Beatles, Roads And Bridges, Fakes, Goliath, Roman Games, Mein Kampf


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Which FANG Is Which Beatle?

Baruch | Ultimi Barbarorum | 3rd February 2016

How the consumer tech giants — Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google — approximate to members of the Beatles. "Netflix is easiest. It’s Ringo. Netflix is the most fun of the FANGs, and the least threatening. The addressable market is limited, and it’s mostly just content delivery. When asked if he thought Ringo was the best drummer in the world, John replied he wasn’t even sure if Ringo was the best drummer in the band" (1,360 words)

A Country Breaking Down

Elizabeth Drew | New York Review of Books | 8th February 2016

Devastating survey of American government failure to invest in infrastructure. "We’re a backward country". The average bridge is 42 years old, and many have structural problems. One-third of all roads are in "poor or mediocre condition". There is no high-speed rail system. Half the locks on waterways are more than fifty years old. "The water pipes underneath the White House are said to still be made of wood" (4,000 words)

A Fake Of Art

Noah Charney | Aeon | 5th February 2016

We trust museums to show us original works — even if we ourselves cannot tell an original from a fine copy. But what if museums could make or obtain utterly perfect reproductions? Why not show those, and make great art accessible in many places at once? Because doing so would violate "an implicit contract between museums and their visitors": Visitors want to see a unique object, not merely a beautiful one (3,200 words)

David’s Secret Weapon

Ido Hevroni | Mosaic | 4th February 2016

The Biblical story of David and Goliath is commonly but wrongly read as the victory of an underdog. It is, more correctly, a warning not to judge by appearances. When David volunteers to fight Goliath he already knows God has marked him for greatness. "He coolly analyzes the giant’s defenses, ascertains his weaknesses, and, presenting himself as a harmless shepherd boy, turns Goliath’s misperception to his advantage" (2,350 words)

The Horrors Of Halftime In Ancient Rome

Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz | Live Science | 4th February 2016

The Colosseum Games were the Super Bowl of Ancient Rome. To keep the crowds enthralled at halftime, the ringmasters staged increasingly extravagant confrontations between wild beasts and prisoners, often using "contraptions and platforms to give prisoners the illusion they could save themselves — only to have the structures collapse and drop the condemned into a waiting pack of starved animals" (3,400 words)

‘Mein Kampf’ Is A Must-Read

Peter Ross Range | Daily Beast | 18th January 2016

Publication of Mein Kampf in Germany, ending a 70-year taboo, gives Germans "direct access to the early raw material of Hitler’s madness". The new four-volume "critical edition" is aimed at scholars and libraries. The editors have “encircled” Hitler’s words with "analytical and deconstructing" footnotes. “We wanted to surround the text to demystify it and destroy it ... Ironically, it will look like the Talmud” (1,260 words)

Video of the day: Valentine's Day Economics

What to expect: Alex Tabarrok on the market in roses (2'30")

Thought for the day

Never get into a business partnership with a retired lawyer unless he has another hobby
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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