March 1, 2017

New York Magazine - Why Ever Stop Playing Video Games 18min

To the uninitiated, the figures are nothing if not staggering: 155 million Americans play video games, more than the number who voted in November’s presidential election. And they play them a lot: According to a variety of recent studies, more than 40 percent of Americans play at least three hours a week, 34 million play on average 22 hours each week, 5 million hit 40 hours, and the average young American will now spend as many hours (roughly 10,000) playing by the time he or she turns 21 as that person spent in middle- and high-school classrooms combined. Which means that a niche activity confined a few decades ago to preadolescents and adolescents has become, increasingly, a cultural juggernaut for all races, genders, and ages. How had video games, over that time, ascended within American and world culture to a scale rivaling sports, film, and television? Like those other entertainments, video games offered an escape, of course. But what kind? ... Technology, through automation, had reduced the employment rate of these men by reducing demand for what Hurst referred to as “lower-skilled” labor. He proposed that by creating more vivid and engrossing gaming experiences, technology also increased the subjective value of leisure relative to labor. ... As with all sports, digital or analog, there are ground rules that determine success (rules that, unlike those in society, are clear to all). The purpose of a game, within it, unlike in society, is directly recognized and never discounted.

The Economist - The future of forever: A report from De Beers’s new diamond mine 9min

De Beers, the world’s biggest diamond company, marked the opening of its Gahcho Kué mine in September. ... the aim of extracting more than 12,000 carats (2.4kg) of diamonds each day. Gahcho Kué is an astonishing endeavour, the biggest new mine in the world in over a decade. De Beers has no plans for another. ... The diamond business gained its sparkle around 1866, when a farmer’s son picked up a glistening pebble on the bank of the Orange river in South Africa. For most of the next 150 years, De Beers would dominate the global market. Success depended on manipulated supply and skilfully cultivated demand. ... Much has changed since then. De Beers can no longer control the market. Though it is the biggest producer by value, it accounts for only a third of global sales, down from 45% in 2007. It faces many uncertainties, from synthetic diamonds to changing relationships with polishers and cutters. Its loosening grip is reflected in increased volatility: its sales fell 34% in 2015, before bouncing back by 30% last year. Meanwhile the source of the demand that drives sales—the link between diamonds and love—looks weaker than it used to. ... But one forecast seems solid: there will be fewer new diamonds. ... diamonds’ principal value has nothing to do with science. ... They are a “Veblen good”, as items that gain their value solely from their ability to signal status are named, after Thorstein Veblen, an economist who wrote about the spending of the rich.

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Bloomberg - Cracking the Case of the Counterfeit Makeup 12min

Cosmetics companies have been fighting counterfeiters for as long as they’ve been in business, but the scope of their efforts isn’t widely known. The Estée Lauder Cos., the $30 billion company that owns MAC, Clinique, and other brands, has waged an especially aggressive campaign. Since 2003 its global security team has been led by the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York office, and it employs 42 full-time agents around the world. They infiltrate flea markets, make test purchases on EBay, and gather evidence for civil suits against counterfeiters. Increasingly, they’re coordinating with local and national governments. That includes pointing Chinese police to the country’s dingy fake-makeup factories and advising U.S. prosecutors on criminal investigations here ... Global seizures of counterfeit perfume and cosmetics jumped 25 percent from 2011 to 2013, according to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, making them a growing sector of the $461 billion annual trade in pirated and counterfeit goods. ... becoming a dealer in the U.S. no longer requires having shady contacts in Asia or smuggling suitcases through airports: Anyone with a few thousand dollars can buy contraband wholesale online and resell items individually on EBay and Amazon.com, or through more traditional channels such as flea markets, beauty salons, and mall kiosks.

Fortune - If I Ran the Circus 12min

The performing powerhouse, founded in 1984 in Quebec, now encompasses 10 “resident” shows in the U.S. and Mexico, including O, and eight traveling productions, which tour to 130 cities around the world. Even as traditional circuses continued a long decline—in January, after a run of 146 years, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it would soon shut down—a stunning 10 million people saw a Cirque show last year. Its extravagant productions are famed for their mixture of daredevil acrobatics and lowbrow clown comedy, pop hits and New Agey compositions, and daring design. (O, for example, takes place in and above a 1.5-million-gallon pool of water.) But lately Cirque has branched out in unprecedented and potentially lucrative ways: There are plans to launch a theme park and a kids’ entertainment project, and to design an interactive NFL store in New York’s Times Square. There are—of course—plans to go big in China. ... The year before the acquisition, Cirque reportedly brought in $845 million in revenue. (By comparison, all the shows on Broadway combined brought in $1.37 billion last season.) ... sees Cirque as a way to play a bigger, counterintuitive trend: a yearning for live entertainment in a digital era.

The New York Times - The Ultimate Pursuit in Hunting: Sheep 16min

Eight years before, there were no sheep here. Then 21 ewes and five juvenile rams were transplanted to the Rocky Boy’s Reservation of the Chippewa Cree, which straddles part of the Bears Paw Mountains, an islandlike uprising on the plains. ... The herd quickly grew to 100, and 40 were relocated to South Dakota. It has again grown over 100, and another 40 are likely to be transplanted this spring, part of broad attempts to replant sheep populations that are a fraction of what they once were in the West. ... A man from Michigan had paid $100,000 for the year’s only chance to hunt one sheep in the herd on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation. ... In exchange, the Chippewa Cree tribe at Rocky Boy’s received the $100,000, which was used to fund two tribal game wardens overseeing wildlife on the reservation. ... It is a paradox of hunting, rarely so conspicuous as with wild sheep: The hunters are often the primary conservationists. ... widespread belief among serious hunters is that rams are the ultimate pursuit. ... That is for two reasons. One, opportunities to hunt sheep are scarce, and often prohibitively expensive. Two, the hunts are among the most difficult, often lasting weeks in some of the most remote regions on Earth.