At 70, James Dyson Embarks on Audacious Electric Car Project

(p. B5) James Dyson, best known for innovative vacuum cleaners, said recently that he was preparing to introduce a new electric car and had 400 people working on the project.

. . .

But breaking into the car business is far more complex than it might appear at first glance. A new carmaker must design the vehicle and figure out how to manufacture it — and that is only the beginning. Success requires a number of to-dos: effective marketing, a dealer network and, perhaps, arranging buyer financing.

“There is a huge list,” said Peter Wells, a professor at Cardiff Business School in Wales. “That has been one of the reasons why the barriers to entry in the automotive industry have been relatively high.”

Still, Mr. Wells said that the car industry is “at a very important pivot point in its history now, where a combination of factors are radically altering what is possible.” And Mr. Dyson, 70, . . . , could be in a position to take advantage.

. . .

Mr. Dyson has proved himself a dogged inventor, designing high-end vacuum cleaners and other products like hair dryers. His technological savvy gives him a chance of scoring a hit in the much more complex and costly global car industry, analysts said. In 2015, he bought Sakti3, an American start-up that is working with solid state batteries. Mr. Dyson said he could be on track to commercializing a so-called solid state battery, which analysts say might be more powerful and safer than the lithium ion devices now used in electric cars and cellphones. He said both the start-up and his own team were working on the project. Continue reading “At 70, James Dyson Embarks on Audacious Electric Car Project”

A White Male Tired of Being “Blamed for Everything That’s Wrong in the World”

(p. A11)  You were angry when the head of BBC comedies recently said if they were doing Monty Python now it wouldn’t be “six white Oxbridge blokes.”

I wasn’t particularly angry, I just played angry. The idea is that we’re already excluded because the world has changed. I said, I’m tired of being, as a white male, blamed for everything that’s wrong in the world. So now I want you to call me Loretta. I’m a black lesbian in transition.   . . .

Could you get an irreverent film like “Life of Brian” made today?

I don’t know, but you have to try. I’m always pushing to see what we can get away with, to make people think rather than just reacting. That’s what Python was about, and we seem to be respected as the great old men of comedy. But to do what we were doing—now, yes, it would be a fight.

For the full interview, see:

Caryn James, interviewer.  “Terry Gilliam Yearns for the Old Days.”  The Wall Street Journal  (Tuesday, April 16, 2019): A11.

(Note:  ellipsis added; bold in original print version.)
(Note:  the online version of the interview has the date April 15, 2019, and has the title “Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam Wishes Comedy Hadn’t Changed.”  The bolded questions are asked by Caryn James.)

Government Fiscal Stimulus Does Not Speed Job Growth

DebtAndEmploymentGrowthGraph2019-02-17.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A17) . . . is there evidence that stimulus was behind America’s recovery–or, for that matter, the recoveries in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Britain and Ireland? And is there evidence that the absence of stimulus–a tight rein on public spending known as “fiscal austerity”–is to blame for the lack of a full recovery in Portugal, Italy, France and Spain?
A simple test occurred to me: The stimulus story suggests that, in the years after they hit bottom, the countries that adopted relatively large fiscal deficits–measured by the average increase in public debt from 2011-17 as a percentage of gross domestic product–would have a relatively speedy recovery to show for it. Did they?
As the accompanying chart shows, the evidence does not support the stimulus story. Big deficits did not speed up recoveries. In fact, the relationship is negative, suggesting fiscal profligacy led to contraction and fiscal responsibility would have been better.

For the full commentary, see:
Phelps, Edmund. “The Fantasy of Fiscal Stimulus; It turns out Keynesian policies are correlated with slower, not faster, economic growth.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018): A17.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 29, 2018.)

Global Warming Allows “Visionary Entrepreneurs” to Grow More “Superb” Sparkling Wine

(p. D4) . . . England, now in its third decade as a sparkling wine producer, is demonstrating that its bubbly output can be superb.
. . .
The early pioneers of English sparkling wine were bold, though idiosyncratic in the way of visionary entrepreneurs.
. . .
The growth in English sparkling wine is apparent all over the south of England. From Kent in the east through East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset and as far west as Cornwall, new vineyards for sparkling wine are being planted at a dizzying rate. Winemakers who once imagined they were bound for France or Australia are instead staying home in England to make sparkling wine.
. . .
Nobody would mistake an English vineyard for one in Champagne. Walking through Gusbourne’s Boot Hill Vineyard with the winemaker Charlie Holland on a blustery, misty fall day, I noted that the rows of vines were far wider than one would find in Champagne, and the vines trained higher on their trellises.
In order to achieve ripeness in the colder English climate, the vines need to be planted less densely than in France, Mr. Holland said, to minimize the competition. And the vines need to have a denser canopy of leaves to promote photosynthesis, so the rows have to be wider apart so the leaves in one row won’t shade the fruit in another.
“It’s not the same parameters as in Champagne, and not the same ripeness levels,” Mr. Holland said.
Indeed, the Champagne region was once considered a marginal climate, on the blurry edge of the line at which grapes could reliably ripen. Thirty years ago, it was a struggle. Now, with climate change, the issue is whether Champagne is getting too warm.
The edge has now moved up to the south of England, where everybody agrees that the 2018 vintage was the biggest and best ever for sparkling wine.
“It was a fantastic, happy year for English wine,” said Tamara Roberts, chief executive of Ridgeview Estate in Sussex, a family operation that planted its first vines in the South Downs in 1995. It was so good that many estates spent the harvest scrambling for vats and tanks to hold the unexpected volume of wine.

For the full commentary, see:
Eric Asimov. “THE POUR; Great Bubbly From England, Believe It or Not.” The New York Times (Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018): D4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 20, 2018.”)

“A Litigious, Protective Culture Has Gone Too Far”

(p. A1) SHOEBURYNESS, England — Educators in Britain, after decades spent in a collective effort to minimize risk, are now, cautiously, getting into the business of providing it.
. . .
Limited risks are increasingly cast by experts as an experience essential to childhood development, useful in building resilience and grit.
Outside the Princess Diana Playground in Kensington Gardens in London, which attracts more than a million visitors a year, a placard informs parents that risks have been “intentionally provided, so that your child can develop an appreciation of risk in a controlled play environment rather than taking similar risks in an uncontrolled and unregulated wider world.”
This view is tinged with nostalgia for an earlier Britain, in which children were tougher and more self-reliant. It resonates both with right-wing tabloids, which see it as a corrective to the cosseting of a liberal nanny state; and with progressives, drawn to a freer and more natural childhood.
. . .
(p. A12) Britain is one of a number of countries where educators and regulators say a litigious, protective culture has gone too far, leaching healthy risks out of childhood. Guidelines on play from the government agency that oversees health and safety issues in Britain state that “the goal is not to eliminate risk.”

For the full story, see:
ELLEN BARRY. “In Britain, Learning to Accept Risk, and the Occasional ‘Owie’.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, March 11, 2018): A1 & A12.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 10, 2018, and has the title “In Britain’s Playgrounds, ‘Bringing in Risk’ to Build Resilience.”)

“Puttin’ On the Ritz”

(p. C9) The Savoy, which opened in 1889, was glamorous and cosmopolitan, an antidote to Victorian stuffiness. Its owner, Richard D’Oyly Carte, the backer of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas, had a theater next door, and his ambition was to create a modern luxury hotel the likes of which had never been seen. To fulfill his vision, in 1890 he turned to Escoffier and the Swiss hotelier Ritz, a man known for his impeccable taste, and in short order the two men, who’d had a previous success at the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo, made the Savoy into the most famous and profitable hotel and restaurant in the world.
“Ritz & Escoffier,” Luke Barr’s entertaining narrative history, reads like a novel (complete with cliff hangers and descriptions of the characters’ private thoughts). Both of its subjects had grown up poor, but were opposites temperamentally.
. . .
Neither man had to use the stairs at the Savoy, since the hotel had six elevators, the largest ever seen in Europe, which D’Oyly Carte called “ascending rooms.” There were 400 guestrooms and an unheard-of number of bathrooms–67 all told, many en suite and at no extra charge. (The recently opened Hotel Victoria provided just four for 500 guests.) The Savoy also had electric light that you could switch on or off in your room without getting out of bed, also at no extra charge.
. . .
. . ., D’Oyly Carte gave Escoffier and Ritz free rein from the start. The restaurant became enormously popular, a gathering place open to all who could afford it: aristocrats, the nouveau riche, royalty, Jewish bankers and fur traders (Jews weren’t freely accepted in society at the time), and stars of the theater and opera. Formal evening dress was de rigueur in the dining room and women were admitted–except those of “doubtful reputation and uncertain revenue,” who arrived unaccompanied, wearing makeup and large hats. Mr. Barr writes, “An extravagant hat worn in the evening, Ritz had discovered, was a sign of trouble.” But Ritz not only gave ladies’ banquets, he also successfully campaigned to change the laws against eating out on Sundays. Soon those formerly grim at-home evenings of “cold joint and gloom” became the most fashionable times of the week to dine at the Savoy.
. . .
Ritz had opened the hotel’s doors to anyone with money wearing the right clothes. The old social rules were broken. Mr. Barr comments, “Indeed, there was an element of decadence in the Savoy’s brand of luxury–it was this decadence that made it modern, the sense that pleasure was to be celebrated.”

For the full review, see:
Moira Hodgson. “‘Modern Hospitality.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, March 31, 2018): C9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 30, 2018, and has the title “‘Ritz & Escoffier’ Review: Modern Hospitality.”)

The book under review, is:
Barr, Luke. Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2018.