Sunday, July 29, 2012

Economy: Internet Rekindled The Radio Star

"Video Killed the Radio Star". This song by the British Synthpop/New Wave group "The Buggles" (released 1979 wikipedia) described the situation in the late 70s and 80s. Videos on MTV and other TV channels stole the audience of the radio stations then. But now it looks like that radio stations came back. It seems that the Internet rekindled the radio. On the world wide web you can find thousands of stations worldwide and listen to them for free.

One of them is "East Village Radio" (eastvillageradio) named after the popular neighborhood in South Manhattan, New York City. When you walk on 1st Avenue just north of Houston Street you can watch their disc jockeys doing their job in a kind of shop window. This is one of these stations I can even listen to in Germany in spite of copyright restrictions which hinder sometimes the international transfer of music.

Very helpful are radio aggregators like Apple`s iTunes, which offers a lot of stations catering differing tastes from Death Metal to Opera. On of my favorite stations is "Institutionalized Cows", which offers a fine mixture of alternative rock.  They compete against providers like "" (internet-radio) or " ( Sadly others like Pandora aren´t available outside of U.S. because of licensing constraints. But there is still enough program to find. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Movies: Farewell, My Queen

How would you feel if your world is suddenly falling apart? You could get an impression with the French movie "Farewell, My Queen" (imdb), which started recently in U.S cinemas (in French with English subtitles).

The film tells the story of a young female servant who works as a reader for Marie Antoinette (wikipedia). You can experience with her eyes how the artificial and formerly protected world of Versailles and the French royals is getting destroyed by the French revolution. Persons who were used to a charmed life suddenly find themselves on death lists.

"Farewell…" is very different from Sofia Coppola´s "Marie Antoinette", which specialized on the decadent heydays of the Austrian born french Queen. 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. You can almost smell the sweat of fear. But the brutality of the mob isn´t shown explicitly, instead the disaster approaches mostly in the shape of rumors and news.

"Farewell.." also is a film about beauty and erotics and benefits a lot from talent and looks of the leading actresses. The french actress and model Léa Seydoux, who already was 27 years old while shooting, played convincingly the very young servant. She displayed a mixture of innocence & naivety but also curiosity, aplomb and a bit of stubbornness while watching the downfall of her superiors. The German born top model Diane Kruger (birth name Diane Heidkrüger) played Marie Antoinette and exhibited how the bored and capricious aristocrat got more and more haunted. Virginie Ledoyen, who who has just a minor role as the queen`s real love, enriched the movie by her sheer delicacy.

The cinematography by Romain Winding displayed both worlds: Either the dying luxury of Versailles and the growing claustrophobia suffered by people who are being sucked into the vortex of the bloody revolution. "Farewell…." fulfilled my hopes which Sophia Coppola`s film had waked.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stock Market: Smoke On The Water

I don´t like quarterly numbers. They focus on a too short time span and are therefore too much influenced by random factors. The German sports car maker Porsche, which is now part of Volkswagen, refused to publish quarterly numbers when the company was still listed on the German stock market. Hence Porsche was excluded from the MDax, which is a index for middle sized German companies.

The car maker claimed that they focus on the long term growth of the company which should maximize the wealth of their stock owners. Furthermore their business is strongly influenced by seasonal factors. Thus 3-month-reports aren´t a meaningful base of information for the stake holders, they said. 

Porsche was right. Quarterly numbers reflect a lot of random factors. The reported profits could swing erratically because of sudden changes of tax rates, accounting methods, swings in foreign exchange and interest rates, fluctuations in consumer spending and many other causes. For instance, if customers are waiting on a product update, maybe a new car model, the sales of the current product can temporarily sink and blur the quarterly results.

If management feels obliged to deliver high profits in every quarter to please the myopic crowd of analysts and fund managers, it could be forced to avoid necessary expenses which would temporarily reduce profits but boost company income in the future. The company could invest less in new products and markets because this causes high costs at present. Hence focusing on quarterly numbers discourages research & development and slows down the growth of the whole economy.

Because of their randomness, quarterly numbers produce a lot of noise and smoke which can spoil the view on the long term trend. Companies like ignore the myopic view of the stock market and invest for the long term even though this could cause erratic stock price fluctuations. But they do pretty well over the long run as the stock performance in the recent years proves.

Disclaimer: I am invested in

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New York City: Painting The Lower East Side

In New York something is always going on. Connoisseurs of the arts, especially, find a lot to discover.

The Lower East Side in South Manhattan looks like an outdoor museum. When you walk the streets there then you can very often spot some artists working. They don´t paint on canvas. Instead they are brushing their murals on walls and abandoned trailers.

This week I spotted an artist from the centrifuge project at an trailer in East 1st Street ( Other pictures are from Rivington Street and places nearby.

Culture: 4 Knots Music Festival, New York City

New York City is a very expensive place. But many things are for free, for instance some rock concerts. Last Saturday my girlfriend and I attended the "4Knots Music Festival" ( This is a free of charge event at Manhattan´s touristy South Street Seaport. The annual concert, which is hosted by the Village Voice, a print and online magazine about New York´s culture & nightlife, replacing since last year, the Siren Festival which had taken place on Coney Island inside a leisure park on one of New York´s beaches.

Surprisingly the festival wasn`t as crowded as similar European events are. It was very easy for us to worm our way close to the stage. The audience was very relaxed and many spectators were casually dressed and didn´t look like the usual rock concerts buffs.

My favorite band was the "Crocodiles" from San Diego (myspace). Their gig was around 40 minutes delayed because of a fire on the nearby Seaport pier which was handled by the fire department with a lot of trucks and even a fire boat. We were highly rewarded for the wait. The five Californian (3 male guitar players plus 2 girls on keyboards & percussion) served a powerful rock with influences from grunge & punk. Highly enjoyable!

That night we attended the After Party show which cost just $15 bucks per head. The night time view of Manhattan  and of the Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridge almost was worth the fee. They had 2 bands which didn`t play the expected party and disco music and delivered instead hot rock music.  "Kid Congo Powers and The Pink Monkey Birds", a band from Washington DC (myspace), started the party with a groovy power pop and psychedelic elements. They were followed by the "Black Lips" from Atlanta (myspace) who turned up the heat and let the crowd jump with their rough power guitar play.

Unfortunately a lot of visitors close to the stage were drunk and some even started fights with  security which seemed to be understaffed.  But they soon brought it under control and the party continued peacefully. I certainly hope the Village Voice will continue this festival next year.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Movies: Savages

Don`t mess with the Mexicans. Many movies deal with the extreme brutality of the Mexican drug cartels. Oliver Stone joined the crowd and delivered "Savages", which started recently in U.S. cinemas (imdb). His film is not as rough & dirty as Gerardo Naranjobut`s "Miss Bala" (drivebycuriosity), but that´s ok. "Savages" has enough scenes to scare the hell out of you and is highly entertaining.

Based on the same named novel by Don Winslow the flick tells the 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. Stone and his co-scriptwriters Shane Salerno & Don Winslow created an appealing narrative of naivte, greed, extreme violence, corruption and betrayal. For many people "Savages" seems to work even as a comedy. At least the audience in Manhattan´s 34th Street (Midtown) had a lot of fun with it and almost every scene got a lot of laughs!

The cast is really fun. I enjoyed the newest incarnation of John Travolta as a corrupt narcotics officer between the frontiers of the drug war. The actor has been developing his nonchalance to perfection and plays his role enlighted almost like a Buddha. Selma Hayek as a drug leader with a Cleopatra wig emits enough viciousness to freeze the hell and Benicio del Tore as her ruthless but twisted enforcer seems to be on a straight rout to an Oscar.  

The (relatively) newcomer trio Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson as the weed producing beach bum threesome doesn`t match them, but did a good job anyway.  Their endangered Ménage à trois delivers salt to the story. But don`t expect European style sex scenes. The flick is made for a prudish American audience.

"Savages" also serves the cineasts. The cinematography of Daniel Mindel is one of the finest works I have recently seen. He created pictures which are constantly changing. Gorgeous landscapes jump into desert scenes and to coolish interior shots, colorful scenes switched with black-and-white shots. The pulsing cinematography, which is sometimes like a psychedelic trip, helps to suck the audience deep into the story.

 The soundtrack plays an important part to augment the attention. A surprising eclectic mixture of classical music (Johannes Brahms wikipedia) with Bob Dylan, rap, reggae and latin rock keeps you on alert. The use of Peter Tosh´s "Legalize it" wasn't a coincidence.

Olive Stone found the common denominator and serves different tastes quite satisfyingly. I reckon that this movie will be remembered in years when "Spiderman" and "Avengers" already are forgotten.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Culture: Shakespeare In The Parking Lot, Lower East Side, New York City

Parking lots are for parking, right? Right. But there are exceptions. For instance on New York´s Lower East Side you can watch Shakespeare. While cars are contriving into their parking spots and people are drawing their parking tickets a fine ensemble performs plays from the English Master (

From July 12 trough July 28, Thursdays - Saturdays at 8:00 PM, they are giving "The Merry Wives of Windsor Towers" (wikipedia). And for August 2-18 they announced Shakespeare`s "Coriolanus".

Yesterday I enjoyed the performance which was funny & entertaining. The actors, who were wearing casual clothes, performed with engagement and exhilaration. Even some rain drops and the usual New York symphony of honking cars, motors, sirens and a lot more noises didn`t disturb the play.

Well, in one point they were´t really original. In Shakespeare´s times all theater rolls were played by men, even the women´s characters. This play had real girls! At least one bit of progress in around 500 years.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Economy: Are Mini Apartments A Good Idea?

Many people want to live in big cities like New York. They find there many advantages like plenty of job offers, leisure time facilities, schools, chances to meet interesting people and more. But many people can`t afford the high rents, especially in the lively city centers.

This week New York`s mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has a lot of ideas, announced a competition for architects to submit designs for apartments measuring just 275 to 300 square feet (25.5 to 28 square meters) "to address the shortage of homes suitable and affordable for the city’s growing population of one- and two-person households" ( The politician declared: “People from all over the world want to live in New York City, and we must develop a new, scalable housing model that is safe, affordable and innovative to meet their needs.”

Are mini-apartments really a good idea? I am sharing  a flat measuring just 320 square feet in South Manhattan`s Lower East Side with my girlfriend (and 2 cats). The shortage of space is sometimes a challenge. We have to choose tables and chairs which fit exactly between our tight walls. We have to decide how many cloths, books and other things we can squeeze into the tiny apartment. And hosting friends is a logistical task.

But our flat is in a residential building which was built almost 100 years ago and was not optimally sized. Today architects may develop even smaller apartments which are better sized and supply enough rooming convenience.

Mini-apartments may be a good idea for singles who aren´t especially demanding and don´t want to agglomerate too many things in their dwellings. They also could function for couples who like to go out very often, aren`t too claustrophobic and don`t plan to have babies in the next years. Therefore the bonsai flats fit exactly to the trend which shows a rise of small households.  Mini-apartments also could function for elderly people who´s kids have left home and who want to experience the pulsing life of a city center again.

In the language of economics, the residents of the mini-apartments make a trade. They are giving up spacious apartments elsewhere to gain advantages of living in a metropolis which have a higher value for them than roomy flats.

I reckon that Bloomberg´s housing project could be a success story in New York City and then an export model for similar expensive centers of London, Paris or Köln (Cologne, Germany). If mini-apartments become a trend they could even help fight rising oil prices and the greenhouse effect. The popularization of mini-apartments could reduce the car traffic because people who live in city centers need to commute less and drive therefore less.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Culture: "CBGB" Festival New York - A Mixed Bag

"CBGBs" is one of New York`s legends. The rock venue was an incubator for Punk Rock and New Wave and a kind of home for groups like the Ramones and Blondie. They shut it down in 2006. 
Recently some clever business people decided to revive the brand "CBGB" and start a huge rock festival in New York City which was scheduled from June 5th through  June 8th. Their web site claimed that 300 bands would play at 40 venues ( My girlfriend and I bought festival passes for $79 each which should have given us access to all music events on first come, first serve basis. The result was a mixed bag.

On the starting day we choose to go to the "Bower Electric", a venue on the Bowery in South Manhattan, close to the place were the original "CBGBs" had been. Their schedule had around 25 bands playing on 2 stages. The groups we saw served an eclectic mixture from avant-garde to punk rock.

On the next day (Friday June 6th) we started at "Knitting Factory" in Brooklyn. Because of the tight competition between the events we left this gig early and took the subway back to Manhattan and went to "Webster Hall" in East Village to see "Cro-Mags" and "Sick Of It All", both are hard core metal bands. As we arrived there the venue was already shut down. The media reported that the "Cro-Mags" base player had stabbed 2 of his colleagues and had been taken into custody ( Disappointed, we went to the "Living Room" in Lower East Side, but there, nothing seemed to happen. Therefore we walked next door to Pianos where we finally watched a gig performed by the  "Everymen", a rough punk band.

On Saturday we returned to the "Bowery Electric" for a concert evening with 4 bands. We had been warned by the official "CBGB" web site, which announced that this concert was already sold out and pass owners would be dealt "first come, first served". We arrived therefore very early at the venue. At 8pm, the concert began according to schedule, and the place was still almost empty, but they told us we had to wait till the owners of the tickets arrived and then they would decide if they would us let in or not. I protested that this practice wasn´t acceptable and I coerced them to let us into the almost empty room. We were lucky because most of the crowd didn´t arrive until 10pm after the first 2 groups had already finished their performance.

I was impressed by the explosive performance of "The Romans". Their vocalist reminded me of the young Mick Jagger. He had the same androgynous attitude as many rock stars in the 60s and early 70s. But the leading act was "Generation D", who´s powerful punk brought the crowded audience to jump.

On Sunday, the last day of the "CBGB" festival, we tried to get into a concert at the Brooklyn Bowl, the only "CBGB" concert event that day. But this place turned out to be a fraudster. The bouncers at the door didn`t let us in.  Even that the place wasn´t sold out and they still sold tickets to newcomers. The door gorillas didn´t accept our passes on a "first come, first served" basis. They ignored the promise of the "CBGB" festival organizers and told us we had to pay the usual cover fee. This was a clear breach of the contract we agreed to when we bought the passes. It looks like the management of the "Brooklyn Bowl" dive has the policy to cash in double.  The band we tried to see was "Fishbone". They have a song called  "Gang Rape"(  which fits to this Brooklyn dive.

But anyway. We had heard strong rock music and learned many things. For instance that trusting promises of festival organizers is a tricky thing and we will think twice before buying such kind of festival passes again and we will certainly avoid a fraudster place called "Brooklyn Bowl".

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lifestyle: Why New Yorkers Love Junk Food

Americans are famous for their bad eating habits. You can see a lot of people eating junk food on the streets. There is much speculation about what causes the people to do that.

Often in New York City, I find an additional explanation: The high rents.  New Yorkers especially,  have to spend a lot for a flat in the metropolis, above all in Manhattan and other trendy areas, like Williamsburg. Not everyone has the income of a CEO of a large company or a hedge fund manager. Many New Yorkers live on a small budget and have to calculate very frugally.

Therefore many citizens of New York City have to give up other things, like expensive food, to be able to keep their pricey flats. I reckon that many New Yorkers eat cheap junk food to be able to stay in the City.

In the language of economics, they make a trade. New Yorkers are trading the joy of eating against the advantages of living in a metropolis which have a higher value for them than quality eating. These advantages include a lot of things like going to a lot of events which are often for free or meeting friends.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Movies: To Rome With Love

If we believe some scientists there are other universes besides our universe. They might never prove it. But in the world of cinema we can indeed detect different universes. One of them is the universe of Woody Allen. For decades the New York cinema icon creates a universe of his own in his films, places of fun and ridicule.

Allen`s latest creation is "To Rome With Love" ( The film, which plays - of course - in the Italian capital, is as hilarious and entertaining as we know him. As usual, the master shows us  a couple whose relationship is tested by chaotic circumstances, along with some of his theories about how the world runs. According to Allen women are more capable of adultery than men.  Furthermore, some people become famous without reason and the public gets excited about any of their banalities. Are these assumptions just true in a Woody Allen universe?

As usual the film maker could assemble an august crowd of actors. The funniest character was played, of course, by the maestro himself. Allen gave us his usual nervous goofball. Italy`s glamour comedian Roberto Benigni delivered the expected stream of daftness and the appearance of Penélope Cruz illustrated Einstein´s theory about the curving of space time.

I was curious about how Jesse Eisenberg, who played the snotty Mark Zuckerberg in "Social Network", would fit into this comedy. The answer: Glaciers may melt, but Jesse won´t. The actor delivered the usual fast speaking and bit brash attitude he is so good at. Jesse, stay as you are!

Allan blended his cinematic meringues with fine post-card views of the Colosseum, the Spanish Stairs and other Roman views, a tradition which he started in "Manhattan". But there was something new: The flick delivered a lot of opera  (including arias from Puccini, Verdi & Leoncavallo) instead of the usual jazz. Maybe one fine day Allen will serve us rock music too. I can`t wait, master.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Culture: "Bring Rock Back" Festival, East River Park Amphitheater, New York City

Don´t believe the radio stations. Rock still lives. Instead of the continuous pop & techno drizzling there is still plenty of supply & demand of and for rough and handmade rock music.

The mini-festival "Bring Rock Back" last Saturday at East River Park Amphitheater, which is located on the Lower East Side New York City, was a reminder. The free of charge concert lasted from 3pm to 8pm and had 6 local bands.

One of  my favorites was "The Band Droidz", an African-American ensemble. Their dynamic pieces showed influences of the pulsating soul music of the 60s and also from Reggae ( The raspy voice of Monk, the lead singer, gave their songs an unique power, augmented by the bass player and the percussionist.

Even more power came from "Full Molder", who delivered fast play with blurred guitars ( Beheaded heads of some dolls on the stage gave their hard-core show a special note.

 "Panzie", who followed "Molder", seemed to accelerate the speed of the concert. The band served a powerful gig with rough riffs and an appealing show (

The other bands - "Out of Order", "Gunman Vodoo", "Bodyface" and "The Blackfires"- also delivered solid rock and a strong show.

As typical for New York City events not many spectators attended this concert, maybe heat and high humidity kept people away. There also was not much advertisement for the event, therefore many would be attendees didn`t know of it.  Anyway it was a lot of fun to watch the bands. Some visitors used the stages of the amphitheater for doing acrobatic somersaults. Others danced before the stage. I certainly hope that the festival will be repeated next year.