Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movies: The Year 2012 - A View Into The Rear-View Mirror

2012 was a solid movie year. I didn´t spot any spectacular cinema event like 2011´s "Melancholia", but there were a lot of interesting films.

My movie of the year is a Scandinavian production called "Headhunters",  a kind of Nordic dynamite which was shown in America in Norwegian & Danish with English subtitles. It was much fun watching this explosive roller coaster - a violent and very bloody chain reaction filled with a lot of surprises and twists.

I equally indulged Roman Polanski`s "Carnage". The comedy, set in Brooklyn, shows just 2 married couples who are talking about a conflict their sons had on a schoolyard, costing one of the boys 2 teeth. I enjoyed how the characters tried to settle the conflict in the beginning, but got more and more agitated and how the situation escalated in the run of the movie.
Watching "Miss Bala", a low budget Mexican production, also generated a strong impression. The Flick narrates the story of a girl, who gets between 2 fronts - ruthless Mexican drug gangs and similarly aggressive law enforcement - while she is trying to win a beauty contest.  It´s a tale about brutally, violence and totally disregard of human life and looks almost like a documentary.
The "Iron lady", a biopic about Maggie Thatcher, also belongs on my list of favorites. The film isn`t a political manifest, nor does it care much about the economic aspects of the Thatcher revolution. Instead the makers painted a very emotional picture about winning power and loosing it.

Anther favorite is "Lawless", which tells the story of some liquor bootleggers who fought around 1930 against corrupt law enforcers. This war escalated into menace, torture and murdering. The film is brutal and bloody, but also honest, intense and convincing. It shows how stubbornness and overconfidence could lead into a bloody mess. But the roughness of the plot is counterbalanced by the beauty of the pictures which let you participate in a time travel to the epoch around 1930.

The visual magic of "The Master" also belongs to the cinematic highlights of the year. The movie tells the story of a disturbed American World War II returnee who gets involved with a charismatic cult leader - projected in 70mm.  It was a grace to watch Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic cult leader. He showed the eloquence, brilliance and charm of this enigmatic figure but also his stubbornness and anger, when he was questioned or doubted.

But there were more movies which impressed me, including "Savages" (a story of 2 Californian beach boys and highly successful pot growers and their shared girlfriend who slide into a very messy clash with a Mexican drug cartel), "Moonrise Kingdom" (a tale about 2 kids - 12 years old - who fell in love to each other and ran away into the wilderness, which triggered a funny chain of events), "Elles" (some days in the life of an acclaimed middle-aged female journalist who has been interviewing some up-market student prostitutes in Paris) and "Farewell My Queen" about the last days of Marie Antoinette. The movie works partly as a historic thriller and transmits the growing fear, panic and cluelessness of the royals in the light of the revolution which spreads like Cholera.

The year also had some fine comedies fine comedies including "Woody Allen´s "To Rome With Love", "Hyde Park On Hudson" about Franklin D. Roosevelt`s affair with his cousin Daisy during the visit of King & Queen of England and "My Week With Marilyn", a charming film about Marilyn Monroe `s little love adventure while she was shooting an unimportant flick 1957 in England.

The action genre had passable productions like "Skyfall", the newest James Bond incarnation, "The Bourne Legacy", "The Dark Knight Rises" (another Batman episode) and "Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol".

But I more enjoyed the dirty and funny flicks like "The Paperboy", "Killer Joe" and "Rampart" which all entertained in a dark way.

The surprise of the year is "Hitchcock". It was a astonishing lot of fun to watch Anthony Hopkins incarnating Alfred Hitchcock. He perfectly displayed the master`s character: The obstinacy, greed for food and blond actresses as well as the insecurities and jealousy regarding his spouse.

The year also showed some fascinating director`s debuts. Rupert Sanders delivered a superb "Snow White And the Huntsman" based on one of the dark stories the Brother`s Grimm had collected. The tale about jealousy, greed, power trips and other vices benefited a lot from the fireworks of special effects which were cutting edge. I reckon that Sanders could define cinema in the coming years as Stanley Kubrick did in the 60s and Ridley Scott around 10 years later.
Another promising newcomer was Elgin James with "Little Birds". The flick narrates some days in the life of two 15 years old girls who run away from their pathetic homes and join a gang of juvenile skaters. This old story was told in a new refreshing way and shot in beautiful pictures.

The disappointment of the year is "Lincoln". The drama doesn`t come up to all the hype and the huge reputation of Steven Spielberg.  I also was disappointed by "Cosmopolis" ( a hedge fund manager driving in his limo through Manhattan) and the Alien prequel "Prometheus".



Friday, December 28, 2012

Movies: Lincoln

The movie "Lincoln" is the disappointment of the movie year (imdb.com). Ok, the film is a solid production, but the drama doesn`t come up to all the hype and the huge reputation of Steven Spielberg.

You cannot learn much about this still highly popular statesman, whom his opponents called dictator, nor about his role in starting the bloody & messy civil war. The odds were for an early victory of the North because the already industrialized "Union" possessed much more economic strength than the poor rural "Confederation". Instead the Northerners needed pathetic 4 years to force the impoverished South finally to there knees. No issue for Spielberg and his script writer. Instead the makers of "Lincoln" contented themselves and the paying audience on some weeks during the Republican president pushed the 13th amendment to the US constitution, which abolishes slavery, against the Democrats and without any participation of the South. Hail Cesar!

The acting is superb, of course. Daniel Day-Lewis, as the a bit goatish Lincoln, might get an Oscar fis this and watching Tommy Lee Jones as a grouchy elderly statesman is pure fun. I also enjoyed David Strathairn as one of Lincoln´s harsh strategists and James Spader as a member of Lincoln´s busy troop of canvassers.

Hence "Lincoln" could serve as an actors movie to enjoy the performance of a fine troop. No more or less.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Movies: Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock was not just a magician who invented the cinema new, he also was a man with a lot of quirks. The movie "Hitchcock", Hollywood`s current little tribute to this genius, casts a friendly light on the master´s strengths and weaknesses (imdb.com).

The flick is confined to the time as the director shot his masterpiece "Psycho". After his success with "North By Northwest" Hollywood demanded something of the same kind, but Hitchcock preferred to produce something new and more gruesome. The film focuses on the risks "Hitch" took (including mortgaging his house and the beloved swimming pool) and his fights against Hollywood`s prudish bigots, including the censoring agency, to get the now famous shower scene into the cinema theaters.

Anthony Hopkins is the perfect incarnation of Hitchcock. He displays the master`s character very well: The obstinacy, greed for food and blond actresses as well as the insecurities and jealousy regarding his spouse. I wouldn`t be surprised if the actor will earn at least an Oscar nomination for this.
Hellen Mirren, who acts as Hitch´s very cooperative and supporting wife, the screenwriter and editor Alma, is a congenial partner. Together they make the film into a study about a longtime relationship which is still developing and getting better.

It´s also a lot of pleasure to watch how the divine Scarlett Johansson embodies Janet Leigh/Marion Crane, the victim of "Psycho". Her cooperation with "Hitch" gives the movie a more human face. Also enjoyable is the acting of Jessica Biel (as the actress Vera Miles), James D`Arcy (as Anthony Perkins) and Danny Huston as writer and special interest of Alma.

"Hitchcock" is a little gem and highly recommended.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Stock Market: Merry Christmas

Today the US stock market closed in the red. The holiday sentiment got spoiled by Washington DC´s apparent inability to find a timely solution for the fiscal cliff problem.

I reckon that the stock market will recover soon. In spite of all the problems the US market, represented by the S&P 500, gained 13% year to date. I reckon that in 2013 stock prices will proceed marching north.

I have the strong belief that the politicians have no other choice than find a compromise, even in the last minute. But there are more reasons to be optimistic. The US consumer spending, the engine of the global economy, is still strong. Last week we got news that the American consumer spending rose in November by 0.4%, fueled by solid income gains (calculatedriskblog.com). And there is another growth engine: China & other emerging markets. It seems that the middle kingdom managed her soft landing this autumn and is accelerating again. I believe that US consumer spending and the growth of the emerging markets will continue to fuel the global recovery next year.

Bloomberg also reports that the masses missed the stock market rally which started in spring 2009 (bloomberg). The majority of the Americans is now sitting on high piles of cash with almost no revenue. I guess that the ongoing global recovery will heal the sentiment and the masses will have to return to the stock market and will fuel the forthcoming rally.

Happy Christmas to everyone.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Commodities: Sugar - When Sweet Turns To Sour

The year 2012 was good to the connoisseurs of sweets. The price of sugar fell 18% year to date (boerse-go). But that is bad news for those unfortunate speculators who happened to bet on rising sugar prices. As many other agriculture products (soft commodities) sugar is traded as an asset on financial markets like stocks & bonds.

Now sugar costs around 40% less than at the all-time high from February 2011. What happened?

The price of sugar has been falling because there is a glut of the sweet substance, reports Bloomberg (bloomberg). Huge crops from Brazil, India and other leading producers countries meet a week global demand. According to the International Sugar Organization in the season 2012/13 the global sugar production (supply) will exceed the global sugar demand by 5,9 million tons (bloomberg). This would be more than the U.S. consumes in six months.

I reckon the current situation is a typically market response to a former bubble. Not long ago there was a massive speculation onto rising sugar prices. Since around 2000 it has been fashionable to invest into soft commodities like sugar, cocoa, cotton and others agriculture products. Analysts from banks, brokers and other pundits claimed that there is a "super-cycle" for commodities. We were told, that the rising wealth in China and other emerging markets will create a strong demand for sugar and many other agriculture products. These pundits claimed further the global sugar production should grow very slow. Therefore the demand for sugar would overgrow the supply, causing sharp rising prices. 

A lot of hedge funds and other speculators subscribed into the "super-cycle" theory and have been pumping billions of Dollars into the sugar and other commodity markets. Others jumped onto the bandwagon and bought sugar and other agriculture products just because their price was climbing in the hope the price rise will continue. The herding behavior of the sugar speculation created a price rally which peaked in February 2011.

As usual high & rising sugar prices caused strong backlashes. Sugar easily can be submitted by other sweeteners. Therefore the sugar rally reduced the demand for the sweet substance. And the farmers did what they always do when prices for their products are climbing: They planted more sugar which causes now the rising sugar production. These forces caused the sugar bubble to implode.

The falling sugar price is another proof that the claimed "super-cycle" for commodities like sugar doesn´t exist. The supporter of the "super-cycle" theory are ignoring basic economic facts, like the strong demand & supply reactions to rising prices.

Movies: Anna Karenina

Keira Knightley is one of the brightest stars in Hollywood`s canopy. No wonder that Tinseltown produced their latest adaption of Leo Tolstoy`s celebrated novel "Anna Karenina" (imdb) around the British actress. Keira follows a long line of Hollywood icons, including Greta Garbo, who all played the name giving troubled woman - a member of the decadent circle of Russian aristocrats in the late 19th century -  who abandons husband and son because she fell in love to a young and shiny officer.

Keira`s light puts the other actors into a shadow, even Jude Law who did a passable job as Anna´s suffering husband. Anyway, the movie is a feast for the eyes, even it is set like a stage play. Director Joe Wright and his cinematographer Seamus McGarvey keep the camera most time on Keira´s stunning beauty. But even her surrounding is a pleasure to watch. Congratulations to production design, art direction, set decoration & costume design. "Anna" displays a lot of awesome tableaus, elaborate dancing scenes and funny picture ideas with a a surrealistic touch. The costume drama which is set into the icy Russian winter works well as holiday entertainment.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Movies: Skyfall

50 years are a long time, especially for a movie franchise. I remember the year 1962 when my father took me with him to see "Dr. No", the birth of the James Bond series. Many things have changed since then. But "Skyfall", the newest incarnation of the James Bond saga, is still a lot of fun (imdb.com).

Even if "Skyfall" doesn`t match "Casino Royal", which is one of the best James Bond flicks (my favorite its still "Goldfinger"), the flick can easily compete with other action movies like "Mission Impossible" and "Bourne".

"Skyfall" benefits a lot from Daniel Craig. I reckon that the tough, cool and elegant British actor is the second best Bond, close behind Sean Connery. This time the bond girls aren´t as remarkable as Eva Green ("Casino Royal") or Ursula Andress ("Dr. No") but they are still a pleasure to watch. My favorite participant is Javier Bardem who acts as the villain and nemesis of Bond. The Spaniard`s slow and controlled acting and speaking manners, known from "No Country for Old Men", underline the weirdness of his character, which is always an asset of the franchise. But my favorite Bond villain stays Gerd Fröbe who played the majestic Auric Goldfinger.

As usual Roger Deakins`cinematography shows a lot of interesting locations. I especially liked a casino in Macao and an old house on the Scottish highlands. "Skyfall" proves that action cinema is still worth the money these days.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Movies: Hyde Park On Hudson

Franklin D. Roosevelt shaped global history. But the 32nd President of the United States also had an interesting private life, albeit less known. This is the topic of the movie "Hyde Park on Hudson", which is now running in some US cinemas (imdb). The politician operated a kind of harem - more or less stealth. Besides his wife, Eleanor, he had at least 3 mistresses who were camouflaged as secretaries or assistants.

The film covers just a short episode in the life of FDR: The (first) visit of the King and Queen of England at the beginning of World War II who wanted to coax the US into the fight against Germany. The story is told from the perspective of one of Roosevelt´s lovers, the cousin Daisy.

The center of the flick is Bill Murray as FDR. His Roosevelt radiates a lot of wisdom - almost like a Buddha and puts all the other actors into a deep shadow, including Laura Linney as the president`s challenged mistress.

Don´t expect something juicy or erotic. In spite of Roosevelt´s personal relationships "Hyde Park" is a prudish but romantic comedy with a lot of nostalgia. The movie had just one location: FDR´s (and his mother`s) estate "Hyde Park" in the State of New York which gave the movie the name.  In a world of depression and war this quiet and green location seems like a place on an alien planet. "Hyde Park on Hudson" is a charming movie and fits well into the Christmas holidays.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stock Market: Shanghai Blues - An Invitation?

This morning the stock market in Shanghai fell to its lowest level since 2009 (bloomberg). This is surprising because the economic indicators suggest that China`s economy has reached its bottom in the 3.rd Quarter and is now gaining speed again (reuters). Industrial companies’ profit grew 20.5% in October, while factory output and exports both rose last month by the most since May, reports Bloomberg (bloomberg).

But the Chinese stock market market ignores all this improvements. Regarding to Bloomberg Chinese investors are very gloomy and have "no confidence in long-term growth prospects" (bloomberg).

This reminds me of spring 2009 as stocks on Wall Street fell in a deep hole. The sentiment then was equally gloomy and many dumped their stocks because they didn`t believe in a economic recovery. With the benefits of hindsight we know that the gloom & doom created a huge opportunity. Since spring 2009 the US stock market, represented by the S&% 500, gained more than 100%.

I reckon that the Chinese stock market offers now similar rewards. The gloomy sentiment & the ignorance of the economic improvement create very low prices which are very good opportunities. The Shanghai stock markets trades at 9.5 times estimated profit for 2012, compared with the 17.7 average multiple since Bloomberg began compiling the data in 2006 (bloomberg). I reckon that the Chinese economic improvements will continue in the coming months and will lure the investors back to the stock market.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Investing: Hedge Fund Managers - Just A Bunch Of Swashbucklers?

Hedge fund managers are the rock stars of the investment world (money-markets-blog.amazon.com). The whole industry is called "smart money"; they often juggle with billions of dollars and collect absurdly high fees. Journalists are gluing at their lips and are quoting any comment of a hedge fund manager as it would be the epiphany of a messiah.

But in reality hedge funds don´t rock much. In fact, their performance is quite pathetic. This year hedge funds underperformed severely compared to the S&P 500, which represents the US stock market: "The average hedge fund has made its clients 4.86% this year, data from industry tracker Hedge Fund Research shows, far below the 12 or so % investors would have got if they bought a fund tracking the S&P 500", wrote Reuters on November 2nd (uk.reuters.com/).


And this isn´t an exception. "Over the past three years the average fund is up less than 4 percent while the S&P 500 is more than 30 percent ahead" (uk.reuters.com). Joe Sixpack who bought just an ETF on the S&P 500 and has been sticking to it (buy-and-hold strategy) did much better.

Also striking is a comparison of the total returns of the HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index versus the Vanguard Total World ETF, which represents a global stock investment.  "Had you invested $10,000 in both indices at the beginning of 2009 when the global economy was starting to recover you would have a total return of 11.12% in the HFRX versus 53.41% in the Vanguard Total World fund", writes the blog Pragmatic Capitalism (pragcap.com).

This underperformance signals that there must be something wrong with these allegedly rock stars.

The continuous underperformance shows that the hedge fund majority has been too pessimistic. They have been underestimating the recovery of the global economy and ignoring signs of strength like the solid US consumer spending. The fact that the bulk of the hedge fund managers have been missing the opportunities for years shows that they lack the superior economic understanding they claim to own.

Many of the portfolio jugglers have a very short time horizon. They don care much for the long term growth of the economy and are ignoring the merits of long term investing. Instead many hedge fund managers are just betting on short term events and alleged opportunities. This leads very often to mistakes and causes high costs - at the expense of performance.

Many hedge fund mangers are simply following the herd (michael-roberto.blogspot.de). They buy when others purchase and they dump when others sell. Hence they very often liquidate their assets on weak days and buy them back on strong days - which causes hefty losses of course.

In face of their failures hedge fund mangers usually are making a lot of noise and appear in the public as allegedly financial gurus. This seems to me as the typical behavior of people who overestimate themselves. Maybe we should just call the average hedge fund managers just "swashbucklers".

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Economy: A Virtuous Circle?

It looks like that the economic recovery is speeding up again - at least in the US, the leading economy of the world. On Friday we got news that the job growth there is accelerating. "The U.S. created a better-than-expected 171,000 jobs in October and hiring rose faster in prior months than previously believed", reports Marketwatch (marketwatch.com). "Revisions added a total of 84,000 jobs to the employment count in the previous two months and brought average gains since June to 173,000", writes Bloomberg (bloomberg).

The job market is predominantly fueled by the solid consumer spending I have been frequently reporting on this place. Many retailers, car producers and other consumer focused companies are hiring to keep up with the rising demand. They are responding to the solid retail sales and car purchases of the recent months.

In turn the solid job growth fuels the consumer demand again because people get more money for purchasing. I reckon that this leads to a virtuous circle in which job market and consumer demand are amplifying each other. This should bring the whole economy on a solid growth track and could fuel further gains on the stock market.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Stock Market: Looking Forward To Christmas

Being an investor I`m looking forward to Christmas. The reason: This morning we got news that "retailers generally posted better than expected same-store sales reports in October, adding to conviction that consumer confidence is indeed increasing in the U.S. Excluding drug stores, same-store sales rose 4,7%, ahead of expectations for 4.3% compiled by Thomson Reuters" (blogs.barrons.com).

The encouraging retail sales are a good omen for the coming holiday business which usually kicks off in the last week of November. The numbers for October promise solid holiday sales that could strengthen the sluggish economy.

Helpful is the job market, which is healing as today´s job market numbers show. More tailwinds are delivered by the recovery of the home market and the gains on the stock market in the recent 12 months.

I reckon that a good holiday reason isn`t priced into the stock valuations yet and should therefore fuel more gains on the stock market. 


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Economy: Sex On Campus

Recently the online version of the U.K.`s Daily Mail had an interesting headline: "Finance students are the most promiscuous on campus" (dailymail). The article refers to polls that show that students of economics have the most sex partners on campus (5 on average), beating all other faculties. The authors regard this result as a surprise because students of economics are "traditionally seen as being among the most hardworking and conscientious of students - perhaps even a little dull".

Being an economist by myself I consider the result as quite natural. Students of economics may just practice what they study! Economics is about demand and supply (including mating partners) and about rational behaving. Economists assume that people continously compare benefits and costs of their behavior (homo economicus).

The professors Richard McKenzie and Gordon Tullock describe this in their book "The Best of the New World of Economics" (amazon.com), which includes a chapter on “Sexual behavior” including "A model of sexual behavior". Sex, as with any action, is worth committing to as long as its causes gains that are higher than its costs (maximizing of utility). "For every act there is a cost, and it is this cost that will determine whether or not (or how much) something will be done", they write.

Sex, and especially promiscuous dating, has a lot of costs. For instance the time (and energy) which is lost for studying. Promiscuous dating could therefore threaten the success of the studies. But, as the statistics shows, for many students sex very often creates greater gains than losses.

Another economist, Prof. Gary Becker, who received the Nobel price in 1992, wrote about the economy of the family including a theory of marriage. Promiscuous dating on the campus could result in a better knowledge of the other sex and develop communication skills and hence be a part of a selection process to find the most appropriate mate. In the language of economist the cost of sex could be an investment in human capital (knowledge) and hence an investment into the future.

Recently 2 economists, Lloyd Shapley and Alvin Roth, won the Noble Prize "for showing the best way to match people with what they really want", writes Slate (slate). Both scientists applied game theory to explain and support different kind of matching, including marriage.

I wouldn´t be surprised if clever financial students use game theory and other knowledge, that they have acquired during their studies, for choosing their mates and allotting their time they invest into them.





Monday, October 29, 2012

Stock Market: What Investors Could Learn From US Consumers

The stock market is still singing the blues. It seems that investors are scared by the alleged fiscal cliff (possible expiration of US public debt contracts which could cause massive tax rises), European debt crises and speculation on a hard landing of the Chinese economy. But the US consumer don´t give a f…..k.

This morning we got news that "U.S. consumers increased their spending in September by the fastest rate since late winter" (marketwatch). Last month consumer spending rose a seasonally adjusted 0.8%. The U.S. economy expanded at a 2% pace in the third quarter, up from 1.3% in the prior three-month period, largely because consumers boosted outlays, writes Marketwatch.

The US consumers are definitely more optimistic than the despondent investors. In spite of the gloomy headlines in the media they believe into the future of the US economy and the companies. Helpful are the gains on the stock market (S&P 500 rose 12% year to date) and the recovery of the US home market.

This is good news for the global economy. Consumer spending represents as much as 70% of the U.S. economy and is usually the biggest driver of growth. When Americans buy more goods and services, Volkswagen, Samsung, Gucci et. al. will export more goods to the US. Hence US consumers have been the engine of the recent stock market rally of the last 12 months.

I recon that the investors could learn from the consumers and return to the stock market. The ongoing consumer optimism is a major force for the stock market and will revitalize the rally because the rising costumer spending will drive company profits and stock prices further north.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stock Market: Why This Earnings Season Is Encouraging!

The stock market is singing the blues again. "Concern about a worsening of the earnings picture has sent the S&P 500 down 3.5 percent from this year’s high on Sept. 14", writes Bloomberg (bloomberg). They also report, that "earnings at about 70% of the index’s companies beat analysts’ estimates", but "third-quarter sales missed forecasts at 60% of companies" (bloomberg). It looks like  the investors are focusing on the bad revenue numbers and ignore the profits. "Weak earnings spark selloff", comments the Wall Street Journal (online.wsj.com).

I reckon that this is a misjudgment and could lead to a (positive) correction in the coming weeks. The solid numbers of earnings beats shows that the S&P companies are still very efficient and productive. They manage to generate solid profits in spite of the sluggish global economy! When the world economy has overcome its weak phase this efficiency should lead to a strong profit growth again and hence generate remarkable gains on the stock market.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Oil: Game Over?

According to Bloomberg, today Iran threatened, "to halt all oil exports if sanctions intensify" (bloomberg). And Iran`s oil minister Rostam Qasemi claimed: "The lack of Iranian oil in the market would drastically add to the price” (bloomberg).

But the price of oil didn't respond with a price jump today. Quite to the contrary, Brent Crude, the future for the international variety of oil, fell around 1% to $108.4.

I believe this reaction is another proof that oil is the mother of all bubbles. For years oil has been expensive because of continuous speculation on possible supply disruptions from Iran and other nations in this region. Therefore oil prices didn`t represent the supple/demand situation on the markets anymore.

The high oil price induced an expansion of oil production, for instance in the U.S. and Iraq, and simultaneously curbed the demand for oil. I reckon this led to an overproduction and an oil glut on the markets.

Hence, I reckon the oil price is overstrung. The over supply is now pushing the oil price down. Even if Iran would realize it´s thread, the price of oil wouldn´t rise much because of the flood of oil from other producers and the high stocks. The vain saber rattling of Iran is a sign that the world doesn`t need their oil anymore.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Restaurants/Lifestyle: Pure, Köln

Köln (Cologne, Germany) doesn´t really compete with New York City, of course. But recently - during a short Germany visit from my American girlfriend - we found a place we will miss there.

As we walked on Cologne`s Breite Straße a cafe/bar/restaurant there caught our eyes because of its design and illumination: Pure (pure-cologne.de/). The place is in a small glass pavilion, which reminds me a bit of the famous Apple store on New York`s Fifth Avenue - and it glowed in a purple light. The design made us curious and we took a look on their menu. The description and names of the dishes almost looked like  poems.

We decided spontaneously and took our dinner there. Starters :"In Chili gebratenes Steak von der Jakobsmuschel auf Pastinaken-Trüffelstampf" (in chili fried steak from scallop on pounded parsnip ) & "Roastbeef rosé gebraten auf Gartensalad mit Röstkartoffeln and Sauce Remoulade" (roast beef medium rare on garden salad with fried potatoes and sauce remoulade).
Endres: "Heilbutt an sautierten passepierre und Kartoffelroulade" (halibut  at sautéd "passepiere" and potato roulade) & "Doradenfilet in Zitronenöl gebraten an Blattspinat" (filet from gilt head fried in lemon oil at leave spinach).
Desserts: "Panna Cotta auf Waldfruchtspiegel" & "Warmes Schokoladentörtchen mit flüssigem Kern an Pistazieneis und frischen Früchten" (warm chocolate tarte at pistachio ice cream and fresh fruit).

Their menu, which you can find here (pure  and pdf pure),  offers a lot more food and varieties of beers, cocktails and other drinks. Our food and the bottle of chardonnay that accompanied our dinner were delicious and reasonable priced (you can find their prices on their website).

New York city has a lot of ritzy places, but most of them serve just sandwich and burgers. You have to be very lucky to find such a menu for reasonable prices. Bravo Cologne and bravo Pure.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Travelling: Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart

Last week I travelled to the south of Germany to show my American girlfriend the area where I grew up. We stayed 2 nights in Stuttgart, the cool and wealthy capital of the federal state Baden-Württemberg (wikipedia). The "Schwabenmetropole" (Swabian metropolis, referring to the Swabian dialect spoken there) is spread across a variety of green hills (some of them are used as vineyards) but also is the heart of a dense industrial area hosting world market leaders like Daimler Benz, the maker of the prestigious Mercedes,  Porsche and Bosch (engineering & electronics).

The highlight of our Stuttgart visit was the Mercedes-Benz Museum (mercedes-benz-classic.com). This automotive show is a must see. The exhibition is located between the Mercedes factories in Bad Cannstatt, one of Stuttgart´s suburbs. You can easily reach the place by S-Bahn (S1) which also has a stop at Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (main station).

The museum shows the evolution of the automobile from the inventions by Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler & Wilhelm Maybach through the high-tech transport system of our times. The device of the show, "tradition meets innovation", is well chosen. The collection is a travel through time and you can learn a lot about the evolution of technologies, because engines developed by Benz, Daimler & Maybach also were used for powering trains, boats and planes, as you can see there.

The exhibition is accompanied by presentation boards and movies about the industrial revolution, which was heavily promoted by the invention of cars and their further development, and also gives a glimpse on the history of Germany as an important industrial country.

The exhibited engines are combined with movies and sound effects (for instance from car races) which generate a fascinating multimedia show. Some of the exhibited motors & cars are quite beauties, comparable with pieces of modern art.

The building, which hosts the exhibition, is a piece of art by itself and a marvel of modern architecture. We went up by elevator to the highest floor where the chronological structured exhibition starts and walked then down following a tour which is shaped like the double helix of DNA. The walk was pure pleasure and is highly recommended.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Movies: The Paperboy

The days are getting colder now. Here is something what could you make sweating again: The movie "The Paperboy" (imdb). It`s a tale about sex and violence in the swamp. Two journalists plus a sporty young man and an adventurous groupie of death of row inmates are trying to free a convicted murderer whom they regard as innocent. The plot is set in Florida in the year 1969 and also reflects the political "redneck" situation of this era including the then racist climate in the southern US.

Director Lee Daniels, who also wrote the script, used a novel by Peter Dexter. He seems to like rough jokes, including strongly indecent behavior and almost explicit sex scenes, and delivered a nasty but highly entertaining product. He got a lot of support by the well chosen cast. Seeing Nicole Kidman again on the big screen was a pleasure. The Hollywood icon incarnated as the flirtatious member of the "the prisoner is innocent team". In Germany we would say, she is the type who lets "nothing burn down" ("lässt nichts anbrennen"). Kidman radiated more heat than a nuclear reactor. Her beauty was the spice which turned the film into a hot dish.

John Cusack impressed as the swamp bred death row inmate. He delivered a toxic blend of sickness, sexual greed and carelessness. Matthew McConaughey delivered his familiar coolness even that his character was more broken than in the fabulous "Killer Joe" (drivebycuriosity).

The cinematography also was well done. Roberto Schaefer, the cinematographer, enriched the plot with interesting and sometimes surprising views. Especially the shots of Florida`s lush nature got me caught. The swampy forest seemed to have a life of their own.


If you like dark humor and politically not so correct movies, this flick could warm you up.