Too big to fail?

Published on Don’t Panic on 5th July 2010:

Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of the critically acclaimed Too Big to Fail, spoke last Wednesday at LSE’s New Academic Building. The focus of his lecture was on the financial crisis, its aftermath and the future. The audience was a mix of two part professionals to one part student; the majority of whom were big, big fans.

His lecture was well rehearsed, punctuated with timely anecdotes that were richly rewarded with laughter from an eager audience. Unsurprising given the number of times he’s delivered it. Much of the lecture’s content came from the book and his journey to its creation, a quick look at the introduction and acknowledgement will tell you as much. The book itself has been addressed as the story behind the institutions and the people in it who thought they were invincible, woven to the web of the 2004 film Crash.

For me, the interesting parts in the discussion weren’t so much about the contents of the book, the outcome of which we are living. Rather it was Sorkin’s commentary on what happened next. Something which he touched on time and time again was regulation, or rather, the lack of it since the financial crisis. He emphasised that despite living in these cycles of booms and busts, there has been little change to remedy the underlying issues or to prevent them from happening again in the future.

The regulators failed in the first instance to prevent such a crisis. Although much needed change is now promised, is it too little too late? And what of the auditors who allowed for all these empty financial instruments to be traded at grossly inflated values, creating vast empty bubbles? Just because it’s a valid accounting technique, doesn’t mean it’s financially sound. Maybe it should be down to the shareholders to push for change, after all, they hold the real power in the boardroom. But while it may be in everyone’s best interest to do so in the long run, in the short term, this doesn’t seem so profitable an option.

The term ‘too big to fail’ is generally taken to refer to an institution which if failed, the consequences would be too disastrous to consider. At the same time, who says it can’t be an organisation so vast and expansive that everyone has a stake in its success, rather like Reginald F. Johnston’s ‘nei wu fu’? [Editor’s note: The ultra-bureaucratic Imperial Household Department that ran the Forbidden City before the Chinese revolution of 1911, as depicted in the film The Last Emperor.]

All this corrupt bureaucracy suggests that the lack of regulation and being too big to fail are closely related. Sure, a few giants have fallen here and there sending shock waves across the world since the crisis began in September 2008; but few have been brought forward to justice, whether it be the junior who acted irresponsibly or the senior manager who turned a blind eye. Like Sorkin, I can grant the complexity of the case but I can’t help but wonder, in this industry that’s kept ticking by vested interest, how easy is it to find the culprit or a cure?

Black Dynamite

Publish on Don’t Panic on 5th July 2010:

Black Dynamite is the melting pot for liberal sprinklings of disco ‘fros with predictable clichés and a few surprising guest appearances; where nigga-calling among ‘brothas’ (read intra-cultural racism) is more than acceptable.

In this sorry attempt at blaxploitation spoofing, Michael Jai White dons a Shaft costume to play an ex-CIA commando, Black Dynamite. Is he one cool gun-toting, nunchuck-wielding cat with slick kung-fu moves and an appetite for the ladies who’s as hard as, well, his six pack? Or is he just one of those brothas who thinks he can get by with a wink and a smile, minus the smile?

Whatever he’s aiming for, he has missed it by miles while avenging his brother, ridding the streets of dope and pimp slapping the First Lady into the china cabinet.

Expect plenty of action but be warned, between the sketchy storyline, unconvincing street talk and questionable facial hair, you could lose track of the fine line separating spoof and plain bad filmmaking. Its sole redeeming feature may be the unashamedly retro décor and costuming, which is so in now, if you can sit through the tedious tour of Homer, Hesiod and Ovid that is.

Spoof or not, in an already tired genre, one has to wonder if it’s just a little overworked.

Future Stars

Published on Don’t Panic on 7th June 2010:

The London College of Fashion presented its latest generation of fashion prodigies at The Dairy, London last week. As usual, the college’s graduates offered an eclectic mix of innovative design in texture, shape and colour with support from the well-heeled crowd, including everyone from singer Diana Vickers to entrepreneur Harold Tillman. The fashion pack crowded in, the models strutted to non-stop tunes and captivated the audience, before giving way to awards and a champagne reception.

The big winner of the night was Nattaphon Sampataphakdee, whose Collection of the Year Award was presented by NME’s Krissi Murison. The Thai fashion student’s collection, inspired by the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson, can only be described as gentlemen-in-bed with a cross between smart suits and pyjamas. His surprising ensembles never stopped playing with established definitions of masculinity in a breathtaking experience.

Other notable designers of the night:

Yelena Loguiiko

The Design and Technology winner took the audience to another time and place. Throwing together mohair and Mongolian wool with a dash of Picasso’s Portrait of a Woman after Cranach the Younger, the collection speaks 50s Russian glamour and luxury. No woman can be disappointed by the tailoring that says both power and sensuality.

Wei Ting Hu

Blink and you might miss the fact that this highly wearable collection was inspired by traditional Taiwanese buildings. Oranges and reds highlight the well-defined tailoring, while each form-fitting piece spins between fun and serious.

Xiao Li

This playful collection wouldn’t go amiss at Missoni. Knits, bobbles, beads and more all come together to create something that just works.

Kai Yeung Yau

When the first of Yau’s collection appeared on the catwalk, the universal reaction must have been one of shock. As the pieces went by, it was clear that their bold colours cut just so made a decidedly self-assured statement. Who knew colanders could be so chic?