Monday, July 31, 2017

Books: The Lady Matador`s Hotel By Christina Garcia

(Drivebycuriosity) - Hotels are funny places. Very different people are staying under one roof for a short time. Anything is possible. This is the topic of the book "The Lady Matador`s Hotel" by Christina Garcia (amazon). The short novel (228 pages ) is set in an unnamed Central American capital. The author interwove six separate story lines about persons who all stay in the same hotel: A Japanese-Mexican-American matadora; an ex-guerrilla now working as a waitress in the hotel coffee shop; a Korean manufacturer with an underage mistress; an international adoption lawyer ; a colonel who committed atrocities during his country’s long civil war; and a Cuban poet who has come with his American wife to adopt a local infant.

Garcia invented funny & hilarious scenes but also tragic & violent episodes (this is a spoiler free blog). I cared about the characters, indulged into Garcia´s elegant but sarcastic style & enjoyed her sharp & humorous observations. The author combines sharp analytical skills like Vladimir Nabokov with sensual descriptions à la Anaïs Nin.
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The novel is very entertaining yet thought provoking. "Lady Matador" is one of the best books I have read in the recent years and a perfect summer read. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Stock Market: What Really Counts

(Drivebycuriosity) - The media are obsessed with politics. They focus on President Trump, his Russian connections, his tweets and his struggles with health care reform & the political opposition. But the stock market doesn`t care. Last week the S&P 500, the gauge for the US stock market, hit a new all-time high and gained 10% year-to-date and climbed about 14% in the recent 12 months - even though the new US president didn´t accomplish much so far. The bull market, which started spring 2009, is still alive and kicking.

The rally shows what really counts for the stock market: Swiftly climbing company earnings. We are in the middle of the earnings season. More than half of S&P 500 members have reported their second quarter 2017 earnings. Total earnings for these companies are up +11.3% from the same period last year on +6.1% higher revenues, with 74.5% beating EPS estimates and 69.2% beating revenue estimates (nasdaq).



So company earning are rising almost as fast as the stock prices, keeping valuations reasonable (price-earnings-relations). Why can profits climb so fast in a slow growth economy? Company earnings are rising faster than the national incomes (GDPs) because corporations are getting more efficient & more productive over time - thanks to learning processes and the technological progress. The skeptics underestimate how good leading companies are at squeezing out climbing profits even in a sluggish economy. They are learning organisms because they are managed by humans who are getting better and better over time by continuously improving themselves and their companies. 

During the recession 2008 companies had restructured and reduced costs significantly in order to survive. Now they are more fit & more efficient than before. Companies are also benefiting from a new industrial revolution: Advances in Internet, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, robotics, nano- & biotechnology and other technologies are reducing costs, raising efficiency and creating new markets. And they are receiving solid tailwinds from the emerging markets which are getting stronger. The catching-up process in China, India, Indonesia and a lot of other countries translates into high growth in large parts of the global economy that creates continuously rising revenues & profits for global companies.

I believe that the learning process will continue and will translate into a long term trend of rising company profits, the engine of the stock market rally. Investors might forget about politics and focus on what really counts.

PS For illustration I choose one of Andy Warhol dollar signs from 1982. 

 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Contemporary Art: A Foray Through LES Art Galleries

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York`s Lower East Side (LES) is infamous for her party scene where bridge & tunnel people carouse all night long. But the district also is a center of art with a cluster of ambitious art galleries. During my recent foray through LES`s art scene I discovered some interesting new art shows. I display here my favorites, a very subjective selection as usual.


Rachel Uffner gallery (170 Suffolk Street  racheluffner) has a group show called "All that glitters". Above you can see 2 works by Maria Berrio: Nativity (2014, Japanese paper on canvas, 48 x 60 inches (121.9 x 152.4 cm) & "The Lovers 2" (2015, Japanese paper on canvas, 72 x 72 inches).





At Betty Cuningham Gallery (15 Rivington Street bettycuninghamg) I enjoyed Graham Nickson`s "Inlet: Approaching Storm (1985-86, acrylic on canvas); Judy Glanztman`s "AfterAlice Neel" (1999-2000, oil on canvas) & Philip Pearlstein`s "Two Models in Bamboo Chairs" (1981, oil on canvas).



Above some works I spotted @ Thierry Goldberg  (103 Norfolk Street thierrygoldberg). 



Richard Taittinger Gallery, which is founded and owned by a heir of the French Champagne empire Taittinger (at 154 Ludlow St. taittinger) seems to spezialize in avant-garde. I found there works by Mongolian artist Tuguldur Yondonjamts.




Nicelle Beauchene Gallery  (327 Broome Street nicellebeauchene) had a interesting group show as well.


To be continued.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Culture: Mexican Baroque @ New York`s Met

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York`s Metropolitan Museum is one of the world`s most important art temples. The museum has amassed an amazing collection of art with a gigantic variety. One day is not enough to observe all the treasures.  And there also frequently changing interesting temporary exhibitions. This week my wife & I enjoyed the show Cristóbal de Villalpando: Mexican Painter of the Baroque (through October 25, 2017 metmuseum). The Mexican painter (ca. 1649–1714) was one of the most innovative and accomplished artists in the entire Spanish world.



Above you can see the centerpiece of the exhibition: "Moses and the brazen serpent, and the Transfiguration of Jesus" (and some excerpts). I like the flamboyant composition of this monumental mural.


Above an excerpt from "The Agony in the Garden" (oil on canvas). Thy painting is my favorite of this show, because it displays the grace of Villalpando`s work.



Above excerpts from "Tree of Life" & "The Deluge". Both works show the artist`s imagination and his love to tell stories by painting.


Above the "The Adoration of the Magi" & "Adoration of the Holy Sacrament".









Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Movies: Valerian And The City Of Thousands Planets

(Drivebycuriosity) - France is famous for having an excellent taste and for producing refined food, fashion, perfumes and other luxury. But the country also can create solid popcorn cinema a`la Hollywood. This is the merit of Luc Besson. The French movie mogul directed block busters like  "Nikita", "The Fifth Element", "Léon: The Professional"& "Lucy" and he produced a legion of action packed fun movies.

Besson`s newest creation - "Valerian And The City Of Thousands Planets" - is
now in the US cinema theaters (imdb). The movie creator took a big bet. "Valerian" is the most expensive independent film ever made. France`s Spielberg independently crowd-sourced and personally funded Valerian with a production budget between $177–209 million (wikipedia).


It seems that most of the money went into special effects. The movie is certainly a feast for the eyes. I didn´t care much about the plot (you can find a synopsis here wikipedia). "Valerian" is fantasy and not science fiction - there is not much science and logic in it.  The movie - based on a French comic book series  - is as much science fiction as "Alice in Wonderland".  But I enjoyed the film anyway. "Valerian" looked fresh thanks to the amusing cockiness of Cara Delevingne & Dane DeHaan who`s  funny adventures as special agents are the backbone of the movie. I also enjoyed Rihanna in the role of the shape shifting creature Bubble.

"Valerian" is state of the art and shows the evolution of computer generated action movie spectacles -  and you could see influences of "Star Wars", "Avatar" & Besson’s own “The Fifth Element".  His team created fascinating fairy tale landscapes & scenarios and I enjoyed the legion of hilarious computer generated aliens and other figures.

Unfortunately for Besson`s bet, it seems that "Valerian" flopped at the US box offices. The film doesn`t cater to the pseudo religious ambition of the Star Wars cult and the duo Delevingne &  DeHaan does not deliver the bromance of the typical American action movie. But it is a lot of fun to watch the film anyway.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Stock Market: Politics? What Politics?

(Drivebycuriosity) - The media are obsessed with politics. The headlines focus on President Trump, his Russian connections, his tweets and his struggles with health care reform & the political opposition. But the stock market doesn`t care. Last week the S&P 500, the gauge for the US stock market, reached a new all-time high and gained 10% year-to-date - even though the new US president didn´t accomplish much so far. The bull market, which started spring 2009, is still alive and kicking.

Obviously stock prices are ruled by economic fundamentals and not by politics. Stocks have been rising because the economic global risks are ebbing: Europe`s economy is recovering and China continues to grow with a rate of almost 7% annually, refuting all the crash callers (scottgrannis). 




The stock market gains are fueled by climbing company earnings in the US & Europe. Company earnings are rising faster than the national incomes (GDPs) because corporations are getting more efficient & more productive over time - thanks to learning processes and technological progress. The skeptics underestimate how good leading companies are at squeezing out climbing profits even in a sluggish economy. They are learning organisms because they are managed by humans who are getting better and better over time by continuously improving themselves and their companies. 

During the recession 2008 companies had restructured and reduced costs significantly in order to survive. Now they are more fit & more efficient than before. Companies are also benefiting from a new industrial revolution: Advances in Internet, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, robotics, nano- & biotechnology and other technologies are reducing costs, raising efficiency and creating new markets. And they are receiving solid tailwinds from the emerging markets which are getting stronger. The catching-up process in China, India, Indonesia and a lot of other countries translates into high growth in large parts of the global economy that creates continuously rising revenues & profits for global companies.


                                              Strong Earnings Season



No wonder that the current earnings season had a strong start.  Companies are reporting now the second quarter 2017: On Friday we had "Q2 results from 97 S&P 500 members that combined account for 28.1% of the index's total market capitalization. Total earnings for these companies are up +8.4% from the same period last year on +5.1% higher revenues, with 78.4% beating EPS estimates and 72.2% beating revenue estimates" (nasdaq).

I believe that the learning process will continue and will translate into a long term trend of rising company profits, the engine of the stock market rally. Investors might forget about politics.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Photography: Aren`t Construction Places Beautiful

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

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


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


                                                    Method In Chaos



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


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


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

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

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Movies: Lady Macbeth


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

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

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



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Science Fiction: Anomaly By Peter Cawdron

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

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Economy: The Rise Of The Chinese Consumer

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

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






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






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

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

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