Modern Life


They’re everything in the modern world. Unless you attach yourself to someone/something that already has an audience, your chance of succeeding is incredibly low, because there’s just too much noise.

So, despite the bitching about challenging economics, that’s the power of the newspaper. It’s filtered news. And ads. And listings.

Most competing with traditional news outlets are amateurs. They’re bad writers in an era where no one has time for that. So people gravitate to those who already have the power.

That’s the magic of the “Huffington Post.” It’s link-bait on steroids, but it’s got an audience. Same deal with “BuzzFeed.” The rich get richer and the poor are irrelevant.


Is the entertainment of today. In an alienated world, we all have a desire to belong. Pre-internet, when we lived in a monoculture, going your own way, going deep into your own niche, was a badge of honor. Today, you’re just irrelevant. And this judgment hurts. If you’re rebelling and those you’re rebelling against don’t care, don’t react, then you feel alone. Which is why we all desire to be part of the scene. That’s why we post on social networks, we want to belong. And the glue is news. It’s what we talk about. Whether it be Charlie Hebdo or the shenanigans of some celebrity.

Children believe that school is the world. Their ignorance is bliss. But this hotbed of sharing helps parents be clued in. But if you’ve got no children, or you’re out of school, you’re hungry for information, so you can have discourse. Sure, you could discuss the obscure record or TV show…IF YOU COULD FIND SOMEONE WHO’S HEARD IT OR SEEN IT!


Whether it be the weekly winner of the movie grosses or Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” you can read that something tops the chart and never encounter it. This never happened before. The hits were ubiquitous. But television ratings are a fraction of what they once were. And you never have to listen to a radio station you don’t want to, never mind the commercials. In other words, Kanye West is more famous for his inane outbursts of superiority and being married to Kim Kardashian than he is for his music. Most people know Kanye is a boasting boor, but they don’t know his music.


When life becomes incomprehensible, when you feel powerless with no hope of upward mobility, you trumpet that which you are into, believing that others should feel the same way, completely ignorant that they too are flummoxed by modern life and cannot separate the cultural wheat from the chaff. Everybody is overwhelmed, nobody is ever bored. And to think that which you find to be important is truly such is oftentimes to be delusional.


You collect your colors and they establish your identity. Sure, you could favor the obscure, but the American story is glomming on to the mainstream. That’s the essence of sports. They give you something to believe in and someone to be against. Competition is cut and dried with a limited number of teams, there’s a defined winner when the normal game of life…you’re not even sure who the players are.


That’s why the festival is more important than the act. And the hang is more important than the music. The festival is a party. The goal of a party is to have a good time. Eat some fun food and have some laughs. Other than dance/EDM acts, which are party central, the soundtrack to the revel, the rest of the bill is irrelevant. And the big money goes to the promoter. Just check AEG’s Coachella grosses.


When we’re overwhelmed, we gravitate to the blockbuster. So, despite the ability to play, it’s even harder to get any traction, never mind succeed.


Everybody complains that no one marinates in their art, meanwhile the creators are jumping from item to item just as frequently. It’s not about a short attention span, it’s about a fear of missing out, and even more powerfully, a fear that something better is just a click away.


TV is selling entertainment. Which is why it’s lost purchase on the news business. People want the facts. And no one’s got time to waste watching a program with commercials. If you leave the TV on all day to be informed you know nearly nothing.


Used to be musical acts were one hit wonders. Now MySpace disappears and youngsters move from Facebook to Snapchat. As hard as it is to make it, it’s even harder to sustain.


Story is everything. That’s what too many publications and websites don’t realize. In a puzzling world we’re attracted to humanity, something that reflects our condition. The most important tech story this week? Nick Bilton’s “New York Times” piece “Be the Star of Your Own Snapchat Story”:  This is not a fad. Narrative is forever. Immediacy is key. Which is why Netflix and Amazon release all episodes of their series at once. Oldsters think they’re missing out on marketing, and buzz. But the truth is today buzz comes after the fact, long after the release. The buzz empire driven by purveyors and news outlets does not square with modern society. Every week we’re sold new stuff, but we only find out months later if it’s got any traction, when we hear about it from our friends…or not. This week it’s Sleater-Kinney and “Broad City.” They’re featured in every news outlet known to man. But over the last year we’ve seen not only movies disappear in a weekend, but
complete albums. Furthermore, albums that start off as stiff suddenly gain traction, like “Kansas City” from the New Basement Tapes. You know you have a hit if people are still talking about it six months later. If not, you wasted your time.


In a world where we rarely speak to one another, where we broadcast our thoughts, often ineptly, to the masses, miscommunication is rampant. Readers want encyclopedias behind every pronouncement, needing to nail the writer for mistakes in order to feel good about themselves, and feuds are caused by statements that would evaporate into thin air prior to the internet. The end result? Fear of communication. That’s the story of today, not how everybody is busy building their brand online, but how they’ve become gun-shy, fearful of participating, because of the backlash.


Everybody’s number one at something. To advertise this is to make us laugh and ignore you. But if someone parses the numbers, tells a story with data, then we’re interested.


At least entertainment knows it’s about stars. The “New York Times” let Nate Silver and David Pogue go, and now their data stories are written by nobodies without authority and they’ve ceded tech to other outlets. Cherish your stars. Compensate them well. Meanwhile, David Pogue has faltered at Yahoo because Marissa Mayer knows nothing about news and entertainment. Only go where people understand your core business. Nate Silver is doubling-down on, but he’s almost starting all over. Once again, the team is everything, and the team needs its stars.


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Category: Think Tank, Web/Tech

MiB: Bill Gross

This week, the “Masters in Business” podcast features Part 1 of an interview with famous bond investor Bill Gross, formerly of Pimco, now with Janus Capital.

Gross sat down with me in the Bloomberg studios in New York for an extensive two-hour interview. It was the first time I’ve met Gross, and I found him to be intelligent and forthright, answering all of my questions directly and unambiguously.

We discussed the early days at Pacific Life, the founding of Pimco and his early influences and mentors. He talked about the role of Black Jack in influencing his investing and risk-taking philosophy.

I was especially intrigued by his descriptions of what it was like to manage assets in the 1970s and ’80s. He said that during the 1987 crash, he sat transfixed, “staring at the screen like a deer in the headlights.” He vowed to make sure that during future crises that wouldn’t happen again.

He also said quite a few surprising things — about the Federal Reserve and quantitative easing, about what investors can learn from gamblers and about his creation of Portable Alpha.

You can hear it live on Bloomberg radio, download the podcast here or on Apple iTunes or stream it on Soundcloud (below). All of our prior podcasts are available on iTunes.

Next week, “Masters in Business” will feature Part 2 of the interview.

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Category: Fixed Income/Interest Rates, Podcast

10 Weekend Reads

That was a week for the record books. Settle into your favorite easy chair, fill a mug of hot joe, and enjoy our longer form weekend reads: • Google Search Will Be Your Next Brain (Medium) • How stories change hearts and brains (Aeon) see also What are some of the most mind-blowing facts that sound…Read More

Category: Financial Press

Switzerland – Chapter 2

Switzerland – Chapter 2 David R. Kotok January 16, 2015   In the wake of Switzerland’s removing the cap on the Swiss franc’s value against the euro, debt owed by non-Swiss agents has become an emerging issue. That debt, denominated in either Swiss francs or in euros, is secured by collateral outside of Switzerland. Is…Read More

Category: Currency, Think Tank

A Visual Map of the History of Jazz

Click for the full map. Source: Who’s Like Tatum? via Know More

Category: Data Analysis, Digital Media, Friday Night Jazz, Music

Succinct Summation of Week’s Events (1/16/15):

Succinct Summation of Week’s Events Positives: 1) The SNB cries mercy and comes to terms with the fact that it can’t win a currency battle with the ECB. The Swiss people have just dramatically improved the purchasing power of their savings. Also, while highly disruptive to economies and markets in the short term, maybe the…Read More

Category: Markets

Biggest Threat to Human Progress is Relentless Stupidity

    “Wealth – any income that is at least one hundred dollars more a year than the income of one’s wife’s sister’s husband.” –H.L. Mencken   On Fridays, I like to wax eloquent and philosophical — about investing, analysis and asset management. Often, there are lessons from other disciplines that are applicable to our…Read More

Category: Economy, Philosophy, Really, really bad calls, Technology

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be Rich . . .

Source: MoJo

Category: Politics, Taxes and Policy, Wages & Income

10 Friday AM Reads

Good Friday morn. Heckuva week, but its almost over. To tide you til the weekend, here are our morning train reads: • Behold The Carnage: Hedge Funds Most Short The Swiss Franc Since June 2013 (Zero Hedge) see also Top 10 Hedge Fund Trends for 2015 (All About Alpha) • 29 Charts Worth Your Time…Read More

Category: Financial Press

New Ford GT

Source: Road and Track

From Top Gear:

The Ford GT is back. And then some. Taking all the headlines at the Detroit motor show – and confirming some tasty rumours that have been rumbling for a little while now – is the third iteration of Ford’s supercar.

And gone is the supercharged V8 of old, replaced by an Ecoboost engine. Fear not, though, as it still packs a proper amount of cylinders. A twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 engine drives the rear wheels with ‘more than’ 600bhp, and with motorsport development behind it, Ford is claiming great efficiency.

Of course, it’s performance we care about. Nothing’s confirmed in that area just yet, but a 0-60mph time close to 3.0secs and a top speed north of 200mph ought to be very feasible targets.

More photos after the jump

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Category: Weekend