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News 07.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 07.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Are You Really The ‘Real’ You?

Alex was a bouncer when he changed his mind about who he was. Or maybe he wasn’t a bouncer. Maybe he was only pretending.

In the year 2000, “reality TV” still sounded to most people like an oxymoron, a bizarre new genre that was half entertainment and half psychological warfare, where neither audience nor participants were quite sure which of them were the combatants.

The show Alex appeared on, Faking It, had a simple set-up: each week a participant with an archetypical identity would be tasked with learning a skill that jarred with that identity. The participant had four weeks to perfect that skill before being sent to a real event where they would have to pass undetected by experts asked to spot the imposter.

Elbow-patched Alex arrived on the programme as the toffee-nosed eldest son of an upper-class British family. He was 20 years old and as Oxbridge as it’s possible to imagine. If you took Bertrand Russell, bound him in leather and made him smoke a cigar made entirely of armchairs you’d still be several punt rides short. We meet him for the first time at his family’s country home, where he shows us around the grounds and introduces us to Roger, who is a horse.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 07.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Why Being Bored Is Good

News 07.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

BOREDOM IS ONE of the most common human experiences, yet it seems continually to defy complete understanding. We all know what it is to feel bored, but what exactly prompts, constitutes, or follows from the condition of boredom is far less obvious. Is boredom a function of leisure? Does boredom tangle desire or personal conditions, or both? That is, when I stare at the full refrigerator and complain that there is nothing to eat, or when I scan 100 cable channels and find nothing to watch, who or what, exactly, is to blame?

A century ago, modernist poets and artists worked to illustrate the disintegrated selfhood of twentieth-century humanity, the way a coherent individuality was being torn apart by new social and political conditions such that we were left with, at best, fragments shored against our ruin. Today, the challenge is urgent in a new fashion, since our selves are deliberately scattered data fragments—Twitter feeds, Instagram posts, shopping preferences, and text trends captured by algorithms that seem to know us better than we know ourselves. What hope is there for integration and stability under such conditions?

All of us, at least in the richer parts of the planet where stimulus is rich, are aware of the problem. I am sitting in front of a screen. If it is the right time of day, there is a muted baseball game showing on the nearby TV. I have my phone on the desk, which relentlessly delivers voicemail messages about daily trivia from people I know. I answer some of them. A web-browser window is open in another tab, in case I want to fact-check something without troubling my failing memory, order a book I almost forgot on Amazon, or suddenly feel like wandering down a hot-link tunnel of scant and certainly forgettable relevance to what I still call my life. I can’t settle on any one thing, let alone walk away from the light cast by the screens and into a different reality. I am troubled, restless, overstimulated. I am consuming myself as a function of the attention I bestow. I am a zombie self, a spectre, suspended in a vast framework of technology and capital allegedly meant for my comfort and entertainment. And yet, and yet…I cannot find myself here.

Read the rest of this article at: The Walrus

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Liu Xia, widow of Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and died while in Chinese custody in 2017, has opened up to the public for the first time since she began a life of exile in Germany nearly a year ago. On May 4, in a dialogue with the well-known Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, she spoke candidly of exile, memory, history, and art. The event accompanied the opening of an exhibition of her artistic photographs featuring her “Ugly Babies” and “Silk” series at the Galerie Peter Sillem in Frankfurt. I served as moderator and interpreter. The transcript below has been edited, with permission of the participants.

* * *

Perry Link: Welcome, everyone. I sit between two artists who will have a dialogue in Chinese. Ai Weiwei can speak English, but Liu Xia does not. We apologize that none of us speaks German. Weiwei, would you like to begin?

Ai Weiwei (in English): First, I’m very happy to be here and to share time with Liu Xia and Perry. Frankfurt is a beautiful city—except today it’s too cold. My hotel stay last night was unusually good. It has even changed my impression of Germany a bit. Most of my four years in Germany has been in Berlin, where—I suppose you know—the streets are dirty, you can never walk on a flat sidewalk, and a bicycle can kill you any second. But let’s get to important questions. (Switches to Chinese.) Liu Xia, you’ve been out of China for nearly a year, right? When I think of you living in Berlin, I imagine you could not possibly be in a place that feels more foreign to you. Even I feel foreign in Berlin. And you came from an extraordinarily stressful situation inside China. You went from one extreme to another. So tell us: What have you felt over this past year?

Read the rest of this article at: ChinaFile

News 07.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Market Values

News 07.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

ON A SNOWY, SLEETY EVENING last November, inside the auction room at Phillips on Park Avenue, Henry Highley was waiting at a lacquered podium. Potential buyers filed in slowly, closing their umbrellas, unzipping their parkas, and making their way to their seats with their paddles. This was the evening sale for contemporary and twentieth-century modern art, one of only two of its kind each year that the New York office puts on and thus its success is vital to the house’s survival. It began brilliantly for Phillips. Highley, the house’s auctioneer and head of contemporary art evening sales, has long been a rising star in the auction world: youngish and British, he is able to, mid-auction, toss out the varieties of delightful quips that might push an elderly woman from the Upper East Side to bid, say, an extra $100,000 on a single work. “The whole room is focused on you, madame, willing you,” he said. “Are you sure?” he pressed another waffling bidder, before coyly playing to his ego: “You look like someone who doesn’t like to lose out on things.”

The first lot, a moderately sized painting by the American artist Christina Quarles, which depicts two women, one of them bent over the other, sold for more than quadruple its high estimate. The second, another figurative painting—this one by Kaws, a newly bona fide favorite of collectors—also blew through its high estimate, more than tripling it. In fact, the auction went well until an enormous, abstract, blocky painting by Alberto Burri came up. It was meant to fetch at least ten million dollars, but after Highley’s drawn-out attempts to up the bidding, it didn’t sell at all. The same happened with “Number 16,” a Jackson Pollock drip painting with a posh, Rockefeller provenance.

After he quietly concluded the auction, Highley looked dejected. The Burri and the Pollock would have made up a significant portion of Phillips’ revenue. Without them, the initial excitement around the Quarles and the Kaws had been tempered, and Phillips, generally seen as a rising underdog to Sotheby’s and Christie’s in the contemporary art market, feared that they’d doomed themselves.

Read the rest of this article at: The Baffler

The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich

News 07.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Gabriel Zucman started his first real job the Monday after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Fresh from the Paris School of Economics, where he’d studied with a professor named Thomas Piketty, Zucman had lined up an internship at Exane, the French brokerage firm. He joined a team writing commentary for clients and was given a task that felt absurd: Explain the shattering of the global economy. “Nobody knew what was going on,” he recalls.

At that moment, Zucman was also pondering whether to pursue a doctorate. He was already skeptical of mainstream economics. Now the dismal science looked more than ever like a batch of elaborate theories that had no relevance outside academia. But one day, as the crisis rolled on, he encountered data showing billions of dollars moving into and out of big economies and smaller ones such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He’d never seen studies of these flows before. “Surely if I spend enough time I can understand what the story behind it is,” he remembers thinking. “We economists can be a little bit useful.”

A decade later, Zucman, 32, is an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley and the world’s foremost expert on where the wealthy hide their money. His doctoral thesis, advised by Piketty, exposed trillions of dollars’ worth of tax evasion by the global rich. For his most influential work, he teamed up with his Berkeley colleague Emmanuel Saez, a fellow Frenchman and Piketty collaborator. Their 2016 paper, “Wealth Inequality in the United States Since 1913,” distilled a century of data to answer one of modern capitalism’s murkiest mysteries: How rich are the rich in the world’s wealthiest nation? The answer—far richer than previously imagined—thrust the pair deep into the American debate over inequality. Their data became the heart of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s stump speech, recited to the outrage of his supporters during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

Zucman and Saez’s latest estimates show that the top 0.1% of taxpayers—about 170,000 families in a country of 330 million people—control 20% of American wealth, the highest share since 1929. The top 1% control 39% of U.S. wealth, and the bottom 90% have only 26%. The bottom half of Americans combined have a negative net worth. The shift in wealth concentration over time charts as a U, dropping rapidly through the Great Depression and World War II, staying low through the 1960s and ’70s, and surging after the ’80s as middle-class wealth rolled in the opposite direction. Zucman has also found that multinational corporations move 40% of their foreign profits, about $600 billion a year, out of the countries where their money was made and into lower-tax jurisdictions.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

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