Northern lights, darkness, meatballs and suicide rates are just some of the suggested topics of conversation for a new hotline backed by the Swedish Tourist Association.
Launched this week, call +46 771 SWEDEN from anywhere in the world and you’ll be connected to a random Swede. The service honours the 250th anniversary of the country abolishing censorship and hopes to “connect people in troubled times.”
Long distance charges may apply.
And via Samir Varma, here is one story of someone who called and spoke with a Ugandan.
It has been suggested to me that perhaps North Dakota is the most obscure state in the Union. Maybe so! Let’s take a look:
1. Author: William Gass would be a possible pick, but I do not enjoy his work. Same with Louis L’Amour.
2. Humorist: Chuck Klosterman.
3. Sociologist of religion: Rodney Stark.
4. Painter: Clifford Styll is the obvious pick, except I don’t much like his work. If you were wondering, he dominates so many rooms in American museums because of restrictions placed on grants of his paintings from the artist’s own collection. I suspect some curators have come to resent this, but often the grants were made propitiously near the peak of Styll’s reputation. I suppose I’ll opt for James Rosenquist, although I am not a huge fan of his work either.
5. Evening television bandleader and toastmaster: Lawrence Welk. I can’t even think of a clear runner-up, with or without bubbles; this video will show you why he was a favorite of so many.
6. Movie and TV show, set in: Fargo duh. Otherwise it is Man in the Wilderness, which was the original and in some ways superior source material for The Revenant.
7. Actress: Angie Dickinson comes to mind, Dressed to Kill is a good movie.
8. gdp per capita — That can set many things right, although 2016 may not be as good as was 2014.
The bottom line: Hm..but yet we must consider Delaware and Rhode Island!
Author: A variety of writers have lived in or passed through the state for a few years’ time, including Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Rice Burroughs. A few of Hemingway’s short stories I admire very much.
Poet: Ezra Pound, yes I know he left at age three. Still, he was from Idaho.
Native American sage and explorer: Sacagewea. Did you know that her portrait design on the dollar coin is not in the public domain?
Economist: Lant Pritchett was raised in Boise.
Popular music: Built to Spill.
Composer: La Monte Young, The Well-Tuned Piano is one of the better pieces of contemporary classical music, still highly underrated. Here is a two minute sample from what is more or less a five hour work.
Movie, set in: The only one I can think of is…My Private Idaho.
Other notables: Philo T. Farnsworth invented television, more or less, and he also worked on nuclear fusion.
The bottom line: Per capita, this isn’t bad, even if not much of it is associated with Idaho. I’ll have to look harder for the most obscure state. It might be Idaho, but it doesn’t deserve to be Idaho. So perhaps Delaware, Wyoming, and Rhode Island will come under the microscope soon.
I thank Roy LC, Marcus, and kb for essential pointers here.
If it is the most obscure state, I thought it worth a ponder and profile of what they have produced. And the answers are surprisingly strong:
1. Author: I’ll take Willa Cather over Raymond Chandler, but neither puts the state to shame. I don’t care for Nicholas Sparks’s writings, but he makes the list. Malcolm X wrote one of the great memoirs of American history.
2. Actors and actresses: There is Brando, Harold Lloyd, Hilary Swank, Henry Fonda, Montgomery Clift, and James Coburn. What a strong category.
4. Music: I can think only of Elliott Smith, am I missing anything?
5. TV personalities: Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett. Did you know that Carson learned Swahili on-line after his retirement and became fluent in the language?
6. Painter: Edward Ruscha.
9. Investor: Duh.
11. Other: I cannot count L. Ron Hubbard as a positive. I believe I have neglected some native Americans born in Nebraska, maybe some cowboys too. I don’t have favorite cowboys.
The bottom line: People, this state should not be so obscure!
Wikimedia and Facebook have given Angolans free access to their websites, but not to the rest of the internet. So, naturally, Angolans have started hiding pirated movies and music in Wikipedia articles and linking to them on closed Facebook groups, creating a totally free and clandestine file sharing network in a country where mobile internet data is extremely expensive.
Here is more, via Kevin Burke.
No, I am not there but think of this as an act of homage from a distance. Here goes:
1. Novelist: There is Simenon, Yourcenar, and Amelie Nothomb. I like them all but do not love them. Can I pick Julio Cortázar, who was born in Belgium even if he did not come of age there and essentially was Argentinian? As for a fictional character, how about Hercule Poirot?
3. Composer: César Franck is the obvious modern pick. There is also Henri Pousseur, and a variety of Renaissance composers, including Heinrich Isaac, Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Ockeghem, and Josquin des Prez. I’ll pick the violin works of Eugène Ysaÿe, as the Renaissance music is arguably more Burgundian or “Franco-Flemish” than culturally Belgian as it relates to the modern nation.
4. Jazz musician: Django Reinhardt, that one is easy, try this cut. Toots Thielmans, the jazz harmonica player, is perhaps runner up.
5. Economist: Jacques H. Drèze and Robert Triffin would be the obvious picks. A dark horse choice would be Jean Drèze, son of Jacques, for his obsessive data work in India. He still awaits a much-deserved major profile. Gustav de Molinari, who first wrote about private protection agencies and arguably was the first modern libertarian anarchist.
6. Painter: This has to be the strong suit. Magritte is an obvious choice, but there is also Gerard David, Hans Memling, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Adriaen Brouwer, Luc Tuymans, Jacob Jordaens, Paul Delvaux, Petrus Christus, Robert Campin, and Pierre Alechinsky, among others. Jan van Eyck is one of the greater painters ever, but for sheer Belgianness I will opt for James Ensor, see the image below.
7. Sculpture: Marcel Broodthaers. Right now there is a nice retrospective of his work on at MOMA.
7. Historian: Henri Pirenne, way ahead of his time.
9. NBA point guard: Tony Parker was born there, to American and Dutch parents, that counts for something.
10. Anthropologist: Claude Levi-Strauss. Tristes Tropiques remains a beautiful book to be read by all.
11. Movie: I cannot think of one I really like, can you help? And I can’t easily digest the works of Chantal Akerman.
11b. Movie, set in: In Bruges, a fun dark comedy.
The bottom line: Once you get into the period where Belgium is a modern nation, it’s all so wonderfully offbeat.
I’ll be doing a Conversations with Tyler with her, Tuesday, April 12. What should I ask her?
An executive producer who wants to cut costs has only two choice curbs: water and hair. Those are the most expensive things to replicate accurately via animation. It’s no mistake that the characters in Minions, the most profitable movie ever made by Universal, are virtually bald and don’t seem to spend much time in the pool.
Animation, as with all formulaic and saccharine film genres, tends to bring out Hollywood’s blockbuster gambling addiction. The perverse incentives of the format means that fortune favours the spendthrift — the bigger the budget, the bigger the windfall.
“In some ways, a $90 million movie is more risky than a $150 million one,” Creutz said.
This means that when animated films flop, they flop hard. In fourth quarter 2013, DreamWorks took an $87 million writedown on Rise of the Guardians. Without the charge, the studio would have posted a small profit in the period, rather than an $83 million loss. A few months later, it had to take a $57 million writedown on Mr. Peabody and Sherman, a film that cost $145 million to make and far more to market.
Interesting throughout, here is the article by Kyle Stock.
Yet the world’s biggest economy (at least by some measures) is tiny in terms of the size of its music market, which is smaller than that of Austria or Switzerland. It’s a mere sliver of the size of the US music industry.
Piracy is a major factor, but note this too:
While the IFPI calls China a country of “enormous untapped potential,” it also notes that only 10% of the market goes to non-Chinese-language music right now.
For the future there is this:
…all foreign media companies will be blocked from publishing digital content in the country, any online text, audio, or video content produced abroad—starting March 10—will be in violation (link in Chinese) of national law.
By the way, are you still thinking that China’s service sector is holding the economic line? Here is the latest:
Still, the services gauge slipped to 52.7 in February, from 53.5 in January. Measures of new orders, selling prices, employment, backlogs and inventories were below the 50 dividing line between improving and worsening conditions.
A separate manufacturing reading from Caixin Media and Markit Economics fell to 48 in February, from 48.4 in January.
That said, the 13th Five-Year Plan will be released soon…
The video, podcast, and transcript are here. Nate of course was excellent, here are just a few bits:
COWEN: What are the differences between forecasting and futurism, and do you have any predictions for the year 2050? They don’t have to be great. They just have to be better than the market. We’ll take a 52 percent prediction and go home and celebrate.
SILVER: I’m mildly pessimistic in some ways.
COWEN: What’s the biggest source of your pessimism?
SILVER: [laughs] There’s probably some survivorship bias in the United States, and thinking about how our way will persevere forever and ever and ever. We were talking backstage about how you go to Asia and I go to Asia — not as often as you. If you want to feel optimistic about civilization, then go there.
COWEN: You’re a fan of baseball, and I’d like to ask you, of all the different baseball records, which is the one that is most impressive to you, or the most a statistical aberration, and try to stay a bit modern. We both know in 1889, Hoss Radbourn won 59 games.
Start with [Owen] Wilson’s — was it 36 triples in 1912? That, and up through the modern age. What’s the most statistically impressive baseball record, and why?
SILVER: I think the biggest outlier is the number of intentional walks that Barry Bonds drew. I forget what year it was, 2001, where he had like 161 intentional walks, and the next closest player is 50?
COWEN: Singapore. Overrated or underrated?
SILVER: Underrated except by you.
There is of course much, much more, including remarks on the candidates and the elections, as well as My Bloody Valentine and more on sports too, prediction markets as well, the weather, and why so few professional athletes have come out as gay. Recommended.
Smithsonian: [K]issing helps heterosexuals select a mate. Women in particular value kissing early on. Saliva is full of hormones and other compounds that may provide a way of chemically assessing mate suitability—that’s the biological brain stepping in.
…While kissing, couples exchange 9 milliliters of water, 0.7 milligrams of protein, 0.18 mg of organic compounds, 0.71 mg of fats, and 0.45 mg of sodium chloride, along with 10 million to 1 billion bacteria, according to one accounting.
Women are also more likely to say that a first kiss could be the decider for selecting a mate. Can the biological drive overcome the perception that your chosen one is a bad kisser? Wlodarski says it’s hard to separate the two, but that “I would hazard a guess that if someone thinks someone is a bad kisser it’s because their smell wasn’t right,” he says. Women have to be more selective because they face greater consequences when they make a poor mating decision—like having to carry a baby for nine months, says Wlodarski.
…Not every culture is down with the full-on mouth kissing enlivened by a wandering tongue. That seems to be a modern, and Western, convention, perhaps from the last 2,000 years, says Wlodarski. A study published in 2015 found that less than half of the cultures surveyed engage in romantic, sexual kissing.
There’s evidence—at least from written history—that in the past, kissing was primarily mutual face or nose rubbing, or even sniffing in close proximity. In Hindu Vedic Sanskrit texts, kissing was described as inhaling each other’s soul.
Here is the video, the podcast, and the transcript. Kareem really opened up. Here is the summary:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation on segregation, Islam, Harlem vs. LA, Earl Manigault, jazz, fighting Bruce Lee, Kareem’s conservatism, dancing with Thelonious Monk, and why no one today can shoot a skyhook.
Maybe you think of Kareem as a basketball player, but here is my introduction:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of America’s leading public intellectuals. I would describe him as an offshoot of the Harlem Renaissance, and what he and I share in common is a fascination with the character of Mycroft Holmes, the subject of Kareem’s latest book — and that of course, is Sherlock Holmes’s brother.
Here is Kareem:
I did know Amiri [Baraka]. I think the difference is I believe in what happened in Europe during what they call the Enlightenment. That needs to happen to black Americans, absolutely a type of enlightenment where they get a grasp of what is afflicting them and what the cures are.
I think that the American model is the best in the world but in order to get everybody involved in it we have to have it open to everyone. That hasn’t always been the case.
The most under-appreciated Miles Davis album?
For me [Kareem], the most under-appreciated one is Seven Steps to Heaven. And that shows, I think, Miles’ best group. There’s a big argument, what was Miles’ best group, the one that had Cannonball Adderley, Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Philly Joe Jones and Red Garland or Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and Wayne Shorter?…number two is Porgy and Bess.
He cites Chester Himes as the underappreciated figure of the Harlem Renaissance. And Kareem thinks like an economist:
It [my instruction] was going well with Andrew Bynum, but Andrew finally got to sign his contract for $50 million, and then at that point Andrew thought that I didn’t know anything and that he didn’t have to listen to me, and we don’t know where Andrew is right now.
Read or hear also his very interesting remarks on Islam, and where its next Enlightenment is likely to come from, not to mention Kareem on the resource curse and of course his new book (and my Straussian read of it). And Kareem on his favorite movies, starting with The Maltese Falcon. Self-recommending!
No, I’m not in Iowa, but I’ve never covered it before, and today seems like as good a day as any. Here goes:
1. Painter: Grant Wood. Here is an interpretative take on American Gothic. It’s not by the way man and wife in the picture, but rather Wood’s sister standing next to the local dentist.
2. Novelist: I draw a blank, sorry people…Does it count that Joe Haldeman (The Forever War) was a product of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop? There must be other examples as well.
3. Hero: Norman Borlaug.
4. Actor: John Wayne is from Iowa, but I can’t call him a favorite. I guess he is my favorite version of…John Wayne. If that. Can one call Johnny Carson an actor? I never took to him either.
5. Jazz musician: Yes there is one, Bix Beiderbecke. Art Farmer too, and also Charlie Haden. Yet how rarely one hears of the “Iowa jazz tradition.”
The bottom line: Who would have thought “jazz musician” would be the strongest category here? Those Iowans are so busy with their jazz, it is amazing they have time to lobby for their ethanol subsidies.
That is a new paper by Ali Faraji-Rad and Michel Tuan Pham, here is the abstract:
Uncertainty is an unavoidable part of human life. How do states of uncertainty influence the way people make decisions? We advance the proposition that states of uncertainty increase the reliance on affective inputs in judgments and decisions. In accord with this proposition, results from six studies show that the priming of uncertainty (vs. certainty) consistently increases the effects of a variety of affective inputs on consumers’ judgments and decisions. Primed uncertainty is shown to amplify the effects of the pleasantness of a musical soundtrack (study 1), the attractiveness of a picture (study 2), the appeal of affective attributes (studies 3 and 4), incidental mood states (study 6), and even incidental states of disgust (study 5). Moreover, both negative and positive uncertainty increase the influence of affect in decisions (study 4). The results additionally show that the increased reliance on affective inputs under uncertainty does not necessarily come at the expense of a reliance on descriptive attribute information (studies 2 and 5), and that the increased reliance on affect under uncertainty is distinct from a general reliance on heuristic or peripheral cues (study 6).