Sixty years ago, come this November, a twenty-eight-year old Geoffrey Blainey published a history of The National Bank of Australasia marking its first commercial century. He took us on a ride through start-ups and crashes, panics and depressions, wars and peace into a 1950s mired in controversy and banking reforms.
Almost two years ago, I wrote an article “The Broken Model of Music Streaming” that predicted the demise of iHeart Radio. Today the company filed for bankruptcy and it’s just the first of many DotCom 2 bubble bursts to come.
Here’s the article I posted in April 2016, prompted in fact by the death of Prince. Till then, I’d never formally streamed music online. Thing is, once there I couldn’t for the life of me work out why I wasn’t being charged even a cent for the ride?
A bit over a month ago on the launch of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s Bitcoin trade I predicted a déjà vu. Here was the subprime mortgage disaster, sprinkled with the dot com boom, mixed in a glass of fresh 21st Century hubris waiting to bubble over. So, the question I posed with overt sarcasm, was how many olives would it take to send this martini splashing over its side?
Then I realised this is complex stuff. Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and blockchain are awe-inspiring feats of human ingenuity. They rank right up there with tourist space travel and driverless cars.
We’ve come a long way since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. “Across Wall Street and in the City of London there was a growing assumption that financial wizards had been able to eradicate risk,” said the BBC documentary “The Fall of Lehman Brothers” in 2009.
Here I sit listening to a Prince music tribute connected to a website called iHeart Radio streaming the artist’s entire hits catalogue to my computer’s stereo speakers. And I’ve yet to fork over a cent.
Every now and then I’m moved by an author to praise his or her work. Yet, sometimes a subject, its research, its prose simply bedazzles and in the case of fashion expert Dana Thomas’s book, “Deluxe How Luxury has Lost its Luster”, I’m eager to declare it a feat of business journalism.
In his slow southern drawl that typified Shelby Foote’s Mississippi roots, the ageing historian commented during the final episode of Ken Burns’ magisterial multi-part documentary, “The Civil War”:
I was at brunch the other day. The eggs were perfect, the salmon ample, and the flat white strong. So much so, I wanted two. They’d cleared my plate, my cup was empty, but did anyone pop their head around to check?
When Warren Buffett slipped a loss of $873m into his annual Berkshire Hathaway announcement to shareholders three weeks ago, no one blinked. To many, Buffett is a kind of god—an investment god and some would capitalize the “g”.
September 30, 2011: Terry Francona, a man who seemed so yearning to let loose a massive verbal burden that evening, merely drawled a brief public farewell. Other than the brick wall behind him not a hint of Red Sox regalia. Not even the smallest letter “B” on his drab collared shirt.