Archive for the ‘International’ Category

‘That’s Entertainment’, 1895

Celebrations are underway for the 120th anniversary of  the first movie shown to a paying audience — essentially the first movie theater. The Lumiere Brothers in 1895 exhibited the nascent motion picture in France and founded an industry. It is true that others preceded them in the development of film. For example, a short clip  made in 1888 by Louis Le Prince in England is generally considered the earliest surviving motion picture. But the Lumieres combined existing technologies and the first paying audience to give birth to the flick, as we know it. Legend has it that when an early Lumiere film of an oncoming train was first shown, people jumped out of their seats in terror. Ahh, the magic of cinema. An exhibition in the Grand Palais of Paris is marking the event.

Beyond The Pond

What famous (pink-colored) financial newspaper recently included in its weekend edition stories on gastronomic architecture, Sri Lankan real estate, a Greek monument inspiring dramatists in Sydney, the formative years of Vincent Van Gogh, a safari camp in Chad, premium wine rankings and a survey of restaurants in Cape Town?   Why, the Financial Times, of course. It’s not all just about dollars and cents … I have found the weekend edition a great way to keep up with life across “the pond” — and local affairs as well.

Lama trauma

Apparently all is not tranquil in the neighborhood of the Dalai Lama in India. According to the Wall Street Journal the hamlet of McLeod Ganj, down the road from the residence-in-exile of Tibet’s spiritual leader, is drowning in traffic.  One cause? A new cricket stadium, which is drawing tourists like a magnet. In tiny McLeod Ganj it is not uncommon these days for traffic to come to a dead stop. The hordes of visitors want the whole package — Tibetan temples, rooftop bars, stunning mountain vistas, cricket.  And maybe a glimpse of the Dalai Lama himself. Even normally tranquil Buddhist monks are at their wits’ end as they wrestle with the crowded conditions. But perhaps it is just an age-old spiritual challenge in new clothing. As a hermit coming down from the hills observed, “If I can’t even survive this, there is something wrong.”

Never again!

Following the horrific collapse of the infamous Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in April 2013 that killed over 1100 garment workers, a collection of western companies has tried to impose safety standards. The European-dominated Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a group of more than 150 firms and brands, has been arranging inspections of apparel factories that supply many of the developed world’s biggest clothing firms. But this has not proven to be an easy task, and the Accord now finds itself squaring up against both the company Florence Fashions and the Bangladeshi government. The Accord claims the factory building is unsound, presenting the possible spectacle of a repeat of Rana Plaza. Read more  about this ongoing battle to bring social responsibility to an industry that is so critical to the survival of this developing country. Let us hope that whatever happens, we will not turn on the news to watch yet another nightmarish factory disaster; that must never happen again.

Piketty’s Charge

And the battle rages on … Paul Krugman  responded in Sunday’s New York Times to an accusation by Chris Giles of the  Financial Times, that conclusions presented in Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century are not supported by the data. Krugman asserts that Giles is misunderstanding (misrepresenting?) the nature of the data and the arguments involved. While Krugman takes pains not to accuse Giles of being a mouthpiece of the wealthy,  he does call upon those who criticize what he calls the consensus about growing wealth disparity to ask themselves their motives.  I suspect that this will not be the last volley in this economic Gettysburg — which represents a much larger historical struggle about wealth and justice in America.

Faculty books highlighted

GSB faculty authors  now have their recent books showcased on our Popular Books racks, just inside the Library entrance. Currently on display, for example, is The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong With Banking and What to Do About It, by GSB Prof Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig. This book asks the question ‘What is wrong with today’s banking system?’  The authors argue that we can have a safer and healthier system without sacrificing any of the benefits, and at no additional cost to society. Banks are not as fragile as they are because they must be, but because they want to be, the authors declare. The book calls for ambitious reform and outlines specific steps that can be taken immediately.  Says Eugene Fama of the University of Chicago, “A must-read for concerned citizens … should be studied and memorized by lawmakers and regulators so they won’t be duped by false claims in the future.”

Bob Sutton (Good Boss, Bad Boss) and Huggy Rao (Market Rebels) have teamed up to examine what it takes to build and identify pockets of exemplary performance and spread them to others in the organization in Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less.  Drawing on extensive research and inside accounts from a number of industries, the authors identify the key scaling challenges that confront every company. “Scaling Up Excellence is one of the finest business books you’ll ever read,” enthuses Daniel H. Pink (To Sell is Human).

Market Liquidity: Asset Pricing, Risk and Crises by GSB Prof Haim Mendelson, Yakov Amihud and Lasse Heje Pedersen presents the theory and evidence on the effect of market liquidity and liquidity risk on asset prices and on overall securities market performance, demonstrating the important role of liquidity in asset pricing. Stanford’s Darrell Duffie comments “This collection places the best available work on the topic between two covers. It must be read by anyone following this subject area,” while Nobel Laureate Robert Engle opines, “The liquidity of financial markets has never been a more important topic of research and policy and this book gives a very accessible way to understand both the traditional and current research.”

And finally, Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information, by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen. Going against conventional wisdom, this book reveals what really influences customers today, and offers a new framework — the Influence Mix — to help managers develop effective marketing strategies.  Chip Heath (Made to Stick) opines, “Every marketer is going to have to read this book (if only not to feel left out when everyone else is talking about it)”, and Ravi Dhar of the Yale School of Management says “Pay attention to this book. It offers important insights into changing consumer behavior and presents new rules for success in the marketplace of the future.”

Toqueville 2.0 ?

French economist Thomas Piketty is getting rock star treatment as he visits the U.S., says an article in the New York Times.  Or, at least as much rock star treatment that a practitioner of ‘the dismal science’ can realistically expect. Piketty’s new book Capital in the 21st Century is making waves, particularly among political liberals, for its thesis about the increasing concentration of wealth that he says is the outcome of free market economies. But not an inevitable outcome — Piketty is no fatalist. If governments intervene, who knows what may happen? It will be interesting to see if Piketty’s work spawns political action. Meanwhile,  fans are hailing him as a new Alexis de Toqueville … or Karl Marx.


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