Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chinese Diplomacy

Wall Street Journal - "Pandas Are Adorable! (Also a Tool for Chinese Geopolitical Domination)"

"China produces roughly 25% of the world’s vehicles, half its steel and 75% of its smartphones.

It controls 100% of the world’s panda production, though, and therein lies the key to panda diplomacy, the soft-power tool Beijing mercilessly uses for global influence."

American Travel

New York Times Magazine - "Why Does Mount Rushmore Exist?"
By Sam Anderson

"Before long, of course, the boom went bust. Many miners left; the region’s economy sagged. In the 1920s, local boosters proposed an eccentric solution. What if some of the Black Hills’ ancient rock could be carved into a monument to American history — a patriotic tribute that would also serve, in this new era of automobiles, as a roadside attraction? Spindly granite towers, it was suggested, could be carved into free-standing statues honoring heroes of the American West: Red Cloud, Sacagawea, Lewis and Clark. Instead of gold, South Dakota could harvest tourists.

Only one American sculptor seemed up to the task. He was, like the sculpture he would create, a larger-than-life weirdo: John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, son of a Danish immigrant, friend of Auguste Rodin, publicity hound, populist, salesman, self-styled tough guy with a white Stetson and a flowing scarf and a dark, bushy mustache. At the time, Borglum was working on another huge sculpture chiseled into the front of a mountain: a tribute, in Georgia, to great heroes of the Confederacy — Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson. (The project was initially sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and entangled with the Ku Klux Klan.)

When Borglum was enticed to visit the Black Hills, he saw presidents: Washington, Lincoln. Anything else, he argued, would be too limited, too provincial, not sufficiently star-spangled “U.S.A.!!!” Borglum believed that America was a special artistic challenge, a place so heroically grand that the effete styles of Europe could never hope to do it justice. “Art in America should be American,” he wrote, “drawn from American sources, memorializing American achievement.” He accepted the challenge to transform the Black Hills."

New York Times Magazine - "Wandering New Orleans After Seeing It From the Stage"
By Dessa of Doomtree

"I am a 35-year-old woman with dark hair, a slight gap in my teeth and olive skin. I earn my living as a touring performer, rapping and singing with a collective called Doomtree. The benefits of that job are easy to guess: You get to travel the world with your friends, make music you believe in, dress any way you like. You can tattoo your hands or face or neck if you’re inclined. Sometimes you get fan mail or free drinks or a standing ovation.

There is, however, an adventure tax. You may not be able to keep pets, houseplants or nonperishable food items. You will probably miss birthdays, weddings and possibly the funerals of people you love. While a national tour can hit 40 cities, you might not actually see much of them. Most touring indie musicians spend the bulk of the business day in transit — we lunch at roadside fast-food joints, stand in line behind one another at gas-station bathrooms, then roll into town just in time to set up. By the time the stage is set, the museums are long closed, as are the shops, the bookstores. It’s easier to crowd-surf than to get a walk-in haircut on tour. Work and play are both hard, and sometimes hard to tell apart. "

If "Real People" Were in GM Ads

Millennial Pink

New York Magazine - "Why Millennial Pink Refuses to Go Away"

Friday, March 10, 2017

Kawhi Leonard's On the Road Diet

GQ - "The Real-Life Diet of Kawhi Leonard"

Q: I’m catching you right in the midst of an eight-game road trip. How hard is it to keep a consistent diet when you’re away from home and in a different city every night?

Leonard: You definitely have to be focused in on it, but it’s difficult trying to eat something that’s good for you on the road. We usually have a nutritionist who will let us know what we should eat and what we shouldn’t eat from the hotel menus. She looks all of that over for us throughout the whole year.

Q: That’s an incredible resource to have. So what is your usual go-to meal when you land in a new city?

Leonard: I just try to stay away from beef and pork. I’ll try to get something like grilled chicken or fish. Something like that with some vegetables.

Q: I know that there are some athletes who travel a lot who rely on places like Chipotle or Subway when they’re on the road. Is there somewhere like that you’ll go if you need a quick meal?

A: I try to go to hole-in-the-wall sandwich places if I do need something quick. Someplace fresh and healthy, like a juice bar. There aren’t really any household names that I go to.

The Great American Soccer Hero

GQ - "Christian Pulisic: "Is an American Soccer Star Finally...Happening?"

The Album Legacy of The Notorious B.I.G.

According to
1994 Ready to Die (10.0)
1997 Life After Death (9.5)
1997 Puff Daddy & The Family No Way Out (7.8)

"What made Christopher Wallace pop-palatable amid such a gruesome backdrop was his humor, personality, and wit."

"The sounds may have shifted, but the thesis remains: drug dealers have stories for days, and Americans want to hear them. We revere the salesman more than the politician, and B.I.G. could sell the hell out of the life he lived"

"More than anyone one else in rap ever, Big was able to break language and bend syntax to speak about things in ways that were unforeseen yet seemingly unavoidable in hindsight"

"Big was a master of flow, sounding unforced and unlabored over a bevy of pristine, hi-fidelity maximalist beats that seemed to always bow to his intent. His voice was that of a gentle giant; a sumo ballerina who could deashi and pas de bourrĂ©e, henka and plie. Few terms in any tongue can capture the way Big was light on his words while heavy on thought. He made his slams look like pirouettes even over the most grating pop moves like “Mo Money Mo Problems,” which showcased Combs' predilection for turning ‘80s R&B hits into ‘90s rap tunes—a push and pull between producer and artist that remains unmatched in hip-hop to this day."

Sliding Doors

New York Times Magazine - "25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going"

18. Fade – Kanye West
What would black music sound like in an alternate universe?
By Thomas Chatterton Williams

"The genius of “Fade,” the penultimate track on Kanye West’s living work of art, “The Life of Pablo,” is evident from the opening lines, a sample from the white Motown group Rare Earth. But it was a half-minute in, at that first unmistakable rip of bass, that I lost my mind. Like many of West’s songs, “Fade” is built around several commingling samples. Its rhythmic backbone is the deceptively simple arrangement from the 1985 classic “Mystery of Love,” by Larry Heard, better known as Mr. Fingers. That track, along with a handful of others, marks a seminal moment in the history of deep house — a rich and criminally neglected chapter in the book of black music.

Today it’s easy to forget that in the early and mid-’80s there existed a window when New York rap, Chicago house and Detroit techno — as well as a slew of other fledgling genres and subcultures — functioned more or less as equals, each as likely as the next to flounder or thrive. New York won the contest handily, and now hip-hop has so thoroughly subsumed mainstream black culture that it often feels as if earlier artistic forms have either been eradicated or retrofitted to its preferences (see: funk, R.&B. and jazz). House music — much like West himself — is unabashedly black and Chicago-bred, but somewhere along the line, it grew cozy in Europe and came to be seen as catering to white people. And though it has only ever managed to find significant audiences overseas, this transfixing style of minimal electronic dance music was pioneered by Midwestern D.J.s spinning mainly for black and gay audiences looking to “jack” their bodies at Windy City nightclubs like the Muzic Box and the Warehouse (where, under the stewardship of Frankie Knuckles, the style was birthed and named). While trailblazers like Mr. Fingers — a virtuosic multi-instrumentalist — are worshiped in London, Paris and Berlin, they are barely remembered back at home.

“Fade” sets out to correct this. Onto the wide-open surface “Mystery of Love” provides, West spreads out his own sparse raps alongside what grows into an aural smorgasbord of samples, allusions and guest appearances spanning eras and ethnicities — ’90s Nuyorican house, the white rapper/singer Post Malone — a subtle reminder of the outsize influence of black aesthetics on all manner of American and global culture.

Which is why, as a radio-friendly hit (with an awe-inspiring video to boot), “Fade” feels not only generous but subversive: In the span of a little over three minutes, it gives the lie to simplistic conceptions of musical borders. West has always displayed a rare encyclopedic and intuitive grasp of both mainstream and regional black sounds, from traditional gospel and R.&B. to college-inflected spoken word and even black Greek stepping, not to mention dance, reggae, trap and drill music. He knows that, glimpsed from the proper vantage, these are but facets of the same, constantly shifting whole. I don’t think there is another pop star who could conceive of such a medley, let alone bring it to life in a way that coheres. Yet “Fade” doesn’t just cohere; it functions as a sly and infectious meditation on the variety of formal possibilities of black sound — as invented and interpreted by black people themselves as well as Latinos and white people. It also serves as a bittersweet thought experiment: Things could have been otherwise. Imagine, if you will, a world in which Mr. Fingers got his due."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

iTunes User Agreement as Comic Book

New York Times - "An Artist Helps iTunes’ User Agreement Go Down Easy"
via TWBE - "An “anti-comic” by Robert Sikoryak that adapts the iTunes user agreement into 108 pages of drawn-out bliss."

The ‘Fearless Girl’ Statue Next to Wall Street’s Charging Bull

Adweek - "Why McCann Dropped a Statue of a ‘Fearless Girl’ Next to Wall Street’s Charging Bull Overnight"

"Pedestrians in lower Manhattan had a new piece of branded art to ponder on Tuesday morning, as McCann New York and client State Street Global Advisors conspired in the middle of the night to drop a statue in Bowling Green Park of a girl facing off against the famous Wall Street Charging Bull.

The stunt, timed to International Women’s Day on Wednesday, is meant to symbolize the power of women in leadership. More specifically, it’s part of a campaign by SSGA to emphasize that companies with women in top positions perform better financially.

The sculpture, titled “The Fearless Girl,” was made by Kristen Visbal and photographed by Federica Valabrega. The guerrilla aspect of the placement is in keeping with the Charging Bull itself, which was installed without permission by artist Arturo Di Modica in 1989. It was meant to be a symbol of the strength and power of the American people following the stock-market crash of 1987. Residents fell in love with it, and the city allowed it to remain.

McCann did get a permit for the girl statue. It will be up for at least a week, says the agency, which is negotiating with the city for it to become part of the art program so she can stay longer.

The new campaign also calls on more than 3,500 companies—the ones that SSGA invests in on behalf of clients—to take steps to increase the number of women on their corporate boards.

“We believe good corporate governance is a function of strong, effective and independent board leadership,” Ron O’Hanley, president and chief executive officer of SSGA, said in a statement. “A key contributor to effective independent board leadership is diversity of thought, which requires directors with different skills, backgrounds and expertise. Today, we are calling on companies to take concrete steps to increase gender diversity on their boards and have issued clear guidance to help them begin to take action.”

O’Hanley will detail the guidance today in a keynote speech at the Corporate Governance Symposium hosted by the University of Delaware’s Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance.

An MSCI study suggested companies with strong female leadership generated a return on equity of 10.1 percent per year, versus 7.4 percent for those without a critical mass of women at the top, SSGA said. Yet one in four Russell 3000 companies don’t have even one woman on their board, and nearly 60 percent of boards are less than 15 percent women."

The Black-and-White Movie Version

SlashFilm - "James Mangold Is Already Working on a Black & White Cut of ‘Logan’"

The Verge - "Mad Max: Fury Road's black-and-white cut is coming to the US December 6th, 2016"

The A.V. Club - "Steven Soderbergh made a black-and-white version of Raiders Of The Lost Ark"

Performance Hijab for Muslim Athletes

Quartz - "Nike is releasing its first performance hijab for female Muslim athletes"

Monday, March 6, 2017

David Letterman's Interview with NY Mag

Vulture - "In Conversation: David Letterman"
By David Marchese

"The only person I can trust anymore is The junior senator from Minnesota was a writer and castmember on SNL for 15 years. Al Franken, who has a great brain and a great heart. I believe what he says."

David Chang's Last Meal on Earth

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Smithsonian's 14th Annual Photo Contest Finalists

"Vote for the Readers' Choice Winner [before March 27]!"
via This is Colossal

Major League Soccer Expands

Wall Street Journal - "The MLS Is Growing in Teams—Just Not Profits"

"Paul Edgerley, a mostly retired Bain Capital executive who leads a St. Louis group, said he thinks of owning a soccer team like being a farmer. “You don’t make money in an individual year but you make some return on the land,” said the Kansas City native, who also owns a piece of the Boston Celtics.

Edgerley’s group is planning to build a $200 million stadium near St. Louis’ Union Station and hopes to gain support for about $60 million in public financing. He says demographic trends suggest soccer will be the third most popular sport in the U.S. in 20 years, even if the near-term financial outlook remains unclear. “Who knows when that actually results in the cycle of better television revenues and better players and a better product?”

Bill McGuire believes his leap of faith is already paying off. The former chief executive of UnitedHealth Group was part of an investor group that in 2015 committed $100 million for a Twin Cities team without a fully developed plan for a stadium and a commitment to play outdoors in a region where winter sometimes lasts until May.

Two years later, Minnesota United will have to begin play in 51,000-seat TCF​Bank​Stadium at the University of Minnesota since its 20,000-seat stadium possibly won’t be ready for two years. Nonetheless, the asking price for franchises is roughly 50% more than what his group paid.

“It’s clearly gone up,” McGuire said. “It ain’t the NFL, but it might be.”

Even the league’s biggest boosters would hesitate to predict that. There are easily a half-dozen soccer leagues around the world that are considered significantly higher quality.

John Ingram, who leads the group trying to bring a team to Nashville, remains unbowed. Ingram runs his family’s conglomerate, Ingram Industries, which has interests in publishing, technology, shipping and other sectors. Ingram said his main motivation is for a soccer team to further expand Music City’s reputation as a place that punches above its weight. Besides that, he sees the team as a legacy for his children, including his high-school age son who is an avid player.

“I wouldn’t say the investment angle is the primary reason, but no one wants to make dumb investments and I think this would be good over time,” Ingram said. “No business person wants to be stupid, but first and foremost it’s about loving the opportunity.”"