About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

29 October 2011

Yes, there is a group that runs the world

The idea of a group of people who secretly control the world, is staple fare of many fictional novels. From the Free Masons to the Illuminati, to various groups in between; the fiction is lined with controlling agendas, secret hangouts and off course rituals. It seems that it is not all fiction ...

As reported in New Scientist, a research group from ETH Zurich conducted an analysis of 43 060 corporations, untangling their capital ownership structures and creating a network of ownership of these corporations. Once all the networks are untangled, only 147 companies remain as the sole owner of capital - so the Illuminati group is not a small clandestine group; but it is far smaller than one would have thought.

It is not surprising that the list is dominated by financial companies; though there are a few notable exceptions - such as Walton Enterprises and China Petroleum. The data is understandably old, and thus the pecking order may have changed; but the order also shows why Lehman Brothers' failure was so catastrophic - in 2007, it was 34th most powerful corporation in the world in terms of economic power; and thus it is no wonder that its failure affected so many others globally.

Also interesting to see is the various nationalities of the companies represented; with one South African company, Old Mutual, on the list (although Old Mutual now claims to be a British company, although it is still largely based in South Africa in terms of workforce and revenue). There is not much detail beyond the top 50 companies, but on the top 50 list, I was surprised to see no South American or Indian companies, or even a lot more of the sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East.

The full paper can be found here. It does not mention any prospective future research areas, but given the impact of Lehman Brothers' failure, I would suggest that the next step should be to look at the impact of a network node failure. For example, should there be another failure of a major financial institute, what other corporates would be impacted?

Choir and Orchestra - JPO's 4th Season 4th Concert

M loves choral performances, so a full performance of Mozart's Mass was very enticing, regardless of the fact that neither of us have any religious persuasions, or even any catholic history. Last year's scheduled performance was postponed as it was felt that the choristers were not ready. There was a change in choir (now the Opera Africa choir) and soloists from Opera Africa; the only thing missing was a full blown organ (the orchestra had an electronic organ I think). It was a brilliant performance, with the soprano Kelebogile Boikanyo being particularly impressive. One change I would make in the program though - include the text and translation in the program!

In addition to the choral mass, the first part of the program featured Berio's Rendering for Orchestra. Based on Schubert's uncompleted 10th symphony, it was different to JPO's usual fare - more eerie (perhaps gearing up for Halloween), slow and rather unenergetic. I didn't really like it, but can't really work out why.

23 October 2011

Shatner sings Bohemian Rhapsody

Wow - absolutely brilliant! (YouTube Link)

20th Century Pieces - JPO's 4th Season 3rd Concert

It was a hot Sunday afternoon; but instead of dozing off, I decided to go see the JPO playing in Pretoria. The Pretoria concerts are never full house, and the attendance was even sparser today.

The concert started off with the most recent piece - Benjamin Britten's Suite on English Folk Tunes, op.90. It was a medley of tunes, most notable in how certain movements focused on specific instruments - like the woodwind and percussion in one; or the violins in another. Not really sure of what to make of it really.

Cellist Maria Kliegel performed Elgar's Cello Concerto before the break. The piece is stunning - especially how the orchestra and the soloist feeds off each other in their various parts; and it was a brilliant performance from the soloist. I quite like the melancholic sound of the cello, and this piece captured the mood after World War 1 perfectly.

I did not like Shostakovich's 9th Symphony the previous time I heard it performed; perhaps I just didn't pay enough attention. The bassoon solo in the 4th movement, is absolutely haunting (supposed to capture the mood of a Jewish man praying, after WW2 according to the program); the brass sections give a resounding military feel, but at the same time, it seems more like a celebration than a mourning. Perhaps it was just a masterful performance - regardless, it was great to listen to; and totally reverses my opinion on the piece.