I’ll say this for bitcoin: it’s got a whole new class of people, like Matt Levine and Guan Yang, increasingly interested in one of my longstanding obsessions — payments. (You might be surprised to learn how hard it is to get people interested in payments.) Guan’s post, along with the response to it from Simple’s Shamir Karkal, provide a techie’s viewpoint into a question which many non-Americans have when they start living in this country: how on earth can can moving money from one person to another be so difficult, expensive, and time-consuming?
Alexis Madrigal has a rollicking investigation into Netflix’s movie genres — all 76,897 of them, from category #1 (African-American Crime Documentaries) to category #91,307 (Visually Striking Latin American Comedies). His story is titled “How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood”, and as such, it’s the latest entrant to a well-stocked category of its own: Awestruck Narratives About Netflix’s Technology and the Systematization of the Ineffable.
Ostensibly Respectable Academic Is In Fact A Hack: it’s a hardy perennial, and an enjoyable one at that. The best example is Inside Job, where big names like Ric Mishkin and Glenn Hubbard got their well-deserved comeuppance. And it’s a genre I’ve indulged in myself: last year, for instance, I spent 4,500 words on a paper by Bob Litan, showing how he lies with numbers to arrive at his paymasters’ predetermined conclusion.
The first time I ever visited New York, the bus from JFK dropped me off in front of Grand Central Terminal. I looked up, and up, and up, at the Chrysler Building towering above me, and I immediately fell in love with a city which so exuberantly celebrated its height and size and weight. Much as I love Chicago, New York will always be the home of the skyscraper for me; no other city has such spectacular examples from all eras, ranging from the Brooklyn Bridge and the Woolworth and Flatiron buildings, through Lever House and the Seagram building, all the way to the newest towers rising both downtown, at the World Trade Center site, as well as uptown, along 57th Street. One of the most awe-inspiring architectural experiences in the world is to visit the little-known but truly amazing top room of the art deco BNY Mellon building at 1 Wall Street, with its three-storey-high silver ceilings and its unrivaled views to the north, south, east, and west.
I like Matt Levine’s dry take on Facebook’s secondary offering: “Whatever else you think of Facebook,” he writes, “it is unusual among public companies in its desire and ability to sell stock at local maximums.” And really, he’s right: it makes perfect sense for a company (and its controlling shareholder) to sell stock when demand is greatest and the price is at its highest. After all, share sales are a simple transaction: you give me a one-off slug of cash today, and in return I’ll give you ownership rights in perpetuity. Anybody engaging in such a deal should at least want to maximize the amount of cash they’re getting, which is another way of saying that you should only sell stock if you think it’s overvalued.
Matt Yglesias presents the case against dividends today — and it’s a case I’m sympathetic to. But before you can determine whether stocks should be paying dividends, it’s important to understand why stocks are paying these dividends. And the answer is in the chart above.
I had lunch with Artnet’s Thierry Dumoulin last week, and we talked a bit about the classic interactive NYT chart of box-office grosses. (It’s getting on for six years old, now, but it’s still top-notch.) I wondered if it might be possible to do something similar for artists — to show how different artists have their auction peaks at different times, and how some artists fade away while others become newly fashionable.
It’s a standard part of flying, these days: the minute you touch down, you pull out your phone and get back up to speed with the world — especially if you’ve been on a long flight without wifi. And then there’s the standard exception: when you’re flying internationally, you don’t. Not unless you’re very rich, or very reckless, or someone else is paying your phone bill.