Monday, May 31, 2010

Entering the Twilight of American Christianity | Slog | The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:

This "great belief in technology" is not secular but closely linked with a great belief in American awesomeness. And American awesomeness has always been sustained by the foundations of American Christianity, a form of religion that is humble not toward nature but toward a God who has power over everything and punishes His enemies and rewards His followers. With American Christianity, prosperity is a God-given right, and this frame of thinking has established and reinforced a relationship with nature that is essentially identical with the one that exists between a master and slave.

It is precisely this kind of thinking that in Europe began to crumble in the period that followed the scientific revolution.

The New Currency
Slashdot News Story | Why Apple Is So Sticky:

"'Sticky,' in the social sciences and particularly economics, describes a situation in which a variable is resistant to change. For websites or products it usually means that visitors or customers keep coming back for more. Now Fortune Magazine reports on an analysis by Deutsche Bank's Chris Whitmore on what makes the (iTunes-based) iPhone-iPod-iPad platform so sticky and why it's going to get harder, not easier, for Apple users to switch, no matter what Google and the rest of Apple's competitors have up their sleeves. Whitmore says the investment Apple's customers have made in content for those devices in terms of apps, videos, and music purchased at the iTunes Store creates Apple's 'stickiness.' Apple has an installed base today of about 150 million iTunes-dependent devices that could grow to more than 200 million by the end of 2011. Whitmore comes up with a cumulative investment in those devices of about $15 billion today, growing to $25 billion by the end of next year. 'This averages to ~$100 of content for each installed device,' Whitmore writes, 'suggesting switching costs are relatively high (not to mention the time required to port). When Apple's best-in-class user experience is combined with these growing switching costs, the resulting customer loyalty is unparalleled.'"
Katie and Anna

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

all things grow.
The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs : Our new spin on the Foxconn suicide epidemic:

But, see, arguments about national averages are a smokescreen. Sure, people kill themselves all the time. But the Foxconn people all work for the same company, in the same place, and they’re all doing it in the same way, and that way happens to be a gruesome, public way that makes a spectacle of their death. They’re not pill-takers or wrist-slitters or hangers. They’re not Sylvia Plath wannabes, sealing off the kitchen and quietly sticking their head in the oven. They’re jumpers. And jumpers, my friends, are a different breed. Ask any cop or shrink who deals with this stuff. Jumpers want to make a statement. Jumpers are trying to tell you something.

Also, consider this. Walmart has 1.4 million employees in the United States. Can you remember a time when 10 or 15 Walmart workers jumped to their deaths from the roofs of Walmart stores over the course of a few months? Have you ever heard of Walmart asking employees to sign a no-suicide contract, or putting safety nets up on all of its buildings? If this did happen, would you think maybe something is going on at Walmart? Or would you just say, well, 10 or 15 people out of 1.4 million is still waaaay below the national average?

Britain’s National Health Service has 1.3 million employees. Number of suicides last year involving NHS workers jumping from NHS buildings: zero. Indian Railways has 1.6 million employees. Can you recall the last time 10 or 15 of them threw themselves under trains over the course of a few months? Deutsche Post has half a million employees. Ever heard a story about a dozen of them hurling themselves into letter-sorting machines?

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Playgoer: Broadway Grosses Up, Attendance Down:

Yes, according to the Broadway League's latest report, Broadway grosses in 2009-2010 were over a billion dollars, up 1.5% from the previous season.

The number of actual tickets sold and people attending? That was down 3%.

You do the math.

day (136);

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Apple overtakes Microsoft as biggest tech company | Reuters:

Apple Inc shot past Microsoft Corp as the world's biggest tech company based on market value on Wednesday, the latest milestone in the resurgence of the maker of the iPhone, which nearly went out of business in the 1990s.

Apple's shares rose as much 2.8 percent on Nasdaq on Wednesday, as Microsoft shares floundered, briefly pushing its market value above $229 billion, ahead of its longtime rival.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hong Kong restaurant offers Michelin-starred food for 78p - Telegraph:

Tim Ho Wan, which means "Add Good Luck", can seat only 20 people in its steamy dining room and its battered bamboo baskets of dim sum sell for as little as 78p.

Jean-Luc Naret, the director of the Michelin guide said it was the "most affordable starred restaurant in the world" and was included as proof of Michelin's commitment to local cuisines.

The Hong Kong restaurant is headed by Mak Pui Gor, the former dim sum chef at the Four Seasons Hotel, where he worked at the three Michelin-starred restaurant Lung King Heen. Mr Mak decided during the economic crisis to branch out on his own and offer his dishes at bargain prices.

The most expensive dish on the menu, a plate of noodles, costs the equivalent of around £3, and he sells around 750 dishes of his signature crispy pork buns each day. Other dishes include a cheung fun, or steamed rice noodle roll, with pork livers and delicate jellies containing flower petals.

Everything Loose Will Land:

But, isn’t it “Sex and the City”, and not “Wealth and the City?” Initially, the script called for a jaunt to Dubai4, a neighboring emirate and the location of the world’s current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. The Burj Khalifa, architecture and engineering courtesy of Chicago’s own Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill firm, cost 1.5 billion dollars and rises, like a spiring middle finger to the West, a staggering 2,717 feet in the air. It is a phallus for which Samantha Jones would have a dozen puns at the ready. But, it was not to be. Because the film’s title contains the word “sex.” Dubai considers itself a strict Islamic state. It was inappropriate. So, a pen stroke and Dubai became Abu Dhabi, which was generous enough to lend its name and will benefit from the spike in tourism that only a travel commercial with a built-in fan base and a $10,000,000 costume budget can provide.

But the vacation portrayed in the film opening on Thursday is very different from the usual trip foreign women take to the UAE. Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda will wander from market stand to market stand, rhapsodizing over the cheap prices. They will wear what they want. Say what they want. Do what they want. They will be nothing like another quartet of women who traveled to the UAE: Lusa, Zenia, Tanya, Nayla. There will be no mention of those four women, or the other women in the UAE just like them. Because it is not in the interest of a lady sex romp to discuss the lady children who are lured and sold to one of the most popular human trafficking destinations in the world. There will be no breath of that, because Americans have proved squeamish about selling 14 year-old girls into tax exempt rape. We don’t do that.

Michael Kuchwara, A.P. Theater Critic, Dies at 63 - Biography -

As passionate about the theater as he was industrious, Mr. Kuchwara was known in the theater world for his seeming ubiquity. Based in New York, he covered Broadway and Off Broadway and frequently made out-of-town trips to see shows.

Mr. Kuchwara, writing with warmth and clarity, reviewed as many as 200 productions a year while contributing news articles about shows opening or closing, labor disputes, Tony nominations and the deaths of notable writers, directors and performers, as well as conducting dozens of interviews with notable entertainment figures.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Senate reform bill is much kinder to the finance industry than it deserves.:

What may be most striking to average Americans about the bill is actually how un-punitive it is. Given what the financial sector put the nation through in the past three years, the case for strong punishment was very compelling. But while there are provisions that the financial sector doesn't like, the legislation that is now headed to a House-Senate conference is in fact relatively tame.

Consider what's not in the bill. Earlier this year, President Obama came out in favor of the Volcker rule, which would have prohibited regulated banks from engaging in the enormously profitable (but risky) business of proprietary trading. That would have punished the large investment banks. But the Volcker rule is not part of this legislation.

There's been discussion of a Tobin tax, the idea of levying a tax on financial transactions such as currency, stock, and derivative trades. That would raise revenue and provide disincentives for the socially useless algorithmic trading that creates risk for all investors. That would have punished many financial institutions. But the Tobin tax is not part of the legislation.

The House version of financial reform called for a $150 billion fund to be raised, largely by taxing big financial institutions, that would help wind down failed institutions. That would have exacted a significant (and, to my mind, justified) cost on big investment banks. But that fund is not part of the Senate legislation.

The Digital Download Is Dead:

Yet despite its omnipresence, iTunes hasn't aged well. Unlike most Apple products, it's gotten slower and more unwieldy over the years. The Windows version is the most annoying program I use on a regular basis. (I don't find the Mac version much more pleasant.) For one thing, it requires constant upgrades. These days the best desktop apps refresh themselves automatically; Chrome, Google's fantastic Web browser, remakes itself without any user input—you start it up and suddenly there are new features delivered from afar. iTunes takes the opposite tack: It wants to be upgraded about twice a month, and it demands constant attention during the process. You've got to approve the 80-plus-megabyte download, you've got to click several times as it installs, you've got to agree to a new license, and you might be asked to reboot your computer. And for what? Most upgrades result in no discernible improvement.

The worst part is syncing my music and photos with my iPhone and iPad. I usually try to do this when I'm leaving the house—in other words, when I'm in a hurry. iTunes doesn't care. It takes 30 seconds or so to identify my device, then several minutes to sync, and it's not unusual for the program to run into some kind of problem along the way, requiring me to start over. All this hassle seemed tolerable back in the days before Wi-Fi, but now it's anachronistic. It's 2010—why do I have to plug anything into anything to get files from my computer onto my phone? Macintosh Stories: MacBasic:

Unfortunately, there was another problem on the horizon. Apple's original deal with Microsoft for licensing Applesoft Basic had a term of eight years, and it was due to expire in September 1985. Apple still depended on the Apple II for the lion's share of its revenues, and it would be difficult to replace Microsoft Basic without fragmenting the software base. Bill Gates had Apple in a tight squeeze, and, in an early display of his ruthless business acumen, he exploited it to the hilt. He knew that Donn's Basic was way ahead of Microsoft's, so, as a condition for agreeing to renew Applesoft, he demanded that Apple abandon MacBasic, buying it from Apple for the price of $1, and then burying it. He also used the renewal of Applesoft, which would be obsolete in just a year or two as the Mac displaced the Apple II, to get a perpetual license to the Macintosh user interface, in what probably was the single worst deal in Apple's history, executed by John Sculley in November 1985.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

China - The Biggest Domino - Foreign Correspondent - ABC:

China correspondent Stephen McDonell set out on a journey through China to try to find out just how sustainable the country’s incredible growth – more than 10 percent every year – really is.

“They consume the lowest share of GDP ever recorded. It’s not at all practical - it’s not logical and it’s not sustainable.” Professor Michael Petttis.

Along the way McDonell visits shipyards, prestige real estate developments and an incredible“ghost city” – a whole town in Inner Mongolia built from scratch, complete with theatre, museum and library, and row after row of apartment blocks – almost all of them empty.

It’s a concrete example of the way the Chinese economy works – from the top down. State owned banks provide loans to more state owned companies who build and develop, paying taxes to local authorities – possibly where no demand actually exists.

“This place is either a bold piece of planning for the future which is yet to reach fruition… or a very large white elephant.”
China correspondent, Stephen McDonell, talking about the ghost city of Kang Ba Shi.

the cat's meow
Guy Who's Been Leading the Seattle Repertory Theater for Awhile Will Keep Leading It | Slog | The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:

I should've posted this days ago when the news broke, but in case you hadn't heard—Jerry Manning has gone from interim artistic director at the Seattle Rep to official artistic director with a five-year contract.
Fantastic, fantastic news. Another win for local artists and local people who care about the cities they have lived in and know well.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When flying was classy—but really, really slow - Boing Boing:

"You're about to make your first air trip? Well, it's high time. A few more years and there'll be scarcely a thrill left in it."

Thus, presciently, begins Popular Mechanics' June 1939 story about what it's like to take the United Airlines "sleeper" cross-country from New York to San Francisco—in only 15 hours. The piece manages to elicit both a painful nostalgia for a classy, Cary Grant-y world most of us never experienced, while, simultaneously, serving as a reminder that, in many ways, we've got it pretty good today (Grandpa's barca-lounger style plane seat, not withstanding).

Wait, we've got it good? Oh, yes. I mean, obviously, it's not all peaches and sunshine up in here. In 1939, for instance, checking in seems to have involved merely a reservation call and a cash transaction—and you only had to be there one hour ahead of time. But I, for one, am pretty happy that my last plane flight (Minneapolis to San Francisco) didn't involve paying more than $2000, publicly disclosing my weight to the gate agent (and everybody in line behind me), or dealing with a plane full of smokers. Also, the airlines seem to have been just as stingy with luggage back then as they are today. And the plane stopped in about four other cities between Chicago and San Francisco, like it was the freaking Megabus.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Three roses
The End of Magical Oil - National - The Atlantic:

Deepwater drilling had an improbable, unbelievable, giddy rise from its birth in 1993. Every well was pushing the envelope, either of depth in the water or the depth of the drillbit beneath the crust. "Every well I did was the deepest ever," an oil industry professional told me, yesterday. "I worked on 20 wells that set records. Every guy that did my job had worked on 20 wells that set records. We were sprinting, breaking records right and left. Everything they did had never been done before." For 17 years the deepwater rigs were jamming on the edge of the envelope.

And so now, we are not only faced with an extraordinarily large, frightening, and nearly unthinkable oil spill, we are also facing the end of magical oil. Like the financial crisis, there are physical issues to deal with now, but in the future there will be a crisis of confidence in the oil industry and in government's ability to regulate it. And at the same time, all of that new oil will not flow magically toward our shores, lubricating our lifestyle, allowing us to glide on without an explicit energy policy. We shouldn't kid ourselves that this is merely a large oil spill. It is much more.
It was once called Burj Dubai...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In Search of Adorable, as Hello Kitty Starts to Fade -

In a closely watched ranking of Japan’s most popular characters, compiled each year using sales data by the Tokyo-based research firm Character Databank, Hello Kitty lost her long-held spot as Japan’s top-grossing character in 2002 and has never recovered.

In the latest survey, released this month, Kitty ranked a distant third, behind the leader, Anpanman, a character that is based on a Japanese jam-filled pastry and is produced by Nippon Television.

Holding the moon

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Paul Hogarth: "Caught in a Bad Hotel" = The Future of Protest?:

In Taking On the System, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas made a point that I've been thinking a lot over the past two years. Whatever era they live in, activists must adapt to the most effective medium to get their message across. In the 1920's and 30's, Gandhi used newsreels to show how the British were exploiting his people. Martin Luther King used television to cover civil rights marches, and to capture the hateful response from Southern law enforcement. But today, people get their news in a far more fragmented way - on the Internet, through their friends, on Facebook and in silly YouTube videos.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Laura Jacqmin:

I was having a conversation the other day with a theater artist friend of mine about being a playwright. We happened to be discussing Mike Daisey’s monologue, “How Theater Failed America,” which each of us had seen the previous week. Neither of us had attended on a night that included a talk-back, but I’d heard through the grapevine that the final one had gotten a bit… heated. Angry words were tossed around; the blame-game was played; and some of the panelists still sat up straight and said, NOT I.

Chris Jones’ review of the piece basically said, Chicago doesn’t have these problems because Chicago is awesome! While Chicago is certainly awesome in many respects, I would correct both Daisey and Jones and say that Chicago has DIFFERENT problems. It’s true – some of what Daisey says isn’t applicable to approximately 90% of the Chicago theater scene (80% of which is made up of companies who are not “buildinged” and are perpetually itinerant). But our problems, while they may not be the same ones that the vast majority of regional theaters are coping with (expensive new architectural development projects, the lack of innovation in programming “non-safe” material, the failure to build and maintain a community of local artists) – they are problems, nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Dear ErrantWanderer,

Thanks for the post. From what I can tell from your Twitter feed, you don't ever go to the theater, or if you do it has no measurable impact on your life.

I'd suggest that you're not the target audience for that particular piece at all, which is why you didn't get it. You'll probably respond to my other monologues a great deal more.



Monday, May 10, 2010

Suburbs: The New Slums - Suburbs - Gawker:

Any good student of dialectics knew this was coming. A new report on demographic trends shows that the suburbs are slowly but surely becoming what they were expressly designed not to be: the home of the disadvantaged.

Of course one could say as an opening joke that growing up in the suburbs would be a disadvantage for anyone. But now, demographics are following what common sense has long indicated. A new Brookings Institute analysis of census data shows that the era of white flight from urban areas that turned suburbs into the traditional rings of affluence around poorer cities is, for the most part, over.

the pinch
Michael Kaiser: Conventional "Wisdom":
It is not the nature of marketing that attracts any segment of an audience but the work itself. Of course we must use marketing techniques that reach the audience we hope to attract, but simply putting something on Facebook does not guarantee that younger people will come.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Saturday, May 08, 2010

fade to black kiwanda1
Big Content's depraved indifference - Boing Boing:

Something I think gets lost in the debate over DRM: Big Content doesn't want DRM because they want to usher in an era of totalitarian control technologies; they don't want copyright filters because they want to make the censor's job easier; they don't want increased intermediary liability because they want to extinguish easy personal expression and collective action.

They want these things because they want to make more money.

But they are indifferent to the point of depravity to the totalitarian, censorious and restrictive consequences of DRM, filters and liability.

They aren't moustache-twirling supervillains. They're greedy, blinkered provincials and hypercompetitive macho bullies who are unwilling to look past the short-term benefits to the consequences. They think only of how things will work, not how they'll fail.

When we (we -- I do this too, all the time) focus on the consequences to culture and creativity, we allow this debate to be defined in terms of who gets to remix what, or whether you'll have to start paying for the ongoing use of your cultural goods. These are important issues.

But they're a distant second to a rearchitecting of our law and technology to create the preconditions for repression, corruption and suppression of dissent.

Friday, May 07, 2010


The iPhone was the only thing that made AT&T's customer base grow last quarter. without iPhone, they would have lost over 400,000 customers.

I believe that AT&T needs Apple desperately. This gives Apple quite a lot of leverage... And, I also believe, is why Apple got AT&T to offer the $15 month plan for iPad.

That Verizon-compatible CDMA iPhone we keep seeing rumors about almost certainly exists as a prototype: it is a sword of Damocles hanging over AT&T's head. Think it isn't real? Remember that Apple had an x86 build of Mac OS X for many years before the Intrl transition, as a skunkworks project, and that team routinely filed x86 bugs that the main OS X team had to fix even if they never occurred on PowerPC. Word of that project got out back when the Quicksilver G4 was the hot ticket...

The flip side is that Apple would surely hate to drop a relationship in which they can call the shots with such impunity...

Williamstown Theater Festival Names New Artistic Director - ArtsBeat Blog -

The Williamstown Theater Festival on Wednesday announced the appointment of its new artistic director: Jenny Gersten, a widely admired New York producer at the Public Theater who also worked as associate producer at Williamstown from 1996 to 2004.

Ms. Gersten, 41, will succeed Nicholas Martin, who is leaving after his third season this summer as artistic director at Williamstown, one of the nation’s premiere summertime theater presenters.

Ms. Gersten, meanwhile, will depart as the associate producer of the Public Theater, the acclaimed nonprofit company in New York that was founded by Joseph Papp. At the Public, she has most recently produced “The Book of Grace” by Suzan-Lori Parks, “The Brother/Sister Plays” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, “The Idiot Savant” by Richard Foreman, and Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which Daniel Sullivan directed last summer at the Public’s Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

(And THE LAST CARGO CULT!) Congratulations, Jenny—this is absolutely marvelous news, and it is inspiring to see one of the biggest institutions in the American theater come under the leadership of a new generation.
Dow dip proves point of Mike Daisey’s The Last Cargo Cult | The TOC Blog | Time Out Chicago:

Watching this afternoon’s “flash crash”—an astonishing, gut-wrenching stock market free fall, followed by an equally rapid rise—I kept thinking back to one of the major points of Mike Daisey’s rousing, hilarious monologue The Last Cargo Cult, which opened last night at Victory Gardens: Money, markets, our entire financial system, is all a construct, a fiction we all buy into. Daisey’s not the first to acknowledge this, of course, but the power of Daisey’s monologues isn’t in his points but in the way he makes them. In Cargo Cult, he uses the story of his visit to the tiny South Pacific island of Tanna, where islanders who don’t use money nonetheless worship America and our material wealth. He interweaves this tale with anecdotes about his own financial situation and about the economic meltdown of 2008; these narratives come together to become an invigorating and infuriating examination of our relationship with money.

In one of the piece’s most effective passages, Daisey recites a timeline of the creation of finance, from the invention of currency to the advent of banks to stocks and all the way through to the derivatives market and the infamous credit default swap. With each of these new layers of financial “products,” he notes, the market gets bigger but also more abstract and irrational. I’m no economic expert—like Daisey says of himself in the show, my financial portfolio consists largely of a bank account and a mattress—but seeing the Dow Jones do a nine-percent yo-yo that may have been predicated by a single errant keystroke, I couldn’t help but think “irrational” is exactly right.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Patti Smith Says NYC Is Closed, Find A New City - Gothamist:

According to VanshingNY, one woman asked if it was still possible for a young artist to come to New York City and find a similar path that Smith and her contemporaries found themselves on decades ago.

The Godmother of Punk recalled coming to New York in 1967 when she was broke and the city was "'down and out,' and you could get a cheap apartment and 'build a whole community of transvestites or artists or writers.'" But today, she says, "New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie. New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city."

Happy Bride

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Flavorpill Chicago:

On the heels of How Theater Failed America, his deft, devastating monologue about the collapse of American theatre's economy and the mistreatment of its actors, Mike Daisey brings another monologue to Victory Gardens that addresses the failure of capitalism more directly. In signature Daisey rhetoric, The Last Cargo Cult incorporates a memoir of his time spent on a remote South Pacific island where America is worshiped with harsh analysis of the concurrent international financial crisis. While Daisey's monologues are always incisive, it's the impeccably timed dark humor that saves them from feeling like pedantic lectures — the Spalding Gray for globalized capitalism. - Monica Westin

Monday, May 03, 2010

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Mark Bernstein: Platform Control:

In 1997, Apple was on the ropes. Every trade press story speculated that Apple would soon go out of business. Apple’s computers were toys, hapless, hopeless. The only hope seemed to be that Microsoft’s antitrust problems would extend the struggling company’s life a year or two and something might turn up.

The last straw — what everyone feared and anticipated — was the seemingly-inevitable Microsoft announcement that Apple’s market share was too small to be worth Microsoft’s trouble, and that Office for Mac would be cancelled. On that day — and we all expected it — Apple would for all practical purposes cease to have a business.

It didn’t happen. Microsoft didn’t want to face the anti-trust consequences. They promised to extend Office a few years, and lent Apple $150M, and Jobs came back.

And somewhere in the recovery was a moment when Apple stood on a hill, before the setting sun, and shook its fist at the heavens and vowed that it would never be hungry (and powerless) again. Never again would another company decide whether the Macintosh lived or died.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Does that mean PCS is hiring? I was under the impression they had fired all of their literary staff.

And Tricia--perhaps you should ask questions for yourself. I'll be in Portland in September.
BoHo Theatre Blog: May We Live In Interesting Times:

Last night, I saw a performance of Mike Daisey's provocatively titled one-man show How Theatre Failed America. If you've heard the hype, then believe it. Daisey weaves together rants and observations of the business of American theatre with thematically resonant personal stories from his own theatrical past. The man held the entire theatre enthralled for two full hours just by sitting behind a desk and speaking.

But this was merely the first act. I was fortunate enough to attend on one of the two nights which also featured a round-table discussion with members of the Chicago theatre community, including Roche Schulfer, executive director of the Goodman; Amy Morton from Steppenwolf; Michael Halberstam, artistic director of Writers’ Theater; and Ann Joseph, Artistic Director of Congo Square. This hour-long back-and-forth exchange between the panelists and eventually the audience became at times passionate and heated, but it was never dull. In all, the evening was an almost three-and-a-half hour celebration of and exchange of ideas about art. In short, it was what I'm looking for every time I go to the theatre.