Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Obama Campaign’s Digital Masterminds Cash In

This is the subtitle of a NYT article describing a new marketing company set up by several senior data analysts who helped President Obama win reelection. What is their sales pitch? “To deliver to commercial advertisers some of the Obama campaign’s secret, technologically advanced formulas for reaching voters.” Some companies apparently find this innovative sales strategy persuasive. The first client of the new marketing venture is a casino in Las Vegas which wants its customers to keep returning to it as opposed to sampling rival venues; and others will surely follow.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

“The wall belongs to history”

This is what President Obama proclaimed in Berlin earlier today. But, judging from the spooky televised images from his speech, bulletproof glass, and police cordons and snipers very much belong to the present – and probably to the foreseeable future; to say nothing of the big data state he has midwifed. Ironically, the fact that "the wall," indeed, belongs to the past, may partly account for this unfortunate turn of events...

Can fanciful fashion become a force for good?

This is the opening question in a NYT article covering a recent high-profile “music event” dubbed “Sound of Change Live. The concert “was organized by the Chime for Change women’s campaign and underwritten by Gucci, once known as a brand of soft shoes and hard partying but now aiming to bring attention to women’s rights to education, justice and health.” The event was promoted by Salma Hayek, whose husband, François-Henri Pinault, has made it a mission for his luxury group, formerly PPR, but now named Kering, to support best practices in his own empire — and to support Chime for Change, a women’s empowerment initiative.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Up: How a Positive Outlook Can Improve Your Life

This is the title of the latest book, this one by Dr. Hilary Tindle, pointing to the alleged health benefits and life-prolonging effect of chronic upbeatness. Since the “positive outlook” Dr. Tindle evokes is completely and utterly foreign to me, I envision a nightmarish scenario for the true optimist she wants everyone to be.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A super sad true book lover’s story

A famous professor of law and humanities once had a large – and cherished – personal library. When he finally retired, he decided to move from his house to a much smaller apartment. To do this, it seemed he needed to get rid of most of his books. So he sold off almost his entire collection, holding onto only a few items he knew for sure he would need in the immediate future. All this is quite understandable, and part of the road many retiring academics have taken. But here is the spooky part.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The riot will be monetized

So the inevitable has happened. The balaclava, or ski mask – a key element of the Pussy Riot look – was initially borrowed by a few performing celebrities as a sign of solidarity with the young Russian women (Madonna) or of their own complete lack of judgment (Justin Bieber). Now the provocative clothing accessory has been adopted by several fashion designers presenting their fall collections.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hannah Arendt, the movie

Margarethe von Trotta has, no doubt, tried to present the famous political un-philosopher as both 1) intellectually brilliant, and 2) sensitive, compassionate, and loving. As we all know, this is an exceedingly rare combination. And, occasionally, the movie does provides some hints that Arendt was somewhat emotionally detached: she hears the news that the man she loves is in hospital after collapsing with a brain aneurism, and her impulse is to go back into the classroom to finish her class; she intimidates over the phone the New Yorker editor who dares to most diplomatically remind her of her deadline; she is at a loss when a close friend turns his back on her as he is lying in his deathbed…