Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New York City: Street Art - Meet Adam Cost

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York City is a place full of surprises and colors. You can find a lot of street art there which gives the metropolis a special charm. Many artists are garnishing streets and places with murals, graffiti, stickers and more. One of the most ubiquitous street artists is Cost. Often you could read "Cost was here", "Cost did this ….Cost did that…." and more.

Cost, who´s real name is Adam Cole, according to Wikipedia (wikipedia), often uses stencils, which are usually cut out pieces of paper or cardboard (wikipedia). They get glued on walls, doors, walk/don't walk street-crossing and other places with the help of wheat paste, a gel or liquid adhesive made from wheat flour or starch and water .

The street artist, who started his career in the early 1980s, had a long hiatus. In 1995 a judge ordered him to do 200 days community service removing graffiti (wikipedia) That run-in with the law eventually led to Cost’s temporary bowing out of the graffiti scene, comments Wikipedia.

Now Cost is back! His messages are again amassed in the streets of Soho and Lower East Side like Lafayette, Green or Mercer Street. And he is transforming his popularity into money. VillageVoice reports that he is selling parts of his work in posh galleries and that some collectors pay more than $30.000 for pieces of Cost (villagevoice).

Cost is more a Henry Ford (a pioneer of assembly line factoring) than a Tiziano (an Italian painter of the Renaissance). He works very economical. The use of stencils is efficient & productive. Those tags are reproducible and can be very fast glued onto any place.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Investing/Stock Market: Perspectives For Generation Y

(Drivebycuriosity) - Generation Y is afraid of the stock market. Many people who are born in the 1980s and 1990s feel uncomfortable with stocks and are holding a lot of their money in cash, says a recent study (marketwatch). According to this study this group also is skeptical about their retirement even this is far away.

The sepsis against stocks is understandable after the stock market crashes in 2001 and 2008, but it is a great mistake. Generation Y has a lot of time! Those who are born in the 1980s and later have at least 30 years till the begin of their retirement and they could calculate with a remaining life span of around 50 years and more.

History shows that people who invest in stocks over those long periods got highly rewarded. The development of the Dow Jones - as a long-time gauge for the stock market - shows that crashes don´t matter much if you calculate with time periods of 30 years and more (

30 years ago, in the year 1983, the Dow was around 1,200 points, since then the barometer climbed to 15,521 ( Hence a stock investment 30 years ago multiplied almost with the factor 13, a gain of around 1,200%, even including the crashes of this century. Other 30 year periods also brought solid gains. Even when someone was so unfortunate to invest shortly before the Wall Street crash of 1929 - as the Dow reached a temporary peak of 380 -, he almost could double this investment because 30 years later the Dow had climbed to 630 points.

Since its inauguration the Dow has been rising around 7% a year on average, rain or shine. Every crash and bear market (years of falling stock prices) have been erased.  If someone invests $1.000 with a yearly interest rate (stock market gain) of 7% his investment will climb in 30 years to $7.600 - thanks to the interest compound effect (calculator). There is no reason that the future will be different because of rising productivity (technological progress) and the catching-up process of the emerging markets.

Investors who buy regularly stocks for their retirement or to build wealth for the long term, maybe every month a certain part of their income, don´t have to worry about the short term fluctuations of the stock market. In this case they could buy at temporary highs, like 14.000 Dow points in October 2007, but also at temporary lows, like 6.600 Dow points in March 2009. Hence buying stocks regularly and consistently leads to average prices between the temporary extremes.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Movies: Grabbers

(Drivebycuriosity) - How to fight an invasion by vicious aliens?  Hollywood has demonstrated diverse strategies against alien invasions, for instance in the movie "Mars Attacks" (imdb). The film "Grabbers" shows a very special Irish version of the struggle between humans and alien monsters (imdb). Vicious and creepy beasters from outer space invade a remote Irish island.

The Irish horror-comedy describes the fight against the aliens as a kind of great Irish party. The film is full of funny hilarious ideas and combines the usual alien-horror topics with traditional Irish clichés. It is roller coaster of ludicrous and not too shy of gory elements.

"Grabbers" is also a homage to horror classics like "The Blob", "Alien" and "Gremlins". The special effects are impressively realistic even though the movie was shot on a low budget. It seems that the technological progress which leads to falling costs for special effects opens a new world for independent movie makers.

The cast seemed to have a lot of fun during shooting the horror-comedy flick.  "Grabbers" is the perfect summer movie and an advertisement to visit the "Green Island" sometimes to party with their residents, alien attack or not.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Culture: Bob Dylan, Hoboken, New Jersey 2013

(Drivebycuriosity) - There are not many chances to see a living legend. Hence I got excited as my wife acquired 2 tickets for Bob Dylan´s concert in Hoboken, New Jersey 2013. Yesterday we were there - and it was something to remember.

The master seemed to enjoy the occasion and the mild summer evening. He looked fit and slim as ever, almost as hanky as in his youth, and was apparently in a good mood. Bob Dylan showed an easy & laid-back attitude (I didn`t find an expression for the German word "locker", which describes his easiness much better) and good-humored.

The concert was in a swinging (in German we call it "beswingt", another untranslatable term) summerly mood. The legend was a bit posing, almost dancing and showed a glimmer of loopiness. Maybe he had a bit of fun copying Cate Blanchett´s rendition who played him as the young Bob Dylan during his psychedelic phase in the fascinating Bob Dylan biopic "I`m not there" (imdb).

His voice has got even more raspy with age which suited his songs well. As expected, he presented a cross section of his song universe. His collection fit the summerly atmosphere (here's a link to the set list No wonder, that some of the audience became animated and danced.

Thanks a lot Bob.

Enjoying this concert required some effort. We travelled by ferry from Manhattan to Hoboken. It is a small city on the Hudson River which separates it from Midtown-Manhattan. The concert was on a little grass place which is shaped like a pier in the river. We learned from the media that around 15.000 tickets were sold for this event. Attendants had to accept a hilarious long list of prohibited items, including "ALCOHOL; Audio recording equipment ; Backpacks; BBQ Grills; Beach/Golf Umbrellas; Bicycles, Skateboards, Scooters or personal motorized vehicles; BLANKETS; Professional still camera equipment (no detachable lenses, tripods, big zooms, or commercial use rigs); UMBRELLAS; Video equipment - no video recording allowed";  and so on.

We arrived around 4.30 pm to get a nice place close to the stage. The event, called "Americanarama Festival of Music" started punctually at 5.30 pm. Before the master himself approached (around 9pm) there were 3 more bands. I found the long waiting and listening to different bands with different quality a bit tedious. There was just one of the "warm up" bands I remember - and liked - : Wilco (wilcoworld). This group played a kind of alternative rock with powerful and sometimes grungy elements (playlist: .setlist ).

The crowd was peaceful, but the drunks and jerks, who suddenly appeared and blocked our view to the stage, spoiled a bit the joy.

My wive had a day dream: It would have been nice, to sit on a blanket in the grass and to watch Bob´s concert with a bottle of wine. The reality didn`t allow that. But anyway, thanks to the legend, the July 26th Hoboken concert was a lot of fun.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Media: Netflix - Yes We Can: Orange Is The New Black

(Drivebycuriosity) - The Internet is growing up. Online companies don´t restrict themselves anymore to distribute content that others had produced like books, movies and TV series. is publishing e-books and producing their own TV-shows. Recently Netflix received a prestigious Emmy nomination for their online only political drama show "House of Cards" and launched the sitcom "Arrested Development".

In early July they also premiered "Orange Is The New Black" (imdb). This show, which also is only available by download, tells the story of a woman in her late twenties who is send to prison for 15 months because she transported a suitcase full of drug money for her former female lover, a drug dealer. "Orange" describes how she has to deal with other jail inmates, the prison authority, her former lover girl and her (male) fiancé, who is waiting outside for her return from jail. The show imbeds a fine psychological study about survival in jail and strategies how to find the grace of the powerful and to avoid the foes. "Orange" also casts a lot of light on the role of sexuality and how erotics shape human relationships.

"Orange" (referring to the orange clothing of the detained there) deals with a lot of hot issues. One of the topics are the power relations in an US prison. Inmates have not only to follow the strict prison rules and the orders from the wardens, they also have to get along with other inmates, who are often psychopaths, fiends and brutes or just annoying. Like many other movies "Orange" shows how rigid law enforcement exposes people with a minor delict (here just transporting money) to the force of sadists, exploiters and sexual predators.

But "Orange" also is a highly entertaining comedy with a lot of surprising, funny and hilarious incidents. And like other ambitious TV productions the show is not shy of female nudity and sex scenes.

Taylor Schilling is the adequate cast for the leading role. She is pretty and displays the emotional stress of the jail situation convincingly. The performance from Uzo Aduba as a very special prison fellow (her character has the nickname "Crazy Eyes") is highly  remarkable. Jason Biggs, who once became a bit famous because his character had sex with an apple pie in "American Pie" (1999), is at least an interesting choice for the role of the inmate`s fiancé.

"Orange Is The New Black" is funny & smart, provoking & entertaining. Well done Netflix.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Movies: Much Ado About Nothing

(Drivebycuriosity) - It seems William Shakespeare found the square of the circle. The playwright wrote brilliant analyses about all kind of human relationships. But he didn`t present them as academic studies. Instead the Renaissance author produced crowd pleasers for a mass audience which yet had very simple tastes in the 16th century. Hence his plays are still highly fashionable and an infinite source for Hollywood movies.

"Much Ado About Nothing" is the newest Hollywood incarnation of those masterpieces (imdb). According to Wikipedia, director Joss Whedon took just 12 days to shoot the entire film in his Californian home! (wikipedia)

The flick is entirely in black and white. Cinematographer Jay Hunter photographed it stylishly, but the black and white compositions by his  colleague Roger Deakins in "The Man Who Wasn't There" (Coen Brothers ) impressed me much more. It looks like that Whedon, who is known from the teenage TV like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", realized one of his hobby ideas in a very economical way.

But anyway, the filmmaker delivered an amusing adaption of the old master´s play. Whedon transferred the comedy to contemporary California (represented by his home) and focuses on two love couples who both are influenced heavily by scheming of friends & foes.  The behavior of all participants seems be naive and childish but this is a concession to Shakespeare´s original rural audience. Whedon garnished the play with some slapstick and a bit eroticism.

Even that the actors had to behave like spoiled children, they did it in a very charming way. Especially Amy Acker,  known as Harold`s nemesis in "Person of Interest", was delicious.

Whedon`s home movie is an acceptable pastime thanks to Shakespeare´s genius and the exquisite acting cast.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Economy: Boycotting Florida? The Stupidest Idea Of The Year

(Drivebycuriosity) - When I am surfing the Internet I usual find a lot of stupid ideas. Last week I detected something which seems to me  the stupidest idea of the year. 

It comes from a Rev. Jesse Jackson (westernjournalism). This man babbles that he is considering launching an economic boycott on the entire state of Florida as a response to the Zimmerman case ( If he would find follower this could translate into a demand drop for Florida products & services like orange juice, beach resorts, hotels, restaurants and entertainment parks.

Being an economist I am against all boycotts. I consider all kinds of boycotts as irresponsible at least.

1. The Zimmerman verdict was not issued by the state of Florida, neither by its citizens. It was a decision by a court which is independent by the Constitution! Why punish the people of Florida?

2. A boycott which translate into less buyers for Florida products and less visitors there would punish people in agriculture and the service sector, including taxi drivers, harvest hands, waiters, maids, chefs and many more. Those people, who are often employed in low income groups, would earn less and could even lose their jobs.

3. The economic damage done in Florida would certainly hurt the economy of the rest of the U.S. because all states and their economies are connected like parts of a human body.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lifestyle: A Trip To Sandy Hook, New Jersey, USA

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York City offers a lot of pleasures. Part of them are the ubiquitous islands and beaches close to the metropolis. Many of them can be reached easily with public transportation.

Last monday my wife and I took the ferry from Manhattan to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The boat is operated by SeaStreak, a private ferry company (seastreak), which offers this service from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The very fast and modern vessel departed at the East 34th Street Ferry Landing on the East River in Manhattan. There is another service that starts at Pier 11 at Wall Street. The trip is pricey (a round trip for 2 persons costs 90 dollar) but is worth the expense.

The scenic boat ride to the island lasted around one hour. The trip went along the fascinating skyline Manhattan´s and passed underneath landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The boat  also passed Governor´s Island (a small piece of land close to the southern tip of Manhattan) and Staten Island, one of the 5 boroughs of New York City.

According to Wikipedia the barrier spit Sandy Hook is approximately 6 miles (10 km) in length and varying between 0.10 and 1 miles (0.16–1.6 km) wide (wikipedia). The place also can be reached by road from New Jersey (Route 36). At the ferry landing there is a free shuttle bus to take visitors to the island`s 3 public Atlantic beaches: North Beach, Gunnison Beach, and South Beach, which are all on the east side of the island.

Unfortunately, no one is allowed to walk along the full length waterfront. Between the public beaches are restricted areas which are reserved for breeding birds.

One of the beaches, Gunnison Beach, is clothing optional. But while similar places in Spain or in Germany have almost a cross section of the population this beach is highly frequented by elderly male who don´t show much interest in swimming. Hence Gunnison Beach is certainly a matter of taste. But there are the 2 other beaches and therefore enough alternatives.

I was impressed by the clean water. There are not many of the usual algae to see. The surf (if the word could be used here) is very mild. But you need insect spray - the mosquitos are plentiful and aggressive. And there are many (small) jelly fish in the sand, but I didn´t get bothered while swimming.

Generally I enjoyed the trip and hope to go back to this place sometimes.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Movies: The Look Of Love

(Drivebycuriosity) - Paul Raymond had a convincing business model: "Men like to look at beautiful girls and they like it especially when the beauties get undressed". In the second half of the last century the British entrepreneur build an empire on his motto, centered around strip clubs and soft-porn magazines. The movie "The Look of Love" describes the sparkling career of the un-official "King of Soho" who became the richest man England`s of his time (imdb).

The biopic shows a man of taste and wealth and focuses on Raymond´s relationship with women: Wive, girlfriends & daughter. Director Michael Winterbottom and scriptwriter Matt Greenhalgh delivered an entertaining study about an egotistical person who pursues his libertarian and hedonistic weltanschauung with little empathy for the need of others.

British actor Steve Coogan gave Raymond a face which was likable instead of his weaknesses and his boundless lust for live. Imogen Poots, Anna Friel and the gorgeous Tamsin Egerton fascinated as his persons of interest.

Winterbottom is one of the directors who aren´t scared by female nudity. There can bee seen lot´s of amazing naked women which is appropriate for this issue. The sex is tasteful photographed and not as explicit as in Winterbottom´s  "9 Songs". Cinematographer Hubert Taczanowski  and editor Mags Arnold fabricated an amusing kaleidoscope of  "Swinging London" and the British capital´s further cultural advance.

"The Look Of Love" is a little treasure and high recommended for adults who want something cinematic beyond the usual summer blockbusters.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stock Market: Summer 2013 - Consumers In The Drivers Seat

(Drivebycuriosity) - Last week the U.S. stock market climbed on a new all-time high. If we believe the media the ongoing rally is just a response to Federal Reserve chairman Bernanke´s promise, that interest rates will stay extremely low for the coming months. But there are more drivers. Besides the supportive monetary policy, there are two more strong tailwinds: Rising company profits (the earning report season for Q2 has started) and the steady growth of the consumer spending.

Last Thursday many U.S. retailers reported their sales numbers from June. Same-store sales at shops open at least a year — a measure that strips out the volatility of openings and closings — rose 4.1% last month from the same period a year earlier (latimes). This was biggest increase since January and better than economists had expected.

This news was widely ignored by the media but the numbers show that the consumer spending, the engine of the economy, is still is fueling the upswing. U.S. consumers are staying optimistic. They ignore the doom & gloom in the media, encouraged by the healing job market, the comeback of the home prices and the rally on the stock market. The rising consumer spending will feed the continuation of the economic upswing and fuel further rising company profits and the extension of the stock market rally - generating a virtuous circle.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stock Market: Why The S&P Could Reach 4,000 In This Decade

(Drivebycuriosity) - Today the S&P 500, the gauge for the U.S. stock market, climbed on a new all-time high. So what? I reckon that all-time highs are the new normal, at least for some years.

The Federal Reserve Bank promised that interest rates will stay on an extremely low level, company profits are rising (fueled by efficiency gains) and the consumer spending, the engine of the economy, is steadily climbing.

And paradoxically there is another tailwind - the still negative sentiment of the market. The majority, including the gross of hedge funds, is still too pessimistic and underinvested. Many professional investors (fund managers are sitting on high cash reserves. I believe that those bears will get again punished by solid economy numbers that lead to stock market gains. Many professional will feel a growing performance pressure.

Hence I expect that the rally has legs and will drive the S&P 500 beyond the mark 2,000 by the end of the next year. I also believe that the advances in Internet, mobile computing, 3-d-printing, robotics, nano- & biotechnology and other fields (= technological progress) are reducing costs, raising efficiency and creating new markets. And the catching-up process in China, India and a lot of other countries will translate into high growth in large parts of the global economy that creates continuously rising revenues & profits for global companies like Starbucks, IBM, Caterpillar and other members of the S&P 500. Both trends will keep the bull market alive for many years.

The named beneficial factors could induce yearly stock market gains of 15% on average. Thanks to the compound interest effect the S&P 500 could double again between 2014 and 2019 and could reach the mark 4,000 already in this decade.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Economy: Going Out Is Good For The Economy

(Drivebycuriosity) - Last weeks´s U.S. employment report (plus 195.000 jobs in June, plus 202.000 in the private sector, minus 7.000 in the public) got a lot of attention. I want to focus on some statistical data that I found in a Wall Street Journal article ( The paper commented that consumers are driving the recovery. "The star job creator in June was the leisure and hospitality sector—especially food and drink establishments—which provided over a third of all the new jobs in the private sector" ( 

I like going out and I enjoy the food, the service and the company of different people. These numbers confirm that doing so is beneficial for the whole economy. Going out creates new jobs and income and keeps the economy running. This way a part of my going out expenditures are coming back, because a better economy improves my own situation. The numbers show that many people do so which creates a virtuous circle.

The data also confirm that many people (the consumers) ignore the still gloomy sentiment in the media and continue going out. So they confute the notorious drivel about the upcoming next recession.

Movies: The Lone Ranger

(Drivebycuriosity) - The history of the U.S. can be told in many different ways. The movie "The Lone Ranger" offers a very special view how the "West" was tapped (imdb). It is a surrealistic Western movie and describes a kind of an alternative history. Maybe it is a Western movie set in a parallel universe that is close to ours but not really. There are some events possible there which aren´t here. And some things are different and weird, like rabbits, horses and crows.

But "Lone Ranger" also deals with some of the dark parts of U.S. history in our universe. According to the script the construction of the railway connection between North America`s East and West was controlled  by crooks and murderers who were supported by corrupt army officers. The movie also deals with the fact that the native Americans, pathetically called Indians (like the citizen of India thousand of miles away), got cheated, murdered and deprived of their land, their rights and their existence. There is also a reminiscence of the Chinese workers, who really built the railroad connection that ignited the glorious rise of the U.S. economy.

But all this got packed into a lot of furious action scenes with funny and hilarious events. The film is soaked with slapstick and shined with ludicrous ideas that reminded me of the early MGM cartoons like Tom & Jerry.

The most enjoyable part of the movie is the gorgeous cinematography. Director Gore Verbinski, cinematographer Bojan Bazelli and the digital engineers of "Industrial Light & Magic" (founded by George Lucas)  created fascinated tableaus of the "Wild West".  The awesome dessert landscapes  
 of New Mexico and Utah played an important role, including locations like the "Arches National Park" and the "Canyonlands National Park". You also could fall in love with those gorgeous trains that played a crucial role. The movie is an homage to John Ford's great Western movies, the so-called "Spaghetti Westerns" by Sergio Leone & Clint Eastwood, from "Little Big Man" (Dustin Hoffman) to Buster Keaton`s "The General," and even to classics like  "The Bridge on the River Kwai".

I was fascinated by the character of Tonto, a native American from the nation of Comanches with spiritual ambitions (shaman). According to IMDb the role was played by Jonny Depp. I have to believe that, but the actor was  unrecognizable thanks to the heavy make-up. His appearance -  with a crow constantly on his head (I am nor sure if it was dead or alive) - was priceless. This character was borrowed from the movie "Dead Man" by Jim Jarmusch, where a character named William Blake (also called "dead man", played by Jonny Depp) is accompanied by a spiritual American native, named "Nobody".  "Lone Ranger`s" Tonto divulged this "Nobody´s" philosophies about the world and the relationship between the "White Men" and the "Indians" giving the audience a lot to think about.

Armie Hammer was a passable "Lone Ranger", a lawyer who is a bit lost in the "Wild West", and displayed his comical talents. William Fichtner as a creepy villain  and Tom Wilkinson as a scrupulous railroad pioneer were also remarkable. The females (Helena Bonham Carter, Ruth Wilson) stood in the shade of the male heroes & villains as usual in Western movies.

"Lone Ranger" served 149 minutes of fun. I agree with Mark Hughes of Forbes magazine who commented, " it's about a hundred times better than you think it is. It’s a wonderful movie." (forbes). Well said!