Proletariat Protests Communist Dictator

(p. A4) CARACAS, Venezuela — Thousands took to the streets here on Thursday [September 1, 2016] to demand the ouster of President Nicolás Maduro in what appeared to be the year’s largest display of frustration with Venezuela’s economic collapse and leadership.
The march, which protesters called “the taking of Caracas,” was organized by political opponents of the country’s ruling leftists. The marchers took over a major highway and several avenues in Caracas, the nation’s capital, and poured into the city’s plazas in an effort to gain momentum for a referendum to recall Mr. Maduro.
. . .
Ivonne Mejías, 42, who wore a headband of yellow, blue and red, the colors of the Venezuelan flag, said the situation had become so difficult that she had not been able to bake birthday cakes for her children this year. Her family of four gets by on just $25 a week, Ms. Mejías said, and she has taken to making piñatas to earn extra money.
“Sometimes I want to kill myself,” she said. “I am frustrated, I am out of control, I am fighting with this world. This isn’t my life. My soul splits in two when my kids beg for something — for an ice cream, for a cookie — and I can’t give it to them. The most difficult thing is getting food.”
Víctor Guilarte, 45, a mechanic from a Caracas suburb, said his work had vanished because his neighbors had become so poor they could not afford car repairs. Two weeks ago, he said, he visited his family in another state and found the situation even worse.
“I came back feeling destroyed — they had no food,” he said. “I am tired of Maduro and his government, tired of crime, of hunger, of them telling us we have plenty to eat.
. . .
Marly Torrealba, 37, a single mother, came by bus from Barlovento, a city once known for its cacao production. Ms. Torrealba complained that the government had abandoned the city to organized crime, and it was now rocked by killings, extortions and kidnappings.
“Farm workers have abandoned the crop because of crime,” she said, “and the criminals charge us protection money and rob everything in sight.”

For the full story, see:
NICHOLAS CASEY and PATRICIA TORRES. “Thousands of Venezuelans March for President’s Ouster.” The New York Times (Fri., Sept. 2, 2016): A4.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 1, 2016, and has the title “Thousands March in Venezuela to Demand President’s Ouster.”)

Meat Residue on Stone Blades from 250,000 Years Ago

(p. D2) James Pokines, a forensic anthropologist at the Boston University School of Medicine, and his colleagues uncovered several 250,000-year-old blades and hand axes, with bits of rhinoceros, horse and camel on them, in Jordan.
. . .
The findings, which were published in The Journal of Archaeological Science, may be the oldest evidence of protein residue on stone tools.

For the full story, see:
NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR. “Etched in Stone: Early Carving Knives.” The New York Times (Tues., AUG. 23, 2016): D2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 22, 2016, and has the title Carving the Meat Before Meals, 250,000 Years Ago.”)

The research mentioned above, is elaborated in the academic article:
Nowell, A., C. Walker, C. E. Cordova, C. J. H. Ames, James T. Pokines, D. Stueber, R. DeWitt, and A. S. A. al-Souliman. “Middle Pleistocene Subsistence in the Azraq Oasis, Jordan: Protein Residue and Other Proxies.” Journal of Archaeological Science 73 (Sept. 2016): 36-44.

The Internet Favors Creators in the Long Tail of Distribution

(p. A13) Does the internet pose a threat to established entertainment companies? Michael D. Smith and Rahul Telang lead a class at Carnegie Mellon University in which a student recently put that question to a visiting executive. He pooh-poohed the idea: “The original players in this industry have been around for the last 100 years, and there’s a reason for that.” As co-heads of CMU’s Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics, Messrs. Smith and Telang aim to counter this line of thought, and in “Streaming, Sharing, Stealing” they do just that, explaining gently yet firmly exactly how the internet threatens established ways and what can and cannot be done about it. Their book should be required for anyone who wishes to believe that nothing much has changed.
. . .
Then there’s the question of blockbusters vs. the long tail. In her book “Blockbusters” (2013), Anita Elberse, a Harvard Business School professor, contended that digital markets, far from favoring the “long tail” of products that were mostly unavailable in physical stores or theaters, actually concentrate sales at the top even further. Messrs. Smith and Telang quietly but effectively demolish this argument, noting numerous instances in which the opposite happened. In the case of one large chain, the top 100 titles accounted for 85% of the DVDs rented in-store–but when stores closed and customers were shifted to the Web, the most popular titles made up only 35% of the DVDs rented online.
The authors also note that, by making it easy for writers, musicians, and directors to work independently, digital technology has vastly increased the number of works available. Between 2000 and 2010, an explosion in self-publishing raised the number of new books issued per year to 3.1 million from 122,000.

For the full review, see:
FRANK ROSE. “BOOKSHELF; We’re All Cord Cutters Now; At one chain, the top 100 movie titles accounted for 85% of the DVDs rented in-store. But online, the top titles make up only 35% of rentals.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Sept. 7, 2016): A13.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Sept. 6, 2016.)

The book under review, is:
Smith, Michael D., and Rahul Telang. Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2016.

Mobile Game Helps When Work Is Absurd Drudgery

(p. A1) SEOUL–When Lee Jin-po was laid off last year for the third time in as many years, the 29-year-old mobile-game programmer expressed his frustration in his own instinctive way: He made a mobile game about it.
In Mr. Lee’s “Don’t Get Fired!,” the object is to rise through the ranks at a nameless corporation by performing an endless string of mind-numbing tasks, while avoiding a long list of fireable offenses.
“It’s just like real life,” he says.
In South Korea, where youth unemployment has hit an all-time high amid sluggish economic growth, “Don’t Get Fired!” has become a certified hit–one in a small raft of mobile games that has found success by embracing the drudgery and absurdity of work.
. . .
(p. A10) Mr. Lee later found volunteers to translate it into 12 languages, helping the international version attract another million downloads. Griffin Crowley, a 20-year-old high-school graduate in a Cleveland suburb, couldn’t stop playing after stumbling on it while fiddling with his cellphone. “Sometimes, you just have to laugh at the futility of life,” says Mr. Crowley, who recently worked a stint at a telemarketing company.

For the full story, see:
Cheng, Jonathan. “Congratulations Player One, Your Zombie Boss Didn’t Fire You; South Korean unemployment inspires games about work; laugh at chief’s jokes.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., August 6, 2016): A1 & A10.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 8 [sic], 2016.)

Life Discovered 220 Million Years Earlier than Previous Oldest

(p. A12) Geologists have discovered in Greenland evidence for ancient life in rocks that are 3.7 billion years old. The find, if confirmed, would make these fossils the oldest on Earth and may change scientific understanding of the origins of life.
. . .
The new fossils, described on Wednesday [August 31, 2016] in the journal Nature, are the first visible structures found in the Isua rocks. They are thought to be stromatolites, layers of sediment packed together by microbial communities living in shallow water.
They are some 220 million years more ancient than the oldest previously known fossils, also stromatolites. Those are 3.48 billion years old and were discovered in the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia.
The new report “provides the oldest direct evidence of microbial life,” said Gerald Joyce, an expert on the origin of life at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.
. . .
If life on Earth did not begin until after the Late Heavy Bombardment, then it had a mere 100 million years in which to evolve to the quite advanced stage seen in the new fossils.
If so, Dr. Allwood wrote, then “life is not a fussy, reluctant and unlikely thing.” It will emerge whenever there’s an opportunity.

For the full story, see:
NICHOLAS WADE. “Greenland Fossils Could Be Oldest Ever Found.” The New York Times (Thurs., Sept. 1, 2016): A12.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date AUG. 31, 2016, and has the title “World’s Oldest Fossils Found in Greenland.”)

The article in Nature, mentioned above, is:

Nutman, Allen P., Vickie C. Bennett, Clark R. L. Friend, Martin J. Van Kranendonk, and Allan R. Chivas. “Rapid Emergence of Life Shown by Discovery of 3,700-Million-Year-Old Microbial Structures.” Nature (2016), DOI: 10.1038/nature19355.

Japan Counting on Innovative Entrepreneurs for Economic Growth

(p. B3) TOKYO–Stacks of cardboard boxes serve as makeshift partitions at Mistletoe Inc.’s new office in Tokyo’s posh Aoyama district, where startups gather to work on their latest projects.
The do-it-yourself vibe–a far cry from the stuffiness typical of Japanese corporate offices–is something founder Taizo Son, serial entrepreneur and youngest brother of SoftBank Group Corp. founder Masayoshi Son, wants to see more of.
“Japan has the talent and funds but lacks the necessary ecosystem to create its own Silicon Valley, so that’s what we’re trying to provide,” said Mr. Son, 43, who describes Mistletoe as a program to cofound new businesses.
The nation that created the Walkman and the bullet train before China even had a tech industry now lags behind as Chinese Internet startups like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. become global powerhouses. With its once-dominant technology industry struggling, Japan is counting on entrepreneurs to rekindle its hobbling economy.
The government is pledging to fund startups, top universities have launched incubators and venture funds to transform their wealth of knowledge into innovation and even Japan’s oldest and largest conglomerates, such as the Mitsubishi and Mitsui groups, are looking to nurture entrepreneurs..

For the full story, see:
ALEXANDER MARTIN. “Japan Looks to Rekindle Its Technology Innovation.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., April 11, 2016): B3.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 10, 2016, and has the title “Japan Tech Hunts for Restart Button.”)

Chernow Is Consumed by His Work “in a Deep, Quiet, Rewarding Way”

(p. 12) I collect art, and the piece I adore most is an 1888 Winslow Homer etching called “Mending the Tears.” It depicts two women seated along the shore of an English fishing village. One is mending a net; the other is darning socks. They are consumed by their work, but in a deep, quiet, rewarding way. That’s how I feel when I write.

For the full commentary, see:
Ron Chernow (as told to Marc Myers). “HOUSE CALL; Ron Chernow; New York’s ‘Quietest’ Home.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Aug. 26, 2016): M10.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 23, 2016, and has the title “HOUSE CALL; Hamilton Biographer Ron Chernow Finds New York’s ‘Quietest’ Home.”)

I have learned a lot from these two books by Chernow:
Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. New York: The Penguin Press, 2004.
Chernow, Ron. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. New York: Random House, 1998.