Friday, July 21, 2017

Photography: Aren`t Construction Places Beautiful

(Drivebycuriosity) - I am fascinated by New York City. There is so much to see and there are ubiquitous motifs for an ambitious amateur photographers like me. I took a lot pictures from the construction places which are mushrooming all over the city (all taken this year with an iPhone 7 Plus).

These places add to the beauty & diversity of the metropolis. As you can see here they enhance the complexity of the cityscape and are making New York`s skyline even more dynamic. Above you can see pics from a growing towers in Tribeca (one eleven Murray Street), at East River and on the Bowery.

I am especially fascinated by the huge cranes. They look powerful yet delicate & their colors - often red - are an important part of New York´s face. The pics above this paragraph were taken at the mega construction places @ Hudson Yard, Essex Crossing and the East River.

                                                    Method In Chaos

Some places look like filigree art installations. Look how they (here @ Essex Crossing again) harmonize with the sky above them.

And often the combination of structures & colors resembles contemporary paintings.

Construction places seem to be chaotic but there is some method in it.

The powerful earth moving machines have a spell of their own.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Movies: Lady Macbeth

(Drivebycuriosity) - What can you do on a hot & steamy summer day? My wife & I decided to spend the afternoon in a chilled cinema theater where we watched the movie "Lady Macbeth" (imdb). The film - based on a Russian novella from 1859 -  is advertised as a feminist drama set in 19th century England.

A young woman gets sold in a marriage with the son of a mine owner. Her husband is much older than her, rude & sexually neglecting her. As a response for being insulted and treated badly by husband & the abrasive father in-law she falls for one of her employees, a man with the appearance & charm of a cave man, who is even more brutal than her husband but less neglecting. Her growing obsession with the brute leads to a chain of violent & bloody events (this is a spoiler free blog).

The film doesn´t work for me, the plot was too challenging & unpleasant for my taste, but I got some comfort by cinematographer Ari Wegner who created stunning images. I also was impressed by the performance of Florence Pugh in the leading role.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Science Fiction: Anomaly By Peter Cawdron

(Drivebycuriosity) - Imagine you are in the middle of Manhattan and something is not quite right, things are suddenly changing in an unexpected way. So starts the science fiction novel "Anomaly" by Peter Cawdron (amazon). New York City - and soon the whole world - is confronted with a strange phenomena  - the anomaly (this is a spoiler free blog)

"Anomaly" is hard science fiction in the tradition of Robert Heinlein. The novel is speculative but based on logic and on physics, chemistry, biology, evolution & other sciences. In the beginning it reads like a young adult novel because the plot focuses on an elementary school teacher who is explaining the observed phenomena to scientists & the media. But this idea gives the author the tools to describe what´s happening in an almost scientific way - and he does really a good job with that. I could refresh my school knowledge and learned a lot. Even though many strange things are happening the plot stays very plausible. I cared about the characters and enjoyed Cawdron`s clear style, the dramatic & thrilling events and a devoloping romance.

In the moment of writing the Kindle version of "Anomaly" cost just $4,99. Price & quality make this book a must for any connoisseur of real science fiction.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Economy: The Rise Of The Chinese Consumer

(Drivebycuriosity) -  If we believe the media then China is about to crash. But the reality refutes the gloomy predictions. Quite contrary, the recent economic data suggest that the Chinese economy is getting stronger and the already high growth rates for industrial production & retail are accelerating again (bloomberg).

Last night we learned that China`s industrial production grew 7.6% in June, faster than a 6.5% rise in the prior two months (tradingeconomics).

and retail sales jumped 11% in June (May plus 10.7%  tradingeconomics). It was the fastest increase in retail sales since December 2015.

The numbers show that China`s economy is increasingly driven by domestic demand & retail sales and loosening her dependency from exports. China is transforming into a modern service economy like the US, fostered by the technological progress (E-Commerce, Fintech). China´s ascent is also driven by the rapid urbanization. People are flooding into the big cites where the productivity is much higher than in rural areas. The huge country now has more than 100 cities of over 1 million residents, a number that is likely to double in the next decade, writes the Guardian (theguardian). The  urbanization creates millions of jobs and is driving income growth for the whole nation. Swift rising incomes are fueling consume and so the economic growth of China.

The numbers also prove that the huge country is continuing her secular catching-up process, which is fueled by extreme income & wealth differences to the US and other Western nation values. In 2016 China had about $8,123 income per capita, the US number was $57,466 (worldbank).

The swift retail growth also is raising China´ s importance for the global economy, which is increasingly fueled by Chinese imports. Don`t mess with China!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Economy: The Amazon Effect - Is Inflation Dead?

(Drivebycuriosity) - It looks like inflation is dead. Last week the US labor department reported that U.S. consumer prices were unchanged in June and increased just 1.6% in the recent 12 months ( cnbc). The so-called core inflation rate, which strips out food and energy costs, edged up 0.1% in June,  and increased 1.7% year-on-year.

The US inflation numbers were lower than the analysts had expected and below the projections of the Federal Reserve Bank  (graphs tradingeconomics ).

I think that the low inflation rates are at least partly caused by the Internet, automation & other aspects of the technological progress. New technologies are reducing the costs of producing & distributing stuff and therefore curb inflation. I call this the Amazon effect because the e-commerce pioneer is the bellwether of this development.

Since going online Amazon has been been obsessed with efficiency, cost cutting and delivering goods cheap, fast & reliably. They have been constructing a network of huge fulfillment centers which are very efficient and save a lot of costs. Customers spend muss less money & time when they get things delivered at home. Amazon`s growth forces competitors like Walmart & Target to act similarly and to become more efficient & to curb their prices as well. Today, owned by Walmart, and many other e-commerce companies are competing with Amazon which forces them all to sell at low prices.  Even Google & Facebook are participating in the battle for the online customer. As a result everything what can be ordered online is relatively cheap and prices for many goods are falling. This way the Amazon effect is keeping a lid on inflation by partly compensating the rising costs for services like health care & for the climbing rents.

If Amazon succeeds with her plan to buy Wholefoods the grocery sector will get more efficient as well and food prices will be constrained. But don´t expect that the Amazon effect leads to a deflation, meaning a general falling price level. Today most of the consumer spending goes to the service sector including housing, entertainment and health care which are still getting more expensive. But the Amazon effect is reducing financial burdens for consumers, especially for low income households, and is so benefiting the whole economy.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Contemporary Art: Earth Potential @ City Hall Park, New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York City maybe the financial capital of the world. But the metropolis also is a center of art & sciences. You can see that when you go to the City Hall Park in Downtown Manhattan. There you can spot an exhibition of photo-sculptures (through November 2017).

Katja Novitskova, their creator, generated 7 blown-up pictures sourced from the internet and mounted on aluminum cut-outs—are surreal combinations of nature photography and space imagery (artnews). According to the curator the displayed "organisms and bodies have significant research value within the scientific community for their potential to advance our understanding of our species and world" (publicartfund).

Above you can see Earth Potential (C.elegans, Saturn´s moon Titan), (2017, digital print on aluminum, cut-out display, steel and aluminum armature). The artist sourced online thousands of pictures of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan - taken from a spacecraft using a visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, and combined them with an image of the C. elegans roundworm, which is the first multicellular organism to have its genome digitized and is used as a model organism for research — from organ development to aging (publicartfund).


The next art work is called Earth Potential (Embyro), (2017, digital print on aluminum, cut-out display, steel and aluminum armature). The artist sourced an image of embryo stem cells from an article about CRISPR, the radical new genome editing technology used to permanently modify genes within organisms.

Above: Earth Potential (Cuttlefish Love, Earth, (2017, digital print on aluminum, cut-out display, steel and aluminum armature).

Above: Earth Potential (E. coli), 2017, digital print on aluminum, cut-out display, steel and aluminum armature.

Above: Earth Potential (Lizard, Earth), 2017, digital print on aluminum, cut-out display, steel and aluminum armature.

Above: Earth Potential (Earth Worm, Earth), 2017, digital print on aluminum, cut-out display, steel and aluminum armature.

Above: Earth Potential (Hydra, Venus), 2017, digital print on aluminum, cut-out display, steel and aluminum armature.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Culture: New York`s MoMA Is Always Worth A Visit

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York´s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is always worth a visit. Their collections are so huge (200,000 works! moma) that they can just exhibit a small part of them. And they usually have interesting temporary exhibitions. So it makes sense to visit the museum more often - at least when one lives in New York or visits the metropolis from time to time.

This week my wife and I come back - after seeing there the Robert Rauschenberg show in June (here my post driveby). The museum was crowded as usual. Blockbusters - like Pablo Picasso`s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon - were hidden by a swarm. But no problem. Spotting the audience is part of the fun and many of the visitors are eyecatchers as well. Being an enthusiastic amateur photographer I used the occasion to take some pictures (with my iPhone 7plus).


There were some exhibitions we had not seen before. We chose the show "Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection", which displayed recently acquired works, mostly contemporary art. The girl with the hat admires "A Menace to Liberty" by Andrea Bowers (2012, Marker on found cardboard) & "Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast I" by Wolfgang Tillmans (2014, Pigmented inkjet print).  The German photographer belongs to the rising stars of the contemporary art auctions in London & New York. Above you also can see  "Untitled" by Erik van Lieshout (2014, Conté crayon, synthetic polymer paint, felt-tip pen, and vinyl on paper).

We also took a look into the show "Louise Lawler: Why Pictures Now", a collection of huge photographs & drawings  (exhibitions).

To be continued.