Wednesday, May 28, 2008

State (Control) of the Economy

There's something peculiar about China telling the West how to run their markets. But then, maybe they've got a point?

Thanks to China’s lack of integration with global financial markets as well as the cautious regulatory approach of the CBRC, Chinese banks have emerged relatively unscathed from the global credit crisis, which so far has caused nearly $380bn of losses at western financial institutions.
Are we in the West just lazy/greedy?

Update: Pascal Lamy, WTO director-general, agrees. Also, "Pascal Lamy" is the coolest name, like, evah.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Do playlists sate our lust for "New" music?

Originally music was "free" in the truest sense. Then we captured it, recorded it, wrapped it up and sold it. Then we digitalised it, ripped it, caged it in bits and shouted about its freedom. Full circle, only this time the circle is made of metal.

This Reg article on how the music industry doesn't get digital reminded me of a thought from the other day. Our relationship with music in a digital age is often thought of as "disruptive" in 1 of 2 ways: either the ability to copy music freely once it's been turned binary, or the ability to reach out to new, unsigned/unheard of artists and to ignore the idea of "mainstream promotion". Unlimitations of the physical, and of the social.

But that doesn't explain why I've stopped buying so much music. I used to go and buy random discs. I used to browse music channels and find interesting, bizarre tracks. I used to pick up discount CDs in the hope that every 1 in 10 might actually be good (and often, 1 in 9 was...)

Here's what I've noticed - I don't think I buy so much music any more because it's easier to listen to what I already have. This harks back to the "physicality" perspective, of course. But I think the "playlist", or the mp3 collection, defines a very real and very new relationship with musical zeitgeist. The fact is that we haev instant access to all of the music we've ever bought now. No more scrabbling for CDs. No more scratched surfaces. Given enough time, and enough tracks, the first item on my playlist becomes new again, unforgotten and re-discovered.

So maybe I don't need to buy new music so much, because I have my old music still. And I have better access to it. And it's still good. Still uplifting. Still a classic. I can focus my purchasing energies on what I really like, in an incremental attempt to expand and increase the mean quality of my shufflerised playlist.

Is the digital back catalogue the music industry's greatest enemy?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Brighton sell-offs

Market Diner being sold off, possibly Banksy too? Hoom.

Update: Barnoid went and had a shufty at the Banksy and noticed it's still there... but not.

Cunning. Does it still need the perspex then?

Tradespace: Missing My Little Boxes

Three figures from BT - 1 x PR lass, 1 x senior tech/sales guy, 1 x background lurker - swanned into the office, down from the big city, crashed with energy, free pens. Turns out they're recruiting sign-ups for BT's latest venture, a business-community-directory-social-network-service called Tradespace that for all the world looks like a BT'd up version of Etsy. At least they "get" that it's not just what a site does, it's who's using it.

Not sure if it's a site for customers to shop from, or for businesses to network via ("B2B", he said, falteringly knowingly). Obviously less focus on "handmade", more on "small business". Communities are in there, in beta. Shops can feature products, leave blog posts, even "fave" other businesses by the look of it.

Something about it feels creepy. Maybe it's just the BT branding - years of learned behaviour kicking that cautious quarter of the cortex into gear. Maybe free pens have jealously betrayed me in the past. Maybe "we" have got used to seeing "social networking" as something that the big guys just don't "do", or "get" - an association of a new class with new technology, a re-kindling of the cyberpunk fire through APIs and KISS. But then we worship Google and Yahoo, so maybe it's not that.

Actually, you know what it is? What makes me edgy?

Lack of avatar pictures.

Isn't that weird? Why do I miss those tiny little squares? Is that why I don't get on so well with FriendFeed? And has anyone done any research into this? What do they mean? Why do they matter?

And can one exist just as an image, discard the whole crazy idea of a string of letters as who, or what we are? Maybe it's time to go anonymous. No, wait.

Graphonymous.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pound taking a bit of a Pounding?

Today I am mostly a/be-mused by what the Pound is doing against the Euro, not the Dollar, in recent times:


Hello? Are we so distracted by how cheap things are in the US now that we've forgotten we have our own currency? If anyone can explain to me why, amid this and everything else, the FTSE100 is at 6,300 and still going up, I'd be most glad. Ta, like.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

On the Road Again - Nomadic Thoughts

I heard a joke recently: There's this family - Dad, Mum, 2 Kids, that kind of thing - walking through the desert. It's hot and it's dusty, but the progress is good. "Are we nearly there yet? Are we nearly there yet?" the kids start asking, insisting. "Course we're not," replies the father, "we're bloody nomads."

Things have settled a little over the last few months. The novelty of 2008 has faded a little, and my thoughts are back with 2007 again. Death is still on my mind, but not in a particularly morbid way - instead, I'm finding that asking "well, what is death?" has led to a similar question: "what is life?" I don't think you can ask one without asking the other, or "confront" one without "confronting" the other.

Thinking about what it is to live raises all kinds of questions. What is "work-life balance", for instance? (Another rhetorical trap, but that's one for another post.) What does "feeling alive" mean? In a way, I feel more alive, and yet more sleepy at the same time, than I ever have. I don't think there's a particularly absolute definition of what it is to feel "alive" in that case. Maybe it's something you can only say in reflection.

Amongst the lows and the highs of the last few months, some form of reality - or connection with reality -has emerged. This sounds fancy, but isn't that difficult to explain. And yet, I think the simplicity holds the key to "feeling alive". It's simple in terms of what we feel, and often it's so simple that we're afraid that that's all there is to it, and so we go off and invent new forms of "feeling" to keep ourselves relieved that we're still looking for an answer. Or, at least, we set ourselves a different answer - one that's unattainable. Humans are weird like this.

In other words, the simple things are the important things. And the simple things are the things which come naturally to us. Love and grieving might be two ends (but also the same end) of this simplicity. We don't learn to do either, but we do learn to resist doing them. How odd is that?

So you could say my philosophy, for want of a better word, is shifting. I'm actually very excited by a single blog - probably more excited than any other blog I've found. I'm not sure why - maybe it's the ideas, maybe it's the style of writing, who can say - but zerocurrency.blogspot.com is lining up with a lot of my thoughts at the moment. About money, about life, and about spirit. It's a reminder that "religion", philosophy, attitude, personality, work and desires are all tied up in the same big bundle. A reminder that spirit is on the same axis as physicality and consumerism. That all things come from the mindbody mind-body (the "mindy").

I'd recommend having a look at the very start of the blogif you're intrigued about money, and how much we "depend" on it. In a way, the idea of living without money is an alternative to alternative economies (such as non-state-funded currency, or even bartering). I think maybe one (living moneyless) is a personal thing, while one (economics generally) is a social thing and it's difficult to prescribe either as being right for the other. But then, I think the same thing could be said of religion/spirituality, or of work, or of social ties generally as well. In the end, it's all about what you do, though.

This thing we call "reality" is at the same time both fragile and utterly stable, because it exists on so many different levels. "Man-made" reality is perhaps the fragile part, whereas the reality that pre-empted us as a race is our foundation. "Reality Hacking" is an attempt to distinguish between the two, but so too is academia, photography, poetry, and that time when you just sit in a chair, staring into space while your mind dances off into whirlpools.

In reality, I think perhaps there is no "end" that we get to. When we arrive, we die. That is the end. Otherwise, we're all far more nomadic than we think.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Reno Riddled with Repetitive Rumbles

What the bananas is going on in Reno? As AP reports, a string of Earthquakes has started appearing over the last week, with over 500 of the little rumbly blighters cropping up in that time. Check out the map of the area on this page, but also be sure to scroll down to see the cumulative counts, which go something like this:





A little odd, no? Let's hope it's not a portent for things to come. Hopefully the Mother Earth just needs her morning shreddies as a bright new dawn* awakens.

* That's Web 2.0, that is.

(Original link via exador23.)