Blogging The Boys (blog)
Interesting comments on Dez Bryant from Jerry and Stephen Jones
Blogging The Boys (blog)
A hot topic for the Cowboys this offseason is the future of Dez Bryant. Bryant's production has been slipping the past few years, and this year he had the most drops of his career, making him a target of invective from parts of the fanbase. Part of the …
How did the French city transform post-war decline into a growing cultural awakening? By giving the public open access to free contemporary art
After a carousel ride aboard a giant octopus with moving tentacles, we emerge to find an oversized mechanical elephant wandering down the street, steam blowing from its trunk. In the moat of a 14th-century castle lies an electricity pylon, crackling sinisterly.
This is not a surreal version of Disneyland, but the north-western French city of Nantes. The elephant and marine-themed carousel are just two of the highly original attractions created by La Machine, a street theatre company that has given this citys old docks and shipbuilding warehouses a new lease of life.
Nantes hasnt always been associated with such fun and frolics. The 20th century left many scars geographical, physical and emotional. Firstly, the citys canals and waterways were filled in between the wars, robbing it of its title as a Venice of the west. Less than two decades later, in 1943, it suffered badly at the hands of allied bombs. In the 1980s, its historic shipbuilding yards closed for good.
Added to this trauma is the peculiar fact that, though historically and geographically a part of Brittany, Nantes was temporarily separated from the region during the second world war and never made its way back. It is an anomaly many local Nantais still resent, believing it to have rid them of their historic Breton identity.Continue reading
Its been almost two years now since the renowned Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann caused a stir in his native Venezuela by posing an uncomfortable question.
Why does a country thats so starved for cash keep honoring its foreign debts? In other words, how does it justify shelling out precious hard currency to wealthy bondholders in New York when it cant pay for basic food and medicine imports desperately needed by millions of impoverished citizens? I find the moral choice odd, Hausmann concluded.
He was, predictably, skewered by the administration back in Caracas — President Nicolas Maduro labeled him a financial hitman and an outlaw on national television — but today the question feels more urgent than ever. Prices for oil, Venezuelas lifeblood, have fallen almost by half since Hausmann first spoke out and the countrys cash squeeze has deepened dramatically. The chaos has reached unprecedented levels — food rationing, looting, mob lynchings, collapsing medical care — yet through it all, bond traders have received every dime they were owed, billions and billions of dollars in all.
There are two worlds, said Francisco Ghersi, a managing director of Knossos Asset Management in Caracas. The world of the bondholders and the world of whats happening in Venezuela.
The 21st century has produced a slew of government defaults across the globe, from Argentina to Ecuador to Ukraine. In almost every instance, the country in crisis hit the default button long before the situation got as ugly as it has in Venezuela. The only similar case that economists point to is Zimbabwe back in the early 2000s. But even that comparison is flawed, says American University professor Arturo Porzecanski, because Venezuela was significantly wealthier than Zimbabwe before crisis struck and so the South American countrys collapse has been of a much greater magnitude.
What makes this pay-the-debt-at-any-cost approach all the more curious is that it comes in a country run by self-proclaimed socialists who have railed for the better part of two decades against foreign capitalist powers. There are endless theories, spawned in part by Hausmanns public pronouncement, as to why the Maduro administration has stuck so doggedly to this policy. The main ones fall into three rough categories.
The first of them is an argument thats been floated publicly by high-ranking government officials themselves. It states that Venezuela can wait it out till oil prices rebound. Why rock the boat, the thinking goes, if salvation is potentially just weeks away? (Prices have been rallying of late, climbing to near $50 a barrel.)
The next argument is something of a conspiracy theory born in part out of the opaque nature of the countrys finances. It posits that close associates of the administration are major holders of the countrys bonds and that the government fears itd lose their much-needed support if the payments stopped coming in. Efforts to obtain comment from government press officials on this and other aspects of the story were unsuccessful.
The third theory, and its one that ties back into the first idea, states that even though Venezuela lost access to international capital markets a long time ago, a default could still deepen the governments cash squeeze by triggering legal action from creditors that would undermine the countrys ability to export. If fewer petro-dollars flow into the country, the savings from the default could be washed away, making the situation on the ground even worse.
Its frankly hard to imagine what a further deterioration would look like. After shrinking an estimated 7.5 percent in 2015, the economy is forecast to post an even bigger contraction this year. Food shortages are now so acute, and lines outside stores so long, that spontaneous protests are popping up everywhere. In one episode in the 500-year-old coastal city of Cumana, hundreds were arrested and a middle-aged man was shot to death, one of three fatalities at food-related demonstrations in June alone. There have been so many vigilante justice-style lynchings — more than 70 in the first four months of this year — that the supreme court has banned Venezuelans from sharing video recordings of the gruesome events on social media.
To Hausmann and to legal experts who have studied the countrys oil operations, the risk of angry creditors blocking exports after a default is actually small. The way that PDVSA, as the state oil company is known, structured sales contracts makes it difficult for them to be interrupted by a legal challenge, according to Francesca Odell, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb in New York. What Hausmann and others see instead from a default is the opportunity to free up a big chunk of cash that could be re-directed toward imports.
The government is due to make $1.5 billion in foreign debt payments in the second half of this year. Include PDVSAs tab and the figure swells to $5.8 billion. Its a staggering sum of money in a nation that has bled its hard currency reserves down to just $12 billion. And while few, if any, bondholders would embrace a default, they certainly wouldnt be caught off-guard by it. For the better part of the past 18 months, the governments benchmark bonds have been trading under 50 cents on the dollar, a price that in essence signals to a debtor: Were prepared for a restructuring, go ahead and do it if you must.
Its fairly shocking that they have decided to service the debt over all else, said Risa Grais-Targow, an analyst at Eurasia Group in Washington. But I do think the commitment is fairly strong.
Maduro, the man handpicked by the late Hugo Chavez to succeed him, has spoken frequently about his determination to keep paying the debt. In a speech back in May he proudly explained how the country had doled out $36 billion to creditors — a huge amount of money — over the previous 20 months. The payments were made, he went on to say, with dignity, without accepting preconditions from anyone, maintaining the countrys independence despite the pain. These are references to multilateral lenders like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, institutions that are despised by the Latin American left.
As long as Maduro continues to pay, there will be investors willing to own the debt. Venezuelas bonds are among the highest-paying investments in emerging markets, offering today an average yield of 26 percent. Thats in dollars — in a world where many developed-nation bonds are yielding close to zero (or even less). And since Chavez swept into office 17 years ago, the countrys bonds have handed investors a total return of 517 percent.
It is one of the most miserable, mismanaged, hopeless countries on the planet, said Jan Dehn, head of research at Ashmore Group Plc, which manages $50 billion of emerging-market assets. But that doesnt mean you cant make money.
Hausmann, meanwhile, is more incensed than ever.
In a recent interview, he called the governments insistence on paying the debt, coupled with a churchs claim that it rejected offers of international aid, a crime against humanity. Theres a history here, it should be noted, between the professor and the Chavistas. Some two decades ago, he served in the business-friendly government that Chavez tried to overthrow in a coup attempt that effectively launched his political career. Perhaps that explains some of the enmity between the two sides. Regardless, this is what Hausmann wants to ask the folks on the other side: How can they sleep at night? Its beyond belief.Continue reading
Sell Your Blog: How Much is Your Blog Worth?
The entrepreneur / marketer â These buyers are often more interested in what's behind the blog than how much money it's making. For example, I had a PR blog that several PR firms wanted to purchase (these were the highest offers I've received thus far …
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Sources: Wide receivers coach Derek Dooley not coming back, other sources say not true
Blogging The Boys (blog)
A report has Derek Dooley gone, but other sources say no decision has been reached. By RJ Ochoa@rjochoa Jan 1, 2018, 8:30pm CST. tweet · share · pin · Rec. Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports. Late on New Year's day, it was reported that the Dallas Cowboys …
With The Godfather and Chinatown, Robert Evans revolutionised the movie industry. Now, Simon McBurney is staging the moguls scandalous memoir, The Kid Stays in the Picture. They talk about art, life and America
Half a century ago, Hollywood was at a crossroads. The major studios were in the doldrums, haemorrhaging money on bloated star vehicles such as Paint Your Wagon that were relics from a different era. Iconoclastic social critiques such as Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider were generating headlines and queues around the block. No one knew what the public wanted next. All bets were off. There was a brief window where someone could go into a studio and propose any film, explains Simon McBurney, the 59-year-old actor and artistic director of groundbreaking theatre company Complicite, when we meet in an east London cafe.
He sounds so excited by this notion that he would surely be rubbing his hands with glee if his right thumb were not swaddled in a cartoonishly large bandage, the sort that Tom might wear after Jerry has thwacked his paw with a mallet. It was an accident while cleaning the blender: I didnt realise it was plugged in. It took a piece out of my thumb the size of a sugar lump. I wince in sympathy but he looks blankly at me from beneath the brim of his canvas cap. He is too caught up in thinking about that Hollywood revolution to worry about a sore thumb. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest was for him the clinching film from the American new wave of the late 1960s into the 1970s. As an actor, that was the absolute explosion for me, he says.
McBurney is steeped in the era and its social and cultural impact again now that he is directing an adaptation of The Kid Stays in the Picture, the scandalous, hard-boiled show-business memoir by producer Robert Evans, who transformed the industry when he became head of production at Paramount. In shepherding to the screen hits including Rosemarys Baby, The Godfather and Chinatown, he took the studio from ninth place (of nine) to No 1.Continue reading
The president-elects namesake tower on Fifth Avenue in New York looks like a no-go zone but as hundreds of tourists discover every day, its no fort even now
Anyone can walk right into Trump Tower.
In the month since Donald Trump was elected president, his namesake tower on Fifth Avenue has been fortified. Planes have been diverted from flying overhead. Dull-eyed dogs sniff the pavement out front, where large men in black helmets stand holding long guns. It looks like a no-go zone, which makes sense, because its almost the presidents house.
But as hundreds of tourists and other curiosity-seekers discover every day, Trump Tower is no fort, even now. No serious airport in the country is as easy to enter. Theres a bag scanner, but no visible metal detector for visitors to walk through.
Inside the airy public atrium, its the same shopping mall and food court that Trump conceded to the people of New York City in 1983, the year the tower was finished. With the same stinky public bathroom in the basement and the same concrete-tile patio on floor five, the same brass vitrines at street level, and the same waterfall weeping down five stories of orange Breccia pernice marble on the atriums east wall.
The difference now is, the next president of the United States who is running his presidential transition out of his apartment high above might suddenly pop out of the elevators, like he did on Tuesday morning, to accuse the countrys largest aerospace and defense contractor of doing a little bit of a number on the country. The governor of Iowa might wander by. A billionaire tech executive, or the second-richest man in Japan. Laura Ingraham, looking just like she does on TV.
The buzz lured Kyra Niklewicz and her husband, Dave, to make a detour to the tower on Tuesday before catching the Rockettes on a trip to the city from their home in Rochester, New York. Kyra, a medical technologist who works in a hospital, said the couple was pleasantly surprised at how accessible the tower was.
Were excited about Donald Trump, she said. I think he offers definitely a different perspective. Hes pro-life thats very important to us. And I think we need to give him a chance.
The Niklewiczes were enjoying the scene from two of the best seats in the house, in the lobbys floating Starbucks, which is planted on a catwalk that boasts views of the Fifth Avenue entrance one way, the waterfall the other way, and best of all for people-watching the elevators directly below. The area is banned to TV cameras, but the angles are sufficiently irresistible that cameramen keep appearing there, only to be kicked back downstairs by security guards.
The media is technically restricted to a semicircular pen facing the elevators, set off by red velour ropes on brass stanchions, which were definitely not purchased with this in mind. But reporters without large cameras, like anyone else on the scene, are free to wander about, for example to the downstairs food court, where Trumps communications director, Jason Miller, spent about half an hour eating a buffet lunch.
Were conducting this process daily, said Miller, ambushed as he finished his soda, of the selection of Trumps cabinet. The president-elect is talking to a lot of qualified people every day. Then he smiled, said thanks and jumped in an elevator.
Eric Trump, the president-elects second son, was flushed unexpectedly at midday from the Trump Grill, on which the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences has conferred its Star Diamond award, according to multiple plaques. At the grill, a bloody mary called the Youre Fired costs $15 about right for a tourist destination in midtown Manhattan. Flanked by quick-striding men in suits, the scion escaped through a quiet elevator bank one storey below the main one, which explained how he had snuck in there unseen.
Now, about those prices. Trump is a luxury brand, but the atrium of his tower is an oasis of relative affordability in the middle of one of the most obscenely opulent consumer districts on earth. Prada is across the street, Bergdorf and Van Cleef are kitty-corner, and Gucci occupies commercial space elsewhere in the building.
Tiffany & Co, directly next door to the tower, complained last week that holiday sales were down because of the bothersome security cordons. The jeweler has created an entry corridor, defiantly draped in powder blue, to its front door from a security checkpoint at the end of the block.
Tiffany, at its least expensive, sells glass bowls for a couple hundred dollars. Inside Trump Tower, Trump-branded glassware starts at $3.50. Golf accessories, books and apparel can all be purchased at prices youd find in a campus bookstore. Theres a perfume for less than $20.
Slightly pricier are the items on offer at the basement booth operated by Donald J Trump for President, Inc. Here is the official campaign swag familiar from the rallies: T-shirts $25, hats $30, sweatshirts $50. But dont try buying this gear if youre not an American: proceeds count as campaign donations, which are not legal for non-citizens to make.
Sales at the Trump swag stand were not brisk. No one inside the tower on Tuesday, in fact, was sighted wearing Trump gear. People wore green sweatshirts that said North Dakota, and sports team hats and puffy coats. Maybe they had Trump T-shirts on underneath.
As of 12.47pm on Tuesday, the Trump swag booth had recorded one solitary sale, according to an inventory sheet left carelessly on display. It was a hat.
By far, the best commercial opportunities on the premises are to be found in a souvenir shop in the basements deepest recess, not counting the bathroom. Its where locals go to buy lottery tickets and cigarettes, and where the visitor might pick up a generic Statue of Liberty magnet or an NYPD sweatshirt.
The shops proprietor, who did not want to give his name because his office sits under 63 stories of pure Trump weight, said that while he would love to, he was not allowed to sell Trump-branded gear, because Trump was selling those products himself.
Hes a businessman, man, said the man. Hes a very smart guy. And hes going to make money.
Rising back out of the basement to street level, lifted by an escalator past tourists filming their descents on their phones, one has a prime view of a 40ft tree installed at the base of the waterfall for the holiday season no competition for Rockefeller center, but not bad.
The tree is the centerpiece of the towers Christmas dcor that includes wreaths, prop golden gift boxes with red bows and Nutcracker soldiers standing sentinel on the escalator landings. The background music is Barry Manilow and Bing Crosby Silent Night, White Christmas, Rudolph and the rest.
Its as pleasant as any mall or airport around Christmastime, but with an added air of expectancy. In 44 days, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.
Meanwhile, at the foot of his tower, anyone can walk right in. And make a purchase.Continue reading
Not Every Hobby Has to Become a 'Hustle'
And maybe you will, and maybe you'll enjoy it, and maybe you'll make a living doing what you love. But if you do, you absolutely will learn that the real work of your career is not the fun bit. Otherwise every good cook would own a restaurant, and …
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Grading the Cowboys season-ending 6-0 victory over the Eagles
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Yawwwwwwnnn. Well, the 2017 Dallas Cowboys ended the season in a complete snoozefest. Dallas managed a 6-0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the second lowest-scoring game in franchise history (the team's 5-0 division round playoff victory over …
Film-maker Paul Blake gave cameras to gang members and let them record themselves. What they shot was more shocking, and personal, than he expected
A new documentary will offer uncompromising access into the workings of some of Londons most brutal and notorious street gangs, using footage shot by the young people who operate within this world.
Film-maker Paul Blake managed to get a rare insight into some of the 225 gangs that operate in Britains capital, including shots of large weapons caches boasting dozens of guns and knives, and the packaging and selling of class-A drugs.
Gangland, which is split between two episodes, gained unique access by giving the cameras to the gang members themselves and leaving it up to them to film what they wanted. Blake did not even make contact with the figures, but instead would leave the cameras at pre-arranged dead drops in central London and in parks places without CCTV and where no one could be seen coming and going.
He would then pick up the cameras later, without any knowledge of what footage they would contain.
I didnt know the gang members who filmed, they didnt want me to meet them, said Blake. This was about the control and the distance, and I was happy for that distance frankly because what came back was shocking.Continue reading