Monday, September 30, 2013

New York City: Visiting Art Studios At DUMBO, Brooklyn

(Drivebycuriosity) - There is so much to discover in New York City.  Yesterday my wife and I visited the Art Festival in DUMBO Brooklyn, New York City.

DUMBO  is one of the these acronyms the Americans so love: Down Under Manhattan Bridge. I don´t know where they borrowed the O from. Anyway, as the name says the place is below the Brooklyn end of the Manhattan Bridge, one of the famous connections between Manhattan and Brooklyn. DUMBO is a postindustrial area. A lot of former factory building are now used as offices, cafes, bookshops, pubs and art studios (dumbo).

DUMBO reminds me of the fashionable Meatpacking district in Manhattan. The rents there have been exploding and forced many artists to go to cheaper places. This gentrification is now creating new blossoms like  Brooklyn´s uprising DUMBO area.

Last weekend´s DUMBO Art Festival, one of the ubiquitous public events in New York City, triggered the studios owners to open their doors temporary for the public. We used the occasion and glanced into the working places of painters, sculptors, photographers and other artists. It was interesting to spot the birth places of different art forms.

Here some pics from yesterday`s tour.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Movies: The Prisoners

(Drivebycuriosity) - How would you respond if a child of yours had suddenly disappeared? The movie "The Prisoners" focuses on 2 befriended families whose daughters are missing (imdb). Both fathers and the police go their own ways to find the girls. The crime drama begins with detective work and self-administered justice and becomes immersed into a sinister freak show.

The complex plot has a many twists and surprises and borrowed a lot from TV crime series like "Criminal Minds" and horror movies. Director  Denis Villeneuve and script writer  Aaron Guzikowski confront their audience also with torture scenes, which are more intense than those in the movie "Zero Dark Thirty", which fell in disgrace because of the torture issue.

My wife said that she lost interest early in the movie because the plot was too construed and some characters were implausible. I enjoyed the movie somewhat in spite of its flaws. One of the reasons is the cinematography by Roger Deakins - who shot "Fargo" and most of the other Coen Brother´s movies. He proved again that he is one of the super stars in his profession. The movie was set in the winterly U.S. North East around Thanksgiving Day. Deakins underlined the scariness of the plot with dark pictures in a sad grey and brown and showed a country were creeps grow like pumpkins. 

The movie also benefitted from the contrast between the leading characters. Hugh Jackman, who is well known as the fantasy movie character "Wolverine", plays a father who tries to regain his daughter with violence.  He is a mucho macho man who shows a lot of physical strength. But he also is paranoid and someone who prepares for a disaster and teaches his son how to survive in a post apocalyptic scenario.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jackman`s counterpart as a rational and methodical defective: His character reminded me of his somewhat similar role in David Finches´s movie "Zodiac".
Paul Dano as a mentally challenged suspect and Melissa Leo, as his subdued aunt, also had impressive performances.

I left the cinema theater with mixed feeling.  Even though I agreed with my wife that the plot was over constructed, "The prisoners " gave me something to think about and will stay longer in my mind than many other movies.

Culture: Cult Of Luna @ Irving Plaza, New York City

(Drivebycuriosity) - The moon has a strong influence on a lot of people. Some believe that the lunar cycle impacts the behavior of humans and animals. Ancient mythologies and religions worshiped gods and goddesses associated with the moon - a cult of Luna.

The name of a popular Swedish heavy metal band refers to this cult (wikipedia  cultofluna ).  Yesterday I had the luck to attend a concert of "Cult of Luna" at Irving Plaza in New York City. This is their first U.S. tour in 8 years.

This concert was the most intense rock experience I`ve had since I watched a Pink Floyd concert (with founding member Syd Barrett) in London`s Ufo Club  decades ago. This band, consisting of 4 guitars, 1 keyboard and drums, produced very massive and thick but also filigree bodies of sound. Their catchy song lines were clearly structured (you can find samples on YouTube like this youtube). Balladic pieces got amplified to fierce explosions which burned sometimes like nuclear fire. The powerful voice of Johannes Persson, the band`s vocalist, substantiated the strength of the music significantly.

The concert experience benefitted a lot from a perfectly coordinated light show which translated the music into a heavy metal opera. The stage was kept in a thick artificial fog and illuminated in changing colors according to the song. Strobe lights which were coordinated with the drum staccatos created an intense hallucinatory atmosphere. All components - songs,  choreography and light show - fitted perfectly together boosting the intensity of the concert. There were moments I felt like I was witnessing the rebirth of God. The psychedelic metal show was like Richard Wagner on the pure & clear crystal meth in Breaking Bad.

According to the "Highlander Principle" - there can be only one - the other bands of the concert event couldn´t come close to matching the Cult of Luna experience. Katatonia, the other Swedish headliner of the event, served a solid & powerful hard rock but their gig was an emotional setback after the Cult of Luna event. The warm up bands "Intronaut" and "Tesseract" , who also delivered solid metal, were in a different universe.

The tour with all 4 bands will continue in the coming days, for instance Toronto Sep 27, Chicago Oct 2, Los Angeles Oct 6 & San Francisco Oct 07 (facebook).

I hope that I can repeat this experience sometime. Thank you so much "Cult of Luna". You were awesome!

Friday, September 27, 2013

New York City: Street Art - Centre-Fuge/Cycle 10

(Drivebycuriosity) - Life develops in cycles. We experience the seasons of the year and half of humanity undergoes a monthly hormonal rhythm.

Even street art seems to have cycles, at least New York`s Centre-Fuge Art Project project has been showing their works in cycles. I have been reporting about this collective of street artists and their works several times (driveby).

Now they show Cycle 10, again a collection of murals which reflects different styles and ideas from a group of artists. As in the former cycles they used a trailer on East First Street - a satellite office for Second Avenue Subway workers - at First Street East which goes east-west between Bowery and First Avenue along Houston Street East (between the East Village and Lower East Side). You could see more art works on a wall in the "First Park", a tiny playground on East First Street and First Avenue.

You can see here my favorites from the new cycle.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Economy/Stock Market: Think Outside The U.S. Box

(Drivebycuriosity) - It looks like that the global economy is gathering speed again. This morning we got news that manufacturing in China is accelerating. "A Chinese manufacturing index  rose to a six-month high in September, signaling that a rebound in the world’s second-largest economy is gaining steam," wrote Bloomberg (bloomberg). We also learned, that services growth in the Euro-area accelerated to the fastest in more than two years in September as demand and confidence improved (bloomberg). Therefore the U.S. economy, which is growing solidly, is getting some tailwinds from overseas because U.S. companies can export more goods & services to China & Europe.

This quarter could be the second quarter with an accelerating global economic growth back to back. According to the Economist the pace of global growth increased during the second quarter of 2013—only the third quarterly acceleration in three years (economist).

The U.S. stock market didn´t cheer the good news. Today S&P 500 and Dow Jones closed both in red. According to the media the market focused on the Federal Reserve Bank and the expected tapering of their stimulus program QE3 ( Stocks also fell because of a political brawl in Washington D.C. Bloomberg wrote: "Hardening positions on the federal budget and borrowing limit, and recent political setbacks suffered by both President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders as they go into the fight, are raising the odds of a government shutdown, debt default or near-miss that could roil equities markets" (bloomberg).

Since spring 2009 the stock market has been following the upswing of the global economy in spite of ongoing disagreements in Washington D.C. Therefore I reckon that tapering and a potential temporary U.S. government shut down will weigh less than a stronger global economy, especially for the profits of the U.S. companies. Consequently I believe that today´s negative stock market response will soon be corrected. I expect that the growing momentum of the global economy will drive the S&P 500 further north.

I think that investors should think outside the U.S. box (tapering by the Federal Reserve and the Washington D.C. brawl) and should instead focus on the stronger picture of the world economy.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Culture: Degreaser, Cake Shop, New York City

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York City is a mecca for music lovers. The metropolis has a legion of rock venues where you can listen to a large variety of styles.

Last night my wife and I attended a concert by "Degreaser" at the Cake Shop, New York City  (degreaser  cake-shop). Some hours before we had discovered this band on their free gig on the Sara D. Roosevelt Park at Forsyth Street (driveby ). The band hit the spot again. They played a rough rock with blurred guitars. We hope to see them soon again.

New York City: Serendipity In The Park - September 2013

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York City is full of surprises. Yesterday - during a walk home from the post office - my wife and I accidentally ran into a rock concert. The music was for free - pure serendipity.

On Forsyth Street, at the corner of Broome Street, there is a little park (Sara D. Roosevelt Park) which is usually used for some sports games. Yesterday we could listen there to two bands. The first band was "Degreaser" (degreaser), the name of the others I don`t now. The musicians,  who shared the place with polo players on bicycles, impressed us with a rough and grungy rock in the open.

The concert place was surrounded by a small audience, who seemed to enjoy the music as we did.

Culture: Street Art - The World Of Stencils

(Drivebycuriosity) -  Walking on the streets of New York City is always entertaining. There are people of every kind, a lot of street fashion, different architecture, funny advertisements and more. A part of the entertainment comes from the stencils you can find almost everywhere.

According to Wikipedia, the stencil circulators use paper, cardboard, or other media to create an image or text that is easily reproducible (wikipedia). The desired design is cut out of the selected medium and then the image is transferred to a surface through the use of spray paint or roll-on paint.

Freedom Of Opinion

Some of the stencils contain political messages, others distribute advertisement, artistic impressions, provocations or just the fun to publicize something. They show the freedom of opinion.

I enjoy discovering those stencils on my ways through Manhattan. You can find them on walls, doors, lamp posts, mail boxes, energy transformers and where else. They may be art or not, I don´t care.

The tiny publications make New York City more colorful and cool. Some inspire me to think about. Others are just fun.

Often you can find clusters of different stencils that form a pattern - accidental or not. Those collages are an art form by themselves.

To be continued.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Economy: About Unions & Robots

(Drivebycuriosity) - There is lot of discussion about robots destroying jobs. Indeed companies use more and more robotic systems to reduce  their costs of labor. Robots - and automats in general - can execute a rising number of tasks cheaper than workers do. I believe that the sluggish growth of the U.S. job market  is partly a result of the ongoing automation & robotization.

But there are also other drivers. Last week, the German branch of the U.S. e-commerce-giant, got badgered by the unions again. Amazon employes, who are organized in the German union Ver.di, were striking.

ABC news reported, that workers at two distribution centers in Germany (Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld) have walked off the job in an ongoing dispute over wages with the American online retailer (abcnews). There have been some strikes before. We also learned that the union threatens to disturb the upcoming holiday season business (Christmas sales).

Those strikes don´t just hamper the online company, they also disappoint customers who expect a punctual delivery of their orders. Parents wouldn`t be happy, if they would be empty handed at Christmas because their presents would not arrive in time as a result of a strike.

I reckon that those strikes and threads are pushing Amazon and other retailers to accelerate their automatization. Amazon already uses robotic systems to reduce their costs and their fulfillment times. Last year the online retailer bought Kiva Systems, a manufacturer of robots that scuttle around warehouses filling orders (cnn).

Robots don´t fight for higher wages, they don´t demand better working place condition, they don´t sue about sexual harassment and - robots don´t strike.

Movies: Passion

(Drivebycuriosity) - Alfred Hitchcock shaped the cinema of today. Many directors studied his methods and tried to copy the master of suspense.  Brian De Palma is one of the doyen`s most eager followers and delivered once masterpieces like "Dressed to Kill" and "Carrie". "Passion", which is now running in U.S. cinema theaters, is De Palma´s newest attempt to draw the audience in a Hitchcock style cinematic maelstrom (imdb).

To say it frankly, De Palma failed. "Passion" is a woodcut-like story: It starts with two women who are fighting about making career in a German advertising company which leads to dramatical consequences. De Palma used a lot of Hitchcock´s tricks like sexual innuendos, role playing, red herrings, dream scenes, childhood traumas and more to build up suspense. But he overshot his target by far and delivered a farce about a hilarious cat fight.The leading characters are caricatures at best. Their hyper-bitchy and unbelievable behavior destroys the creditability of the plot. The talents of the gifted actresses Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace was wasted.

After an allegedly dramatic finale the audience in Manhattan´s IFC, where I watched "Passion", responded with laughter. Maybe De Palma delivered involuntary a comedy. The somewhat similar thriller "Side Effects" by Steven Soderbergh is much closer to the master`s thrillers than De Palma`s film (/driveby).

Friday, September 20, 2013

Stock Market: Apple - Consumers Contra Pundits

(Drivebycuriosity) - This morning you could see long lines in Manhattan. According to Bloomberg and other sources there also were long queues in other metropolises like Tokyo, London and Paris. (bloomberg)  (I shot these pics on Spring Street, Green Street and Houston Street in Soho, New York City).

Did these people wait for a free lunch? Did they hope to get a soup from Salvation Army? Were they standing in line to get free clothing and other help? Are we now in a new depression?

Nope. These people were waiting for the new iPhones: The 5c and the 5s. Both devices cost more than $500. Last week as Apple CEO Tim Cook had presented the new smartphones the pundits responded dismissive and Apple´s stock tanked. The majority of analysts and investors claimed that the new smartphones are too expensive.

It looks like that the consumers disagree. The long lines worldwide demonstrate that there is a large affluent group who is willing to spend a lot of money for a cool new gadget. The economist Thorstein Veblen called this phenomena once "conspicuous consumption" (driveby). It seems that Tim Cook´s bet is paying off.