue isn't the answer because we're too different from machines. you can't explain to your car's navigation system why you dislike its short, efficient route because the scenery is ugly. "behaving predictably is key," dr. norman said. "instead of trying to anticipate our actions, or debating the best plan, machines should let us know clearly what they're doing." he suggests using natural sounds and vibrations that don't require explanatory labels or a manual no one will ever read. he recalled the fight he and his colleagues at northwestern waged against computerized shades that kept letting sunlight glare on their monitors. "it took us a year and a half to get the administration to let us control the shades in our own offices. badly designed so-called intelligent technology makes us feel out of control, helpless. no wonder we hate it," he said. engineers have known how to build a simple alarm clock for more than a century, so why can't you figure out how to set the one in your hotel room? because, dr. normal said, it was bought by someone in purchasing who has never tried navigating all those buttons at 1am. the technology part of the problem is usually simple. the people part is complicated." nyt 12.18.07 "why nobody likes a smart machine" *
art & biz. "a january 1909 deadline was set for all companies to comply with the licence. by february, unlicensed outlaws, who referred to themselves as independents, protested the trust and carried on business without submitting to the edison monopoly. in the summer of 1909 the independent movement was in full swing, with producers and theater owners using illegal equipment and imported film stock to create their own underground market. eventually, the general film company was formed to block the entry of unlicensed independents using coercive tactics and monopolized distribution of all u.s. film exchanges, except for the one owned by the independent william fox who defied the trust even after his license was revoked." thus wrote a commentator at the time. california was remote enough from edison's reach that filmmakers there could pirate his inventions without fear of the law. the leaders of hollywood filmmaking, fox most prominenly, did just that. by the time enough federal marshals appeared, the patents had expired, and a new industry had been born. lawrence lessig / free culture, 2004
architecture. "the plant wall has a real future for the well-being of people living in cities. the horizontal is finished - it's for us. but the vertical is still free, said patrick blanc, who, fascinated by plants that flourish without soil and in low light, went on to study this phenomenon at pierre & marie curie university in paris and traveled to malaysia and thailand to observe how plants managed to grow on rocks or in forest underbrush. the research he has carried on at the french national center for scientific research is central to his work with plant walls, which thrive indoors using artificial lighting. a plant wall begins as a surface like a painting and as the plants grow it develops volume. it does not need to be trimmed and the density of the planting prevents weeds from sprouting. a wall he designed at the cartier foundation for contemporary art in paris has never been pruned. the use of artificial materials enables longevity. a wall in the living room of his house is 25 years old. blanc never copies himself and has been careful to copyright his walls, like works of art. he prefers leaves to flowers and avoids plants with trailing vines. "i look at the architecture of leaves. i use plants with curves. when i am invited into museums to create permanent workds, i am treated like an artist," he said, "meaning capable of choosing the plant sequences that will function together in the long run. construction for the walls, which blanc leaves to gardeners, costs around $700 per sq-m, plus labor. nyt 5.3.07 "all his rooms are living rooms"
urban development. as a result of a four-year-old push by new york city to encourage more sidewalk cafes, at the end of october, 1069 restaurants either had or were awaiting sidewalk cafe licenses, up more than 25% since 2003. in 1997 there were just 310 licenses. the sidewalks may be the most crowded they have ever been, according to vanessa gruen, director of special projects at the municipal art society of new york, a design watchdog group who also works closely with its streescapes group. "if you look at any old photographs of new york from a few decades ago, you will see that the sidewalks are pretty clear," said ms. gruen. if a restaurant pays $150 a sq-ft annually for a 2500-sq-ft space along, say, hudson street in the west village, the rent would total $375k a year. adding 500 sq ft in a sidewalk cafe would cost $16k in annual consent fees, but if the restaurant were to expand its indoor size by 500 sq ft, the annual rent cost would be close to $75k. high-visibility outdoor seating can also serve a useful marketing function, said stephen hanson, president of be our guest, which owns 13 nyc resaurants, 7 with sidewalk cafes. hanson estimates that in his restaurants, cafes have helped to increase customers by up to 15%. "it gives you a visual lift, almost like advertisting," hanson said. and there are intangible benefits to be public, added steve wygoda, a principal of swa architecture. "they are beautifying the sidewalk, and where aesthetics are concerned, the public will always benefit." paul steely white, executive director at transportation alternatives, said that early in the 20th century new york viewed its sidewalks as barriers to cars and trimmed them back regularly to allow for wider roads. now, he suggested the city should replace some of its parking spaces, which are its most undervalued real estate, costing just $1.50 an hour, with sidewalks. "sidewalk areas are not just a way just to get from a to b, but can almost function as parks. and parks drive real estate values." nyt 11.7.07 "sidewalks of new york become premium space"
the experience economy. the popularity of the iphone and ipod and the intended halo effect those products have had on sales of apple computers are behind apple's vigor. as competitors struggle to eke out sales growth and to find the right retail formula, apple seems to have perfected it. the company has made many of its stores feel like gethering places, but the bright lights and equally bright acoustics makes customers feel more like they are at an event than a retail store. apple stores encourage lingering, with dozens of fully functioning products for visitors to try - for hours on end. the close attention paid to detail in the stores' design, gives the impression that steven p. jobs himself, the company's founder and chief executive, signed off on every square aesthetic inch of every store. in addition, "they've become the nordstrom of technology," said michael gartenberg, vp and research director at jupiter reserach, referring to the department store that is known for its service. ron johnson, apple's senior vp for retail, said "the idea is that while people love to come to retail stores, and they do it all the time, what they really appreciate the most is that undivided personal attention." the result is far fewer qualms among consumers about paying premium prices. apple now derives 20% of its revenue from its physical stores, and the number is growing. on average, each stores generates sales of $4k per sq ft a year. the stores' architecture also makes consumers feel good about spending money there. in nearly a dozen urban centers - including new york, san francisco, london and glasgow - the signature feature is a glass staircase that appears to be held in place by nothing more than apple hype. the sony flagship store on w 56th st in manhattan, a few blocks from apple's 5th ave store has the hush of a mausoleum. the long and narrow blue-toned nokia store on 57th st feels a bit like being inside an acquarium. the high-end samsung experience showroom was nearly empty and althogh that store professes to encourage hands-on exploration of its products, the showroom has a clinical, forbidding feel. "whenever we ask consumers to cite a great retail experience, the apple store is the first they mention," said jane buckingham, president of the intelligence group, a market research firm in los angeles. nyt 12.27.07 "inside apple stores, a certain aura enchants the faithful"
the experience economy. progress cannot be measured only in terms of raising gross domestic product, said luciano fiordoni, an economist who spoke at a recent anti-airport rally in sienna, the historic town situated one hour south of florence. "you have to factor in quality of life. we don't object to growth but our main intent is to remain human." many of the locals don't want the construction of new terminals, parking lots and infrastructure to serve the airport's proposed increased capacity. they fear that more tourists would only lead to more large-scale enterprises, like outlet malls or hotel chains. "once these tourists land, where do you think they can go? we don't want it to become an amusement park," a resident said. the backers of the airport expansion predict an additional half-million-odd tourists would be landing in siena by 2020. "big airports have an impact on people, so smaller is better," said enrico diciotti, a professor of law at the university of siena. "we have inherited a resource," he said referring to the area's surrounding blend of medieval churches, castles and hamlets nestled within natural reserves, forests and farmlands. "a resource that we think should be passed on for posterity." a resident of montagnala sienese, a hilly area west of the town and a member of the committee that has been fighting the expansion said the local administration "sees this as a status thing, that an airport will put siena on the map, but siena is what it is because it has never been on the main road." nyt 12.2.07 "can there be too many tourists? in tuscany maybe"
linguistics. the actor james barbour was accused of having criminal sexual contact with a high school student who was an aspiring actress when she attended a performance of "jane eyre" at brooks atkinson theater with her parents. barbour told state supreme court in manhattan that the girl visited him in his dressing room before the final curtain call, that he fondled her, and that has had oral sex with her in his apartment the next month. she did not come forward with her account for years. according to his lawyer, he agreed to a plea bargain of 60 days in jail and 3 years probation because if a jury had convicted him of the original felony charges, it would "basically have ended his career." the terms of probation include a lengthy series of conditions very similar to those that apply to convicted sex offenders. he must inform the manager, producer or assistant director of any theatrical, film, or television project he works in that he has been convicted of "having engaged in oral sexual conduct and contact with a 15-year-old child." in addition to having to attend sex-offender treatment, he has to get permission from the court or probation officer to participate in shows employing child actors or to give backstage tours to children, visit playgrounds, arcades, amusement parks, school grounds, or internet chat rooms frequented by children. the woman barbour was convicted of endangering has become an actress. nyt 1.4.08 "broadway actor admits backstage sex act with girl, 15, in 2001"
economics. our current system of national accounts focuses on financial capital, pays some attention to built capital, and ignores human, social and natural capital. the genuine progress indicator or gpi, was developed in 1995 by the san francisco based economic-think tank redefining progress, as an alternative to the gdp, designed to indicate progress in people's quality of life. the gdp's ideal economic hero is a chain-smoking, terminal cancer patient going through an expensive divorce whose car is totaled in a 20-car pileup as a result of being distracted by his cell phone while munching on fast-food - all activities which would contribute to the gdp. gpi on the other hand suggests that many of these "heroic" activities are regrettable and should not be counted as genuine progress, by addressing major fallacies embodied in the gdp: 1) the gdp regards every expenditure as an addition to well-being, regardless what that expenditure is for and its effects. 2) gdp ignores crucial economic functions that lie outside the realm of monetary exchange, eg. unpaid housework, child care, volunteer work and leisure. 3) gdp does not account for natural resources required to sustain current and future development - implying that future has no value. 4) gdp ignores the distribution of income, the social costs of inequality and poverty - if the economy is getting bigger but the benefits are going mainly to those who need it least, the result are material accretion not economic advance. 5) gdp includes economic spending for weapons and costs related to commuting, crime, enviromental protection and automobile accidents, ie. regrettable expenditures. 6) gdp minimizes the value of expenditures on education, healthcare, social services and enviromental protection because it does not reflect the outcomes or returns on these types of investment, eg., physical well-being, intellectual and labor market skills, educational attainment and improved quality of the environment. 7) gdp does not directly measure investment in social capital, e.g. health and wellness of communities, social institutions and democratic process. while the u.s. gdp and gpi rose in tandem from 1950 to 1973, the gpi reached its peak in 1973 and then declined steadily even as the gdp continued to rise. mark anielski / the economics of happiness, 2007 *
finance. "fraud was not really a consideration in our world," lucy lynch, former vp of mortgage operations at bankfirst, testified at the trial pertaining to an atlanta fraud scheme where criminals obtained $6.8m in mortgages from bear stears and other banks, perpetrated in large part by 23-year-old college dropout gregory jerome wings jr. aka g-money, a telephone technician, a nightclub owner and a documentary director. ms. lynch said the bank relied on fraud detection software and an outside loan officer to serve as its "eyes and ears" in the transactions. as it turned out, that person was indicted as part of the fraud ring. "so as far as having an actual policy or procedure around fraud, we didn't think it was necessary, quite frankly." a total of $4.9m in loans from bankfirst were used by the atlanta ring. other victimized banks say they depended in part on a party called the closing attorney to protect their interest, but often, lenders neither choose nor pay for the closing attorney: the buyer does. in this case the closing attorney was part of the fraud ring. known as "uncle joe," the laywer collected $250k. of course the atlanta scheme wouldn't have worled if not for appraisers willing to approve values far in excess of what builders were charging for new homes. indeed, bear sterns and bankfirst say they ordered multiple appraisals of the homes they financed. yet no evidence has emerged of appraisers receiving kickbacks. and no appraisers got indicted. "appraisers get sucked into these schemes because they are starving for work and many of them don't know what the heck they are doing," says carl heckman, co-founder of the georgia real estate fraud prevention and awareness coalition. wsj 12.18.07 "fraud is seen as a driver in wave of mortgage foreclosures"
information visualization. simply, chromograms are data visualization techniques that map text strings to colors using an alphabetical code, enabling compact representation of long sequences of text. while there is significant work in visualizing sequences of non-numerical data, the large space of tokens and irregularity cause difficulty in applying existing techniques. ones that do handle large, noisy sequenes of discrete events such as used in visualizing traces from software profilers frequently rely on color-coding. the idea is to avoid the use of lengthy labels by representing tokens by colors; this allows extremely efficient use of space. typically, color coding relates to a small set of discrete values for which distinctive colors can be chosen by hand, or take continuous values which can be naturally mapped to a portion of color space. mapping text tokens to colors is a subtler problem. it is desirable to make use of a large color space, and that the colormap be consistent from one dataset to the next so users might recognize the colors of common words, ie. that "similar" words map to similar colors. to balance these criteria, we decided on a scheme in which the first three letters of a string determines the color representation. the first letter determines the hue; the second letter the saturation, and the third the brightness, restricting the last two parameters so that hue is easily perceived. this seemed to bring out patterns in the data better than other hue/saturation/brighness permutations, possibly due to the categorical nature of hue perception. mapping the first three letters to rgb components resulted in hard to read diagrams. comments beginning with numbers are mapped to shades of gray. in practice the method is effective at revealing structural features, eg. to examine editing activity on wikipedia, even though it can map strings with opposite meanings to the same color: 'terrible' and 'terrific', as well as similar meanings to contrasting colors: 'dog' vs. 'the dog.' ibm tech. report 2007 "visualizing activity on wikipedia with chromograms"
music. four-time grammy award winner, guatemalan born mixer manny marroquin's credits include alicia keys, rihanna, amerie, mariah carey, lil kim, usher and slum village. for kanye west's "stronger," produced by west and timbaland, marroquin was reportedly called in after ten other mixers' efforts were found wanting. "stronger" is constructed around a sample by french duo daft punk, itself based on a sample of keyboardist edwin birdsong. daft punk strongly quantized the beat and added vocoded vocals, giving the song a kraftwerk-like feel. they also added a melodic chorus with a descending chord sequence, which was the section west sampled and slowed down, after which he loosened the rhythm and overdubbed pulsating synths. marroquin prepared by working with stems or stereo submixes, because this offers him the flexibility to instantly adjust his mixes as well as making the job transportable between studios. "stems give me a lot of control," explains marroquin. "my approach is still very much a hybrid of analogue and digital. when mixing to stems i print everything with the analogue effects. this way i avoid having to recall things or take gear with me. i can change things instantly. i just open the stem session in pro tools, and it includes all my analogue effects, and of course my plug-in settings. stronger had over 100 elements, a lot of layers, and it was a challenge to make sure it didn't sound busy. so we worked hard on the kicks to make sure the low end was right. the beat was extremely hard to get. we ended up auditioning a dozen kicks in different combinations with different eq, plug-ins, outboard, filters, triggers and so on. in the end we had three kicks. one is the four-to-the-floor chorus kick, and the other two play during the rest of the track." finally, marroquin explains a de-essing technique he learned from barney perkins using his solid state logic desk that is complex enough to confound even the engineers at s.s.l. "perkins used to do all those babyface records, there's no de-esser that sounds better than this. i route the vocals to two separate channels on the s.s.l." one of which acts as a side-chain, which de-esses the actual vocal channel. "i'll set the s.s.l. compressor to a fast attack and engage a high-pass filter and do extreme eq'ing of whatever frequencies i want to take away. i don't cut, i boost these frequencies; +12db with a narrow bandwidth, most often around 6-7k, where most of the 'esses' happen. so this channel accentuates what i'm trying to take away! of course, i take it off the stereo bus so you don't hear it in the mix. i then link it to the vocal channel and engage the compressor; what happens is that the more i'm bringing up the side-channel, the more the compressor ducks the frequencies i don't want on the vocal channel, the fader acting as a threshold. if you were to use straight eq'ing to take away your 'esses', you take all the life and presence out of the vocal, wheras this way, it retains the personality of the singer; it's like he or she is in the room with you." sound on sound 12.2007 "inside track" *
art & linguistics. when it comes to fashionably obtuse language, the art world is one of the leading offenders. academic pretensions flash through like brush fire. reference and priviledge are used relentlessly as verbs, as in "referencing late capitalism" or "priviledging the male gaze." artists "imbricate" ideological subtexts into their images. some may think such two-bit words reflect important shifts in thought about art, but they just betray an intellectual insecurity. referencing - rather than referring to - is here to stay. it has appeared in the nytimes 295 times since 1980. this year it was used 42 times, up from last year's 22. but priviledging - instead of favoring - could still be deflected; it has been used only 34 times since 1980 in these pages. another lamentable creeping usage is the word practice, as in "picasso's studio practice." things were bad enough in the 1980s, when artists referred to their work as "production," but at least that had a kind of grease-monkey grit to it. the impetus behind practice may be to demystify the stereotype of the visionary or emotion-driven artists, and indeed it does. there's the implication that artists, like lawyers, doctors and dentists, need a licence to practice. it turns the artists into an utterly conventional authority figure. second, it implies the artist is trained to fix some external problem. art rarely suceeds when it sets out to fix anything beyond the artists's own subjective needs. finally, practice sanitizes a messy process, suggesting that art making is a kind of white-collar activity whose practitioners don't get their hands dirty, either physically or emotionally and that materials are not the point of art at all - when they are, on some level, the only point: turning whatever intangibles they use - including empty space, language or human interaction, into a material. nyt 12.23.07 "what we talk about when we talk about art"
art. back when artists weren't trying to earn a million dollars in their first year out of art school or flirting at art basel miami with the next whitney biennial curatorial team, they were busy reducing art to its essences, to words, spaces, lines and marks. minimalist catherine lee was among them, producing tightly pared-back serial paintings using obsessive and repetitive markings laid down in a strict grid structure, never deviating from the mission or allowing her imagination or emotion to enter the creative process. though often monotonous, the best of ms. lee's paintings, among them "red. black. calligraphic painting," deserve recognition in the pantheon of early minimalism, not only for how they were made, but in how they shimmer on the wall like pixelated television screens. this is the past, but somewhere in there is an intimation of the future. nyt 12.21.07 "catherine lee: the mark paintings 1977-1979"
filmmaking 'the bourne ultimatum' and 'colossal youth' from the portuguese filmmaker pedro costa, could not be more different and exemplify the perceptual extremes of moviegoing this year. 'bourne' fragments the image, mirroring the fragmented nature of its title character, and accelerates the pace, creating a shattered, violently trembling world that forces you to pay close attention or risk missing something, like the sight of bourne jumping from a roof and through a window. 'youth,' by contrast is an arresting work that reveals its mysteries slowly, slows down its pace so drastically that unless you adapt your rhythms to it, you will never find a way in. it allows the world to congeal around its characters, with their deliberate movements and long silences. the nonprofessional cast that costa culled from a lisbon slum - seem as monumental as marble, a heaviness that all but stops the flow of the movie and forces your attention directly on them. you really watch this movie or flee. the contrast between the two movies can be summarized as limpid/opaque, frantic/composed, global/local, star-driven/real-peopled. each brings you into worlds through different formal means. nyt 12.23.07 "a list, to start the conversation"
art & business a long line of creative potentates in hollywood, including burt lancaster, paul newman, sidney poitier, steve mcqueen and steven spielberg, have tried to follow the original chaplin-fairbanks-pickford united artists blueprint by overseeing their own mini-studios. all of them experienced mixed results as they ran up against the brutal economics of a hit-and-miss industry in which independents often lack the size needed to overcome the financial vagaries of filmmaking. what many stars most covet - along with fame and fortune - is creative autonomy from their corporate overlords. that means deals as independent producers that gives them a stronger hand developing their pet projects and bestow production fees and credits on them. before it became part of m.g.m. in 1981, united artists spawned the james bond and rocky franchises and, during one prolific run in the 1970s, won three consecutive best-picture oscars for "one flew over the cuckoo's nest," "rocky" and "annie hall." a promotional reel that harry e. sloan, chief executive of m.g.m. shows investors in the penthouse screening room makes plain that many of the best-known titles in the current m.g.m. flim library - from "the apartment" to "west side story" - were united artists releases. nyt 3.4.07 "mission improbable: tom cruise as mogul"
gastronomy. "it's a fat bomb," bill buford of the new yorker says of foie gras, recently banned in chicago and potentially in california, "the swollen testimony of a goose that has lived a luxurious life, offered as an inflated luxury to the people prepared to pay for it." in the 1970s, paul bocuse led the way toward simpler dishes with fresh ingredients, launching nouvelle cuisine. alice waters emphasized local and organic foods with her earth-to-table movement. but the question of whether to serve a dish or not because of humanitarian concerns is a relatively new one. buford, who is also the author of "heat: an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta-maker, and apprentice to a dante-quoting butcher in tuscany," considers chef activism "a good thing because food always is more than just a plate. it is also history, identity, family, biology, culture, and yes, politics." but others view the animal activists' and some chefs' efforts as an assault on traditions and heritage. "i think wolfgang puck should stop worrying about cruelty to animals and start worrying about all the customers he's flopping his crap on at airports," said chef anthony bourdain, referring to puck's products which can be found both at airports and the frozen food section. "he does a lot of business in california. he got squeezed and phone-called from all angles, and like a good german shopkeeper he folded and sold out the people hiding in the cellar next door. i got no respect." michael ginor, co-founder of hudson valley foie gras, agrees: "there was an awful lot of pressure. i know from puck's own chefs who are friends." "the intimidation animal rights activists gave me and my staff - this is a big political problem," said daniel boulud, new york's four-star restauranteur, adding that "animals are treated here for the purpose of food." culinary elder statesman jacques pepin agrees, calling the banning efforts "a sham." wsj 12.14.07 "in the debate over foie gras, chefs take out their knives"
sociology. the more reality shows mimic fictional series in tone, look and format, the easier it is to see where they differ: class consciousness. sitcoms and dramatic series drum up tension by assaulting social barriers. most reality shows take them for granted and leave them untouched. scripted series like to deliver the image of the society we would like to be: racially integrated, classeless, well-intentioned. reality shows are more honest, but they also breed a kind of culture dysmorphic disorder: half the nation is blond, beautiful and driving sports cars through beverly hills, while the other half is blond, sleazily oversexed and prone to hair pulling and name calling. in fact, among the many subgenres of reality televeision, only one tinkers with social engineering at all. before the all-volunteer army, the military served as america's melting pot. now reality competitions fill the void, putting contestants through a form of fort benning basic training, purposely tossing together people from all walks of life who might otherwise never meet. nyt 12.02.07 "the classless utopia of reality tv"
economics the international monetary fund will mark down this year's anticipated growth by half a percentage point because of a change in the way national economies are measured. the world bank, the i.m.f.'s sister institution, recalculated the way it computes economic growth based on a far more thorough analysis of prices, wealth and poverty in 146 nations, by revising so-called purchasing power parity statistics, which take into account cost of goods and services in different countires - for instance a haircut costs a lot less in beijing than boston. under the old purchasing power parity statistics, china accounted for 14.8% of global economic outupt and india 6.3%. under the new figures, china's share for 2005 was reduced to 9.7% and india's to 4.3%. the u.s. share jumped to 22.5% from 20.8% suggesting a bigger gap than previously estimated between the world's economic powers and emerging economies. the methodological changes will have real-life consequences, such as how the i.m.f. calculates voting shares among its members. wsj 12.21.07 "imf shaves forecast in statistical change"
complexity. the field of floral smells has been revolutionized in recent years by the invention of a technology called 'headspace,' the space above and around a living flower held in a jar. if instead of extracting the stuff from the flower, you suck enough air to be able to identify the molecules via gas chromatography, then replicate the mixture as closely as possible using synthetic materials, you have in principle a better approximation of the real thing than the extract would give you. floral smells are not simply symbols, like insect pheromones. if, like some insects, all you're trying to do is advertise your presence, then any smell will do, as long as it's loud and specific. but if, like flowers (or humans), you're fighting to be noticed, then you need to come up with things that are more like music than foghorns. floral fragrances are seldom simple. the bloom on a flower's smell is carried by a host of minority peaks which can be (a) expensive, (b) unknown or (c) both. but they can often be reproduced in a pixillated sort of way with four or five synthetics. for rose, 90 percent of the job can be done with eugenol (cloves), phenylethylalcohol (sweet rose), geraniol (green rose) and citral (lemon). but most floral smells are horrendously complex. luca turin / the secret of scent, 2007
gastronomy. the entree's ills were first diagnosed in the late 1990s, when the rise of small plates kicked off the tapaification of american menus. in many major dining cities like new york, san francisco and chicago the attacks on the main course have become more serious lately. upstarts like the snack menu, with its little offerings of polpettine and deviled eggs, are encroaching. appetizers and side dishes have piled on. the dining public seems to have lost interest in big, protein-laden main dishes. "i think the entree has been in trouble for a long time," said chef tom colicchio. "eating an entree is too many bites of one thing, it's boring." that's why he moved away from the appetizer-entree-dessert rhythm of gramercy tavern when he opened craft in 2001, the first prominent restaurant in new york to deconstruct the menu into a long list of proteins, side dishes and sauces to be mixed and matched into a family-style meal. at gemma in the bowery, the menu offers so much crudi, antipasti, carni and crostini that the secondi are given a mere 2.5 inches of space at the bottom of a 14-inch-long menu. other restuarants, like jean georges, gordon ramsay's maze, and mario batali's otto and casa mono, as well as michael mina's upcoming wine bar and restaurant in san francisco, have abandoned the entree altogether. more exposure to the global pantry of meze, dim sum, sushi and tapas has also changed how americans think of the structure of a meal. chefs feel free to break out of the traditional french model by offering small, intense tastes of global flavors, said eve felder, an associate dean at the culinary institute of america. the concept of a single-entree meal is only about 80 years old said paul freedman, a yale university history professor and editor of "food: the history of taste." victorian meals with multiple main courses of calf's head, a beef roast and a saddle of venison supplemented by a fish course and dozens of accompaniments died out by world war i. nyt 12.5.07 "is the entree heading for extinction?"
the experience economy. richie akiva, scott sartiano, jeffrey jah and ronnie madra, the owners of 1 oak in chelsea, explained that their new venture would be a refuge from the bridge-and-tunnel marauders and wall street masters of the universe accustomed to buying their way past velvet ropes. financially, new york city's night life scene is thriving. bars, lounges, and dance clubs generate nearly $10b in annual revenue according to n.y. nightlife assoc. but they all think there is an energy missing from after-hours new york, that it has gone astray from the days of spy and moomba, where transvestites, starving artists and celebrities could rub elbows with a measure of privacy. other owners also acknowledge that the scene has become too diluted. "there is a lot of capital available by all the hedge funders," said noah tepperberg, who has been in the business for 15 years. "they're all making money and have nowhere to spend it." noel ashman, an owner of plumm, agreed. "there are four places that have a decent thing going on," he said, "but then you have 133 that don't." the owners of 1 oak said that it required a team to create the kind of environment they wanted. jah is the most seasoned, sartiano excels at finance, akiva has a knack for design and madra is the music man. they all agree on a policy of egalitarianism at the door. "a class system is being instituted, and i don't like it," said jah, who helped popularize bottle service in the early 1990s. the practice began as a way to keep people at tables from having to cross a packed dance floor on the way to the bar. it was not intended, he said, to be a golden ticket into a tony lounge. sartiano lamented that in the days of spy bar, if someone approached you, "you knew they were cool because they got in." no more. so while 1 oak will offer bottle service, "first you need to get in," he said. "then you need to be cool enough to get a table. then you can get bottles. somewhere, that got switched." nyt 12.2.07 "you bring leo, i'll bring diddy"
the experience economy. le meridien, the hotel chain, part of starwood hotels and resorts worldwide, is trying to shake its image as a faceless stopover for european business travelers. it has hired a french contemporary art expert, jerome sans, for a newly created position as cultural curator. his job will be to pull together artists, photographers, filmmakers and chefs. the goal of the branding initiative is to have about 100 design experts signed up as consultants by 2012. jean-george vongerichten and andrea illy, the coffeemaker, are already involved. jez frampton, c.e.o. of interbrand, says most big-name hotels are reviewing the guest experience rather than simply their operational processes. the w chain, also part of starwood, was one of the first and a case study. "they were trailblazers," he said. eva ziegler, the senior vp of le meridien who is directing these changes, said "starwood's mission is to transform the hotel industry from a functional business to a lifestyle business." the brand, she added, is striving to be "cultured and discovery-oriented." sans, who was the curator of the palais de tokyo exhibition in paris, said le meridien was a subsidiary of air france in the 1970s and seen as "a futuristic approach to hotels and identified with the concorde, which was a beautiful design object. culture is not just deluxe. for once companies understand that dealing with culture is a key issue, and it needen't be intimidating." ms. ziegler said le meridien would hold marketing events at the hotel like art exhibits and added that "when a person leaves le meridien, we aim to give them a feeling that their life has grown." nyt 11.09.07 "hotel aims to dress up the guest experience"
the experience economy. 300 years ago, the 'venaria reale' near turin was a vast pleasure estate, a jewel in the crown of opulent savoy. the baroque palace, plush gardens and 235 acres of hunting reserves were built by duke carlo emanuele ii partly as a demonstration of the power of the house of savoy. the last two centuries has witnessed its steady deterioration, beginning with napoleon who, upon his arrival, turned venaria into barracks. but now, after a $300m restoration begun in 1999 - for which much of the credit goes to the efforts of a small group of locals who refused to let the buildings die - the estate, with its art collections and modern enterntainments, is open to visitors. alberto vanelli, regional director for cultural assets in piedmont, said a key challenge in the restoration was to not just fill the 50 empty rooms with knickknacks but to provide visitors with a sense of its history, turning the estate into an artistic center, with areas for exhibits, concerts and performances. for example, vanelli enlisted the british filmmaker peter greenaway, known for his lush cinematic treatment of architecture and costume. greenaway wrote and directed more than 200 historical scenes with italian actors in 17th century costumes shot in hi-def video to provide sights, sounds and images projected on white walls or transparent screens. in the first six weeks alone, 120k people came to visit the estate. nyt 12.16.07 "a pleasure palace rises again"
urban planning & the experience economy. until the early '90s, hayes valley was a seedy neighborhood of san francisco best known for prostitutes, drug deals, and the elevated freeway that once bisected its main drag. the freeway has since been replaced by a parisian-style boulevard and village green, and the neighborhood is thriving, its tree-lined streets and alleys peppered with restaurants, bars and - thanks to a 2003 local ban on chain stores - some of the city's most original shops. for example, true sake, america's first sake store and also its best, features around 200 bottles from japanese breweries only, including rare sparkling sakes and special seasonal releases, such as unpasteurized namazake in the spring and single-pasteurized hiyaoroshi in the fall. nyt mag 11.18.07 "bay watch"
gastronomy. dave arnold, the head of culinary technology at the french culinary institute in manhattan, is by training not a chef but a sculptor - he worked with metals and machinery as an art student. these days arnold's feats of ingenuity are no less creative. a recent offering from his kitchen is a pickle made with alcohol instead of brine. arnold calls these flash pickles. he cuts peeled cucumbers into spears and puts them in a mason jar filled with an 8:1 mix of gin and vermouth. he also adds a touch of simple syrup to counteract the cucumbers' inherent bitterness. the jar is placed into a vacuum machine, collapsing the cucumbers' air pockets, a process similar to that used in sous-vide cooking. thanks to the mason jar, the cucumbers keep their consistency. if they were sealed in the usual plastic bag, they would lose their crunchiness. when the vacuum seal is broken, the martini mixture rushes in to fill the former air pockets. the resulting spears have the smooth, crisp texture and flavor of pickles, but take two minutes rather than days as would be necessary in brine. a spear has about the same amount of alcohol as a standard martini. he garnishes the spears with celery seed, grated lime zest and maldon sea salt. nyt mag 12.9.07 "the edible cocktail"
architecture. many buildings of the twentieth century continue to effectively relate to culture by creating sensations and affect. the kinetic affect of the jun aoki designed louis vuitton roppongi hills store in tokyo is produced through a circular pattern associated with the louis vuitton brand, extruded into a deep screen composed of multiple layers of glass, glass tubes, and perforated stainless steel. the abstract circular elements of the logo are reconstituted with a catalogue of architectural materials that generate varying conditions of transparency and reflection on their interior of the building. the full facade is composed of 28k transparent glass tubes suspendend within 2 reflective perforated stainless steel panels and sealed between two plates of glass. the composite of the layers forms a deep screen that provides varying degrees of transparency when seen from different angles: more transparent the more frontal the viewpoint, more opaque when seen on the oblique. architecture needs mechanisms that allow it to become connected to culture. department stores, shopping malls, cineplexes, libraries and museums do not require any relationship between the inside and outside. contemporary technology and the need for sealed,controlled environments necessitate bigger service voids, plant rooms, storage spaces, and server rooms, increasing the size of these buildings. the architect is becoming increasingly specialized in the design of the outer shell, leaving the interior to other designers. to the degree that their role no longer involves the entire fabric of buildings, it can now address the synergy between the interior and the exterior, from the surface of the envelope. farshid moussavi + michael kubo / the function of ornament, 2006
urban development & the experience economy. the $850k renovation of the state theather in traverse city, mich., which dates to 1916 when it opened as the lyric, took an army of volunteers, electricians, carpet installers, carpenters and other crafsman just six weeks to execute. patrons can lean way back in their seats to gaze on a fiber-optic ceiling, designed by a local astronomer, that is a replica of the milky way over northern michigan. the state is one of some two dozen historic movie and performing arts theater restorations occurring this year in small cities around the nation, according to the league of historic american theaters in baltimore. restoration groups say the rescues of beautiful old theaters reflect dual desires: a devotion to movies and live drama, dance and concerts, and adding value to downtown economies. "historic theaters have been bellwethers," said david w. fleming, executive director of the 104-year old colonial theater in pittsfield, mass., which reopened for live entertainment and occasional movies last year after a $21.5m restoration. "as they deteriorated in the 1950s and 60s, old theaters closed and they were rightly seen as the death knell of downtown. the opposite also works, and that's what we've been seeing across the country. restorations are sparking downtown revivals," by increasing traffic to neighboring stores and restaurants and stabilizing downtown economies. traverse city has become something of a movie mecca and downtown merchants and city leaders have been surprised by the crowds of ticketholders that are eating out, shopping and watching movies since the state theater reopened. nyt 12.5.07 "curtains rise again"
design & biz. in an ever more digital world, with all the software visualization tools available to us, is hand drawing still relevant? six-figure executives from nike, ibm, and microsoft are lining up to learn freehand drawing skills in seminars with names like "how to think like leonardo da vinci." ironic that as design offices rush to become paperless, cutting-edge company leaders are learning to draw in order to become more creative, whole-brain thinkers. the ability to capture visual impressions by hand, very quickly, is increasingly rare. and with the loss of these skills, design firm clients say a measure of spontenaity and creative freshness may have also been lost in the process. they're requesting visual thinking and quick freehand drawing skills to help jump-start a flow of ideas early in the creative process. james richard, a landscape designer, says he's increasingly been asked to fill a role that's more common in the film industry - that of the concept designer whose rapid sketches and storyboards initially flesh out the film director's vision. designers still marvel at gordon cullen's revolutionary serial vision drawings from the 1960s, documenting townscapes as a series of unfolding, sequenced views. at a recent conference on drawing hosted by u.c. berkeley, harley jessup, an academy award winning director for pixar, expounded on the critical role that hand drawing plays in the creative process. "story is king," he said, "and nailing the story - from the artist's mind directly to the rest of the creative team - requires the speed and fluidity of hand-drawn sketches and storyboards." for monsters, inc, jessup's team produced more than 43k hand-drawn storyboards - not 43k drawings - to guide computer animation. landscape architecture 11.2007 "freehand reinassance"
finance. it's no secret that the securities and exchange commission is terrifically understaffed and wildly underfunded compared with the populous and wealthy wall street world it is supposed to police. a new study on the s.e.c. focuses on its oversight of the various stock and options exchanges, known as self-regulatory organizations. "they've got a computer system that can't search for the data the securities industry is reporting. that's like working with one hand tied behind your back," said senator charles e. grassley, ranking republican on the senate finance committee. "and it was kind of shocking to know that the s.e.c. doesn't review the exchanges' internal audits. there's no excuse for it." market mischief has undoubtedly enriched many players during the mergers-and-acquisitions boom, when so much suspicious trading occurred in stocks of companies minutes before they received buyout bids. the report, by the government accountability office, noted that the exchanges' referrals to the s.e.c. of possible trading improprieties surged from 5 in 2003 to 190 in 2006, 91 percent of which were insider trading advisories. nyt 12.16.07 "quick, call tech support for the s.e.c."
biz. google's quicksilver corporate culture can be jarring for some employees, even for eric schmidt, its c.e.o. he recalls that shortly after joining the company and its young founders, sergey brin and larry page, he was frustrated that people were answering email on their laptops at meetings while he was speaking. "i've given up trying to change such behavior," he says. "they have to answer their email. velocity matters. conventional software is typically built, tested and shipped in 2- or 3-year product cycles. inside google, schmidt says, there are no 2-year plans. its product road maps look ahead only 4 or 5 months at most and the only plans "anyone believes in go through the end of this quarter." with a majority of its products web-based, it doesn't wait to ship discs. in the last two months alone, eight new features or improvements have ben added to google's gmail. this month, google released new cellphone software codenamed grand prix. it was born when a google engineer, tinkering on his own one weekend, came up with prototype code and emailed it to vic gundotra, an executive who oversees mobile products. gundotra showed it to schmidt who in turn mentioned it to brin. in about an hour, brin came to look at the prototype. gundotra asked employes who owned iphones to test the prototype. such peer reviews is common at google, which has an engineering culture in which a favorite mantra is "nothing speaks louder than code." after a few weeks of fine-tuning, grand prix was released - there were no formal product reviews or formal approval processes. nyt 12.16.07 "clash of the titans: google vs. microsoft"
art & biz. london, 1947, in the bleak wake of wwii, a group of artists, writers and poets come together to form the institute for contemporary arts. they believe that art and culture can build a better future, "a new vision, a new consciousness" for britain. early members include picasso, w.h. auden, t.s. eliot, and dylan thomas. their first exhibition included works by matisse, picasso, dali, magritte, and bacon. in the years that follow, the i.c.a. becomes the home of innovation and exploration, from work by richard hamilton, eduardo paolozzi and the pop artists of the independent group, to performances from the smiths to the clash to debut solo works by damien hirst, jake and dinos chapman, luc tuymans and others. now, 60 years on, the i.c.a. is still looking for the future. for "all tomorrow's pictures", instead of commemorating its past, has asked britain's leading creatives to record their vision of the future. ekow eshun, artistic director of i.c.a. said "the participation of sony ericsson on this project is important and will support future i.c.a. commissions." for this project, each artist was given a k800i cyber-shot phone to record and deliver their unique responses. institute of contemporary arts, london / all tomorrow's pictures, 2007
the experience economy. desks suffice for filing forms, but when it comes to the creative or introspective aspects of a job, desks can be uninspiring at best, or obstacles at worst. white space is the term creeping into the language of work to describe a place where the actual work gets done, and implies a place set apart, physically and mentally. andy hines, who studies the future of work at the washington office of social technologies, a global consulting firm, often asks his lecture audiences to name a place where they come up with their most creative ideas. the profession, salary level and age of the respondents might vary, he said, but the results are invariant. the workplace, he said, is "either not mentioned or is near the end of the list, after all the other places have been exhausted." hines said he does his best work while running or reclining in his favorite chair. matthew huber, a computational climatologist at purdue university, finds his white space every day at the cafe vienna near campus, where his needs are in the form of a laptop equipped with skype and a cellphone. he holds office hours at the cafe, and his graduate students often sit at a large table with him, macbooks ready, or they scatter and use headphones to ichat across the room. dr. huber said his cafe offers something his office - a nice one with a window - cannot: the fact that it is not the office. "i work 12 hours a day 6 days a week. work is no longer a means to an end, it is the end itself. so it had better be rewarding and it better happen on my terms, not on anyone else's." nyt 12.13.07 "you won't find me in my office, i'm working"
sociology. charles e. yesalis, a professor of sports science at penn state university, who has studied drug use by athletes for the past 30 years has come to the conclusion that drug testing was doing more harm than good. "testing catches the careless and the stupid," he said. "if you believe only 1 to 2 percent use drugs, that is incredibly naive. drug use is the greatest problem facing elite sports." the drug-testing programs of the four major professional team sports in the u.s. each has its apparent weak spots. antidoping experts say the framework and timing of n.f.l. testing allows players ample room to outmaneuver tests, particularly if they are using amphetamines and fast-acting steroids that can be quickly flushed from the body. drug-testers for m.l.b. call a day ahead and request stadium passes, thus giving advance notice to team officials for what is supposed to be unannounced testing. the n.h.l. and the n.b.a. do not drug test during off-seasons. the n.h.l. also does not ban amphetamines. "you have to remember these are commercial enterprises which oversee their own testing. that's an unacceptable conflict of interest because profit-making operations don't want the negative publicity of catching all the cheats," said john hoberman, who has written books on doping in sports. gene upshaw, the president of the n.f.l. players association said "the experts are not representing a union or anyone in a collectively bargained process. our policy is not designed to please anyone except the people we represent." yesalis, meanwhile, said removing the element of surprise hurts the authenticity of testing. "the major breakthroughs have come from law-enforcement, not by any testing," he said, which is "there to provide the fan, who is already disinterested in drug use, with plausible deniability because the leagues tell the fans the athletes are clean because they have drug testing." nyt 12.11.07 "a facade built by the loopholes in drug testing"
economics. it's always hard to value things, said donald brownstein, c.e.o. of structured portfolio management, a hedge fund operator. "in some cases you don't have enough information. in other cases, you don't want to know the truth." economics, in its purest theoretical state, assumes that markets set prices by factoring in a perfect stream of relevant information. that world has never existed, no more than the frictionless environment you encountered in high schoool physics. these days, it seems farther away than ever. "in the ideal system, there's a pretend auctioneer who runs around and collects all the chits of the buyers and sellers," said allen sinai, chief global economist for decision economics inc. "if they don't match up, the auctioneer keeps running around until the market clears." now, buyers and sellers are effectively boycotting the pretend auctioneer unwilling to believe what he has to say. the real estate market is locked up because sellers cannot fathom how their homes could be worth so much less than a year ago. buyers have heard about plummeting prices and are holding out for some of that. the result? stalemate. other areas of american life are similarly tangled in a swirl of unknowns. "new media? it seems impossible to divide it up," the comedian garry shandling vented recently. "how can you divide up something in an evolutionary stage? when we don't know exactly what's of value, it should be open. it's half gambling." negotiations between the new york yankees and their star third baseman alex rogriguez represent a new mode of calculating value that transcends agreed-upon measures of performance - so many dollars for a home run, say - due to the new crop of stat-geeks chronicled in michael lewis's book "moneyball." they found previously overlooked but supposedly more useful data for assessing the economics. "a-rod could be worth trillions if you get enough eyeballs in china to start watching him," said mark zandi, chief economist at moody's economy.com. nyt 12.9.07 "when the price isn't necessarily right"
finance. what is liquidity? it is a no-brainer to say that the credit crunch is making liquidity scarce. it is less clear why central banks are powerless to stop it contracting. two years ago, there was little correlation between money and financial-asset prices. there was no justification for this unless corporate return on capital was rising exponentially. what was driving asset prices was the supply of copious, cheap credit with which to buy them. this type of credit was not counted in the traditional definition of liquidity, which is simply broad money, made up of central-bank money and bank lending. the reason for the exponential growth in credit, but not in broad money, was that banks did not keep their loans on the books any more. now, as soon as banks made a loan, they "securitized" it, moving it off their balance sheet. there were two ways of doing this. one was to sell the securitized loan as a bond. the other was "synthetic" securitization: for example using credit derivatives to get rid of the default risk with default swaps and lock in the rate with interest-rate swaps. the lending bank was then free to make new loans without using up its lending capacity. to redefine liquidity under this new monetarism one must add, to broad money, all the credit being created and moved off banks' balance sheets to nonbank financial intermediaries such as brokers, hedge funds and investment banks. this new form of liquidity changed the very nature of the credit beast. what now determined growth was risk appetite: the readiness of companies and individuals to run their businesses with higher levels of debt. central banks used to make lending capacity finite by limiting the money they supplied, which formed the base of all loans, then obliging commercial banks to make reserves. now that the loans didn't stay on banks' balance sheets, this control mechanims was ineffective. lending capacity became almost infinite - for a while. it was excessively optimistic risk appetite and consequent mispricing of risk that created the problem, and reversal of risk appetite is now driving the deleveraging process. wsj 12.14.07 "the global money machine" op: david roche / president: independent strategy, london
culture. an elevated d.j. segued through records by erstwhile hiphop artists like k-solo and apache. bouncing around downtown manhattan clubs the monthly party in tribute to the year 1992 has attracted celebrity guests like jay-z, the producer jermaine dupri and the music mogul andre harrell. europeans hankering for a slice of retrograde americana have taken the party to paris and amsterdam. while the shimmering synthesizers, leg warmers and asymmetrical new wave haircuts of the 1980s have been alternatively ridiculed, revered and replicated, the early 1990s have remained an untapped source of retro lodestone. "the '90s felt very underground, and not everyone really heard it," said oscar sanchez, 30, a break dancer who put together the first 1992 event at the meatpacking district club lotus. he opted for the music he cherished as a brooklyn teenager: besides hiphop and r & b, popular mutations like new jack swing, hip-house and dancehall reggae. the organizers counted on the idea that the primal desire to reconnect with adolescence extends beyond those who listened to bel biv devoe and wore fluorescent spandex. of course, not everything from the past can be updated. "there are certain things i'll bring back," said shyvonne sanganoo, 22, a marketing assisstant at def jam enterprises who was attending her first 1992 party. "but fanny packs? i got bad memories, i can't do it." nyt 12.9.07 "the year of dressing dangerously"
the experience economy. "this is ted," wendi murdoch, wife of rubert murdoch, chairman of the news corporation, announced to the paparazzi. "he's the producer." ted is theodore j. leonsis, the gregarious and sometimes polarizing web entrepreneur and sports-franchise mogul who, early this year, traded away his day-to-day responsibilities as vice chairman of aol to devote more time to the decidedly less lucrative field of documentary filmmaking. even more surprising than leonsis's career shift is the film with which he has made his debut. "nanking" is a documentary about a 70-year-old episode of asian history, largely unknown to american audiences, told primarily by chinese-speaking subjects and financed entirely out of leonsis's own pocket. "if your metrics of success are return on investment or risk-to-reward ratio, you wouldn't make a film like this," leonsis, 51, said. "i have enough investments where if i put in $2m, i expect $20m back. this one is all about the psychic and goodness returns." but it wouldn't be a ted leonsis production if it were not underpinned by a business goal: the hope that "nanking" will pave the way for a new model of making and distributing nonfiction films. sobered by his experience with sundance, where he noted that of the 3,287 films submitted to the festival in 2007, only 64 were accepted for competition and only 16 were american-made documentaries, roughly a dozen of which would receive any kind of theatrical release. yet, he said, there are dozens of theatrical distributors, cable channels and dvd companies looking for nonfiction films and a potential audience of millions to watch them on internet. "when you see a bottleneck like that," he said, "you see a real opportunity. there's $30b of advertising in search of revenue, and they want to put it into youtube videos, so you know there's going to be some breakout thing here." nyt 12.9.07 "mogul's new role: novice producer"
art and history. the large, somber color photographs of the german artist thomas demand isolate the innocuous places where history starts to happen. lately, demand has had a surfeit of shady locales to choose from, such as the images of ballots and chads in the 2000 presidential election in florida. now comes a series of images of the modest apartment that serves as niger's embassy in rome. stationery and stamps taken from its offices figured in the forged dossier used as evidence that saddam hussein had tried to buy uranium "yellowcake" concentrate from niger. the dossier helped precipitate the invasion of iraq. since no photographs of this eventually notorious location were published, demand worked for the first time from images he took himself, on the sly, with his cellphone during visits to the embassy. the photographs create a kind of airbrushed, stop-action tracking shot. the idea that history's triggers are often as unknowable as their repercussions are inalterable is of a piece with the counterfeit reality of demand's art. it recreates the lost times and banal places where things might have worked out differently, but didn't. nyt 12.7.07 "thomas demand; yellowcake"
biz. foreign-policy experts have focused on the importance of applying "soft power" in diplomacy, a term coined by joseph nye, dean of harvard's kennedy school of government to describe all the nonmilitary ways a nation attracts others to its cause. today's top executives need to wield its equivalent in business, or risk alienating talented employees, says fortune's geoff colvin, who calls the new type of authority cool power. chief executives once could rule by fear, but imperious leadership styles are becoming less effective in a world where ceo's are grappling with powerful shareholders, upstart competitors and employees content to wait out bosses' often shorter tenures. this is a stark change from two decades ago. colvin notes that in the 1980s, fortune would run articles on "america's 10 toughest bosses." one honoree, manufacturing chief of chicago's fmc corp. robert malott, declared "leadership is demonstrated when the power to inflict pain is confirmed." wsj 12.4.07 "hot is not: today's bosses need to master 'cool power'
new media. rick james once said "r & b stands for rhythm and business." his aphorism is worth remembering while paging through this week's issue of u.s. news & world report, which includes the magazine's first ranking of high schools. "i thought it's admirable the way the rankings were done," says david f. labaree, the associate dean of the stanford university school of education. "but if u.s. news's niche is rankings, that's a little disquieting. it's in the magazine's interst to push rankings into every sector to expand its niche. and that exacerbates the rankings mania that's harming education at all levels." mark m. edmiston, a managing director of admedia partners, an investment banking company, said that "they've given up the battle of competing with time and newsweek directly and carved out this niche of being the ranker." u.s. news' publisher, kerry f. dyer, said that within 72 hours of the release this year, the u.s. news web site received 10m page views. generally, it has about 500k views a month for the year that ranking and related content stay online. 80 percent of the visitors, dyer said, directly enter the ranking section of the web site rather than arriving through the magazine's home page, where they might have read something about politics or the arts. such single-minded pursuit of data is considered desirable in the media business; the term of approval for such a coveted trove of information is vertical. this, dyer said, "is a continually revenwing market." brian kelly, the magazine's editor, added, "these things are annuities," and that expanding the ranking into high schools was "not an ad-sales consideration but a branding consideration." nyt 12.6.07 "putting a curious eye on a high school ranking system
new media. nokia and the universal music group said they would offer unlimited free downloads of universal songs to buyers of certain nokia phones as a way to promote cellphones as media devices and to develop new revenue for a music industry struggling with piracy. for nokia, the announcement is a step toward its goal of becoming an internet company like google. despite a proliferation of digital business models, including subscriptions, paid downloads and free music services supported by advertising, the music industry has not come up with a solution to online piracy. "what is bold and strategically important about this is that they are tacitly accepting that they will never get digital youth to pay for music," said mark mulligan, an analyst at jupiter research. so far, the biggest source of revenue for the music companies has been sales of customized ring tones. nyt 12.5.07 "free universal music downloads on new nokia phones"
art. los angeles artist paul mccarthy in performances in the 1990s turned santa claus into a filthy old man, nose running and face bloodied, as he smeared his white trimmed red costume with food and various fluids. a decade later mcarthy like everyone else in the art world has gone into business. he's making product, a line of chocolate santa clauses under the name peter paul chocolates llc. he has temporarily transformed his gallery, maccarone, into a factory outlet. the plumbing and electrical systems had to be overhauled to meet city codes before kitchen hardware could be brought in. peter p. greweling of the culinary institute of america was enlisted to supervise. the figures of santa carrying a xmas tree - 10 inches high and made of top-of-the-line semisweet guittard chocolate - are being smoothly turned out in gift wrapping at a rate of 1k a day. cost: $100, not including a shipping and handling fee. art as the cottage-industry enterprise everybody wants it to be, turning out a line of cute cash-and-carry luxury consumerist totems. none of this would bear the mccarthy stamp unless there were some spoiler element. in this case the tree santa carries is modeled on a commercial sex toy. nyt 12.7.07 "paul mccarthy's chocolate factory"
art and media. since the late 1970's, when richard prince became known as the pioneer of appropriation art - photographing other photographs, usually from magazine ads, then enlarging and exhibiting them in galleries - the question has hovered just outside the frames: what do the photographers who took the originals think of these pictures of their pictures? when prince started reshooting ads, first prosaic ones of fountain pens and furniture sets, then more traditionally striking ones like those for marlboro, he said he was trying to get at something he could not get at by creating his own images, comparing the effect to the way "certain records sound better when someone on the radio station plays them, than when we're home alone and play the same records ourselves." but he was not circumspect about what it meant or how it would be viewed in a 1992 discussion at the whitney museum. he said of rustling the marlboro aesthetic: "no one was looking. this was a famous campaign. if you're going to steal something, go to the bank." people might not have been looking at the time, but as his reputation and prices for his work rose steeply - one of the marlboro pictures set an auction record for a photograph in 2005 for $1.2m - they began to look, and prince has spoken of receiving legal and physical threats from his unsuspecting lenders. prince, whose borrowings seem to be protected by fair use exceptions to copyright law, added that he "never associated advertisements with having an author." nyt 12.6.07 "if the copy is an artwork, then what's the original?"
the experience economy. flagship arts institutions - the big theaters and museums - have been huge investments for communities, often with disappointing results, says ann markusen, professor at the university of minnesota's hubert h. humphrey inst. of public affairs and coauthor of the study "artists' centers: evolution and impact on careers, neighborhoods, and economies." "they're intented as destinations for tourists, but they're often financially in trouble and become burdens for local governments." in contrast, local artists' centers not only pay their own way, but also are proven economic engines. "they're extraordinary citizens," says markusen. "by hosting artists day and night, they help to enliven an area. there's less crime on the streets and more business for local merchants." the nature of artists' centers varies but genereally they provide studios, equipment, networking opportunities, and exhibit or performance space for visual and/or performing artists. some offer affordable live/work space, after-school classes and summer education programs. at their most successful they provide the catalyst for neighborhood revitalization. the impact of the arts on regional economies has generally been measured by totaling the receipts of arts organizations such as theaters and galleries, then adding associated spending for parking and dining. markusen argues that this approach undervalues the role of artists. the artistic dividend she says, includes the sale of performance of work outside the region, the spillover of artists into fields such as graphic design or commercial photography, and the economic activity of supporting industries such as recording studios. urban land 8.2007 "reviving neighborhoods through art"
urban development. with the launch this february of the leadership in energy and environmental design for neighborhood development, (leed-nd) pilot program, an important new tool has been made available for guiding development and reducing its impact on the landscape. the logical step beyond encouraging construction of green buildings is to incorporate the tenets of smart growth and new urbanism into the planning of residential and mixed-use development. the leed-nd rating system, due to the u.s. green building council, the congress for new urbanism and the natural resources defense council, aims to provide a standard of measurement. the typical green home buyer is 35 to 50 years old with a college degree, an attractive demographic to developers. according to a green builder media and imre communications study, these buyers are willing to pay 11 to 25 percent more for environmentally friendly homes. among the projects accepted into the leed-nd pilot program is the nbc universal vision plan, a comprehensive, long-term master plan for the 391-acre universal city property in california, which will transform a 124-acre portion of the studio's back lot into a new village neighborhood. a walkable community of about 3k residential units will be clustered into three villages. a town center will allow residents to walk or bike instead of drive to 115k sq ft of neighborhood-serving restuarants and stores, and a shuttle system will connect them to the transit station located nearby. 35 acres will be preserved for open space, hiking trails and parks. urban land 8.2007 "green neighborhood design"
art history. the fashion for white antiquities dates back to the early 16th century. following what they believed to be the greek and roman example, italian sculptors - notably michelangelo - conceived their creations as uncolored. the german prefect of antiquities at the vatican preferred white. his personal taste was enshrined by fiat as the "classical" standard. vinzenz brinkmann, a german archaeologist who has spent the past two decades investigating polychromy - literally the use of many colors - in greek and roman sculpture, said "you can't help noticing the way postwar europe rejected color. they wanted things to be white. it was part of the modernist aesthetic. sculptors in antiquity knew marble as filmmakers today think about their cameras: you got what you paid for. in limestone he'd run into a shell or a bump or a hole. the crystal structure of marble is absolutely pure and even. it's the most homogeneous natural material. we think of white marble figures as aesthetic monuments, but we've learned that the interplay with architecture and the large structures in fact turned them into actors on a kind of stage. and the more color they had the more lifelike they looked. perceptual psychology hasn't changed in the last 2k years," mr brinkmann says. "color enhances legibility tremendously. the greeks painted the names of the figures on the friezes. you can read the names from 50 meters. the eye has amazing power of resolution. you must also remember that in the ancient world, the images people saw were built up from a repertoire of elements that never changed. what we call 'seeing' is really only 10% actual vision and 90% memory. the details that seem to vanish in the distance mysteriously read all the same." wsj 12.4.07 "setting the record straight about classical statues' hues"
finance. during the first half of 2007, leveraged buyout targets went, on average, for a price x9.8 their cash flows, according to a j.p. morgan analysis. in 2006 the figure was x8.6, and only x7.7 in 1999. fueling this surge, of course, was wall street, which in the form of guaranteed financing was essentially subsidizing ever-higher prices. blackstone's tony james summarizes the interplay between leverage, price, and return: "when the leverage ratio goes up, all that benefit is instantly reflected in a higher price and it instantly goes to the seller of the asset, not to the buyer, who takes more risk, arguably, because there is more leverage for a comparable return." wsj 12.4.07 "private equity's reckoning"
sociology. the capacity for denial appears to have evolved in part to offset early humans' hypersensitivity to violations of trust. in small kin groups, identifying liars and two-faced cheats was a matter of survival. "we concluded there is this skewed incentive system," dr peter h. kim of the university of southern california said. "if you are guilty of an integrity-based violation and you apologize, that hurts you more than if you are dishonest and deny it." the evidence suggests that faced with the high odor of real perfidy, people unwilling to risk a break skew their perception of reality much more purposefully. one common way to do this is to recast clear moral breaches as foul-ups, stumbles or lapses in competence - because those are more tolerable, said dr. kim. in effect, people "reframe the ethical violation as a competence violation. she wasn't cheating on him - she strayed. he didn't hide the losses in the subprime mortgage unit for years - he miscalculated." nyt 11.27.07 "a social balm that makes the world go round"
music. philip glass' "einstein on the beach" is majestically two-dimensional. its references to the atomic age, criminial justice, true love, air-conditioning and patty hearts are merely art materials, like red paint or blue. it is also different for musicians and tends to terrorize the unsuspecting and conservatory-trained. one can be the best counter of rests and the master of tricky entrances in the orchestra, but those skills will have been mastered in european music based on change and development. in glass, so little happens so many times, with so many small additions and subtractions in line and rhythm, that sameness - or the illusion of sameness - becomes a series of traps. what's needed is a new perfomance technique, a rewired brain. "in western music," glass has written, "we divide time - as if you were to take a length of time and slice it like bread. in indian and all the non-western music i'm familiar with, you take small units, or 'beats' and string them together to make up larger time values." nyt 12.02.07 "transformed by the tonic of 'einstein'"
culture. "dj-dom has definitely been a boy's club" says alexandra wagner, editor of fader magazine, "that women are only now penetrating." such cultural dominatrixes in ms. wagner's phrase, have a fashion influence that is a direct extension of their power on the stage. unlike pop stars, who tend to be molded by production teams, the female dj is distinctly in charge, she observed: "the music that gets played is what she decides." from the vantage of the dance floor, she added "the dj booth is like the altar in the sky." janessa bautista, 28, a fashion designer in manhattan, agreed, noting that the dj's she likes dress in a manner that is unforced and inventive. "people who carry their own style are influential." nyt 11.29.07 "setting the beat, and the style"
finance. when you take big risks, you expect big rewards if all goes well. right? not in early 2007. the latest instrument blew up last week. investors were essentially guaranteeing, for 10 years, the credit of a group of financial companies, including credit guarantee insurance companies like ambac and mbia. got that? they were guaranteeing the credit of the companies that guarantee the credit of large parts of the financial system. and they were guaranteeing that people would trust the credit of those companies. moody's gave it a aaa rating. a lot of defaults would be devastating, but so, too would be rising market doubts about the quality of the companies' credit. it was those doubts, measured in the market price of credit default derivatives that brought on the losses. in retrospect, a system that encouraged more and more risky lending, with less and less concern about credit quality, could not endure forever. wall street preaches that there is such thing as "optimal leverage." in that worldview, too much capital depresses a bank's return on capital and is, therefore, as bad as too little. much of the discredited "21st century model" was aimed at finding ways to make loans without tying up capital. now capital is crucial again. unfortunately, there may not be enough of it to finance all the loans needed to keep the economy growing. nyt 11.30.07 "guarantees guarenteed to be risky"
contemporary art. assemblage sculpture, rampant at the moment and maybe today's most viable art form, tends to be low-tech, modest in scale, made with found objects and materials, and structured in ways that are fragmented if not actually disintegrating. it says no to expensive materials and fabrication processes that result in shiny surfaces, to heavy machinery and computers, to feeding the stream of paintings, installation works, big-screen videos and dolby-sound films that turn today's biennials into entertaining spectacles. it also turns its back on the most usual suspects, including jeff koons, bill viola, gerhard richter, matthew barney, louise boureois, rachel whiteread and even banks violette. nothing needs to be plugged in and nearly all of it looks on first glance like junk or detritus. the main idea here seems to be to make art that looks like art only on careful examination, guided by the assumption that everything, every detail, is intentional and meaningful. nyt 11.30.07 "nervy opening volleys that avoid the expected"
filmmaking. it's called the dutch angle, a mixup. it's what the german cinematographers were doing in the 1920s and a lot of them moved over to the u.s. in the early days of cinema. people mistook 'deutsch' for 'dutch'. it's just fun. it tells you things are okay; they may be talking some serious sht, but it looks fun. also, it feels like i can fit more of the world in. i'm conscious of composition in the frame. i want the entire frame to be interesting and active. the world is not as interesting as pictures you can make. it's too level. lowdown mag 10-11.2007 "hal hartley: auteur extraordinaire"
social anthropology. researchers have found that men with deeper voices have more children - at least among the swahili-speaking hadza, a group of hunter-gatherers in tanzania. the hadza use no birth control and choose their own spouses; this makes them what the researchers call a natural fertility population where hypotheses about human reproductive success can be tested. after controlling for age, researchers estimated that voice pitch could account for 42 percent of the variance in men's reproductive success. the quality of women's voices was unrelated to how many children they had. nyt 11.27.07 "study finds reproductive edge for men with deep voices"
gastronomy. gino boscherini's two-story house does not look like a repository for precious genetic material. but his backyard garden contains unusual variants of several plants: a bean grown only here in the hills overlooking lake trasimeno, a special tomato that can be stored for months, a type of pulpy squash that is good for pig feed. such variants, called land-races, possess unique traits encoded in their genes. "central italy has 500 land-races, mostly maintained by aged farmers and gardeners, and that is a big problem since there is a chance these crops will be lost within a generation," said valeria negri, a plant scientist at the university of perugia. three-quarters of biodiversity in crops has been lost in the last century. in mexico, only 20 percent of the corn types that existed in 1930s exist today. in the united states, 95 percent of cabbage varieties and 94 percent of pea types are gone. nyt 11.27.07 "backyard gardens shelter europe's orphan seeds"
econ. a private-equity manager at a leading bank who follows retail, and who requested anonymity, said "we may get by this year, but there's a lack of optimism in the country and i think that will put a damper on christmas spending." another source of concern, he said, echoing opinions in the art-auction market, is the staggering amounts of wealth in regions of the middle east and asia and the dominating effect such clout is likely to have. "they're price-insensitive" he said of those areas "and that's going to be tough on americans. we're not the richest guys on the block anymore. nyt 11.22.07 "the brightest sellers have the biggest prices"
biz. andy rubin is a throwback. while silicon valley is now in the midst of a "web 2.0" frenzy, with an emphasis on clever business ideas that quickly attract millions of internet users, rubin is a proven member of an earlier group of engineers-turned-entrepreneurs who have a passion for buiding complete digital systems. "today silicon valley is full of network effect enterpreneurs but andy represents a generation that is equally comfortable with a soldering gun, writing software, or desining a business," says steve perlman, another former apple engineer who was a co-founder of webtv. nyt 11.4.07 "the man behind the google phone"
new media. in 'mass effect', most of the story is shaped through conversations "filmed" more like a movie than a game, as close-ups from the characters' fronts. until now it has seemed impossible to render speaking digital faces natural to the human eye and ear. it may be the first game in which the term digital acting isn't an oxymoron. "we did a lot of research into the psychology of what creates and portrays a compelling emotion," casey hudson [game designer: bioware] said. "and then it becomes art, and we have to shape each face into a look of fear. or we ask: what does your face look like when you're telling a lie? or what are the visual cues when you are speaking in a beguiling, slightly flirtatious way?" nyt 11.22.07 "computer game produces a special special effect"
filmmaking wayne wang, a longtime director, told of his years in the hollywood studio mills. "they have these things called pacing paths," he said. "they go in and literally take out everything that has nothing to do with the story or characters or even any breathing room." "i wanted to share one thought with wayne and anyone else who wants to make a movie," sean penn said. "when it comes to hollywood studios, they understand money very well. when they want to cut that frame or one scene or pace something up more than you'd like it to be, you make a brief call and remind them that a bullet costs just a quarter. then you hang up." nyt mag 11.11.07 "when the producer came to town"
corp governance. the records are a trove of information on corporate soft spots - the unseen details behind the public filings. the trend of auditors looking further behind the corporate curtain is a major shift from the "don't ask, don't tell" mentality of the years before enron, when they typically signed off on financial statements without asking to see confidential documents, in particular lawyers' written opinions relating to aggressive tax deals open to challenge by the internal revenue service. nyt 11.23.07 "what the corporate auditor is told, a plaintiff could exploit"
biz. of particular concern in this case is that merck and schering-plough said yesterday that they had changed the primary endpoint - the main medical result being measured. the companies now say that they will use only partial results to assess the trial's success in deterring the formation of plaque that can cause artery blockages and lead to heart attacks. scientists generally assume that for a clinical trial to be valid, its goals must be defined before it begins and never changed afterward. otherwise, the people conducting the trial could change their goals to conform to the data the trial has actually produced. "this sounds highly unusual to me," said dr. bruce psaty, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the university of washington. "you need to live with your primary endpoint." nyt 11.21.07 "cardiologists question delay of data on 2 drugs"
filmmaking. according to nathaniel dorsky, "when you go into polyvalent editing, the place is the film." by polyvalent, dorsky means organizing the shots and rhythms of a film so that associations will "resonate" later. it was important to him not to overstate such associations. thus he eschewed parallel editing classically practiced by d.w. griffith and the masters of silent soviet cinema. yet like eisenstein, he found a model for his firm form in classical japanese poetry and chinese poetry as well, displaying the basic cinematic material: color, grain, texture, the flickering light of the screen. artforum 11.2007 "tone poems"
music prod. you'll be forgiven for thinking that the most authentic surround mixes would be faux surround, up-mixes of the original stereo master, however, the team were not convinced this would deliver what they wanted: "we wanted it to be a high-end product" says kevin paul [head engr: mute records.] "the producers at the time would not have up-mixed. they would have mixed for surround and would have used the available space to full effect, rather than stripping ambience to the back." mastering engineer simon heyworth confirms: "the listening experience of faux surround is amazing, but it's a psychoacoustic effect, and you really need to be in the middle to get the full benefit. sound on sound 11.2007 "back celebration: remixing depeche mode in surround"