Michael JacksonI never liked Michael Jackson. I acknowledged him, occasionally enjoyed him, but if you were at university in the 80´s he was shoved down your throat. Way too overplayed. MTV was already big and those of us who were not fans thought Michael Jackson was produced. A follower, not a leader.

Fast forward 2010. I am on a flight Madrid – Paris. Turn my MacBook on, put on the noise canceling headphones and start watching “This is It“. Everything changes. I see the genius. It took a documentary for me to realize that Michael Jackson may have been overplayed, may have had his dark side, but as a musician/dancer there was nobody like him.

In “This is It” you realize that Michael Jackson is the REAL song writer, actor, choreographer, dancer, singer: he is all those things and more. Plus, in 2009, before his death, he still had it. Watch the documentary. It’s worth it.

I greatly enjoyed it and I also want to thank my daughter Alexa, who, as a dancer, took part in the Union Square launch of “This is It”, the DVD. It’s great that the production invited her and her Columbia University dance group to participate of the live performance.

Today, for the first time, I am truly sorry that Michael Jackson is dead.

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logo_TGF_enSince its start in 2002, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has spent $19bn and saved 4.9 million lives. And you have not heard about them. Or at least I had not heard about them. And that was fine. Until now. That is because The Global Fund is in the process of organizing its next commitment round for another estimated $20bn. But what is interesting about this new campaign is that The Global Fund is not asking for your money. Or, at least, it is not asking for your money directly. And that is because, knowingly or unknowingly, you are already a contributor to this campaign, as a taxpayer wherever you live.

In these times of huge government deficits, however, it is important that your voice be heard. That you let your government know that you believe that saving lives around the world, that preventing the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is a worthwhile use of your tax money, that you are in favor of what The Global Fund is doing.

The Global Fund is starting a campaign on May 19th that will attract personalities from around the world to alert citizens of donor nations to how important it is that these efforts go on. And you will be asked to sign a digital petition saying that you endorse these efforts. Your signature counts in the sense that governments need to know that their citizens care.

On May 19th I will sign. I hope you do as well.

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I came across the Mein Kampf article in the Wikipedia. The horror and weirdness of his antisemitism aside, what is remarkable is how well he described his war strategy, how his plan was laid out so ahead of its execution a decade later. How nobody seemed to believe him until he actually implemented it.

Hitler predicts the stages of Germany’s political emergence on the world scene: in the first stage, Germany would, through a program of massive re-armament, overthrow the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles and form alliances with the British Empire and Fascist Italy. The second stage would feature wars against France and her allies in Eastern Europe by the combined forces of Germany, Britain and Italy. The third and final stage would be a war to destroy what Hitler saw as the “Judeo-Bolshevik” regime in the Soviet Union that would give Germany the necessary Lebensraum (literally “living space”).

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Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Skype should add Twitter to its app. It should then merge. How? By adding the s command and the t command in Twitter. So, when you are in Twitter, you can say @martinvars and get to me with anyone reading, or d martinvars, to write directly to me. But then you could also t martinvars and text sms me: s martinvars to skype me, or t martinvars to call me.

The easiest way to do this would be for Skype to buy a big Twitter client like Seesmic or Tweetdeck and integrate it into Skype.

The key here is that Skype already has people’s phone numbers because of Skype Out and these need to be merged with Twitter names.

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I see two large global trends unfolding in the 2010s: 1) developing countries trying to move their population out of poverty and 2) developed countries trying to prevent their people from falling into poverty.

Let’s start with the wealthy countries.

Right now OECD nations are running huge deficits, trying to restart their economies. I see deficits as the electrical engine that starts the combustion engine. If you run them for too long your battery dies and your engine never starts. Most countries are trying to restart their engines since the ’08 crash, but some are doing better than others. The outcome of their Keynesian policies will have a big impact on what happens this decade. Some will stall and have a flat 10 years. Some will grow. In Europe, a North and South bifurcation is unfolding with Northern Europe looking better prepared for this decade. Southern Europe is stalling. Spain is a case in point. Even though Spain has been running 11% deficits, Spain’s only achievement so far has been to stop shrinking, with unemployment stuck at an abysmal 20%. I see Spain running out of battery and in desperate need to implement reforms. But I also see populist Zapatero unable to freeze government salaries, for example, for fear of not being reelected. As a result, markets are losing trust in Spain. Same is true of Portugal and Greece. Italy has similar problems but with the unusual circumstance that the Italians are surprisingly willing to buy their own debt.

I see a big split between Northern and Southern Europe in policy making, with Northern Europe having done the labor reforms that are needed to stay competitive and grow over this decade, and Southern European populist leaders unable to implement these changes. Germany is an interesting case as it has a huge savings rate and started a smart program of subsidizing companies to retain workers as it figured out that that was cheaper than paying them unemployment benefits. In Germany, unemployment has stayed at reasonable levels. Germany’s export led economy stands to benefit the most from Asian growth this decade.

As far as the US is concerned, the key challenge of the decade is to reduce deficits. I see military spending as the low hanging fruit, and sooner or later Obama will get that. Greece, btw, exploded because they spend 4% of GDP on the military with this absurd fear of Turkey. This is completely out of line with the rest of Europe and is what made them go under. Spain spends 1.8%. So a Greece that tries to create a European style welfare state, plus spend 4% of GDP on the military, goes bust. The key to Europe’s welfare has been to spend what the USA spends on the military in education and health. You can’t have US style military spending and a welfare state. But the US most likely will get into a Clinton like balance-the-budget mentality during this decade, get its house in order and continue to grow at 3% rates. That will help the world. US companies will also continue to benefit from the ever rising global middle class.

In this decade, China will continue to grow because the Chinese still have as many people as the USA and Europe put together – say 700 million – to bring into the middle class. Their neighbors, Korea and Japan, did it in the ’60s and ’70s: while they brought most of their population into the middle class, these countries grew tremendously then slowed. I think that China has 30 years of growth left. Countries like Brazil, Argentina and other food exporters have grown thanks to China. China will continue to provide growth to the rest of the world and will do so with rising importance. We are lucky to have them. China has a long way to go until all of China is, say, like Hong Kong or Taiwan. I also think the Chinese will not destabilize the world as the Americans do, they don’t particularly pick fights nor do they respond to them like the USA does when provoked. The Chinese are pragmatists. They keep their cool. They are able to deal with nut cases like the North Koreans and the Iranians in ways we can’t. They call their bluff. They don’t feed the trolls as we say in the internet. Instead, the Chinese get what they want out of them. In the case of the Iran oil and an export market. Yes, the Chinese have their own absurd problems, like Falung Gong. These are mystifying. But they don’t lose their calm over them. And they are smart about not invading Taiwan and getting what they want over time. Paradoxically it helps that their leaders stay in power for generations as they can think of the consequence of their actions in generations. Yes, China could become a trouble making military power like USA if it stopped growing and Communists wanted to preserve themselves through nationalism a la Argentine military in the ’80s. But I give that a 10% in the next 10 years.

And then there are India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, and the rest of the Asian tigers put together.

As a group, in size and policies, I see them as a second China. They all have the majority of their population living in sub par conditions and they all adopted the Chinese formula of inequitable fast growth. These countries have a tolerance for injustice that Europe and even USA do not have and therefore can grow without building a welfare state, something that would slow them down. I see this group of countries adding a few hundred million to the middle classes of the world.

Lastly, there is the issue of highly disruptive events.

I give the chance of any of the ones in the list happening 10%. Of each one less than 2%. Here are some depressing yet realistic examples of what may happen this decade:

-nuclear or bio terrorist attack by Muslims in the US, Russia or China. Interestingly, all three powers suffer from Islamic terrorism.

-nuclear missile fired against Israel, or Israeli Muslim conflict with nuclear weapons.

-Sunni Shia conflict with nuclear weapons.

-India Pakistan war.

-restart of the Korean war with nuclear weapons.

-a US credit type bubble in China that stalls the economy.

-virus pandemic.

-climate change created natural tragedy.

So my summary is that we have a 80% chance of the 2010s being a decade of global growth fueled by hundreds of millions escaping poverty and creating markets for everyone else very much like the ’00s. We have a 10% chance of things going seriously wrong with the global economy, probably starting in China, and also we have 10% chance of things going seriously wrong because of terrorism or other conflict.

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Buy a new Apple device, cloning an old one is easy. Buy a new RIM or Microsoft, cloning an old one is hard. Hence Apple’s growth. RIM, Microsoft have to learn that the key is to get you to buy new products as frequently as possible. Many people don’t buy a new windows laptop because it takes a day of hard work to move your info and programs. Apple makes it so easy.

Flash may be buggy, but the non flash iPad surfing experience is like watching B&W TV. I really can’t use my iPad regularly. All sorts of unexpected websites don’t work. Today it was one for adopted pets. Could not see pictures in it.

Downturns are great moments to gain market share. Think of Google when it got started. If you are a survivor in a downturn you are the predominant colony, as with bacteria exposed to antibiotics.

In January mobile users consumed 139MB of data. A year earlier each used only 38MB. Mobile data usage is exploding. 3G networks can’t cope. Hence Fon’s growth.

I find the iPad most useful in situations in which laptops are frowned upon. I had a board meeting at www.ie.edu and nobody used laptops. The iPad was discreet and did not offend anyone.

MBA programs are countercyclical as opportunity costs fall in recessions. Last year was IE’s best.

The Bologna Agreement is like the euro of University education. It unifies the European educational market for the institutions well position to take advantage of it.

Most in power in Europe would rather see Greece sink, than the Euro rise again. But not totally because most of the Greek debt is in the hands of German banks.

I just watched TV. Hadn’t done that in ages. Was surprised to see commercials not made for me.Products I could not possibly buy.

The paradox of the music industry is that it’s being destroyed out of love for music. If people didn’t care about music they would not make such efforts to get it without paying rights.

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Overheard on FB: what the iPod did to the CD the iPad will do to print, some people however say you cannot read novels from backlit screens

Chatroulette should come up with widgets for web sites so people know that the randomers who show up, at least are from that site.

Best about MAIL in Mac is quick look!! It is great

Happy to be going in Paris tomorrow night to see this play. I love Sam Mendes http://bit.ly/biQ0Mn

Great site on contemporary art http://blablart.com/

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Last year I studied photography with Mauro Fuentes of Fotomaf. Learning with Mauro was a fantastic experience. In general I think that photography must be the art that most people do with the least amount of studying. And it is clear to me that some studying greatly improves your ability to take pictures. Here´s an example of my photography now. I don’t know if you will like them, but what I can say is that before I used to dislike my own photography and now I am happy with it. I wish somebody could do with my voice, for example, what Mauro did with my ability to take pictures. Studying photography is like discovering yourself.

So as a result of what I learned in photography I am now studying video. Today I had my first class with Valentín Alvarez. Here’s an example of his work. It’s amazingly beautiful.

How much does your building weigh, Mr. Foster? (DOP,Teaser of a film documentary) from Valentin Alvarez on Vimeo.

Teaser of the documentary film of which I am the director of photography

Now this is my first homework. It’s in Spanish. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II with the latest software upgrade. I was taught to shoot in 1920X1080 25. I learned how to change aperture, speed, white balance, how to focus by zoming first and then going wide angle, how to adjust for different light conditions while shooting a scene. A lot of what I learned with Mauro is applicable to what I am learning with Valentín. Valentin also told me to buy a visor, a stand, a manual focus wheel and some other video related enhancements for my camera. The good news is that I don’t need to buy a new camera.

Deberes de mi primera clase de video con Valentín Alvarez from Martin Varsavsky on Vimeo.

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